Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Backwards Pilgrimage

I love going on pilgrimages. I was fortunate to be a pilgrim at World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada in 2002. While I have been in the convent, I have gone on pilgrimages with my fellow Sisters as well as with my family to a few different shrines in Wisconsin. I have Assisi on my bucket list, and I have what I consider a pipe dream of walking the Camino. I sometimes walk it vicariously through Martin Sheen in the film The Way.

Whenever I've been on a pilgrimage, I'm always grateful for the holy respite, but conscious to remind myself that God is fully active everywhere and that I can carry the graces of the pilgrimage with me. As humans, we have a tendency to believe in a spiritual geographical cure, but God is present here and now.

This week at St. Theresa Church, we had what could be described as a backwards pilgrimage. Some of you have probably attended one. The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought here for a brief visit. One of the visionaries, Lucia, had described what Mama Mary looked like to Jose Thedim. He first made a statue of her to be kept at the shrine in Fatima. Then in 1947, he sculpted the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue that has traveled the world ever since. Instead of going on a pilgrimage to see this famous statue, the custodians of the statue brought her to us.

Isn't that exactly how God is? It is not we who seek Him; it is He who seeks us.

Yesterday, I took time to prepare my students for the visit. We watched The Day the Sun Danced.

After the video, I pulled up the Wikipedia page for us to skim as a class. As soon as I did, one of my students recognized the "somewhat credible" site and said, "Wait! This story is real?!" Another student said, "That means it's history!" (History is a buzzword in my classroom right now because that is the social studies unit we are in, and they just learned what that word means not too long ago.)

This morning, my students were wiggly on the way to the all-school Mass. I turned around and saw them peering into the Church to catch glimpses of the statue. I heard their whispers: "She's in there! I saw her!" I quickly affirmed their excitement but reminded them that we still needed to be quiet in God's house. Fortunately, we sit in the front of the Church so they got to stare at her as much as their little hearts desired. During the homily, Father Arnel called up one of the Custodians, Patrick Sabat, to share the story of Fatima and talk about the statue. My little theologians kept raising their hands and nodding their heads with elation.

Later this morning, I told my students that even though we usually pray a decade of the rosary after lunch/recess, we could go kneel under the statue and pray it, but we had to whisper the prayers because there would be other people praying. They were thrilled! While we were there, they were so reverent and prayerful. It was truly inspiring for me, and I'm sure it was inspiring for the other adults in the church, especially considering the story of Fatima.

I made sure to remind them that they were really praying to Jesus and that we don't pray to Mary but we ask her to pray for us. They nodded. I drill that into them, but it's important.

Every year, I entrust my students to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. "Mary, bring them to your Son." That she does.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Anticipating Lifetime's Reality Show "The Sisterhood"

The Sisterhood premieres November 25th at 10/9c on Lifetime

I am feeling a nudge by the Holy Spirit to provide commentary on the new reality TV show that will showcase five young women as they undergo a deeply personal experience: initial formation in a convent. Ever since I began this blog, I have had the goal of giving you, the reader, a good look into our mysterious life. Now there is a TV show that promises to take care of that.

As someone who has been in initial formation for the past five years, I have my reservations about this show, particularly after viewing the preview. As one of the young women said, "It's something personal, and there's cameras here!"

Initial formation is not easy. I wrote about that topic in a previous entry: What It Means to be in Initial Formation. I can't imagine what it would be like to go through it behind cameras. 

On the flip-side, and perhaps most importantly for young women who are discerning, I do hope that the show does not focus on solely on the struggles of initial formation. It is a beautiful life and there are so many blessings that come from following God's call for your life. We spend so much time assuring people that God won't call them to a vocation unless they will be happy living it. I hope that the reality show will affirm this.

Within twenty-four hours (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time) after each episode, I will be posting a review on this blog. I hope it can serve as an unedited supplement to the reality show. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Love of the 'Aina

For the second year in a row, I shamelessly solicited trick-or-treaters to come to our door. For those of you not familiar with the practice, it means verbally asking the parents to send their children over. We don't live in the trick-or-treating neighborhood so I take matters into my own hands. We had five tonight and they each got a huge handful of bite sized chocolate candies in their respective bags. They looked surprised at the amount of candy but they didn't realize how thrilled I was! It took everything in me not to dump the whole bowl in those bags.

So I'm having a lot of fun and I'm really enjoying teaching. The children's enthusiasm is contagious. It's fun to watch them grow academically, socially, spiritually, and personally!

Living on Kauai can carry lots of vacation-like images in people's heads, but unless you work for the tourist industry, life here is a lot like life anywhere else. A lot of my enjoyment comes from my ministry and time with my Sisters. It is very beautiful though and I love the people here!

Last weekend, I even got to spend time with some of our "cousins," the Sisters of St. Francis. They live on Oahu and they are delightful! I only wish I had more time to spend with them. I was there for a teaching seminar, so I didn't have time to sight-see, but I did drive by the Iolani Palace, which was very special for me. I said a prayer of thanksgiving that traffic was moving at a snail's pace so I could glance up at it every now and then. Knowing the history of that structure, I was simultaneously taken in by its beauty and the sadness of the loss of a great dynasty. No matter where life takes me, the love of the islands will never leave me. 

Speaking of that, please keep the people who live on the Big Island (Hawai'i) in your prayers as they deal with the lava flow. It has already destroyed a cemetery and we don't know what else could happen. Two people were arrested for getting too close to the lava flow, but for the most part people are staying far away from it. Hopefully this will all come to an end soon!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jesus Shall Carry Us

If you haven't yet, I invite you to peruse Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel. He writes in refreshingly plain language and it is quite profound. I chose a paragraph from it to be my daily message for this school year with its unforeseeable ups and downs. One line from it that sums it up well is "No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted" (paragraph #279).

This paragraph ended up being helpful right away. The school year came in like a lion as we were met with hurricane warnings. We were scared. The children were scared. We put on our brave faces for them. The hurricanes were headed directly toward the islands. Our families, friends, Community, and people we don't even know were praying for our safety. The storms downgraded, then one went below our island, while the other traveled above. The Big Island, however, wasn't so lucky. They were hit by Hurricane Iselle, and aid money has been sent their way to help pay for damages. We are so thankful for all the prayers because we believe that they helped to dissuade and downgrade the storms.

Around that time, I told my second and third graders the famous story of the Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson. In this poem, Stevenson writes about Jesus carrying us through difficult times. About a week later, I was struggling to get a jam out of my "jam-free guaranteed" stapler. I happen to have a very expressive face. One of my students came up to me and whispered, "Jesus is carrying you, Sister Monica!"

My students delight me so much! I love their curiosity and enthusiasm. We are studying Earth Science and it's been fun to watch them explore rocks and soil while soaking in new terms like "erosion." The much anticipated volcanic eruption will occur this week!

I don't know what the months ahead hold for us, but Jesus will carry us when we need it. :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Free Music from Franciscans Offers Inspiration

Update: Click here September's Song of the Month. It's a catchy song by Ken Yates

One of my passions is music. I love all kinds of music, except the yelling kind. I happen to have a really awesome Pandora Christian Rock station that I have been developing since 2008. It all began with Tenth Avenue North. I added in Jennifer Knapp, Jars of Clay, Toby Mac, Group 1 Crew, Barlow Girl and Matt Maher. Pandora fills in the rest, providing me with music by artists such as David Crowder Band, Mandisa, and Needtobreathe.

When I get tired of listening to all that, I listen to Motown Radio. I was raised in Michigan so naturally Motown music played a crucial role in my development. To date, I have never had to give a Motown song a thumbs down!

A lot of our Sisters share my love for music, and every month we provide free downloads from indie artists. If we can't work out a free download deal, you are at least able to listen to it on Franciscanized World. The Song of the Month for August is beautifully done. It is On the Road to Human Being by Kerry Patrick Clark. The message is simple but one that bears repeating: that we as humans are more alike than we are different. We all want to find meaning in our lives, but we can get sidetracked by surface level endeavors.

Kerry Patrick Clark
I think I was beginning my freshman year in high school when I had an epiphany that everyone, no matter what mask they wear on the surface, wants to be liked by others. I reasoned that there was no one standing in my way of providing (mainly nonverbal) affirmations to the people around me. A personal experiment soon became a lifestyle, and the theory became a given.

At the beginning of his book, The Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote, "You have made us for Yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." God is Love, so we were made for Love. When we show love to others, we give them a glimpse of God's love.

All these thoughts of mine stem from listening to our August Song of the Month. To listen to this song and all future free downloads, visit our Community's blog: Franciscanized World.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Our Summer Program

Left to Right: Sister Regina Rose, Sister Carolee, Sister Pamela Catherine (from Perpetual Vows Summer Program), Sister Theresa, myself, and Sarah (postulant, soon-to-be novice)
Every summer, we Sisters come home to the Motherhouse to reconnect, renew, and recharge. I take part in the Temporary Vows Summer Program. We take classes, have instructions, wash cars, clean windows, pick strawberries, plan the Fourth of July community events, and my personal favorite: recreate with each other. So far, we have played Pinochle, Polish Poker, Hand and Foot, Time's Up, Three Fifteen (a Rummy card game), and Ticket to Ride.
"Ticket to Ride" board game: It looks a lot more complicated than it is. It's a fun game!
Last week, we were able to travel to Shorewood (near Milwaukee) for Cor Jesu, which is Latin for "Heart of Jesus." It is a weekly gathering of young adults for Eucharist Adoration, Reconciliation, Praise and Worship, and Mass. We were amazed with how many young adults were able to come together in the middle of the week to adore Christ. If any of you live in the Milwaukee area, I invite you to take advantage of this and the other programs that the Arise community has to offer.

The class that we are all taking together has been enlightening, and I hope to write about that soon!

Friday, June 13, 2014

7 Quick Takes from My First Directed Retreat

I signed up for this directed retreat for a very practical purpose: by going on retreat this week, I would be able to do my homevisit in July. Later this month, my sister-in-law will give birth to my niece and I want a chance to meet her before returning to Kauai. I've never been an aunt before and I'm really excited to meet this little girl whom I already love dearly.

In the past, my retreats have been limited to three types: the loud youth group or Steubenville-type retreats, the silent preached retreats (where you attend talks), and the busy-student retreats that are common on colleges and universities. Yet this kind of retreat, while silent, is quite different than the others.

I decided to bring along some treats from Hawaii to share!

We all met as a group to pray morning prayer, evening prayer, and attend mass together each day. We took turns planning and leading the liturgies. We also met individually with our retreat director daily for forty-five minutes. The rest of the time we were in silence.
What I very quickly found out was that a directed retreat is personalized. In many ways, it is a more challenging retreat than the other types I have attended. It's like a hard workout: difficult, but in a good way. While I do not wish to expound on what my personal retreat was about, I would recommend the experience to anyone.

It is always recommended to continue to get some physical activity during retreats. For me, that meant rollerblading. For anyone considering joining our Community, we have great places to rollerblade here, and the best places happen to be around St. Francis Convent, where the retreat was held. Mom, I included my helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads in the picture for you. You're welcome.

One of the many things I've learned as a Sister was how to sew. I felt quite domestic as I sat sewing laundry numbers on my clothes. I am all caught up with them now.

Yet most of the time was spent kicking back and hanging out with God. Yes, my relationship with Jesus is as casual as the prayer-selfie suggests. I'm a product of LifeTeen, what can I say?

While I had a practical purpose for signing up for this particular retreat, I can clearly see how attending it was part of God's providence. He guided each of us to this week, from our fearless director in the back row, Father Gearoid (Francisco) O'Conaire, OFM to the participants: myself, Sister Regina Rose, Sister Mary Ann, Sister June, Sister Winifred, and Sister Mardelle.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!