About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

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To Stay or Not to Stay: what is God’s Will
published 19 February 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

HIS ENTRY from a journal back in 1998 horrified me when I read it again now. I thought, it is a little to personal and awful to put up on a blog, but then I thought, it could be a cautionary tale for some reader and who cares if it makes me look like a crazed idiot.

It is said that in some traditional culture, women weaned their babies from breast ­milk by blackening the bosom with some noxious smelling ointment. Disgusted, the baby would accept the substitute of food for the previously desired milk. What a graphic image! Whenever I think of it, I picture the large older baby grabbing for the familiar breast and suddenly recoiling from the smell and maybe the sticky feel, crying for a while, and then hungrily accepting the offered food instead.

By analogy, it seems to me that in my own adult life God detaches me from places and people to move me on somewhere else by means of an equally distressing but perhaps necessary weaning process.

Always I begin a new venture full of hope. The beauty of the location is sublime. The people are perfect. God’s presence is everywhere, all the time. I could dance in the streets it is all so wonderful, and usually I find some hour of the day when few are about to watch, and literally dance around the Church, the house, the byways of the town.

It is with a kind of bemused ironic smile that I recall now those feelings about a monastery, a college, a city surrounded by Red Rocks. How many hours spent figuring out in detail how to guarantee these paradises, forever. In each case I would figure out how to manipulate every circumstance and person involved to want me and keep me. Could I become indispensable by doing a thousand times more than anyone else in my work? Would it work to affirm others with such a consummate choice of words that they would always want such a loving person near?

Such romanticism.! So many illusions! What about the many flaws in my own character that could change any Eden into Purgatory, if not Hell, for the people who have to be with me? That would be a long story. Maybe too painful for this moment of reflection?

Just now, there is another question which interests me more. What has God’s strategy been through the decades to lead me on, out of circumstances that if tolerably good in some ways, are still not where He wants me to be for the next round?

Let me begin with a memory so far distant as to be more amusing than miserable.

Off to teach summer-school for a short two week session. A friend of mine had recommended me for the post. Even though she was sure the particular students attending would resist my ideas, it would be good for them to have to hear them anyhow, she reasoned.

Well, the resistance was worse than even my friend had imagined. Older male students sat unsmilingly for hour long sessions, arms crossed on their chests. Older woman students smiled at my jokes but then grabbed me in the corridor during break time to explain how irrelevant my ideas were compared to their own better insights.

All was not lost, however. That same school was the location of a group of zealot Catholics I had read about in a magazine article. When I found them I was overwhelmed. They were the most perfect, strong, daring, creative, fascinating Catholics in the whole world. And, as a bonus, they were also fond of dining out with just enough red wine to make even anecdotes about enemies more fun than pain.

The day after my first encounter with the group, I was so happy I danced across the campus to early morning Mass, singing a gospel song about “The Lord turns water into wine.”

The euphoria lasted through the whole 2 weeks ending with my writing up a witty letter of application for a job in their branch of the college. The last line was “So when are ya gonna make me anna offer I cannanota refuse?”

Evidently, my will was not God’s will. Six months of attempts by mail from my home base to cajol them into hiring me, led only to frustration and anguish. The breast got blacker and blacker.

Rumors of the reactions of the group to me began to reach me through the grape vine. Knitting image: (In those days I used to knit incessantly, even at gatherings. Now I have substituted the Jesus prayer on the Mercy Chaplet) “That woman seems like a nervous wreck. Doesn’t she ever relax?” '(She’s almost as bad as our fearless leader when it comes to workaholism! She’ll be driving us all nuts adding new projects to our already overloaded schedules.”

The final weaning came when the head of the group, my hero, confessed that he was simply not the saint I thought him to be and just didn’t have time even to deal with my letters no less my presence as a colleague!

I was crushed. Evidently there was no way I could ever suck the milk of human happiness from those breasts!

So what was the better choice God had in mind for me? At that time it was new friends who had plenty of time for me and found my high energy stimulating rather than frightening. At the same time, Jesus deepened my interior sense of His presence, gracing me with prayer of quiet.

Another time I will fill out more incidents of weaning. With what motive? To relive the pain again? Not really. More to convince myself that when the present weaning is over, from a place that is very good, but still not “right,” there will be solid food in the new places God is sending me. Will I be better nourished by that food, if my dreams of it are more tempered with realism? I hope so. I do hope so. Please let me hope so, God!

P.S. I realized when reviewing this for my blog that a good that came out of that whole unpleasant incident was that I met a co-author with whom I wrote four beautiful books. She was unrelated to any of the people mentioned above.