Las Matas, Madrid (Spain)
When I look back and think of how I’ve known the Home of the Mother for over 20 years now, I am filled with gratitude and ever more convinced of the fact that the Lord Himself is the one who led me here. As is the case with so many favors God grants us, there’s no human explanation. However as time goes by, everything falls into place and it all makes sense. I’m sure that the most important question really is: “What was His purpose in calling me here?” I continue on my path, lost in Our Lady’s embrace and journeying amidst the Lord’s signs of affection and His corrections.
Coincidence does not exist for those who believe in Divine Providence. However, it never ceases to amaze me how God has His ways and how He arranged everything to make the Home become a part of my life.
Everything started with my first days of college. I was honestly a little lost. Then, all of a sudden: familiar faces! I went over and started talking to a group of girls. One of them was named Rocío. We had some of the same classes together and we soon struck up a frienship. I remember her telling me how much she enjoyed attending daily Mass. I think the only person I knew who went to Mass every day was my Grandma Carmen!
With time, we lost contact, but God didn’t give up on me. We finished college and “I decided” (or the Holy Spirit led me) to give her a call and ask what plans she had for the future. Her brother answered the phone and told me that she was in Santander (Northern Spain). Thinking she was on vacation, I asked when she would be back. The answer was, “She’s not coming back. She’s entered the convent.” I must admit that I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes. I was both confused and amazed. A college friend was now a nun! I was perplexed. We started writing each other letters and I started getting to know the Home of the Mother. She invited me several times to go on a retreat with them, but I wasn’t interested in stepping outside my comfort zone. But, thanks to her perseverance, I finally ended up going to the Holy Week Encounter in Priego (Spain) in 1994, the Year of the Family. I went with two girls from Atocha (Madrid) who I didn’t know at the time: Maria and Virginia. I spent the entire car ride bombarding them with questions. We even passed the exit and arrived late to the Encounter! In the Chrism Mass, my attention was particularly drawn to an old woman I saw sitting in a wheelchair. Everyone seemed to be looking out for her needs. She seemed to be a very special person. I later learned she was Mamie. Her joy and affection were contagious, in spite of the fact that her words were always quite firm and clear – not politically correct. She was a woman who lived in God and Our Lady. She may have been delicate on the outside, but she was as strong as iron on the inside. What I most recall from that first Encounter is my surprise at finding so many young people who were sincere, down-to-earth, helpful, welcoming. It really did feel like a “home”. I had discovered Catholics who lived a life of joy and coherence.
All this got me thinking about my Catholic faith and I reached the conclusion that it was all very attractive. I just wasn’t willing to live it at the time. Perhaps it was because I was afraid of losing “my world”. Perhaps I saw how much I had to change or I was just too worried about what others would think of me. So, I thought of attending the Home’s events, but without making any commitment. Little by little, I realized that I needed more. God wanted to give me everything and all I did was try and talk Him down. Through the retreats, talks, formation meetings, moments of prayer, Masses, songs, I could feel God’s love for me softening my heart and I started making a bigger effort in my prayer and going to Mass more frequently. I had left the door to my heart open just a crack, but I now felt the need for God steadily increasing, accompanied by the wonderful experiences of His presence in my life. The friendship, witness of Christian life, and support of HM members have all helped me along the way. Opening a closed door is no easy feat; neither was recognizing that my mound of excuses, procrastinations, fears, and false apprehensions was all my own invention. However, as we grow closer to God and we start discovering His “crazy love” for us, it’s almost impossible to remain indifferent to His love. His mercy is astonishing, overwhelming. So, that’s when something has to change. That’s when we realize that something important is taking place in our lives.
The Home of the Mother soon became my path to God. It was in the Home that I started going out with the man who is today my husband: José. I remember when we would go up to Barcenilla (Spain) to help out with the construction of the retreat house “Casa Carmen Maria” or our immense joy at Fr. Juan’s priestly ordination, or when we prayed the Rosary with the Servant Brothers at the shrine “Virgen del Mar”, or when Fr. Felix showed us around the broken down house that is today – thanks to all the work and efforts the Brothers have put into it – their Novitiate House, or all our meals and conversations shared with the Sisters and Fr. Rafael. We must admit, the Sisters have always had a special place in our hearts... There are so many amazing memories that accompany our gratitude for being able to share in those quasi-beginnings of the Home of the Mother. However, one of my most cherished memories is when we went on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) with the Home just two months before our wedding. We both had a very profound experience of preparation for our marriage. I felt like the Lord was teaching me – with the blisters on my feet and the breathtaking views – to plant my feet firmly on the ground while keeping my eyes fixed on Heaven and leave behind the “me-you” mentality to embrace the “we” mentality.
Present at our wedding were Fr. Rafael, Fr. Felix, and a group of Sisters who helped us to really LIVE this sacrament with joy – as a vocation – in God, who is really the only one who can give it meaning, and in the tender gaze of Our Mother Mary. Our two sons – Juan Maria and Pablo José – have both been consecrated to Our Lady by Fr. Rafael. Our oldest son was also baptized by him. They’ve also grown up participating in HM activities and camps, thanks be to God.
Reading one of Fr. Rafael’s letters to HM members (the Letter for Lent 2001), I felt reflected in my own experience of the call, when Father writes: “Belonging to the Home is first and foremost a vocation, not merely a personal decision... We are not simply a group of faithful. Rather, we are individuals with a vocation, according to God’s plan, who live a specific calling within the Church, rooted in our existence as members of the Church.” This is my life goal: to respond to the Lord’s calling by living – as a Catholic – this charism with which I feel more and more identified as time goes by.
Many thanks to all the people in the Home who have helped me and continue to help me in the “spiritual ascent”. I trust and hope that the Lord who has brought me this far will allow my heart to “absorb” all it can in the Home so I can in turn give to others wherever He leads me.
Blessed by God!