This blog post first appeared on the Fiat House blog Dec. 2. It is being reprinted here with permission.
As I write this blog post, the walls of the Fiat House are starting to look quite bare. In fact, they look quite a bit like they did during those first few weeks when we first moved in. Tomorrow morning at 8:30, a small crew of friends will be coming to help me move my belongs to the Wild West (St. Anna, MN) and I will be saying my farewell to Fiat House. In three weeks when April moves out, the Fiat House itself will be saying farewell as the Lord in His infinite wisdom, has decided to close the chapter of Fiat House to begin writing something new for the both of us.
Last night April and I reflected on all of the beautiful ways the Lord used Fiat House for His Glory. We remembered our first party where we unveiled our house name, we recalled the joy of our first 5k and the yearly advent retreats we coordinated. We also reminisced about all the wonderful people who gifted us with their presence for Fiat dinners. One of the greatest gifts of this house was the beautiful friendship formed with our first roommate, Marita.
I could go down memory lane for hours, and you could too if you scrolled through the archived blog posts. But what I have been reflecting on most from my time here at Fiat House isn’t so much the memories of the house, but its purpose.
When I first moved into Fiat House I was restless to organize its vision and mission. The Lord had mysteriously called this house forth and I was anxious to use my gifts to help Him shape it into something organized, structured and well run. In my mind we were a discernment house for young women interested in consecrated life. I thought of many ways we could accomplish this goal: Fiat 5ks, nun runs, and collecting materials on various religious orders. I thought that this house – through April and I – was meant to serve other women.
Gradually over time, the Lord began to strip me of the supports of my coordinated efforts and plans for this house. Life at the Fiat House began to slow down and the house began to flower into something completely different from what I had thought. I began to realize that this house wasn’t for other people’s formation, it was for our formation.
As the house began to independently take shape, I would get increasingly more annoyed with the questions: “so what exactly is Fiat House?” “what do you ladies do?” “What’s its purpose?” I felt vulnerable and stupid with these questions because I didn’t know the answers. I couldn’t see or explain what the Lord was doing, but His movements were palpable. I couldn’t do anything besides surrender my plans to the mystery of His and let Him take over.
Increasingly over time, and with the help of one of my favorite books, Reed of God, it became clear that Fiat House was meant to be an almost four year Advent for both of us. In Reed of God, Carell Houselander describes Advent beautifully: “Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence, It is the season of humility, silence and growth.”
Humility. Silence. Growth. These three words sum up some of the greatest lessons learned at Fiat House. In the hum drum of our quiet life here, the Lord began to grow. Like an expectant mother, I couldn’t initially see anything happening, but I knew he was there and I soon began to feel His presence more and more. Perhaps on the outside nothing exciting appeared to be happening in my life. I had my usual routine of work, grad school classes and such, but on the inside, everything was changing! The Fiat House was a physical reminder of what the Lord was doing interiorly. Just as the Fiat House was an empty space for the Lord to work, my heart was to become an empty space for the Lord to grow. Mother Teresa says “God cannot fill what is full. He can fill only emptiness, deep poverty, and your “Yes” is the beginning of being or becoming empty. It is not how much we really “have” to give, but how empty we are, so that we can receive Him fully in our life and let Him live His life in us.”
I also began to realize that my own “fiat” wasn’t a magical moment when I courageously said my “yes” to God for the great mission for which He was going to call me. My “fiat,” modeled after the blessed Mother’s Fiat, was meant to be a spousal “I do.” A complete gift of myself to the Lord to do with me as He willed. On paper this seems lovely, but through the tears, trials and pains of purifications, I began to know what kind of commitment was required to be a spouse of Christ. The Lord began to teach me about my daily “fiat…” the daily “yes’s” that require self denial to accomplish His will. The Lord uses our obedience to flower within us. Every “Yes” to Him is a “No” to our self and therefore allows Him space to continue to grow in our hearts. Mary was full of grace and God-Bearer because she was obedient.
As the physical Fiat House comes to an end, the Lord is asking us to continue the Fiat House in our hearts: an empty space for Him to grow and flower within us. As He continues to grow with in us, He is asking us to take Him out to the new people we will encounter through our new ministries and endeavors.
As we wait in hopeful expectation for the next chapters to be written, in some ways, April and I are approaching yet another Advent. I wait in hopeful expectation as I begin my new job as New Evangelization Coordinator at the parishes in the Holdingford area, and April waits in hopeful expectation as she begins her new endeavors elsewhere (you’ll have to ask her in person where she’s off to. Hint: it’s a bit farther than my new location in St. Anna…)
As we journey in this season of Advent, let’s be attentive to the Lord growing in silence. And let’s not shortchange this Advent season of growth.
help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come into contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up, and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be You, shining on others through me.
Let me preach You without preaching,
not by words but by example,
by the catching force,
the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart hears for You. Amen.
– A prayer by Cardinal Newman