Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people..."

Luke 2: 10-11

I can hardly believe that it's been approximately 20 days since my last post. For those of you who may read this blog often (if any of you are out there...), please accept my apologies. It's been a full few weeks, without a doubt.

The last time I wrote I was in Dayton, Ohio. Being in Dayton was a great experience. The Marianist family (lay Marianists, Marianist Brothers, Priests and Sisters) is extremely active. The students at the University of Dayton (a Marianist institution) are highly active within the Marianist family as well. It was exciting to be a part of that for two weeks. The Marianist communities in the area were very hospitable -- inviting me over for supper and prayer, giving me free tickets to UD basketball games (which is a big deal there) etc. Hospitality is a large part of our charism as Marianists and it showed through during my time there.

I was also able to spend time with the other Marianist novices. There are two novices with the Society of Mary, the vowed male branch of the Marianist family. It was good to have people I could talk to who are in my age group who are also entering vowed Marianist life. One of the novices is a very good friend of mine. So it was good to spend some time with him and talk... about life as a Marianist novice, the future of the Marianist family, possible ministries in our futures, how our families and friends have supported us in our discernment etc. I never realized how important conversations like that are during times of discernment. Typically, I don't mind being the only person in formation - it allows for more "individual attention." However, when I have the chance to have conversations with people going through almost the exact same things... and growing in the same charism, there's a definite deepening of understanding.

My last week away from San Antonio was spent on retreat. I was blessed with the opportunity to spend time in contemplation and prayer at a Trappist Monastery in Kentucky - The Abbey of Gethsemane. It was a phenomenal experience. For those of you who know me... YES, I was able to spend the entire 5 days without conversation with other people (miracles never cease!). I tell you what, though, God and I were in constant conversation... about a lot. Through my time in quiet and prayer I was able to come to greater clarity about many things. For one, I felt strengthened in this vocation. Sure... I still have plenty of room for growth and learning, but that could be said for anyone in any state in life. Also, the night before we left the retreat, I was struck with an over-whelming sense or knowledge of the infinite love of God... and the fact that love and grace are not earned, but freely given. I can't explain how it is that it hit me so hard... being that I've "known" it all along... and I've even taught it in the classroom... but it hit me like a bolt of lightening. What a blessing!

I returned to San Antonio on Saturday night December 23 around 11pm. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were wonderful here with my community - lots of food & laughter, prayer and sharing. Although it was good to be away, it was also nice to come home.

I have to say, though... I may have found a new level of peace while I was away, but it seems that so many people in my life are not experiencing the same peace and are far from experiencing joy. I seemed to have come home to chaos in the lives of many people I love. That's difficult. There is nothing I can do to ease their pain or fix their problems... which, of course, being who I am can make me feel guilty for having peace in the first place. How can I possibly be at peace when people are suffering? To be honest, I struggle with this. Of course, my prayers are filled with intercession for those who have asked for my prayer support... and I have hope in God and trust in the love of Christ... That's all I can do, really. Sometimes that's a freeing reality and sometimes it's not.

So, there you have it, folks. An update from a novice who continues to grow in understanding of where God is leading her and how God is calling her to live in this world. Maybe one day I'll get it right... but until then I'll remember, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim good news of great joy that will be for all people."

Many Christmas blessings to you all!
Sr. Nicole

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path.
Luke 3:4b

Happy Advent, everyone! Aw, yes. It's that time again. Time to await... and to prepare for the coming of Christ ~ Prince of Peace.

Now, I'm not sure about anyone else out there, but I get really bothered with commercialism at this time each year. Did anyone else experience Santa, red & green or Christmas sales before Nov. 1?! Yep... sometimes I just want to say, "Let me have Advent!"

I just wanted to get that out before moving on...

During this season of waiting in joyful hope, I turn my thoughts to Mary... and preparing the way. Yes, I know that typically people associate the above quote with John the Baptist. And rightly so. However, this year I'm a little more focused on Mary.

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - the patronal feast of the Marianist Sisters (since we are the Daughters of Mary Immaculate). This feast celebrates how the path for Christ was prepared from Mary's very conception. This Immaculate vessel would come to bare the Savior. That's an amazing realization when you really think it through.

Further preparations were made with Mary's, "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word." Because of that yes, and no doubt helped by the way Mary raised Jesus in their faith, we are brought into this mission of preparing the way.

Yep, now it's our mission. "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path." That's our call. I see it as mine, anyway. But what does that mean, really. For me, it means two things...

1) On a personal level, it means to prepare a place within where Christ will be comfortable dwelling. I ask myself, "Is my heart fertile ground to cultivate the life of Christ?" If I have trouble answering that question (which sometimes I do), then there's is work to be done. Of course, there is always interior work to be done. Mary was the Immaculate one, not I. However, sometimes I am more aware than at other times. For me, Advent is a time to be constantly aware.

2) On a communal level, what can I do to bring about Christ's presence in the world and to those with whom I come in contact. That's also a part of my prayer this season. What is my call in this world? A world plagued by religious indifference, the pain of broken promises, the anesthesia of consumerism, and the exploitation of the gift of one's body. Well, I can start by allowing the Spirit to help me with the first issue - preparing a place within. Because if Christ isn't within, I can't do a thing to bring Christ to the world.

Those are my thoughts as we enter more fully into this Advent season.

On a different note... I'm sorry for the late post. Since I am traveling this Advent it's really difficult to stick to the Sunday posting schedule. Also, I will be on a silent retreat at a Trappist monestary during the 3rd week of Advent. So, chances are I will post next week and then during Christmas week.

Many blessings on you all this Advent!

Sr. Nicole