In 2006, my life was about to take an enormous shift - it did not come on through a tragedy (thank God) nor through a conscious choice. It was subtle and slow but in hindsight truly monumental. After years of attending Mass regularly, being active in parish activities and events, and even attending period retreats and study groups at the Church; I was about to enter into a relationship with Jesus. A courtship, that just like my marriage, requires daily commitment and attention.
The event that brought about such incredible change was a simple invitation. For Christmas, a friend gave me a book - then invited me to study that book along side of her and other women in a weekly faith sharing group. Unfamiliar with such things, I hedged at first, but after the first week when I discovered the delicious snacks -- I was in. Every week I had to talk myself into going back - often tantalized back by the snacks and this soft quiet whisper deep in my heart longing for more of what I saw happening in the other women there. There was something changing in me but it was going to take a lot more than mini quiches and chocolate mousse pie to complete the transformation.
THE SECRET ISN'T SO SECRET
The weekly commitment to meet with the group had an unforeseen consequence - it required me to be prepared for the meetings. It meant looking at spiritual reading and the bible for the first time in my life - my time with God began to expand from Sundays to Mondays, and then Wednesday nights for group. My heart set aflame, I would wake up Thursdays and want to be with him again. Over time, the thoughts in my head, usually my own voice rattling around like a hamster in a wheel, took on a new tone and less chaotic rhythm. What was happening to me?
Christ was happening to me. Grace was happening. This grace was propelling me forward to learn more and to pray where I once would have worried. OH, don't get me wrong, I could still gold medal in worrying and panic attacks but ... now I know there is someone on the journey with me. My natural self still existed (the core of who I am will always be how I am) but the supernatural power of a life in Christ was strengthening and surprising me in ways I never imagined. The secret, which really is not a secret, was a daily commitment to follow Christ; one that I need to renew every single morning. "If anyone wishes to follow me," Jesus says, "he must pick up his cross DAILY and follow me." The cross is different for everyone, and shifts from day to day. The initial changes were small - giving up gossip and spending more time listening to Christian music. Then a call to homeschool - which had always been a dream especially as I watched my sons struggle in school. In 2007, my husband and I said yes to God's call to adopt a child from China; and by 2009 I had launched Reconciled To You as a full-time ministry.
In Peter’s letter, the Pope continued,
HOW DOES THE INGREDIENT FIT IN THE MIX
While acknowledging my sins is important to conversion, the most remarkable lesson for me in 2006 came from realizing Jesus wanted me to spend time in prayer and conversation with him. That my desire to recognize those things that separated us would come from my falling in love, and not from his chastising me. My conversion of heart, which I refer to as my re-version of faith, burst forth from this incredible experience of time in his word, participating in the sacraments with my heart and not just my head, and in sharing all of this with others on the same journey.
Yes, I had to bite my tongue as I learned how not to gossip (FYI - it is still gets a little sore - when I have to remind myself this person is sanctifying me when I am struggling to hold my tongue no matter much better I think venting will feel). Yes, I had to struggle to find time for prayer and reading; and even talk myself into going to bible study on cold New England winter nights. However, I never regret a moment of it. This recipe ingredient for holiness would have never been, nor would it continue to be, possible without them -- it is an ingredient I need to add DAILY. Conversion is clearly not a one time deal - it is a continual turning to God; one I have come to know and rely on while seeking in my recipe for holiness.
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
For more ingredients in Pope Francis' Recipe for Holiness ... visit Debbie Gaudino over at Saints 365 !