Monday, March 26, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Yes, it's rather odd that I post on my blog on a weekday morning. However, a number of things have converged for me and prompted me to post this morning. I'll explain...
As you know I've been studying the vow of obedience lately... listening to God (in the many ways that God communicates) and then acting out of love on what God is "saying" in life. Therefore, I have been reflecting lately on how well I listen... how well I respond... In addition, studying this vow brings me face-to-face with a different reality... I am not in control. Yes, I know, I've written several times about that particular topic. It seems that it's a big lesson I'm learning this year - There are a great number of things I do not control... Learning to be "okay" with that has proven difficult.
Coupled with my study of the vow of obedience is the fact that there are many people in my life who are going through rather difficult times... whether because of broken relationships, confusion about their life's direction, the broken promises of important people in their lives, set backs, and/or tough decisions. Some of these people talk to me about what's going on... others don't because they don't feel they can... some would very much like for me to "fix it."
Then, this morning at morning prayer the second psalm we prayed was Psalm 146... a reminder that it is the Lord who raises up, who protects, who gives sight and sets free. I was struck by the awesome reality of that psalm. No where in Scripture does it say, "Nicole, you're in charge of fixing things." Or "Nicole, it all depends on you."
Nope... God's in charge.
There are a 2 main things on which these three realizations cause me to reflect: 1) Psalm 146 is very freeing and very hopeful. It's a good thing that God's in control... because heaven knows I'm just a fragile human who makes too many mistakes to count. 2) I am called to a humble recognition that I'm not God. I can't "fix" things. I have no control over the chaos in some people's lives... as much as I care about them and as much as I act out of empathy... I can only do what God has gifted me to do... nothing more and hopefully nothing less... and whatever good that comes is from God and the action of God's Spirit. Lastly, I should not be so harsh on myself if I can't fix every problem that's presented to me.
Ah, yes.... morning prayer today was a brief lesson in hope... and a lesson in humility - I am grateful to God for the gentle reminders. And, I will continue to pray for those who are struggling right now... I will do what I can... understanding that, in the words of Oscar Romero, "I am a worker, not the Master Builder"... and trust in God's guidance (for them and for me).
Blessings to all who read this...
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Who knew that today's first reading would fit so perfectly with what's going on in my study of the vows?! Yep, you guessed it. I've moved on to the vow of obedience.
Approximately 2 weeks ago Sr. Gretchen and I completed our study of the vow of poverty - for the moment. You see, the study of the vows never really "ends," per se. Actually, the intense study is the "easy" part (if there is such). Now... I have to continue to grow in it... continue to gain insight and understanding... and continue the road of conversion. That is much more challenging than reading about it. *smile*
So, now our focused study has brought us to the vow of obedience. Great timing, really. This week we had our monthly intercommunity novitiate program gathering. Our topic for our time together? Obedience. Also, I think Lent is a particularly poignant time to study the vow of obedience. Why?
As far as I can tell at this point in time, obedience has to do with listening to God... in the MANY ways that God communicates with us (our community, Scripture, personal prayer, spiritual direction, etc.) and then responding out of love to what God is telling me or telling us. As I stated in my last post, Lent for me has always been a time to examine how I'm doing in relation to God... Am I responding as I should?
You see, examining how well one listens and responds to God is not just a skill for religious life. It's what the Christian journey is all about... what is God telling me and how should I respond?
However, what makes vowed religious life a little different is that we are a community - a province - a congregation - seeking to respond to God as a whole... for the benefit of the common good and of the world. I am no longer an individual seeking God's will... I'm a part of a group. That's a completely new dynamic for me.
I think that's one of the more challenging changes for me since entering religious life. I'm learning a new way of thinking about myself and about responding to God. No person, really, exists in isolation and I've always known that. However, now the reality is that what "I" do or don't do causes or could cause a bigger effect on many people. I'm not sure yet how to articulate that, but that's one of the things I'm sorting through these days.
And it all has to do with obedience. Who knew? *smile*
Many blessings to all who read this!
Friday, March 02, 2007
As promised, I have a few words about the beginning of my Lenten journey.
However, before I launch into that... I'm sure you've noticed that I finally learned how to insert pictures into this blog. For the longest time I had been trying to put a picture on my profile. But, because I didn't read the directions fully, I was having trouble. *smile* Now that I've learned how to insert pictures, be prepared to see more.
Also, in case you're wondering who the people are in the pic, I'm the one in the center. The two guys flanking me are the two novices with the SM (Society of Mary - Marianist Brothers and Priests). This picture was taken at the end of our week-long, silent Advent retreat at Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky. The gate leading into the monk's courtyard reads "God alone." That was a favorite phrase of our foundress Mother Adele (see post from Jan. 11, 2007 for information on her) so it seemed appropriate to take our picture there.
Now, back to Lent...
Some people say I'm a little strange. Lent has always been my favorite liturgical season (followed closely by the Triduum). You might ask yourself, "why?" Well, Lent has always been so meaningful for me. I was never much of an ascetic. Sure, I took on the usual "giving up" of something (and still do). But, I took on a different approach late in my college years. Instead of giving up something like candy or soda, I started really examining my life and saying, "what can be better?"
For me, Lent has always been a time to examine my relationships - with God, with others, and with myself. It's been a time for me to focus on bringing those relationships into "proper order." To reconcile all things to God and God's will for me. To rend means to tear apart, to separate, or to disturb (along with several other meanings). For me, Lent is a time to mentally "tear apart" so as to examine... and change.
This year is different, though. I have felt like this entire year has been Lenten, in a way. Because my Lent was always spent in self-examination and reconciling my life... and because that's what I've been doing since I entered novitiate, it's difficult to sense a real difference in Liturgical season. It's interesting... My year is very much about examining myself, my life, my relationships with God and with this community... and I'm thinking, "That's what Lent is for!" Hmm... but it brings me to another revelation...
Perhaps bringing all my relationships into "proper order" shouldn't be just relegated to Lent. Perhaps it should be a year-round practice...
Now, I find myself needing to create a new meaning for Lent... or better yet... finding out what Lent is for me... this year... as a canonical novice.
I haven't yet figured this out. But Lent is just beginning, so I have some time. *smile*
Blessings on your Lenten journey!