Sr. Rita Clare- Your Builder shall marry you

Sr. Rita Clare Yoches web“You have preserved my life from the pit of destruction” (Is 38:17).  That is exactly what the Lord did for me.  I went to a Catholic grade school and high school in Dearborn, Michigan. We went to Mass every Sunday as a family and I thought that was all you had to do as a Catholic.  I had Bernadine Franciscan Sisters teach me there but I never thought about becoming a nun.  I excelled in school and sports. I played volleyball, soccer, softball, golf, and basketball in high school.  It’s no wonder there was not any time for God – except for a quick prayer here and there that I would get all of my homework done and a Hail Mary every time one of my teammates was shooting a foul shot in basketball.

I received a full scholarship to play Division I basketball at the University of Detroit-Mercy.  My faith still just consisted of Mass on Sundays.  In college I was being exposed to the culture and becoming more and more desensitized to right and wrong. I did not know how to defend my faith and I did not search for anyone to explain it to me.  I graduated with a degree in Sports Medicine.

After college I opened up a private training facility for athletes and played women’s professional football for six years.  At this point in my life I lived to party.  My life started steamrolling down the wrong path until one Sunday at Mass the Priest preached on 1 Corinthians 11:27-30: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.”  That homily hit my body like a ton of bricks.  That was who I was: I was sick and dying inside and had been running away from confession.  I did not know you were not supposed to receive the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin.  So I got to confession as soon as I could and that priest helped save my life and it began steamrolling upwards in the right direction and I couldn’t get enough of Jesus.

That same year I was in Assisi on a pilgrimage.  I was outside of St. Clare’s Basilica after praying in front of the San Damiano cross. I was watching the Poor Clares walk inside the church when I heard the Lord say to me in my heart, “You should do this, you could do this.”  I said, “Do what!?!?!  You’ve got to be kidding me, do you know who I am and what I have done in my life? Plus I don’t even know anyone who still does that.”  I just pretended that nothing happened and I did not tell anyone, but it would not go away.  Every night there was a whisper in my heart saying you have a calling.  Six months later I went to a discernment retreat just to check it off my list and make sure religious life was not for me.  I liked it but was not ready to surrender my life just yet.

A couple months later I surrendered to the Lord in my heart and I said, “I’ll do this for you.”  Right after that I met a great Catholic guy that was very into his faith and not afraid to proclaim it.  I didn’t know that type of guy existed.  I took it as a sign that the Lord just wanted me to surrender to Him and then He would give me what I wanted.  We dated for a year, but I felt like I was cheating on the Lord.  I missed all the alone time I used to have with Jesus, but I was also using the relationship to pretend I was “normal” and pretend that I didn’t have a vocation.

My boyfriend and I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville for a Festival of Praise, which was my first experience of charismatic prayer.  My prayer that day was, “Lord, am I supposed to marry You or my boyfriend”?   While getting prayed over after the F.O.P. the prayer team read to me Isaiah 62:1-5:

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication and all kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God.  No more shall men call you forsaken, or your land desolate, but you shall be called My Delight, and your land Espoused.  For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse.  As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.

Just like St. Francis mistakenly interpreted the word “rebuild” from God,  I interpreted the word “Builder” wrong. From that Scripture I assumed I was supposed to marry my boyfriend because he was in construction and was a builder. Later that night I went and reread the passage they read to me and I saw that “Builder” was spelled with a capital “B,” meaning, “my Creator or Maker”.  I again pretended like that didn’t happen, even though I knew in my heart what it meant.

A year later at another Franciscan University F.O.P., I was getting prayed over and I immediately felt like something heavy was on my chest and it was hard to breathe.  Then I felt the Lord stick His hand into my chest and rip every impurity and past sin out of me that I was using as a roadblock as to why I couldn’t become a nun.  It was physically exhausting and painful.  My breath became deep and peaceful. The Lord was purifying me with my breath.  I was also crying nonstop.  The Lord was purifying me with my tears.  The Lord took from me all of my sins that I had been forgiven but was not free from yet, and healed me that moment.  Next, I saw the Lord twirl me and wrap me in this beautiful white blanket.  Then, the girls praying over me said, “The Lord wraps you in His blanket.”  WOW! Next, I saw a bride of Christ on her final vows day.  She was in a white veil, a white cape, and had a crown of roses on her head and Christ was standing before her.  I knew Jesus was about to ask me to marry Him.  I dropped down to my knees and the girls praying over me said “The Lord wants you to know that He is yours and He wants to know, will you be His?”  This deep yes came out of me.  Immediately I had feelings of joy, thinking the Lord picked me!  But I was also mad, thinking “Why did he have to pick me?”  Then I was overwhelmed, feeling unworthy of this.  Next, the girls praying over me said, “I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” I laid flat on my face and cried my eyes out because I knew everything in my life was going to change.  The girls asked me to get up and all I had the energy to do was raise my head. At that moment all I saw was the big San Damiano cross hanging in the Fieldhouse.  Immediately that brought me comfort. The Lord had brought me full circle from the first time He called me in Assisi to now.  I knew He would give me the strength to do this.  I told the Lord He was going to have to give me the desire to do this because I did not have it.  It took me about a month to come to grips with everything and fully surrender, but the more I did the more peace I had. I experienced an ever increasing joy that I didn’t know existed.  I was finally becoming the person Christ intended me to be, the person I always wanted to be.

A priest told me to go about discernment just like you would in dating.  Go visit a place, and if you like it then go on a “second date”.  If you don’t ever go you will never know if you like it.  I visited four communities. With the T.O.R.s everything just fit and it felt like home.  I was able to say that I could see myself here for the rest of my life!  And so the awesome journey begins… destination: eternal life!Sr. Rita Clare Yoches, T.O.R.

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