A Greater Freedom
Stuck at home, with no place to go, Audrey wanted to numb herself. Then came the proposal of a "Rule."
When quarantine began, I was completely devastated because I knew that I would not be able to receive the Eucharist for a long time. There were many times when I burst out in tears, asking God how I would be able to see Him without the sacraments, and how I would even be able to live at all. It seemed as if the most important aspect of my life, which is my faith, had been ripped away from me. Additionally, without being able to go to school or work or see my friends, I felt that everything that defined me was gone. Since I was stuck at home, seemingly unable to contribute to society, I felt completely useless.
Not only was I overcome with a feeling of meaninglessness, but the reality of the world being put “on pause” forced me to ask myself very serious questions. Once I was no longer able to do anything I was used to doing, the question “What am I living for?” took on a whole new meaning. Unable to answer any of the questions in my heart confidently, I went into a period of intense darkness. I would spend each day doing the bare minimum of what was expected of me. I wanted to feel numb so as to not feel the pain of not being in control, of not knowing the future, of not knowing myself, and of not understanding what sort of purpose my life could possibly have. During this time, the only moments in which I felt truly alive were on GS video calls. For the hour or so that we met, I wanted so badly to live reality intensely, no matter how much pain that entailed.
On our first national call, Fr José proposed to us a GS “Rule,” which included weekly School of Community meetings, daily calls to pray the Regina Caeli together, and, individually, an hour of charitable work each week. I felt so much hope upon hearing this proposal, as I was aware from the beginning that I would be unable to face this time without my community. In my heart I knew that it was absolutely necessary for me to follow this rule, regardless of whether or not it would be easy. Because there was no one forcing me to live this way and there would be no punishment if I chose not to, I had complete freedom to choose to live by this rule. I desired so strongly to use my freedom in a way that would be pleasing to God and beneficial to myself, so I made it a priority to do what was being asked of me.
Seeing the faces of my friends every week and hearing them share their experiences provided a light for me that nothing else could. The more calls I went to, the more I knew I was not alone. Also, daily opportunities to pray in community reminded me that Christ is the meaning and the reason for all my activities throughout the day. I often didn’t want to pray at all, but having other people there to pray with me helped me to go against all of my feelings and pause to offer to God a few peaceful moments of every day.
I formed my daily schedule around my GS schedule so that I was always in anticipation of the next opportunity to live out the Rule. This was especially helpful on the days that I felt overwhelmed by my schoolwork because knowing that soon it would be time to stop and pray or speak with my community, I found more peace and meaning in what I was doing every moment. I was constantly reminded that everything I was doing was in solidarity. I did not feel alone when I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours by myself, because I knew my friends were also doing it. I even felt a sense of community while I did my schoolwork for hours every day all alone in a small room because I knew that everyone in GS was doing the same thing as me for the same reason.
As my friends shared on the calls, I would beg Christ that hearing their experiences could change my life. I would pray, “Lord! Let me be moved by this!” every single meeting. My heart ached because I saw such beauty in the words of my friends, and I desired so greatly to see reality as a gift from God the way they did. I was so struck in one meeting by the words “Our greatest fear is to not be familiar with Christ.” No matter what is going on in the world, no matter how many mistakes I was making, no matter how useless I felt, all that matters is to know Christ. Although I do not even know my own heart, I was certain in that moment that ultimately I just want to be familiar with Christ. It became very clear to me that Christ also wants and prefers me, and He is desiring to make Himself familiar to me through GS.
Reality at this time has made it impossible to receive Christ in the sacraments. At first, it seemed to me that there was no hope, and that God had abandoned me. However, I now understand that by going to GS and living out what we propose, I am developing a more true relationship with God, Who is present here and now. Going to School of Community and praying with my community throughout the day, I am falling more in love with the Mystery. I am beginning to see Christ in every aspect of my tedious life during quarantine, and I can even find joy in doing the dishes! I view reality as an opportunity to know Him and love Him more. Through this seemingly unpleasant situation, I am being made.
In the beginning of quarantine, I was well aware of my hunger for the Eucharist. During this time, GS has helped me discover my hunger for the community, which is also (in a mysterious way!) the Body of Christ. My sadness was a path to understanding Christ’s words "Where two or more are gathered in My name, I am there among them," which I was previously not taking into account. I now know that I can enjoy and adore people as well, because they truly are His Body!
I find that in many of my prayers my heart exclaims, “Thank You, Jesus, for such a great gift of this community!” GS has helped me to look at my life, my faith, and even my own existence in a new and profoundly beautiful way during this time. With this new look, I am beginning to see that it is possible for me to be more free now—kept at home with almost nothing in my control—than I have ever been before.
Audrey, St. Paul, Minnesota