Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review of The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns, Epsiode 1: "I'm Not Ready!"

I first would like to say how grateful I am to be watching this from Hawai'i where TV timing isn't always accurate! I wasn't looking forward to watching this show at 10/9c, especially when it gets closer to Christmas and we'll be getting up early for Misa de Gallo. I happened to turn on the TV at 8pm, and there it was!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the young women on the show were not actually in an initial formation program. That laid to rest a whole slew of fears I had had. It is more of a "come and see" program, or an extra long "nun run." Granted, discernment can feel intense during pre-convent days, as this episode illustrated well, but things get a bit more personal during pre-postulancy/postulancy.

On that note, there was a lot going on in this episode. My heart went out to Eseni as she described her family situation and how she feels that Sisters are peaceful and free of drama. I have met young women who are looking at religious life for that reason and it is always so sad, because what they really want is to be happy. They will find happiness if they keep working on it and perhaps find a good therapist to talk with, but it won't magically appear within the walls of a convent. Maybe they have a calling, maybe they don't, but now is not the right timing for them. As Sisters, we all are broken and we all have a past, but we didn't run away from anything. It's not a running from; it's a running to.

Additionally, there is drama in convents. One of the Sisters on the show said it well: "It's a miracle there hasn't been any murders." I laughed because I've heard that before! I personally cannot stand drama and find it to be a waste of energy. However, any time there is a lot of people with varied upbringings, personalities, and generations living closely together, there will be rumors, there will be occasional hurt feelings, and the different ways of dealing with conflict are as varied as the Sisters themselves. Granted, we as Sisters are always trying to improve ourselves and our relationships and when it comes down to it, we truly care about each other.

The young women on this show expressed this caring presence in a beautiful way when Francesca was coming to grips with having to remove her makeup. Honestly, this is a real issue and I am glad that the editors of the show did not make light of it. I will be interested to find out how she feels after six weeks of not wearing make up. To answer the question that was brought up: "Yes, we do shave!" :)

While many Communities do have their Sisters give up make up, mine included, something that should never be given up is a person's passions. It is best to find a Community where you can continue doing what you love to do. For example, I love teaching, so it would not have been a good idea to join a Community that only works in soup kitchens. I also love to ice skate, and I was surprised to learn that our Sisters ice skate on the lake in our backyard during the winter. (Click here for pictures. My apologies to Sister Anne for giving out this link! Actually, I'm not sorry though. My students had a good laugh last week when I was teaching them about winter.)

Stacey, you could keep your passion for making dolls. I would love to introduce you to Sister Caritas, our archivist and one of our nurse practitioners. She has many hobbies! We have Sisters who love the theatre and have directed plays. (The plays are in a school/camp setting though.) God finds a way to fulfill even the smallest wishes.

Finally, I'd like to address something that could be misinterpreted by viewers without a lot of encounters with Sisters. It was probably an editing issue, but you never know what people are going to think. It is true that Sisters are brides of Christ. However, this is by no means a sexual relationship, as one would naturally find between married couples.

I am a romantic person by nature. I have experienced the feeling of walking down the aisle toward my Beloved. It is a special memory that I like to hold onto, but it is entirely platonic. Our relationship with God is intimate, but it does not go beyond that.

Having said all that, I am looking forward to next week's episode!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Backwards Pilgrimage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Anticipating Lifetime's Reality Show "The Sisterhood"

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

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

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

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

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

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