Sr. Clare was born on November 14, 1982 in Derry, Northern Ireland. She entered the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother on August 11, 2001, at the age of 18. She took her first vows on February 18, 2006, taking the religious name of Sr. Clare Maria of the Trinity and the Heart of Mary. She took her perpetual vows on September 8, 2010. From the moment of her first vows, she served in the Servant Sisters’ communities in Belmonte, Cuenca (Spain), Jacksonville, Florida (USA), Valencia (Spain), Guayaquil (Ecuador), and Playa Prieta, Manabí (Ecuador). She passed away during the earthquake in Playa Prieta on April 16, 2016.
The following testimony could be considered an “autobiography” of Sr. Clare, as it is a compilation of excerpts taken from different occasions of when she told her conversion and vocation story in her own words.
When she wrote her vocation story in 2014, she entitled it, “What a movie!” Her story began with these words: “I hope this testimony will help your soul and help you grow closer to God, because being close to Him, you will be truly happy.” Making her intention our own, we leave you with her own words.
When I was 16, a famous hypnotist came to my city. I had seen him on other occasions in past years and I really enjoyed his show. I wanted him to hypnotize me too. Before the show started, the hypnotist told us that only certain people with a certain mental state could be hypnotized. Then, he told the audience – there were about 800 people – to do a simple hand exercise, and at the end of this exercise, those with their hands interlocked could go up on stage, because they were the ones who could be hypnotized. I was with a group of friends in one of the first rows of the theater. None of their hands had remained interlocked. Mine had not either but I pretended as if they were stuck together. All of my friends started shouting, “Go up on stage, Clare! He’s going to hypnotize you!” I went up along with about 30 other people. We got in a row facing the public. The hypnotist came up to each one of us and touched our foreheads with the palm of his hand, saying in a deep voice, “Relax!” I saw how some of them fell into the chair that had been placed behind them, in anticipation of this reaction. The hypnotist sent those who didn’t fall back to their places, while the audience gave them a compassionate applause, seeing how they would not be hypnotized. Then it was my turn. He did exactly the same thing to me and I “fell” into the chair behind me. “I’m completely conscious,” I thought. “I don’t feel hypnotized.” And the truth was, I was not hypnotized. On the count of three, the hypnotizer told us to open our eyes but that we would still be under the effect of I do not remember what thing. With his back turned to the audience, he winked at us saying, “So, you know what you have to do.” None of us there on stage had been hypnotized. Either they were all actors or they were people like myself, willing to play along with the show of this “legendary hypnotist.”
The audience was completely convinced that we had been hypnotized – just as I had been convinced, when I had been in the audience on previous occasions. The show reached its climax when “Mr. Relax” told us that he was going to give a gift to each one of us who had been hypnotized. Our gift was a “leprechaun” that only we could “see and touch.” Nobody else could. This leprechaun would be with us until noon the next day. When I came off stage, everybody started coming up to me to ask me questions about the leprechaun. “What is he wearing?” “Does he have a beard?” “What’s his name?” “Is he looking at me?” Everybody believed me. I went home with my leprechaun “Dominic” and I took him to High School with me, too. Even the strictest and toughest of my teachers ended up buying the story.
A few years later, I was home with my family and a few friends of mine. We were all there together in the kitchen, like good Irish people, drinking our cup of tea and having one of those typical conversations that starts with the question: “Remember when…?” and is followed by a roar of laughter and knee-slapping. Seeing as we were all in such a good mood, I piped in saying, “Remember when I pretended to be hypnotized and have a leprechaun?” Everyone stared at me and there was complete silence. “Remember?” I repeated with a nervous laugh. “No, No,” they responded, “you really did have a leprechaun, but since you were hypnotized you don’t remember anymore… But, you did. You had him in the palm of your hand.” Everyone started talking at once, trying to convince me that it had really happened.
I tell this story because when I realized that God was calling me to the religious life, nobody could believe that God would call a girl like me. For many, it was impossible that I could have a vocation. Yet, somehow they could believe I had a leprechaun. Chesterton once said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they then become capable of believing in anything.” What an amazing quote! And what a sad truth! God can call whomever He wants, whenever He wants, wherever He wants… Why? Because He is God. Our Founder wrote a poem entitled, “Why me?” that says, “I will no longer ask ‘Why me?’ I will simply recognize Your freedom and give You thanks unceasingly.”
The truth is that I never thought of becoming a nun. I thought of becoming a hundred other things... but never a nun!
No Room for God
I come from a small corner of the world called Derry, in Northern Ireland. I am from a Catholic family, but only Catholic for political reasons. There is a strong division between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Being born into a Catholic family does not necessarily imply going to Mass or being raised in the Catholic faith. The Catholics in favor of a united Ireland would kill Protestants and the Protestants that were not in favor of a united Ireland would kill Catholics. These tensions were evident. I have always lived in a predominantly nationalist area that fought for a free Ireland, which implied a complete breaking-off from Great Britain. That was how I understood what it meant to be "Catholic."
I received the sacraments of Baptism, Confession, Communion, and Confirmation, but I never understood – and I never really made an effort to understand – what I was receiving. God played no role in my life. There was no room for God in a society dominated by hatred.
Perhaps coming from an extreme, revolutionary environment is what has always made me an “all or nothing” person.
A Wild Child
When I was six years old, there was an image of Our Lady that was taken from house to house so that people could pray the rosary. I thought that the rosary was a prayer that never ended. “This is so boring!” I thought. I could not stand it. What was worse was that I had to pray it kneeling down… I also had to go to Mass every Sunday. My mom and my dad would take me. I spent the whole time looking at the stained-glass windows, looking at people’s hair, looking at their noses… I was always looking all over the place, except at the priest and the altar.
What I do remember was that one time, when I was about seven years old, I went to church with my mom and my sisters. It was Lent and all the images were covered with purple cloths. We went up to the choir loft and from there, watched the Stations of the Cross being projected on a white cloth near the altar. The images from Our Lord’s Passion were accompanied by a song in the background with the lyrics: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Even though I was little, everything I saw and heard had a profound impact on me and I started crying, because I did not understand why they were treating “that man” so badly.
When I was about to make my First Confession, I was told to tell all my sins to the priest. I thought I did not have sins, because I was only seven and you cannot have sins when you are only seven, right? At least that is what I thought…
I was always a bit of a “wild child.” At school, I was known as the class clown. My classmates would say, “Hey Clare, imitate Mrs. So-and-So.” So, I imitated the teacher. I did not do my homework. Other people did it for me and I would give them cigarettes in exchange. I went to a school run by nuns and they always told me, “Clare, empty vessels make a lot of noise.” That was what they would always tell me. Maybe they taught me the truth, but I just had my head in the clouds and did not listen. I was always talking whenever they were. I did not do it with a bad attitude - I just liked to talk a lot.
I went to Mass until I was about 15 or 16 years old, which is when my mom stopped going. My sisters and I were supposed to go, but we always just went to a park until Mass was over and then went back home. My mom thought we went to Mass, but we never did.
In the World of Acting and Television
Thanks to the encouragement of my teachers, I began reciting poems at a young age in the “Feis Ceoil,” a traditional Irish festival that includes reciting poems, singing, Irish dancing, etc. I also started singing in a choir and writing stories. Perhaps because my family and teachers insisted that I was a “troublemaker,” I had the idea that I wanted to do something great with my life. I wanted to be an actress – not just any actress – but a famous actress. I not only wanted to be famous in Ireland, but in the whole world. My goal was to make it to Hollywood. I was also very sure of myself. “This is what I want to do and I'm going to do it.” So I guess that is the reason why my teachers told me, “You are going to go very far.”
When I was fourteen, I read an ad in a the newspaper that basically said the following: “For all those aspiring actors who dream of one day appearing on the big screen: this workshop offers you the chance to gain the experience and expertise necessary for working in cinema or television.” I went to the workshop, and thanks to its success, I joined a theater company and got a manager. I loved my theater classes. These classes consisted of telling you that you are the best and that there is no one like you. And I believed it all, of course. “You're the best.” Everything revolved around vanity and your physical appearance. I had to go to casting calls and auditions. Whenever you go to an audition and act in front of directors, you have to be very sure of yourself. This was part of the preparation. I thought I was better than everybody else. I loved theater: acting, writing, reciting, and directing.
I got my first television job on Channel 4 in England when I was fifteen years old. It was a program called, “Get With It!” It aired at 10:30a.m. on Sunday mornings. Later on, I hosted another program on the same channel. When I was sixteen, I was invited to be a host on a big channel called “Nickelodeon.”
In the acting world, sin is glorified and it is awful. My friends were all living like this – in mortal sin. They liked to drink, smoke, go out with guys, disobey their parents... They were living badly – and so was I.
An Encounter with the Blessed Sacrament
Two of my classmates decided to go on a weekend retreat and invited me to come with them. I told them that I did not want to go because it was something religious and I was not interested in anything like that. So, they went on the retreat and afterwards, they said to me, “You have to go! It’s a life-changing experience!” They kept going on about how great it was. So I said, “Okay, next time there’s a retreat, I’ll go.”
I went on the retreat, but I did not like the first night at all because they talked about how God was the light of the world and I thought, “What are they talking about?” I did not like it at all. There was time for prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was my first time being in front of the Blessed Sacrament, talking with the Lord. There was a big painting of the Lord under the Blessed Sacrament that said: “Jesus, Our Savior”. I thought, “What is this all about?” A priest explained what it meant to say that the Lord was our Savior, how He died on the Cross for our sins, etc. I did not know anything about all that. The priest told us to talk with the Lord and I thought, “What am I going to say to that piece of bread?” I did not know it was the Lord. I had no idea. I did not know how to talk to God. I started talking to Him about silly things. I do not remember exactly what I said. Maybe I asked Him for help on a test… I think it was in the silence of that little chapel when I first realized that Jesus had something to say to me. I heard a voice trying to speak with me, telling me how I had to change and convert. I did not understand and thought maybe I was going crazy. I felt like I had to change a lot of things, but I did not change. I thought, “The Lord has no right to tell me to change things. What right does He have? He’s just God…” I thought that because I was really superficial. I thought, "You want to take away all my happiness." I did not want to change even though the Lord was calling me to change because I was "happy."
The Beginning of the Call
After this experience I started praying. I started to speak more to the Lord and Our Lady but I still did not change... Since I made a lot of friends during the retreat, they invited me to join their group on Sundays. After a while, they asked me to give talks and be one of the group leaders at the other retreats. I was still really "immature" as far as my religious formation went. The truth is that I do not know what I talked about during the talks or what kind of example I gave, because I really had nothing to say. I really wanted to live and do what I wanted to do in life, but God had no important role in my life at all.
One time, some Religious Sisters came to talk about vocations, how we have to follow Jesus Christ, live Christian lives, etc. Inside of me, I felt like everything they were saying was what I had to live. They talked about vocation and I felt like I had a vocation, even though I did not have a clue what that was. They talked about how it was a special vocation where God chooses a person to be totally His. But I had the idea that all nuns were 82 years old and prayed "Hail Mary's" all day, and I did not want to live a life like that. I wanted to be famous... I did not want to be a nun and I did not want the vocation.
I remember saying to the Lord that I was going to change my life for Him and that I wanted to belong totally to Him. Then, the next day I said, "Change of plans. Bye!"
A Free Trip to Spain
Sadly, from the time I was young - about 12 or 13 years old - I started going to parties and clubs and put myself in a really bad, worldly environment. I smoked and drank. I was not capable of living without a pack of cigarettes. When I was 17 years old, alcohol began to be a serious problem for me. My weekends consisted of getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all of my money on alcohol and cigarettes.
One day, my friend Sharon Dougherty called me and said, "Clare - do you want to go to Spain? It's all paid for." "A free trip to Spain!" I thought. "Ten days of partying in the sun of Spain. Of course I'll go!" Sharon told me that everyone that wanted to go to Spain had to go to a house to pick up their tickets. So, she gave me the address and said that she would be there.
The day arrived and I went to the house where my friends were going to be, and walked into a room with people who were 40 and 50 years old – and they had rosaries in their hands. "Are they going to Spain?" I asked, a little afraid of the reply they were going to give me with all their enthusiasm three seconds later. "Yes, we're going on the pilgrimage." "What? On a pilgrimage? That doesn't mean you have to go to Mass everyday, does it?" I did not know what a pilgrimage was, but I knew it had something to do with going to Mass. And my friend, who was sitting on the floor said, "Clare, I forgot to tell you but it's in a monastery." I immediately told her that I did not want to go and she said to me, "Clare, your name is already on the ticket. You know that if you change the ticket, they’re going to lose money." There was no solution. I had to go. I honestly thought that we were going to go to a touristic island like Ibiza, but it turned out that the trip ended up being a Holy Week Encounter in a small town of Spain where there was no beach, no sun, no parties - absolutely nothing. The man that paid for the tickets got to know the Home of the Mother the year before at a Holy Week Encounter. He was so impressed by everything that he wanted to take young people there so that they could have the same experience. Now, I see that it was Our Lady's way of bringing me to Her house, to Her Home - Her Son's home.
What Are You Going to Do for Me?
The Holy Week Encounter in a sixteenth century monastery was not exactly what I had in mind when I thought about going to Spain. I did not want to be there. I remember arriving at the monastery. I was a very superficial girl. The first thing I looked for was a cigarette and a mirror. I did not want to be a pain, but I was. A girl that only thinks about herself - her hair and her eyebrows - is a really big pain. I did not know what the Holy Week was. It turns out that we spent five days in that monastery, in a spirit of recollection, to center ourselves on the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord.
During that Encounter, there were faith formation talks, team meetings, prayer, Mass... I only went to the things where I knew that if I did not go, someone was going to notice – for example, the team meetings. That is where I met, Fr. Rafael Alonso, our Founder. He was in my group. All of the girls in my group had great things to say about the Eucharist, which I think was the theme of the Encounter. When they asked me what I thought, I took a cigarette out of my mouth and said, "What's the Eucharist?" When they explained what it was to me, I did not experience any great enlightenment in the faith. I simply answered, "Ahhh."
But on Good Friday, someone said to me, "Today is Good Friday, Clare. Today you have to go to Church." So, I went to the liturgy and sat in one of the back pews with a passive attitude. The moment came when everyone in the Church got in line down the center aisle for the Adoration of the Cross. I also got in line with my hands in my pockets. I was not thinking of the Passion of the Lord or anything like that. I was thinking, "When is this going to end so I can go out and smoke?" But God does not need your cooperation to be able to work in your soul.
When it was my turn to kiss the Cross, I do not remember if I knelt down or genuflected. I only remember that I kissed the nail that went through the feet of Jesus and received the grace to see that God had died for me on the Cross - for my sins, for my vanities, for my infidelities, for my impurity... I saw how I nailed the Lord to the Cross and that the only way that I could console Him was to give Him my life. It was not enough to tell jokes or write a beautiful play in order to console Him. There was nothing I could do to console Him except to give Him my life. And I understood that without any religious formation. I was a “wild child” who partied and thought she was going to go to Ibiza. And at that moment, when I kissed the Cross, the Lord completely knocked me off my horse. I did not understand what was happening. It was the first strong experience I had.
That simple event lasted only ten seconds. To kiss the Cross - something that seemed so insignificant - had such a strong impact on me. Tertullian once wrote: "There is nothing which leaves the minds of men so amazed as the simplicity of the divine actions which they see performed and the magnificence of the effects that follow." I do not know how to explain exactly what happened. I did not see the choirs of angels or a white dove come down from the ceiling and descend on me, but I had the certainty that the Lord was on the Cross, for me. And along with that conviction, I felt a great sorrow, similar to what I had experienced when I was little and prayed the Via Crucis. When I returned to my pew, I already had imprinted in me something that was not there before. I started crying, and crying, and crying... but I was the cool girl... and yet, I could not stop crying. God clearly showed me that He had died for me and that I had to give Him something. And that something was not just a "Hail Mary," a Mass, or a small commitment. It was my life.
It was not something I would have asked for. I did not even know how to pray. It came from Him. "I died for you. What are you going to do for Me?" At the invitation to give of myself, I got scared. I thought, "To follow the Lord, I have to leave everything behind. I am not ready to do that. I have a boyfriend. I have a career. I have money. I have make-up. I have cigarettes..." I understood that what He was asking of me was something greater than I had the strength to give on my own. It was a calling to completely follow Him, leaving everything behind - in reality, leaving nothing for everything, because He is Everything. And I thought that I was not going to be able to do it.
What happened to me was that I felt that human love did not fill me. I knew that the Lord was calling me to a greater love, a total love, and a complete surrender, to have an undivided heart that was only for Him. And I thought that I could not do that because my way of understanding love was very mistaken. Love, for me, meant pleasure, seeking myself - a vain love. I thought that giving my life in that way, I would be a disgrace. But it is something that the Lord has taught me: the one who loses his life, forgets about himself, and dies to himself, is happy. And that is the truth. I have lived "the life" and I know that, as St. Edith Stein says, "The essence of love is donation." It means giving of oneself - forgetting oneself. When you follow the Lord, you enter into a school of love where you have to learn from Him, and you learn by looking at the Cross. I received a lot of light when I looked at Jesus on the Cross, with the knowledge that He did it out of love and was asking me to do the same, even though I was afraid. It is not easy to love because we are egotistical. We are always looking out for ourselves – always, always. But I have seen what He has done for me and can say, "Lord, I am speechless. You have died for me. How am I not going to die to myself?"
After this experience, I said to the Lord, "I'll do whatever You want." But I went back to Ireland and forgot about the grace that God had given me. It is so easy to say to Him during a retreat or when you "feel" the love of God, "I'll do whatever you ask of me"... But when you "come down the mountain," it is not so easy. All of the things we said to Him "on Mount Tabor," even with tears in our eyes, we also have to remember, repeat, and live when we "come down the mountain" and return to our daily routine and environment. St. Edith Stein said, "The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace."
I Want You to Live Like Them
At the Holy Week Encounter, Fr. Rafael invited me to go to the World Youth Day in Rome with the young people of the Home. It was the year 2000. I accepted the invitation even though I did not really know who John Paul II was nor what the World Youth Day was. It was during that pilgrimage through Italy, that the unmistakable voice of God began to speak within me again. I admit that I did not live that trip very well. I was more interested in going to the shops in Italy than the churches and cathedrals. I am going to give an example of how I was. Everyone was buying rosaries, statues of the Sacred Heart for their grandparents, and things like that... And me? What did I buy? Well, I bought a lighter that looked like a toilet, and whenever you lifted the lid, the flame would come out. I also bought an orange bracelet with Chinese letters that said that it gave you “creative energies.” I remember one girl was going to ask Father if he could bless her rosaries and statues and I said, “Look what I have.” That was my attitude during the pilgrimage. I always sat in the back of the bus with other girls and we never prayed the rosary with everyone else.
But, is it not true that the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep in search of the one wandering sheep? Well, He did the same with me. He searched for me until He found the perfect moment to say to me, "I want you to live like them." It was another blow to the heart. I understood that I had to live the life of the Sisters and that He was calling me to just that. I already knew that I had to give my life, but now He was showing me how I had to give it: like the Sisters - in poverty, chastity, and obedience. I turned up the volume of the music I was listening to on the bus, to drown everything out and not pay attention to what God was asking of me. I immediately said that it was impossible for me. “I can’t be a nun! I can’t stop drinking, smoking, going to parties, leave my career, or my family...” And yet, the Lord assured me that if He asked for something, He always gives the grace and the strength to be able to carry it out. Without His help, I never could have done what I had to do to respond to His call and follow Him. Young people often ask: “How do you know if you have a vocation?” I will use the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta when they asked her the same thing: “When a girl hears the call, she knows it. Maybe she doesn’t know how to explain it, but she knows it.”
I was 17 years old when all that happened. I went back to Ireland for a year to finish up High School. That year, I received two very big graces that made me wake up and change.
Why Do You Keep Wounding Me?
Like I said before, I drank a lot. I liked living the party life, going to clubs, and all of that. When I returned to Ireland, I went back to the same way I was living before: in mortal sin. “But I fall back again into the Things below, by the weight of my misery; and am again engulfed in the things I am accustomed to, and am held fast by them” (St. Augustine). I went back to my friends, my boyfriend... because I could not break with all that. I felt like I did not have the strength. Of course, I did not have the strength because I did not ask the Lord for help. I wanted to do it on my own and I could not. On the other hand, I could not forget about the Sisters. During the entire year, the Lord was calling me, He was trying to speak to me, He was shouting for me... But I did not want to listen. It was like a very strong interior battle. The Lord said to me, “You have to leave that. You have to break up with your boyfriend. You cannot give your heart to your boyfriend because your heart belongs to Me.” And I did not want to. I wanted it and did not want it at the same time. It seemed ridiculous. There I was – surrounded by people, going from party to party, very involved in the acting world, and I could not stop thinking about the nuns.
Little by little everything, that before I thought made me happy, stopped having meaning, and I experienced a deep feeling of emptiness. One night, while I was in a club, I strongly felt the gaze of the Lord on me while I was in a bathroom cubicle, about to get sick. I drank so much that I lost control. That was why I always ended up in a really bad state and ended up having to be taken away by two guys and put out into the street. There were a lot of nights that I spent out on the street like a poor girl. It was really, really sad. And that night – there in the bathroom of a club – when I thought I was going to throw up, I strongly felt the gaze of the Lord on me. I felt it so strongly that, at first, I thought that one of my friends was in the other cubicle (there were three cubicles and I was in the middle one), standing on the toilet, looking at me to see if I was okay or not. The gaze was so intense. And immediately I heard the voice of the Lord inside of me say, "Why do you keep wounding Me?" I knew that the Lord was right there and was looking at me. When you feel the gaze of the Lord, it is something that tears you apart. I saw how I was crucifying the Lord again with my sins, with my drunkenness... I understood that by my way of life and lack of response to what the Lord was asking of me, I was harming myself and also hurting God. I do not know if you have seen the movie The Passion, but there is a moment when the Lord is in Gethsemane and Judas goes to give Him a kiss. The Lord looks at him with a gaze of love but also of pain, as if He were saying, “You are My friend. How could you do this to Me?”
I Have Everything... and I'm Not Happy
When I was 18 years old, I was in a movie. It was a political movie based in Ireland, with a lot of violence and vengeance, which produced a lot of hatred. I had a small role, because to be famous, you have to start little by little. It is not like you make it to Hollywood overnight.
I had to go to Manchester (England). Now, when you are doing a movie you have a lady that does your make-up, a lady that opens the car door for you, you have another one that puts on your coat and all that. They put you up in the best hotels and take you to the best restaurants. I had all that.
I remember one night – at nighttime you would go out with the directors and actors and we would go to a restaurant and we would eat, etc. And because I had gotten so drunk the night before, I said that the next night I was not going to go out. And I actually did not. I went back to my hotel room. I remember sitting on my hotel bed, looking at my schedule for the next day that said that the chauffer would come and pick me up at 7:30a.m., etc. While I was looking at the schedule, I started crying and crying. I cried for hours without being able to stop because I realized in that moment, that I had everything – I had a lot of friends, I had a boyfriend, success as an actress, money... and at the same time, I felt a great emptiness within me. "I'm here and I have everything." If someone saw me they would have said, "You're so lucky!" But I felt like none of those things could fill me: neither success, nor fame, nor human love. Everything seemed like it had its limit and that there had to be something more. I had everything I had ever desired and I was not happy. I was a poor, miserable person that had nothing. I knew that only by doing what God wanted of me could I be truly happy. Everything that I had thought was going to make me happy and free, only tied me down and deceived me.
The Lord showed me how much I was wounding His Sacred Heart with my crazy way of life. I knew that I had to leave everything and follow Him. I saw clearly that He was asking me to trust in Him, to place my life in His hands and have faith. I knew that the Lord was calling me to be His in the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother – to give my life so that others could come to know Him – and I was putting things before Him. So, in that moment, I made what St. Teresa of Avila calls a "determined determination" to say, “That's enough! The peace that I have found with You and in the Home, I can’t find anywhere else. I have to make this step and it's now or never.” It is true what St. Bonaventure said: “Voluntas Dei, pax nostra” – “The will of God is our peace.” This happened while I was making the movie, in February or March.
I knew that when I finished up High School, I had to go to Spain and give everything to the Lord. And the Lord gave me the grace and the strength to be able to leave it all. When we open ourselves to God, He takes away our fears and gives us peace – true peace and true joy. That is what St. Augustine says, “You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Our heart is made by God and for God, and only God can fill us. To live without thinking of God is a contradiction. It frustrates us. We cannot be happy. Like St. Teresa also said: “Only God is enough.” You look for things in the world to fill you with happiness, but nothing can fill you with happiness like the Lord. The things of the world do not matter because they are passing. When you have God, you have everything – you are happy. And I can say this because I am living it and I can say that I am happy.
I'm Going to Be a Nun!
When I was at High School and said, “Girls, I have something to tell you: I'm going to be a nun,” the roar of laughter could make you go deaf. My friends said, “You're crazy!” They cried and my family did not understand, but it was because I was not living very coherently. I said I was going to be a nun, but I said it with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “Where are you going? They're going to kick you out in two weeks.” So, the Lord gave me a really big grace and the light to be able to see that even though I was very weak and poor, if this was what He was asking of me, He was going to give me the strength to do it. How I explain it is that it is like being on the edge of a cliff and you know you have to jump. You are really scared but you know you have to jump, because the hands that are going to catch you are the hands of God.
I knew that I had to leave my country – that I had to leave everything. I understood that perfectly. I knew I had to leave everything behind and it was like jumping off a cliff. I was already losing control of my life because I was giving it to Him. I knew I was jumping – not into nothingness – but so that the hands of the Lord and Our Lady could catch me and give me back my dignity, my freedom, and the truth of who I was. As an actress, you have to put on a lot of masks, and you have to even if you are not an actress... We always do that – before that boy, before that girl, before my mother, before that teacher, before that priest... We are always putting on masks. So, the Lord, with a lot of gentleness but also with His demands, takes off those masks to show you who you really are, and later on, who He is. And that fills you with a lot of joy.
Years later, when one of my cousins saw me, I had already been wearing a habit and was close to taking my final vows. He said, “Clare, I knew you before you became a nun, and now when I see you, I can only say that you are crazy or that God really exists.” Isaiah 55:8 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways – says the Lord.” God knows what He is doing. We only have to trust in Him.
I left Ireland and everything else behind in June, thanks be to God. I came to Spain without knowing Spanish. I only knew a few words: gusano (which means “worm”) and ajo (which means “garlic”). I entered as a Candidate on August 11th, St. Clare’s feast day. And thanks to God's mercy, here I am. It is true that at the beginning, I had the temptation to turn back, but before the Eucharist and the Cross, I understood that I had found a much greater love. Of course you love your own country and your own family, but God is worth much more than all of that. One time, I said to the Lord, "But why do I have to leave everything?" And He said to me: “You leave everything so that you find Me, but I will be your mother, your father, your language, your country... I will be everything for you.”
Now, I am happily consecrated in the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother. I never cease to be amazed by the way the Lord works in souls and how He can totally transform the life of someone and conquer his or her heart. I am grateful to the Lord for the patience He has had and continues to have with me. I do not ask why He chose me - I simply accept that He has. I completely depend on Him and the Virgin Mary and I ask them for the grace so that I can be who They want me to be. He is faithful and He is calling me to fidelity in love forever. I am willing to love Him forever. Even though my love is poor and weak, I know that if I place myself in His hands, He will give me the strength to love Him as I should and to give my life for Him. Love is giving your life for the one you love. I trust in Him. He has called me to this and He knows what He is doing. On my own, I know that I cannot do it, but trusting in Him, He will give me the strength.
Honestly, the vocation to the religious life is such a great gift that it confuses the person who is chosen. God fixes His gaze on a poor soul so that she can live with Him and in Him, and in that way, help Him to save the world. That really is crazy – but, blessed craziness! We would be crazy if we did not respond to what God asks of each one of us, because what He asks is the best for us. We have been created for great things, not for comfort.
I finish with a few words that Pope Benedict XVI said with a lot of fervor and strength at his first Mass as successor to Peter: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.” I can give testimony to that. Long live the Lord! Long live Our Lady! Long live the Pope! Long live the nuns! And now it is your turn to repeat it after me: “Long live the nuns!”