Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mary is a person, not a project...
Sr. Laura Leming, FMI

The above quote has been my mantra since arriving in Dayton. If you've been keeping up with my blog posts, you know that I spent most of this past academic year studying the history of American religious life, our foundress Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon, and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The remainder of my first year of novitiate (May-Aug) is focused on Mary and the Marianist vow of stability.

Stability? Yes. You read correctly. We Marianists have a 4th vow of stability. Hmm... you might be thinking, "How is that possible? They're always moving everywhere..." Believe me, if that's what's going through your mind, you're not alone!! That was the first thing I thought too...

The book Our Gift from God by Emil Neubert, SM has a lot of helpful information about the Marianist vow of stability. I believe the intent in this book was to discuss what makes a Marianist "Marianist" based on the writings of our founders.

There are 3 chapters of this book dedicated to the Marianist stability, which makes sense because stability "stamps a Marian character upon the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and indeed upon every action of the life of a religious." Why or how? The vow is about dedication to Mary and to helping Mary in her mission.

One of my friends who is in formation with the Marianist brothers and priests often says, "Mary had a mission?" The answer for Marianists is an enthusiastic yes! Mary's mission is to bring Jesus into the world... nurture the life of Jesus... teach Jesus how to be a good human being... to pray with and for the disciples of Jesus... to sing God's praises (the Magnificat)... to see the needs in our world and do something about them (as evidenced at Cana)... to stand with those who suffer (at the foot of the cross)... and many more aspects than can be listed here. When a Marianist professes the vow of stability, we profess to aid Mary in this continual mission - in every aspect.

Now... how did we get this in the vow of stability.

Stability first came into religious life with the rule St. Benedict. Before Benedict's rule it seems that monks would travel to different monasteries looking for a good fit (there seems to be more to it than that, but that will suffice for now). Benedict wanted to counter this trend because some were taking advantage of monasteries. So, Benedictine monks and nuns profess stability - to remain in their monastery or convent for life.

After the Council of Trent religious congregations who took "simple vows" also took a vow of stability. But that stability wasn't to a particular monastery, but to the congregation... a vow to persevere in the community. This is the type of stability from which the Marianist vow arose.

For Marianists, stability is "the very essence" of our life. "It can be referred to all that is, and to all that is done. In thus referring to the service of Mary it naturally focuses complete attention on the Marian quality of our service."

"Marian quality" - taking on Mary's way of being in bringing Christ to the world.... This is why my summer is dedicated to learning about and praying with/about Mary, her way of being, her mission... It permeates everything for Marianists.

As I learn and grow, I will definitely share more with you. I thought this would be a good introduction, though.

Before I close, I would like to share some interesting news... I can't believe I didn't write about this earlier. Currently our General Chapter is happening in Rome. It's very exciting... even though I'm not there. Both of my formation directors, Srs. Gretchen and Laura (with whom I work while in Dayton) are there right now along with another American Sister who serves on our General Administration there in Rome. Each day an update is posted on a website. If you'd like to read about our General Chapter, please go to:

Okay. I believe this is long enough for now. :)
Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.
Grace L. Naessens from
"No Time to Pray"

This summer, so far, has been a very interesting one for me. Those of you who know me from years past, know that my summers used to be filled with travel, workshops, retreats, service immersions... so much so that I was only at home for 2-3 days a month. This summer, obviously, has been nothing like that... but in an odd way, it's been just as busy. Good... but busy!

You may wonder what's been going on since I last wrote. Well, really just 2 ongoing "things" (one personal the other community related) and one "event." It seems that I shouldn't be that busy? Well, allow me to briefly explain...

I'll start with the communal. In my last post I wrote about our technology upgrades - a very interesting, but at times frustrating, process. Would you believe that everything is finally connected and working as it should as of Monday night around 9pm? Yes, it took exactly one month. I, honestly, could not be more excited about the completion of this process! Like I said, while it's been interesting (I've learned a lot about wiring, phone connections and digital phones/cable lines), it certainly has been time consuming! It has also had the effect of making me a little more cynical about corporate/consumeristic America... But, that's a topic for a different time.

On a personal note, I've been auditing classes this summer. The Univ. of Dayton houses one of the most famous and complete Marian libraries. In this library the International Marian Research Institute (a pontifical institute affiliated with the Marianum in Rome) offers advanced pontifical degrees with specialization in Mariology: the doctorate in sacred theology (S.T.D.), the licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.), the master's degree in religious studies with a Marian concentration (in conjunction with the religious studies department at the UD) and a certificate in Marian studies guided studies. ANYWAY... the courses offered in the summer are 1 or 2 week intensive courses. Last month I took a 1-week class entitled "Intro to Mariology." That was a great class - it offered a broad overview of the academic study of Mary. This month, I have just completed another 1-week class (Mary and the Old Testament Wisdom Figures) and am about the finish a 2-week class (Mary and the Old Testament).... Both EXCELLENT courses... Neither of them extremely difficult, but the 2-week Old Testament class has been labor intensive & time consuming for me. We have 1-3 page papers due each day, which again, isn't difficult for sure... however, it's been taking me forever to do the prep work to write them! Not because of the difficulty, but because of writing them from home instead of at the library on campus.

Looking back, it would have been wiser to write from the library because of the lack of interruptions and the abundance of resources ... however, living in community, should a person take themselves out of community so much? I suppose that's the question with which I will struggle as I make the transition from canonical novitiate to active, apostolic life. Before I entered religious life I was hardly ever home... ministry was my life. Now, with a commitment to the community, I can not return to that style of ministry... I will have to find the balance. And that's never been an easy thing for me!

The event? Two people that I know (both of them members of a cyber faith-sharing group in the Marianist spirit with me and one of them a colleague in ministry) made a formal commitment and were received as Lay Marianist Affiliates. The service was such a beautiful, relaxed and light-hearted celebration of the entire Marianist family. The Society of Mary (our brothers and priests) were well represented as well as other Lay Marianists and collaborators in the Marianist mission. Because of travel and other commitments, many of our Sisters could not attend... but those of us who could, did. There is something about when the Marianist family gathers... it can really feed the heart.

Now, I'm brought back to the quote at the top of the page. In the midst of the busy-ness of life, I had not been as committed to personal prayer. I've had to remind myself, though, that without the time spent in personal prayer, there is absolutely no energy (or at least, not the right kind of energy) to do anything else... This is not the first time I've had this realization in my life - it always seems to hit me when I'm trying to figure out why my patience is so thin or why I feel "scattered." However, this is the first time that I've had to remind myself of this when I'm not busy with ministry and the demands of a job. It seems, then, that it will be the constant in my life...

Thank you, God, for your continued patience with me... the woman who needs CONSTANT reminders!

Many blessings to all who read this!

Sr. N

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Technology... a great asset...
and a great obstacle to silence and time with real people.

I guess you're wondering where I've been for 3 weeks... Yeah, me too! Okay, not really, but it's been a crazy busy few weeks since I last wrote.

I won't bore you with too many details... but I can give you some broad strokes... 1) I caused one of our vehicles to need a minor repair (along with our garage door...). 2) I had my 4 wisdom teeth removed... followed by a terrible reaction to generic vicodin for the pain. 3) Our community was visited by at least 6 technicians from our local cable company, an electrician, and a few visits from our phone company... all in an effort to install cable, high speed internet and digital phone service... with each visit bringing a little more confusion, the temporary loss of phone service, a temporary phone number, and increasing animosity between two feuding companies.

So... where have I been? A little unfocused and distracted. I suppose that makes sense, given the circumstances.

This morning during my time of quiet prayer I was praying with the Scripture readings for this Sunday's liturgy. For me all the readings seem to be about peace and hope in the Paschal Mystery... God bringing life from death... Jesus sending disciples out to bring peace to chaotic situations ruled my the evil in our world. It's interesting. In our world of high speed internet, cell phones, cable television ... unbridled consumerism, poverty, an AIDS pandemic, war, genocide, oppression ... fear, cynicism, selfishness... Jesus is still sending out disciples "like sheep among wolves" and telling us, "carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals" as well.

In light of community events of the past 3 weeks or so, I am challenged by the readings... Not because I all of a sudden believe technology to be an evil in our world. Quite the contrary... if used well, technology could do so much to further God's purposes. However, the key is "if used well."

Peace. God seeks to establish peace. How am I cooperating with that in the midst of what is sometimes so chaotic? And to what do I attach my hope? In the "stuff" or in the power of God to break through the chaos?

As always, there is much about which to pray.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N