Mary Grade Lewis is a current Seton Teaching Fellow in Cohort 7. She is a graduate of Benedictine College in Achison KS, where she earned her Bachelor of Art in Theology. Both in her operations role at Brilla Veritas Elementary School in the South Bronx, and in community, Mary Grace blesses this mission with her faith, servant-leadership, and dedication to excellence.
At the beginning of this year of service, I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to live in a community of Catholic women. Upon moving to New York, I quickly learned that the area of spiritual growth I was most excited about would also be the area I would need to work at the most this year. There were many times in the first few weeks in New York that I struggled with learning how to love and how to give myself to my community members. I found myself confused by the vastly different personalities that I was being called to love as my sisters. My community was not living up to the expectations of what my intentional Catholic community should look like.
It was not until the beginning of October that I finally had a mindset breakthrough. It took me more than six weeks to beat my pride and admit that I was the source of my own discontentment. I had not been willing to give myself totally to my three community members. I was the one not trusting Christ by refusing to share my heart and my love with these women I serve alongside every single day.
This mindset change occurred during a retreat for the Fellows. The theme of this retreat was on the Holy Spirit at work in New York City. During this retreat, our priest spoke on different impediments to friendship with the Holy Spirit. One of these impediments was attitude. He told us that it is important to reflect on what our thoughts are focused on most of the time. I easily realized that I was discerning God’s will in a very self-centered way. This priest reminded us that many times God’s will is painful. He reminded us that the seed of our spiritual life cannot bear fruit until it falls to the ground and dies. This scripture reference shook me. As a Cohort, we had been reading This War is the Passion by Caryll Houselander. In this book, Houselander explained the will of God in a similar way: “What is his will? His will is love: he wills that men shall live lives which through love are good and happy, that in each life he shall come to flower, and as it happens with natural flowers, when he flowers in men they die to themselves and give his life.”
The seed must fall before it can bear fruit. I must die to my preconceptions of a “perfect” community. I must love my sisters for who they are and share my own personality and life with them. A simple realization, but how big a change came from it!
Being reminded once that I must die to myself in order to live my life well is not enough. To love well, I must constantly remind myself that my life is not my own. This year and this life are not about me. I must open myself to the graces Christ wants to pour into me so that I can be His hands and His feet; so that my heart can beat with His love. I face a daily battle to put my community members before myself. There are many moments when I fail to love them as I should, however grace and strength come when I ask for forgiveness and renew my commitment to them. My prayer for the rest of this year continues to be that I die to myself so that I can give Christ’s life to these people around me. The seed must fall before it can bear fruit.