Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they appear to be dead;
their departure was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us as disaster.
But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may be punished,
they have a sure hope of immortality.
Wisdom 3:1-4

I'm sure you're thinking, "That's a random quote." Especially since I haven't been posting as regularly as I once was. Well, allow me to explain... (as if you could expect anything different!) *smile*

Last week one of our Sisters passed away - Sr. Rose Marie Eggleston. She was close to 96 years old and was the oldest Sister in our international congregation (for about 2 weeks, since a 99 year old Sister in France passed away shortly after the New Year).

Anyway, I won't bore you with the details of what that looked like for our community... with the late night phone calls and the planning of the rosary and the funeral Mass. However, I do want to say a bit about what I learned through this experience.

I'm going to start with a bit of history (not much!). In my family, death was always feared... or at least dreaded. No one "celebrated" a death. I've been to funerals where some people literally throw themselves down onto a closed casket crying for the person who has died. I've seen people pass out from grief and wail from their deepest core. Needless to say, I've never been one to react quite like this. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but in my time with the Marianist Sisters, I have seen a different way of dealing with the death of a loved one - with prayer, with gratitude for the gift of someone's life... by telling stories, laughing, reminiscing.

Last week, while preparing for the rosary and funeral (which took place Friday evening and Saturday afternoon respectively) that's what we were doing. Sharing stories about our Sister, Rose Marie... thanking God for her life... and asking for prayers from our newest heavenly intercessor.

Since I've been with the Marianist Sisters, this is the first time I've experienced a Sister's death. However, I have been to several funerals and rosaries for our Marianist Brothers/Priests. And, it's all been with the same spirit - gratitude to God for the life of one of God's servants. How beautiful...

Hence, the quote that began this post...

So, what else have I been up to???

I think right now what I spend most of my time doing is studying. Sr. Gretchen and I have started a new set of courses for the semester. And I have to be honest... I'm really excited about what we're doing. Nerd? Sometimes I am... sometimes not. It just depends. *smile*

Anyway, as you may remember, Sr. Gretchen and I meet 3 times a week for class and once for direction. This semester we've started looking at what can be called the theology of consecrated life - what is this life all about? Why would someone choose to live this life? What goes into making a decision such as this? And what are those vows about, anyway? Not that we ever phrase the questions quite like that, but basically that's what we're delving into. It's exciting stuff. With each "topic" (right now we're on choice/freedom/discernment) we start our set of readings with something written around the time of the Second Vatican Council - late 60s. Then we work our way up to contemporary theologians and those who write about religious life.

I wish I had time to share with you some of the things I've read. But I've learned enough to write a book. However, I will say this... the book By Way of the Heart by Wilkie Au is a great book about making choices and discernment. I'm really enjoying that one. Anyone trying to discern their path towards God (whether it be as a religious, married lay person, or single) could benefit from a prayerful reading of this text. Well, in my humble opinion.

In addition to my "in house" courses with Sr. Gretchen, I am auditing a Christology course at St. Mary's University here in town. That class... is going to be quite challenging (I had to keep a dictionary next to me as I read the last assignment!). However, I'm very excited about it. It'll be good for me to use some of my atrophied intellectual brain cells, so to speak. It's nice to be stretched every once in a while, I think.

I am also working on our province website. I'm working with a student from St. Mary's (because heaven knows I don't know how to design a website!). I'm working on the text and pictures while she works on layout, color scheme, font and actually getting it on line. When it's finished, I'll let you know.

This post is getting rather lengthy... I suppose I should post more often. *smile*

Next time I post, I'm going to write a little about another one of our founders Blessed Father William Joseph Chaminade whose feast day we celebrated yesterday (Jan 22). I didn't want to write about him today, though, because I felt the need to give you a personal update instead.

Many blessings to who ever reads this...

With prayers,
Sr. Nicole

Thursday, January 11, 2007

O God, my heart is too small to love you,
but it will see to it that you are loved by so many hearts
that their love will compensate for the weakness of mine.
Mother Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
Foundress of the Marianist Sisters

Wow. What a start to the New Year. I have had a great 2 weeks... busy... in fact, very busy, but good all the same.

But, instead of sharing with you what I've been up to (which I will do soon enough), I wanted to share with you a little about the woman named above. You see, yesterday (1/10) was the anniversary of the death of our Foundress, Mother Adele. I meant to post yesterday in honor of her feast day, but there were not enough hours in the day.

In truth, the Marianist family has 3 founders -- Venerable Mother Adele, Blessed Fr. William Joseph Chaminade, and Marie Therese de Lamorous. Over the next few weeks, since Blssd. Chaminade's feast day is quickly approaching, I will be sharing with you a little about these amazing peeople.

Yesterday morning I received a phone call from my friend and fellow Marianist novice Luis. He was charged with writing a reflection about Mother Adele and asked me for my help. Being who I am, I ended up writing a lengthy "reflection" to send to him. I thought that I would share it with you to give you a glimpse of how I see our first Superior General and Foundress.


Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon was a woman ahead of her time and a woman wise for her years. A young woman who, though from a wealthy family, dedicated everything she had to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. A young woman who was dedicated to a personal rule of life from the age of 12 and who gathered groups of other young women together to support one another in their spiritual growth. A foundress of a religious congregation before the age of 30. A visionary, wisdom figure and friend for her sisters and the entire Marianist family even until now.

Born the year the French Revolution began, 1789, Adele's early years were filled with much uncertainty, exile, family separation and confusion in society and in the Church. Influenced mostly by her mother, the Baroness de Trenquelleon, Adele learned to rely heavily on God, to aid those around her who were in need, and that death could come at any moment.

It was during these early years that the seeds of a religious vocation were planted. While in exile, before she was 10 years old, she was drawn to the life of the Carmelites in Spain and dreamed of one day entering their congregation, but this was not to be.

Shortly after her Confirmation, at the age of 15, Adele, her spiritual director and a few of her close friends began what Adele affectionately called "The Little Society." This little society was formed, mainly because parish Churches were in shambles following the Revolution and Adele saw a need for people to come together to support one another in living a Christian life. The "Little Society" began to grow almost immediately. Within a few years, it reaches over 200 young women in several cities across southern France.

One could say that it was the strength of Adele's vision and her style of ministry that caused the group to grow. She was never chosen to be the spiritual guide for the group, however she was its leader by the sheer fact of who she was. Adele, being a young woman who believed passionately in the value of friendship and support, had a way of reaching out, inviting, attracting new members... and of writing letters. Some members of her group had never met Adele and yet she wrote to them constantly offering support, words of advice, encouragement in ministry and prayers.

This Little Society was growing at the same time Blessed Chaminade's Sodality was growing in Bordeaux (I will say more about that in a few weeks). Once Adele and Chaminade became aware of the work of the other, it was natural that the two would begin to work together. And thus, the Marianist Family began to take shape.

Adele had never lost sight of her call to religious life, but she discerned that the life of a Carmelite would not be her own. Several young women in her Society, now a part of Chaminade's Sodality, expressed an interest in taking religious vows. Together with Blessed Chaminade plans were made for a new religious congregation.

At the beginning of this venture, Adele writes to one of her closest friends, who would later be Superior General of the Congregation,
Let us put all into the hands of God. If it is his work, he will know how
to make it succeed despite all contradictions; if it is not his will and for his
glory, he will not permit it to succeed despite all our efforts. Let us abandon
all to the lovable will of God and remain in peace...

At first it was not certain that Adele would be the congregation's first superior. Chaminade asked Marie Therese de Lamorous for her help in ascertaining whether the young woman could handle such responsibility. At first, de Lamorous was hesitant, however after spending time with Adele it was evident to her that she would indeed be a natural fit... although she was only 27 years old. Adele lead the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary, now the Daughters of Mary Immaculate or Marianist Sisters, until her death on January 10, 1828 at the age of 38.

Adele lead the Congregation as she ran her "Little Society," with passion, wisdom, dedication to Jesus and Mary, compassion, humor and love for her Sisters. For she writes to the Sisters in Bordeaux:

I simply cannot allow a week to go by, my very dear daughter, without sending
you a little word.... O my dear children, be sure to correspond to the many
graces you receive.... My dear sisters, fly down the lovable course that has
been opened to you; run in the bright light that shines for you. Pray that we
may follow you, for we also want to reform and to become saints. There is a
great deal of work to be done, but we do not despair because we put our trust in
the arms of the All-Powerful God.

Let us follow the example of Adele who gathered, formed, encouraged, and supported others in living out their call.


And there you have it. My thoughts on an amazing woman.

Have a blessed week!

Sr. Nicole