Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vocations for the Religious Life

On Wednesdays at the motherhouse (and first Sundays), we have to opportunity to deepen our relationship with God through Eucharistic exposition, adoration, and benediction. I do wish to make it clear that Jesus is just as present in the tabernacle as he is in the monstrance. For this reason, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity have tabernacles that contain the consecrated hosts 24/7, so that we can adore our Lord: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, outside of Mass. Yet there is something nice about the rituals of exposition and benediction, as well as being able to see the consecrated host.

I just spent some time in St. Mary's Chapel. What's cool is that above the monstrance is our crucifix, so I reflected on God's forgiving, unconditional love, and constant care for us through each and every moment of our lives. Saint Paul wrote it better than I could:

"What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:31-39, NAB

Last night we went to a picnic that the Serrans had for local priests and religious. It is a nice tradition. Good fellowship, food, BINGO, and prizes. It was a lot of fun, and I was happy that all of our new postulants (Rose, Lindsey, Leslie, and Holly) won at least one BINGO game. It sure is nice to have the them all with us. They even started wearing their habits today! They look very nice. What wonderful people, too! It was great to spend more time with them at the picnic last night, too. You can read about our lovely new postulants here.

Left to Right: Leslie, Holly, Lindsey; Rose

Serrans do a LOT for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is truly incredible. (Click here for their website.) My maternal grandpa was a Serran, so I feel a special connection with them.

I am including a couple of my favorite songs that I think relate well to the call to the religious life:
Love Song for a Savior by Jars of Clay

Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath (this video has lyrics)
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I hope you all are having a nice August!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Simply Enjoying Summer

Four more days until our four new postulants arrive! Needless to say, the community prayerfully anticipates their arrival. They will be arriving the day after our monthly vocations day, when we pray the Franciscan Crown for vocations.

We are also enjoying having less humidity. Sister Isabelle and I have been on the tennis courts a few times now....we're improving! We now spend more time volleying, and less time running after stray balls. We don't play competitively...we don't care how many times the tennis ball bounces before we hit it, nor how far it is out of bounds....we'll still run after it.

During instructions, we have been learning about the history of our community by reading Refining His Silver by Sister Teresita Kittell, OSF and watching old "Founder's Day" programs. I am truly inspired by our saintly founders and foundresses. As learn more about the history of the community, I am even more glad I came here.

Other than that, things have been pretty low key before school starts. We've watched a couple movies, attempted kite flying a couple times (Brother Wind, please be more consistent so our kites stay in the air), and of course have been doing our charges. I finished Pope Benedict's encyclical, God is Love, and I highly recommend it. The end of it gets into some philosophy that could be difficult to understand by those without a background in it, but other than that, it is written very clearly.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Joys of Volunteering

I hope you all are enjoying your summer. We've had good weather at the motherhouse, so Sister Isabelle and I have gotten to play tennis a couple times, which is always fun. We now have three really good tennis rackets, because one of the sisters donated hers.

Everyone is full of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming arrival of the new postulants. If you are one of them, know that we pray for you, both as a community and individually, daily. Also, just in case you may feel nervous, it is totally normal to have "cold feet" right before a change from what you're used to. That's why there's a name for it! I literally had to go through the motions last year of walking onto the ferry to cross Lake Michigan, but once the ferry started moving, I thought I might as well stay on for the ride. I'm glad I did. The water was pretty deep.

I mentioned briefly in my last entry that as novices we spend Thursday afternoons volunteering at the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse, directed by Brother Regis, a Salvatorian. "Since 1968 The Salvatorian Mission Warehouse has been shipping tons of critical materials to needy villages around the world" (

It is an awesome experience! We have a lot of fun putting the different items together to send them to different parts of our world, and we get to hear stories and see pictures from those on the receiving end. Sister Dolores has organized groups from our Motherhouse to go there for years.

This time, we organized "cut offs" from Land's End. The machines in the factory only use the fabric they need, and the rest is sent to us. We then ship the cut offs to people who live in third world countries, and they make them into clothes.

These are some finished clothes that people sent back to us to show how the cut-offs are used.

Later on, I was reading part of Pope Benedict's encyclical, God is Love, and he writes that "love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word."

The Pope's message truly echoes Matthew's Gospel when Jesus says,
"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25: 34-40, NAB).

So it's cool to have another way to live the Gospel, as Saint Francis intended for Franciscans.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Typical Day at the Convent

From an outside perspective, it can seem that when you join the convent, you are giving up so much, and are going to be cut off from the world. I can't speak for everyone, but I am finding more and more that joining the convent has opened me up to several new experiences. I also know more about what is happening in the world than I ever did before. We watch the local and world news every evening and have access to newspapers and news magazines. I am finding that I enjoy reading Catholic magazines and newspapers, too, because they have a dimension that seems to be lacking in other news sources. I also appreciate that by living in community, others can catch things that you miss. The other night we prayed for the people in Pakistan who had a flood, and until that moment, I was unaware of the flood.

Also, the experiences have been quite interesting. I learned how to dead-head flowers. The whole process of dead-heading flowers is counter-intuitive, but it actually makes gardens healthier. I also got to watch a monarch come out of its chrysalis. It was so cool! It was actually really quick. We have a sister who collects them and then releases them when they are ready to go outside.

Outside of the new experiences, I am enjoying the daily schedule. Since I am a novice, and I have various charges, the schedule varies, but some things remain constant.

Here's an example a first-year novice's day in the convent (varies)

6:45am Morning Prayer
7:05am Mass
7:40am Breakfast
8:10am Breakfast Dishes
9:15am Instructions (about spirituality, history of our community (141 years), or the rule and constitutions of our community)
9:50am Sacristy for the Later Mass
11:40am Dinner (they call lunch "dinner" at the motherhouse, because it's our main meal)
12:10pm Midday Prayer
12:30pm Various things (we had classes in the afternoon, sometimes we work in sacristy, sometimes we have Eucharistic adoration, and we always have an hour of personal prayer each day)
4:45pm Evening Prayer and the Angelus
5:10pm Watch the News
5:40pm Supper
After Supper, a couple nights a week we clean the cafeteria line, then have recreation, but we always have recreation together.
Before bed: Night prayer

Once or twice a week, we work in the kitchen, helping to prepare meals for the community. Somedays, we do sacristy for the morning mass, so we arrive at the chapel earlier in the morning to prepare for mass. On Thursdays, we go to the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse to prepare items to be shipped to people in third world countries. We will be taking an Old Testament course in the fall and a New Testament course in the spring. We have the option of helping in the craft room this month, and we will be taking musical instrument lessons soon. We also can play various sports and go on walks. So we have an active and contemplative way of life.