Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Febreuary 15, 2010
Sr. Annata's testimony of Faith
Sr. Annata Brockman gave the witness presentation at the Feb. 4 Nothing More Beautiful session on the theme, Jesus Christ: Lamb of God and Bread of Life. Here is her testimony.
When Jesus was on earth he said that he spoke only the words that his Father told him to speak (John 12.49-50). In preparing for this "witness," I have asked God to let me speak only the words that Jesus tells me to speak, so I hope that some of you will be able to identify with the action of Jesus in your life as I reveal his action in mine.
So, this is a story about Jesus acting in my life as Lamb of God and Bread of Life.
It is the journey of faith by which Jesus invites me to inner transformation, so that by using "God's gift of free will", I might enter into an intimate relationship with Jesus and thus become that special person God had in mind when he created me in his own image and likeness.
I was born the eighth child in a wonderful Saskatchewan family of strong faith - Paul and Louise Brockman and their 12 children - six boys and six girls. We lived on a farm, eight miles from the nearest Catholic church, and attended Mass and other church services regularly.
If we were unable to get to church because of muddy roads, we would go back home and, in today's liturgical vocabulary, you could say that we participated in Mom and Dad's "lay-led liturgy." Our family prayed together, worked together, played ball, cards, sang and danced together.
Most of our family was baptized a few days after we were born, and I received my First Communion when I was seven years old. My First Communion was not a very happy one because in those days Church law stated that to receive Holy Communion we had to fast from food and drink from the midnight before.
CRUMBS ON THE TABLE
While I was waiting to go to Church, I ate a few crumbs from the table where my mother had made some sandwiches. At age seven I didn't realize that "the law was made for us, and not we for the law," so even though my conscience bothered me, I received Communion.
For months later I thought I had committed a horrible sin, and that if I died then I would go straight to hell. This thought bothered me so much that one day I pretended I was in hell. I imagined the worst possible scenario: a place where there was no love, where only hatred existed, and from there I cried out to God, "Put me in hell if you want to and you will see that I will love you from there!"
Immediately that fear of hell left me and I was never afraid again. I entered a new relationship with Jesus, the Lamb of God, who freed me from fear. After that we were always together, and I depended on God for everything.
JESUS ON THE HANDLEBARS
When I was 17 years old we moved to Kelowna, B.C., on account of my father's health. At that time students usually only completed Grade 12 or senior matriculation, then went to normal school in preparation for teaching.
Each school day as I rode home alone, I would pretend that Jesus was sitting on the handlebars as I rode the bike, and we would talk. Of course, I did all the talking! I would ask, "What do you think I should do next year"?
The thought would come, "Maybe you should be a sister," and I would say, "0h, Lord, please don't ask me to do that." I had my own plans. I planned to get married, and have a large family. For months the thought would come, "Maybe you should be a sister", and I would always say, "Lord, please don't ask me to do that."
One Sunday I had just come back from receiving Communion when the invitation of Jesus was so powerful that I realized it was God's plan for me, so I said, "Alright, Lord, if that's what you want, but let sister come to me."
Right after Mass, Sister Superior sent for me and, as I ran over to where she was waiting, she said, "I think you have a vocation, and you should come to Halifax this summer."
CLOSE TO FAINTING
I have never fainted in my life, but I was never so close to doing so because I realized how God took me at my word, not interfering with my free will, but waiting patiently until I was ready to say "yes". That very afternoon two sisters arrived at our home to inform my parents that they felt I had a vocation, and should enter the Sisters of Charity in two months.
In response to my excuse, that I should teach first and help the younger family members to get an education, Dad replied, "If God calls, nothing stands in the way." The words of Scripture came to me, "You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (John 15.16).
I promised God then that I would love him for ever, that I would give 100 per cent of love and service to his people, and I meant what I said.
I knew that God had chosen me not for who I was or for anything I could do, but for what he could do to reach out to his people through me. I would be the body and the bones, but the spirit in me would be his spirit.
Just as the Father has sent Jesus to the world, Jesus was sending me, as he has sent multitudes of bishops, priests, religious and lay people to carry on his mission and to act through us "to save and to give life."
In spite of my promise to follow God's plan for me, it wasn't easy for I had to die to my own plans, in order to rise to God's plan. I was still a novice when my father died, and for a long time I experienced real loneliness for him and for my family.
The loneliness was so intense that I wanted to die, and I even prayed that my community would find me "unfit" to be a sister, and would send me home. In hindsight, this time of loneliness was the best thing that could have happened because every time this emotion struck me, I would say over and over again, "May Jesus Christ be praised!"
To help me to die to that loneliness, and to rise above it, I took a resolution "that I would smile, even if I cracked my face in the effort." Needless to say, through this painful experience, I grew in my relationship, in my friendship with Jesus.
After my first profession as a Sister of Charity, I began teaching in Halifax, then North Sydney, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Edmonton and Vancouver. I loved the students, teachers, and parents and tried to call forth the best in them.
GOD'S LOVING PRESENCE
While in Cranbrook, I experienced a conscious awareness of God's presence within me. All I had to do was to close my eyes, and experience God's loving presence. It was an experience that I would love to enjoy every minute of every day. But I realized that it was easy to serve others when Jesus was my very Bread of Life nourishing me from within.
So I shared my thoughts with Jesus, "It's easy to serve you, Lord, when you flood me with an awareness of your loving, warm presence. I know there is probably a better way to serve your people." Then I said, "Only if you want to," and I repeated it: "Only if you want to, you can take away this awareness of your presence and give this experience to others somewhere in the world who are finding it difficult to cope with their situation." I stressed again, "only if you want to, and provided that I never offend you."
From that moment this conscious awareness of God's loving presence within me left me and I have not experienced it again in these last 50 years. I know that my love for God does not depend on feelings or emotions, but on my decision to love God, and Jesus our Lamb of God, and Bread of Life.
When I had completed my master's in administration and was appointed principal of St. Mark School, I had an excruciating pain in my back. I knew I could not carry on as a principal and accept this constant pain, so I talked the situation over with Jesus on the cross.
I looked at the crucifix in our chapel, and said to Jesus, "If you want me to be a good principal, that's fine with me, or if you want me to bear this excruciating pain the rest of my life, I can accept that, but I can't do both."
Then I looked intently at the crucifix and said to Jesus, "You choose!" The pain left me, and I knew what Jesus had chosen as part of God's plan for me.
My years in school as teacher and principal were very happy ones for I believed that together with the teachers and parents we were preparing the students for life here on this earth, for life in a world community and for life in eternity, our true home.
I believed then, as I do now that every human being on this earth is my brother, my sister in God's family, and therefore, I should respect each student and person as I would respect the Lord.
I saw The Lord's Prayer as a most important prayer, not only because Jesus gave it to us, but also because it gave us the power to be the mouthpiece for every human being each time that we address God as "our Father", not "my Father" asking Our Father that God's kingdom of love would reign on earth, that God's will be done, that God would forgive us as we forgive one another.
I often wondered what the forgiveness of Jesus was like that I was to imitate. How could Jesus, the Lamb of God, become alive in me? How could Jesus as Lamb of God reach out through me rescuing, saving, salvaging, freeing, liberating me and those with whom I come in contact from the things which keep us from God?
When a friend of mine suddenly turned against me for no apparent reason, I felt like Peter asking Jesus, "How often should I forgive? As many as seven times?"
I felt like giving up many times, but took a resolution not to let anyone destroy me as a person. By some special gift, I was with this person when she was dying.
After some moments of silence, she said to me, "How can you ever forgive me? I was so jealous of you, and I tried really hard to hurt you. Can you ever forgive me?" I could truthfully say, "I have already forgiven you."
Then she asked me if I thought all the others, whom she had hurt, would forgive her and I assured her that I knew they would. Her response was a deep sigh of relief. Knowing that she was forgiven, she died peacefully about 20 minutes later.
Some time later, I was asked to see a patient who was dying, and didn't have much time left, so I went that night to see him. I knew that he had not spoken to his sister for 17 years, and now he was dying in a state of a lack of forgiveness.
So I asked him if I could contact his sister, but he refused as he did not want to have anything to do with her. When I reminded him that Jesus would forgive him as he would forgive his sister, he finally agreed to let me try to reach her. But he did not want to be alone with her until they were reconciled.
He died peacefully three weeks later, and I knew it was Jesus who longed to reconcile them, and I was the "lamb with skin on" that made reconciliation possible followed by a happy death. I knew, as St. Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians (5.18-20), "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; so we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
PRAYER AND SACRIFICE
From my dad I learned how to be an ambassador for Christ, and that sometimes both prayer and sacrifice are required, as in the life of Jesus.
While Dad was dying of cancer and had been given five days to live, a woman was dying in an angry, bitter manner. Dad heard her yell at the priest to get out of her room. Dad said that he would suffer as much as necessary, as long as necessary, if that woman would only die in peace.
She died in five days having been reconciled to her family, to God and to the Church while Dad lived for almost six more weeks in excruciating pain without complaining.
A similar opportunity came to me when a friend was dying at home. After visiting the man, the family told me that their Dad really wanted to die at home, but they didn't know how much longer they could carry on.
When I went home that night, I asked Jesus not to let that family break under this. I told Jesus that if there was any unfinished work in this man's life on earth, I would take it upon myself to complete it in whatever way God chose. I wasn't surprised when I received a call from the family two days later informing me that their Dad had died peacefully at home.
After my years in school, I was asked to be pastoral associate in St. Joseph's Basilica. This was all part of God's plan for me because I realized more than ever that I would be one of those people through whom Jesus would eagerly reach out "to touch, encourage, challenge, love, inspire, and reconcile" his people.
For 23 delightful years I believed that I was privileged to share in the ministry of truly great archbishops, priests, staff and parishioners, and in the mission of Jesus in this intimate, compassionate way. I asked Jesus not to let me "get in the way of his action through me."
WORKING FOR GOD'S PEOPLE
We worked together on behalf of God's people, sometimes through prayer, sometimes through action by coordinating the RCIA journey of faith, or by preparing children and adults for the various sacraments, or families for Christian burial of their loved ones, sometimes encouraging and helping people prepare to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation when past fear kept them from experiencing God's loving forgiveness through this sacrament.
Every day was a special day because I knew that Jesus was indeed touching the hearts of many people, changing them and giving them new life.
In conclusion, I can say with St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians (3.12-15), "I have not yet reached the goal - the finish line. I give no thought to what lies behind, but push on to what is ahead - life on high in Christ Jesus."
THE GOSPEL LIVES
In spite of the fact that Jesus has nourished me for over 60 years in daily Eucharist - nourished me through the Scriptures and nourished me with himself as Jesus, Bread of Life, in his sacramental presence - I realize that the Gospel is only the printed word until it becomes alive in me, and until the Spirit and action of Jesus becomes alive in my day-to-day living.
To be alive in me means to take on the mission of Jesus when he said, "I have not come to condemn the world, but to give it life - and life in its fullest." Jesus came to announce a kingdom or reign of love where no one is excluded from the Father's love, so I have to ask myself the question, "Do I allow God to "stretch me" to include everyone in my love?
I know at this age in my life, I only need to prove myself to God - to be my best self to God. I can accept myself for who I am because God has accepted me, the Father has given me my identity - I am a daughter in God's family - and Jesus has reached out through me to touch his people.
It makes no difference to me whether I live another hour, another year or 10 years, because my time on earth will be for God's people. I believe my work will continue in heaven since, if Jesus answered my prayer on earth, how much more would he answer my prayer when I am in his loving presence.
I truly want God's best for each one of you! May Jesus reach out through you to touch, encourage, challenge, love, nourish and reconcile his people. My prayer for you will be The Hebrew Blessing, the words and music by one of our sisters, Suzanne Abruzzo, and sung now by the choir.
"May the Lord bless and keep us, and let his face shine upon us. May he be gracious to us all. May he show his love so kindly, and give us peace and strength. Amen. Amen."
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