The following is an article that Sr. Valerie compiled in November, 2006 for the ‘What God means to me’ section of the Alive publication, while she was working as a secondary school teacher and guidance counsellor. (Reproduced with kind permission of Alive)
When I was 16 I stopped going to Mass. I felt there was no point in going. But thank God I still went for feast days and the odd Sunday. Furthermore, I am a coeliac so I didn’t always receive Holy Communion. I also had no idea what, or Who, I was really receiving. I didn’t know that the readings were not just words, but are inspired by the Holy Spirit and that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
I did my Leaving Cert and most of my college years relying only on myself. I saw no point in praying for exams, as I could study myself! However, thank God my Mother prayed for me anyway. During my degree exams she gave me a relic of St. Thérèse and a prayer which I brought into all my exams. I felt it couldn’t do any harm to have it with me!
I started going to Mass more regularly the following year. I can’t say exactly why, but feel it was through the prayers of my mother and St. Thérèse. During my H.Dip course I chose Religion for teaching methodology as the lecturer seemed easy going. He suggested we get a children’s Bible to learn the stories (especially if we hadn’t a Theology degree). The more I read the Bible the more I wanted to read. Perhaps if I’d had a good grounding in knowing my faith as part of my education I would have understood this earlier.
I really think the Catechism needs to be taught in our primary and post primary schools, especially in our secular and multi-denominational society, and not get too caught up with political correctness.
Parents also need to be educated on the catechism. How can they pass on the faith if they don’t know what they believe in?
One Saturday evening in my local church I received a pair of wooden Medjugorje rosary beads with a card explaining the Rosary. It had a beautiful picture of Our Lady on the front. I was struck by the words: “If you only knew the power of the Rosary, the beads would never leave your hands.” From then, I tried to pray the Rosary with my heart. I began going to Mass and confession regularly, but never analysed it too much until I came to write this article. Last summer, a trip to Medjugorje revitalised my faith and gave me an intense desire for a loving relationship with God.
Then I travelled to World Youth Day with Youth 2000. In Germany I met wonderful young people and priests who still help me on life’s journey.
In this “Pilgrimage of Grace”, the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux have really inspired me. I can relate to her “elevator” to God: prayer. As Our Lady of Medjugorje says, “Pray, Pray, Pray.” I hope that I too like St. Thérèse will be able to truly recognise that “everything is grace.”
Today, I can’t imagine my life without prayer and Mass. Life has so much meaning now knowing that God loves me and that I am merely passing through this life on my way home. I still have off days and moody days. But Jesus is with me, even though I can’t physically feel his presence. Everyone has an intrinsic need to love and be loved. Catholicism provides this.
I would not be able to write this article were it not for the grace of God and my desire to tell you that God is Love and is waiting for you too. As Our Lady says: “Live in the joy of knowing that you are loved by God.”
Sr.Valerie entered our Carmelite Monastery in Knock in January, 2009. She made Solemn Profession in May, 2015.