Sunday, October 29, 2006

I have loved you with an everlasting love.
I have called you and you are mine.
Michael Joncas - "I Have Loved You"
Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.
Mark 10: 49b
Lord, I am not worthy to receive You,
but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Looking back over things I've posted over the past several weeks, I've realized that I don't really say much about the externals of life. Why is that? Well, it's certainly not because nothing's going on, that's for sure! However, when I think about what's significant to me, what's going on internally always seems to "win out," so to speak.

So, today I sit at one of our community's computers and I ponder. What can I say about the last 2 weeks? Today is one of those days that I feel that so much can be said, that I'm not really sure where to start or what to say. I guess that comes from not having written last week.

There are 3 significant things that stand out in my mind concerning the past 2 weeks: 1) my class on mysticism (the Thursday night class at Oblate), 2) my monthly intercommunity novitiate gathering, and 3) a different intercommunity gathering that took place last evening.

However, before I continue I'd like to preface my comments with something. God has a funny way of getting a point across to me sometimes (more often than not). When there's something for me to learn or from which I should grow... I seem to be surrounded by it. I'll hear comments or read articles and/or the readings from the liturgy will all be "saying" the same thing. That's what the past 2 weeks have been...

Let's start with the mysticism class. First of all, the class has gotten much better as we are delving into the real "meat" of mysticism. We've been discussing the mystical journey as described by St. John of the Cross. The past 2 weeks have centered around the kenosis of Christ (emptying... see Phil 2:6-8) purification of one's soul, and the dark night of the soul. In the our class discussions we've talked about the need for purification & self-emptying. We've talked about the suffering that comes from the dark night... and the necessity of the pain. For, as my professor pointed out, "We must embrace the cross. For there lies our salvation."

Last week from Tuesday - Thursday I was with the intercommunity novitiate program. We were 9 novices and 6 directors. Our topic for the gathering? The enneagram. Yes... I know that some people haven't had great experiences with it for whatever reason. However, like the Myers-Briggs personality profiles or "True Colors" I found it to be a helpful tool. But, more than that, the sessions we had were very insightful. In the times given for reflection and conversation I learned a lot about myself. And something that was really helpful was a quote our presenter gave us from St. Teresa of Avila, "Self knowledge is the bread that must be eaten with each meal."

Lastly, there was the gathering last night. I was blessed to be invited over to one of the Ursaline Sisters' communities in town along with other sisters ( 1 Franciscan, 3 School Sisters of Notre Dame, 3 Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, 1 from the Congregation of Divine Providence and 1 Sister of the Holy Spirit). We came together to listen to an address given at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and for discussion. The speaker spoke about getting in touch with and staying connected with what she called the "original fire" - the raison d'etre of our particular congregations and of religious life in general. That "passion for Christ and passion for humanity" (a topic from a previous gathering of women religious) should be our reason for being... for getting up in the morning... for continuing.

So... what's the connection? None other than this... this has been 2 weeks that have called me to take a good look at myself... in humility and in gentleness. And what have I come to realize? Exactly what's at the top of this post... I'm imperfect, but take courage because I'm loved... and I'm called. Yes... I knew that before, but it's always good to have a reminder. And the past 2 weeks it seems that God really wanted to make sure I got the message. *smile*
Many blessings and much peace to you!
Sr. Nicole

Monday, October 23, 2006

Looking for my lastest post???

Come back to the site over the weekend (Oct. 27-29). I hope to post a new one between now and then. But for now... know that all is well! Don't forget... feel free to e-mail!

Many blessings and prayers!
Sr. Nicole

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

O God, you are my God-- for you I long! For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
Psalm 63:2

God is not found in intellect & reason - nor in books will you find that for which you pine.
For what you long, gaze deep within.
When your true self is found, there will God be.
Sr. Nicole Trahan, nFMI

Living water flows forth from God - coming to quench the desert soul.
Open the gates, O heart!
Let the water flood your spirit -
refreshing - life giving - sustaining.
Sr. Nicole Trahan, nFMI

If there's still anyone out there who checks my blogs weekly, I apologize for this later than typical post. My weekend was rather full... and Monday was a "day of rest" for me. So... all I can say is, "better late than never?" *smile*

Last week, on Thursday to be exact, I took the advice of both Sr. Gretchen and my spiritual director. I went in search of my "right brain" creativity. There is a small town about 45 minutes away named Boerne (pronounced as a German word - "Burn-ey"). This town is what I call cute. It has antique shops that line Main Street - a nature center with walking trails - restaurants with porches to overlook the small river or grassy areas - and a beautiful Catholic Church.

I spent about 3 1/2 hours in Boerne last Thursday. I sat in the church for a long while... listening to the flow of the baptismal font and watching the trees outside. The weather wasn't nice enough that morning to venture outside. But... I was content. And as I sat... I let my mind wonder... and my guard down... and ended up writing a few thoughts. I suppose some would call it poetry. For me, it's just insights gained while sitting in the church. Actually, two of them came to me while in the car on my way there. Amazing what happens when you drive without a radio!

Then, after having lunch outside and meditating in the church (and a 15 or 20 minute nap in there somewhere), I went for coffee and desert at a restaurant where I could sit outside. I was there for probably about 45 minutes... writing a little more... sipping coffee very relaxed... and enjoying some of the best peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream I've had in a while.

So, why do I tell you this?

Thursday was a fairly significant day for me. Not only did I re-discover a creative energy that I had neglected, but that creative energy connected me with God in a deeper way. And that is a grace for which I am grateful.
So, the consensus is that I should take a day like this a month... or more if necessary. That's great... but perhaps I should stay away from the cobbler and ice cream in the future... *smile*

With prayers & blessings for you all!
Sr. Nicole

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life... Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?... Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Matthew 6: 25a, 27, 34a

Life is funny, you know. On the one hand, a person strives to be better - to be the best person he or she can be - to grow closer to God by doing all the "right things" - to be "perfect," so to speak. On the other hand, we are reminded that it's not by our efforts that God's grace is given. It is in total abandonment that we are open to receiving Grace freely given.

Total abandon to God. What does that mean? That's where my prayer has taken me this week. How does one do that?

I met with my spiritual director this past Thursday. She tells me, "Nicole... relax... just be." Yeah, right, like that's an easy thing for me! I'm sure those of you who know me are laughing right now. I don't even think the word "relax" is in my vocabulary!

Why the words of wisdom? Because, it seems, I'm trying too hard... and not allowing God to do what God needs to do. In my efforts at trying to be "perfect" (Am I growing enough? Am I learning as much as I possibly can? Am I closer to God today than I was 2 weeks ago? and other such questions), I'm getting in God's way... And causing myself a little undue stress.

Stress is a strong word. But I use it in its most mild sense, if there is such a thing. You see, I'm a bit of a perfectionist... and I kinda like being in control... otherwise, how can I assure that everything will turn out the way I want it? (written, of course, with ironic humor) Sometimes I think God must just say, "Ahh, Nicole... relax... I've got it." But do I hear that? Nope. I'm usually spending too much time telling God what to do. *smile*

Several weeks ago I wrote about the purpose of the novitiate process. In that post, I quoted Fr. Paul Molinari, SJ as stating:

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 theoretical way, but by entering into an experience similar to that of the first disciples...
The Novitiate: Initiation into Christ's Way of Life

At the time that I quoted Fr. Paul, I understood this to at least somewhat depend upon my efforts. As if I could "make" this happen just by pure will. Right now, I just shake my head. It's not by my work. I have to be open and be receptive to the Spirit who is already at work in my life. It's not a matter of "doing all the right things" and reading all the books I can possibly get my hands on about growing in my spirituality. It's about total abandon to God... and being responsive to God's gentle guidance.

Of course, me being who I am, these are difficult realizations with which to live (from a practical standpoint). I still ask myself (almost daily), "What, exactly, does it mean to abandon myself to God?" And, of course, I ask "How do I know if I'm doing it right?" How ridiculous! There is no "right way." This is not exactly a precise science where everyone can follow the same method to get to a desired outcome. Oh, how much easier for me if the spiritual life was a science...

And so... how am I at the end of another week? I'm doing well.

I'm starting to see life... discernment... God... myself... in completely new ways. I'm questioning... and learning to live without all the answers. I'm learning that sometimes ambiguity is a good thing. And... that I can't force myself to grow closer in my relationship with Christ. There are things that help, OF COURSE (prayer, Eucharist, quiet, reflection etc.)... but all of that just allows me to be more receptive to the Grace that is showered upon me at every moment. A person, no matter what personality type, can't control Grace...

As I type this post, I smile. God has such interesting ways of teaching & guiding me. For God's patience, I am grateful. I seem to be a slow learner... *smile*

Thanks for checking in!
With prayers,
Sr. Nicole

Sunday, October 01, 2006

If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Luke 9:23

The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) each quote Jesus speaking about denying oneself. However, Luke phrases things with a slightly different twist. Luke added a word to the sentence. And to me... it makes a lot of difference. What's the word, you ask? - "daily" -

Yep... one simple, five-letter word makes all the difference. In other words, denying oneself is not a one time thing... neither is carrying one's cross. It's a daily decision. And, I don't know if anyone else notices this, but it's not really negotiable, either. So... not only does one have to deny oneself constantly... and carry their cross... there's no "ifs, ands or buts" about it.

You might wonder what brought me to these reflections. It's not often that I begin my blog with a brief exegetical statement (yep... I'm even making up new words...)... Well, I'm glad you asked...

It seems to me that before this week I'm not sure that I ever really understood what Jesus meant. No, that's not right. It's not that I didn't understand. It's just that I hadn't ever really lived it... or understood it from a practical perspective. What does that mean day in and day out? What does that mean in the context of religious life? I suppose you could say that I came face-to-face with the fact that academic or theological knowledge/understanding doesn't mean much of anything until you really examine whether you are living the reality.

Before people start wondering... no... I'm not carrying some heavy burden. Nor am I going through some difficulty. I'm just honestly looking at myself... hearing this call to deny myself... "knowing" (from an academic perspective) about the vows... and saying, "Are there things in my life that don't live up to this?"

The vow of obedience, in my understanding, is a call to listen and respond to God's promptings. It is the humble realization, also, that I may not be able to figure that out alone. God speaks through the people in our lives. That's a fact that I'm sure many wouldn't argue. And so, in community life there is shared discernment. I can no longer make decisions as if I'm a singular, autonomous person living her Christian life on her own.

Now... that's all well and good in theory until a person is challenged. And yes... I am challenged - daily (in a good way). I should have learned this lesson long ago: things don't always happen the way I want them to. Duh. But the thing is... the vow of obedience (again in my limited understanding) is a complete denial of self will. It's not my will that matters. I've known that for a long time. It's just a lot more difficult when my will doesn't seem to match God's.

I find myself saying to God at times... "But God, I really want..." or "God, I can't do that/ not do that/ give that up/ go here..." And sometimes I hear myself praying, "God, why would you want such-and-such? Wouldn't you rather x-y-or-z??" As if God will one day say, "You know, Nicole, you're right." *smile*

On Wednesday of this week I went to the 12:15 Mass at St. Mary's Univ. because we don't have a community Mass on Wednesdays. As I was praying before Mass began, a song refrain came to my mind... and it wouldn't go away. "Father, I put my life in your hands." It's from John Michael Talbot's rendition of Psalm 31. That became my prayer. To put my life... my will... my all... in the hands of God.

I'm sure there are other times in my life when I've made some form of that statement my prayer. But this time I think it was different. It was as if I wasn't the one controlling the words. They were welling up within me without much thought on my part.

But, that was Wednesday... and as is written in the 9th chapter of Luke's Gospel... denying oneself and taking up one's cross is a daily thing...

And so... my journey of self discovery and "God discovery" continues. And what an interesting (and quick!) road it's been so far. I can hardly believe that it's already October. I understand that as an indication that things are going well. And, indeed, I believe things are going very well for me here.

Thanks for checking in. Feel free to e-mail me at

With many prayers,

Sr. Nicole