by Anastasia Bergeron
I find it fairly odd that memories can somehow have an emotional response attached to them, that events that happened so many (or not so many) years ago can still cause sweaty palms, teary eyes, and a heart pounding with excitement. I couldn’t help but think of this phenomenon as I remembered how I felt nearly three months ago when I pulled out of my Louisiana driveway and made my way to Mobile. The jumble of emotions I felt – fear, hope, resignation, uncertainty- were all so strong that I was unsure if I would ever feel anything else, let alone the joy or peace I was leaving home to find. After several months of tumultuous job searching, the result of which was a position that contrasted rather greatly with what I had envisioned for myself after graduation, I was in a rut. How could I have already drifted so far from what I wanted for my life? Who would give me a chance to reclaim my decisions and rejuvenate my spirit? Of course, it would be the Church, or more specifically, the Little Sisters of the Poor and their Spring into Service program. With opportunities for live-in discernment, service, and prayer, this program offers a unique chance for introspection and redirection, a chance I was hungry to take. I just couldn’t have known how greatly this program would affect my heart and spirit that January morning. Only God’s mercy and Fatherly Hand could have unveiled such a providential portrait.
As I reflect more on what led me to pursue this two and a half month commitment, one which some might consider odd or illogical to say the least, there’s still a sting associated with that time. In the eyes of the world, I was doing everything right. I had a degree (English Education), a job (long-term substitute teaching), close friends, everything anyone would want. And yet, I was so very displeased with what I was doing. Really, it’s such a shame that we place so much worth on a person’s ability to do and do and keep doing. We inhale…one more lesson plan, one more test to grade…and inhale…one more class, one more day…and inhale…one more week, one more month… never stopping lest we somehow fail to complete, fail to mark that check next to the task that absolutely required an end. What’s so wrong with a pause, with a much needed grand exhalation, with a retreat from all that must be done to understand how we need to be? As that recent college graduate, I could already see myself walking right in step with the perpetual productivity expected of someone my age. I was so disenchanted with my attempt to enter the adult working world, so disheartened at what seemed like the deep chasm between what I wanted and what I had. I realize now that finally admitting my need to retreat, to be separate from the typical working world to really attune myself to the voice of God, was an extraordinary grace. What a blessing to know of the Little Sisters and their Spring into Service program and to have them accept my application with compassion and understanding! The wisdom of God to weave my tale into theirs still amazes me.
Jumping back to my arrival date, I reached Mobile just in time for the 11:00 AM Mass, full of anticipation, wonder, and speculation, but ultimately surrendering my time of repose to the Lord. Traditionally, Spring has always been known as a time of renewal, of rebirth, both in nature and in the Church. Flowers lovely to behold push up from the ground, eager to give glory to God with their beauty; fuzzy (or feathery) couples eagerly await the arrival of new offspring, showing us what parenting at its core entails; and our crucified Lord rises from the dead, His body unrecognizable in Its reanimated and enlivened form. I believe that during my stay at the Sacred Heart Home, I experienced my own kind of rebirth, renewal, and ultimately, resurrection. My sense of duty to neighbor and my desire to serve those around me was reborn and nurtured as I served plates in the dining room or gave a quick push to a wheelchair-bound resident. My stale and stagnant faith was renewed through prayer, both with the sisters and in private, prayer that so often was a natural fruit of the works required of me. And lastly, to my great joy, my hope, hope for better days to come and the grace to be a saint and to do the Lord’s will wholeheartedly, was resurrected through the profound and uncommon experiences of love my heart graciously received.
One story sticks out to me when I think about the many times the Lord revealed His desire to provide that grand exhalation I had petitioned Him for without my even knowing it. After all, how could I take in what would revitalize and redirect me without first relinquishing what no longer satisfied? Now, with so many priests in the home, I was reminded quite often (and enthusiastically) that my name, Anastasia, means “resurrection.” My last reminder of this fact came the day that I left for home. As I was saying my final goodbyes on Holy Saturday, I ran into my dear and holy priest friend, Fr. Biven. We had many a theological discussion, and I thoroughly enjoyed his Saturday morning Bible studies, one of which he was on his way to when I ran into him. As we said our goodbyes, Father, in his witty way, lamented, “Our resurrection is leaving us!” I could only chuckle and smile, quite used to his sense of humor, one so like my own. As he scooted down the hall in his wheelchair, almost half under his breath, I heard him say, “No, every day is a resurrection.”
“Every day is a resurrection.” How true! How absolutely true! Every night, we fall asleep and enter into that pseudo-death that reminds us of our end while simultaneously and paradoxically refreshing us for another day to come, if it comes at all. The next day, God willing, we wake up in the morning in a fashion singularly like the resurrection in that we meet a day altogether new and yet so deceivingly like the one before it. Wouldn’t it follow then that our duty is not to live each day as if it is our last but as if it is our first? Who better to teach us about how to live in the hope of the resurrection than the elderly poor, my dear friends, who wake up staring death in the face?
I really couldn’t begin to map out the graces, the lessons, the love that I’ve gained from my stay in Mobile and my time as a Spring into Service applicant. In humble gratitude, with God’s grace, and with the abundance of blessings that He’s poured out to me through His elderly poor, I hope to live out fully my call to be Anastasia, to be a symbol of the resurrection so longed for and so exultantly received.