Wow. I really have not been good about keeping up with writing every 2 weeks! Sorry for the inconsistency! However, rest assured, I'm doing well... keeping busy of course, but doing well all the same.
You may recall from previous posts, each year all the Marianists in formation in the U.S. gather for a weekend in November called, "Marianist Formation Weekend." This year we met Thursday Nov. 8 - Sunday Nov. 11 in... MIAMI, FLORIDA! In case you were unsure, November is the perfect time of year to leave Dayton and spend a weekend in south Florida... GREAT weather... clear blue skies, low humidity, a little breeze here and there... just nice.
Thus far in my time with the Marianists I have attended 3 formation weekends (my first was in St. Louis, last year in San Antonio, this year in Miami... next year is in northern California!). In my limited experience, this was by far the best formation weekend we've had. This year's weekend focused on consecrated celibacy. Not a "light" topic, to be sure. We covered a LOT of ground in just a few days... and we shared with one another deeply... honestly. It was interesting because when the Marianists gather for formation weekend, we are a mixed gender group. I'm the only Marianist Sister in formation. So I was there with my formation director, Sr. Laura. The rest of those gathered were novices and temporary professed (and their formation personnel) from the Marianist Brothers and Priests. Some people might worry that discussing celibacy would be difficult in a mixed gendered group, but it seems to me that wasn't the case at all.
Last year one of my Intercommunity Novitiate gatherings focused on celibacy... and that was a great weekend, too. However, what made this one different was that we had discussions (in pairs and as a large group)... there was a level of comfort because we all (for the most part) knew and trusted each other. It was "safe space" for these types of conversations.
I mentioned above that we covered a lot of ground. We talked about the "why" of celibacy - the theological significance, the "who" of celibacy - how our background and who we are influence how we live a life of consecrated celibacy, and the "what" of celibacy - the inner conviction and how the life "fits" with our deepest selves. I could write for days about everything I learned from our sessions and conversations... my self-discoveries... and the insight gained. However, I don't want to overload any of you with too much of that. I will say this, though, I think the segment that moved me the most was a segment on the importance of intimacy... of honesty and transparency in relationships - the idea that there is a need for intimacy with self, God, and others. The presenter, a Lasallian brother Jim Zullo, stated that it is his belief that it is extremely important that people in religious life have at least one very close friend who is a member of the same congregation and others outside of community.
I have heard and reflected before on the need for friends (close, intimate friends) outside of one's community. We can not expect community to meet all of a person's friendship needs. However, I had never thought before of how important it is to share an intimate bond within the context of one's congregation.
Also (okay, one more thing) he had a visual on "circles of intimacy" that was a series of concentric circles. The inner most one is labeled solitude... intimacy with self and God. The next is close, intimate friends... those who know me as well as I do. The next circle includes friendship networks... people who are friends, perhaps good friends, but not "intimate," per se, family, support groups, and community. After that circle is the outer most one which includes mentors, acquaintances, political "allies" ... people who help me work with systems, work colleagues, parishioners/students/patients ...people to whom I minister, and professionals... spiritual directors, counselors etc.
This was a very helpful diagram for a number of reasons. The first is that I had never really considered where community "fit" in my relationships ... not my family... not necessarily my close friends... So it was good to have a visual representation. It was good, as well, to have some conversation about professional relationships, mentors and those to whom I minister. Those are great reminders... especially for someone like me who works so often with youth and young adults.
Lastly, I think the greatest gift of the weekend came through 2 conversations - 2 different people, different days, different contexts, but gifts from God all the same. In both conversations I was able let go of defenses and allow myself to be vulnerable and honest... and non-judgemental. And the people to whom I was speaking were able to share at the same level of depth. Both were powerful experiences... and transformative. I learned a lot... especially about myself.
And so, here I am after another powerful weekend... hoping that my memory is able to hold on to some of this (my memory is TERRIBLE), but more importantly, I hope my heart is able to remember what I've learned about myself...
(One final note: Because of scheduling conflicts, several of our brothers in formation were not able to join us in Miami... Brandon, Luis, Dennis, Armando and Brian we certainly missed you!)
Many blessings to all who read this~