Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain...
This I command you: love one another.
John 15:16a, 17

As I may have mentioned in my last blog post, Sr. Gretchen and I have started on our study of the vow of chastity... religious celibacy. And while we're not even 1/2 finished with this time of study, I have grown so much in my understanding of this vow and what it means for my everyday life in concrete situations. Yet, the more I learn, the more I see that there's so much room for growth on my part! Isn't that always the case, though... the more you learn, the more you realize that you really don't know? *smile* That's been my experience... in almost every area...

Currently, one of my favorite authors on religious life is Fr. L. Patrick Carroll, SJ. I've read "bits and pieces" of his book: To Love, To Share, To Serve: Challenges to a Religious. Most recently, of course, I've read parts of his chapter "Becoming A Celibate Lover." In this chapter, he discusses the fact that religious are called to be loving people - indeed, to love as God loves... or to try to. He states, "There is no virtue in simply being celibate, unmarried.... There is deep virtue in loving, or even trying to love, as God loves us: freely, deeply, broadly, unpossessively." Then to drive his point home he discusses how people who try to live celibate lives can fail in two ways... "We can be too careful, too distant, too cold.... Or we can love unwisely, insensitively, possessively, manipulatively."

Okay... just a few more quotes, then I'll go on... Carroll states,

"So, the project of our vow of celibacy is not just to love God and not just to stay celibate, i.e. unmarried, without intercourse. The project is to love and yet remain honest, free, mobile, able to carry the Lord's love where it is needed next and most."

"What the world needs, the witness we are called to place alongside the sacramental witness of committed married love, is that there is a human possibility of loving and not having to possess or be possessed, a human possibility of loving and not holding on or being held on to. We are called to witness to a love that is one facet of the love of God for his people..."

"No one can fulfill in any successful way the project of becoming a celibate lover without a deep, enduring life of prayer."

Now, the really important thing isn't what I've read, but what it means to me and how it touches me, challenges me, affirms me and calls me to deeper commitment. I can read some great things, and I have, but if what I've read doesn't in some way become a part of who I am, it's all for not...

So, of course, me being who I am, I've been in reflection mode about relationships. Every book I've read written after Vatican II about religious life talks about the importance of good, intimate friendships in the life of a religious. Also, however, there is an emphasis on the health of one's community life, prayer life and relationship with God. One author (I believe it was Fr. Quentin Hakenewerth,SM... Marianist priest) states that if a friendship causes someone to withdraw from community, lose their "appetite for prayer" and/or if the relationship becomes exclusive to the point that a third person feels unwanted... then the relationship should be questioned.

These are all new insights for me... in a way. While it all makes perfect sense, I've never REALLY considered any of it until now. And so, I consider how important my friends are in my life (and how GRATEFUL I truly am for their support and love)... I also have to be willing to ask myself the tougher questions about how I relate to people and the effect those relationships have on my commitment to live this life.

Not easy things to consider to say the least! But, I really believe it's necessary to live this life as authentically as I am able with God's grace.

So... what about the quote at the top? One of the books I was reading (I couldn't tell you which) reminded me of this quote from Scripture... that it's God's call and then my response. There is no other rationale for being a religious. And it's a reminder that the call is to love... to love as deeply, freely, honestly and unpossessively as God loves us.

One final note... last week I couldn't remember exactly where to find this quote from John's Gospel, so I Googled it. In the search I came across a website : It's a vocations/discernment website out of the Diocese of Lexington. Check it out sometime. It's a good site.

Many blessings to all who read this!

Sr. N

Monday, April 16, 2007

The heavens are telling the glory of God!
And all creation is shouting for joy!
Come dance in the forest, come play in the field!
And sing, sing to the glory of the Lord!
Canticle of the Sun

I know... it's been a long time since you last heard from me... and so much has gone on... the trip to A&M, Holy Week, Easter, a trip to Baltimore... Finishing up the study of the vow of obedience and beginning the study of celibacy... Life is moving pretty fast these days... But, life is good so I can't complain.

First of all, the trip to A&M was great. It was so good to be back in a place in which so much happened for me in terms of my faith life. It was also good to reconnect with different people - campus ministers, students, the associate pastor with whom I went to college. All around, it was just a good trip. There were 4 Mariansits who went - myself, our provincial, our vocation/formation director, and a brother in formation. We had a chance to sit and talk with different people on the staff, 2 discernment groups and just students hanging out in general. Great trip!

Holy Week was phenomenal for me. I really enjoy the liturgies of the Triduum... more so, I think, than liturgies at any other point in the year. I had the great blessing of singing in the choir at both the Good Friday liturgy and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. What powerful prayer experiences!!! I can't even put it into words, really.

Easter Sunday was a great celebration here at our home. We invited over 3 Marianist men's communities (one could not come, but the other 2 did) and we also invited over the 3 Marianist volunteers (young adults doing volunteer work for 1 year here in San Antonio). We were a total of 27 people. We started out with Mass in our chapel at 11am. Then we had a short social in our living room followed by a WONDERFUL meal prepared by all of the Sisters. We had turkey, ham, 3 different vegetable dishes, 2 types of salad, homemade rolls (Sr. Eileen makes the BEST rolls), 2 pies and a chocolate cake. It was a great day! The house was filled with laughter and singing.... It was exactly how I think Easter should be celebrated.

Then, on Tuesday morning I traveled to Baltimore for the National Catholic Educators Association (NCEA)annual convention. At this conference I was not a participant, but I was in an exhibition booth. Why? I was there with 3 Marianist men (2 brothers and a priest) to give out information about the Marianist family. There may have been some people there who are considering religious life, but mainly we were there to give info to teachers/administrators/campus ministers about who the Marianists are so that they could share the info with students. It was a good thing. We had a great time and met TONS of people. There were a little over 9,000 people there total.

The conference ended on Friday morning. Friday afternoon a good friend of mine who is studying at Catholic Univ in Washington,DC drove up to spend some time with me. We walked all over historic Baltimore... we saw the US's first Catholic Cathedral (now a basilica in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption)... we saw a number of Gothic-style churches... and we spent hours in an art museum. We had a great time.

On Saturday morning, I came back to San Antonio ready to finish out this portion of my first year of novitiate. You see, I leave for Dayton Ohio in about 1 month. My first year will still be going on (until August), but a different phase of it will start in May. I'm excited to move to Dayton. I'm not sure how long I'll be there... and I have SO MUCH to do before I leave (in terms of packing, sorting, giving things away, etc), but I'm looking forward to spending a few months with our Sisters there.

So, are you wondering why I began this post with the song? It is simply because yesterday morning and this morning when I walked outside... felt the cool breeze... and beautiful sunrises... when I look at how God has blessed me in recent weeks... I can't help, but sing of the glory of God. That song has been on my heart for a few days. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to start there.

Many blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N