<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1906385056278061&ev=PageView&noscript=1" />
Skip to main content Accessibility feedback

How Can We Know That God Loves Us?

Audio only:

Cy interviews two of our favorite women religious about their work sharing the love of God with others, and how we gain confidence in the love of God.


Cy Kellett:
Hello, and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett, your host, and today we tackle a question that is close to the hearts, sometimes closer to the heart perhaps than to the mind. How do we know that God loves us?

One of the ways that we can explore that is with people who share the message of God’s love with other people. We have two of our favorite guests here with us today, Sister Maris Stella and Sister Michaela of the Sisters of Life. Hello, sisters.

Sr. Michaela:
Hi Cy.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Hello.

Cy Kellett:
Last time we spoke, you were here in the studio. That’s not happening anymore. You’re both in Denver, right?

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yes.

Cy Kellett:
But usually you’re out on college campuses, or doing ministries in various places. So how is that going right now?

Sr. Maris Stella:
Well, everything’s been shifted to online, so we’re braving this new world all together, but it’s going well, thank God. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:
All right. So you have, you have a ministry there. We wanted to ask you about how do we know that God loves us because that’s essentially, the Sisters of Life, you’re founded in the 1980s, correct?

Sr. Maris Stella:
1991.

Cy Kellett:
1991. In large part to respond to what we’re all living through the culture of death and the culture of disinterest, I suppose, in one another. Culture of isolation and death, I guess I could call it. This is what you do every day is you try to invite people back into the culture of life and community.

Sr. Michaela:
Yeah.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah, it is true. So as Sisters of Life, we believe that every person is sacred and unique and has dignity. And that every life has meaning and purpose, but we know that going through this life, it can be easy to forget that sometimes. And the world we live in can tell us a different story. But we’ve discovered, and we believe as sisters that when people experience that they’re loved for who they are, not for what they can do or produce, they really thrive and live in the fullness of life.

And so we express that work mostly in our work with pregnant women, women who are in difficult situations and are tempted to abortion, we journey alongside them. And we know that when a woman’s loved, she can do anything. And when she discovers her own dignity, then she wants to choose life for her children. And then we also walk with women who are suffering after the experience of abortion, to help them experience the mercy and the healing that Jesus wants for all of us. And we also bring this message of God’s plan for life and love to university campuses. So we just want everyone to know that their life has meaning and that they have dignity.

Cy Kellett:
This strikes me as somewhat un-American that you’re not valuable because of your work, what you do and what you produce. Are you some kind of revolutionaries?

Sr. Michaela:
I think a lot of people are discovering that truth now, staying home and not being able to work in the way that they’re used to.

Cy Kellett:
Right. And it drives a lot of people crazy, not being able to be immediately productive at all times. And I wonder too, if this, some people think there’s hope in the virus in that maybe people will rediscover family life and, and life at home and all that, but there’s also a danger in it that home is just going to disappear. Everywhere you are is an office now.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Mm.

Cy Kellett:
So let me ask you this. When you, when you work with, part of your ministry, is, is this hope and healing ministry. This is for women who have undergone abortions?

Sr. Maris Stella:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cy Kellett:
Okay. So I imagine part of recovery from that is to know oneself as loved again.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:
So how do you go about that? How do you go about restoring the sent- Because we, I mean, that might seem to some people to be an extreme case, but we all do this. We all need to be restored to the sense that we’re loved.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Sure. Yeah. The truth is we’re all sinners and we’re all in need of God’s mercy, every single one of us. And I think the experience of abortion is a deeply troubling wound on a woman’s soul. And she suffers it very deeply. And so often women who’ve had abortions believe that they cannot be forgiven and cannot be loved. But this is the miracle of God’s mercy. We know throughout the scriptures, you see it over and over again, Jesus and the Father revealing his love to sinners over and over again. We see the Father reaching out to heal and to restore and renew. In the scriptures, you see so many, there’s great sinners who became great saints. And I always tell everyone that every Saint is a sinner who’s been bathed in God’s divine mercy.

Cy Kellett:
Yes.

Sr. Maris Stella:
And so a woman who’s had an abortion, in a way, has an advantage, because she’s aware of her own poverty and her own weakness. And, in that way, there’s an entryway for God’s love and mercy to come into.

Cy Kellett:
So how practically does any of us then come to know that God loves us? Cause, I suppose what I mean is, there’s an intellectual knowing, and then there’s a knowing, knowing, you know, that’s on a different level. I, how do we move from one to the other? How do we become, you know, present to and aware of the fact that we are loved?

Sr. Maris Stella:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sr. Michaela:
I think there’s, yeah, I think there’s a tension in it, right? That we know ourselves to be sinners and we know the ways that we offend God and we know human love and how human love reacts in those sorts of situations. But then we also know that we’re dealing with God who is love and whose love is unconditional and who is the perfect father. And so, so I think one of the things is just not to panic when that question arises in our hearts is, am I loved, does God love me? To affirm the truth that you know: Yes, God loves me. Yes, I’m also a sinner. That’s a tension I have to hold, and that I can’t fully understand because I haven’t necessarily experienced it here on earth, but to cling to what we know to be true.

Cy Kellett:
Hmm. That’s so interesting. Cause I think normally we resolve the tension by turning away from God.

Sr. Michaela:
Hmm.

Cy Kellett:
Like we just can’t face him.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah. Or we assume that his love is like our own love or of like, the person we offended, and that he might be passive aggressive or a strict judge or a harsh task master.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Sr. Maris Stella:
And so we can build up, like, characters of what he’s like. But if we continually renew ourselves in the deepest truths, in the reality of who God’s love is, I like to say eventually that those truths that God is love, that he loves me, a sinner, that his love is tender and personal. That truth eventually, through grace, through his mercy, makes its way from my lips, into my head, into the depths of my heart. And that’s the longest pilgrimage in the world is this pilgrimage into my own heart.

Cy Kellett:
Yes. Coming to know oneself as beloved. It’s not… Because there’s a lot that, that, that argues against it. There’s a lot in the world that argues against it. And actually there’s a lot in the church that are used against it. We don’t always see love or receive love in the church.

Sr. Michaela:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah. No, it’s so true where, cause we’re talking about fallen and weak human beings and, and we’re, we’re all, basically we’re all sinners in need of God’s mercy and… Saint John Paul the second I think said it so well, like he would acclaim often that he was a sinner and that… And today’s his hundredth birthday, so I figured I’d give a shout out to him cause he… [Inaudible 00:08:20].

Cy Kellett:
I know, it’s a great day.

Sr. Maris Stella:
But he said, “We need to remember that we’re sinners. Because as soon as we forget that we’re sinners, we forget our need for Christ. And as soon as we forget our need for Christ, then we’ve lost everything.” So our, the awareness of our weakness and those around us is the place where God’s love can fall. It can become the entryway, as I said, to receive his mercy.

Cy Kellett:
Do you ever get the impression from other people or like the reaction from other people like, look, you’re nuns, you know, you’re wearing the dresses. You, you got crosses around your neck. You don’t know what I am. You don’t know what I’ve done.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sr. Michaela:
Yeah. Yes, we do get that.

Cy Kellett:
You do?

Sr. Michaela:
We definitely do get that. And again, it goes back to reminding people, look, we all struggle, we all sin.. You know, that quote from the saint, “There but for the grace of God, there go I…”

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Sr. Michaela:
You know, a couple of circumstances different in my life, a couple of choices different in high school, and I’m right where you are. Just to maintain in ourselves, our own awareness of that truth. And to believe that… that there’s really… it’s only God’s grace that preserves us.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Saint Therese said it so well, she said, “Had God not preserved me, I would have been worse than Mary Magdalene. But had I been that worst, I would still run after him because I know he’s so merciful. Even if I committed all the sins in the world, I could still trust in his mercy.” I knew, like Saint Faustina says, “Our sins are a drop of water in a whole ocean of his abundant mercy.”

Cy Kellett:
But there’s some people for whom it’s just so hard to believe that it’s for me, like I get all that, but… But it doesn’t connect with me. And I, I often don’t know what to… I guess the nature of my question wasn’t to insult you as nuns, but just to… that there’s people for whom it’s hard to hear, “Yes, this is for you, just like it’s for everybody else. You’re not outside of the possibility of God’s love.”

Sr. Michaela:
Yeah.

Sr. Maris Stella:
I know. I think to begin with there, there’s this famous story of This well-known Archbishop in England in the 1960s. And he was invited on this well-known talk TV show at night, it’s something like the Late Night Show. And everyone was like shocked that he agreed to be on the show, because the host of the show was kind of like this hardcore, kind of cynical, rough and tough… He used to put his interviewees on the spot. And so anyways, he invites the Cardinal on the show, and millions tuned in to see this, thinking that this would be like a really engaging show. So they have this conversation back and forth. And then all of a sudden the host… This was the 1960s and it was a very turbulent time in society and in the church. There were many questions out there.

And so the host puts him on the spot and said, so what do you think is the most difficult thing for you to believe about the Catholic church? And they said that all of the UK held its breath, assuming that he might say, Oh… Contraception or abortion or a nuclear war or a divorce. But the Cardinal, who was a very serious and sober man, just paused thoughtfully and said, “The most difficult thing for me to believe about the Catholic faith is that God is my father and that he loves me.”

Cy Kellett:
Oh. Yeah. Why? I get… I totally get what he’s saying, but why?

Sr. Michaela:
So it is an act of faith, but I always begin with… If someone’s really struggling with it. Well, let’s just pause. Like, let’s begin to say, what are the things in your life that you could be grateful for? I think just kind of slowing down, and just looking at it in a microscopic level, like the fact that you’re breathing… Thank God for that! The fact that you got out of bed this morning, the fact that you have a bed to sleep in, the fact that you have running water, like very small and concrete and tangible ways that can connect her to our humanity. I think, in a way, begin the transformation of heart. Because it’s a holistic response that God has to us. He doesn’t just appeal to our intellects or just to our hearts. He’s responding to, with the fullness of his being, and he doesn’t hold anything of himself back. He wants to respond in every way to us.

Cy Kellett:
So I… As a parent, this happens with your kids sometimes where, they get stuck in this. And I want to know from you, from this kind of program that you have, the hope and healing mission that you have… What’s the practical things? Cause that sounds very practical. As a parent, I could say that to a child about learning the habit of being grateful so that you don’t get overwhelmed with the negative feeling about yourself. You know, but kids, they all got their own personality and some of them go through long stretches where they feel negatively about themselves. So give me some more tips on helping another person to come to know you are loved by God.

Sr. Michaela:
I think sometimes, I’m thinking particularly about kids or teenagers, or just even my own life experience, that sometimes we come to know God’s love through reaching out to others, in the sense that we are able to, one, get outside of ourselves and not just get stuck in our heads with that question. But two, to experience, no, I am capable of good. I am capable of doing things that are helpful and loving for other people, and I can see how God is loving other people through me. And so he must be pouring his love into me for me to be able to overflow and to give that love to other people. And so to really, yeah… just make the effort to go outside of yourself in times like that. Because again, we know what’s true intellectually. And so we have to try and live as if we believe that to be true.

Cy Kellett:
All right, I’m going to get you to, to help me with all three of my kids then. What about the kid then that doesn’t know that they need the love of God? What do you say? Cause you must run across people who are even resistant to the notion that they’ve, they’ve, like you say, well, we’re all sinners, but some people, the resistance is not, well, God loves me despite that, but actually I’m not that big of a sinner. I don’t really need all that.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah. I think, well, the truth is, it’s the longing and the desire of every human heart. So whether or not they might think it at a particular phase in their life or believe it, it’s actually fact and true, like we were made by God’s love and only his love can satisfy us. It’s the imprint on our soul. It’s though, like as [inaudible 00:15:35] says, “The watermark on the parchment of our being is God’s love.” And so we were made for this love. We need this love.

And so if at a particular moment in my life while I’m disinterested in it, or someone’s disinterested in it, doesn’t think that they need it… Okay, that’s fine. But the deepest reality is, they were made for this, and their hearts long for and thirst for it. And the Holy Spirit is mysteriously present in every human heart. And so I’m before a person who doesn’t think they need God’s love, but if I can continue to show that to them, and present that to them in a certain way, in a very humble way, a very subtle way. Eventually it’s almost like a… Maybe like a Rosebud that’s kind of closed up, but if through warmth and heat and light, it’ll eventually begin to open and blossom and to receive more of that light and love.

Cy Kellett:
Do you have, could you maybe share with us some of the… As you do your ministry, the actual transforming a power of love. You must see transformations in life. And I suppose one of the other kind of vices we might have in regard to love is the sense that, nah, I really don’t think it’ll do this person much good. So we don’t share, we don’t share it. We don’t actually believe in its transformative power, so we don’t share it. So you’ve committed your lives to actually sharing it. So where are you on your scale of believing in its transformative power?

Sr. Michaela:
Yeah, I mean, there are some beautiful stories. One that I’m thinking of from our work on campus this year. So one of the things that we’ll do when we’re on campus is go out and table. So, you know, all the different groups can reserve a table on the center plaza of the campus and hand out whatever they want or promote whatever they’re promoting. And we were out there one day and there was another group next to us and they were very different-minded than we were. But we… A couple of us were like, well, let’s just go over and say hi, and ask them what they’re about, and why they think what they think. And so we did, and we had a nice conversation. And then a few minutes later, a couple of people from their table came over to our table to a sister who had no idea what was transpiring and said to her, “Well, what are you guys here for? What do you believe?”

And so she said, basically what Sister Maris Stella said earlier, that we believe every person’s good, every person’s sacred. And we know it’s easy to forget that, and we want to remind people of that. And it was so beautiful to see her go from kind of the stance of defensiveness to, she says to us, “Something’s happening in my heart while you’re talking.” She’s like, “I feel something happening,” and we’re like, “well, that’s, God’s love,” and just affirming her, “Well, it’s because it’s your goodness. And that’s meant to be affirmed. And that’s true. That’s what’s true about you, and everyone needs to be reminded of that.”

So just even people being reminded that they’re good, that they’re valuable, that they’re sacred, has tremendous power, even though it seems… It almost seems silly to us to say it to them. Like, of course this is obvious, but…

Cy Kellett:
But it’s not. You’re not getting it on TV. You’re not getting it in, in your college classroom. Where are you going to get it? If you’re not… Maybe you never got it at home.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah.

Sr. Michaela:
You got to get it from the nuns on campus.

Cy Kellett:
Well, thank God for the nuns on campus. You’re not just on campus, you’re on YouTube now. Can you just tell us a little something about your YouTube efforts?

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah, really. We just started it during this pandemic as a way to reach out to people. There’s so much love that we desire to share and want others to know. And we’re trying to think of creative ways to do it. So one of the things we’re doing is… we know that this is… in every age, God raises up saints to meet the needs of the day. And so we’re doing saint videos, a few a week, on different contemporary saints and saints for other… Everyone from Saint Peter to Saint John Paul the second, and everyone in between.

Sr. Maris Stella:
So we have saint stories on there. We have testimonies from our hope and healing mission. We have, we’ve recently hosted an online gala, which gives you an overview of the community. So there’s a few really good talks on there and good stories and…

Sr. Michaela:
…original music written by the sisters…

Sr. Maris Stella:
Oh yeah, orig… Beauty, some real beauty, just to bring hope and light into people’s lives.

Cy Kellett:
Yeah.

Sr. Michaela:
We’ve also been live streaming some of our holy hours or masses. And so that’s also on there when that’s happening.

Cy Kellett:
Oh, how wonderful. Yeah, because people are totally cut off from that now. So, are all the sisters well? Everyone in this…

Sr. Michaela:
Praise be to God. Yeah.

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yep. You know, we’re praying that prayer, that Archbishop Gomez asked us all to pray, the president of USCCB, maybe you’ve seen it. Praying for the protection of the blessed Virgin Mary, our lady of Guadalupe, over all of us, so that we would be spared. So God is protecting us, and we’re… And a beautiful thing is, we were actually, our sisters in New York were able to help, nearby our mother house, is another community of sisters with mostly elderly sisters and a number of them contracted the virus and they needed help taking care of their sisters. And so they asked us for our support and thankfully we were able to send over a few sisters to care for them and to help them through this period.

So thanks be to God, God has helped us, and a beautiful story from that is our sisters were walking outside of their convent. And the sisters, all these elderly sisters were walking by and they were so grateful and said, “Thank you so much for taking care of us. We’re so…. we don’t know what we would do without you.” And one of our sisters shouted out to her and said, “You’re welcome, but we know that you would do the same thing for us,” and the sisters all responded, “Yes we would.”

Cy Kellett:
Yes. Isn’t that beautiful?

Sr. Maris Stella:
Yeah. Yeah, really beautiful. So there’s so many great stories of solidarity and love coming out of this time.

Cy Kellett:
I’m glad you’d share the story because I really do think there’s many young people who don’t even believe that those kinds of relationships of love are possible. They think that people who talk about those things are phony, that it’s not real, that this kind of love can exist in the world. And you sometimes almost despair of… How are we going… Like, as I said, they didn’t get it at home, and now they’re going through life. They’ve never experienced loving community of any kind really. They’ve been taken care of, but not truly loved. And not members of a family that was a loving family. And now they’re living on media and that kind of thing. So I think it’s actually very important to tell those stories, because I just think we have a lot of people who don’t believe it’s true, that people actually love one another.

Sr. Michaela:
Yeah. And you see the importance of community. I mean, just in everything, from our mission serving pregnant women, to our hope and healing, to our work with students on campus, that one of the best things that can happen for a person is to get plugged into a community of authentic love, authentic friendship, authentic relationships, where they can be who they are. They can come as they are. And they can experience being accepted, being loved, being welcomed. That alone, I think, is one of the most transformative things.

And our mission serving women who are pregnant and in crisis, a lot of times, she’ll come into the convent for a meeting and she’ll tell us her story. And there will be a lot of obstacles and a lot of difficulties to overcome. But just knowing that she’s not alone in it… just us saying to her, “We’re with you, we’re going to be with you. As long as you want us in your life, we’re here. We’re not going to leave you,” is transformative. I remember walking a woman to the train station who still had all the needs she had when she came to the meeting an hour before, but she looked at me and she said, “Sister, now that I know I’m not alone, I’m going to have this baby. I know I can do this as long as I’m not alone.” So it’s really community.

Cy Kellett:
It is. Yeah. And it’s the thing that’s broken. And thank you so much for all you do to restore it. I mean, you can’t have a culture of life without a community of love. You just… It’s not going to happen. So let me ask you this. I’m going to give you one last pitch for that person who listens and listens and still does not get it, that they are loved by God. I want you to give them your best Sisters of Life pitch to let them know that they are loved by God. What does a Sister of Life say to someone… “Nah, sister; I just don’t believe it. God doesn’t love me.”

Sr. Michaela:
Yes.

Sr. Maris Stella:
I would want to give them… I could say something, but it really is… the Holy Spirit has to speak that truth to their heart. So I, the best advice I would give is to say, go, just make a very sincere prayer. The deepest desire of God’s heart is for him to pour out his love on you. And so if you open yourself up, even the tiniest bit, just ask him, kneel down, make a sincere prayer of your heart, and say, “God, if you love me, if you’re out there, if you hear me, show me. Give me an experience of your love; help me to know it.” So I’d leave it up to him. We have a God of miracles and we have a God who is an extravagant lover and he is a good father and he does not leave us orphan.

So if one of his children is going to him and asking for this, he will respond in a way that’s… I hope that person comes back on the show and tells us how God responds. Cause I think God can respond in a way that’s incredible and brilliant. And I believe that he will. And whoever that person is out there, who needs to know that God loves them, who’s questioning, who doesn’t believe that… Know that Sister Maris Stella and Sister Michaela are praying for you today, that you will have an experience of this God’s love. And we believe that God wants to answer you, and he will answer you.

Cy Kellett:
Praise God. Thank you so much. Sister Maris Stella, thank you very much for your time.

Sr. Maris Stella:
You’re welcome.

Cy Kellett:
And Sister Michaela, thank you for your time.

Sr. Michaela:
You’re welcome; thank you, Cy.

Cy Kellett:
And you can find out about the Sisters of Life. You can find them, just type in, “Sisters of Life,” you’ll find them. But check out that new YouTube channel they have for the Sisters of Life. And thank you for joining us here on Catholic Answers Focus. I’m Cy live streaming, your host. And I will ask you this: give us that five star review, will you, wherever you get your podcast? That helps us to grow the podcast, let other people know about it. And if they want to know more about it, tell them just to go to Catholic Answers Focus.com. We’ll see you next time, God-willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission! Donate