January 1, 2013 –  O Holy Mother of God, please intercede for us.
Today is my 5th Anniversary of Solemn Vow to consecrate my self and my life to God.  I met with Rev. Father before Mass to renew my Vow.  It was a beautiful grace.  He said a heart-felt prayer to God.  Then after giving thanks to the Lord Most High, the Lover of souls, for the many special graces bestowed on me during the last five years, I renewed my vow, uttering from the depth of my heart as if the Lord, Jesus and His Blessed Mother were present in persons. I spent most of the day in church knowing that tomorrow will begin a new chapter.  To the brother monks I wrote something like this:

It was twenty five years ago I went to Geneseo for college.  Then I got accepted to the University of Buffalo to study architecture.  However, God had another plan.  I let go of everything and journeyed an unknown path.  Ten years later, I arrived to its destination: conversion to Christianity.  Then about ten years later, after living like a Poor Clare and learning how to live the faith, I was chosen to be one of His handmaids who has the grace to desire to imitate His Blessed Mother in all virtues.

A great gift I received for my special day was the pilgrimage to France where I visited Citeaux, the Cistercian Mother House and other Marian shrines in addition to the homes of some of my favorite Saints (Bernadette of Lourdes and Therese of Lisieux).  A few months later, the Lord gave me a “real” job. “Not full-time O Lord for I need to write icons and live my spiritual life”.  He granted me my wish.  Like the grace given to St. Bernadette and her family (after the first apparition, her father got a job, and the family did not have to live in poverty as before), I did not have to do many extra jobs so could spend more time and energy in living the spiritual life and writing icons…

Last June I went to Vietnam to visit my ill father.  I encountered beautiful and inspiring religious statues.  God’s many special graces helped me to import a few to the States.  This heavy mission led me to the desire to work for the Marian Land project on behalf the children spiritual well-being (a small and humble summer spiritual boarding school).  I then started to look for a piece of land to purchase…  I found one on the other end of River road, about 3 minutes from the Abbey, but I don’t feel at home there.  So it is on hold.  As I disclosed this earnest inspiration to friends, a few have generously offered their help and even money to purchase the land, but I told them I want to make sure it is the will of God.  I do not want to feel pressured by those who give me money even though their intention is good.  If God wills it, I told them, he will provide.  I am willing to work and save money for this righteous cause.  I need to have the freedom to act when it is God’s time.

The next day when I went to work, my supervisor told me our department would also be responsible for printing BIG POSTERS in addition to the various other kinds of printing we have been doing.  That meant we needed to hire another part-timer unless I wanted to reconsider and accept working full-time.  I needed time to pray and to consult my spiritual father…  We negotiated and agreed that I would go back to part-time in the summer.  I also made sure that I would do anything possible to be able to attend daily Mass…  All required requests were granted to me! Praise the Lord!

In this Abbey church (I wrote this letter in church) for almost 15 years, I have been sustained and nourished by the Word of God and the Most Precious Body and Blood of His Son.  Many special graces were revealed to me during Masses.  I thank you for living your vocation faithfully and for being a great support and help to me as well as many others…

January 13, 2013 Happy feast of the Baptism of the Lord
So far, contrary to my fear of my soul being choked to death like the seeds in the field, I am experiencing grace-fill reassurances. Thank you for all your prayer. Knowing my weaknesses, I try to stay close to God and stay focused on the goal and the ultimate goal which the only way to get there is through “purity of heart” as St. John Cassian mentioned. I am able to pray and to do spiritual reading during breaks at work. Then a few days ago, I received a clearer vision for the Marian Land.

When searching for a piece of land was put on hold, I felt the need to have a modest studio built (12’x12’) in the back yard where I live so I do not have to work in the living room or the kitchen when I did not have enough time to drive to my studio (allowed me to use by my Italian aunt and uncle). Finally, a young carpenter, Joshua offered to build it for me. He could do it right away, and I could have it by the end of January so I can start working on a painting commission which is due in March. I put all my hope in it. However, a number of obstacles arose that impeded the project. From when I desired this studio until now it has been almost 5 months. I lost my patience. I could not find a clear answer to the lack of cooperation by one of the persons concerned. I was very upset. In the Gospel reading that day, the Lord said: “It is I … Courage”. I took it literally as if He were telling me, like Pharaoh, He has hardened someone’s heart. I could not be mad at anyone for I knew He allowed it. I took it well but was quite upset. My tears could not be controlled as I drove to work. “O Lord, only You who could console my perplexed and disappointed heart”… About midday, a woman whom I did not know well came to my work place in the University Duplicating Center. In the middle of her conversation with my supervisor; the Lord used her words to catch my attention. She shared her grandson’s boarding school experiences. The brief description of what the grandson does at this school very much summarized what I had been trying to identify the Marian Land project. When she left I was totally and absolutely at peace. Only God can do this!!! I knew then, deep down in my heart, the Lord wanted me to stay focused on this mission. My calling of writing icons then clearly became secondary compared to it. I am now not worrying about my studio. I have been painting in poor conditions for the last 20 years. A little longer would not hurt. All my attention and resources must be given over to preparing the future of the children’s well being, the most vulnerable and dependent little ones of God, instead of my own interest.

What then is the next move, Lord? I hastened to seek advice and contacted my friend who has offered me the land. As it turned out, I must contact a wealthy realtor. God knows I never really like to deal with rich, important and people in high places unless I have to. However, I recall that providence had arranged for me to meet this man before I knew who he was. So I looked up his number. “His full first name is Joseph? … O my Lord! … I should not be surprise, right? … O Saint Joseph, the provider and protector of the Blessed Mother and the Lord, the human father of God’s Begotten Son and therefore of all little children, please pray for us.” I made an act of faith and called the number. No one answered. “Dear Lord, I tried… I think I should leave a message because they might be away in Florida for the winter… Yes, I will do. If it is not for the love of You and the children, it is for my peace for I know I cannot rest until I feel I have done what you ask of me.”…

Many things happened today that I have to contemplate what the Lord is trying to teach me. Rev. Father reproved me earlier this morning for my being too energized about this whole project, especially when it comes to my superficial and self-assured attitude concerning my writing a book. He is very right as I am now pondering on what I have done and shared with friends. Rev. Father has warned me many times not to trust many, especially those who cannot appreciate my enthusiasm and my stories about how close the Lord can be to a soul that is open to Him. These people can have good intention, but only grace can enable them to perceive His miracles and believe in them as I do. Thank you Lord for the immediate grace which showed me that my dear Abba was right. Thank you for a reminder and an import lesson. I told a couple friends that I am very at peace. I am neither in haste nor rushing You, my Lord.

By the end of the day, prompted by an uncomfortable feeling and experience after I get to know some people better, I took the initiative to get in touch with another realtor whom I have dealt with before. I wanted to contact him on behalf of a friend who is looking for a room to rent. Today, I called and left him a message. And his name is John! Yes, the Lord gave His dear Blessed Mother to John to take care of her. I am thinking aloud and praying to my Lord: “Who would it be Lord, St. Joseph or St. John who would be responsible to help me?”