Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wow, God! You did it again.
Sr. Stephanie Morales, FMI
How you've made good of this mess I've made, is a profound mystery.
Contemporary Christian band, Caedmon's Call
Not because of who I am, but because what you've done.
Not because of what I've done, but because of who you are.
Contemporary Christian band, Mercy Me

As I sit today to write this post, it seems that our Sr. Stephanie has given me the best way to begin. In deed... wow.

Friday marked the end of my first month of novitiate. Can you believe it? It's already been a month? I can hardly believe it. One of our Marianist brothers, Bro. Mike Sullivan SM, always tells me, "Take advantage of this year, Nicole. It's going to fly by." How right he is! If the whole year goes by like this, it'll be over before I know it. So, I had better allow God to make this year what it needs to be!

As I reflected on Friday what the first month has been like or what has happened, I had a little trouble putting it into words. This has been a month of self discovery like none other in my life thus far. The question is, however, has this self knowledge led me to a deeper understanding of who God is and how God works in my life? In a word, yes. Can I explain it? Not well. *smile*

On my page I have a list of various quotes. One of the quotes from St. Francis of Assisi is, "If God can work through me, he can work through anyone." Another quote that comes to me is said to be from St. Augustine, but no one can say for sure. "God writes straight with crooked lines." God works wonders... in my life and in the lives of those around me. And usually, it's in spite of us... not because of us. You know what I mean? God has blessed me abundantly. Why? It's certainly not because it's deserved. It's because it's who God is. What a fascinating point to ponder (well, for me it is).

Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Sr. Stephanie's and Sr. Rose Marie's first vows. And what a celebration it was! We had a beautiful liturgy... with over 275 people present! Fr. Quentin Hakenewerth, SM was the celebrant and homilist for the liturgy. He came in from Mexico especially to celebrate this milestone. His homily was great... engaging... spirited... and just "right on." I'm a little biased, though, because I'm such a fan of his numerous books.

After the homily, Sisters Stephanie and Rose Marie renewed their vows. It was so moving. Sr. Stephanie teared up a little... Now, I'm not one to cry, but I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't help but think, "In two years, I'll profess the same vows." That, my friends, is incredible.

At the end of the liturgy, Sr. Stephanie spoke to the assembly. And she started off with, "Wow God! You did it again." And throughout her comments she kept saying, "Wow, God!" I was moved. It's because I could say the same for my own life... "Wow, God!"

Anyway... after the liturgy, of course we had a party. It was in the University Center at St. Mary's Univ. It was full of people... great, live Hawai'ian music (you see, Sr. Stephanie is from Hawai'i and her nephew has his own Hawai'ian band here in San Antonio)... good food... lots of laughter and the sharing of stories. We even had Hawai'ian dancers! You just can't beat it. What a beautiful day it was.

The only thing one can really say at the end of this weekend, and for me at the end of my first month of novitiate is, "Wow, God! You've done it again."

Many blessings on your week!

Sr. Nicole

Monday, September 18, 2006

"You have made me for Yourself and my heart is restless until it rests in You."
St. Augustine of Hippo

For those of you who read my blog weekly (are there some of you out there?), I apologize for the late post. Last week was an odd one for me and by Sunday the last thing on my mind was posting. *Sigh* but, I'm here now... and not all together sure exactly what to say!

I chose the above, often quoted, phrase of St. Augustine's because it pretty much sums up last week for me. Having come to a stopping point on a work project in the house, with Sr. Gretchen down with a terrible case of strep throat for several days, my class at Oblate not getting any better, and with several outside community activities my routine was really messed up.

Thursday - Sunday I was pretty restless. And I'm not altogether sure restless is the right word. Distracted? Maybe that's better, but not quite. It's difficult to articulate, for sure. Being the "creature of habit" that I am, once I've established some sort of routine, I am fairly comfortable. When the routine gets thrown out... without any to take its place... or when things seem out of balance... I have a hard time concentrating.

Perhaps I should explain my week a little...
  • Sr. Gretchen and I had class together on last Monday, but didn't meet again until this morning.
  • Tuesday was the Patronal Feast of the Society of Mary (the Marianists brothers and priests) because it was the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Also, the celebration was combined with a "good-bye, good-luck" celebration for one of the brothers who was just elected to the General Adminsitration in Rome.
  • Let's see... Wednesday... I have no recollection of Wednesday. That should tell me something, shouldn't it?!
  • Thursday was Oblate day... To make a long story short, I ended up meeting with the Assistant Academic Dean for about 45 minutes. The actual Academic Dean will be meeting with my professor in the next few days. Need I say more about that???
  • Friday Sr. Marcia, Amiee and I did faith sharing on the readings for Sunday's liturgy. That was nice.
  • Saturday, after helping Sr. Stephanie with arrangements for the jubilee celebration on Saturday the 23rd, Sr. Marcia, Amiee and I went bowling. We also had ice-cream from Cold Stone (yum!). If Sr. Gretchen would have been feeling better, she would have been with us on both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Anyway, Saturday evening I had "permission" to go to dinner and the A&M/Army football game with my friends Robert and Terri Cooper. That was fun. But... the game started at 8:15 and, since it was televised, lasted until midnight. I didn't get home until 1am!
  • Sunday morning before Mass, I helped Sr. Durie bake bread. That was cool. After Mass and lunch, Amiee and I went swimming (as per our normal Sunday schedule). Sunday evening we had our "Spaghetti with the Sisters" with some students from St. Mary's University. We had about 12 students over for prayer at 5pm and dinner following. By the time everything was cleaned up, it was after 8pm...

Looking back on last week, I completely understand my sense of being scattered... Lesson learned? I hope so! I guess the week was just a little too full of "stuff" for me. It's no wonder I was distracted in my study & prayer! By Sunday night, seriously, the last thing I wanted to do was talk on the phone, write e-mail, post a blog or socialize. I needed my introvert re-charge time! *smile*

With all that being said, however... I still wouldn't say that the week was bad. I had a good week. It just wasn't as productive as it could have been.

Before ending, I'd like to comment a bit on the format of this blog. Those of you who know me well must know how annoyed I am at the fact that on some of my posts I can't seem to separate the paragraphs. I use a lot of formatting when I type. And when I'm typing a post, I see the formatting... but when I actually post it, *poof* it disappears (usually). So, just FYI, I'm trying to fix the problem, but it's not something I wish to spend a lot of time doing. Today, I played around a little with the html code stuff. Yeah, so I have no idea what I did, but for today the paragraphs are separated and I'm happy about that.

I pray that all is well with everyone. I hope to hear from you soon.

With prayers and blessings,

Sr. Nicole

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"Thank you, Lord, for teaching me humility."
Rudy Reyes, Jr.
"What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him..."
Isaiah 64:4
Each Sunday the Sisters in my community take turns doing the cooking. That is, except Sr. Durie because she cooks all week. Anyway, this Sunday was my day. At 12:15 we usually have a very large, nice meal with wine. However, I decided that instead of cooking the normal kind of lunch, I would make brunch instead. My menu?... pancakes (both plain and blueberry), scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey sausage, fruit salad, and kolaches (sometimes spelled kolaces - 1 1/2 doz. apple filled, 1 1/2 doz. cream cheese, and by request, 1 doz. prune).
Several years ago, Jason and Nathan Swoboda's grandmother (Mrs. Parma) gave me her recipes for kolaches (a Czechoslovakian pastry popular around some parts of Texas). But I never made them. One, the recipe is intimadating and two, I never had the desire to make them when I lived alone (the dough makes 4 dozen!).
Since I had never made them before, I asked one of our Sisters, Sr. Eileen, if she would kinda help me out. We agreed to meet in the kitchen on Saturday morning at 9:30. Everything went really well. The dough did well... I learned how to kneed and tell when it was ready... the fillings turned out well... we had fun... Finally, they were ready for the oven at 2:15pm. The recipe said that it should take 10-15 minutes to bake on 425. So, I put all four sheets in... checked them after about 7 minutes, they weren't quite done ... I opened the oven about 2 minutes later... and there seemed to be a little smoke coming from the oven. I took them out. The tops were beautiful... the bottoms... HARD AS ROCKS! Why? Well, supposedly you're only supposed to put one sheet in the oven at a time because of the air flow (or something like that). Since I had pretty much filled the oven to capacity, the air flow wasn't able to "do its thing" and the bottoms were burned.
Needless to say, I was not too happy.
My friend Rudy has a saying in times like that... when things aren't turning out the way he'd planned or if something goes wrong ... "Thank you, Lord, for teaching me humility." Saturday, standing in the kitchen with kolaches burned on the bottom... I said that several times...
Anyway, everything turned out fine in the end. I spent about 30 minutes this morning cutting the bottoms off the kolaches and the rest of the brunch turned out fine (except I skipped the blueberry pancakes and stuck with plain). I did learn something in the process of all of this... faster doesn't necessarily mean better.
That might seem trite, but it's true. Speed and quality are mutually exclusive. This isn't only true for cooking, either!You see, I'm able to apply that theory in many ways. This whole year is designed for a person to slow down... to take things in... to let God work in the quiet. If I'm always trying to hurry things along I will have missed the whole point of novitiate!
Other than my misadventures in the kitchen and the wisdom gained through that experience, what else can I say about this past week?
I visited with my spiritual director on Thursday for the first time in about a month. Wow, did she ever get an ear-full! That's why she's there, though. We had a great converstation about the many graces in my life... and the transitions into a new lifestyle... and the challenges thus far. She put things in perspective for me. Apparently, I kept repeating the phrase, "It's different than I had expected..." or "It's good, but different..." or other such statements. After a while, she had to point it out to me. I hadn't even realized that almost everything I said had that little attachment! And you know... it's true. Who could ever really imagine what God has in store for us? In one of his letters St. Paul says something to the effect that what we see, we see dimly as through a fog (exact words, I'm not sure).... Isn't that true? God leads us... and we might think we understand where the road is going or what might happen in the journey, but we really have no idea. And so, all I can do is respond to God's grace and promptings... and with a grateful heart just take it all in. I'm not saying it's easy!I like having an idea of how things will turn out or what's in store... I kinda like being "in the know." But... I'm trying...
Well, that's all for now... lest I start complaining about my Thursday night professor...
Until next week...
Many blessings!
Sr. Nicole

Sunday, September 03, 2006

So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart....
I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.
Hosea 2: 16 & 22
The essential is the interior.
Blessed Fr. William Joseph Chaminade
(One of the founders of the Marianist Family)
Under the same divine action, as the novice enters upon this time of initiation, he or she desires above all to acquire that loving familiarity with Christ leading to that knowledge of the heart possessed because of the deep unitive love that is present....Clearly, what is required is that the novice, first and foremost, be given the opportunity to come to know Christ, not in any abstract and throretical way, but by entering into an experience similar to that of the first disciples...
The Novitiate: Initiation into Christ's Way of Life
Paul Molinari, SJ
When St. John of the Cross says that mystical wisdom comes through love he means not our love for God but God's love for us. "We love because God first loved us" writes St. John; and St. Paul says that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. The mystical life begins with a deep experience of this infusion of divine love.
Mystical Theology
William Johnston, SJ
I guess one could say that now that I've dealt with many of the practical things concerning the novitiate (selling my car, establishing a budget, learning boundaries and guidelines concerning how my time is spent etc.), I'm finally beginning to delve into what I call the "real work" of novitiate. One might ask, "What is the real work of novitiate?" I know I did!
Last week Sr. Gretchen gave me an article about the novitiate process by a Jesuit, Paul Molinari (quoted above). The article discusses the fact that the novitiate is a time to become more intimately aquainted with God through the person of Jesus. This, however, is not an academic pursuit or a time of biblical exegesis... but knowledge gained based on personal encounter. As I was reading the article, (which is quite good, by the way) I found myself making some connections that both surprised me, excited me and also overwhelmed me.
Most of the connections were to the class I'm taking at Oblate School of Theology here in San Antonio. The class is Mysticism. A better title for the course, though, would be Mystical Theology (the title of one of our texts). The working definition of mysticism we're using in class is a direct experience of God through love which leads to a type of knowledge of God that can not be gained through "studying" God in the traditional sense (as opposed to indirect ways of knowing God like theology, Scripture, beauty, God working through other people etc.). This semester we are delving into the theology of this knowledge through love. That seems like a contradiction... we're studying a knowledge that isn't supposed to be gained through study. Yep... it's a paradox... And probably more so because I'm not doing the greatest job at explaining!
Okay... so what's the connection? Novitiate is a time to draw away from distractions to enter a deeper relationship with God through experience of God... to enter the desert with Christ, if you will. In my mind, that's pretty close to the understanding of mysticism we're using in class.
So... am I going to come away from this year a mystic? That question makes me smile (giggle, actually)... we all know I'm no Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross... seriously, only God knows the answer... and I don't think that's really the point. The point, as far as I can understand it, is to come to know God better and to come to know myself better in light of that knowledge.
And so... how am I doing? Good question...
Well, I tell you one thing... I've learned more about myself in the past few weeks (counting the week I was on retreat in Milford, Ohio) than I expected. For example (to choose one of many), I made an interesting "discovery" just a few days ago...
I've always known that when it comes to how I process information, I'm an introvert. I think through things before I speak (and before I write...). And I need a certain amount of alone time to regain energy. I think, though, I must be the most social introvert immaginable! I don't suppose it's any secret to those of you who know me well that I enjoy good conversation... over coffee or a good glass of wine... There are some times that I have talked with people for hours at a time and not run out of things to talk about. Why is that important?... Glad you asked...
I'm not sure exactly how to explain this, but I'll do my best. I think one of the more challenging aspects of the novitiate will not be what I expected it to be. I thought it would be more difficult not to be doing ministry. And who knows, perhaps in a few months I'll feel that way (I'll let you know). However, right now the most challenging thing is remembering that conversation with people is good & spending some time with friends is a good thing ... 5 hours sitting in Starbucks with a few friends might be a little extreme right now.
Perhaps I should put it this way...
Before doing something like that maybe I should consider a few things... (1) how have used my time so far today? (2) are there people in my community with whom I could be spending time? (3) is 5 hours really necessary or can 1 1/2 do? Then... I should be a little more disciplined about watching the time. What I'm trying to communicate, although not very well, is that before now I was never very aware of exactly how I spent my time & why. I don't think I ever thought about it. Now... things are becoming a little more clear. And that, my friends, is a good thing.
Of course, I continue to work on my prayer life. I'm still a work in progress and thankfully, God isn't finished with me yet. But, I can't quite put that into words. I'm still "processing"...
Other than that... I continue to grow in peace & quiet joy (being the introvert that I am)... And, I continue to be aware of the grace that comes when you are "where you're supposed to be."
Thanks for checking in to see how things are going. Know that I am well... and please feel free to e-mail me at I don't check my e-mail as often as I used to, but I still do.
One more thing, if you'd like to see some of the pictures from my novitiate entrance ceremony, go to The pictures are on a website called "Facebook."
Hope to hear from you soon!
With Love and Prayers,
Sr. Nicole