Sunday, December 26, 2010

Creme Frozee

I was told this evening that I bring a whole new "youth" to Corpus Christi . . . I wonder what sort of youth they had before I arrived??? Actually to tell the truth, they all have just as much youth as I have, it's just mostly in their hearts . . . and in their snowball fighting skills!

If you told me last August that I would be PLAYING in the snow with the sisters with whom I was going to live with I probably would not have believed you--but today would have proved me wrong. Today, the first classified snow storm struck our area, actually the snow is still falling. Maureen and I just came in a little while ago from venturing out for some fun! Snow balls flew shortly after the business of shoveling the walk was complete. Falling across our front lawn I made a beautiful snow angel, I told the girls that when I lie down my true self is revealed!

As we took our frozen selves inside I decided to introduce Kathy and Maureen to Snow Ice Cream, a wonderful creation I discovered out of boredom during last year's snowpocolypse while housebound for days on end. A bowl full of snow, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and a few flicks of the wrist and voila--Snow Ice Cream! Or as Kathy calls it, Creme Frozee!

These unexpected and truly fun moments are strong reminders to me that you can never truly know what something will be like until you step right into the experience of it! Before entering into this adventure I wanted to know everything, to have all my questions answered before I would say "yes." What I have and continue to discover is that there is no way to know what the house looks like on the inside until you walk through the door! I'm so glad I chose to check it out, because what I'm finding is how much I long to stay!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"To Touch and To Be Touched"

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!"--Buddy the Elf

As much as I enjoyed the Advent season this year I must admit it was challenging for me to get into the "Christmas Spirit." Maybe it was my work hours and the inability to find time to go shopping, enjoy company, and simply relax. Maybe it was the lack of true "CHRISTmas" carols played on the radio (if they played that stupid song "last Christmas I gave you my heart . . . " one more time . . . ) Maybe I have just been in a funk.

Whatever the reason I just couldn't find myself ready. That is until Christmas eve night. With the first notes struck on the organ and the voices of the choir melodiously ringing out through Our Lady of Angels Chapel I felt an overwhelming rush of all the spirit I had lacked throughout the season leading up to this moment! Had I not been attempting to control myself for the sake of singing in choir my eyes would have welled up with tears for the immense happiness I felt. I have spoken often lately about the feeling of "home" . . . as we sang Silent Night, beginning our celebration of Christmas together, I again felt that deep sense of "home." It was as if the restlessness of not feeling prepared was a long journey that lead to the place where you find you just belong.

My parents came to Christmas eve Mass at the Motherhouse. I was so thrilled that they came and enjoyed their time with the community. It meant a lot to me to have my two worlds come together in this way! Celebrating the birth of Christ I too celebrate the birthing of new relationships!

It is late, the sky is still and smells of the impending snow predicted to fall for the next two days. I would be remiss to not mention on this cold Christmas night the beauty of last nights homily. Fr. Cyprian's words brought me a new understanding of God's desire to be in relationship with us and my own desire to share those sentiments. He suggests that Jesus came into our world as a baby because God desires to "touch and be touched." Who can resist holding a beautiful baby, cradling him/her in your arms, hugging and kissing him/her? God desires this same relationship with us! "To touch and to be touched." This is God's desire. As I continue to reflect upon this Christmas message I realize the incarnation of Christ in so many of my own relationships. "To touch and to be touched," to love and to be loved, to give and to receive.

Praise you God for the gift of relationships, and bountiful blessings they have brought into my life!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Coming to Birth"

The night is still, even the city air is void of sirens and honking cars, and in the quiet of my room I sit with a grateful heart. A friend the other day expressed that this has been "a great Advent." I am not sure that I can say it was "great," I've had my challenges, but it has been a good one! I believe I received a Christmas card from just about every area chapter in the community, along with countless letters of love and support of my decision to discern following Christ through the radical and challenging call of religious life.

Many sisters ask me how I am doing, with that twinkle in their eye insinuating more than just "how is your day going?" I answer them all honestly and sincerely when I say I am doing fabulously! It's like all of a sudden my entire life makes sense. I think for the longest time I was trying to stuff my circular self into a square hole. Realizing and accepting my "circularness" I find myself slipping easily into place. That is not to say this experience is without challenges, but somehow even the challenges seem less insurmountable when you find the life that fits you.

Advent is about preparation, preparing for both the traditional birth of Christ and the second coming of Christ. I received a Christmas card tonight that very beautifully gave me another lens by which to witness Christ's birth. The sister who sent me this card, along with a beautiful icon of Clare, wrote, "May you be blessed by the grace and wonder of the Incarnation as you continue to live into the mystery of God's continued coming to birth in you!" This I believe defines my Advent 2010, making room for the incarnation to occur within me!

Yesterday a friend shared with me her Advent prayer, a prayer she wrote and has allowed me to share with each of you. Kathy humbly gives authorship to God admitting that she is merely a vessel by which God can continue to speak to the world. She is a woman I admire, a friend I trust, and spiritual companion for which I thank God daily! Tonight, in the quiet of the darkened sky I close with her prayer:

The Advent "yes"

Advent is all about "yes".
It all began with a "yes" and continues in each of us as we say "yes".

Yes to the unknown.
Yes in the darkness.
Yes in the fear.
Yes in uncertainty.
Yes in not knowing our own strength.
Yes in not knowing God's strength.

Yes to potential.
Yes to blind faith.
Yes in trepidation.
Yes in persecution.
Yes in harsh judgement.

Yes to life.
Yes to fullness of Joy.
Yes in hope.
Yes to believing in Love and the One who loves you!!

May Advent bring you to a "yes".
May your relationship with God bring you to more Yeses.
And may your life be a melody of yes, to the god who loves you so dearly!!

May the confidence and comfort of this relationship enable you to say "yes",
Even if the yes is to simply say yes to five minutes of prayer or quiet.
God rejoices in each and every yes we give to Him.

This one small "yes" leads to the life of "yes" we witness in Mary, Jesus, and Joseph.

-Kathy McCauley 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas at Corpus Christi

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .

Here at Corpus Christi we celebrated a surprise Christmas! Our Christmas festivities were planned for this coming Tuesday, but this afternoon, after a few of our plans had changed, we realized that all of us would be home. And so, the stockings hung by the chimney with care were handed out and enjoyed by all!

It's not even December 25th but the spirit of Christmas has been alive and well! We had a fun and entertaining celebration together this evening.

What I have most enjoyed about this year's "Christmas experience" has been our intentional recognition of Advent. Sitting above our mantle is our manger set. Each week of Advent a new piece appeared . . . week one, the sheep were scattered about grazing . . . week two the shepherds joined the herd . . . week three Mary, Joseph, and the donkey appeared at the one end . . . and now with each day that draws us closer to Christ's birth, Mary and Joseph move closer to the stable. Of course the Kings and camel will come in January . . .

Today was truly a great day, filled with a true sense of community. For the first time since I've moved to Corpus Christi, the four of us attended Mass together where we joined Sr. Ann McFadden, who so generously treated us to breakfast afterwards.

We all went about our own business throughout the day, but in the evening after our stocking fun we made soft pretzels together.

And to top off our evening we ate them!

Old traditions were celebrated and new one's created, and that's the beauty of Christmas and Community!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Peace that Follows Answering the Call

Three hours should never be the answer to the question, "how long did it take you to get home from work?" But unfortunately that would be the truth if I were asked that very question this evening . . .

Three hours . . .

If you had told me at 2:30 this afternoon it would take that long I would have called up Pat and Eileen in a nano-second and said, "guess what? You have a visitor spending the night!" I am seriously going to put together an overnight bag to keep in my car for future occasions.

I know, you are probably all sitting there reading this thinking, "but it was only an inch!" Yes, that is true, but apparently an inch of snow in Delaware is the freaking Apocalypse! Sitting on I-95 for about an hour, creeping toward the 202 north exit painstakingly slow, and hearing on the radio that there were THREE accidents around MY EXIT I decided to take my chances exiting on 202 north, calling Joan in hopes of finding the back way.

Joan was wonderful, however, the traffic was not, it took all of five minutes waiting to turn off of 202 to regret getting off the highway! Did I mention that Nature had been calling for the past 30 minutes--I was ignoring her!!!

Joan was very kind in agreeing to stay with me on the phone (don't worry I had my ear piece on!!!) She waited out the insanity with me, and calmed me down when I was stressing out about the other drivers on the road. I'm a country girl deep down and city driving is NOT my forte! It stresses me out, not to mention mother nature becoming increasingly incessant with her calling!!!

I couldn't wait any longer, I felt like a three year old throwing a temper tantrum in the line for the women's restroom at an amusement park, or concert, or baseball game. . .

That Burger King cup from four days ago sat tempting me in the cup holder . . .

I desperately searched for a convenient spot to pull over but the winter shrubbery was quite bare making it difficult to find proper coverage for peeing in public! Not to mention I'm still on the phone with Joan, who claims "pulling my finger" will relieve the pain of holding it all in!

I was reaching my breaking point, in stopped traffic I used my coat to cover myself, and without divulging all my secrets of clothing removal, I went in the cup. All the while I was still talking to Joan about directions, when I rolled down my window to dispose of the contents of the Burger King cup, Joan asked what the noise was. . . I shyly admitted I couldn't wait anymore!

So, my theological reflection on peeing in my car . . . cause you know I have one! Sometimes we have urges, and sometimes they are simply too great to ignore. I believe God is like this in our lives, seriously stay with me, God calls us until we have no choice but to answer the call. God is patient in waiting but God is always there like Nature's call reminding us that there is something greater. This may sound ridiculous to some of you, but that feeling of relief is felt not only with answering Nature's call, but God's call as well. There is a great relief in finally saying "yes" to God. A peace so simple and yet so deeply profound!

Three years ago I sat in a bathroom stall with a friend in Chicago, having been in desperate need of a bathroom we theologized about that relief . . . I think there is something profound that is worth reflecting on, and so I challenge you, the next time you have to go . . . think of the peace that follows!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sisters of Old, Sisters of the West

The wind was gently blowing, the ground beneath where I sat crossed-legged was hard and cold, there was a chill in the air that made me want to retreat to the indoors where the heat was surely roaring--but I felt called to prayer in the most unique way. I was sitting behind Our Lady of Angels Convent in the middle of the cemetery, in front of Sr. Franciscetta Linus' grave asking for prayers.

I never knew Franciscetta, in fact I was nearly 11 months old when she died. I had been walking the grounds around the graves of all the sisters who have gone before, and I felt called to ask for their prayers and support. If we truly believe in what we proclaim then all those sisters are partaking in the communion of saints and for this we should rejoice knowing that we have such special people looking after us!

There was no reason for my choosing this particular sister other than as I walked the rows of stones, reading names, I felt drawn to her, maybe it was the year she died, "1983" the same year I was born, maybe it was her name (which I'm not sure I can even pronounce) but is quite unique, maybe she really did speak to me, calling me into communion with her. For whatever reason the two of our paths have crossed I am certain the Holy Spirit had some work in it!

As I sat there praying that chilly Sunday afternoon, meditating upon my own journey, and asking Sr. Franciscetta to be with me, I felt the incredible presence of the sisters in that grave yard dancing around me. It felt like a mystical communion of saints, the sisters of old dancing about me in joy and support. It was truly an amazing prayer experience, one for which I am sure I will continue to be grateful and of which I will continue to reap the benefits.

Friday I was reminded of this experience when upon arriving home I opened a letter stuffed with greetings from sisters in Tacoma, Washington. Like Sr. Franciscetta, with the exception of two, I have never met these sisters, and yet I feel deeply bound to them. Their words of welcome, love, and support brought tears to my eyes. "You are an answer to prayer and God's Call." "May you feel the love, prayers, and support of the sisters as you journey." "Thank you, Sara, for saying YES and I welcome you to our dear Community." "My prayer for you is that through God's grace and the help of His Most Holy Mother, you will find the peace, joy and contentment that your heart desires, in our way of life!"

I am overwhelmed with the support and love these sisters have offered me! I share in the "hope" that many of them expressed in their letters, that I may one day travel to the West to meet them. For now, through the sisters of old and the sisters of the West and truly the whole community, I know deep in my heart I have found home.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Unimaginable Future

South Wilmington, an abandoned lot, three homeless men, and a windchill factor of 15 degrees. Earlier today my sister shared this image with me, she had just returned from a site visit in which she felt concerned for these men who had no where to go but this deserted lot. The more we talked the more I felt hopeless.

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel through India and Nepal. This reflection was written after experiencing the poverty stricken streets of Delhi.

Shanty towns line the streets--I can only imagine that this might have been the scene in the States during the great depression. Only here there is no depression--this is daily life. Tarps held up by rope tied between trees housing families. Babies playing in trash piles naked from the waist down. Women hanging laundry to dry bushes (I can only imagine where they washed them and it's not an image I wish to retain but fear I should.) Questions rise up in me--do these people have jobs? Where do the children go to school? Do they attend school? How do the "wealthier" Indians view these "street dwellers"? How do they survive? Do they have family? Friends? Do they know they are poor? Street children beg for money--but as much as my heart desires to help them my head knows they are being exploited by adults and will never actually benefit from whatever change I gave. This is poverty--

I am keenly aware f my own wealth, the reality is I probably have more money in my money belt than these people make in a year. What is my Christian responsibility here? It is hard, near impossible for the rich person to enter the gates of heaven. What then does this mean for me? I am the wealthiest 1%--I am not sure I could be poor even if I tried. How do I justify my life? How do I live in the brokenness of Christ? How do I become one with others who are broken? I had no choice in my wealth--it can only be considered gift--if so, how do I share my gift and for what reason has God given this responsibility to me?

Today, this moment, I ask God to bless the poor and broken living in the streets in all cities, in all the countries, in all the world. Bless those who seek justice, and those who simply embrace justice even though unsure of how to attain it. And may the Lord abundantly shower peace and understanding upon the barren, dry, drought inflicted Earth--Amen!

As I re-read these words written a short five months ago I am reminded of those feelings that welled up inside of me as I experienced the poorest of the poor. I am an outsider attempting to live in solidarity with people I can't fully understand. Moments like those I had on the streets of the capital of India and those I have here in hearing or experiencing the poor in my backyard make me feel a bit hopeless.

There is so much poverty in this world, it seems overwhelming. How can I, or we, even make a dent into the needs of our world? I did not have an answer in the streets of Delhi and I don't have an answer now, but I think feeling helpless is not the answer. Even if my efforts make little difference in the greater picture of our world I must work toward something even if it seems hopeless . . .

I shared my feelings of defeat with my sister this afternoon, she said, "I'm sure once you become a nun you will have the ability to do a lot more outreach to the community." In that simple statement she reflected back to me one of my deepest desires pushing me toward pursuing this path. There is love in my heart that is too powerful to hold for a few, I hope that this life brings me the ability to love the world more deeply and that it opens paths to me that as I sit here tonight I cannot even imagine.

I had lunch a few weeks ago with Sr. Marijane, we spoke of saying "yes" and how it is only after our "yes" that God reveals things to us that are better than anything we could have imagined! I look forward to the unimaginable future!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You're Wearing Your Diet Well . . .

"Sara, you're wearing your diet well!" Sr. Anita said from down the hallway after lunch the other day. That's an odd way of putting it, I thought to myself. I am learning all sorts of new expressions for things these past few months, so maybe this was just one of those sayings . . .

I was thinking about it later . . .

Dieting is not usually something you can "see" per say. Of course you can see the effects of a diet, but can you see the diet itself? No, not really. But this is what she was insinuating, that my diet could be seen--I was "wearing" it. This got me thinking. . .

My "diet" is in reality my recent intentional decision to start eating healthier and more proportionally appropriately. Changing one's eating habits is an internal change, it's not typically something that, as Sr. Anita suggests, can be "worn." Yet, this was her wording . . . so the intentional internal shift has caused something visible on the outside.

Interesting . . .

So, how then do we make this happen when speaking about the spiritual life?

This question got me thinking, especially in this season of Advent. How can I "wear my Advent?" As we prepare for the Christmas season, and the second coming of Christ, how can I get spiritually uncovered?

I'm not really sure that I have an answer to this question, but I reckon it has something to do with expressing feelings freely, living truthfully, and being honest to the call within. I think it's worth experimenting with . . . So, this Advent I'm going to work on wearing my Advent!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bundles of Hay and Driving Privileges

A dear friend of mine often calls me a "litur-geek" due to my affection for all things liturgical and my desires to create the environment for what I once heard referred to as "the possibility for the miracle to happen." As I tell the liturgical ministers that I train, doing what we do well matters! Preparing is a vital piece of liturgy. Everyone can tell the difference between the lector who prepared and the lector who is reading the passage for the first time. Could you imagine being an unprepared lector today who had to read about "drunkards" and "orgies"?

This weekend I had an opportunity to spend time catching up with dear friends from college, one of whom is just about as (if not more) "catholic dorky"as I am. Upon arriving at the convent for the night she pulled small bundles of hay out of her suitcase. She explained that we were to each take a bundle as a reminder of how we are preparing for the coming of Christ. I must admit, I laughed at her gesture . . . maybe I just couldn't get over the fact that she had just pulled HAY out of her SUITCASE!

She kindly made enough for the sisters with whom I live. I was still a bit giddy over this concept of praying with bundles of hay throughout the Advent Season, but as I distributed them to the sisters I realized through their genuinely joyous reactions that there is something in this worth reflecting on.

How am I preparing myself for the coming of Christ, not just the baby Jesus but the deeper, more transformative meaning of Advent, the second coming of Christ? This question was also the focus of this evening's homily. After a hilarious retelling of a Black Friday shopping adventure in which Fr. Lowe broke down three attitudes toward Advent through the actions of his nieces and nephew he raised a point that shifted my whole mindset toward the Season of Advent. There are three ways he laid out to enter into Advent. 1) The Placid Nephew--waiting calmly, "I've done it before, I'll do it again, I know the routine." 2) The Ecstatic Niece--so focused on the outcome and excited in the moment that nothing else matters. and 3) The Enraged Niece--"There's nothing here for me, let's move on."

As he spoke I quickly labeled myself the "Ecstatic" one. I am excited to be entering into Advent. As Joan and I sat earlier talking about our elaborate plans for our nativity scene I lit up brighter than a Christmas tree. Just when I was feeling proud of myself for being the one who was excited he made the shift. What if we opened ourselves up in such a way that we truly listened to God's call in our lives and what God's path was for us throughout this season? How different would our journey look?

While it's good to be excited about the season I have to remember that it's not my own journey, I walk this path with Christ and so I must be open to new directions. I cannot let my excitement dictate the path, but God alone must be given the driving privileges!

And so I will keep my bundle of hay this season as a reminder of just that--openness to truly listen to God in my life as I prepare myself for the Christmas Season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Realizations and Wonderings

"Everything happens for a reason." Well, I don't think so!

But I do believe we can give reason to everything!

I have spoken a few times now about my local community and the joy I have found with them. That doesn't mean our lives are utopian, but I really believe the Spirit has brought such amazing gifts into my life through these women.

Last night we went to see Jersey Boys in Philly, what a fantastic time together (this was our "Thanksgiving celebration".) Today we parted in separate directions to visit with family and friends over the holiday, but Sunday we shall all return home to each other.

I don't believe things "happen for a reason" but I do believe that I can find meaning in most things that occur in my life--like when someone in your life has a sudden health issue and you let your mind wonder too far down uncertain and unrealistic paths only to realize for the first time how deeply you love that person. Would I ever wish that health concern upon the person? NO! But am I grateful for the awareness of my feelings for that person? YES!

Meaning is something we seek out, it rarely falls out of the sky landing perfectly in our laps. It goes the same for my discernment. Answers won't just appear, I have to search for them, so as we sat ready to pay the check last night at dinner I thought about how this whole money thing works . . .

What is the budget of a sister and how many pairs of shoes can I buy with it?

My hair products alone bring me to about $20. If the budget I've heard from a number of sisters now is really the budget I'm going to be living than I can tell you now I'm going to need a heart defibrillator! Okay, okay, that's my inner drama queen showing herself. But if I'm really honest with myself, celibacy is cake next to poverty!

Tonight at dinner with my parents and brother-in-law we discussed this future money situation. While I totally recognize that the vow of "poverty" is nothing near living on the streets, I am sure that it's going to be the most challenging aspect of religious life for me. My father once counted my shoe collection, let's just say that number might have been over 40. My family and I soon began to discuss possible loop holes, at which point my mother said, "so are you going to be the first sister to lie about money?" Okay, point taken! Maybe I need to just relax . . .

Kathy pointed out that I will need to really figure out the difference between "want" and "need" but I'm telling you as sure as the day is long sometimes that really cute pair of shoes fall under the "need" category!!!

Oh, I'm doomed . . .

Oops, sorry, reigning in my inner drama queen!

I can do it, I know I can, I think I can . . . stay positive . . . I can!

I hope . . .

So, while I don't believe it all "happens for a reason" I can sit here tonight and share with you that meaning can be found, living this poverty thing is something I will have to intentionally seek out and practice--it won't just come easy to me! But in living it I will grow in my understanding of it, and I will hopefully bring to the world a deeper understanding of transformation through faith.

But in the mean time, Dear Jesus, help me see the goodness of poverty in Francis' eyes . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Takes More Than Fried Bananas

The meal was simple, but the aroma that wafted through the air was filled with the promise of tasty goodness! It was Tuesday night, my night to cook, Joan and Maureen were digging into the fajitas I had prepared at Joan's suggestion (for which I was grateful as earlier that day I had no clue what I was going to prepare for dinner). As an added palatable pleasure I decided to make fried bananas.

As I shared this treat with the girls I rather smartly proclaimed, "I have to do something to earn my keep!" Simultaneously Joan and Maureen had very different reactions. Joan smiled and sweetly said something about not needing to "earn" my keep, they'd keep me anyway. Maureen on the other hand shared her sarcastic side by quickly blurting out, "it's gonna take more than fried bananas girl!" to which the three of us burst into laughter!

That Sr. Maureen, she's quick on her feet in a way that comes out of no where!

These two reactions have been on my mind throughout this week, partly because the title "It Takes More Than Fried Bananas" was just too good to pass up, but also because I think the two reactions are profound examples of my favorite two aspects of the community we have built here at Corpus Christi--Love and Laughter.

I truly feel loved here. There are times I walk through the door after a difficult and challenging day to sisters sitting in the prayer room welcoming me home. They embrace me as I am, listening to me, and supporting me. I remember days when I would return home to an empty apartment I desperately attempted to make "home." I think my definition of home will always include people with whom to share my life.

They say 8 minutes of hard laughter is just as good as an 8 minute ab workout, let me tell you if that were truly the case we would be well on our way to flat and toned tummies in this convent! I am thrilled to be in a community that understands the importance of fun! It is through the silly moments that I become more closely bound to my sisters!

And so yes Maureen, you are correct! It DOES take more than fried bananas, it takes the love to be real and compassionate and the laughter to embrace the totality of the human soul. It is through the offering of these two pieces of ourselves that we find our keep!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Community Away from Community

The clock was minutes away from striking five pm, the mark of the end of the typical work day. My job, however, is far from being typical. Our inter-religious faith sharing group, which I am responsible for facilitating, was meeting later in the evening and I had an hour to figure out what to do for dinner. Driving home between events is no longer a possibility; I am no longer living ten minutes away. In fact adding it all up I've come to realize I drive close to 200 miles a week, putting me in my car for about an hour to an hour and half each day. I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

From 2006-2008 I lived and worked at the same place, I put less than 10,000 miles on my car per year and that INCLUDED driving back and forth from Dayton, OH to West Chester, PA to visit family. To say the least I had become spoiled. So, back in August when it was shared with me that I would have a "longer" commute I was all but throwing a temper tantrum. Actually if I'm really honest with myself, I did throw a temper tantrum, I just did it by myself behind closed doors!

In some ways I think my humanness gets in the way of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is definitely tiresome and frustrating to have the commute that I have (especially given the nature of my work, it's not exactly nine to five), and in many ways it makes this time difficult. I sometimes feel like I am unable to please people because I am pulled in so many directions. BUT, at the same time, I would not want to change my living situation for the world. It's an odd paradox in which I find myself.

But in this paradoxical existence I have discovered yet another aspect of community living for which I have become most grateful, and that is my community away from community. Sisters Pat and Eileen have been more than gracious to me in giving me a place to rest in the in-between. They have fed me, given me shelter, and a place to lay my head when my ministry becomes demanding in ways that make traveling home difficult. I can only imagine how thankful I will be if we have the winter we had last year! 45 minutes on icy roads is just not how I want to spend my winter months!

Their generosity of spirit and hospitality has made me to realize the beauty of community. My local community is immensely important to me, but they are a part of the whole that makes this life worth living. Just because my technical address/residence is here does not mean that it is the only place I can experience as "home."

A home is something beyond the brick that makes this house, home is a sense of family and belonging. Whether I am in Delaware, across the street from work, or having dinner with other local communities I have found home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


There is a show on the discovery channel that I think is worth comparing to my current adventure in life. Mythbusters is a show in which two guys take a commonly accepted belief from the big screen and test its truthfulness in reality. Ever watch a guy scale the inside of an air vent using magnetic shoes and gloves? BUSTED! While it's technically possible the magnets would have to be so strong that the person would 1) need to be fairly strong to move the magnets and 2) be so obnoxiously loud that they would NOT be under the radar per say . . . which I'm guessing if your scaling the inside of an air vent in place of taking the elevator you probably want to go undetected!

Well, much like this show busts and confirms the proposed truths of Hollywood, I hope that this year and this experience of writing allows me the space to confirm the truths and bust the myths of religious life. Let's call it Faith-busters!

Tonight's episode I will share with you the image of religious life held by (I would estimate) MANY of this country's population. What is a nun? She is most likely wearing a habit, carrying around a ruler and clicker, she probably never smiles, and when she's not in school teaching children, she's in the convent praying. Well, maybe not EVERYONE has this view, but some variation of it I'm sure creeps into the minds of most.

First off, a "nun" is typically cloistered and therefore would not be seen walking around let alone teaching . . . but as most use the word "nun" and "religious sister" interchangeably I will continue by sharing that this "MYTH" is BUSTED!

What I can confirm this evening is that a convent is not just about praying 24-7. In fact while washing and drying the dishes tonight my convent erupted with laughter as we took our dish towels, twirled them between our hands and swung at each other! Like children horsing around while their parent looked the other way we went at each other through laughter and playful banter. I suppose it would be important to share that this digression into childhood came from our dinner conversation in which we all shared stories about ourselves as rebellious and ditsy teens. Those things that we probably shouldn't be too proud of, and in reality should never have done, but boy don't they make great stories now?!

When I tell people that we pray together as a community most mornings at 6:30 I am met with questions concerning our lives. Is that all we do? Pray? The reality is that's not all that there is, in fact I believe that prayer leads us to everything else. Firm foundations in faith bring us to places of confidence that give us the freedom to be silly! Making prayer the center of our lives without it being the only thing that encompasses our lives leads us into deeper relationship with Christ. So, by no means do I wish to discount the importance of prayer but what I would ABSOLUTELY like to emphasize is that playful banter can also bring us great understanding of God in our world. After all, I think Jesus was a funny dude, we just miss it in the historical context of scripture.

So, religious sisters sitting alone all day praying is BUSTED by Faith-Busters! In place I wish to leave you all with this image, the image of the family. Living in a convent is much like living in a family . . . you have your responsibilities within the household: your nights to cook dinner, your chores, your days to lead prayers, etc. But along with those responsibilities also comes the fun things that keep you connected as a unit!

So please, take that decrepid image of "NUN" out of your head and replace it with the reality of living a life devoted to following God's will! I'll tell you, from what I have experienced from a number of the older sisters in the community, it's well worth it!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Midnight Musings

The house is quiet. Everyone sleeping soundly, not even the usual city sirens can be heard, only the occasional clunk of the radiator signaling the promise of warmth. I am tucked into bed and while I typically am sleeping at the point where one day becomes the next I am instead wide-eyed and if I had a tail it would be bushy. . .

There is no real explanation for this burst of alertness, in fact my weekend was exhausting from the festivities surrounding my sister's wedding. The sheer dancing alone should bring sleep upon my body. But alas, I lie awake, thoughts filtering through my brain a mile a minute with a certain certainty creeping into my being--as if something is assuring me of the "rightness" of this time in my life.

While I was away from the convent this weekend I felt a yearning to return, I was happy to be with my family and we had an amazing weekend together, but driving home I felt a comfort settle in my heart. I am on the other side of our first misunderstandings as a community and so thankful for the openness of all to be in conversation with each other and myself. But there was something about that moment around the dinner table that made me feel like I belong more so than I have thus far.

This afternoon I was helping two of the sisters with a project that has recently been consuming their time. I believe there are many reasons why God has brought me to Corpus Christi, but sitting around the table, working together, I felt my gifts and passions were appreciated and accepted in ways that gave me great confidence. I have felt appreciated from the first moment I joined the community here, but there was something unexplainably significant about today.

During my sister's wedding the priest read a letter that my sister wrote about her intentions of marrying her fiancee. She explained that what she most cherished about their relationship was that they "wanted" each other, they did not "need" each other. I think there is something very profound about this mentality. While I do believe we ALL "need" each other I do also believe that it is more important to be wanted, to belong.

And so to reach the point of my midnight musings . . . tonight I sit here with a deep feeling of being wanted, and isn't that what we all desire most in life? I feel fulfilled in my desire for being wanted (and while the sisters with whom I live could argue this, I sort of have a hunch they would agree!) And to be honest, I want them too!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Where the Earth Meets the Sky

How often do we stop in our busy lives to witness the majestic wave of God's paint brush wisp across the heavens painting the backdrop of the golden sun sinking into the place where the earth meets the sky? There is something quite profound about a sunset. Everyday it is the same ball of fire, everyday it is the same sky, and yet everyday it is magically and wonderfully different! Sometimes deep oranges streak the horizon while other times purple clouds filter rays of light.Sunsets have always touched my soul on a deep and personal level. They act as a stop sign to witness God's beauty. Sometimes I leave work at the exact moment when the sun is sliding behind the trees over the turf field, lately I have been convincing myself to stop, breathe, and experience the beauty. I believe that if there is any moment where I can most feel the presence of an all loving God it is in that moment when my eyes meet brother sun saying goodnight to a world in need of rest. The sunset is an invitation to relax, to "be still and know" God's love and presence.

Five months ago I sat with Sr. Mary Beth in a quiet hotel parking lot in Denver, Colorado. Having spent the last six days with students working in Ethete, Wyoming with Sr. Teresa Frawley, we were resting for one final day before heading back east. Few words were shared between us as we witnessed the majestic Rocky Mountains bathed in shades of purple and pink as the sun sank behind them. Rays of light shot upward behind clouds creating a surreal effect. As we sat and watched the day turn to night I felt tears well up inside of me. How could one sit and experience such awesome beauty and not believe in God. My heart broke in that moment for everyone who did not feel that celestial love.

A year and a half ago I headed west with my two best girlfriends. Three women, a trunk full of clothes and camping gear, a cooler in the backseat, and a chevy cavalier. We were most blessed to be on the road and without a plan. Although we loosely planned our travels we stopped when we felt like it, changed directions as we felt called, and ate when our bodies told us we needed it. There is something so right about the freedom of that trip, as if that is how we are meant to live, without a map, without a plan, just a feeling and a call.

Where the earth meets the sky, that is where I embrace God, that is when I feel wrapped in love, that is where God's voice is so loud that it is impossible to ignore . . . where the earth meets the sky.

Lake Superior, 2008, camping trip in Northern Michigan with two friends celebrating our graduating Graduate School.

Wheat field, somewhere in Kansas, 9 hours of road behind us, 3 more to go. We sat and watched the sunset anyway.

Just past Lake Powell, Arizona, Grand Canyon bound.

Arizona desert, sometimes the reflection of the sunset is just as beautiful, sometimes you just have to turn around.

Grand Canyon, June 2009.

The Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tumkur, India, summer 2010 visiting a friend.

Foothills of the Himalayas, Nepal summer 2010.

And you don't have to travel somewhere exotic: Reading, Pennsylvania, Fall 2008.

February 14, 2010. My front yard, photo taken by my daddy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reflections: Mirrors into our Souls

It's time for bed. Pajamas on, tucked in under heavy blankets, space heater humming away, alarm set for the awful hour of 6 am, and I cannot sleep! I am high on the excitement of a wonderful night. I spent this evening with a fantastic sister, a woman I have felt drawn to and captivated by for a while. We enjoyed each other's company over a delicious meal, sharing stories, faith, laughter, and learning a little more about each other.

In the context of our conversing we talked a little bit about my blogging experience. She shared a unique perspective with me tonight on her own experience of reading my blog. She expressed that what was particularly enjoyable was that my writing reflects back to the sisters their own lives. As I sit here tonight, contemplating this thought of reflection, I cannot help but love the image of a mirror. We are mirrors into each other's souls, what I reflect back to you assures you of your faithful following of God's call in your life. Just as what you reflect back to me assures me of my own desire to live the life to which so many of you have said, "yes!"

It seems lately there is a theme emerging in my writing, a theme of the desire for and need of community in discovering who exactly I am called to be in this life. I spoke last week of the cyclical nature of inspiration, and tonight I speak of reflecting to each other our true selves. If I can be my true self, and the community can reflect that back to me, then I must be on the right path . . .

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"A Cajun Killing"

It's August 1905, we were three days on the Magnolia Queen cruising down the Mississippi when tragedy struck! Benton Thorne IV was MURDERED, stabbed to death in his state room! Everyone had their reasons for not liking the man, but who felt strongly enough about it to kill him?!

This was the big question Friday night when Rose Thorne, Captain Jack LeBad, Marty Graw, Candy Barr, Allie Gator, and Rag Time Joe gathered over dinner to solve a murder!

Among the suspects a few Sisters of Saint Francis showed up to cast blame on who they thought done it!

What better way to celebrate Halloween weekend than with a Murder Mystery Dinner Party?! A fun time was had by all as we uncovered the truth behind the characters present.

As I sit here sharing, knowing that my blog is about discerning religious life, I feel I must reflect for a moment on why I am writing about this particular evening. It is actually not hard to come up with a reason for sharing. Too often religious life is placed into a box, a box that is quite narrow. This box is simply not the reality! Sisters choose to live their lives in intentional community, praying, eating, sharing, and caring for each other, but they also have fun, laugh, party, and enjoy one another's company like any single or married person would!

Living in community has been one of the greatest gifts of my discernment. We are all very much a like and very much different all at the same time. We don't just coexist like roommates sharing an apartment, we live together as family. We care about what each person thinks and feels, which sometimes can be a challenge when we don't understand where the other is coming from . . . but in the end we choose to love!

Many people have asked me if I'm really going to be able to "give up" what is required to be a sister . . . but the reality is that I will be gaining so much more than I could have imagined.

Friday night I played Allie Gator, a young and beautiful girl disguised as a dock boy to stow away on the Magnolia Queen. I was not who I appeared to be, but in time, through questioning, my true identity was revealed! I think there is a connection to be made here . . . religious life, like questioning the suspects onboard the riverboat, is something worth discovering!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Inspiration is Cyclical

You just never know how your life can inspire others. You go about your life, you work, you feel overwhelmed by the ten thousand things on the back burner that you left the kitchen forgetting about, and then one day you walk home and there is a small green envelope sitting outside your door. A very dear friend with whom you have not spoken to in an embarrassingly long time has dropped you the most beautiful letter that has turned your day from one of shambles into smiles.

That dear friend is mine, and that letter was outside my door upon arriving home from work late this evening. On a day I most felt alone in this world I received a beautifully written letter that reminded me that I am loved. This friend wrote to me to share that I had become an inspiration in her life, that my decision to discern religious life in today's society has inspired her, little does she know of the many times she has inspired me to leap!

I want to share her words, not only because they are beautifully written, but because their meaning is so profound that I want to share it in hopes that it may inspire others.

She writes, "your discernment is an inspiration, Sara. I mean that in all truthfulness--I am inspired by your journey of discernment, by your leap of faith, by your actively searching for your calling, by your ability to live, love, grow and pray through any fear that accompanies this life shift, change, decision."

Well friend, if I'm completely honest you were a major part of my leap of faith. You have jumped so many times in your own faith life into the unknown worlds that have brought you into deeper relationship with God's people in such a way that I was the one who was inspired!

Inspiration is cyclical! In the greatest experience of Christian community we continually inspire each other into life changes that draw us deeper into the reality of the paschal mystery. Your life calls me to honestly follow God's call in my own life which in turn draws you deeper into your own vocational call. How cool is that?!

Tonight I set my frustration of life aside and sit in the silence of this dark and quiet night to thank God for this friend. Though distance and time have attempted to make their mark on our friendship God has drawn us ever closer. I love you friend and I too pray for your discernment. Si Dios quiere. Dios te bendiga, te amo siempre!

Friday, October 22, 2010

In Sickness and in Health, Live Community!

It seems to me that the body knows something that the mind fails to recognize, or maybe it is simply that the mind has the ability to ignore things that the body cannot, or will not. I recently wrote about the challenge of balancing the many things I juggle in life. After this week I would be remiss to not admit that I was struggling more than I had originally shared. I did not purposefully neglect to share, but truthfully speaking I am not sure I totally understood it myself.

Tuesday morning I woke up terribly ill, what my mind had been suppressing for a while now was made evident in my body this week. Bed ridden and house bound for three days I spent much time thinking about my schedule and my priorities in life. And while I am unfortunately not in a position to change the challenges in my schedule I am aware of them in a way that hopefully will help me in the future. The reality at this point in life; however, is that too many life situations have collided at once, making it difficult to focus fully on any one thing--hence the challenge of juggling . . .

Again this week, my community has taught me something about myself and my desire for community living. For a few years now I have been on my own. I remember living in Reading, by myself, and getting deathly ill. I was so sick that I did not get medication for a few days because I did not have the strength to drive myself to the drug store. This week my community really took care of me, in ways I have not experienced since my parents took care of me when I was sick as a child. It's nice. It's nice to be cared for and about, it's nice to know you're not alone, it's nice to be asked how you're feeling, it's just nice!

This week was a sure example to me of my deep desire, in sickness and in health to live community!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Corn Syrup Arms Versus the Rotted Rubber Band

Did you ever play with a Stretch Armstrong doll? I use to play with one when I was a young girl, I remember my best friend had one, we were amazed at how far Stretch could stretch without breaking in half. Sometimes we would put the full force of our weight on him, pulling in opposition. Never did he crumble.

Unfortunately I am no Stretch Armstrong. My limbs are not made of corn syrup filled latex. And so when I am stretched I react much more like a rotted rubber band that snaps in two than the action figure that always returns to his original size.

Community, work, family, and friends has become a balancing act for which I was not completely prepared. I wish that I could be home more often, at dinner more frequently with my community, I suppose what it comes down to is wishing to either be endowed with super human powers or to be granted more hours in each day. Seeing as neither one of those outcomes are likely ones I better keep working on balance.

Life situations at present make this balance a challenge, I am hoping that in a few months things will settle down and I will have a little more time to myself. I am feeling very low energy lately and worried that I'm running myself into the ground. But I am also not so sure I know what to do about it. I cannot simply not go to work (although sometimes I'd like to), I cannot disengage from family or community obligations (and would not want to), and at least every once in a while I would like to see my friends (because it's important to).

This is where I turn to Saint Jude, Patron Saint of Lost Causes, because the reality is I am not sure how to find balance in my life right now.

There is however, one thing that makes the imbalance livable, and that is a community that supports me through the craziness. One of the things that has most surprised me about my community is there willingness to work with my schedule and to support me emotionally and physically through the uneven terrain I maneuver.

Saturday, as part of the Homecoming festivities at work, I performed in a faculty/staff talent show to raise money for a scholarship. I assumed, due to the late hour, and the distance my work is from home, that my community would not be able to make it. I was completely surprised then when I walked out of the dressing room and saw them standing there ready for the show! I almost cried, of course I'm an emotional person so really that does not say much, HOWEVER, they truly made my night, and I hope that they realize that!

So when the rotted rubber band is winning the battle of balance in my life and I feel like I'm ready to snap in half, I am thankful for the understanding and supportive community I have been placed into here at Corpus Christi.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"You Keep Praying THAT!"

Today I write to share a comical and potentially profound moment. I have found myself thinking often lately about my early years of discernment, the years when I flat out told God to back off, that I was not interested in what was being offered! I would become defensive at the slightest remark or suggestion of my potential ability to become a religious sister.

In the summer of 2004 I spent time living at the Saint Francis Inn in Kensington, Philadelphia volunteering with the mixed Franciscan community there. In a short time I had become attached to the many people with whom I interacted that summer. On my final day there an elderly Irish woman who regularly volunteered her morning hours to serve breakfast sent me forth with these words, "I know, as God as my witness, someday you will return to us as a Franciscan sister." As I respect my elders I did not snap at her with the ferocity I typically expressed at such a comment, she was too gentle for that, and so I resolved to simply smile and say, "you never know." In my head it went more like, "hell no!"

I think in some ways my intense rejection of religious life came more from a deep unconscious belief that it was exactly what I was suppose to be doing with my life but something, in many ways, for which I was not ready. Now, I look back on that white-haired, Irish woman and think, yeah, you're right! I wonder what she saw that I was not willing to see within myself? I was recently told that she has passed away, I hope that she is able to see my life and know what her revelation has done for me.

Last week I was at a Assisi House with Sr. Pat Hutchison and Sr. Mary Ann McCarthy to thank the sisters who had assisted us with preparations for Neumann University's Welcome Back Day. Many of the sisters there helped us fold thousands of note cards that we then distributed to the University community. One of the sisters, at the conclusion of our time together, expressed how happy she was that I was a candidate with the community, and hoped that I would stay put for life. I quickly turned to her and said, "well, I pray every morning that I live as a holy franciscan and die as such in the community!" There was an eruption of laughter, quickly followed by, "AND YOU KEEP PRAYING THAT!"

Well sister, I will!

Holy Father saint francis
be with me and our entire community.
Guide all the labors of our vocation
obtain for us a great love for jesus and his mother
aid us that we may live as holy Franciscans
and die as such in the community.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

That's Crazy Beautiful!

There are two types of crucifixes, those supporting the limp and broken body of a crucified Christ, and those displaying the victorious risen Christ. The San Damiano cross depicts the latter, a risen Christ reaching out to the world. In Assisi, Italy hundreds of centuries ago the Christ of this cross spoke to Francis, "rebuild my Church." These words lead to the full conversion of this young man born into wealth. Francis become poor, dependent, needy to experience the fullness of Christ's suffering and ultimate love.

Today, as I grabbed a quick bite to eat at my desk, I sat and reflected with a woman who I will call my soul friend. My friendship with her is one I deeply cherish for the simplistic environment we create, open and conducive to spiritual sharing. Be it in our office, at a restaurant, in the car, walking through campus, or on the phone, we find ourselves enthralled in spiritual conversation more often than not. I am told these friendships are rare in life, yet I am blessed enough to have a number of them.

Today, as we talked we found ourselves reflecting upon the Christ of the Crucifix. We agreed that the crucified, dead body of Christ was not one with which we felt connected. Rather, we embrace the risen Christ, the "active" Christ. I must give credit where credit is due and so I share that this following piece is a reflection from my soul friend, Kathy. The Risen Christ is an active Christ who reaches out from the cross into the world, our world. I wonder if this caught Francis' attention . . . Francis was a man of action . . . what did he see in the cross?

As we continued talking about the active crucified Christ I had an epiphany. When I was a student at West Chester University, I spent many countless hours in prayer sitting in the small chapel in the Newman Center. I was always captivated by the crucifix that hung above the tabernacle. I often brought my deepest heart's desires to the foot of that cross. As I sit here, a few years removed from that time in my life I realize that the cross that hung in that chapel is the same cross that graces the walls in every Franciscan home, the San Damiano cross. I don't know that I ever knew why the San Damiano cross hung in the Newman Center, but I feel more deeply connected to Francis in knowing that from the first real moments of my discerning religious life I was sitting in front of the very cross that Francis had so long ago.

How cool is God?! I wonder why this connection now? I'm sure I've realized it at other times in my journey, but it was not until today, not until Kathy made the connection of the active Christ reaching out from the cross, that I realized the fuller connection to the Franciscan life. Something drew me into the Franciscan world before I ever met a Franciscan, and that is crazy beautiful!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Two Thumbs Up From Matthew

Two thumbs up from Matthew, that's what I got when Joan introduced me to the students at Corpus Christi School. As we traveled from class to class and grade to grade the students had many good questions: Why do you want to become a sister? Specifically why the Franciscans? When did you know you wanted to be a sister? Out of everyone's reaction, however, Matthew's exuberant "yeah!" accompanied with two thumbs up was by far my favorite.

In some ways I would imagine Matthew's "yeah!" to be similar to the reaction God had when I finally took this latest step. And in many ways it was an expression of my own excitement over this adventure on which I find myself.

I have been living in community for a month now, and every day I'm uncovering new aspects of community that support my yes. This past weekend it was the ability to go away and have fun together that drew me deeper into my understanding of this community. In many ways "praying" together comes easy to me . . . but "playing" together is trickier. There was a moment in the car ride down to Ocean City, Maryland this weekend that I became very aware of . . . how do I put this delicately . . . let's say I became very aware of the fact that I was a bit younger than the others in the car. This very point intrigues many of my friends and family. And to be honest, sometimes it doesn't always make sense to myself, but after this weekend together I can surely say there is something about it that just works!

As we sat on the balcony overlooking the ocean, sharing stories, and laughs I was reminded of the many hours I sat on the porch of the duplex in Dayton with my friends in graduate school. As we played games, watched a movie, ate s'mores, played miniature golf, and simply sat in each other's presence the earlier feeling of the disparity in age disappeared leaving only sisterhood. I felt as I do with any of my friends, free, happy, comfortable, and at peace.

I cannot help but feel the reality of the Christian community through experiences like the one I had this weekend. I think that what we find when we let go of numbers and labels is who we really are inside, which allows us to love more freely. I hope that I am bringing something to this community, but I know that they are bringing something to me. And like Matthew's two thumbs up I too give my two thumbs up!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I am Sister Sunflower

This evening I opened a card, a gift for celebrating the Feast of Saint Francis. On the front of the card was a sunflower. I have always loved sunflowers, in fact I felt at home and happy when Maureen showed me the beautiful sunflowers she had planted in the side yard.

1989 was the year I believe I first gained an affection for the strength and beauty of the flower named after brother sun. I was in second grade and preparing for my first Holy Communion, we were taught a children's song that was suppose to teach us the way of discipleship.

"Like a sunflower, that follows every movement of the sun. So I turn toward you, to honor you, my God."

So simple, but I couldn't think of a better image for the Feast of Saint Francis than that of the sunflower following the path of the sun. If God is the sun, I am the flower constantly turning my head toward my loving creator, the one who gives me life, sustains me with rays of light, and nourishes my every need. Just as Francis lived his life vowed to a gospel way of living, following the movements of God within his soul, I too turn toward God.

As I drove home this evening I was overwhelmed with tears of joy, out of no where I felt emotions welling up and expressing themselves. Have I finally found home? Not the home we live in, or the building that shelters us, but the feeling deep within our souls that assures us of our divine inheritance. I don't know that I really understand the answer to this question at this point in my journey, but there is a build up of hope like the tension of tectonic plates on the verge of a major earthquake, but unlike the destructive outcome of plate tectonics this build up brings immense goodness and joy!

In the quiet of my room this Feast of Saint Francis I sit blessed by God, graced by community, supported by my sisters, entranced by the life of Francis, and captivated with the movement of the Holy Spirit. Trinitarian love bonds me to the reality of the call within my heart, placed there by God. I am a disciple of God, who longs to live the gospel life; I am sister sunflower.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Nun Things" and Apparitions

Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, throughout the history of time the Blessed Mother has appeared to her people. She has taken different forms, has appeared in different places, and has come for different reasons. A few years ago we all heard the news story of the Blessed Mother appearing on the toasted bread of a grilled cheese sandwich. Seriously, stay with me a moment, I'm not making the sacrilegious turn you are fearing . . .

I'm sure This "toasted" vision was the inspiration of the Holy Toast Blessed Mother Stamper, a gift I received from a good friend at work yesterday. As I'm sure the "seasoned" sisters in community would agree making the decision to become a sister suddenly opens up an entire gift market never before experienced--"nun things." I have so far collected the "nun chuck" and "nun bowling" along with this most recent gift.

Tuesday nights I am responsible for putting dinner on the table. I cannot quite tell yet if they were actually joking or not when after the first meal I made two weeks ago they asked what we were having for dessert. I disappointed them that night, but I believe I was able to make it up with last nights treat!

After receiving the Holy Toast Stamper I spent the afternoon trying to figure out a way to incorporate toast into my meal . . . to say the least it wasn't going to work. BUT I had a revelation . . . I could stamp it into sugar cookies!!! So, last night Kathy assisted me in my silly adventure by making Apparition cookies. We kept it a surprise, and so after we were all finished eating I went to retrieve dessert. Upon walking into the kitchen I exclaimed rather shockingly, "OH MY! THE BLESSED MOTHER HAS APPEARED TO US!!!"

We all had a real laugh over the Holy cookies. I know, you're still thinking sacrilegious, but I promise you the reflection is coming! In all seriousness, the blessed mother has always been near and dear to my heart. When I was a young girl I prayed persistently to be like Bernadette, I wanted nothing more in life than for the Blessed Mother to appear to me. (I guess I should have realized then there was something different about me! That's not at the top of most seven year old's lists!)

I attended the University of Dayton for my masters work. Dayton is a Marianist school and so my love of Mary was even further fostered in the environment of the Marianists. Community is one of the most important aspects of the Marianist family, so much so we almost got sick of hearing about it. It wasn't until I left Dayton that I realized how truly powerful and awesome (in the truest sense of the word) the community I had there was.

I woke up this past Monday morning to the realization that I am the happiest I have been since leaving Dayton. I attribute this to community. That is what I most cherished from my time in the mid-west and what I most lacked in the past few years of my life. So as I sit here tonight reflecting upon my Holy cookies and community I realize that yes, it is absolutely appropriate that the Blessed Mother was in our cookies! Okay, maybe I technically stamped her in them, but I believe her presence was with us last night around our table.

I am so blessed, I'm not sure I could have been placed in a more perfect community for this time in my life than with my girls at Corpus Christi. I am growing to love them dearly. I just hope my hoarding drinking glasses and leaving shoes under the table doesn't drive them too crazy :)

Every morning we pray the Angelus together as a community, a prayer of the incarnation of Christ, Christ brought into the world by Mary's yes. May my yes too bring Christ into our world.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Humperdinck Sundays

Engelbert Humperdinck, singer of the 60's, international recording icon, and (although I'm not quite positive, but pretty positive) a man known to make women swoon! It is this man's legacy that has brought a new tradition to Corpus Christi Convent: Humperdinck Sundays.

This tradition was born my first Sunday in community. Jokingly the sisters told me that they thought I should cook them breakfast. I actually thoroughly enjoy cooking and so I agreed to make pancakes . . . from scratch (it's the only real way!)

Fun fact about me . . . I wish life was a musical, if I could have a personal soundtrack constantly running in the background I would be thrilled. For real! Just imagine the fight scene in West Side Story, if we had to dance and sing every time we had disagreements with friends, co-workers, family, we would be a much happier people!

So, as I was preparing pancakes I had music playing . . . so that I could use the spatula as a microphone of course! Yup, I really do that too! Joan was curious if I had music more to her liking. I had a couple songs, but then she asked if I had any Engelbert. "Engel-who?" I replied. I do in fact actually know his music, but I had never heard his name. It was at this point that I introduced them to This online music station allows you to type in an artist or song and then it automatically generates a station filled with similar music.

As I'm sure you can guess by now, our station is called, "Humperdinck." And so, Sunday mornings now consist of pancakes, Humperdinck et al, dancing, singing, and an all around good vibe! We remember "The Way it use to Be" in "Another Time, Another Place" and we say to Engelbert Humperdinck, you're NOT that easy to forget!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Elders Have Spoken

Tonight I recall the names of four elders of the community who have each played a role in bringing me to this place I find myself. Sr. Mary Pat, Sr. Frances, Sr. Rosemary, and Sr. Theodore. Each of these women have in some way inspired me from my earliest interactions with the sisters to my recent years of ministry. Each said yes to a life I am discerning. Each, I believe, has loved the life she chose with no regrets.

February 2004, twenty of us were on our Spring Retreat at the Spiritual Center and Sr. Mary Pat was hosting us. Standing in a circle, in the Canticle room on the fifth floor, holding hands we were being urged by Sr. Mary Pat to dance to the Circle of Life. None of us could say no to her, even the anti-dancers in the group found themselves moving right along to the chanting beat. She had become an extension of our Newman Center community after giving a presentation for the opening prayer of our 30 day retreat with St. Francis of Assisi. Her exuberance for the simple things and energy for life brought happiness to each of our lives. That Spring Retreat she had us each gaze into a mirror to discover the face of Christ. To me she will always be an image of our Lord.

September 2007, after viewing the "new" vocational DVD and having spent the past few months on the phone getting to know Sr. Diane (whose words I fell in love with on the video) I was finally going to meet her. During my weekend stay with her in Rhode Island I was invited to tag along for the farewell celebration of Sr. Frances, and Sr. Rosemary. They were leaving their long-time ministry in Walpole, Massachusetts for Assisi House. Their dedication to their ministry and to each other was beautiful to me. I remember sitting around a sitting room with many of the sisters from New England as they shared stories and laughs with each other. Sr. Frances and Sr. Rosemary have a genuineness about them that is often hard to find in people. They are who they are and they live it well! Every time I visit with them I feel valued, I feel as though I matter, and that even when the whole world seems against me I have their support. A few weeks ago the three of us sat in Rosemary's room, I indian style on the bed, Rosemary and Frances in their chairs. They shared with me their joy over my taking the next step on this wild and crazy adventure, and I knew once again I was loved.

January 2009, Sr. Theodore emerged from the sacristy as I began to put things in place for my first OLA Liturgy at Neumann. The first thing she asked me was if I knew what her name meant. After sharing that it was "gift of God" I quickly shared with her that Sara means "PRINCESS!" From that moment on she was my gift of God and I her Princess. That first Sunday she "taught me" what a chalice and paten were, what you do with a corporal, where you place the sacramentary. I didn't bother to tell her I was pretty well versed in how to set up for Mass, she seemed too excited to "teach me," and so I let her. Some time later she read an article about me in the school paper that listed my masters degree in Pastoral Ministry and my background in campus ministry. The next time I saw Sr. Theodore she giggled, put her head in her hands and mumbled, "I'm so embarrassed." Confused I asked why, she responded, "Here I was teaching you all these things and you have a MASTERS DEGREE!!!" We had a good laugh about this later. . . Sr. Theodore brings a smile to my face just by walking in the room.

Monday night, 2010, I was invited to give a presentation at Assisi House on my summer travels to India and Nepal. I was delighted to spend the time with the sisters as well as for the opportunity to share my stories. Sr. Mary Pat, Sr. Frances, Sr. Rosemary, and Sr. Theodore were all present, along with about 30 other sisters. As I stood there sharing my journeys I couldn't help but feel joy in my heart looking out at these women who had so deeply touched my life. As nearly every encounter with the sisters at Assisi House ends they sang the blessing with hands extended over me. Afterwards they all expressed their overwhelming joy over my decision to enter into this time of candidacy.

On my drive home that night I was reflecting upon their joy. They are all taken care of for the rest of their lives. They will never want for anything. Why would they be so concerned over the future of their congregation? The only thing I can figure is that they TRULY and FULLY believe in the life they have lived--so much so that they would encourage someone like myself to follow the call, even when there is no self interest on their part. I found myself saying, "that's real!" The joy, the peace, the love, the commitment, it's all real! It's all good! It has all been worth while for this room full of beautiful women who earlier that night had extended their hands over me to sing, and in some cases barely squeek out the blessing, and who had told me I could be assured of their continued prayers.

The elders have spoken and I have grown in the understanding of my own vocation and call in life because they courageously said yes, and continue to say yes! Sisters at Assisi House, with a grateful heart I thank you!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Tracks and The Bridge

Last April, while on retreat at Daylesford Abbey for the Triduum, I found myself walking the beautiful grounds with my camera in hand. Everything that early spring spoke of resurrection, the buds pushing through the ground, the geese returning from the winter, the moist ground watered by the spring rains. I have always believed that I can more deeply meditate upon and appreciate God's creation through the lens of my camera. There are things that go unnoticed by the human eye that with the aid of the lens become visible.

As I was crouching down in the grass attempting to get a shot of the daffodils growing at the base of a tree running along a crick I heard a voice say, "I'm a contemplative photographer." As I turned to see who was talking I saw an elderly man standing there with a camera hanging around his neck. I introduced myself and shared that I too considered myself a contemplative photographer. He was astounded that there was someone else out there who used photography as prayer. We began to discuss how God speaks to us through our lens.

We walked together in silence snapping our shutters for hours. I think of my dear contemplative friend whenever I take my camera to prayer. There is something very profound about being together and being in silence.

This weekend I sought out contemplative time in a local park, and while I walked alone I knew that the spirit of past and present contemplatives walked with me. This reflection comes out of two photographs I took while praying in Canby park. The Tracks and The Bridge.

The Tracks. As I disappeared into the woods, hoping I wouldn't get lost on what appeared to be a beaten path, I came upon these railroad tracks. I hear a train whistle at night, I wonder if these are the tracks on which that train travels. I saw a neat photo opportunity and so I began clicking away. I have two thoughts that have come to me since taking this photograph. The first is not in the tracks themselves but in the way that I discovered them. The path I took to arrive here was somewhat overgrown. While there was a clear path it was not easy to manage. I had to wind my way around fallen trees, rocks, hills, and spider webs. Occasionally I was distracted by things like butterflies and squirrels that lured me off the path.

The tracks were a sharp contrast to my journey thus far. The tracks were definitive, clear, coming from one direction and going in another. As I reflected upon these two paths I realized that both speak volumes to our own spiritual journeys. Sometimes the road seems clear, other times the road seems to swallow you up and you get side tracked, and even lost. But what I believe was most interesting about both paths is that no matter how clear or unclear they appeared to be I could only see so far before the path would turn a corner to something I could only experience by continuing to walk.

The Bridge. What strikes me about this bridge is that the space over which the bridge passes is fairly dry. I walked back and forth taking shots without having to manage my way over any flowing water. Why would there be a bridge over nothing? The answer is, there wouldn't be. There must be a reason why this bridge exists in this low level grass. I am sure that the dip in the field is there for some sort of water overflow, perhaps when the rains come it fills and the bridge is there so that people can still get from one side to the other.

This bridge reflection reminds me again of community. We too have people in our lives that are there for the "just in case" moments. The bridge is still beautiful even without troubling waters beneath it, just as community is still worth while and good in non-troubling times. BUT, when there is a need to fall back on someone, they are there. Just as the bridge supplies a way for walkers after the rains, community provides an environment of support whether it's immediately needed or not.

I hope that I too can offer this support and love in my own local community and the larger community of sisters.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From Their's to Our's

The literary eloquence of Maya Angelou has a way of bringing to life emotions that rest deep in the human heart. In one of my numerous moves in the past four years I received a card from a dear friend with a quote of Angelou's that profoundly states the sentiments of my heart.

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."

I remember the first time my mother excepted that "home" had become somewhere different for me than the childhood home in which I grew up. I had just left work and was headed back to my apartment for the evening. My mother called me on my drive. She simply said, "call me back when you get home." She then quickly asked me if I caught what she had said. I have to admit I had not picked up on what she was questioning. She said, "I called your apartment your home." I realized this was a BIG DEAL for my mother. Her acceptance of my "home" finally solidified my moving forward in life.

We have many homes, I still occasionally refer to my parent's house, my childhood home, as "home." But I have found that there is a great importance in calling "wherever I find myself" home.

After dinner this evening, an amazing roasted chicken with stuffing and cranberry sauce prepared by Joan, my new favorite cook, the four of us found ourselves sharing the kitchen to clean up. The job of putting the dried dishes away fell upon me. Joan took notice as I correctly placed the knives and spatulas in their proper drawers and with a smile was impressed. As I went from cabinet to cabinet and drawer to drawer Kathy stated that when you know your way around the kitchen you know it's become your home. (I may be paraphrasing there! But it was something of that liking.)

This has been the easiest move I've made in a few years, and Corpus Christi has been the easiest place to transition into calling home. I have noticed that I have gone from asking questions about where "they" keep things to where "we" keep things. The Their's have become Our's and Corpus Christi has become home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

God is Like the Pockets on my Rocker

"A privilege of which we are unworthy." These words echoed in my ears as we continued with the celebration of the Mass. They were spoken in the homily in reference to the Gospel reading of the Centurion who came to Jesus asking him to heal his servant. As Jesus turned to go to the servant the Centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed." It is these very words that bring us the pre-communion acclamation, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

Jesus is so powerful and the faith of the Centurion so strong that he truly understood that Jesus' word alone was more powerful than our comprehension. How different would our world be, how different would our lives be, if we had this faith?

It may sound old school Catholic to beat my chest and say I am unworthy . . . but there is a truth in the reality of our unworthiness. I am a sinner, and to claim different would make me a hypocrite. There is, however, a beauty in this truth. Imagine a being, so loving that even though I fail I am still loved. This is God.

Many people believe in the misconception of the holiness that accompanies religious life. Yes, I am choosing this path because I desire to lead a holy life, but that does not mean that I am any good at it! I have had countless people ask for my prayers because, and I quote, I am "closer to God." This is Bologna! Sorry to burst your bubble, but becoming a sister doesn't make me any closer to God. I truly believe we are all traveling through our lives at the exact same distance from God as every other person with whom we share this planet. The difference in my life is simply that I've recognized the presence of God.

As I was contemplating what I was going to share this evening I noticed for the first time that the padded rocker in my room has pockets on it, just because I didn't see them before doesn't mean they weren't there . . . I was just unaware of them! Now that I realize they exist I am going to use them, put stuff in them, hid things, put them to good use!

God is like the pockets on my rocker! Always there but sometimes ignored. I can only make good use of them when I recognize 1) that they are there and 2) what they are good for!

I have to remind myself daily that God is there for me! Sometimes I fail, sometimes I forget prayer, disengage from my spiritual self, and sometimes I even disappoint myself. But all I have to do is realize my unworthiness and understand the full power of God's love . . . to be honest . . . while we may fail, God doesn't care, God only loves.

And so, I may be on the path to enter into religious life, but that does not make me any holier than the next! But my yes to the particular path that God is at present calling me to simply makes me more aware.