Told the Story of My Life

I look to the Samaritan woman at the well as a model for effective preaching. After her life-changing conversation with Jesus, the woman becomes a witness who invites others from her village to “come and see” Jesus for themselves (John 4: 26, 29). As Dominicans, we want our preaching likewise to draw people into an authentic encounter with Jesus.


I just reread this story closely for my CTU course on the Gospel of John alongside the commentary Life Abounding by Brendan Byrne, SJ. Byrne notes that the woman’s words, literally “Come and see a man who has told me all I have ever done,” can be translated “ ome and see a man who has told me the story of my life.” This rendering captures the depth of her experience of Jesus. Byrne writes, “Jesus has taken the broken fragments of her life and shown that they can be part of a wider pattern of meaning… Running beneath all the disjointed and unsatisfactory aspects of her life has been a story of divine grace” (87). Jesus tells the story of her life as a meaningful narrative set within the wider context of salvation history.


This week I spent time asking Jesus to weave the fragments of my life into a meaningful story of divine grace (Byrne 90). Prompted by Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP, I created a collage of my spiritual journey to share with my fellow novices. Here it is:


To begin, I recalled my high school self. At that time in my life, I wasn’t involved in any religious education program or youth group. I didn’t think being Catholic had much bearing on what I would decide to do with my life. Faith seemed to me a matter of personal morality and family identity. I had a budding passion for social justice and an intuitive sense that all people belong to one human family. I was committed to searching for common ground among peoples of different cultures and backgrounds. It didn’t occur to me that God had anything to do with this.


In college I discovered Catholic social teaching, and it changed my life. Now I had a theological language to articulate principles that I knew in my heart to be true: the dignity of human persons made in the likeness of God, the right to life, the option for the poor and vulnerable, and solidarity with all creation. I learned about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, which inspired a commitment to nonviolence. Now I wanted to follow Jesus’ way of peace. I came to understand that peace must be built, by both loving one’s neighbor and working for justice so that all might enjoy equal freedom. 


Belonging to the church took on new meaning for me. My faith was no longer simply a private affair. Living out my faith as an adult meant that, by virtue of my baptism, I was responsible for realizing the mission of the universal church. The Spirit has commissioned the church to bring the light of God’s love and life to the world. This vision of the church as the People of God transformed my ideas about what to do with my life. Now I felt that I could most effectively serve the common good through ministry in the church.


However, I had not yet figured out how to sustain this youthful passion for ministry. I still needed to put down spiritual roots and grow into a personal relationship with God. This happened during graduate school when I discovered the Christian mystical tradition and contemplative prayer. Medieval visionaries like Julian of Norwich and other spiritual writers guided my journey into the depths within. I made several pilgrimages to Taizé, the ecumenical monastic community in France, which nurtured a love for silence and a longing for intimacy with God. This thirst for communion with Holy Mystery led me to religious life. I feel that becoming a woman religious integrates my passion for justice and my desire for contemplative living.


What a gift to look back and perceive God’s abiding presence in my life. I’ve ended up in a place—the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate—I never could have imagined in high school. Yet in retrospect I can see that God has accompanied me through every twist and turn along the way, gently calling me on to more abundant life. I’m grateful for this sacred time during the canonical year to discern how God’s grace is giving shape and meaning to my journey. I only hope that telling my story will invite others to “come and see.”