Yesterday, January 25, the Church celebrated the conversion of St. Paul.
Yesterday, January 25, 2009, my friend Tara Hernandez entered the Poor Clares in Santa Barbara, California.
It is unlikely that for the reminder of my life I will see Tara more than once or twice. She will be cloistered and will be spending the majority of her day in prayer for the world. Her family will be able to visit her once a month (behind the cloister grill) until she takes her final vows where they will walk her down the aisle and then after her "wedding" to Christ (as we will be wedded to Christ in Heaven) she will only be able to see them four times a year (behind the cloister grill) for approximately an hour and half each visit.
Through the consecrated, virginal life she is choosing (love is choice or it is not love) to be a sign and witness to the reality of the life believers will enjoy in eternal life.
After the Great Persecution of Christians by Diocletian ended (305 A.D.), martyrdom by blood ceased in the Roman Empire with the Edict of Milan declaring the Christian Faith legal by the Emperors Constantine and Licinius. Christians were no longer shedding blood for Christ and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the "white" martyrdom began: the monastic movement. It started in Egypt, my mom and dad's mother country!
When we visited Egypt in the summer of 2007, we were able to visit some of these monasteries from the first recorded centuries in history. We met monks who were following in the legacy of their predecessors for 2,000 years.
The Christian Faith is either true or we are lunatics.
It must be very meaningful for my dear friend to enter the monastery on the Feast of St. Paul's conversion. She found her faith in her mid-twenties and now in her late twenties is participating in her ongoing conversion to Christ. We are saved, we are being saved, we will be saved.
Salvation is not a one-time event but an ongoing, dynamic process. Christ reminds us to always be vigilant through St. Paul's words,
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27)
St. Paul, alive in Heaven, pray for us.
Tara, my friend alive on Earth, pray for us.
I will miss you.