Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Beginnings

I have much to write about. So much, that I am conscious that this blog entry could be pages and pages if I don't use some self control. First and foremost on my mind, a friend of mine at the convent, Sr. Sean Marie, is preparing to enter Heaven, after a long battle with cancer. Sr. Natalie, my novice directress, has taken us to see her a couple times. I am convinced that she will go straight to heaven. She is already a living saint.

We currently have four postulants coming in August, which everyone is excited about, but Sr. Sean Marie says that there will be a fifth one, and she is offering up her suffering for that one, whoever she is. What a powerful prayer from a powerful woman. When she first told me about the 5 postulants, she saw right through my lack of faith that I was trying to conceal, and gave me a lecture about that. She said, "Don't pray for it if you don't believe that it can happen."

When she was missing her rosary, she used my plastic white and light blue one. I hadn't thought much of it before that. When Sr. Anne returned it to me, she told me that Sr. Sean Marie told her to tell me that she prayed lots of rosaries on it. Now it's an extra special rosary to me. I even have my double-sided blanket flipped over so that the Packer side is the one showing. (The Lions are on the other side.) Sr. Sean Marie is the Packer's biggest fan, and even got to go on the sidelines during a game because of it! She and I would go back and forth about our friendly rivalry, and she would affectionately call me "Detroit." I am so glad that I joined this community when I did, so that I have the blessing of knowing her.

Now I am on a different stage in formation. I am a novice. I have a white veil, and my name was changed from Kara to Sister Monica at the reception ceremony- here is the link to read more about it and see pictures from it. A lot of people ask me, "Why Monica?" Well, when I came here, I had intended on maintaining my baptismal name, and being either Sister Kara or Sister Kara Michelle. Someone advised me to be open, just like I was open to coming to the convent. A few days later, on August 27th, it was St. Monica's feast day. She stuck out in my mind, but I figured that the same would happen with other saints on their feast days as well. It didn't. My mind kept going back to St. Monica. Whenever someone would mention her or her son, St. Augustine, I would be excited. I just couldn't get it out of my head. I prayed to God to give me other names to choose from. He kept giving me Monica. In the spring, I asked one of the sisters to pray for names for me. I liked the name Monica, but I thought I should have more options. I did not tell her what name God had been revealing to me. A couple weeks later, she told me that she was sorry, that she wanted to give me a few options to choose from, but the only name that came to her was Monica. When I submitted my name choices, I submitted Monica, Thérèse, and Kara, in that order.

Now it doesn't happen this way for every sister. I don't want anyone to think that it does. The fact that it happened to me says nothing about me, and everything about God and His powers. But I know that God doesn't just do something like that to benefit one person. I am sharing it with you because I want to share with you His awesome powers at work in us. Also, some sisters keep their baptismal names, which is very good, because becoming a religious is a deepening of baptism.

Since this blog entry is getting pretty long, and I am trying to practice the self control I mentioned at the beginning of the entry, I will quickly write what else has happened in the past two weeks in the novitiate. Sr. Isabelle, formerly Marie and I joined Sr. Pamela Catherine and Sr. Natalie in the attached building reserved for the novitiate. We spent the first week helping out at Camp Franciscan, which was a blast, and the second week getting trained in sacristy and everything else involved with being a novice. We are also taking an iconography class, and we are looking forward to making our own icons!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Growing in Intimacy with God

Yesterday was a very big day in our community....Sr. Chiara had her first profession of vows! It was so cool! She looked so radiant and so beautiful! I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ceremony was a lot like a wedding ceremony. Her family seemed to enjoy it, too. She is on her home-visit right now, so I am sure her family is thrilled. We were all just so ecstatic for her!

There will be another big day in our community next Sunday. Marie and I will be received into the novitiate! We will receive our white veils and our new names! If you want to see pictures and/or find out what our names will be (we don't know what they'll be either- we gave the administration 3 choices though) you can go on our community's blog, Franciscanized World. They should be up by the night of June 13th or June 14th at the latest. Feel free to add comments to it or look around at the rest of the blog. I always have a link to my community's blog on the upper-right corner of my blog.

As I wrote on my last entry, I spent five days in retreat. I was wondering how I would write about it, because I cannot do it justice. It was about the "Vowed Franciscan Way of Life as a Pathway to Intimate Union with God." Fr. Jeff began the retreat by giving talks on developing an intimate and loving relationship with God, and the last 3 days were spent on how poverty, chastity and obedience help develop this intimacy.

At first, I felt a little strange taking all that time out for just the Lord and me. It seemed a little self-centered. But after talking with Fr. Jeff in a private conference on the first day, I learned that it is quite the opposite, and in fact, necessary for a life of serving others. It strengthens us for our ministry. In fact, after his conversion, St. Paul spent 14 years in solitude before preaching and spreading the Good News. St. Francis spent a lot of time praying in a cave and on a mountain. Even Jesus spent forty days in the desert before He began His ministry, and throughout His ministry He would frequently tell His disciples to "Come away for awhile and rest.

During one of his talks, Fr. Jeff shared the story of Martha and Mary to illustrate our society's need to always be productive and accomplish things. We are depriving ourselves by giving in to this pragmatism.

Here's the passage from scripture:
As they continued their journey He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10: 38-42, NAB)

I love that line, "it will not be taken away from her." The Lord delights in us, as we are, without considering anything we have done or haven't done. It reminds me of the feeling of wonder we get while watching a baby....all the baby has to do is yawn, and we think s/he's cute...or, at least I do! So this is how God sees us.

He also shared with us this scripture passage, which beautifully expresses God's love for us:

"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
He has turned away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will renew you in His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival."
(Zephaniah 3: 14-18a, NRSV)

As I wrote earlier, the last three days were spent on how the vows help us with intimacy. On Wednesday, he taught us that poverty is about detaching/dispossessing in order that God can fill our lives, and that humility is a sister to poverty- it's even included in the vow of poverty. On Thursday, he talked about the vow of chastity that enables us to have an undivided love with God and emerses us more completely to Him. Lastly, on Friday, he taught us that through the vow of obedience, every time we unite ourselves with the Father's will, we are in deeper intimacy with Him.

It was a wonderful retreat and made me even more excited for the novitiate!