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!