Why God Will Never Cancel You (An Inside Look at the Sisters of Life)

You are not cancel-able. I just wanted to say that, because I think we all can have this nagging worry that we will be “cancelled” somehow. I think a lot of us have this idea that love is earned, is conditional, is dependent on what we can do, how we look, how successful we are. And these lies lead inevitably to fear — fear of rejection, fear of being ourselves, fear of failure, fear of being a disappointment, fear of being enough, fear of being loved and accepted, fear of making a mistake.

We’ve heard ‘God loves you’ countless times… But there is a difference between knowing that in our heads and receiving in our hearts.

It makes me think of Tom, a man whom I met on a plane once. He believed that science could explain everything. I asked him, “But what about what goes on in our hearts, our minds, our desires — the things we long for — how does science explain that?” He said, “You mean, our desire for love?”

I said, “Yeah.”

He said, in a sad way, “I don’t know”.

Tom was sad because he didn’t know where this “Love” came from — this undeniable desire for love that reflects our origin, our identity and our destiny. Every one of us desires to be chosen in small things and bigger things; we want to be chosen for that job, that promotion;  we want to be chosen by that special someone, ultimately to be chosen and loved exclusively.  This desire is written in our hearts, and it means something important: We’re made to be chosen, cherished, delighted in. God put this hunger in our hearts because he intends to fulfill it as only he can.  God chose you. He is present to you, and his choice for you is something deeply personal, profound and lasting. This is the stunning truth about the human person.

Tom’s sorrow came because he didn’t believe that what he most wanted was attainable. Those seeds of sorrow and despair are rooted in the culture of death. We’ve all witnessed it in a spirit of hopelessness, despair, discouragement. The lack of reverence and the sins against the dignity of human life — abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, pornography, human trafficking — are merely a symptom to the underlying root cause, which is believing that God can’t answer the question Who am I? It is only under the gaze of God — who called us out of nothingness — who can reveal to us our deepest identity: who we are and what we are made for, no matter what we have done or what has been done to us. The truth is that each of us is a totally unique and unrepeatable reflection of Almighty God, made in his image. Your life and your love matters. You are irreplaceable.

As Sisters of Life, we embody the Church’s response to the culture of death — combating the lies and the fear with the truth of God’s love. We receive Christ’s love as his consecrated brides, and we love in return. Our founder, Cardinal O’Connor, would point out that there is a great work of healing that needs to happen in our world, in our Church. For this reason, all of our missions are healing missions.  After Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, he directed his apostles to take baskets and “pick up the pieces lest any be lost.”

There were many events that led Cardinal O’Connor to found the Sisters of Life.  But he would often reflect on a singular experience he had when he visited the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. He walked through the concentration camp and came to the crematoria where the bodies were burned; and, in this of all places, he had a mystical experience. He said, “I placed my hand in the oven and felt the intermingled ashes of Jew and Christian, rabbi, priest and minister.”

He was really struck to the heart. He cried out, “Good God, how could human beings do this to other human beings?” He vowed in that moment that he would do whatever he could, until his dying breath, to promote the sacredness of every human life.

He said, “My life was changed radically, not modestly, not fractionally but radically when I put my hand into the oven at Dachau…I knew that with all my studies and all my degrees…up until that moment, I knew no real theology. I learned it at Dachau. The men and women who died at Dachau shaped my adult life.

To him, it wasn’t that 11 million people died in the Holocaust, but that one person of infinite worth died 11 million times, and that Christ experienced each death as his own. For Jesus, it is always about the individual person — the dazzling value, the infinite worth of a single soul made in the image and likeness of Almighty God.

We, as the Sisters of Life, marvel that God would choose such a place of darkness and death to inspire the Cardinal in such a radical way. This is how Christ works — he descends to the lowest place of human weakness, sin and evil and rises to bring new eternal life to souls. This is what he wants to do with all the burdens in our lives. It’s what he wants to do with the darkness in our families, in our workplace, in our culture.

Sister of Life at SEEK 2019

He has given us Love as the answer to all fear. Living in the confidence of his Love creates, sustains, renews, transforms, heals and brings life!  And the world is literally dying to know this truth.

That’s why, as Sisters of Life, vow to God poverty, chastity, obedience and to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life. That’s why we spend four hours a day in common Eucharistic prayer. That’s why we walk with women who are facing unexpected pregnancies, helping them to experience their own goodness and to move in freedom, not in fear. That’s why we offer weekend retreats where women can discover their beauty, value and uniqueness and start to live it every day. That’s why we help women who have experienced abortion receive the healing and freedom of Jesus. We want everyone to know, deep down, that their lives have meaning and purpose and are worthy of profound reverence. It is then that one can truly recognize the value and worth of another.

Because, the truth is that each of us is loved and chosen, brought intentionally into existence by God. The truth is that our identity, our very being, is not something we earn or create but is a good gift to be received.

The truth is: you are not cancel-able.

“Over the course of hundreds of years Almighty God has inevitably seemed to raise up religious communities to meet the special needs of the day…My reading of the ‘signs of the times’…impels me to believe that the Holy Spirit, ‘brooding over the bent world,’ wants to inspire a religious community whose charism would be uniquely the protection and advancement of human life itself.” – John Cardinal O’Connor

Sr. Virginia Joy, S.V.
Sr. Virginia Joy, S.V.
Sr. Virginia Joy entered the Sisters of Life in 2009. The Sisters of Life are a contemplative active community that take a 4th vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life. Sister is a native of South Carolina and she currently serves in Manhattan as the Director of the Respect Life office for the Archdiocese of New York. Sister has also served in the community Visitation Mission working with vulnerable pregnant women in need and in the Vocations mission.

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