Ever since I was a little girl, I had wanted to give my life to God.
After graduating from high school, I joined a Dominican Order of Sisters and was heartbroken when they decided it was not my vocation, that I was too independent and rebellious.
Three weeks later some friends from college invited me to join them on a trip to a place called Madonna House. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, I said, “Sure, I’ll come,” and I fell in love with this beautiful place. My friends went back to school, but I asked Catherine Doherty if I could stay on for a few weeks. At one point she came up to me and said, “Honey, you are running away from life. Go home. Get a job, go to school, get a boyfriend, and don’t come back for five years.”
God doesn’t want me, I decided, and I don’t want him. I went back to school, got a few boyfriends, graduated with a degree in theatre, embarked on a rather successful career, and went about doing everything I could that was not right.
Thirteen years later, I was working in New York City, where we were doing night shots. On my way to work one evening, I passed a store with a large icon of Our Lady of Vladimir in the window. Before it hung a lampada.
I stopped dead in my tracks. It was as if a magnet was pulling me towards that icon. But since I was late for work, I thought, I’ll check it out tomorrow and then be on my way.
The next day I went into what turned out to be a Catholic book store. There was a lovely lady at the counter. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. All I knew was that I was being drawn, irresistibly. I bought a couple of books and started out the door. Suddenly I turned around and said to the sales lady, “Do you have any Miraculous Medals?” She laid them out on the counter, an array ranging in cost from twenty-five cents to two hundred fifty dollars. I bought a medium-priced medal. Now, I wasn’t looking for conversion. I wasn’t looking for Jesus. But I put on the medal.
The next night, as I was on my way home from work, I passed a Catholic church. Inexplicably, I decided to go in. A couple of ladies were saying the rosary at the front. Then there was Mass. I sat in the back and didn’t engage with anyone, but on my way out I noticed a sign that read, “Confessions, 3-3:30 p.m.” The thought ran through my mind that I should go to confession.
Now that was a joke! Why would I want to go to confession? I didn’t want to change my life; I was quite happy with being a hedonist. But that night I lay in bed wide awake. What do I have to lose? I thought. Maybe I’ll just give God a chance…
A lot had changed since Vatican II, when I’d left the Church. Instead of going into a confessional, I was startled to find myself in a room with an elderly priest sitting there. “Are you okay?” he asked. “To tell you the truth,” I said, “I’m not really sure why I’m here. I haven’t been to confession for thirteen years.” “That’s all right,” he said. “I’ll help you.” He started going through the commandments. “Have you done this?” “Yes.” “Have you done that?” “Yes.” To be quite honest, I didn’t have an ounce of compunction at that moment. But suddenly this holy priest began to cry, the tears streaming down his cheeks. He gave me absolution.
As I walked out of the confessional I heard the words of the Gospel in my heart, “You were lost and now you are found.”
We hear conversion stories that seem impossible, but I can stand before you and say, miracles happen and they happen in just this way. God says, “Sweetheart, you are going down the wrong path. You had better be careful, because you are in big trouble and I’m going to help you out.”
From that moment, my life changed completely. I came back to Madonna House a few months later. Catherine was still alive, and I was trying to discern what to do next. I knew I needed to change my career. I was working in theatre and film at the time and there was definitely a progression to a darker way of filming. I didn’t have a strong moral background then, but I didn’t want to be a part of what was happening. There had to be more to life than that.
I didn’t want to join Madonna House, but Jean Fox, Catherine’s assistant, reassured me, “I’m sure you don’t have a vocation here.” So, I stayed on a little longer.
Well, I am still here, more than forty years later. Our Lord and his Mother saved my life through my Madonna House vocation.
Christ didn’t give up on me, and I was really not a nice lady! He won’t give up on you either. Ever. When the storms come, he will always be there for you, and he will be there when the storms subside. You will find rest for your soul as I have.
Woman at the Well icon by Helen Hodson