To See Things in a Different Light
By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Jan 15, 2007)
"Coincidence is God's way to remain anonymous."
"He is bringing me to understand deeply how everything depends on His will,
and how He allows certain difficulties precisely for our merit ..."
— Diary of St. Faustina, 1409
It was in April of 2000, a week before St. Faustina was to be canonized in Rome. I had been asked to offer reflections during the nine-day novena prior to Divine Mercy Sunday at our Monastery Chapel in Henley-On-The-Thames, England.
On Saturday, the final day of the novena, the entire day was dedicated to deepening an understanding of God's mercy and how our Lord's compassion can be integrated into daily life. Several hundred people attended this all-day retreat, and many came from London, 30 miles away from our monastery.
At the conclusion of the day, several people, as usual, stayed behind to share some of their own thoughts and reflections. The last person in line was a woman who asked me a rather challenging question: "Have you ever seen the power of evil in your life?"
I admit, I was rather turned off by the question since it did not relate to anything discussed that day. Being rather tired and emotionally spent, I had little interest in the topic and gave her a very cursory reply and started to walk away. She shouted: "But I have lived with evil for the past 10 years of my life!"
This got my attention, and I turned around to speak with her. For approximately half an hour she waxed eloquently and bitterly on her three broken marriages, the numerous amount of drugs and alcohol she had consumed, the consistent depression and suicidal thoughts that had overwhelmed her, and the total despair at which she had now arrived in life.
She professed being a very happy nun at one point and had mentioned that her downward spiral came as a result of her being forced out of the convent by the superior, with whom she had a violent argument 10 years earlier. As a result of the bitterness that resulted from the disagreement, she was asked to leave. In desperation, she went for some assistance, but this made the situation even worse. She interpreted this event in a very negative manner.
Her anger at God for rejecting her from being a religious grew unabatedly. As a result, she became determined never to enter a church again, and avoided the sacraments and anything else that the Church espoused. She concluded her monologue by saying: "... and I vowed never to talk with anyone with a collar on, and I don't even know why I'm talking with you or why I'm here."
She paused for a moment as her eyes revealed the emptiness, hurt and heavy emotional baggage that had accumulated over the years.
How was I to respond to all this? I had that typical, desperate feeling and remembered saying: "Lord, where are You when I need You?"
Since the Diary of St. Faustina had been rather fresh in my mind after referring to it all week, I ventured to capitalize on what it had to offer. What came to me was a reference to a spiritual insight that St. Faustina acquired:
In order to purify a soul, Jesus uses whatever instrument He likes. ... [O]ften my best intentions were misinterpreted by the sisters ... but God allows it, and we must accept it because in this way we become more like Jesus. ... [M]y Superiors did not believe what I said and treated me with pity as though I were being deluded ... (Diary, 38).
I went on to tell her about another point in the Diary. I mentioned how St. Faustina revealed something rather unique about the experiences the Lord allowed her to have: "On one occasion I saw two sisters who were about to enter hell. A terrible agony tore my soul; I prayed to God for them, and Jesus said to me, Go to Mother Superior and tell her that those two sisters are in danger of committing a mortal sin" (Diary, 43).
I told her how St. Faustina believed there were no accidents. She wrote: "Jesus gave me to know that even the smallest thing does not happen on earth without His will. After this, my soul entered into an unusual repose; I found myself completely at peace" (Diary, 1262).
Then, I suggested to this woman some possible questions to ponder. Since God saw a situation in her convent that might have led to her possibly losing her very soul, could He not have permitted an experience to free her from a situation that put her in jeopardy of eternal damnation? It was not a matter of God wanting this grievous experience, but perhaps He permitted it for her eternal salvation? Perhaps there was no other way to get her out of a dire predicament. It was all a matter of perception. I was offering her an opportunity to observe things in a different light.
I remember her face, how the tears started to flow. There was no need to wipe them away. I saw grace operating like never before. She acquired the freedom to be herself and drop all pretenses. In an instant, her entire composure changed, she seemed taller, and her eyes soon filled with light that took out the dark shadows around her eyes. Upon composing herself, she said something to the effect of, "I never realized God could love me so much as to intervene that obviously for my own good."
After that there was nothing left to say. We bid each other farewell, both of us shedding tears of joy and gratitude. Her final words to me were: "By the way, the name of that superior was Sr. Mary Leonard." Leonard? That's my first name. That took me several hours to get over. Was that a coincidence? Do you think God has a sense of humor?
Our Lord taught me a great lesson in patience that day. He had to wait 10 years for this individual to accept the notion that her being forced to leave the convent was not an accident but well designed to achieve His purposes for Her soul. God was not rejecting her. It also gave her the freedom to accept the grace and mercy He so willingly offers.
Now we have to ask ourselves: Will the Lord have to wait 10 years for us to surrender our own bitterness, anger and pride? Or will we try to see His hand in every circumstance of our lives and yield to Him?
May we all trust Him with the events He allows us to mysteriously experience everyday. May we, too, gain that freedom when we submit to His will.
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28).
O Lord Jesus Christ, grant me the freedom to fully submit to the circumstances of my life, and the grace to change whatever I can. I have not yet fully submitted to Your control and lordship over my life. Please, dear Lord, use the Holy Spirit to gently show and convince me of my self-deception and false interpretations of my life so that I may be wholly lost in Your will and be given the light of Your understanding. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
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Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, is on the staff of the Marian Seminary in Washington, D.C. He also provides spiritual direction, retreats, and seminars. Brother Leonard has a leaflet available that has a series of meditations on the five wounds of our Lord. The meditations are intended for use while praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order Contemplate My Wounds. He also has a CD available with the meditations on the five wounds, interspered with the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order A Musical Interlude.