February 2009 Archives

Why Did I Enter the Convent?

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            Why am I a sister today? It was not to "save my soul" nor was it to teach or to nurse. I entered religious life and I am a sister today, because Jesus Christ is real to me.  The one thing I knew at eighteen years of age and that which I am even more convinced of now, many years later, is I AM LOVED. This one central conviction continues to compel me, urge me, and draw me today to be a sister even more than it did so many years ago. At that time I did not know what vows were; I had never heard of them, but I did know the love of the Heart of Christ. This love pierced the darkness of my ignorance and the shallowness of my thoughts. It called me to live "differently" from others. I did not understand what this meant, because I wasn't even sure if God was calling me. I only knew I had to give God a try, an opportunity to be number one in my life. I entered not so much to "do" as to "be." I wanted to "be" for Christ Jesus; I wanted to be the Love of the Heart of Jesus for others as my parents and teachers were for me. Entering religious life for me was all about loving.


            Religious women and men make vows, or promises. The vows for me are a "means to an end." Poverty, in and of itself, holds no attraction for me. My vow of poverty reminds me that I place my identity not in what I have or possess, but who I have been called to be from the very moment of my existence. Poverty's not about dollar and cents; it's about a willingness to share who and what I am. Poverty's not just a state of mind; it's an openness of heart, a willingness to love those who do not love me or are incapable of loving because they are in so much pain. Poverty's more than a promise to be with others in their pain; it's a presence, a power to be make present God's love here and now in the midst of my own pain. Poverty's the power to consecrate through the power of God -- the nothingness, the void within, and to create community... friendship... peace. Poverty's an emptying of self and the experience of my own emptiness. "Though He was as one with God, He did not deign equality to God something to be grasped at. Rather He emptied Himself and put on the nature of a slave." Poverty's the freedom to be Christ for others as others are Christ Jesus for me. Poverty's acknowledging, yes, even embracing the limitations that I have so that God can fill them. So when I act, it is God moving and acting in me.


            How did I come to discover this relationship? How did I come to know that I was loved? By listening. The vow of obedience teaches me to listen, to be sensitive to God's presence in every moment of my life. Obedience's a listening, an opening of self to God and others. Obedience is more than the fulfillment of laws and directives; it's a commitment to listen with the whole self to the voice of God in myself and in others. Obedience's a leap in faith into the unknown. It's doing what I never thought I could do; it's being who I never imagined I could be. Obedience is finding my identity in Christ Jesus who found his identity in relationship to the Father.


            I discover I am a daughter who is called to change her mind, to open her heart to allow the Word of God to speak in her and through her. The Word resonates in my life, in all the events of my days. Silent music permeates my veins; a hidden harmony calls me to a cadence that I would not have chosen. Yet my heart is enchanted, is fascinated by the subtle beauty, the deceptively simple rhythm: "If you want to be perfect, come follow Me." Hearing the Word, finding the Word, sharing the Word, consecrating the world with the Word by my life and example seals my share of Christ's priesthood given in Baptism. I make the Heart of Jesus present as does the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine. I offer the wine of my days and the bread of my life so that others may come to hear and know the voice of Christ Jesus. My vow of obedience draws me into these relationships. I do not speak for myself; I speak for Him who speaks through me. My heart is fastened on God alone. In all the disparate events of my days, I hear one voice, one rhythm, one song. A unity exists in my life. I find God's voice, God's presence as much within myself as in others. I am at peace. Life becomes simple. God is one. I am called to love as God loves. This is the vow of chastity.


            Chastity's the courage to love others rightly, purely, wholly for who they are -- not for who I want them to be. Chastity's about giving life and nurturing life. Chastity's the Father's look of love to the Son and the Son's answering love of the Father poured out in the Spirit of their love on us. Chastity's the  mystery of this love within me; most of all it's the struggle to put on the mind and heart of Jesus so as to love with Jesus' Heart and proclaim His love to all. This is the life of the vows.


            This is Religious Life, a life intimately a part of the life of the Church and rooted in that Baptismal relationship established between God the Father and each of us through Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit. At Baptism we each "put on Christ Jesus." We entered into a love relationship. Religious Life is one way to live that love relationship. A call echoed and echoed in my being and continues to resonate even today in my heart; so that for me the only way I can be true to myself and true to my experience of God's presence within me is to be a religious woman, to live this life of the vows. Could God be calling you or someone you know to Religious Life? Probably. God's love is everlasting; God's love is constant. God continues to call out to us across the confusion and distress of our days to say: "YOU ARE LOVED." God still needs people to proclaim this love by their lives as God needed Mary of Nazareth to give flesh to the Christ Child. Could God be calling you to be His love to others as God calls me? You must decide this for yourself.


An Unexpected Encounter with God!

         Last Sunday I was driving home during a snowstorm. I had an unexpected encounter with God. As I got off the interstate I realized the road was slushy, so I dropped into the lowest gear possible. All was well until...


          "Oh my God!" I cried, as the car started to skid into the oncoming traffic. Turning the wheel as quickly as I could to avoid crossing the divide, I held my breath. The next thing I knew the car was spinning uncontrollably. I didn't know what was going to stop it. The car bounced off the guard rail and finally stopped with a lurch. Taking a moment to breathe and collect myself, looking up I saw two cars appear from over the hill and approaching me at a snail's pace. One man looked at me funny as if to say: "What are you doing facing the wrong way?"


                Gingerly I turned the car around, thinking: "No other car is involved. I don't have to call the police." My head was swimming: "Let me just get home. The car hit the guard rail, but where?" Cautiously I drove the last mile home, not attempting to drive up the sharp incline of parish drive way. Taking my time, I drove into the parking lot, circled the rectory and finally pulled into the garage.


                With a sigh I got out of the car. "Where did I hit the guard rail?" I walked to the front of the car: "Nothing!" As I gazed at the rear end of the car on the driver's side, I held my breath, the car was totally smashed into the frame. My eyes widened as I realized I'd missed the gas tank by inches. "Thank God!" I exhaled. "How close I've come to death!"


                How often our life seems "out of control!" We react to life more than we thoughtfully respond.


                "Who can respond? Who has time?" I can hear you ask. "So many things come at us... so fast! What do we do?"


                We stop. We pause. We breathe. We slow ourselves down. We give ourselves five minutes to pull ourselves together. We stop to give ourselves the gift of time. We stop to aleve the pressure, the stress we put on ourself. We stop so we can be quiet and reclaim our deepest self. We recall the words of St. Paul: "Do you not know that you do not belong to yourself? You have be bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ." (1 Cor 6: 19)


                We recall: We don't have to do it all. We're not God. God Alone is God and He is taking care of the world. All we need do is put in our piece of the puzzle and trust God to do the rest.


                Easy? No! Not at all! To do this is to walk a dark path, to walk in darkness not knowing where we're going. It's the way of trust. It's the way of the saints. It's Jesus' way: "Into your hands, Father, I entrust my spirit." To do this is to know in the  deepest depths of yourself the Father's care and providence; to know with all your might He's watching out for you; to know most of all: I am loved!


                Stopping to breathe, stopping to reclaim ourselves, stopping to remember we are loved releases fear, releases stress, releases us from our own agenda and makes us open... AVAILABLE to be who it is God is calling us to be and needs us to be right here, right now in the messiness of our life. How did we get here? By stopping! By breathing! By remembering!


                My prayer for you: May you take time to stop and breathe, because you hear His call amid all the confusion and noise:

 "Come to me all you who are burdened and find life tiresome. I will give you rest." Matthew 11: 28.