Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I had these hopes that I would have the time and energy to post something on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day... however, that was not to be. But, I figure since it's still the Christmas Season, it's "all good."
What a wonderful week it has been! With lots of laughter, beautiful prayer experiences, great food and time with the Marianist Family, we, the Marianist Sisters in Dayton, started the Christmas Season.
Christmas Eve the house was filled with Christmas music, busy people decorating, and wonderful smells from the kitchen. We started the day with our last Advent morning prayer... then the house became a flurry of activity... with a lot of laughing. Joy is a great way to characterize the mood..... At 5pm we joined other members of the Marianist Family for first vespers of Christmas in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at the Univ. of Dayton. It was a beautiful gathering of approximately 50 or so brothers, priests, sisters and a few Lay Marianists. Then, we returned home for our supper of "heavy hors d'oeuvres" and the opening of gifts. We also shared stories of Christmas Eve traditions from our families.
At 10pm the celebration of the vigil Mass began with carols at UD in the IC Chapel. Three of us sang and/or played an instrument in the choir. What an experience! The music selection was wonderful. Some of the songs, Wood of the Manger and Child of the Poor, were new to me... so beautiful. I recommend looking them up if you're not familiar with them. The homily was also very good. After Mass, around midnight, one of the SM communities (our Marianist brothers and priests) hosted a small reception. We arrived around midnight for fresh-baked, homemade desserts, decaf coffee and egg nog. It was a small, simple gathering, but nice none-the-less.
Christmas Day was wonderful. We invited over the SM novitiate community to share Christmas dinner with us. We cooked the main dishes and they brought over sweet potatoes and desserts. It was a joyful gathering and fun.
And so, yesterday was spent in "recovery" mode, so to speak. I was able to get in some phone calls and some errands yesterday, so that was good. Today I leave for my sister's house. I will be traveling with her and her family to her in-laws for their Christmas gathering over the weekend. Then, I'm back in Dayton for New Years... Busy, busy!!!
And so, I have to leave you.
May you, your communities and your families be blessed abundantly with the peace and joy of Christmas.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
On December 2nd I posted a blog to which Helga (a novice with the Sisters of the Incarnate Word that I know from Texas - The story of a vocation Historia de una vocación) posted a comment. According to the comment I had just been "tagged" in The Immaculate Conception Meme. Hmmm... intriguing, no?
So, I went to her blog to find out what this might mean. And here I found the rules...
Each tagged person must post 8 random facts or habits about themselves on their blog. At the end of the post, choose 8 people to be tagged and list their names.Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them that they are tagged and to read your blog. Have fun!At the time I obviously didn't follow the directions. However, now I'm ready to dive in. Let's see if I can come up with 8 random facts or habits...
- I have a college degree that has nothing to do with anything I've done for the past 6 1/2 years. My undergraduate degree is a BS in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M (WHOOP!). My original major was Bioengineering... then I realized that I don't think like an engineer (not even on the same wave length!). I switched because I enjoyed the science (without the physics). Somewhere in the midst of my senior year I decided that I would be a high school chemistry teacher. Why? I liked working with young people... didn't see myself going further with nursing, medicine etc.... And I enjoyed ministry. So, long story short... here I am! :)
- I danced for 15 years... from the age of 2 1/2 until I graduated from high school my second home, or so it seemed, was Lorna Badon's School of Dancing. Yep... tap was my favorite, but I also took (and student taught) ballet, jazz, pointe, gymastics for a while and twirling for a while. When I was in high school I was part of the Orange Jazz Company... we toured, competed, and performed a great deal. I learned a lot through those experiences. I think, though, that I learned the most about discipline, dedication, and respect.
- Texas A&M was the first and only public school I ever attended. I went to St. Paul's Episcopal for pre-kinder and kinder, St. Mary's Catholic School 1st-8th grades, Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School, and St. Mary's University for my MA. Nearly my entire high school could have fit in my first psychology class. It was a strange transition...
- I taught myself to play the guitar about 10 years ago. I had just graduated from college and I was doing a year of service as a teacher in a pre-K - 8th grade Catholic school that needed a music teacher/children's choir director. So, that person became me. I knew going back to the piano was hopeless (it had been YEARS), so I asked my parents for a guitar. I practiced everyday for a few hours. One of my housemates played also, so she helped me get the sounds right (and taught me how to fake some difficult chords - Thanks Amy!). Then, I started bringing it to church with me on Sundays so that I could play with the wonderful, talented ladies there. And... that's how I learned. But, I'm in danger of losing the ability because I don't really practice and I don't play very often either. I know... tsk tsk!
- I'm the youngest of 3 girls - we're all 10 years apart. My middle sister is 10 years my elder and my oldest sister is 20 years older than me. It's quite the spread. We almost grew up as only children in a way. We all went to the same middle school. During my last week of 8th grade my mom made the statement that she had been driving that route for 20 years and now it was coming to an end.
- Retreat work has been a large part of my life since I was 15 years old. While I was in high school I served on our parish retreat team, my school retreat team and our diocesan retreat team. Then in college I was involved with SMYRT - St. Mary's Youth Retreat Team (see http://www.aggiecatholic.org/custom_page.cfm?category=3&page=162&active=162) and Aggie Awakening retreats (see www.aggiecatholic.org/awakening/ ). In my adult life I have stayed active with retreat work... through high school and college campus ministry and most recently vocations retreats. It's a passion of mine, I guess you could say.
- I learned to play poker and shoot pool from my 11th grade theology teacher! That's fun... Her son is a year younger than me and was one my closest friends throughout high school and college. There was a group of us that would hang out together nearly every weekend and at school. Anyway, my teacher and her family had a lake house in north east Texas (near Jasper). We went to their lake house for spring breaks and for days in the summer and during Christmas break. This house is where the family kept their pool table, poker chips and other such things. To see me play pool now, though is to think I've never held a cue! Anyway, I also learned how to water ski (well, kind of, truth be told) and had my first experiences of sailing. Those were great days!
- I like to bake... breads, rolls, desserts... you name it, I like to bake it. I'm not the world's greatest baker, but I really do like it. In fact, I just made bread on Tuesday. I was going to blog about it because it caused me to reflect on how little patience I have sometimes, but time got away from me and that never happened. C'est la vie, I suppose!
Wow. That's it. All 8 random facts. That was fairly difficult, actually.
Now, I have to tag 8 people. I'll tag k, Sr. Betsy, Angela, Bro. Brandon, Julia, Kelly, Veronica, and Sr. Susan Rose.
Many blessings to all who read this (and find themselves tagged!) ~ Sr. N
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices...
Yesterday I returned to Dayton after 5 days at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist Monestary in Kentucky. I was there with my formation director, Sr. Laura, the three novices with the Society of Mary, Brandon, Jeff and Ray, the SM novice director, Fr. Mike and the SM assistant novice director Bro. Mike. What a week ... a silent retreat in which "silence" spoke volumes!
First, let me tell you about the schedule... The monks there pray 7 times a day as a community - Vigils 3:15am, Lauds 5:45am (followed by Eucharist), Terce 7:30am, Sext 12:15pm, None 2:15pm, Vespers 5:30pm, and Compline 7:30pm. Each day I would awake at 2:45am to join the community for Vigils. This prayer lasts for approximately 45 minutes or so... Then, I'd head down for a small snack so that I could stomach a cup of coffee (no coffee for me on an empty stomach!). Then it was back to my room....
4:15am - 5:30am was my best prayer time each day. Yes, I know. That's just weird for some people. But there's something about the silence and the darkness. I was also very alert, considering most people were still warm in bed. But, it was good time for me. I wrote in my journal (PAGES!... each day), read Scripture in prep for Eucharist, and in general talked with God... AND LISTENED! For some reason, I could do that with more clarity. Maybe that's because I didn't have any distractions??? Could be, I suppose.
After Lauds and Eucharist was breakfast. The dining room was silent for breakfast. I suppose we were lost in our own thoughts and prayers. On the first day after breakfast, I was blessed to see one of the most spectacular sunrises I've seen in a long time - bright red sky... almost like red grapefruit. It was beautiful beyond words to describe it.
Each day after Terce, I would head out for my morning walk... well, except Thursday. Thursday we had a rainy morning. Anyway, I walked in the woods surrounding the Abbey. It was wonderful. No one else seemed to be out at all... the paths were a little muddy, but nothing terrible... and the area has a simple, quiet beauty that's great for reflection. Again, God and I had great conversations on those morning walks.
Upon my return to the Abbey... it was time for a nap! No guilt there!! Maybe 45 minutes to an hour... nothing extraordinary or anything.
Then, it was a good time to read. I brought a book by Fr. Ron Rohlheiser with me. It's a book my friend Debbie gave me. It's called Forgotten Among the Lilies: Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears. Great book. I highly recommend it. The book gave me a lot to pray with and think about.
After my time of reading, I would head to Sext and lunch. During lunch each day (which the monks call "dinner") there was a tape playing in the dining room. It seemed to be a taped retreat conference or keynote speaker? Anyway, on two days he spoke on St. Francis de Sales and his thoughts on spiritual growth, one day he spoke on St. Therese of Lisieux, and on Thursday he spoke on St. Bernard (we think of Clairvaux?). These were generally good talks. I enjoyed them anyway. The speaker had an easy-to-listen-to style.
Then... it was off for my afternoon walk. I guess one could say that I did a LOT of walking! In fact, unfortunately, on Wednesday and Thursday I didn't make it back for None (the 2:15 prayer). But I had some great walks. On Wednesday, I broke silence. Jeff, Brandon and I went for a walk together to these great statues that depict the Agony in the Garden... very powerful. We also found a little abandoned hermitage called "Stone House." It was time well spent, I think. Once we arrived back at the Abbey's walls, though, we maintained silence...
After walking, it was always time for hot tea and reading.
Supper came after Vespers. During supper we listened to Gregorian Chant in the dinning room. That was nice. It facilitated prayer well (in my opinion).
After Supper, I'd spend a little time before Compline either writing in my journal about the day, reading more Rohlheiser, or reading Scripture. It depended on what was going on in my prayer for that day.
Compline started at 7:30pm each night and would end with all of us filing up to the front of the chapel for a blessing from the Abbot (who was actually out of town, so it was another monk) around 8pm. Then, for me... it was shower time and off to bed! Can you believe that? Well, after getting up before 3am, it certainly makes sense as far as I'm concerned!
So... all of that is good stuff... but, more importantly, is what I've come away with...
I'm coming away from the week with a renewed sense of joy in this religious life journey. God and I laughed a lot this past week (can you imagine me walking in the woods, apparently alone and then just laughing at where my prayer takes me?? Quite the sight, I'm sure!). I've also come away with a type of "resolve"... a sense that "Yes, I have imperfections and I'm not perfect in any way, especially not in my spiritual life... But, this is the life to which God is calling me and God hasn't lead me astray in the past." That sort of resolve. It's difficult to put into words, really.
So, here I am... approximately 6 months away from first vows... and my heart & soul are filled with joy (appropriate for the 3rd Sunday of Advent) and a great sense of peace. And... I'm grateful. Just grateful for God's love, the people in my life, and the gifts I've been given.
Many prayers for all who read this!
Monday, December 10, 2007
What a weekend! I don't have a lot of time to tell you everything... I'm on my way out the door soon to enjoy 5 days of silence at the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky - Gethsemani. Words can not express how much I'm looking forward to spending time delving into myself and into God...
However, I do want to say a few words about the weekend. You may recall that I've been working with a group of seniors at the University of Dayton who were in formation to become a committed Lay Marianist Community. I worked along side of another novice, Bro. Brandon Alana and a Lay Marianist couple Joan and AJ Wagner. Well... on Saturday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (and our Sisters' patronal feast day!) the community made their commitment in the context of a Eucharistic Liturgy on the UD campus. What a liturgy! It was joyful... it was moving (I actually cried!)... and it was such a celebration of the Marianist Family.
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time to go into details. Thank God for Bro. Brandon... he's published some details on his blog. Feel free to check out what he's said at http://web.mac.com/balana/MyBlog. Don't worry, I got his permission to post a link to his blog within my own. Explaining, of course, that I'm a slacker and I'm grateful for his dedication. :)
Well, I'm off. Know of my prayers for all who read this and I'll tell you more upon my return from Gethsemani!
Many blessings on all who read this!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Blessed Advent! I find myself today... on this gloomy, rainy December evening, entering into the season of Advent... and praying about what it means to prepare for the coming of Christ.
Last evening at 6pm our community entered into the Advent season with a prayer service - reflecting on Mary's disposition of waiting, pondering the coming of the Jesus. We prayed with today's readings about being awake and prepared... about creating a peaceful world where people would no longer train for war.
And what am I doing to help prepare myself and the world around me for the birth of Jesus? How am I called to do this? In what way(s) am I not prepared for the birth of Jesus in my heart? How am I called to bear Christ into this troubled world? What witness am I called to give? Am I cooperating with what the Spirit is trying to do in our world?
Important questions. This is where my prayer has taken me today, this weekend, as I seek to sink deeply into the prayer of Advent. Other than that, I don't have much left to say, really.
Pray for peace in our world...
Many blessings to all who read this!