Thursday, December 25, 2008

Today, today a Savior has been born!
A Savior has been born to us.
He is Christ the Lord, Christ the Lord, Jesus Christ the Lord!

Christmas blessings to you! This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! Today we celebrate a miracle and an unfathomable reality... God incarnate... God becoming human... God being born "according to the flesh" into our messy and mundane world. What an amazing reality!

Jesus is called by many names... Wonder-Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace... Light of the World. There are two names on which my prayer is focused this morning - Prince of Peace and Light of the World.

Last night some members of the Marianist Family gathered at the Immaculate Conception Chapel at UD at 5pm for the First Vespers of Christmas. The homily given by one of our Marianist priests focused on peace.... Our homily at Mass last night, given by another Marianist priest, focused on the awesome reality (and challenge) of God taking on flesh and what that means for us now...

As Marianists we believe that we are called to continually bring to birth Jesus and to nurture the life of Jesus in this world like Mary did - as individuals, but mostly as community. Yes, Jesus was born once over 2000 years ago... but that event should play out, so to speak, each day in every interaction...

Our world, our nation, our families and our lives need the Prince of Peace and Light of the World in more ways than I can adequately put into words. With so many people having lost their livelihoods... people sleeping in the streets... people mourning the loss of a loved one to violence... war and armed conflicts... endemic disease... unjust regimes and institutions...

It is into this world that Jesus came... and continues to come. In celebrating this day, we don't just celebrate something from 2000 years ago... exchanging presents and feasting on great food... Today we also recall that WE are to be Christ-bearers... We are to carry and make present the Peace and the Light. If not us, who celebrate this day, then who? And if not now, then when?

Yes, this is the day the Lord has made... may the joy of this day enliven us to bring forth into our world Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World.

Many blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Sunday, December 07, 2008

For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits
Truly, my hope is in you!

So... it's been nearly a month since I last posted. Where has the time gone?! I ask that question a lot, don't I? I guess it never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes and how there never seems to be enough hours in the day or days in the week...

Today, though, as we enter the final stretch of Advent and start our reflection on the "O, Antiphons" I knew I wanted to write before Advent ends. I really like Advent. In praying for the light of Christ to pierce the darkness of our world... in union with Mary who boldly said "yes" and then pondered God's actions... there is a lot to which I can relate... challenges for my growth in faith and in bringing the light of Christ to dark places... (both within and "out there")

As you may recall, in 2006 and 2007 I had the great joy of going on silent retreats for a week during Advent at the Trappist Monastery of Gethsemani. What a grace & blessing! This year Advent has not quiet been so quiet and reflective. With traveling, meetings, finishing up my semester course (research paper & oral final exam), holiday gift exchanges/parties, spending time with our 2 visiting Marianist Sisters from India who were here learning English for the semester (wonderful women!)...

The challenge this year has been to draw upon the grace that comes from the small moments of quiet and the opportunities for personal meditation and actually making that time a priority in the over-scheduling I tend to do. I've learned that the grace of Advent doesn't just come from a week of silent retreat... it also comes in the enlightening conversation with a friend or the 15 minutes of praying with Scripture before heading to community morning prayer ... in reflecting on the day before I fall asleep... All can be (and are) moments of Advent grace. The stillness required to recognize and respond to the grace does not necessarily mean external stillness or silence. It is more so an interior posture that is not dependant upon an exterior silence. And so, in the midst of the craziness that is the end of the semester in a university community, I say, "my soul in stillness waits."

Many Advent blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, November 17, 2008

There is no way of telling people 
that they are all walking around 
shining like the sun.
Thomas Merton

This past weekend I had the joy of attending my 4th Marianist Formation Weekend. This year Sr. Laura and I gathered with all the guys in formation with the Marianist brothers & priests (aspirants, novices, and temporary professed) and some of their formation personnel for a weekend of sharing in northern California. 

We had a presenter/facilitator, a Marianist brother who works in an Archdiocesan office for small Christian communities. However, that's not what was so good about this past weekend. It was the encouragement (and challenge) that comes from being with faithful (and faith-filled) people.

Thomas Merton, a now deceased Trappist monk and an incredible spiritual writer, once wrote:
My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of [the human race] or put me in a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race, and what more glorious destiny is there... since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race! Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of this human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being [human], a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everyone could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Have you ever been around people who just radiate the presence of God? People around whom you can not help but sense peace and joy? People who walk around "shining like the sun?" 

It may seem like an exaggeration (for I'm prone to that sort of thing), but that's exactly what my weekend was like. It's slightly difficult to explain.... But, I can say this. God has blessed me with friends and people in my life who are a true gift. They incarnate the presence of God for me. And it's not just about affirmation. They challenge me... challenge me to be more faithful... to love more deeply... to live with gratitude. 

Joyce Rupp, a Sister with the Servants of Mary and spiritual writer, explains it well...
I think of these faithful people often, particularly during November when I pray with gratitude for all those who have blessed me. When I gather the goodness of my life, I am especially thankful for those who have helped me to grow. Being with faithful people challenges me in my own commitment. I look to the abundance of others' love and yearn to be more generous in my own response...
It is a gift to know people who are faithful, people whose inner strength urges them to share their love generously even when they pay a price to do so. Their lives tell us that faithfulness is possible, although it is rarely easy. Faithful people reflect God's faithfulness.

And so, in this season of giving thanks, I am grateful for the faithful people in my life. And for the ways in which they encourage and challenge me in my own commitment.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The situation of Religious in relation to culture
is one of resistant immersion that is extremely ambiguous. And at the same time it is one in which
the Religious refuses to simply "go with the flow."
Sandra Schneiders, IHM - Finding the Treasure

Those of you who keep up with my blog, at least somewhat, are well aware that I've been absent from the blogging world for about a month. You may even wonder, "Is she really that busy?" Well, yes and no.

No doubt, my time has been well occupied for the past month. Back in September I told a good friend how excited I was that I was going to be in town every weekend in October... perhaps I would be able to enjoy a little downtime. As I look back at October I can't help but wonder what happened to that idea. :)

I'll give you a brief update on the goings on around here...

First of all, the class I'm taking - Sacramental Theology - is going well. It's a heck of a lot of work, though! It's been 2 1/2 years since I've taken a graduate class for credit. During novitiate I audited several classes, but I didn't have to do any of the work. Now, that's not the case. We read a fair amount and have a short paper due each week. That might not seem like a lot, but when I'm reading Thomas Aquinas or Karl Rahner it takes me hours to read and absorb it enough to write something intelligent. But, I'm doing well and learning A LOT. So, it's worth it.

Secondly, I've been working with our discernment group here at UD as well as our Marianist vocations committee. That's been fun. Because of my connections there (and a few other "random" connections) people have started asking me to be a sort of spiritual director for them. Of course, I have to let them know that I'm not an actual "director" but I can be a spiritual "companion". Some people have taken me up on that... And I think the Spirit is definitely moving there.

Other than that... I've been doing other assorted campus ministry and Marianist "stuff."

But, you know... to be perfectly honest, there was something else taking up a lot of my time last month. For the first time in my life I became super interested in politics... reading several newspapers a day, discussing various issues with people, learning what I could about candidates and local issues. Truth be told, that's the real reason I haven't written here. I never wanted to "use" by blog for advancing anything political. And because much of my free time was wrapped up in the elections, I decided the best thing to do would be to take a break from blogging.

And that, my friends, is why I used the Sandra Schneider's quote above.

I've been reflecting a lot on the role of religious men and women in society... and the witness of the vowed life. Several weeks ago, when the economy started to weaken dramatically, I had a conversation with one of the sisters in our community about what the vow of poverty has to "say" about the culture of greed, unbridled capitalism, and selfishness.

As religious, I believe, we stand as a sign that there is an alternative... There is a different way to exist. A person can live with joy and peace without accumulating more and more stuff... without climbing the corporate ladder at all costs. There is a different way to treat people than the way pop culture objectifies a person or the way people treat the poor and marginalized. In other words, religious, in a way, are prophetic.

I'd like to share with you more of the above quote:

Having renounced the gain that full cultural participation offers, Religious have less to lose from radical change and thus greater freedom in prophetic announcement that everything is not alright, that the time of God's visitation is near, that the promises of the past are still to be fufilled, and that God's preferential option for the poor will not finally be frustrated....
The situation of Religious in relation to culture is one of resistant immersion that is extremely ambiguous. and at the same time it is one in which the Religious refuses to simply "go with the flow." She is constantly asking, "Is this really right? Does this reflect the Gospel? Can I support this or must I protest?"

And so, I'll leave you with a thought to ponder... While religious take vows that place us in this unique position, I am inclined to believe that all baptized persons have a similar role to play in calling our culture to something "other than" and that there is an alternative to pop culture values.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Friday, October 10, 2008

As the Angles sing an old Hank Williams song.
Time marches on, time marches on. 
Time marches on, time marches on. 
Time marches on. Time marches on.
Tracy Lawrence

It's already October! The leaves are changing colors here... the days are shorter... the sun shines bright during the days... evenings and mornings are cool and brisk. It's definitely autumn here.

When I was growing up one of my favorite movies was "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." One of my favorite quotes from that movie is when Ferris is doing one of his monologues towards the beginning of the movie and says, "I said it before and I'll say it again. Life moves at you pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it."

I think I've quoted Ferris before on this blog. Every once in a while the quote is just so appropriate... Like today... or this week, actually. My facebook status says, "Sr. Nicole is wondering what happened to September."

Last month was a very full month. It was wonderful, don't get me wrong, but it was certainly full. I had the great joy of going on 3 retreats last month - First, a retreat for the first year students at UD. It was great to get to know so many students who are new to UD and trying to find their place. 

Then, I went on my own "retreat"... back to Villa Maria Pennsylvania for an intercommunity formation weekend. It was good to see some familiar faces and meet new people who are all just entering religious life. I think, though, I've already blogged about that weekend...

Lastly, I went on retreat with a student group at UD called "Catholic Life." It was a weekend that allowed students to really delve deeply into their relationship with Jesus and reflect on how that effects the way they live and what they do, think, say. It was also good for me. I had some wonderful conversations with students and good personal prayer time. I also had the chance to stay in a Benedictine Monastery for the weekend. The community there was so kind!

Then... it was October! 

Last weekend I had the opportunity to witness one of our Marianist brothers profess perpetual vows. Bro. Brian Halderman, SM professed the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability for his whole life. It was a beautiful celebration - the Mass was moving with such symbolism and meaning. The dinner after was a true celebration with friends and family of Bro. Brian and MANY Marianist brothers, priests, sisters and lay members. What a joy to celebrate! And an added bonus was that I had a chance to reconnect with young adult Marianists I haven't seen in a few months.

So, these past several weeks have been full of blessings, relationship building, prayer, planning and busyness. I have found, though, that if I don't stop every once in a while and say "Thank you," then the time goes without much reflection on my part. 

Therefore, I say thanks!
Many blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes --
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wow. Two posts in one week... I'm back, in deed!

For the past several days this quote has been ringing in every fiber of my being. Perhaps it's the absolutely beautiful weather we've had... or maybe it's the glimpses of the divine I've seen in the people I've encountered... I just think I'm finally paying attention.

Currently, I'm reading a book entitled Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. In this book are thoughts, lecture notes, and ideas of Henri Nouwen sytematically laid out after his death by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. This book is ... great. That's an understatement, but I feel that anything I could say is an understatement. It's meant both for people who are seeking spiritual direction, but also for those who minister as spiritual directors.

Anyway, I read something today that I just had to share with you all. Why? It moved me and I thought that perhaps other people could benefit as well:

Before the word was incarnated in her womb, Mary bore witness to the
word of God. Because of her obedient listening, the word could become flesh
in her. Listening is a very vulnerable stance. Mary was so vulnerable,
so open, and so receptive that she could listen with her whole being.
Nothing in her resisted the word that was announced to her by the angel. She was
"all ears" and heart. Thus, the promise could be fulfilled in her far beyond her
own understanding and control. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary said. "May it be
to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38).

Listening is the core attitude of the person who is open to God's living
and creative word. Prayer is listening to God, being open and receptive to God's
influence. True listening has become increasingly difficult in churches and
institutions, where people remain on their guard, afraid to expose their weaker
side, eager to be recognized as successful and bright. in our contemporary
competitive society, listening often is a way of "checking the other person out." It is a defensive stance in which we do not really allow anything to happen to us. It is a suspicious way of receiving that makes us wonder what serves our purposes and what does not. The psalmist warns against this hardening of heart:

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord; Do not grow stubborn, as your
fathers and mothers did in the wilderness, when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, although they had seen all my works. (Psalm 95: 7-9)

The word of God here is to listen to the voice of love and not to harden your hearts.

This kind of listening asks us to model our lives on Jesus and to commit to follow the way of life Jesus set forth. This listening assumes a personal prayer life and a belief in Jesus's activity in the world today as the Living Word of God.

Listening to the incarnate word of life is the heart of Christian faith. In Mary, we see the purest form of this listening. That is why she is called "blessed' by her cousin Elizabeth. it is through her obedience to the word that became flesh in her that she becomes not only the mother of God but also the mother of all the faithful. We who wish to be faithful are called to this same kind of obedience. When we listen faithfully to the word, the word becomes flesh in us and dwells among us.


Perhaps you think about the word of God as a divine exhortation to go out and change your life. But the full power of the word lies not in how you apply it to your life after you have heard it but in how its transforming power does its divine work in you as you listen.

Wow. That can certainly give you a lot to reflect upon... In fact, I've been praying with this most of the day - in the midst of the busyness. And perhaps that's why the quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning is moving within...

Many blessings to all who read this!

Sr. N

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future.
Rather, it is a deepening of the present,
and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
Thomas Merton

Well... I'm back! I suppose that could be taken in several different ways, couldn't it? That is intentional on my part...

It seems like it's been a really long time since I've posted here. However, it's only been about 2 weeks. I guess you could say that I've lived 2-3 months in 2 weeks!!! Have these weeks been full? Yes. My weeks are almost always full - meetings, phone calls, to do lists, community schedule/responsibilities ... But, I've also learned a lot in this short amount of time

The most important lesson(s)? Embracing the present - recognizing God where I least expect to find the sacred - living in ambiguity and change... these can all be difficult, but they are also GOOD... and a place in which I can encounter God.

It's not a secret that I don't like change. People who know me also know that I like feeling a sense of control over what's going on around/within me. What I'm learning, though, is that ambiguity is a fabulous teacher... and so is trusting in God's presence when there isn't the accompaning "warm fuzzy" type feeling.

For the lessons of these past few weeks I say "Thank You, God!"

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Trinity is community... we are created in the image of this community.
We exist to be in relationship - with God and with others.
Me :)

So, here I am. Over one month after my last post. No excuses... unless, of course you read my last post. *smile* 

Tonight I am brought to a reflection on relationships. But before I launch into that, let me tell you a little about what I'm up to these days...

First, the ministry for which I'm paid. What some people would call a "job", but I hesitate to say that. But, I digress. I am a campus minister in a residence hall at the Univ. of Dayton. It's the largest residence hall on campus - 1,100 residents to be exact, most of them first year students. I think I explained how that works in my last post. Anyway, needless to say, it keeps me fairly busy. My days are filled with building relationships, participating in planning meetings, running programs and praying with students. It's a great! It seems to be a good fit for my personality....

Second, I serve on a vocations committee for the Marianists. The committee has Marianist brothers, priests, sisters and members of the Lay Marianist community. We meet once a month to discuss efforts on campus to "get the word out" about Marianist life and provide opportunities for people to discern with us.

Then, there are opportunities for my personal formation/discernment. Yes, discernment. I professed first vows in June, this is true. However, until I profess final vows, I am still in initial formation and this continues to be a time of formation and discernment. So, there are formation retreats, meetings etc. This continues to be good for me also. 

In fact, last weekend I had the opportunity to attend an intercommunity formation weekend in Pennsylvania. This was a gathering of religious in formation with various congregations in the area - both male and female. There were Franciscans, Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Charity, the Congregation of Saint Joseph... and MANY others. It was a WONDERFUL weekend. Our speaker for the weekend was Sr. Mary McCormick, OSU. She's a professor at a seminary in Cleveland. Our topic for the weekend? God.

Yep. You can't get more all-encompassing than that. 

It would be difficult to put all of what we did into a paragraph or two, but let's just say that we had time to reflect on what it means to be a people who believes in a Trinitarian God... how does that belief affect the way we live, pray, "do theology,"... everything, really.

And this is what brings me to relationship. 

Our lives... my life... is about right relationship - with God, with myself, with others. My ministry... it's about relationships. The vocation efforts? It's about relationships. My formation & discernment? You guessed it. It's about relationship.

With relationships being so key, I'm challenging myself to pay attention to them... nurture them and allow them to nurture me. 

Now... if I could just figure out how to make a day about 12-hours longer...

Many blessings to all who read this!!!
~Sr. N

Friday, August 15, 2008

Go placidly amid the noise and haste 
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

The Desiderata was the first poem I memorized my freshmen year at Monsignor Kelly High School. A copy was given to each person in my 8th grade class by our Language Arts teacher, Ms. Perry, as a graduation gift. There have been MANY times in life that I have reflected on this poem. However, never as much as in the past 2 weeks or so...

So, here I am in Dayton transitioning into a new job and a new way of being as a professed sister. Because of the craziness of my summer, I jumped into the new job having to "hit the ground running." No time for slow starts.

However, in the midst of all the meetings, orientation sessions, and unpacking/setting up an office, our campus ministry staff went on retreat for a day and a half. The theme of the retreat? Sabbath - the importance of Sabbath in our lives and how to take "Sabbath time" in the midst of busyness. (Sabbath as defined as special time with God... relaxing from the frantic pace of work... taking time away... etc.)

Can we say "perfect"?!

That day and a half of reflection was just what I needed. It tapped back into my first year of novitiate... It was during that time that my mantra was "Drink deeply from the well-spring of prayer, else the journey will be too long." 

The retreat also connected me back to the 8-day silent retreat I was blessed enough to have this summer before the busyness of the past 2 months set in (vows... home visit... Marianist LIFE... moving to Dayton... starting a new job...).... The theme of the 8-day retreat was also Sabbath.

Coincidence? I think not. I think it was providential, really.

While I was at our campus ministry retreat I made a list of "Sabbath activities"... things that I do that help me maintain balance and that are pretty close to non-negotiable. They are:
  • My morning routine: coffee, breakfast with the morning paper (or the archdiocesan paper), 20-30 minutes of quiet prayer... all before the rest of the house is awake
  • Reading (spiritual and otherwise)
  • Exercise 
  • Time spent on "key" relationships
  • Yearly retreat
  • Time to sing... (alone, typically) 
These are just a few things that help me tap into the "still, small voice of God." 

Let's pray that I can keep these in mind as the semester gets underway. I'm really looking forward to a great first semester at UD. And as long as I can "drink deeply from the well-spring of prayer" then I should have an open heart for the Spirit to work in & through me.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you,
praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6

So, I've come to realize, July is just not a good month for posting! Sorry I've been so out of touch! Rest assured that all is well... in fact, all is going very well... There is so much to say, I barely know where to start... and there is so much for which I am grateful...

First, let me say thank you to everyone who kept the Marianist LIFE South 2008 program in your prayers. It was an amazing experience. We had 82 high school students from San Antonio, Houston, Victoria, St. Louis, Miami and Los Angeles... along with about 25 adults gathered. I met some of the most faith-filled high school students I've met in a long time. There were many laughs, some tears, beautiful prayer experiences, and deep sharing. Being with these students was humbling and inspiring, really.

I also have to say that the adults (and young adults) were phenomenal... and I don't use that word lightly. They're such good people... kind, patient, prayerful, funny "as all get out," and great to be around. 

This was my first summer to serve as the regional coordinator for the M-LIFE South program. And it was an experience I will not soon forget. I learned a lot, had great times of prayer, and was inspired with hope. 

I could say more, but I'm really very tired...

I just arrived back in Dayton this evening. We finished M-LIFE South (the program and the evaluations) on Wednesday evening. I spent Thursday and Friday relaxing, doing laundry, and packing. Now that I'm here... I'm moving into a new bedroom (so I'm still surrounded by boxes!) and I will soon be moving into a brand new office at UD.

On Monday I will begin my new job as Campus Minister for Residence Life Ministry and Faith Formation. My office is in a residence hall with just under 1000 first year college students. There is a graduate assistant working with me. I think we'll work well together. We chatted for a while back in May, but haven't talked since (who's had time?). I'm sure we'll have time to get things in order before students start arriving....

Believe me, there is so much that I'd like to say. However, I'll leave it at that for now. All I can say to sum this up is that I am so grateful for the many ways God has blessed me in recent months... I'm filled with joy this evening (even in my lethargy...).

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was,
he became frightened and beginning to sink, he cried out,
"Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Matthew 14: 29b-32

It's amazing to me how often I remind myself of Peter... especially as Peter is portrayed in this passage. Not necessarily the act of walking on water, but the all too human tendancy to lose focus on "the one thing necessary."

For the past 2 weeks or so, I've been absorbed in working on the Marianist LIFE program. That, in and of itself, is a good thing. It won't be long before 35 adults and 84 high school students will be together in the Texas hill country for 8 days... praying together, laughing together, learning and growing together. I'm really looking forward to it.

So, how does Peter find his way into this? Well, like Peter, I was starting to get caught up in how strong the winds are...

I have this habit of becoming focused on what I'm doing wrong or what my weaknesses are: I'm controlling, I'm not a great public speaker, I worry too much... am I driving the team nuts by asking too many questions and sending too many e-mails? I should have said such-and-such... or... I shouldn't have done such-and-such...

What's wrong with that picture? It's not about me!

It's all about God and God's ability to work through people who are open to that grace. And if I can stay focused on Jesus, along with the team and all those involved with this endeavor, then we'll be okay. The point is to stay focused on Jesus...

Bring on the water, Jesus, let's go!

Blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants.
The question is: what are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau

It's been a week. One week ago today I was about to head to the church... setting things out... listening to the choir rehearse... practicing the profession of vows... talking to the priests...

In many ways, last weekend seems like it was a month ago. And in other ways, the emotions are still strong enough to make it seem like yesterday.

Prior to professing vows, as you may recall, I went on an 8-day silent retreat. Immediately after the retreat our sisters had our assembly. Then my family and friends were here until earlier this week. Since then, it seems I've been "making up for lost time"...

I've been catching up with friends and working. Working? Yes...

Each summer since 2001, except for last summer, I've been working with a program called Marianist LIFE. It's a national program for small groups of high school students. I like to call it an immersion into the Marianist charism. The students build community, learn leadership skills, get in touch with their relationships with God and others, and learn about the Marianist charism so that they can take what they've learned and build Marianist community in their school or parish. Feel free to check out the website at:

This summer, I have the humbling blessing of serving as the regional coordinator for the program that happens in Texas. There are 3 sites - northern California, Dayton OH, and Central Texas. This is my first summer to serve in this capacity.

Throughout my second year of novitiate I did bits and pieces of work for LIFE - a meeting here, a conference call there, a few typed resources. However, during the first 3 weeks of June I did absolutely nothing for LIFE. I think that's how it should be, right? Preparing for vows takes priority, obviously.

However, since vows and since my family has gone, I'm am certainly making up for the 3 weeks... But... in the 3 weeks, time was not "lost."

That brings me to the above quote. Today I am reflecting on the busyness of this week.

What am I busy about? Reconnecting with friends and tying up loose ends for a program that starts in less than a month. Both good things, yes? I believe so. I'm realizing that I would not have the energy for any of it, though, if were not for the 3 weeks of not doing it at all.

When I first started novitiate I prayed with a mantra based on a story from the Old Testament. The mantra was, "Drink deeply from the wellspring of prayer, else the journey will be too long." How true, how true! The energy, zeal, passion for ministry can only come from a life deeply rooted in prayer and reflection. Otherwise... I may as well be an ant...

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N
(by the way, I will post more pictures from last weekend soon...)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life gives us brief moments with another...
but sometimes in those brief moments
we get memories that last a life time.

As promised, I'm posting yet again. This time, I have a few pictures to share with you about the weekend. 

[Disclaimer... This post has changed several times in the past 24 hours. I couldn't get the pictures to come out the way I pictured them. So, I uploaded them into a photo album through Picasa.]

Celebration of First Vows

I have to admit... I haven't taken the time to sit and truly reflect on what this past weekend (and the weeks immediately preceding) have meant to me. My "practical" side has been in high gear in since Thursday. I say this because once I've had the time to reflect and pray about what these days have meant, I will most likely post again!

The Night Before: The Trahan Family meets the Sister...

First Profession of Vows - Liturgy

Because I've been in a number of choirs, I know some pretty awesome singers & musicians... and most of them were able to be a part of the choir. They were REALLY good! There were 3 prelude songs by very important people in my life. My sister, Grace, sang the Ave Maria and gave the whole congregation chills...


We decided to keep the reception somewhat informal... it was finger foods, a cake, and beverages.

The quote on the cake, "Do whatever he tells you" is a very important quote in the Marianist world. It is our motto, of sorts. As Marianists we vow to serve the world's needs in whatever way God leads us to serve.

What's not pictured here is that on Sunday morning we had a Sunday liturgy in our Sisters' chapel. My family who were still in town and a few friends were able to stick around were present. That liturgy was followed by a very festive (and tasty!) brunch. Then... my sister, Grace and I took her two children to a water park in New Braunfels.

Monday morning I took the last group of people to the airport...

So, now here I sit. I'm left to ponder, like Mary, the meaning of these things in my heart. And believe me, there is much to ponder! Not only was the first profession this weekend, but two weeks ago I was on a FABULOUS retreat and last week our sisters had our Assembly gathering (which was also WONDERFUL!).

I will leave you now... there is much more to say, but the pondering needs to come first.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

... let all those who put their trust in You rejoice: 
let them ever shout for joy...
Psalm 5:11

Wow... it's been quite the two weeks! If I wrote about everything, you'd be reading for a very long time!

I have been trying to post pictures and a few comments for about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to keep working. However, I wanted to let you know that this weekend was BEAUTIFUL and JOY-FILLED as we celebrated my first profession of vows.

Many of my family and friends were able to be here with us, which was phenomenal!

Either later today or tomorrow, I will post pictures and more comments. Until then...

Blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My heart is steadfast, God, my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and chant praise.
Awake, my soul; awake, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn.
Psalm 57: 8-9

Today is June 1st. June, already?!

This month I will be 33 years old. This month I will profess first vows as a Marianist Sister. It's all just a little surreal...

Three years goes very quickly, it seems, when one is in formation. July 2005 I moved into the community and began pre-novitiate... August 2006 I became a novice. At the time I thought, "I won't profess vows until summer 2008. I'll be 33." And now? Wow. Here I am.

Today I find myself excited and in awe. God has done marvels in my life and I am grateful. The scripture quote above is one of my favorites. There's a version in some translations that reads, "My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready." And I thought about using that translation. But, when I thought about it more, "steadfast" seems more accurate than "ready."

Who is ever truly ready to vow a life of poverty, chastity, obedience, stability in a community? I'm not sure about others in formation or preparing to take this step, but I'm not sure it's possible to feel "ready." There's always room for growth... I could be more loving, let go more, trust more, increase in faith... perfection does not come this side of heaven for us, though. So, ready isn't the right word.

But, I'm steadfast, I think. When I think "steadfast" I think committed... resolute. Do I know where this journey will lead? No. Do I feel that I am living this life perfectly? No. But, by God's grace I'm here and with God's continued grace we'll keep walking this path.

So, one week from today I will begin an 8-day silent retreat. I really like silent retreats and I'm looking forward to the time of prayer. After the retreat, our sisters are having an assembly here in San Antonio. All of our sisters in the US will gather here in San Antonio for a week of being together, praying together, and visioning about the future. The assembly begins on my birthday (happy coincidence)... and it ends on the evening before my vows.

The weekend of vows will be a full weekend. I'm so excited about friends and family who are able to join in the celebration. I will write all about it and post pictures to share with you. Most of the guests from out of town (including our Dayton sisters) will leave town Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. So, things will calm down for me a little by that Monday or Tuesday. I'll try to post then.

Well, I have to leave you now. Hopefully I will have a chance to post again before profession. However, I can't say that for sure. Mutual prayers, okay?

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
Psalm 126:2

What a weekend! This past weekend I had the great opportunity to share in the first profession of vows of Marianist Brothers Tom Farnsworth and Luis Gamboa... what a joy-filled experience. The Lord has, indeed, done great things for them... and our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy!

You may recall that I used to have a picture in my profile with myself and 2 guys. That was Tom and Luis... my cohort, if you will, in Marianist formation. Soon, I will join them in their new identity as professed religious...

It was a short trip for me back to Dayton... just slightly longer than 2 days. But, what a FULL weekend it was! It was a gathering of Marianists from all over the U.S. and the families and friends of Tom and Luis. There was a lot of laughter, some tears, and beautiful prayer.

I have to admit something, though. At one point in their Profession Mass, I completely "zoned out." Or, perhaps I should say, I became very focused. It was right when each of them were actually professing their vows. It was as if I had tunnel vision all of a sudden and the rest of the congregation wasn't there. I kept thinking... that'll be me... that'll be me... It was strange, sort of. Like a sort of overwhelming awe at the reality. Then I looked over at my friend Brandon, who is now officially a second year novice... I saw his tears and mine followed shortly thereafter.

Now I'm back in San Antonio... looking ahead to profession, but more importantly to the life that will follow... and reflecting on the life that has led to this point. I have to keep in mind that the Mass of Profession is just one day. The life of a religious goes on from there...

Blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Sunday, May 11, 2008

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
1 Corinthians 12: 4-7

Happy Pentecost!

Today brings closure to the Easter Season... today marks the "birthday of the Church"... the coming of the Spirit ~ what a glorious reality! Today we celebrate the gift that the Spirit is for us, our Church and our world. And we pray that the Spirit's work continue ~ through us and through others.

I've been reflecting lately... truth be told, A LOT... but, since the Ascension, I've been focused on the gifts of the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit and the fact that the vows to which I will publicly commit next month are themselves gifts of the Spirit.

The last line of the passage quoted above from today's second reading, "To each individual a manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit," is particularly striking to me today. For some benefit... So I ask myself, "why?" What benefit can come... will come... from the gifts of the Spirit... from the gifts of authentic poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability? Of course, this is assuming that I'm open to the action of the Spirit... for one has to be. That, in and of itself, though is a gift from God - the ability to be open.

Of course, these are most rhetorical questions. From this vantage point I can not begin to answer... for only God knows the fruits before they're born. I pray, though, that I might be open to all that the Spirit can do - in my life and in the lives of others. I pray that I might be open to the way the Spirit speaks through the people, circumstances and events in life. And I pray that the gifts of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability might bear fruit...

On a different note... Please pray for a friend of mine from college. She had heart surgery late last week...

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Sunday, May 04, 2008

After all, it is those who have a deep and real inner life
who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.
Evelyn Underhill, Theologian & Mystic (1875-1941)

Wow. Has anyone ever read or seen this quote before? Well, I hadn't until this morning... and it sums up exactly what my thoughts are about the past few weeks...

Details... details... details...

Invitations printed - check
Invitations mailed - check
Outfit chosen - check

Daily meditation & prayer - check

Schedule for the weekend of vows - check
Menus planned - check
"Who's doing what" planned - check
Flowers - check

Daily meditation and prayer - check

Music for the Liturgy... communications about rehearsals... worship aid/program... organizing reply cards... DAILY MEDITATION AND PRAYER... call the caterer... choose a cake... check in with family coming into town... DAILY MEDITATION AND PRAYER...

And don't forget to reflect on the deeper meaning of what all this about!! - "God alone," as our Foundress, Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon, often said. Everything - for God's glory... to serve along side of Mary in bringing Christ to the world... a life commitment of poverty, chastity and obedience...

Parking?! Reserved signs?? Choir mics...

Details... details... and more details...

This stream of consciousness is "where I am" these days. It's only because of God's infinite grace that I'm not consumed with details (God's grace working through my Sisters, my family, my friends, my prayer life...).

One of our Founders, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, said once, "The essential is the interior." That is my foundation. That is my sanity - the interior life. The rest? Unimportant details.

Many blessings to all who read this!
~Sr. N

By the way... I didn't mean to imply that spending time in prayer is just "something else" on my list of things to do! I was just trying to say that it's an essential part of the day... Just a clarification. :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future.
Rather, it is a deepening of the present,
and unless you look for it in the present
you will never find it.
Thomas Merton

So, it's been a little while since my last post. I hadn't even realized how quickly the time passes. I've been back in San Antonio now for a little over 2 weeks. In many ways, life has slowed down A LOT. And yet, in so many other ways, it hasn't slowed down at all!

As you might recall, my time here is specifically for "vow preparation." Some people may wonder what exactly that means. Well... it means that I spend a lot of time reflecting and praying about the commitment I will make in a little over 6 weeks... I have class with Sr. Gretchen (and sometimes other sisters) 3 times a week and reading that accompanies the classes. The reading comes from Church documents, our Sisters' documents/writings, the writings of Marianist brothers/priests and our Rule of Life. And I spend a lot of time just "me and God."

This is quite a different pace than life was in Dayton! However, I am finding this time to be good. I have time to really delve deeply into the inner life... all that God has done in, through, and around me... and the life which I will enter more completely with the profession of vows.

So, I suppose I should say that my "outer life" has slowed down to a considerable crawl... while my inner life is "jumping." :) God's been busy in my life... not that I'm surprised, but I do find it difficult to put it all into words as of right now. Can you imagine, me at a loss for words?? Miracles never cease...

Perhaps that's why I haven't posted lately. Today, though, I decided that I should at least let you know that I'm alive and well... and reflecting on the great mystery of God's infinite love and the call for me to follow in this way. It's a little overwhelming to phrase it that way, but that's where I am!

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, April 10, 2008

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is "thank you," 
it will be enough.
Meister Eckhart

Greetings from San Antonio!

I'm back in Texas to begin my preparations for vows. I'll officially begin next week, however, as I have meetings this weekend for Marianist LIFE.

As I was leaving Dayton yesterday morning... and reflecting on my nearly 11 months of being a novice there... I began to truly reflect upon all the lessons learned, the graces given, the growth through challenges that occurred as a result of being there. There's a lot to process! However, I know one thing for sure. I am grateful!

Although I am returning to Dayton in August to do ministry as a temporary professed, I realized on Tuesday that many things will be different for me upon my return. So, Tuesday evening I was able to bring some closure to my time there. How?? Through prayer and celebration, of course!

Our community celebrates Eucharist together once a week - Tuesday evenings. This Tuesday we invited over the 5 SM novices (the 2 second year novices returned to the novitiate to begin their preparations for vows), the SM novice director (who is my spiritual director), the SM assistant novice director and 2 young women who are discerning religious life. So, we had a beautiful Eucharist followed by a wonderful and festive meal! We had a great time and I was able to thank them for their support throughout my time there. Pictured above are the 7 Marianist novices for 2007-2008. 

Wednesday morning, as I was preparing to leave the house for the airport, the doorbell rang. No one was expecting visitors so I was a little surprised. Then, in walked a few members of the Embers Community - the Lay Marianist group of students with whom I have worked during my time in Dayton. They walked over, in the rain, just to say good-bye. By the time I return, they will have graduated and moved on to volunteer opportunities or graduate school. I will miss working with them a great deal!

There is much more I could say. And as I reflect more upon my time in Dayton, I am certain that I'll have much to share. But for now, I have to be going.

Easter Blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, March 31, 2008

Jesus said to them again, 
"Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
John 20: 21

Guess what?! I returned from the conference to find a congratulatory e-mail... I have been approved to profess first vows! I will receive the official "hard copy" when I return to San Antonio in a little less than 2 weeks to begin preparation for profession.

So, how does that feel? I was reflecting on this very question yesterday... It's overwhelming in a way. The approval makes everything more "real" in a way that's difficult to explain. It's exciting... it's awe-inspiring... This profession of vows, although temporary, is such an important step - an affirmation of a call received, a "yes" in faith, a commitment to the Marianist Sisters... 

Moving forward in faith with no knowledge of what might be ahead isn't always easy (especially for me!). Yesterday's Gospel states, though, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." What a perfect reading! It was somewhat like another conformation of the next step. "Yes, Nicole, be at peace. I'm the one sending you." 

I have to get going now as the day will most likely be fairly full. However, I wanted to post the good news before too much time had passed...

Much Easter peace & joy to those who read this,
Sr. N

Monday, March 24, 2008

I bless the Lord who counsels me... 
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, 
my body, too, abides in confidence...
Psalm 16: 7, 9
(Responsorial Psalm - Monday March 24)

Happy Easter!

Since it's been over 3 weeks since my last post, I have a lot to share with you all... I don't even know where to begin...!

I'll start by saying something some people find odd... I've always liked Lent. Yes, it's true, I must admit. I'm sure you may be wondering why. It's because Lent has always been a fruitful time of growth for me. This year was no exception! I had a good Lent... it seemed quick, though. 

As I stated in my two most recent posts, I wrote my letter to our leadership team requesting first vows. Then, during Lent, I went through the second phase of approval. Each sister wrote to our leadership team about whether or not she believed I was ready to profess vows and why. Then, the sisters with whom I live here in Dayton met with me one-on-one to discuss the letter... It sounds scary, doesn't it? Well, I assure you, it was probably one of the most reassuring, positive, affirming processes I've experienced. No, it wasn't all about patting me on the back and telling me what a good person everybody thinks I am... although, each meeting had some element of that *smile*... It was more of an evaluation than that, but so affirming nonetheless.

It was an opportunity for me to see myself through the eyes of my sisters. There were some very touching moments when I had someone tell me how I've been "sister" to her... why she's glad that to live with me... and the way(s) in which I exhibit characteristics of our foundress. Then, of course, there were bits and pieces of how each has seen me grow and the hopes that growth will continue. 

So, I guess one could say that it affirmed that God has, indeed, called me to be here... this life "fits," so to speak. In that way, and in many others, Lent was really good for me.

Now, I await a letter from our leadership team granting approval for vows. In a way, this Easter season will be a little like Advent - joyful expectation. However, I can't lose sight of the fact that it is actually Easter...

If Lent was really good, the Triduum - my favorite 3 days of the liturgical year - was incredible. 

On Holy Thursday evening our community joined the SM novitiate community for an intimate celebration of Eucharist. We started with a "festive" meal... lamb, asparagus, wine etc. Then we moved to the Liturgy of the Word and the Washing of the Feet. It was beautiful, really. After the Liturgy of the Eucharist we processed from their main chapel into a smaller chapel in the house where the altar of repose was. It was really a nice, simple, meaningful liturgy. Sisters Leanne and Laura and I provided the music for the celebration. I think the brothers appreciated it.

Good Friday began with morning prayer in our chapel. One of our sisters led us through an abbreviated Tenebrae service, which I've never seen before. A good explanation of Tenebrae can be found at
We had a few candles (5 or 6) and we read and sang Psalms of lament. It was very moving, really, because after each Psalm a candle was blown out. It thought it was moving, anyway.  

Then at noon we joined approximately 100 people downtown for a Lenten Stations of the Cross for justice. We walked to various places down town carrying wooden crosses with issues of justice written on them. We stopped in front of various places - the courthouse, a payday lending place, an "adult book store" - and we prayed our stations and sang various refrains to songs ("The Cry of the Poor," "We Are Called," and "Remember Your Love") In all it took about 2 hours. That was also a moving experience.

Most of us then attended the Good Friday services at the Univ. of Dayton at 3pm (those of us singing went immediately after the Stations). There is something about Good Friday music that really moves me. And watching people venerate the cross almost always brings tears to my eyes. Good Friday always reaches a place in my heart that's so vulnerable and there's a sadness that's an overwhelming kind of feeling... but... in a moving sort of way, not a depressing kind of way. Okay, so that probably made no sense. However, let's just say that it's so moving an experience I can not adequately put it into words. That's probably better. *smile*

Holy Saturday morning we began with reflections on the experience of being entombed... and the many ways in which people are in tombs today... and the ways that people experience hopelessness like the disciples must have felt on the original Holy Saturday. So, that could have been depressing... if we didn't already know that life triumphs and Jesus rose!

The day was filled with baking, cooking, decorating and other preparations for the Easter feast. 

Our entire community, then, joined the UD community for the celebration of the Vigil... at 9pm. Having grown up in the central time zone, I'm not used to starting a vigil so late at night. But everything here begins an hour later than I'm used to. Anyway, the Vigil was beautiful... of course. It's my favorite Liturgy of the year. There were not any baptisms, but there were confirmations/full reception in the Church. The ritual was rich... and the symbolism beautiful throughout the celebration. And of course the music! Magnificent!

By the time we got home it was nearly midnight...

Easter morning there was more cooking and decorating to do... Then, we had our Easter feast from 1pm until around 3pm. And what a feast! We had 3 guests... great conversation... lots of laughter... good prayer... and, of course, LOTS of food! It was a good afternoon... In the midst of all that, I had time to talk to both my sisters, my dad, about 10 minutes with my best friend and I spent time in person with a few friends in the evening. 

So, it's been a full few weeks!!!!

Today, I'm off to Indianapolis for a week. I'm going to be at the National Catholic Educators Association annual conference. I'm not going as a participant, though. I'm going as an exhibitor. I'll be in the Marianist booth giving out vocations material as well as a set of lesson plans we developed to help religion/theology teachers talk with their students about religious life and/or vocation in general. I was part of a team that worked on the lesson plans. I did a 5-day until for high school theology teachers. Anyway, if anyone who reads this blog is going to be in Indy at the conference, stop by our booth! I'll be there with a few of our SM brothers. I'm looking forward to it. I'm also excited about the fact that I'll be staying at my sisters' house instead of at the hotel. That's very cool.

Well, I'm soon going to be off to Mass so I have to be going. 

Many blessings for abundant Easter joy to all who read this!
~Sr. N

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things;
the past is gone, the future is not come,
and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it,
and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires.
~Charles Caleb Colton

It's March! Can you believe it? Anyone know what happened to February?? Strange isn't it? I haven't been more busy lately than I was in January... or so I thought. And yet, I blinked an a whole 29 days were gone! Life is so bizarre sometimes.

The last time I wrote I was reflecting on the writing of a letter requesting vows. Now, the letter has been sent (along with a lengthy self-evaluation... lengthy because I know not how to be brief when I write). The next step in the process is for the Sisters with whom I've lived to also complete a short evaluation which our leadership team will use, in conjunction with mine, to grant approval (if that be the case). I should know at some point in the first week of April. 

And again... I can't believe that's only 1 month away. Shortly thereafter, if approval is granted, I will return to San Antonio for vow preparation - 2 months in length.

During my first year of novitiate I kept a journal on what I was learning about the vows. Some of you may recall reading some of what I wrote about the vows during that time. I'm looking forward to revisiting that journal when I return to San Antonio. I know that it will provide much "food for prayer."

Currently, as you might remember, I am focusing on trust in God. Lent... waiting for approval for vows... enduring the cold winter months... all are PERFECT reasons to have reminders of God's faithfulness. Last night we had a supper/prayer/faith-sharing gathering with women connected with the Univ. of Dayton. We do this once a month and typically we have mostly students who come over seeking some quiet time for prayer and reflection as well as a place to share their struggles in faith. Last night, Sr. Leanne, focused on leaning on God and being sheltered under God's wings. At one point, before each of us had a chance for quiet reflection, she asked us to draw a slip of paper from a vase. Each slip had a different sentence for prayerful thought. What did I take out??

Isaiah 43:1-2 ~
Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the water, I will be with you.
In the rivers you shall not drown.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned;
the flames shall not consume you.

Crazy, isn't it?? It just fits right in with the rest of Lent. And what a comforting thought, "you are mine." Of course, now I have "On Eagle's Wings" stuck in my head - the song that has meaning I like, but a melody I can do without...

So, rest assured, I'm still here! It's just that February got away from me before I could post again. 

Prayers for your Lenten journey,
Sr. N

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk... 
to a land that I will show you... 
Abram went as the Lord directed him.
Genesis 12: 1a, 4a
God has a way of getting a point across in my life that always makes me laugh. When God wants to let me know something, I seem to be bombarded with the same message in both subtle and obvious ways... through random conversations, prayer, Scripture, and circumstances. 

Allow me to explain.

Right now I am at an interesting point in formation. In our congregation when a person discerns that she would like to profess first vows, she writes a letter to our leadership team requesting approval. Now, when I first realized that a letter had to be written I really didn't think it was that big of a deal. "All I had to do" is put in writing that I would like to make vows. 

I don't know what I was thinking! *smile* 

The letter is due at the end of this month. And as I sat to write a draft (or just some thoughts) it occurred to me -  this is no small matter! Why am I asking for vows? Why do I believe it's the next step? Am I ready? What does this mean? Am I worthy? Why should the Sisters approve such a request?

All these questions have flooded my mind. Not because I doubt that God has called me to this step, but because I thought I had to justify it or prove it somehow. Silly me. That's when God started bombarding me with something. What's that? God's been saying, "TRUST ME!" 

It all started on Ash Wednesday. One of our founders, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, created a systematic way for people to grow in holiness. It's called the "system of virtues." There are 14 total virtues/attitudes/dispositions that Fr. Chaminade believed would help a person grow. One of our Marianists priests, Fr. Joe Lackner, explains it this way: 

Like any system, there are logical components to Fr. Chaminade's method of growing in virtue. Like any system, it requires us to know the parts and to commit to engaging in the various elements. However, it is not a process of climbing a ladder - it is more like journeying on a complex path with many twists, turns, and crossovers. We will sometimes find ourselves traveling back over familiar ground, but with a new sense of the journey.

Anyway, our community here in Dayton decided that this Lent it would be a good idea for the community to revisit these virtues. We decided that each person would choose a virtue, read about it, pray with it and seek to grow in it during Lent. So, I typed up the list of virtues, cut them into strips, folded them and placed them in a bowl for people to pick. I picked my virtue the morning of Ash Wednesday. What did I pick? A virtue called, "confidence in God." Clue #1.

Then, last week I was talking with my spiritual director about the letter. He says to me, "God can be trusted in the unknown and the unseen and that's enough. In fact, that's all there is." Clue #2.

Now... the readings for the weekend... the reoccurring theme in the readings is "God can be trusted." Clue #3.

Everything is crying out to me, "Trust God, silly girl!" I don't have to understand... I don't have to know where the road is leading... I don't even have to "be good enough." It's all about trust.

And so... I approach the letter I'm writing with a completely different attitude. I don't have to prove that I'm worthy (because, truth be told, there's no way anyone fits that)... that I've learned enough or that I "fit" with this congregation. It's not about that. I'm asking to profess vows because I can trust God - God has called me to be here and I just have to respond "yes." And that's enough... in fact, that's all there is.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, February 04, 2008

Some friendships do not last, 
but some friends are more loyal than family.
Based on Proverbs 18:24

In recent weeks I have been constantly awestruck by the way God works through the people in my life... and how truly blessed I am to have friends like mine. I have amazing friends... and I should not take them for granted.

Do you have people in your life who inspire you to be a better, more authentic person? Are there people around you who ask you how God is moving in your life or with whom you discuss your prayer life? Are there people who laugh with you when life gets absurd? Do you have people in your life who affirm who you are and yet do not lie to you about your faults?

I am blessed because those are all things that my friends do. And it's not that I hadn't realized it before, but in the past few weeks all of this has become apparent in a way that it hadn't before. For instance, one friend of mine and I talked for hours about God's call and our responses. Another few friends of mine inspire me with their faith... and call me to be better just by their very presence. 

God speaks in many ways. As I used to tell my students, "God speaks to us 24/7. We just need to pay attention." I guess you could say that lately I've been paying more attention... and God has spoken volumes to my heart... and it's always exactly what's needed.

So, to my friends who happen upon my blog every once in a while, thank you. Thank you for being an experience of God for me. My gratitude is more immense than I can put into words. Oh... and thank you for your infinite patience with me. 

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

Ah, life. I was doing so well with posting often... then, life got busy and I stepped back from the blog-e-sphere for nearly 20 days.  It's been a great few weeks, though!

This time of year is an important time for Marianists. We celebrate the lives and legacies of two of our founders - Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon and Blessed William Joseph Chaminade... we celebrate our charism as a Marianist family - lay and religious, women and men - working together to bring forth the Reign of God... we examine the challenges of being a Marianist in today's world and the gifts that we have to offer the world. And, we reflect on our role as "missionaries of Mary" who calls us to "do whatever he tells us" and continually birth Jesus in this world - as community. 

So, needless to say, we've been busy! With prayer services, Masses, dinners, receptions, challenging talks and meetings... all good stuff, of course.

Today, I reflect on the quote above. In the midst of celebrating our heritage, I have also been busy working with the UD Lay Marianist Community and in meetings for the Marianist LIFE program (for high school students). The Lay Marianist Community (their name is the Embers Community) made their commitment on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Now, with most of them in their last semester of college, they are struggling to come to some sense of identity and mission... asking themselves, "Who are we as a community?" and "What role do we play in the larger Marianist family, in the Church, in the world?" These are exciting questions, but they are also large questions - and important... Also, last weekend I was in Philadelphia for national meetings for the LIFE program - tonight I have a conference call with the regional team - and in two weeks the regional team (for Marianist LIFE South which takes place in Texas) will meet in person for the first time in preparation for this summer program. 

Why do these two groups - the Embers Community and the 3 teams who work on LIFE programs - bring to mind the above quote? And what does that quote have to do with being Marianist? A LOT! :) The mission of the Marianist Family - and therefore the Embers and the Marianist LIFE program - is big. Our mission can also seem overwhelming and too much for such a small group of people... But, Venerable Adele says it best, 
"Let us then courageously put ourselves to work, not letting ourselves be frightened by the greatness of the task. Let us think only of what we are doing at the moment, of doing it well, for it is only in the fidelity and perfection with which we do our ordinary actions that our progress in virtue consists."

This quote from Adele is also pertinent for me, personally, these days. In the next few weeks I will write the letter to our provincial council requesting first vows. FIRST VOWS! Can we say, "overwhelming?" Not overwhelming in a scary kind of way. More like exciting and "butterflies in the stomach" sort of thing. Does that make sense? These are exciting times for me... but it's "big." And so, I have to remind myself not to be "frightened by the greatness of the task." 

Sorry, my thoughts are a little all over the place today! There's a lot going on in this head of mine... what else is new??

Many blessings to all who read this!
~Sr. N

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I, the Lord, have called you... I formed you... 
to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, 
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
Isaiah 42: 6ab, 7

Wow... it's probably been "forever" since I've posted twice in one week. It's great to have a week in which that's possible!

This weekend I am going to have a very different experience... A priest here in town has asked me to speak at his weekend Masses after the homily. On what? Vocations. 

Needless to say, I'm a little nervous. First, public speaking scares me. Yep. I get really, crazy nervous... my palms sweat, my stomach feels weird, and it takes a lot of energy not to allow the nervousness to show. I'm also nervous, though, because I've never been asked to do something of this "magnitude." It's a large parish... it's in the context of Eucharist - the source and summit of our faith... That's daunting to me! 

So, why did I agree? Well, for one, I need to learn to be okay with public speaking. Not that I see a great deal of it in the future (who knows the future?!), but because I have this sneaking suspicion that this will not be the last time God asks me to stretch outside of my comfort zone. Secondly, I think it's good for people to see that young people (no comments on that! I'm still considered a young adult! :) ) still say yes to religious life. Lastly, it's good for me to reflect on and prepare for something like this... it's like recommitting.

As I was praying with this weekend's readings... and reflecting on this new experience to come this evening and tomorrow morning, I was truly struck by the first reading from Isaiah in the context of the celebration of Jesus' baptism.

We are all called... and formed by God... to give sight to the blind, give release to prisoners, and to bring light to those in darkness... because we are baptized into Jesus' mission. But, not all of us are called to do this in the same way. Though baptism we are all given the graces necessary to participate in Jesus' mission of building the Reign of God. It's just a matter of cooperating and saying "yes." And as St. Paul says elsewhere in Scripture, to each of us are given different gifts, but the same Spirit, the same Lord... the same mission (my word choice...).

Anyway, I just thought I'd share with you what I was praying with this morning...

Other than that my weekend is pretty low-key... thankfully! Last night was a great way to start this weekend. Our community had a simple supper, but sat around the table having a great discussion about religious life and our experiences for a long time. After prayer we played a few rounds of one of our favorite games (RummiKubes, anyone?) and watched some tv together. That's a good way to start the weekend, as far as I'm concerned. 

Next weekend begins my busy semester of travel. I will be out of town or really busy 4 of the next 6 weekends! I'm excited, though. Those of you who have known me for a few years know that this is just getting back to life as "normal" in the life of Nicole! Next weekend I will be in Philadelphia for the first time. I'll be there for meetings, but I'll get a chance to do some sightseeing and visiting with a good friend from high school and his family as well. Two weeks later I'll be in Cape May Pointe for a Marianist young adult retreat (ages 22-35... see, I still fit!). Then... I get to visit Texas... for meetings, of course, but it'll be good to be back anyway!

Well, I'm off to do some community grocery shopping!
Blessings on all who read this!
~ Sr. N

Thursday, January 10, 2008

O my 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.
Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
Foundress of the Marianist Sisters

Today the entire Marianist Family and in particular the Marianist Sisters, celebrate the feast day of one of our founders - Adele. We, the Marianist Family, also enter into two weeks of celebration of our heritage... as another of our founders, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, has his feast day on January 22. These are great days of celebrating our charism!

Last year, on or near this day, I wrote extensively about Adele's legacy (see the archives if you wish!). This year, instead of repeating myself, I wish to share with you a few reasons her spirit has inspired thousands over the years and how her spirit inspires me to live the life of a Marianist Sister...

First of all, Adele was quite the networker! And people think I'm social! Adele, gifted by the spirit with incredible energy, wisdom and "spunk" had a very large "association" of young lay women when she was just in her teens. She realized that after the French Revolution young people needed support to live a Christian life and that the poor needed food, shelter and an education. So what did she do? She started a group... to offer each other support, for prayer, for learning about the faith and for caring for the needs of the poor. The group grew to be about 400 young women all over southwestern France. How? Letter writing. 

And what a letter writer she was! She only lived to be 38 years old, but we have 2 volumes of her letters and know that many were destroyed at some point in history. One of my favorite quotes of hers, that I wish I could live a little more faithfully, is:
Let us make a pact between our heart and our tongue, never to speak when the heart is unsettled. If we had the courage to do this, we would avoid many failings, would acquire many merits, and would draw down graces from heaven. (Letter 301)

Second, Adele was a strong advocate for the poor. You see, she was from a wealthy family... an aristocratic one. But, she refused expensive gifts of lace and silk from her father's journeys... She would rather have stationery for her writing and the rest of the money given to those who needed it. As a young woman she would give out bread from her kitchen door and teach short catechism lessons to those who would come - feeding both body and spirit. She wrote in another letter:
Let us imitate the love of our Blessed Mother. Like her, let us render to all our brothers and sisters the corporal and spiritual services in our power. God considers as done to himself what we do to others. How this should motivate our charity! (Letter 128)

And... she was courageous. I suppose living through the French Revolution could do that. When she and a small group decided that they would become religious, she wrote:
Let us get down to the work with courage and not let ourselves be frightened by the grandeur of the enterprise. Let us concentrate on what we are doing at the present moment, but let us do it well. (Letter 246)

Today we celebrated a special Eucharist at UD during the noon hour. And at one point in the Mass I was reflecting on characteristics of Adele. I prayed, "Adele, pray that I might be bold and full of life... reaching out with courage to those in need... and may I do so, as you did, with love and compassion." 

The Marianist Brothers and Priests published a prayer book for the Marianist Family called "Prayers for Marianists." In this book there is a prayer that Marianists try to say everyday from Jan. 10 - 22. I'd like to share it with you...
Almighty God,
you inspired Father Chaminade 
and Mother Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
to found religious families especially dedicated to Mary.

We ask you to grant us through their intercession
the grace of fidelity to their spirit and vision.
Strengthen our alliance with Mary our Mother
so that we might be formed into the image of her Son.

Grant us a clear vision of the needs of the church and the world,
and give us the courage to respond in faith.

Raise up new vocations in our religious families
so that our work, under the leadership of Mary,
may continue to bring about the reign of God.

We ask this through Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Many blessings to all who read this!
~ Sr. N