It is the evening before the Disciples Investiture and I have just entered the Church for Holy Hour at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Three hours earlier, I had arrived in the Birmingham airport after a six-hour flight from California, having left my four young children in the care of my generous husband who wasn’t exactly sure what to think about what I was doing but supported me regardless.
“I know this seems crazy, flying to Alabama for one day,” I told my husband weeks earlier as I made my travel arrangements, but I just sense that God is drawing me to this community.
Now, gazing up at the largest monstrance I have ever seen at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, I feel a surreal sense of awe and disbelief. As it is exposed before my eyes, it takes my breath away. I had no idea it was there, the second largest monstrance in the world, moments earlier hidden high above the altar, now exposing our Lord for all to adore. A deep sense of gratitude washes over me as I am face to face with the One who I believe has called me here. “Jesus, I trust in You,” I think, as I eventually make my way out of the Church and back to my hotel.
I had first earned of Apostoli Viae (AV) only months earlier. I was not looking for a community when I stumbled upon it. In fact, I have a strong Catholic community in my parish and many devout Catholic friends. And yet, the draw to AV was undeniable. I had quickly become accustomed to rising early every other Saturday, careful not to wake the sleeping baby next to me, and logging on to the computer at 6:00am. The feeling I had when the Sojourner meetings rolled around was one of opening a gift on Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait. I recall reading the description of the AV charism and the huge “YES” that rose up within me. It was if the essence of who God created me to be “fit” the charism like the last piece of a puzzle.
And yet, when it came time to submit a letter of desire, doubts arose in my mind…
The retreats are across the country and you have small children at home…
It’s mostly online interaction. How will you really get to know anyone?…
You’re too new. You need more time to discern…
You are a wife and mother…you don’t have time for this…
In addition to these doubts, life brought its challenges. Shortly before the letter was due, I sadly miscarried and buried my sixth child. My father would have a stroke a week later and I was given the task of coordinating his care in the months to come.
Nevertheless, amidst the doubts and distractions, my desire to be part of the AV community remained unchanged. My heart, it seemed, wanted to go deeper, to follow Jesus and seek Him in and through the AV charism. If this desire came from God, I thought, then I needed to act and He would do the rest. By God’s grace, and with the encouragement of a fellow Sojourner, I decided to step out in faith and submit a letter. I told the Lord, “I will make this little effort, but the rest is up to You.” I then surrendered to whatever might happen. And what happened is that door after door opened so quickly that I felt almost hurled towards the Investiture by the hand of God.
It has now been about six months since I made first promises. All of my doubts have long dissipated and been replaced by a deep gratitude for all the Lord has given me through this community - accountability to daily mental prayer and the examen, fellowship, a rule of life, sound spiritual formation, and a peace that I am being continually and lovingly shepherded to a place of deeper intimacy with Christ.
Anyone who has converted or reverted to the Catholic faith knows the joy of coming “Home”. As a revert myself, joining the community of Apostoli Viae reminded me of this homecoming. Apostoli Viae is like a home within a Home. It is a safe refuge within the bigger Refuge of the Holy Catholic Church. As the times we are in continue to get darker, we need each other to find our way, to stay the course, to navigate through and persevere to the end. To be in community with and under the direction of holy people striving for sainthood is a great grace. And it is being offered to each of us through this community, whether as a Sojourner, Disciple or beyond.
During this Advent season, we are prompted to ponder the coming of the Lord, both as a vulnerable baby born to a Virgin in a cold stable in Bethlehem and as a triumphant King who will return “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28).
The King is coming. Are we ready?
My decision to make first promises in Apostoli Viae last year came from the desire to give a bigger “Yes” to God. Being part of this community is the way that I am “keeping watch” for the Lord through accountability to prayer, self-giving, and the sacraments. Put another way, living out the charism of Apostoli Viae is the way that I love the Lord more fully.
What is the desire of your heart? Where are you being pulled?
If the Lord has led you here and you are wondering whether perhaps it is God’s will for you to enter into deeper association as a Disciple, then I encourage you to ignore the doubts and take the next small step if that is your desire…and then surrender it all to the Lord, knowing that God’s plan for you is perfect.