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Three years in Arabia or one year for God?
| MEMBERS | NEWS
Never did I imagine that my heart could be so fulfilled, so happy, and so full of that peace "which the world cannot give."

Johanna von Siemens
Starting when I was 14 years old, I had a dreamed of adventure: to travel all around the world for an entire year. I felt like I would do anything to achieve my dream. By the time I was 18, I figured I deserved it, given that I was pretty far ahead in school for someone my age. "What am I going to do in college when everyone else is at least two or three years older than me?" I asked myself.

My plans alternated between either taking a bicycle tour across Europe, from Italy to Norway, or to travel the Trans-Siberian railway across Russia, all the way to the furthest border with China, then take a return route through India, Arabia, Turkey and Greece until finally reaching Germany again.

Just as I was considering this, I came across something totally new to me. A friend of mine invited me to a gathering in Switzerland. There, in the middle of the Alps, far from civilization, I came to know a group of 120 young women who were upbeat, funny, enthusiastic and healthy -- and who had given their lives to Christ. And they were almost the same age as me! I really could not believe my eyes, because up until then I had never seen anything like this, and I had always thought of the Church as an outdated institution, boring, dusty, and utterly unattractive.

The thing that most caught my attention about the consecrated women of Regnum Christi was the spontaneity and intimacy with which they spoke about Christ; it seemed that they spoke with Him as if He were their best friend.

At the get together in Switzerland, there was one girl, Ana, who was not consecrated like the rest of them, but she was giving a year of her life to God at the service of the Church. Suddenly I realized that was exactly what I was looking for! When I finished my bachelor´s degree, I went to work a year for the Church with the Regnum Christi in Chile. It was the best year of my life, not only because I was able to discover a whole new culture but also because I was able to discover an entire world completely unknown to me: the world of God; a life experienced seen from the point of view of faith.

I had always thought that I was a pretty good Catholic because out of my whole class, there were only two of us who went to mass, even if it was not every Sunday. But I soon realized that my faith was more protestant than Catholic: my mother had been protestant when she was young, and my dad is still protestant to this day. After that year that I spent in Chile, I began to believe that Christ was really present in the Eucharist and to understand that the Pope was not the "bad guy" as the German media portrayed him.

I returned home, began to study for a degree in "Industrial Business Administration," and went on with my life as I had always done: studying, working, and partying on the weekends, with one difference: I could no longer have a conversation that did not include, in some way or another, some topic having to do with God.

During one of the internships I did for my degree, I worked for two months in the United Arab Emirates. I was completely fascinated by this new culture, so different from the western culture: the turbans, the mosques, the people.

After I finished my degree, I was faced with a dilemma: "What am I going to do with my life?" I liked my job, but I could not imagine spending the rest of my life sitting in an office. I needed challenges, something that would take hold of me, something that was not limited by office hours. The experience I lived in Chile had left me with a great thirst, a desire to devote myself body and soul to a mission. I was faced with two options: to return to Arabia for three years to establish a branch of my company there, which only had one small office in the Middle East staffed by two people, or...? The other possibility was like a tender whispering in my heart: "Why don´t you give me another chance? Why don´t you give me one more year?

That first coworker year I had received one grace after another from God, and I was scarcely able to give him anything in return because I did not know much about my faith, I did not speak Spanish, and I did not really know Jesus Christ. I was as drawn to the idea of Arabia as to the possibility of giving another year of service. I am not really sure what finally led me to choose the latter, but all I know is that one good day I found myself back in the Regnum Christi center in Rome, where I was assigned for my second year.

I felt like an "old rabbit," as we say in Germany, meaning someone with enough experience to know all the tricks of the trade. And that is exactly how I wanted to begin my second year as a coworker, calm and in control.

When I entered the chapel, the second day after I arrived, I felt as if Christ was speaking clearly to me from the sanctuary saying: "Johanna, who are you giving this year for? For yourself or for me?" It hit me like a cold shower, because He was absolutely right. "Well ... I wanted to give it to you," I responded only half-convinced, because deep down, I had already made my own plans without consulting him. "Then does that mean that from now on you will accept whatever I ask of you?" This was a rather compromising question, but I responded: "I will try."

Everyday when I entered the chapel, Jesus Christ would ask me to take one more step. This is how Christ won me over. He loves you so much and asks so much of you because if he didn´t it would be indifference, the opposite of love. One day I told him: "Jesus, what do you want of me? Why do you love me so much? Please tell me! Tell me what vocation you have in mind for me. You know that I can no longer say no to you, just please tell me ..."

He chose to tell me by means of Saint Terese of the Child Jesus, who since then has been the patroness of my vocation. On Christmas day, I told my best friend what had been going on with me and she said: "I have this marvelous novena to Saint Terese. Let´s both pray it starting on the first of January, you from Rome, and I here in Germany, so that you might see clearly what the right path is for you." And just that same day, another person had given me a saint card of Saint Terese. I saw it as a sign. It could not have been a mere coincidence!

The last day of the novena, which was also the first day of my spiritual exercises, upon entering the chapel and looking to the Sanctuary, I felt the certainty that God was calling me to follow him by consecrating my whole life to him in Regnum Christi. I did not hesitate to say yes to him, because I was certain that God had created my heart, and He knows better than anyone who and what could fill it and make it completely happy. I have been more and more convinced of this with every passing day. Never did I imagine that my heart could be so fulfilled, so happy, and so full of that peace "which the world cannot give."

Johanna von Siemens was born on July 16, 1976 in Munich, Germany. She has a degree in Industrial Business Administration. She studied Education and Development and majored in Religious Sciences at the center of formation run by International Educators in Madrid, Spain and in Monterrey, Mexico. She currently works as the dean of discipline at a school in Guadalajara, Mexico.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2004-03-19


 
 


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