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How God wooed this witty heart

Jeffrey Bruno

Sr. Fidelity Grace, SV - published on 02/15/22

Like a good father, God wants to provide for the needs of His children … and sometimes His children just need a little fun …

It was a bizarre prayer – it wasn’t even February – but in a moment of desperation, I uttered it. 

“Why don’t you pray for a valentine?” she’d said.

I had been visiting a friend, lamenting my confusion in life – my unsettled state as a young teacher, the restlessness of my heart that longed to give itself totally in the calling for which I was made but couldn’t see the fulfillment. And this was the idea she had for me. 

I had definitely prayed before – every night by my bedside growing up I would rattle off an Our Father and Hail Mary. And since I went to youth Masses and Catholic camps as a teen, I became more serious about intentional conversation with God. I usually asked God to help people I knew who were sick. I prayed for world peace, for an end to abortion, etc. But I don’t know that I ever really felt a direct answer to prayer – the certainty of God having heard me and responding in a tangible way. 

So I got down on my knees, somewhat skeptical, yet nonetheless curious about what would happen when I asked God for a valentine. It was a plea for a taste of His love, a little kiss from Heaven. What happened? No lightning flash. No booming voice. So I waited.  

I didn’t have to wait long before I found myself at a local parish for an evening of adoration and confession. And this is where it gets good. There was a new priest in town … Fr. Valentine.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I laughed to myself as he exposed the Blessed Sacrament. It seemed quite obviously an answer to my petition – and personal love for my witty heart!

Then as time went on the answer became more lucid, as I found our Eucharistic Lord whispering loudly in the core of my being. “Be mine” was the clear invitation Jesus placed before me. “Belong entirely to me as my Bride.”

Fr. Valentine was purely the instrument, bringing me to the One whose love knows no boundaries, no conditions, that never runs out but is ever available — love that is literally life-giving. He is mine and I am His. I still smile every Valentine’s Day at this memory. 

Like a good father, God wants to provide for the needs of His children … and sometimes His children just need a little fun …

When I was a novice we had a serious case of the “February Blues” after the festivities of Christmas had died down and the cold starkness of winter dragged on. Since the season had been more brown than white, a zealous novice decided to compose a “Snowvena” – nine days of prayer (a Novena) “for the gift of snow, for the glory of your children.” Hopeful novices spent time clearing the slope of rocks and sticks to prepare the way for the anticipated blizzard. The initial weekly forecast looked doubtful at best, but the firm believers in the house put up a sign on the fridge gathering guesses for how much snow would come. Skeptics played it safe with 1-2 inch guesses, but those of greater faith opted to guess over a foot of snow. It didn’t even take the full nine days for the flurries to start pouring out of the skies, blanketing the sliding slope. Novices pulled out their sleds with glee at this true gift from our Heavenly Father who delights in the sheer fact of our asking Him. 

God is always listening when we speak to Him. It is we who often don’t pause long enough to hear His response. When we do give Him our attention, He is ever telling us “I love you. I am with you. Stop looking at your problems and look at me.”

I like to put it in context. After some 6,000 years of faithful prayer and Messianic expectation for the people of Israel, who are we to claim “long” answers?

And His timing is perfect … but accustomed as we are today to instant messages and immediate results, it often seems to take forever. I like to put it in context. After some 6,000 years of faithful prayer and Messianic expectation for the people of Israel, who are we to claim “long” answers? We might have to pass the baton of our prayers to the next generation, never living to see them come to fruition in this life, but no prayer is ever wasted. God is faithful and does respond to us when we cry out to Him. Most of us have a serious case of myopia when it comes to faith – our sight is limited to what is right in front of us. But truth is, God sees beyond the horizons this world imposes. In His endless creativity, He can make banquets out of stale, wilting leftovers. There is no mess that He cannot bring to beauty. And He is with us in the mess too.

Prayer changes us. The very act of praying expresses and intensifies our faith. I remember getting to know about the life of Blessed Solanus Casey while I was discerning religious life. A fellow Wisconsinite who entered Eternal Life the day I entered this world – we had much in common. And as I learned the spirituality of this holy Capuchin doorman, I was moved to adopt it myself. “Thank God ahead of time” was not presumption, but an expression of real faith in who Jesus is. I was apprehensive at first. Do I really have faith that bold? Not wanting to end up disappointed, there was the temptation to sheepishly ask for small things rather than miracles. But when we look into the eyes of Jesus, when we place our needs into His hands, only love awaits us. We have nothing to fear. He invites us to believe more completely … to ask for more. Jesus hungers for our total trust. 

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself.” He reads between the lines of our prayers … our requests for jobs and housing and friends and health. He knows our deepest desires to be seen, heard, noticed, appreciated, understood, and cherished. And He alone is their fulfillment. As I started to thank God for making clear to me His plan for my life, I found myself actually believing more fully that He was who He said He was … all-powerful and all-good. 

God wants the best for us. He wills our good. This is the real definition of love. And C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain says,

Our good is to love Him…We are bidden to ‘put on Christ,’ to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment; by too much love, not too little.” 

Grace has allowed me to see that even difficult moments can be an answer to prayers I have uttered. I’m almost positive I prayed for humility the day I broke the window or locked the keys in the car! But most of all, whenever we pray for union with Jesus, for holiness …whenever our hearts are stirred to offer our lives completely to God, well … He takes us at our word. The thing we often forget is that the Gospel recipe for happiness, the pathway to intimacy with Jesus, is the royal Way of the Cross. 

It may take a lifetime for us to understand God’s responses to our requests … maybe only in Eternal Life will the answers come. And then they won’t matter anyhow, because we will be swept up into Him – He who IS the Answer – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This is the Divine Romance, the tenacious pursuit of the relentless lover who would stop at nothing to show His love, even giving His life. 

Last Spring as I prepared to renew my vows, I prayed for a valentine again. Maybe not in those words, but I was eager for the Lord to swoop down and renew me in His love. I had no idea how He would do this but trusted my Spouse and His antics. My penance from Confession was to take a certain book off the shelf – The Fulfillment of All Desire. And grabbing this title, out fell a holy  card with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – the feast on which I would renew my vows! And it wasn’t just any image. It was my “Jesus picture” – the one that adorned the prayer table in my bedroom as a little girl. I knew it was His way of reminding me that all these years He has been faithful. He alone can fulfill the deepest desires written into my heart from the very beginning.

And on the back of the holy card, as icing on the cupcake, was this beautiful quote from the former Jesuit Superior General Fr. Pedro Arupe:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with … will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” 

I was swept off my feet and I said “yes.”

During this season of celebrating love … let yourself be loved eternally.  

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Vocation
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