THEREFORE, I WILL NOW PERSUADE HER, AND BRING HER INTO THE WILDERNESS, AND SPEAK TENDERLY TO HER. (HOSEA 2:14)
I come from a very Catholic Mexican family so it is probably not surprising than since a very early age I had a great love for the Holy Eucharist. So much so, that I argued my way into making my First Holy Communion a whole year earlier. I vividly remember my stubborn little self being dwarfed by three nuns and my mother under the arches of the school cloister discussing my situation: somehow, I had slipped under the radar of the nuns and had managed to join the preparation programme while still a year younger and without my mother’s knowledge or consent! My desire to receive Jesus somehow won over the argument of age and lack of time to produce a suitable ‘attire’ and I was finally allowed to make my First Holy Communion with the older girls that year.

That was the beginning of a long journey. Throughout my youth, God was always there for me walking ahead of me, lifting me up with his loving arm when I was down and being my rock when I felt the challenges of life were too big for me. There was a deep serenity among the many storms that I had to sail through and the certainty that I was never alone. All was well. Until, that is, I began to focus on the desires of my own heart. My relationship with God had been so strong that I devoted myself to others in one way or another: family, friends, parish. All this while working as an executive in one of the biggest companies in Mexico – including an awful lot of travelling – was done selflessly and in peaceful joy. But as I was approaching my thirties I began to look back at all the personal sacrifices I had made on the way. I began counting my ‘good deeds’ and started to notice that I had given a lot and very little had come ‘my way’. My prayers for a husband
and children were not being answered. After all we have gone through together, God had forgotten me. So, I decided to take control over my own life. I knew what was best for me and it was my responsibility to go and get it. And so I did.

Moving fast forward, I found myself in my forties, married to an English man, with the best daughter I could have ever wished for and living a comfortable life in the English countryside. All was well…and yet, underneath, I was not happy. My soul was yearning and pining within, to the point where I thought I was experiencing the beginning of depression. As the yearning grew, my interior sadness and loss began to overshadow all the wonderful things that I had in my life. There was an unbearable emptiness within a happy exterior. St John of the Cross would have called this stage of my life ‘the dark night’. My dark night though lasted many years, for I was unable to recognise it for what it was: a total absence of God’s presence in my life! It took me years to understand that in the process of taking control over my life I managed to lose
my relationship with God! I searched for him in the depths of my heart but I couldn’t feel him. I talked to him but all I got was silence. I clung to him by doing all the right things – attending Mass every Sunday, saying my set prayers most days, thinking of God all the time – but still, God remained silent!

I had to reach rock bottom before I cried to God – from within my heart – My God, I surrender! ‘Take me back to the days of my youth – I prayed – where you and I walked together as friends. I miss you!’ I now understand, that when I follow my own plan, I wreck your perfect plan for me, and all those who live around me.’ And there and then, I promised that from that moment on, I would do his will, not mine. My faithful God responded to my fiat at once! His light shone upon me again and the darkness was broken. He literally raised me up from the bottom of the pit I had dug for myself with my ‘rebellion’ and his mighty hand brought me back into the light of his love. That precise moment of surrendering, was when my real faith journey began. It wasn’t easy. God showed me the way, but I had to do the work…with his grace! The Holy Spirit planted in my heart a strong desire to pray. I didn’t know how, but I felt God wanted me to pray in a different way. My prayer, although constant, felt ‘dry’. I tried reading the Bible but the words came at me as a reproach. Every verse I read felt like an accusation, a reminder of my sins. Then, God tenderly took me to the Psalms and through them he spoke to me. The first psalm he gave me spoke to me of his enduring love for me and his promises. The second, of his protection and his faithfulness. The third of his forgiveness! The healing began and with it, a new and stronger relationship with my Lord was beginning to be forged. My soul was smitten by his love!

But God’s giving surpasses the power of human imagination. Through this desire to ‘pray’ he led me to The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, then consisting of two nuns – Sr Camilla and Sr Gabi – and two novices. It was through them that I learned about contemplative prayer and began to understand that God can be found within, if we create that precious space to be with him in silence. It was through them, that I learned that surrendering to God is to allow Jesus, the Word, to be Incarnate in us. Through them I rediscovered the gift of Mary as mother and sister, discovered the Fiat Rosary and the Divine Will Chaplet and learned that prayer is not just about praying, but about being open to God’s will in everything we do.

But it was also, through COLW that I learned about the gentleness and freedom of the Carmelite way of life. I got to learn about Teresa de Avila, her Interior Castle and her ‘determined determination’. I got to know St John of the Cross, his ‘ascent’ and the ‘dark night’, but also his gentleness and wisdom as spiritual director. But it was the example of the sisters’ love, joy and reliance on the divine providence and their faithful and courageous openness to God’s plan and will that had the greatest impact on me. The COLW spirituality, little by little, became my way of life. As I grew in prayer and spirituality I begun to hear the voice of my God – especially while in front of the Eucharist – speaking to me again, but this time, his voice was clear, strong and so alive! I understood that God never leaves us, he remains faithful to all of us who stray from him. He is there, silently waiting for us in the middle of our darkness until we are ready to say ‘My heart is ready O Lord, my heart is ready’. His silence – as painful as it is – is our opportunity to be saved. I thank God for the gift of COLW, now my spiritual family.

You seduced me, and I let myself be seduced (Jer 20:7).
As part of my response to the loving call of God to serve him and my desire to be part of the COLW family, I have become a founder member of the COLW ASSOCIATES, the lay branch of the community. If you would like to live the COLW way as a lay associate, please contact me (second on the left in above photo) on:
Email: mahart66@outlook.com
Mobile: 07719-577923
Home: 01787-224383