I returned to Finland after living 6 years abroad. During these years I met Jesus, gradually we became acquaintances and finally at Easter 2016 I joined the Church – His beautiful Body, perfected by the imperfection. During years 2015 and 2016 I spent several months at the Madonna House, a Catholic apostolate welcoming everyone to join their daily life for shorter or longer visits.
After leaving the apostolate, my spiritual peace was gone in few days. Somehow it felt overwhelming to even try to keep with semi-regular prayer schedule while staying at my friends' place. Yes, there were some time constraints from outside; however, to be honest, I would easily have had the time, but I simply could not.
y attentiveness to the presence of God in my life was gone and I did not like it. I could mumble out something artificial prayer-like, but shortly I would start to think about all the other things I had for the day. My heart was just not there. I started to worry; I wanted to go back to the Madonna House, where I knew it would be possible to be close to Jesus. I knew that He is very close to me at times of spiritual desolation and would desperately want to console and help me (in a similar way to a good parent, who watches his/her kids struggle with school work etc.), but allows me to struggle for my spiritual growth.
I had the theory down, but it did not help me an inch in my spiritual struggle. Almost every day I went to the Holy Mass in a close-by Church and met up with some of my Christian friends on some days to talk and pray with. I realized that I need to persevere, beg and patiently wait for His mercy, returning to the comforts of Madonna House would be just prolonging the inevitable process of learning to stand on my own spiritual feet more firmly.
Indeed, I had gone through experiences of spiritual desolation, even very intensely so at the Madonna House, but there I had brothers and sisters to encourage and support me, somehow it felt “safe”, I knew deep in me that this is temporary. Now, out in the world, I felt alone, hopeless and afraid that the game is over. My prayer had diminished to very little. The only thing I felt I have to offer was some of my time. I sat in the Church telling the Lord that this is me now, distracted and lost. I begged Him to have mercy on me, to stretch out His arm to lift me from the muck I was stuck in.
Well, my spiritual state got a bit better during the few weeks in Ottawa, just to take another great plunge after my return to Finland…
It dawned to me that I did not have even one practicing Christian friend in my native country, let alone any sort of Catholic support network.
I lived at my parents' place. I have the best parents ever, but compatibility problems were bound to arise.
Naturally I started to share some bits of my faith, but on a surficial level, which was also understandabe – I did not want to shock them, and we did not really have a common language. The distance somehow inevitably grew, the only important thing now in my life was not something that I could easily share with my parents. They started to notice that I am not the “joyfully bubbly” person wanting to “take the best out of life”, with which I mean the normal ambitions prevalent these days: desire to explore the world by traveling all around, to consume, party and have a jolly great time. Instead I went to the Church pretty much daily and spent time in my room praying and wanted to do the right thing.
I applied for jobs in Canada, an easier task for a person with my qualifications anyway, but some in Finland too. One Sunday I sort of accidentally got lost on the internet and found an advertisement for a pilgrimage from Lohja to Stella Maris. I registered immediately, at the last minute. Later I tried to find the advertisement again, for more details, but could not.
The pilgrimage and associated mini-retreat was great, something moved in me. Soon after it was Midsummer, Juhannus, after which I had to fly to Germany for work, so I missed the Youth Festival at Stella Maris.
From Germany I took the train to Krakow to join a group of Finnish pilgrims for WYD. After WYD I went on to Kiev, Vilnius and a family holiday in Estonia. I returned to Finland with new faith, hope, love and zeal for the gospel. Perhaps it is possible to find and/or found a “satisfactory” Catholic community life here in the periphery after all!?
I tried to organize a weekly prayer meeting in Turku, but the winds blew against it. I was a leaf and did not feel capable or willing to fight against the wind; I was content accepting the winds as bringing about God’s will. In retrospect, I was right to do so. More and more I learned to “deal with” the lifestyle of living in the diaspora.
By the grace of God, my prayer life was in an OK shape and I also survived multiple weeks in Lapland working for an exploration company hundreds of kilometres from the nearest Catholic Church. I even found joy in the midst of desolation. I needed to concentrate on what was good, loving and beautiful all around me (regardless of the overly secular overtone) and see that as light from Heaven. I tried to be a joyful and loving witness for the gospel – euangélion, the good news – and I even had some interesting moral and theological conversations. However, it became very clear to me that in the long term this would not work. For my soul’s sake, I needed to be somewhere closer to the Eucharist and faithful people.
After my two visits at Stella Maris (the pilgrimage and a Youth Weekend in September), I felt a desire to stay there, close to the Lord for some weeks - to discern. I was granted the permission to stay, for which I am greatly thankful! A few weeks in the arms of Our Lady turned into few more weeks, I was healed and transformed anew. My heart was filled with peace, my soul sang a new song.
Now I know that this lot marked out for me is my delight (Ps. 16) - I need to stay in Finland to evangelize and work towards growth of Catholic culture.
I have to admit that, reflecting on the last time in a similar situation, I am concerned about my fast-approaching transition from the apostolic lifestyle into a normal job-life in Helsinki. I delight in my new God-given mission and that I can contribute to safe nuclear waste management in Finland; and also in finding new ways to being open and growing closer to my family again. I pray that He will give me the eyes to see the good and the beautiful, always; the wisdom and strength to live in the secular environment without loosing hope and joy, regardless of my current sensitiveness to hate, jealousy, and other moral corruption that seems so abundant and it would be all too easy to get discouraged.
It is painful, frustrating and often overwhelming to face my incapability to do something to bring love into people’s hearts and situations. I trust that with the aid of Our Lady, God will teach me to stay close to my Love even at the times of feeling alone, abandoned and unable to pray. We have been promised that the glass of living waters will always follow before we die in the desert. I am sure that I will find greater joy, peace and satisfaction in life, more than I could ever have imagined or organized myself. I do not know how my life will turn out, and I need not to! Beautiful! Rejoice captive Israel! I can just surrender my all and enjoy the ride! Hallelujah!