One of my former confessors at Carmel and main chaplain is also an exorcist; he never lost an opportunity to captivate the nuns with such stories or include them in his homilies. One such case I will never forget. He told me a personal story about how he and a few other priests simply could not exorcise one particular demon out of a poor girl; they had tried everything in their power using their authority given to them by God as priests. In a final effort, they forced the demon to the very throne of Christ the King and I couldn’t believe what happened next: the demon would not leave the soul because Our Lord had said “no.” Father told me that at this point he was bewildered and asked the obvious question of “why?” The demon acting as messenger, told the priests that God needed this girl’s sufferings to save souls. Father proceeded to tell me that,
the devil can do nothing, absolutely nothing without first asking the permission of God. (I will never forget that answer) He can’t even touch one hair on your head without permission as he concluded his story.
Some years ago I had an important decision to make. Before entering the order of Carmel I was living in California, but felt an interior longing to return and live in Colorado once again before entering the convent. I just needed short term employment and a place to live. I applied for a job in Littleton, Colorado at a small tea house; I chose this town because it had a Latin Mass parish of which I was quite fond. I wanted to live nearby and experience the glories of daily Mass in the extraordinary form. I knew Our Lady wanted me to make the Latin Mass a priority; although I easily could have done this in California, I felt a “divine” pull to Colorado. After applying to the tea house, I prayed fervently that if it was indeed God’s will to live in Littleton, He would give me this job. I was immediately hired the very same day of my interview during a weekend visit to the “colorful state” and was expected back in exactly one month’s time on August 1st. The only problem was, I had no place to live and had had zero success is finding somewhere to stay short-term. Initially, I was not concerned because I thought “if it’s God will to live here I will find a place to live.”
The few short weeks passed and I found the month winding down to a close and still no prospective leads. It was July 22nd and I flew back to Colorado to attend a dear friend’s wedding. I paid a visit to Littleton’s Latin Mass parish providentially (for me) called “Our Lady of Mount Carmel”; they agreed to put my name in the bulletin asking the parish if anyone would be willing to take me in before entering Carmel. I still remember sitting in the parish hall taking a breather and feeling helpless, realizing I only had a little over a week before my job started; would I indeed find a place to live in time? I tried my best to trust God, but I could feel myself slipping into feelings of doubt. The self-realization of my infamous habit of always having waited until the last minute was not making me feel any better either. I flew back home to California and throughout the week I received some phone calls from families who wanted to “interview” me and make sure I was a good and “normal” Catholic if I was to live under their roof. Some of the families I spoke with were charging too much for rent and my new job was only part- time; I simply could not afford it! I began praying that maybe I would find a nice, elderly “grandmotherly-like” woman who lived alone; I had always loved spending time with people older than myself. I fancied I could clean for her, we could have deep conversations about the faith and we could go to daily Latin Mass together. Although this fantasy seemed improbable at best, I prayed for it with a determination to “dream big” because I had become accustomed to God’s generous nature!
It was now Friday, I was still in California, my job started in just TWO days and I still had not secured a place to live in Colorado! How could I show up to my first day on the job at the tea house and then not have a place to go home to when the shift ended? I officially began to panic, so I called my previous spiritual director (who had helped get me the job at the tea house) and communicated to him my dilemma. He told me that perhaps I was not meant to return to Colorado after all; he said “unless God makes it very clear that you are to move there, you should be content in staying in California”. I definitely had some serious thinking to do. It was fortunate that at that time, my mom and stepdad’s house was located close by a convent of sisters; they were gracious enough to give me the keys to their chapel. I was desperate to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and receive the clarity I so needed in making the right decision to stay or leave. I had brought my bible with me and opened it randomly to the Book of Job. I could not believe that the passage I had unintentionally selected to read described how God not only gave Satan permission to test Job, but that He had even suggested it to the devil, “have you considered my servant Job?” My eyes were instinctively drawn to the verse relaying the words of Job prayed in response to God when all his possessions and children were taken from him:
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Job lost almost all he had, but he never lost God Himself. I saw how my answer lay before me; I had been given a job and another opportunity to live in Colorado, but it was being taken away from me. I think like Job, God wanted to see my reaction; would I curse Him (as Satan predicted of Job) or would I still praise His Name in adversity?
Satan, by God’s permission striketh Job: his patience was still invincible.
I wanted to write about this story today because as I was reflecting on this incident from my past, I realized that my lesson learned all those years ago – like Job’s – was patience. “Waiting IS the cross” I just read in a book a few weeks ago. That is by far one of the best definitions of the cross I have read – short and practical, but how difficult! Our true disposition is revealed in our times of waiting; we have no choice but to put up with ourselves and be patient. I also once read that we most resemble Christ when we are forced to “wait”. Oftentimes, we do in fact put in our one-hundred percent best effort and we are still forced to wait; this is proof that spiritual childhood in the life of a christian is crucial. God wants to be Our Father and He never wants us to think we don’t need Him anymore, no matter how old we may be. With earthly fathers, the day indeed does come when we can stand on our own two feet without holding our parent’s hand. This is not the case with God as Father and Mary as Mother. We must be like little children all the days of our life under Their gaze.
I reflected on this in the chapel that day, the words of my friend ringing loud and clear in my ears; they were discouraging words and Satan used them to temp me. This friend (who is also a zealous Catholic) said it was entirely my fault that I had found no place to live, because I relied too much on God and did not put forth the right amount of effort on my own. I knew the real reason; I was too weak to do anything by myself. It had become a habit for me to rely on God for everything, even the smallest of things. Now it seemed a fault on my part; had I not put in my one hundred percent best? I left the chapel sad and resigned, but at peace. It was exactly three o’clock – the hour of Divine Mercy. I was and am a firm believer in this great hour of devotion and Our Lord’s promise attached to it. In the past when I have asked God for help, He has always come through with an answer within that very hour. Of course as I made my way back home, I was not thinking about that. I was focused on trying to be content with staying in California and still thanking God for this apparent change in plans even if I didn’t quite understand it all yet! The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the Name of the Lord were repeated in my head. It never occurred to me that it was simply an Abraham moment…
I made it inside the house and my cell phone rang, it was a Denver area code which I thought odd. The female caller on the line spontaneously began talking:
Hi, do you still need a place to live? I want you to come live with my mom, she lives alone. Well, her older son is there to look after her, but she has plenty of rooms. Can I call you back? I am going to ask her and I will get right back to you.
You can imagine the erratic emotions that ran through my mind at that moment. I did not want to get my hopes up, but I did indeed have a surge of hope. The woman was true to her word and she called me soon afterwards saying it was all settled; her mother would pick me up on Monday from the metro-stop and take me to my new home. It was all such a dream for I realized like God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, God had wanted me to sacrifice my will only to reveal to me that it had been a test. Our Lord gave Colorado back to me and Issac was given back to his father. It was a powerful moment and in it I saw how my faith in God in that particular situation was not “childishly- dependent”, but had taught me the lesson that I must always have this attitude of reliance on God the Father for even the smallest of needs. I think our problem in this world is we do not see enough of this kind of trust (myself included) that Our Lord will in fact, take better care of us than we ever could ourselves. If we would only give Him the opportunity, then only one thing will be the result: we will have greater faith! Greater faith for the trials ahead; Saint Peter’s words never rang more true in faith being more precious than gold.
When I was waiting at the metro-stop, I saw the car of a sweet older lady approaching me and I felt that I knew her already. I will never forget her words of introduction:
My name is Carmen. I was named after Our Lady of Mount Carmel because I was born on Her feast day, July 16th.
Right then and there, I KNEW I was in good hands. We became the best of friends and she DID treat me like her granddaughter; we drank hazelnut coffee together and had those “deep talks” at her kitchen table. She insisted on taking me to daily Latin Mass and most-importantly- she would not let me pay her one penny for living under her roof! One day she confided in me how she had asked God in prayer: “Why don’t I charge her rent?” She later told me it simply must have been God’s will that she never felt the need. I had indeed been tried and tempted; the waiting period of “not knowing” really was my cross, but all of that pain was forgotten when I saw the reward God gave me for trusting in Him. Never forget this: that we can never rely on God too much and that Satan truly can do nothing to you without permission and if God “suggests” that you be tempted, take heart in knowing that a tempted soul is very pleasing to God. Not soon after the Son of God was baptized He, Himself was driven to the desert to be tempted. At the end of this life may we be able to face God and hear the same words He told His Cherished Second Person of the Blessed Trinity:
This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. (Matt. 3:17)