Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Day Without Hair Mousse

There we stood on the tarmac having just de-boarded the 19 passenger prop plane in Riverton, Wyoming. We quickly scooped up our bags checked at the gate and headed inside where Sr. Teresa was waiting with open arms. Teresa, more or less, single-handedly runs two parishes located on the Wind River Indian Reservation. She is a do it all sort of woman! Everything from Sacramental Preparation classes, to taking pledges from recovering alcoholics, to vacuuming the church, to feeding the neighborhood strays, and yes, even patching leaky hot water heaters! She does it all!

It was good to be with her! A little less wonderful, however, was discovering that the checked bag that Pat and I shared didn't quite make it to our final destination. This was the bag that contained my hair mousse! What is a girl to do? We were assured that the likelihood of the bag arriving on the next incoming flight due in later that afternoon was high, and so we made our way to Teresa's home on the range in Ethete.

Much to our delight we received word at 5 pm that night that our bag had indeed finally made it to Wyoming! Bad news? We couldn't pick it up because the airport was "closing for dinner." This is the reality of small town America--a reality of which east coasters are unaware. This meant I was going to go a day without hair mousse.

The simplicity of going a day without my self-proclaimed "necessities" became a freeing experience for the week. On our flight later in the week Pat and I had a very intriguing conversation concerning the vow of poverty, lived as simplicity, which has opened my heart to new possibilities of letting go. While I don't have any desire to give up my hair mousse I do think there are times I could obsess a little less!

These few days in Wyoming have opened my heart to the beauty of creation not often witnessed by the masses. The first full day on the reservation Teresa took me to a home Mass. During the consecration I could not help but be slightly distracted by the clanging of glass in the kitchen where someone engaged in final preparation of the dinner to follow. My distraction, however, quickly melted into reflection. Suddenly the melody of rattling dishes replaced the bells of the altar server and the realization of the reality of the Body of Christ became clear. We the people have become the consecrated Body of Christ, and as I sat pondering this I suddenly felt like Thomas Merton on the street corner of Fourth and Walnut, I "suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me."

We have moved on from buffalo and prairies where cattle were herded to the fast-paced freeways of the city where people are herded. My time in Wyoming will not soon leave me, I just got off the phone with Teresa who called to share that she was going through a little withdraw. I too feel that loss. But the beauty of community is that no matter how many miles span the land between us we are bound by our sisterhood! And it is this thought that keeps a smile on my heart.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tomorrow Will Take Care of Itself!

If you are reading this then I suppose you too have been "left behind." It's a little funny to me when I think of those who believed whole-heartedly that today was going to mark the commencement of the end of the world with the rapture. These are people who literally interpret sacred Scriptures, everywhere except two verses that is. The one that says we will know not the day or hour when the Son of Man will return, and the one where Jesus said, "this is my body, this is my blood do this in remembrance of me."

Beginning with the 12 apostles every generation to walk this Earth believed that Jesus would return in their life time. Personally, I think we've got billions of years still ahead. It can't be that easy . . . we've got a lot to learn about peace on Earth. Ending the world now would be like eating half baked chicken . . . ewww. It's just not time!

Nonetheless all of this "end of the world" hoopla has got me thinking. I've been reflecting on that age old question, "am I ready?" I believe that my answer would be most definitely! Am I perfect? No. But God does not ask for perfection, God simply asks us to try. I should not be living my life by the predictions of the end, I should be living it so whenever that day comes I am embraced by God because I have always lived in a way pleasing to God.

Many people lived their life today in anticipation for the rapture. Shortly after the supposed time of the rapture had past I leaned over to Sr. Janet (with whom I was attending Mass) and with my eyes focused on the consecrated host raised above the altar said, "I guess we were left behind." And that was just fine with me, I was already with Jesus. I was reflecting upon this thought today and wondered how many people would be disappointed to be "left." I did not live my day that way. I spent my day celebrating life and sisterhood. Sr. Nora Nash celebrated her Golden Jubilee today, 50 years as a professed Sister of Saint Francis of Philadelphia. Celebrating her beautiful and amazing life ranked much higher on my priority list than biting my nails over the end. And for this I believe Jesus smiled today!

During the homily today it was shared that when we hear God's words, "remain in my love," it implies that we are "already in God's love." It's not about predicting the end, it's about living in the present in such a way that the end does not really matter. We never know what tomorrow will bring and so we do our best with today! After all Jesus himself told us not to worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cheerio and The Casket

Death is never something we are prepared for, whether a long standing illness, a sudden heart attack, or a diagnosis of rapid growing cancer. No matter how faith-filled a people we are there is so much uncertainty that surrounds us in those final goodbyes. There is no way to prepare for the absence.

I was recently at a funeral of the mother of a friend. Two weeks ago she had been told that her mother would have 3 weeks to 3 months. How does one even begin to understand the enormity of those words? I wish there was something I could do to ease the pain, but the reality is all I can do is love and pray. Nothing takes that pain away, except maybe time, but even that does not fully erase it. Sounds awful huh? Never overcoming the pain of loss, but I see the pain as proof--proof of something greater--proof of life--and proof of LOVE. Someone recently said to me, "everyone deserves to have someone cry at their funeral." It is a recognition of the life celebrated!

I bowed my head in prayer as the people gathered prayed for the family and the loved one lying in the casket before us. As I opened my eyes I spotted a cheerio left behind on the church floor. Another sign of life--new life. A cheerio can only mean one thing, a child too young to give full attention to the liturgy. This reflection came in that momentary glance from the cheerio to the casket. LIFE.

New life, lived life, the many gathered lives in that church sanctuary. We are all here with purpose, we are all doing the best we can. It amazed me how much life I began to witness during that funeral Mass. Two college girls, completing their first year, so much lies ahead of them. A first year seminarian assisting with the liturgy, the beginning of much service among God's people. Me, starting the next adventure in my own discernment, novitiate. There is also difficult new life, a family starting a new chapter moving on from sudden loss. But the most important life is the new life of the resurrection promised in our baptism. That new life, that woman of 70 some years, mother of 50 some years, and wife of 55 is surely now experiencing.

For those left behind a new way must be found. But while we acknowledge the sadness and loss, let the new life be found in the hope of the resurrection.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Trippin' the Light Fantastic

One might think a Sunday afternoon in the convent is one filled with prayer and contemplation, and if it were 1950 maybe that would be true. But here, in 2011, in the convent I live, our Sunday afternoon consisted of a musical journey through the 80's.

Earlier in the day I made a reference to Dead or Alive's Lyrics "You Spin Me Round." You know, "You spin me right round baby right now, like a record baby round round round round." No one had a clue what I was referencing. While I was only a year old when this single was released I do know it was a staple song of the 80's and one I assumed most people had at least heard of, like "Whip It," another song unheard of here at Corpus Christi.

Dumbfounded by the lack of 80's music knowledge I began to give the sisters a virtual tour of the 80's. I introduced them to Devo, Pat Benatar, Belinda Carlise, Bonnie Tyler and more. I didn't think it was possible to meet someone who had never before heard "Hey Mickey"! Today, I met three!

In their defense, there were a handful of songs including artists such as "The Police," "Madonna," and "Billy Joel" that they had not only heard of but knew the lyrics to! They blame "being in the convent" for the lack of musical awareness, and maybe that's true. I'm just glad they won't go their whole life without ever experiencing the head banging, rock out tunes, and ballads of the decade I was born!

Joan introduced me to a new saying this morning, "Trippin' the light fantastic!" I think it's a great saying to accompany our day! Next stop on the tubular tour of the 80's--Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

They are My "More"

There are many ways to look at it. There is hope and excitement and there is fear and sadness, both coexisting in one transitional experience. In any moment of change there is always a future and a past, both hold meaning and both are accompanied by emotions.

For me the transition from Candidacy to Novitiate is just this, a dualistic experience filled with emotion. When I isolate the thought of moving to Canticle House (the novitiate) I am excited, hopeful, and genuinely joyful. But when I solely focus on moving away from Corpus Christi my eyes swell with tears, my heart breaks, and I find myself slip into sadness.

My life is so good right now, and I'm exactly where I believe God is calling me to be, but as I struggle through the pain of preparing for the next few transitions I feel very alone. Despite the excitement I have for moving forward in the process of formation I cannot stop crying myself to sleep during the nights that I reflect back over this past year. There has been so much to cherish and so much that I will take with me as I confidently move on.

St. Louis, Missouri that's stop number two on this transition train, the TOR Common Novitiate. Again, isolating the idea of St. Louis is exciting, but in realizing that moving there means leaving here the struggle emerges. This afternoon in spiritual direction I shared that moving to St. Louis feels overwhelming, not because of fear of moving far away or the challenge of being somewhere new, but because it means leaving everything and everyone who has become so dear to me this year.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio in 2006 I was extremely joy-filled with the transition. I was trying to figure out what was so different about this move to St. Louis. The answer lies in discovering where the "more" is. Ohio had so much more to offer than staying in Pennsylvania. But now I find myself realizing that the "more" is right here. I don't mean Corpus Christi, but the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia, they are my "more."

While I am certain that St. Louis holds things for me that are beyond my understanding as I sit here writing this evening, I cannot help but know in my heart that where I really want to be is here. And I suppose that's a good thing. St. Louis will be for nine months, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia will be for life.

In Spanish the word for love is "amor" pronounced "a-more." I can't help but think that where I find my love is in the more! I recently wrote a song entitled "A Little More." I speak of the many wonderful and amazing things I've seen and felt in my life but I close with singing, "so far I've seen a little, and I have felt a little, and now I want a little more." So tonight, amidst the tear filled prayers I speak to God I pray: I want a little more!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Love Means So Very Much

In Greek there are four words to the English's one word for love. Each word describes a different aspect of "love."

Storge--the way you love your family
Philia--love shared between friends
Eros--Erotic, sensual love
Agape--Unconditional love (the love God shows us!)

Earlier this week while in my car flipping through radio stations I happened upon a morning show I don't typically enjoy, but on this particular morning I became absorbed in the conversation being had. The background is simple. The female DJ was sharing that in the context of a casual phone conversation her male DJ counterpart casually ended the conversation by saying, "okay, see you tomorrow, love you." The gist of the continued discussion was more or less a debate as to whether or not he actually said it. But what most captured my attention was his uncomfortableness with the thought that he may have said "love" to this woman.

The conversation grew to include other DJs as well as listeners. Soon people were discussing the different meanings of love. In this I discovered that coloquially we do have different "words" for love.

Love ya--love shared among friends
I love you--a deeper love shared with close friends and family
I am in love with you--spoken in intimate relationships

How interesting and powerful such a word is that despite our lingual limitations we have found ways to express the varying levels of it's meaning. I remember the first time I told a now dear friend of mine that I loved her. It came out quite accidentally yet completely sincere and honest. I had been leaving her a voicemail when in closing I said, "okay, call me when you get a chance. Love you." I hung up the phone and thought to myself, "oh my gosh, that's gonna freak her out!" In reality she very much appreciated it!

Love comes natural to those who allow themselves the freedom to express it when truly felt in the heart!

As I share this recent reflection I cannot help but ponder the reality of the next two months. Two months from this week I'll be moving to a new home, with a new local community, and a new routine. While I am absolutely excited at the transition to novitiate I am also filled with sadness in having to leave the community I can whole heartedly say I LOVE. In the deepest Christian sense of love I love Joan, Kathy, and Maureen. They have become a part of me in ways that have changed me, making me into a better person then I could have been otherwise. To speak in Greek I believe I have come as close as I can to having an agape love for them.

It was once sung, "all you need is love, love is all you need." There is great wisdom and truth in this. Love is all we need, yet love means so very much!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Making Music In Community

I was 9 years old when I first began playing the flute. As a little girl I had watched my mother play often, I would beg her to let me "play" with her beautiful, silver, Gemeinhardt flute. Occasionally she would allow me to toot on the mouth piece making a single sound. But as a fourth grader I was allowed to join the school band. It was then that my mother passed her flute on to me.

I played throughout school, and in the first few years of college played here and there for church events, but mostly it had become a private stress-reliever. It was not often that I would play for anyone.

Last December I had mentioned to Sr. Andrea that I played and soon she had asked me to play with the choir for Christmas Eve Mass. Although I was excited I was also nervous because this was the first time that I was playing in public in nearly eight years. Shortly after that night Sr. Elise called to ask if I would play at her Jubilee in May. Although anxious to be playing again more publicly, I am excited to be given the opportunities to play again.

Last week I met with Sr. Andrea to practice in Our Lady of Angels Chapel. Standing in the front of chapel the sounds I produced from my flute were enhanced by the acoustics of the sacred space in which I stood. Not every thing sounded so good though, having been out of practice for so long I was rusty when it came to anything not in 3/4 or 4/4 . . . in fact a couple weeks earlier I sat on the phone with a friend dictating the music so she could help me learn the counts.

As Andrea played the piano to practice with me I felt something very special happening. As much as I have practiced on my own in the years when I was absent from the public eye I always felt there were certain things I was unable to get right. Practicing with Andrea however, I found myself picking things up in ways I don't believe I could have on my own. I am thankful to Andrea for her patience, continual support, and her witty methods of helping me to remember counts in uncommon time signatures. For musicians you would love her "blueberry" chant to help me play 8th notes in 6/4.

It never ceases to amaze me how much community has holistically made me more the person God has created me to be! Music has always spoken deeply to my soul, how wonderful is it that I can be brought even deeper into the melodic world through community!