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