Joy was the first thing that drew me towards the Emmanuel School of Mission. Staying at a hostel in Lourdes on a winter college break, I met some alumni of ESM Paray (Emmanuel School of Mission, formerly called EIFE). Their joy was tangible and before long, I was signing up for the school’s Easter retreat in Paray-le-Monial. I was welcomed by the happiest group of students I had ever met. By the end of the weekend retreat, I knew that wanted to share in that enthusiasm and I made plans with the staff to return.
In the fall of 2000, I had a month of language lessons in Lyon before heading to Paray-le-Monial. How quickly my excitement drained when I realized how difficult and tiresome it was to have to communicate constantly in a foreign language. The start of ESM was even more difficult. It seemed all the other students were having fun and sharing jokes and stories, while I felt like a child not able to participate with “the grown-ups.” Homesickness and self-pity set in hard.
As stubborn as my heart was to admit my shortcomings and self-centeredness, God didn’t abandon me that year. He fed my spirit daily through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Mass. One weekend, we went to Mass in a different city. When I went to receive Communion, a priest from the Emmanuel Community recognized me before I recognized him, and held up the Host, saying, “Colleen. The Body of Christ.” In English. That small gesture was so meaningful to me, as if it was Jesus himself speaking straight to my heart, saying that He knows my name and He understands my sufferings.
During my time at ESM Paray, I resigned myself to God’s will in the little struggles of living in community and got to know Him better through the classes on theology and the church and through the mission work we had. By God’s mercy, I was able to experience the gifts of the Sacred Heart more deeply and find the joy that lasts.
I left ESM fifteen years ago, but I still carry this joy that God continues to multiply in my heart. In the words of St. Claude de la Colombière, the confessor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque,
“By God’s infinite mercy I feel a liberty of spirit which fills me with great joy. It seems as though nothing could now make me unhappy. The thought that I am serving God fills me with this joy, and I feel that it is of far greater value than all the favor of kings would be.” 1
Are you called to the Emmanuel School of Mission?
ESM Paray, France – French language; Heart of Jesus (and of Emmanuel community).
ESM Altötting, Germany – German language; Sanctuary of our Lady, mission through music.
ESM Rome, Italy – Multiple languages; Universal Church.
ESM Manila, Philippines – English language; presence to the poor.
1De La Colombière, Claude. Spiritual Direction of Saint Claude De la Colombière. United States: Ignatius Press, 1998. Print.