Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam! - Habemus monialis!
We have a Pope! - We have a nun!

What a day today has been! 3-13-13... It has been a very moving day, actually.

This morning, while my students were working on proposals for their group semester project, I was typing an e-mail. I noticed that an e-mail came in. Being the curious person I am, I made sure the draft was saved and went to my inbox. I had received an e-mail from our Superior General, Sr. Franca, in Rome. The subject line? "Good news." I knew what it was immediately.

It is difficult for me to describe the emotions I felt as I read that I have been accepted for Perpetual Vows as a Daughter of Mary Immaculate. The Sisters have said yes to my humble request to remain a Marianist Sister for the rest of my life. Wow. Just typing that is exciting and makes me smile. I think the best way to describe how I felt was joy. Plain and simple. No more hypothetically speaking... no more "if I am approved..." That's fantastic. :)

Then, while meeting with 2 coworkers in the library, another co-worker who had open on her laptop turns to tell us, "White smoke... we have a Pope." Thankfully, I didn't have a class during the last period of the day. So I spent the next hour staring at my computer screen with yet another co-worker waiting for the announcement. In fact, I'm not sure many people at school who were not actually in class got any work done during the last period of the day. In our office, everyone's live feed kept freezing (rebuffering? rebuffeting?). It was exciting and nerve wracking. The hour seemed to pass very slowly.

Then... there was a shadow... a movement behind the white curtains on the balcony. Here it comes. The news feed all of us were watching,, was odd. The translator said, "We have a Pope." Then there was silence. After the silence, he heard that his name would be "Francesco." Who was it? What's the name? What did they say? Then, we saw his picture and his name. An Argentinian none of us had ever heard of. He had not been in any of the lists of Papabili I had seen. After his comments, prayer and blessing, I Googled him (of course!). I wanted to know something about our new Pope.

I didn't do any in depth reading, but what I did read was edifying.

Our Sr. Laura said it well on her recent Facebook update: As Cardinal, Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle has contributed to his reputation for humility. He lives in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop's residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation, and he reportedly cooks his own meals.

This was backed up by everything I read. He was an Archbishop "of the people." Someone who traveled to the parishes to get to know the people he served. He was pastoral and concerned about the poor of his country. Our Sisters in Argentina have met him and have been in meetings with him. Their sentiments are positive. To sum it up, "Bergoglio is known for a simple lifestyle and for dedication to social justice."

This disposition was evident in his comments from the balcony. His prayers for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. His request for the prayers of all of us... his comments about the journey all of us travel together... and his appeals to unity. Lastly, I read (again on Facebook) that he took a city bus tonight back to the hotel (not really sure that's true, but it fits what I've read).

Therefore, it makes sense that he would take the name of Francis after St. Francis of Assisi. Francis who loved poverty. Francis once said, "Poverty is the way to salvation, the nurse of humility, and the root of perfection. Its fruits are hidden, but they multiply themselves in infinite ways." Francis was also a man of peace and humility. And the one to whom God gave the mission of rebuilding the Church.

There is more that I can say. However, there are others who have said it better...
I got a phone call this afternoon from a friend in Rome who happened to be at St. Peter's for the announcement. I invite you to check out his blog: Bro. Bob's blog.

I leave you with Pope Francis' final words from the balcony, "Good night and sleep well."
Blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Friday, March 01, 2013

Life moves pretty fast
If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off 
(i.e. one of my favorite 80s movies)

March 1... March 1. ... Maybe if I keep repeating that, the reality will soak in...

Would it surprise any of you if I said I have no idea where February went? If you have tried to keep up with what's going on in my little corner of the world, then there's no way you could be surprised. 

In the course of the last month I have traveled from one coast to the other (within a 7 day period, actually), led two retreats, attended a conference, participated in a number of meetings, completed an interview for Vision Magazine, and tried to keep up with life at work, in community, and in vocations ministry. Needless to say, it was quite the month! Not just for me or for our community, but for our whole Church as we move into this time of transition. Oh, I forgot to mention... WE BOUGHT A HOUSE! Woo hoo!  

Today I am a little reflective about the month gone by. That is, what did I learn aside from the fact that it's probably not a good idea to go from New Jersey to California in a week....

1. There is a lot in my life for which to be grateful. Top among those are the people with whom I am blessed to share this journey. And even though my friends and family go weeks without hearing from me (in some cases, months!), I do not take them for granted. They keep me grounded... they pray for me (thank you!)... they help me laugh, to process, and in general help me stay faithful.

2. Were it not for prayer, I would be a crazy person by now. Perhaps I should say, I would be a crazier person. :) Each day I wake up at a ridiculously early time (by most people's standards). Why? If I don't spend time in personal prayer alone in the morning, I won't do it once the day gets started. This time of prayer gives me a focus... a grounding for my day. In response to someone's question about how much one should pray, St. Francis de Sales offered this word of advice, "Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour." To be fully honest with you, I do not spend an hour in the morning. However, I do recognize the need for a deeper prayer life when the externals of life are chaotic and/or busy. Otherwise, how would someone make it?

3. Being with the Marianist family ~ other vowed religious and lay Marianists ~ is very important to my sense of being a Marianist. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, working with other Marianists always seems right. I suppose another way to say it is, "I am because we are." When the Marianist family is working together in a common mission, ministry or endeavor it seems to me that it is the way it's supposed to be. 

4. Buying a house is a very involved and slightly stressful process. I lived on my own for several years before entering religious life, but I was a renter. Truth be told, I didn't mind apartment life, but my dad was always on my case about "throwing money away" and having nothing to show for it. Well, I am very glad that I didn't try to purchase a house when I lived alone ~ it's overwhelming! Thank you, God, for the fact that we are a community moving through this process and not just two Sisters left on their own (which brings me back to point #1).

5. Every change in the community creates a new community. In the past month, our community has seen a lot of change... and that's not going to change anytime real soon. One of our sisters, Mary Louise, moved to San Antonio. It's an odd thing not to have her around the house anymore. I could always count on her for a good laugh and playful (and often snarky) banter. She always "got" my sense of humor. Not only that, though, she is such a wise & practical presence. Then, just this past weekend, another of our sisters, Audrey, moved into assisted living at Mercy Siena - the same place to which the Marianist Brothers in the area retire. Audrey is a model for many of prayer, living the vow of poverty, and always seeking growth. So, to be without both of them is... different and I miss them. However, we also have Sisters Marcia and Estella living with us now at least for the next several weeks, which has been very good. Next week, a Brazilian Sister from our General Administration in Rome will move in with us while she studies English at the University of Dayton for a few months. Meanwhile, Marcia and I are soon to move into our new community to start our house of discernment - at which point, Estella will return to San Antonio. We're all about adaptation and change these days! And while change can be challenging and adaptation can be slow, it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. Good things are often challenging. That's my experience, anyway.

6. I am moved by the example set forth by Benedict, Pope Emeritus, stepping down from the Papacy. For me, this has been an extraordinary example of humility. I realize that opinions on his Papacy run the gamut,  but I would venture to say that few Catholics have not been effected by this almost unprecedented event. Let us continue to pray for our Church in this time of transition.

And so, there you have it. The past month in a nutshell. And while it was a full month, it was also a blessed month that was full of graced moments. I'm glad I stopped every once in a while to look around - otherwise I may have missed it.

Blessed Lent to you all!
Sr. N