Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Most Unusual Orange

This morning, I was going through the cafeteria line for breakfast, and I grabbed an orange from the fruit bowl. Only it was.....different. The best way to explain it is to show you:

I shared it with the Sisters at my table and we were impressed with the straight lines. I then took it back to the novitiate. The other novices and I decided that what might look like a "quality control oversight" is none other than sheer ingenuity.

Then Sr. Regina Rose and I penned a toast, similar to the ones in the  "Real Men of Genius" radio ads (Bud Light). Here it is:

Here's to you, Mr. Produce Painter guy!
While other guys are out painting chapel ceilings and creating full blown  art exhibits,
you sit at home thinking of the most complicated styles of engraving, etching, hatching, and cubism for this year's fruit and produce.
No ordinary designs will do.
No simple, monochromatic color schemes.
You strive to make every scrap of produce a sublime piece of craftsmanship; a stimulating masterpiece.
So crack open a nice, cold carton of eggnog, Mr. Produce Painter Guy!
Sit back and relish the stunning spectacle that is this year's Christmas fruit basket.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Blessing of Playing Guitar

Throughout my life, I have always wanted to learn the guitar. To me, it's a sacred instrument. Its notes and chords seem to transcend space and time and enter into the heavenly realm.

I didn't grow up with an organ player in my church, and I know that for many of our Sisters, that's their "God-instrument."  However, at St. Thomas, Mrs. Proulx lead us through mass every week with her trusty guitar. Then in high school, when I went to youth group and retreats, it seemed that the guitar was the instrument of choice for the leaders of praise and worship.

It's not that I think the guitar is better than other instruments for praising God--not in the least--its just the one that for me, whenever I see one or hear one, my mind naturally turns to God. So I am delighted to get to take guitar lessons.

Yesterday was my very first guitar recital, and it was at the Holy Family Conservatory of Music. All of Sr. Angela's guitar students took part in the Christmas Concert. (Other Sisters' students performed today with various instruments.) It was a wonderful concert. Everyone did great, and there was a nice variety of Christmas songs and carols. I was relieved to discover that the audience was very friendly, and I was grateful for the support of the others in initial formation and our directresses who came. I also enjoyed conversing briefly with other guitarists "backstage" before and after the concert.

I played "Up on the Housetop" and "Coventry Carol."
Both songs were arranged by my guitar teacher, Sr. Angela.
 All in all, it was a positive first experience of playing a guitar in front of a large group of people. Getting to learn the guitar is certainly one of the nice "surprises" that came with answering God's call!

"Peter began to say to him, 'Look, we have left everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and the sake of the good news, who will not recieve a hundredfold now in this age--houses and brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life.'"
-Mark 10:28-30, NRSV

It's simple, I know, but I think it is a part of the hundredfold.

***Thanks, Sister Pamela Catherine, for letting me use your guitar this year!***

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Gift Idea and Other Preparations

I know it's not Thanksgiving yet, but....

I have been waiting for the opportunity to post a gift idea, and since Cyber Monday is approaching, I thought now would be a good time. It is a game those of us in formation enjoy playing during recreation, and we found out about it like many other people: through word of mouth, since there is no formal advertising. It's that good of a game that there is no need for advertising.

It is called "Fill Or Bust" and you can buy it at As of the date of this posting, it is $6.00. At this time, it can only be purchased online. It's a very fun game that can be played by two or more people. You can also play on teams or have a tournament.

Advent and preparations for Christmas are fast approaching:
  • We received Waiting in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas 2011-12
  • Tomorrow afternoon, we'll be baking Christmas cookies for our employees at the Motherhouse.
  • I am practicing Coventry Carol and Up on the Housetop  on the guitar for a Christmas Recital.
  • Just before the recital, we'll be having our Advent Reflections mini-retreat.
  • Snow Shovels are out....
  • The Fall Semester is quickly coming to an end...
Of course, all of this is after the Thanksgiving mass and meal tomorrow.....and we have a lot to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How He Loves Us

It takes me by surprise when I experience what theologians call "sensible consolations" in prayer. According to the Catholic encyclopedia,
"[a sensible consolation] has its beginning and is felt chiefly in the senses or sensible faculties. It consists in sensible devotion and a feeling of fervour arising from the consideration of God's goodness vividly represented to the mind and heart; or from the external aids and ceremonies of the Church. It is not to be disregarded on this account because it leads us finally to good. St. Alphonsus says, 'Spiritual consolations are gifts which are much more precious than all the riches and honors of the world. And if the sensibility itself is aroused, this completes our devotion, for then our whole being is united to God and tastes God.' (Love for Jesus, xvii)."
When I say it takes me by surprise, I mean it delights me, and it is an unexpected gift from God. A lot of the time when I pray, well, I can't explain it, it's not desolation and it's not consolation, it's just faithfulness.

I think it was St. Francis of Assisi who would ask God to remove his spiritual consolations and save them for Heaven. Not me. I say, "Thanks! Keep them coming, God!"

Well anyway, this is essentially the sensible consolation I experienced today in the silence of St. Mary's Chapel during Eucharistic Adoration- God's simultaneous love of each of us, uniquely, totally and completely:

On an unrelated note, but very important to share: today is Founder's Day! It's been 142 years already!

Sr. Regina Rose and Sr. Leslie have their presentation tonight about the beginnings of our Community. They have been working really hard on it and I am looking forward to seeing it!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Visiting Time

My dad and Ginny visited me this weekend, and we had a great time! They stayed in a guest house, and we got to visit quite a bit in there. We played some games- Scattergories: The Card Game and Rummikub. On Saturday night we invited the rest of formation for a game night. Dad and Ginny taught us Euchre. Before, we had an idea of how to play, but we were confused about some of the rules. Now we know how to play for sure, and we had fun.

Sr. Rita Rose also gave us a tour of the Rare Book Room at Silver Lake College! It was fascinating! Did you know that there really are bookworms? We got to see the effects of them in a couple of the books! It was also wonderful to see the old Bibles. The whole experience made for good conversation.

Oh dear....sometimes so many things happen that it is hard to pick and choose what to write about in here. We got to visit with our Sisters who live at Chiara Convent tonight. It was nice just to spend time talking with them, praying evening prayer with them, and eating Luigi's pizza with them.

Now we are preparing for All Hallows Eve...we are putting the finishing touches on our Saints costumes...I can't say who we are going to be, because it's a "Guess Who?" party. We will also be going door-to-door in the infirmary tomorrow evening to show the Sisters there our costumes....they really enjoyed that last year.

I pray that you have a fun week!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Come and See

Did you know that another discernment retreat is coming up at our Motherhouse? It will be November 4th-6th and if you are a woman aged 18-30 you can register by clicking here. I would love to meet you. You can find out more about them through the retreat blog. Personally, I found them to be wonderful retreats for spiritual growth as well as a time to hang out with other people asking the same questions as me.

This picture is from one of the retreats I attended.

Tonight, Regina and I are going to help out with high school Confirmation prep, as we do every other Wednesday night. I am looking forward to it! It is an honor to be a part of this journey with the teens. Please keep them in your prayers as they experience God through the sessions and through LifeTeen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Mass Explained (And More About the Changes)

A week ago, us novices, our postulant Regina, and our directresses went to the Gazing on the Face of Jesus Conference through the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It was sponsored by the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate. We had a great time! While the theme had to do with the rosary, I was also grateful that one of the speakers, Dr. Edward Sri, also talked about the Mass, including the changes in the Mass. Now I can share more about them with you all.

A while ago, I wrote an entry explaining why there are changes in the mass and explained a couple of the changes. You can read that entry by clicking here. Well now I am going to share some more specifics about what will be said. (I will also be describing some of the meaning behind some of the words that we will continue to say.)

Priest: "The Lord be with you." (This part isn't changing.)

Have you ever thought about what that means? I hadn't! It is something spoken by God and His angels  to those on a special mission. To share a few of the occasions in the Bible.:
  • Judges 6:16a: "I shall be with you," the LORD said to [Gideon].
  • Exodus 3:11-12a "But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?'  He answered, 'I will be with you.'"
  • Luke 1:28 "And coming to [Mary], [the angel Gabriel] said, 'Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.'"
Therefore, when the priest says, "The Lord be with you," we are being commissioned. We are being asked to do something big, and God is with us.

Beginning on November 27th, we will respond to the priest by saying: "And with your spirit." By saying this, we are referring to the core of the priest- his spirit. The Holy Spirit works within him so that he can do what he is ordained to do.

Later on, during the Confiteor, we will confess, "I have sinned through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."  By saying this we have greater acknowledgement that we have sinned. Actually, Dr. Sri wrote the following article about this: "Through My Most Grievous Fault."

Then we will sing the Gloria. The Gloria is a Christmas song.
Wow! I hadn't thought about this either:
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." - Luke 2:8-14

Why are we singing a Christmas song? The Son of God comes to us in the Eucharist! So if we go to daily Mass, it's like Christmas everyday.....

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest says, as always, "Lift up your hearts." We respond, as always, "We lift them up to the Lord."
The heart is at the center of all our attentions, so when he says this, he is saying, "Give God your full attention." The Fathers of the Church knew it was hard to pay attention. In fact, in his 23rd Catechetical Lecture, St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313-386) preached:

"After this the Priest cries aloud, 'Lift up your hearts.' For truly ought we in that most awful hour to have our heart on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things. In effect therefore the Priest bids all in that hour to dismiss all cares of this life, or household anxieties, and to have their heart in heaven with the merciful God. Then ye answer, 'We lift them up unto the Lord:' assenting to it, by your avowal. But let no one come here, who could say with his mouth, 'We lift up our hearts unto the Lord,' but in his thoughts have his mind concerned with the cares of this life. At all times, rather, God should be in our memory but if this is impossible by reason of human infirmity, in that hour above all this should be our earnest endeavour."

Wow! To think he preached this in the 4th Century!

Later on in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest says,
"Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."

This is from Revelation 19:9- Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These words are true; they come from God."

This is something really important: we are getting a wedding invitation. Christ is the Bridegroom and the Bride is the Church. When we come for Communion, we are the bride going to be united with our Bridegroom.  It is recommended that we take time after Mass just to rest with Jesus.

After the priest says this, we respond: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." (See Matthew 8:8)

This are the words of the Centurion. A Centurion is in charge of Roman soldiers. At this point in time, the Romans were seen as oppressors, so being a Centurion was even worse. He was saying that he is a sinful Roman Centurion, but had profound humility and faith that God would heal his servant. Great faith is the one thing that amazes God in the Gospels. Jesus had not yet performed a long distance miracle, yet the Centurion believed that He could. May we all have this faith.

As I wrote in my last entry, none of us are worthy. That is the point. God in His infinite love and mercy meets us where we are and heals us.

God love you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Deeper Look into the Trinity and the Eucharist

Well I mentioned in my previous entry that I would write about the conference that we attended in Milwaukee on September 24th. It was pretty awesome. (By pretty awesome, I mean really awesome.) Fr. Bill, a Capuchin Franciscan Friar, gave a talk called Praying the Eucharist: A Franciscan Way.

In one of St. Francis' writings, A Letter to the Entire Order (1225-1226) he wrote:

"Let everyone be struck with fear,
let the whole world tremble,
and let the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is present on the altar in the hands of a priest!

"O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
The Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself
under an ordinary piece of bread!

"Brothers, look at the humility of God,

and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves
that you may be exalted by Him!
Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves,
that He Who gives Himself totally to you
may receive you totally!"

Fr. Bill pointed out Franciscan life begins with the heart. What you just read is not theory. It is awe! The truth of the Eucharist is that through it God bends low to touch us! That’s how God loves us: not from a distance but from a touch, which can only happen at our level. That is God’s humility: God Who doesn’t need to, decides to. God loves us individually and allows us to experience this through the person of Jesus.

Note above that Francis wrote: "O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!" God is the epitome of humility.

Three examples of God's humility:
  1. The Word of God became human: The Incarnation.
  2. Allows Himself to be arrested and put to death. (Remember the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were crucified through the person of the Son. This brings a whole new dimension to the humility of God.)
  3. The Eucharist. (Again, remember the Trinity: when we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)
Our response to this great love is in the last paragraph, including these words: "Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves." We are called to:
  • look at the various gifts we have and share them with others.
  • love our neighbors; that includes our enemies (“and who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-37)
The Theology of Transubstantiation, or the Real Presence:
  • The Real Presence is not physical (bones, tissues, etc.) It is beyond the physical.
  • The substance changes while the physical properties are maintained (still smells, tastes, feels and looks like bread and wine, except is it now our Lord). Remember again the Trinity: it is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through the person of the Son.
 Fr. Bill also spoke about people who continue to dwell on the fact that they are not worthy. He said that God knows we are not worthy, that's the point. We need Him. If you want to be healthy you need to eat and drink regularly, not just when you want it; likewise with the Eucharist.

God's ways are not our ways because God IS love. God treats us as we need to be treated, not as we "deserve." (Matthew 20:1-16) We don't get rewarded for good deeds; God treats us as we need to be treated so that we can do good. That's why the sun shines on everyone.

In other news, the Detroit Lions are undefeated (4-0) and the Packers are also undefeated. (At this moment the Packers are playing the Broncos....but we are in the lead.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Random Happenings

A beach sweep, the Stigmata, a birthday, a nature journal, an exciting discovery (for us students), and an upcoming conference:

Last Saturday, as I had mentioned in my last entry, we participated in the Great Lakes Beach Sweep by removing litter from 3 miles of the shoreline of Lake Michigan. We found countless cigarette butts, which takes about 25 years to decompose, and the filters cannot keep all the toxic materials from going into the environment. We also found balloons, a broken fishing pole, lots of Styrofoam, and some wood with nails in them. Fortunately this beach sweep is an annual event so the litter was not nearly as bad as it could be.

Here is a video of what we did:

Saturday was also the Feast of the Stigmata, as in St. Francis' Stigmata. St. Francis had a deep devotion for the crucified Christ. When he was in contemplation on Mt. Alverna, he received the five wounds of the crucified Christ.

While I was growing up I had no idea that I was born on such a major feast day! We had a celebration for my birthday in the afternoon. One of the gifts I received was a board game that Sr. Regina Rose and Sr. Leslie made. It is called Religious Life: A Convent Game. It is so hilarious to play, with various convent scenarios. You begin with lots of property and money, and to win the game you have to get rid of all your money and property while going through the stages of formation!
We also had snacks and I was sooo excited to see hummus and Dr. Pepper...two of my favorites! They even gave me a Packers cake. Tsk. Tsk. No, actually they are my 2nd favorite team!

Now I am once again doing school work. For my science curriculum and methods course, we are keeping a nature journal, so today I took a picture of one of our trees:

I love it because some workers just trimmed it and now it looks like a gigantic bonsai tree! I used the Arbor Day Foundation's "What Tree is That?" (Online Edition- Tree Identification Guide), and identified this tree as a White Ash (Fraxinus americana).

I also found a great website while I was studying for a Spanish test: After I am done making a flashcard, a Spanish-speaking person reads the word! There are also games that you can play with the words. I like the "Speller" and the "Space Race." You can study other subjects using as well, and it is free.

This Saturday, we are going to a Franciscan prayer conference. I am looking forward to it and I will let you all know about it in my next entry!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New Semester at the College

Wow, I realized it has been two weeks since I have last posted. It has been somewhat of a whirlwind here since classes started at Silver Lake College of the Holy Family just over a week ago (after Labor Day).

I am taking:
  • Social Studies Curriculum and Methods
  • Science Curriculum and Methods
  • Christology
  • Intermediate Spanish I
All four of my classes are very interesting, and they are keeping me busy right now. I am also learning guitar. (I loved piano but I have always wanted to play guitar so I jumped at the opportunity!)

Last Saturday, I traveled with other Sisters to Mount, Mount Calvary, Wisconsin. You can read more about it here.  This Saturday, a bunch of us are going to do a "Beach Sweep" at Lake Michigan (we are going to get rid of harmful debris).

Well, I hope that you all are doing well. I am about to do my daily personal prayer time, so I will pray for all of you!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lying Awake: Some Summer Reading

My summer reading included a novel titled Lying Awake by Mark Salzman.

It was a captivating book, and I finished it in two days (that's quick for me.) If you chose to get it, be careful about what descriptions of it you read, because a lot of them, including the ones at, contain spoilers.

To see if it's at your library or to interlibrary loan it, click here.
To purchase your own copy, click here.

Here is the description on the back of the book:
In a Carmelite monastery outside present-day Los Angeles, life goes on in a manner virtually un-changed for centuries. Sister John of the Cross has spent years there in the service of God. And there, she alone experiences visions of such dazzling power and insight that she is looked upon as a spiritual master. But Sister John's visions are accompanied by powerful headaches, and when a doctor reveals that they may be dangerous, she faces a devastating choice. For if her spiritual gifts are symptoms of illness rather than grace, will a "cure" mean the end of her visions and a soul once again dry and searching?

This is the dilemma at the heart of Mark Salzman's spare, astonishing new novel. With extraordinary dexterity, the author of the best-selling Iron & Silk and The Soloist brings to life the mysterious world of the cloister, giving us a brilliantly realized portrait of women today drawn to the rigors of an ancient religious life, and of one woman's trial at the perilous intersection of faith and reason.

Lying Awake is a novel of remarkable empathy and imagination, and Mark Salzman's most provocative work to date.
Other books I read this summer include:
  • Buried Wheat by Sr. Rosamond Nugent, OSF (a novel based on the history of our community)
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (While it was difficult to read this tragedy, it gave me insight into Hmong History and Culture, as well as a deeper awareness of the Secret War in Laos.)
  • Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light -the Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta (I am actually in the middle of it.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The End of Summer Brings New Beginnings

We have had some good times....I just love summers at the convent! On Saturday, Sr. Regina Rose, Sr. Leslie and I joined a couple of Sr. Mary Zigo's guests for a soccer game. We were going to play for 10 minutes and ending up playing for an hour....we were just having so much fun, so we didn't go in until it got dark out.

On Sunday, we were delighted to welcome Regina to the postulancy! You can read about her by clicking here.

We have gotten to eat with her a few times, and today we all went on a bike ride together, which was a lot of fun. Later on, we taught her how to play Hand and Foot, a favorite game of the Community! It is so great to hang out with Regina and I am so glad she is here!

We have also welcomed more International Sisters to our Motherhouse! Yay! Sr. Juliet is a Little Sister of St. Francis, and she is originally from Tanzania, Sister Constansia is a Franciscan Sister of St. Bernadette from Tanzania, and Sr. Emiliana is a Bene Maria Sister from Tanzania. Tomorrow, Sr. Rose Maura will arrive. She is a Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister from Nigeria. I am excited to get to know these Sisters, our "cousins!"

Last night, we went to the Serran Picnic, which is always a great time. Serra is the lay apostolate for vocations in the Catholic Church. Serrans promote and pray for vocations, and last night they fed us religious sisters, brothers and priests in the area and led BINGO! The Serran picnic always feels kind of like a family reunion...I just love it. I got to meet a few more Salvatorian Sisters, and that was great. (We help out at the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse.)

For more about Serra, click here:

I hope and pray that your summer has been enjoyable, and that you have been able to stay cool! I know that it has been hot and dry in a lot of areas....

For those of you who went to World Youth Day, our Community has been praying a ton for you!!! We are members of the Apostleship of Prayer and Pope Benedict's intention for the month is: "That World Youth Day in Madrid may encourage young people throughout the world to have their lives rooted and built up in Christ." Throughout month of August, we have been praying for that intention during morning prayer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Couple New FSCC Blogs!

I would like to take the opportunity to invite you all to visit blogs by two of our professed sisters:

Sierra Vista Sister-Franciscan is a lovely blog written by Sr. Carol Siedl to document her experiences at Our Lady of the Mountains Parish in Sierra Vista, AZ.

It is a new mission site for our Sisters, and having Sisters around is a new thing for the parish. Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary Gabriel, the two Sisters who were sent there, have been greeted with a plentitude of hospitality from the Sierra Vista community! I know I am excited to continue to read of their adventures!

In Franciscan Retreat, Sr. Julie Ann invites you to read, reflect, pray, share; discern. As you peruse the blog on your own, you will find that it is not "just another blog on retreats" but a valuable roadmap to finding direction in your life.

Perhaps, you too, will feel called to attend a retreat with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. They are spiritually enriching and fun! When I came to retreats here before I entered, I found it refreshing to meet others who are discerning God's will as well!

I would like to personally thank the people who nominated Franciscanized World for Best Blog by Religious, SisterMaryAnn Tweets for Best Microblog and Habitually Speaking for Best Spiritual Blog. It is such an honor and we really appreciate it!
Catholic New Media Awards
Please consider taking a few minutes to vote. You may go to the Catholic New Media Awards website at
Voting closes Friday, August 26th. Thank you!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fighting World Hunger on the Potter's Wheel

Sr. Mariella spent time last summer teaching us how to write icons. This summer, she invited us novices and our directress, Sr. Natalie, into the pottery studio for some throwing on the wheel!

Sr. Leslie, Sr. Regina Rose and I all had prior experience throwing pots, and we soon found out that Sr. Natalie is a prodigy. Yeah. She learned in a day how to throw a pot on the wheel.

We had a great time, and we were able to contribute to a great cause! The bowls that we created will go to an Empty Bowls fundraiser.

"Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was created by The Imagine Render Group. The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity."

The bowls we contributed will benefit the Two Rivers Eccumenical Pantry, which currently serves 428 families. You can read more about it on Franciscanized World by clicking here.

Here are a couple pictures of what we made:

The prevalence of hunger in our world can be disheartening, especially when we watch videos of the people in Somalia who are suffering from the drought. We wonder if we can really make a difference in ending world hunger. However as Dewitt Jones says, we can make a contribution.

God uses our contributions and multiplies them. Just look what He has already done with the idea that one person or a small group of people had for "Empty Bowls": "Events have now taken place across the United States and in at least a dozen other countries. Many millions of dollars have been raised and donated to hunger-fighting organizations. We could never have imagined all the things people have done or all the ways the project has touched people" (
And our prayers do more than we know.

When Jesus heard of [the death of St. John the Baptist], he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." (Jesus) said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking 5 the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over 6 --twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
-Matthew 14:13-21

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

100th Entry of Habitually Speaking

It is offical. I have now reached 100 entries of "Habitually Speaking." I must say it is exciting to reach this milestone!

In honor of this occassion, I would like to ask, you, the reader, if there are any topics that you would be interested in reading about on here. Please write them in the comment box. Thank you!

I have been thinking about what else I can do to celebrate, and I have noticed that one tradition for bloggers is to write 100 things about themselves. So I decided to simply write 100 things:

1 Great Franciscan Movie:
Clare and Francis

1 Favorite Devotion of Our Community:
The Sacred Heart of Jesus

3 Words to explain the Rule of St. Francis:
Live the Gospel

3 Upcoming Discernment Retreats:
-November 4-6, 2011
-February 17-19, 2012
-May 18-20, 2012

Our 3 Apostolates
-Parish/Community Services

4 Charisms of our Community:
-simplicity, built on faith in a loving God
-joyful acceptance of poverty
-love for the Church
-selfless dedication to the service of others

5 Things You Might Not Know about St. Francis:
-His birthname was John (Giovanni), but later his father renamed him "Francesco," because of a good experience in France.
-He had dreamt of becoming a knight and failed at his attempts.
-Before his interior conversion, he was often seen partying and carousing in the streets of Assisi.
-He became friends with Sultan Al-Malik al-Kamil during the Crusades.
-Late in his life, he experienced two years of depression and was tempted to give up on what he had started (the Franciscan order).

The 5 Foundresses of our Community:
Sophia Fessler --> Sister Seraphica
Mary Ann Graff --> Sister Hyacinth
Josephine Thoeing --> Sister Coletta
Rosa Wahl --> Sister Odelia (Later Mother Odelia)
Teresa Gramlich --> Sister Gabriel (Later Mother Gabriel)

7 Decade Rosary for the 7 Joys of Mary (The Franciscan Crown):
The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Nativity
The Adoration by the Magi
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Resurrection
The Assumption and Coronation

8 Locations of Our Missions:

9 Awesome Franciscan Saints:
St. Francis (founder of the Franciscan order)
St. Clare (foundress of the Poor Clares)
St. Pio (a.k.a. Padre Pio)
St. Maximillian Kolbe (gave up his life for a stranger at the Auschwitz concentration camp)
St. Veronica Giuliani (deep devotion to Christ's Passion)
St. Joseph of Cuppertino (patron saint of test takers and of people with learning difficulties)
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (patroness of the Secular Franciscan Order)
St. Anthony of Padua (Are you missing anything?)
St. Bonaventure (Great philosopher!)

20 Mysteries of the Rosary
"Finally, I exhort all consecrated persons, according to their own traditions, to renew daily their spiritual union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, reliving with her the mysteries of her Son, especially by saying the Rosary."
-Blessed John Paul II, Vita Consecrata

31 YouTube Videos by our Community:
*And counting!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why Are Prayers at Mass Going to Change?

***Note: I wrote another entry on this topic on October 16, 2011: The Mass Explained (And More About the Changes)

English speaking people from eleven different countries will be experiencing changes in the Mass beginning the First Sunday of Advent, this year. (November 27, 2011) Yesterday, during our community meeting, Sr. Pamela explained why what we say at mass is changing.

Note: Scripture readings, prayers of the faithful and favorite hymns will not be changed.

Here are some questions and answers based on her talk:

Why is there a new translation?
The translation we have been using has served us well. It was based on a method of translation called "Dynamic" Equivalence. This means that translators are free to paraphrase in order to get across the intended meaning of the original Latin text.

This method, while making the prayers more understandable to the general population, has also left out specific scriptural sentences. For example:
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," will be changed to "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed" (See Matthew 8:8).

The new method of translation that is used for the Roman Missal (formerly called the Sacramentary) is called "Direct" or "Formal" Equivalence. This means that the translators made the wording as close as possible to a literal translation of the Latin prayers.

The purpose of the new translation is to enrich what we say by examining the original texts in Latin. The goal is to make the translation better.

Will the Church go back to using Latin at Mass?
No. English (or whatever language you speak) is here to stay.

What if I have trouble getting used to it?
We have to be patient with each other and especially with our priests as we get used to it--it will take awhile to get used to the new translation.

Our priests have using the same words ever since Mass was said in English for the first time. Many of them celebrate Mass several times throughout the weekend and at least once a day. To all of a sudden change what one says will be a challenge.

At the same time, it will be challenging for the rest of us. We need to give it time, and everyone learns new things at a different pace.

Why are there more words in the Gloria?
We cannot say enough to praise God. We are so in awe of Him! In fact, the new translation of the Roman Missal is a more humble translation, acknowledging that we are in the presence of an awesome God! God is both imminent and transcendent. The new translation includes both of these realities on a deeper level.

Why are we going from saying "We Believe" to "I Believe" in the Nicene Creed?
Each of us takes responsibility to profess our faith. When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a group of people, we say, "I pledge allegiance to the flag...."

What does "consubstantial with the Father" mean?
Jesus and the Father are one and the same. They have the same substance.

If you would like more information....Sr. Pamela recommended the following booklets, which I now recommend to you:

Please, if you have any questions, write them in the comment box! I love questions, and if I don't know the answer, I will look for it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sister Water is Playful!

"All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure."
-St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday was Sister Leslie's birthday, so Sister Regina Rose and I put together a surprise water games party for her, which we had the day before. The weather really was really hot that day! We had water balloons and a slip 'n slide that we made from a tarp. Later that night, we had a Holy Hour together. Then on Sunday night we played "Minute to Win It" which Sr. Natalie and Sr. Kathleen organized. Later that night, some people on the other side of the lake shot off some really beautiful fireworks, and we joked that they did that for her birthday.

Fourth of July was best Fourth of July's have been at the convent! It was fun the whole day. We got to sleep in and go to a later mass, we had a flag raising ceremony, dancing, badminton, croquet, sparklers, singing, hamburgers and brats, and simply hanging out with each other. It was a blast!

Tonight some of us just got back from picking strawberries. We picked about 180 pounds of them! They are delicious, and I am looking forward to having strawberry jam and whatever else they make from it.

Tomorrow is the last class for an English class we have been taking these past two weeks. It is called Franciscanism in Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Sr. Renita teaches it. Hopkins was a Jesuit but he was influenced by Franciscanism and this comes through in his poetry. I enjoy poetry, so it has been nice to be introduced to his work.

We also learned something very interesting today about Blessed John Duns Scotus, OFM (circa 1265-1308):

Scotus had been advocating for a feast of the Immaculate Conception. Some people in Rome did not approve of this and voted against his beatification. He was already called "Blessed" by the people who knew him/knew of him almost immediately after his death.

The Immaculate Conception was declared to be a dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II beatified him.

God has entrusted the workings of Church to human beings (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and none of us are perfect.

I think a good thing that situation this shows about the Church is that there are no rash decisions, especially when declaring dogmas. Matters of faith and morals are not taken lightly.

I hope and pray that you all are doing well! God bless!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Book of Revelation: Does It Predict the End of the World?

Today, we are having a guest blogger: Sister Leslie!

Thanks for the introduction Sr. Monica, I’m a first year Novice and one of the things we do in Novitiate is take classes that help to enhance our knowledge of God. This June we were fortunate to be able to take a class about the book of Revelation called “Approaching the Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation from the First Century to the Twenty-First.” Fr. Jean-Pierre Ruiz taught the class and even though we only had one week I am sure that everyone in the class learned a lot about the book of Revelation. Studying the scriptures is important because as St. Jerome said, “To be ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ.”

The book of Revelation is possibly the most challenging and mysterious books of the Bible. The Apocalypse (Greek for Revelation) is widely misunderstood especially in American culture. Some people use it to inspire fear in others and often people react to the Apocalypse in a rash manner, they might stop educating their children, stop going to work, or buy an R.V. with an expensive paint job.

This is really understandable and it is an easy mistake to make when the book of Revelation is taken literally and the surrounding culture encourages this rash apocalyptic thinking. The name of this theory is Dispensationalist Pre-millenarianism. An easy mistake to make, really, if one has not been taught exegesis (analysis of Biblical texts). This mistake comes from collapsing the world in front of the text and the world behind the text, basically acting as if Revelation was written in the 21st Century instead of the 1st Century.

In order to effectively understand Revelation and really any text we must understand the world behind the text (the historic time period in which it was written), the world of the text (the literary elements used in the writing of the text), and the world in front of the text (our present time). These should not be collapsed together but understood separately. The world behind the text allows us to read the text as a window into that time period. The world within the text allows us to see John’s use of metaphors that are not meant to be taken literally. The world in front of the text allows us to read the text as a mirror and see what God’s word means for us in this time. When this method of reading a text is applied to the book of Revelation, it is transformed from a scary text with a foreboding message of doom to a beautiful message of hope.

First, let us remember that this was written by a guy named John (not John the Apostle) on the island of Patmos (that is where he lived and he might not have been exiled) in about 96 CE/AD (whatever your preference) during a time of oppression. At the time an imperial cult had formed in the Roman Empire. Basically worship of the Emperor and the Empire became a major part of society. In fact, economic prosperity and almost all social interactions depended on participation in the imperial cult. So, in John’s time in order for Christians to participate in society they must participate in idolatry. A large part of John’s message is imploring Christians not to participate in society and to worship only God. He is encouraging the churches of Smyrna and of Philadelphia but he is chastising the other five churches for various faults; lack of love, trusting in their wealth, taking part in idolatry, and so on. John is asking these Christians to do a hard thing and give up all prosperity for God.

Next, it is important to know that the Roman Empire at the time tried to paint itself in a beautiful light, as the great bringers of peace, Pax Romana. John uses metaphorical language to describe the relationship between the Empire and its people. John uses the Empires imagery, ideology, iconography, and mythology against it. He was exposing the Empire as its true self and showing that its Pax was really forced control. The true victor is the “victim” of the Empire the Slain Lamb, Jesus Christ.

Most importantly (in my opinion) one of the purposes of the book of Revelation is to provide a bridge between Heavenly Liturgy and Earthly Liturgy. In the act of our worship of Christ on Earth we are connected to the worship that takes place in Heaven read the book of Revelation closely and hopefully you will see this connection. Through our worship we become free and within the context of our worship we come to the “New Jerusalem”. Worship is not just taking part in ceremonies and participating in prayer, worship is every act in which we are aware of the presence of God, anytime that we are acting out of love and conducting ourselves as Christians we are worshiping God.

The message the book of Revelation gives me is that I should worship Jesus Christ our Lord in everything that I think, say, and do. Through that worship I will bring Christ into the world and I am connected to the “New Jerusalem”. Also, no matter what the consequences I should proclaim through my words and actions the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord along with everything that statement implies. If injustice crosses my path I should not participate in it and I should work against it. Sometimes societies are unjust and then as a Christian I should not participate in that aspect of society. Live a Christian life in word and deed. God is not scary. Be not afraid.

Perspective of each individual reader effects interpretation of every text. What is your perception of the book of Revelation?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do You Believe Christ is Truly Present in the Eucharist?

Theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich provides reassurance for those who may be questioning something: "Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith."

One of the things we do in the novitiate is Scripture Sharing. We get together on Saturdays to discuss Sunday's readings. Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (or Corpus Christi), so yesterday, our discussions centered around our belief in transubstantiation. Some stories emerged while we were sharing, and I would like to leave them for you to reflect on:

How is it Possible?
Sr. Kathleen shared the following excerpt from the book: God Still Speaks: Listen! by Harold A. Buetow (1995)

"Some time ago, a street-corner preacher who knew how to make religious truth come to life was faced by a hostile crowd. 'How,' one of them demanded, 'is it possible for bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ?' The preacher looked calmly at the stout questioner for a moment and answered, 'You've grown somewhat since you were a child and have more flesh and blood than you had then. Surely, if the human body can change food and drink into flesh and blood, God can do it, too.'

"'But how,' countered the heckler, 'is it possible for Christ to be present in his entirety in a small host?' The preacher glanced up at the sky and down the city street before them and answered, 'This city scene and the sky above it is something immense, while your eye is very small. Yet your eye contains in itself the whole picture. When you consider this, it won't seem impossible for Christ to be present in his entirety in a little piece of bread.'

"Once more the heckler attacked. 'How, then, is it possible for the same body of Christ to be present in all your churches at the same time?' The preacher's answer was, 'In a large mirror you see your image reflected but once. When you break the mirror into a hundred pieces, you see the same image of yourself in each of the hundred fragments. If such things occur in everyday life, why should it be impossible for the body of Christ to be in many places at once? And tell me, just what isn't possible for God, anyhow?'" (Buetow 147-148).

Physical Evidence
St. Thomas the Apostle (John 20:24-29) and many other holy men and women needed physical evidence! :)

Sr. Leslie shared a story about a miracle that provides this evidence. The story is in a book that I am reading, and I will include it here. The excerpt is from Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life by Johnnette S. Benkovic (2004)

"In A.D. 700 a Basilian monk was faced with a crisis in his vocation. He did not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Day after day, though he celebrated Mass according to the sacred tradition, a profound doubt in the Eucharistic Presence grew within Him. Eventually, the moment of Consecration became a sever trial and a heartbreaking struggle. As he elevated the host and said the sacred words, guilt plagued his spirit and unrest tortured his soul. He prayed fervently to be released from the agony of doubt so that his vocation might be preserved.

"On a particular morning during the celebration of the Mass, the monk was fighting an unusually strong attack of doubt. As the moment of Consecration approached, he earnestly beseeched God to relieve him of this terrible spiritual affliction. Then, he prayed the prayers of Consecration and elevated the host. Suddenly, he was transfixed by what he saw. His hands began to tremble. Soon, his whole body quaked in response to the miracle he was witnessing. Slowly, he turned and faced the congregation. As he did so, he spoke these words:

"'O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my disbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes. Come, brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ.'

"With these words, cries and wails filled the church. Shouts for mercy, pleas for forgiveness, tears of supplication ascended to the heavens in a symphony of worship and praise. For, as the congregation gazed upon the host in the hands of the Basilian monk, the people saw that it had become the real flesh, and the wine real blood.

"...without the use of any preservatives, defying the physical laws of nature, they remain to this day in the exact state as was first witnessed over twelve hundred years ago. Through the course of these twelve centuries many tests have been conducted...the more recent testing was done in 1970. The scientific team used the most modern equipment available at the time. The team released their findings:

"-The flesh is real flesh. The blood is real blood.
-The flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart (myocardium).
-The flesh and blood belong to the human species.
-In the blood are proteins in the same normal proportions as found in the makeup of fresh, normal blood.
-The blood and the flesh were of the same blood type, AB; and the blood contains these minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium.
-The preservation of the flesh and blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon" (Benkovic 149-150).

The Humility of God
We also pondered the humility of God to institute this Sacrament:

"Let the whole of mankind tremble
the whole world shake
and the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is on the altar
in the hands of a priest.
O admirable heights and sublime lowliness!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
That the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself under the little form of bread!
Look, brothers, at the humility of God
and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves, as well,
that you may be exalted by Him.
hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves
so that
He Who gives Himself totally to you
may receive you totally."
-St. Francis of Assisi

Finally, after scripture sharing, we viewed the following video:

"Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!" (see Mark 9:34).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Camp Franciscan is Underway!

We are in the middle of an exciting week at the Motherhouse! I am currently waiting for some campers to arrive for a session that I am co-facilitating with Sr. Regina Rose, one of our new novices! Later on, the other new novice, Sr. Leslie and I will be helping with the choir in preparation for the talent show tonight. Campers will have a chance to show off their God-given talents in band, skits, dancing, or choir!

The young women are delightful and they seem to be enjoying the week!

For more information and pictures, click on this link:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sister Pamela Catherine Gets a Black Veil Today!

Sister Pamela Catherine is going to be professed today! It is a bittersweet time for those of us who are in the novitiate community, because we are so happy for her, but her presence will be missed. In July, she will head to Bapchule, Arizona, where she will be teaching junior high.

Congratulations, Sister Pamela Catherine!

Prior to first profession, a Sister spends time in retreat. We had a retreat last week, led by Fr. Charlie Smiech, OFM. It was about making the transition from praying with the mind to praying with the heart. We were encouraged to spend time gazing upon the eyes of Christ in the San Damiano Cross and noticing how loving those eyes are. We also were presented with a different way of looking at Christ as the Good Shepherd. Sheep herding is probably a messy, dirty; smelly task. Thus, Jesus so humbles himself that he is delighted to meet us where we are at, no matter what condition we are in. Father Charlie told us that there is a statue in Germany that so eloquently portrays the Good Shepherd, not draped in the fine red linens we are used to seeing Him in, but in how He might actually appear.

I wonder if this is the statue that he was speaking of:

Picture taken from:

It was a really nice retreat. Well, this week Sr. Pamela Catherine and I both will be on homevisits. I will be leaving on the train tomorrow to go to my hometown, Grand Rapids, MI. I'm proud of my hometown. After being labeled by Newsweek as a "dying city", a few thousand Grand Rapidians banded together to create what Roger Ebert calls "The Greatest Music Video Ever Made." City officials even closed off the streets for it. Here is the video (click on it to make it bigger):

I will return in time for the Postulants' Reception into the Novitiate. We are all excited to find out what their names will be and to accept them as official members of the Community! Then they will be getting used to wearing veils while running around at Camp Franciscan! :) Exciting times.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

From Celebration to Silent Joy...and Anticipation

Today we are celebrating diamond jubilees at the Motherhouse! It is an exciting day to honor these inspirational Sisters who have been professed for 60 or 75 years! This morning, Sister Pamela Catherine and I served breakfast to guests of the Sisters and that was nice. They were very gracious.

At our breakfast table with other Sisters and the soon-to-be novices, we were figuring out how old we will be at our jubilees. It was kind of fun. We shall see if we will live that long. I won't reveal the others' ages in case they don't want theirs known but I am fine with sharing mine.

Next year (2012) I will be making my first profession.

2012 - I will be 27 years old
Silver Jubilee (25 years professed): 2037 - 52 years old
Golden Jubilee (50 years professed): 2062 - 77 years old
Diamond Jubilee (60 years professed): 2072 - 87 years old
Diamond Jubilee (75 years professed): 2087 - 102 years old

I can see why they allow the celebration of the the diamond jubilee to be at 60 years! :)

After today's festivities, we will begin our retreat! I am very much looking forward to it! It will begin tonight and go until Saturday morning. It's a silent retreat, but we will have talks, mass, and prayer together. Tonight, at the opening session, we will recieve a general schedule. Afterwards, I will create my own personal *tentative* schedule that will include personal prayer, art, and exercise. Naps are encouraged when needed so the schedule has to be tentative. (It's much easier to pray when you are well rested.)

Upcoming Events
~June 5th: Pamela Catherine's First Profession
~June 12th: the Postulants are Received into the Novitiate
~June 13th: Camp Franciscan Leaders Arrive for Leadership Day
~June 14th-16th: Camp Franciscan
~June 26th: Silver and Golden Jubilee Celebration

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For Those Affected by Flooding and Tornadoes

In the novitiate, we watch ABC World News. It's nice and refreshing that there is a faith dimension to their program. For the past couple of weeks there have been many reports about the flooding and more recently, the tornadoes. It breaks my heart to view the footage of all those affected by these natural disasters. Please know that as a community we pray frequently for all of you and your loved ones. I will be spending next week in retreat so I will have extra time to pray for you!

God bless you. He is closer to you than you can ever imagine, supplying you with all the graces that you need to get through this devastation!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Stages of Initial Formation

Last Wednesday, I posted a blog entry called "What It Means to be in Initial Formation." You can read it by clicking here. In that entry I wrote about the nature and process of formation itself.

Today, my focus is on the stages of initial formation for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. My personal experience is limited to the postulancy and first year novitiate. I will do my best to summarize the other stages.

The postulancy is a time to live among the Sisters, and to continue to discern whether God is calling oneself to the religious life. Postulants enroll in classes at Silver Lake College to develop an understanding of Catholicism, spirituality, and philosophy. They may also take other classes toward their degrees.

Postulants participate in "Mission Experiences" in which they spend time with Sisters at our various mission sites. You can look at pictures from our postulants' recent mission experiences in Arizona by clicking here.

Postulants participate in the prayer life of the community, as well as daily recreation.The length of postulancy is typically 9-10 months, depending on the needs of the young woman in formation. Canonically, it cannot be less than 6 months, and a person can stay in the postulancy for a second year.

The novitiate is two years in length. When a young woman becomes a novice, she receives her religious name and begins wearing a white veil. The novitiate is a time to deepen one's relationship with God and to continue to discern God's direction for one's life.

In the first year of the novitiate, novices study the Old Testament in the Fall and the New Testament in the Spring. They learn about the charisms, constitutions, and history of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, as well as the Franciscan Rule and history. They also spend time helping out around the Motherhouse. (This year, I worked in the kitchen and bakery, as well as sacristy.)

In the second year of the novitiate, novices take classes at Silver Lake College to prepare for their apostolates and to continue to study theology. They also study the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Novices participate in the prayer life of the community, and in addition, they pray midday and night prayer together. There is a chapel in the novitiate with a tabernacle. Novices have daily recreation as well. They also have "mission experiences (staying with Sisters at our various mission sites)."

Temporary Profession
When a young woman professes vows for the first time, she recieves a black veil. The temporary profession is renewed every year until the Sister is ready for perpetual profession. Temporary profession ordinarily lasts between three and six years.

During Temporary Profession, the Sister is either working toward her degree, or begining her apostolate (her ministry). She lives at a mission site with other Sisters. In the summers, the Sister resides at the Motherhouse for the Temporary Profession program.

Perpetual Profession
When a young woman makes final vows, she becomes a permament member of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. She receives a ring. Her formation is not over though! Everyone is called to continue to grow throughout our lives.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Poem: I'm the Daddy of a Nun

This Wednesday, I am going to be sharing about the stages of formation for our community, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, but first, I want to share with you all a cute poem that's on a little card in the novitiate. This is in honor of all family members who have so generously shared their sons/daughters/sisters/brothers/nieces/nephews with the Church.

I'm the Daddy of a Nun

Sure my daughter has been vested
And my joy I cannot hide,
For I've watched her from the cradle
With a father's honest pride.

But the morn she left me early
I was feeling mighty blue,
Just a-thinking how I'd miss her
And the things she used to do.

But now, somehow it's different,--
With each rising of the sun,
And my heart is ever singing,
"I'm the daddy of a nun."

Since to err is only human
There's a whole lot on the slate,
That I'll have to make account for
When I reach the golden gate.

But then I'm not a-worrying
About the deeds I've done,
I'll just whisper to St. Peter:
"I'm the daddy of a nun."

Copyright 1954 by The Notre Dame Publishing Co., N.Y.C. Litho in Italy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What It Means to be in Initial Formation

Next week, I will write about the different stages of Initial Formation for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. This week, I am writing about the process of formation itself. defines formation as follows:

for·ma·tion   /fɔrˈmeɪʃən/ [fawr-mey-shuhn]

1. the act or process of forming or the state of being formed: the formation of ice.
2. the manner in which a thing is formed; disposition of parts; formal structure or arrangement.

Formation, by its very nature, is not an easy process. Just take the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly:

It's all about change and growth. This is at the heart of initial formation in a religious community. (It is called initial formation, because formation is a lifelong process!)

One thing that has helped me in my initial formation process is knowing Maslow's Four Stages of Learning, also known as the Conscious Competence Theory. I was required to memorize these stages for a public speaking class. (Thanks, Dave, for requiring this!) It has helped me to be patient with myself, especially in the Conscious Incompetence stage!

Maslow's 4 Stages of Learning/The Conscious Competence Theory:
1. Unconscious Incompetence: The individual is not aware that s/he is doing something wrong or that s/he needs to improve in an area.
Example: Sam is not aware that he mumbles when he talks.

2. Conscious Incompetence: The individual recognizes that s/he is doing something wrong but it is either a bad habit or s/he does not know how to improve.
Example: Sam's friend has told him that he mumbles when he talks. Now that he is aware of it, he wants to make a change. He catches himself mumbling again, and tells himself he needs to stop it.

3. Conscious Competence: The individual is improving/doing something right but has to concentrate to do it.
Example: When Sam talks, he focuses on opening his mouth more and ennunciating his words.
4. Unconscious Competence: The individual is able to do something right without even thinking about it. The skill has become second nature.
Example: Sam no longer mumbles and doesn't even have to think about it.

As I mentioned above, Conscious Incompetence can be the most frustrating stage. In St. Paul's letter to the Romans, he expresses this feeling:

"What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate."
-Romans 7:15, NAB

It also can be frustrating because you know that you are changing, but the change is not observable to other people. This calls for patience on both sides. Using the scenario with Sam, imagine that he is with his friend, and he starts mumbling again. Sam is working on not mumbling, but his friend cannot read Sam's mind. He might not know that Sam is trying to improve. In this situation, Sam and his friend both need to be patient with each other. Sam needs to be patient with his friend's lack of superpowers, and his friend needs to be patient with Sam's learning process. In addition, Sam needs to be patient with himself, knowing that seldom do people change as quickly as they want to. However, as long as one wants to change, provided that it is physically possible, one can change.

Here are a couple good songs on this topic:
Do People Bloom by Ezra Holbrook
Changes IV by Cat Stevens

And a reflection by a friend in seminary:
Try, and keep trying and keep trying, and try again.

Fortunately for me, I am a "no-vice!" ;-)

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

In other news, I was able to borrow The King's Speech from Silver Lake College's library, and we watched it with a bunch of our fellow Sisters. It was an excellent movie! Just incredible.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

JPII, We Love You!

I have been trying to find coverage of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II. I guess I have to be a little more patient.

In the meantime, I found this cute video. I love the way he responded to the media:

I just loved JPII. I remember Toronto, Canada in 2002. He was riding around above us in a helicopter throughout the week leading up to World Youth Day, praying for us all. That really touched me. All of a sudden, the successor of St. Peter was no longer a person far removed. He was and is a person who genuinely cares.

My experience with Blessed John Paul II really helped set the stage for how I experience the Church and the Vatican. I now have a love for the Church that transcends the emotions that I felt at World Youth Day. I don't want to belittle emotional experiences because I think they are necessary for making the first step in anything. I don't think people decide to do things that they feel "just okay" about, unless they are obligated to do them. God knows we need these emotions, so He provides us with "excessive happiness" (to quote the movie Patch Adams).

I love the Church and trust that Christ continues to be at the head of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church #792), guiding our pope, Pope Benedict XVI and all of us. I love Pope Benedict XVI, and I invite you all if you aren't already doing so, to keep him in your daily prayers and learn about him. He certainly has a lot of good to offer the Church. My favorite thing that he has written so far is Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). I invite you to read that.

Also, to those of you who live in the United Kingdom, congratulations on the royal wedding! Isn't is great that they got married on the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena, who has the same name as Duchess Catherine? I heard that the Anglican archbishop even mentioned the saint at the wedding ceremony!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some of What We Learn in Instructions During the Novitiate

My arm is tired. That's because I just finished my final exam for New Testament. So it's a good feeling because it means that I am now on summmer vacation. The weather hasn't quite caught up with the college calendar. We are having April showers. On Friday though, it is supposed to be about seventy degrees and sunny....perfect for more rollerblading!

I am in that strange state that I think a lot students feel shortly after the semester. The feeling that you have homework as usual, but at the same time knowing you don't have homework.

In instructions (for the novitiate) we have finished studying the Rule and Constitutions and we are now studying the history of the Third Order (Franciscans). It's very interesting. Brother Bill Short visited our community about 15 years ago to teach us about it, and fortunately someone videotaped his lectures. He is so funny- he really brings history to life. It is also enjoyable to see and hear our sisters in the video.

Next year, the instructions will be centered around the vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience. I am looking forward to learning more about what I'll be agreeing to. :)

Time to go light the charcoal for Exposition of the Eucharist!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

With Scars in His Hands

Throughout the Easter Triduum, I had a song going through my head as I contemplated the resurrected Christ. I thought of Jesus appearing to the disciples with scars in His hands, fully embodying the Paschal Mystery.

Paschal Mystery means that Jesus' Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension are all a single event.

Here is the song I was thinking of:

I thought that the song goes well with the following passages from scripture. I invite you to read and reflect on them:

"Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.' Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.'

-John 20:24-29, NAB

"Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered."
-Revelation 5:6a, NRSV
"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
-Revelation 7:9-10, NRSV

Christ's suffering has been vindicated. So is/will our suffering! Alleluia!

I pray that your Easter is full of many blessings and insights into your relationship with our risen Lord!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Lovely Day for Rollerblading!

Sister Pamela Catherine and I just came in from rollerblading. I don't have much experience on hills so she taught me how to do it and we went down some pretty cool ones. (Don't worry, Mom, I was able to put a helmet on over my veil.) I am looking forward to another trip out there!

I hope that you find time to do something fun, too!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Lesson from a Flower

A few months ago, I inherited a flower. At the time, I thought it was pretty, but a little confused. Rather than growing up straight like other flowers, the stem curved up then down and back up again with little red flowers at the end. It was cute in a Charlie Brown sort of way. I even thought of Linus' line in A Charlie Brown Christmas: "It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love." So out of all the flowers that I got to choose from, I chose the Charlie Brown one.

Much to my amazement, with a "little love," water, and sunshine, my confused flower was not so confused after all! Other bunches of flowers along the stem, which turned out to be a vine, started to come up. They blossomed and bloomed and even the leaves grew plump. As it turns out, it is not supposed to stand up straight like the "other" flowers. If it did, it wouldn't be nearly as beautiful.

P.S. Does anyone know what kind of flower this is? Thanks!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lent 2011, Take Two

Lent is a time to continually die to self and to begin anew every day. I have come to that understanding more and more over the years and even more so since I have been here at the convent.

I began this Lent full force with a Lenten promise I made to God and myself. It lasted a week and a half. With other pressures/"priorities" the past couple of days, it has fallen away. I pray before I go to bed at night, and last night I realized that I was going to have to recommit myself, fully relying on the strength of Christ.

Now imagine my excitement at mass today, when we sang "Ashes," a song typically used on Ash Wednesday. "We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew." I sang this two weeks ago, ready to begin Lent. Singing it again today, I was not only comforted by our merciful Father, but even more inspired to start again.

Then I had to smile, because the third verse was so perfect for our snowy/rainy weather that we are having in Spring:
Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain;
Though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we'll use for growing,
and create the world anew,
From an offering of ashes,
An offering to You.

May your Lent be a time of renewal, growth, and rising everytime you fall.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The People of Japan are on Our Hearts and in Our Prayers

If you are reading this from Japan, please know that at the Motherhouse we have been watching the news and praying for all of you throughout the day. Intentions are offered at our community prayer times as well. It is heart wrenching to think about all the lives affected by this disaster. God bless you and your loved ones.

Psalm 42 seems like a good prayer for this situation.

Psalm 42, New American Bible
"As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily,"Where is your God?"
Those times I recall as I pour out my soul, When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God, Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.
Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you From the land of the Jordan and Hermon, from the land of Mount Mizar.
Here deep calls to deep in the roar of your torrents. All your waves and breakers sweep over me.
At dawn may the LORD bestow faithful love that I may sing praise through the night, praise to the God of my life.
I say to God, "My rock, why do you forget me? Why must I go about mourning with the enemy oppressing me?"
It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me. They say to me daily: "Where is your God?"
Why are you downcast, my soul, why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God."