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