My first stop will be our regional center, Sacred Heart Convent in Rearsby, Leicestershire. Our house there (pictured to the right) is located in the countryside on the outskirts of a quaint village. It is such a lovely spot, and the women who live there are just as lovely.
After a few days at Rearsby, I will join 40 other CSJP Sisters and Associates for a contemplative retreat experience. Our CSJP Congregation has made the commitment this year that every Sister and Associate who is able will attend one of three congregation retreats. The other two retreats in the States took place during my spring Semester, which is why I have the wonderful opportunity to head to the UK to join the last retreat there. From everything I've heard, I am sure it will be a transformative experience.
After the retreat, I am heading down to London to spend a few days with our Congregation Novitiate. This also happens to be the same house where I lived for my three months as a novice so it will be like coming home in a way. I'm really looking forward to visiting with Sister Alexine, who I lived with as a novice and who is now the novice director, and also getting to know the three women who have joined our Congregation as novices. I'll also be doing a technology workshop of sorts with them, but I'm most excited to just be spending some time with them.
My two weeks will be over before I know it! I might blog from the UK, depending on how technology and timing work out. If not, rest assured I will share all about it when I get back.
Yes I have more grey hairs, wrinkles, scars, and some extra pounds. Yet I also have much less anxiety which weighs you down more than you'd ever know unless you have had anxiety as a travelling companion in life on a regular basis.
When this photo was taken I was finishing up my sophomore year in college, studying political science. I had no idea what I would be doing with my life when I graduated. I ended up of course with an 11 year stint as a bureaucrat before making the unexpected leap and entering religious life. Now I'm studying Theology and Ethics. I have no idea what I'll be doing with my life "career" wise. What I do know is that I am a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace and my life and community will be rooted and grounded in that reality for the rest of my life. That my friends is a wonderful feeling, even if there are many unkowns up ahead.
I'm wearing my first pair of eye glasses in this photo. I've had many prescriptions since as my eye sight has shifted and worsened. Truth be told I now need a reading prescription in addition to corrective lenses. But in many ways, I see the world much clearer now. My lived experience to date, the things I've learned and the people I've been honored to meet have given me a much better understanding of the world, systems, etc... Yet, I also know and accept that really I do not know much of anything.
The me in this photo wasn't so sure about God or that Jesus guy. She'd given up on organized religion as unable to answer her questions and complicit in much of the suffering in the world. The me writing these words today still has questions, more probably, and still has problems with suffering in the world. But I also realize that for me at least it makes more sense to bring my questions to community, to share and hold that messy tension with others and to open my heart to God and God's people. Do I have all the answers? By no means. But the life of faith is less about knowing or believing in my experience and more about risking and vulnerability and joy and wonder and awe.
20 year old me would probably fall on the floor laughing or snort her exacerbation at 41 year old me. Yet here I am, wondering what 60 year old me will think about (almost) 41 year old me in a few more decades. Time certainly does pass quickly!
It's officially summer now in terms of the academic calendar, however, which means a little break! I'm staying based in Chicago this summer but have a variety of exciting things on the horizon, mostly all religious life related.
Next week I head to spend a couple of weeks in the UK with my religious community, first for a community retreat and then to spend some time with our novitiate community which is now in London.
In July I head west for our National Giving Voice Gathering of sisters in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. I'm on the planning team for this 4 day conference, so there will be lots to do between now and then! It should be an amazing time to gather with peers and ponder mission and ministry in the 21st century.
Afterwards I'm headed north to spend time with my groovy sisters in Seattle and friends in Portland. It will be nice to visit the Pacific Northwest for a while.
August holds another nun meeting. I'm also planning some quality family time with my big sis and her family, my niece who will be coming to Chicago, and with my Dad over Father's Day weekend.
Community, religious life peers, family. I've also got some work to throw into the mix, and some relaxation and prayer time. It should be a good summer and renew and reset my brain for another year of courses come the fall!
For now, I'm celebrating the end of the first year tonight by taking advantage of student discounts to the Opera to see a production of Oklahoma! Can't wait! :)
How many of you know about the original pre-hallmark meaning of the day? Read Julia Ward Howe's Original Mother's Day Proclamation from 1870. Here's a teaser:
"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears! ... We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."You can also listen to the entire proclamation in this video:
Somehow that meaning has gotten lost over the years. But it is so very important and needed today in a world where so many families are torn apart by violence. Domestic Violence. Street Violence. Violence of war, poverty and oppression.
So, in the midst of final paper writing, I will be spending some time in prayer this Mother's Day in thanksgiving for my own mother who rests in eternal peace, but also in solidarity and love with mothers in war torn countries and the mothers of those serving in the military. This continues to seem to be the most appropriate way to mark the day.
When I was a novice, my class created a video that tells the story of Margaret Anna Cuscak, the founding story of the Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, the courageous response of our Sisters to the Second Vatican Council, and the ways we live out our founding mission today. It was a labor of love. Enjoy!
Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace Charism Video from Margaret Anna Cusack onVimeo.
Happy Birthday Margaret Anna!
From time to time, someone will ask me who who St. Joseph of Peace was (the patron of my religious community). I usually explain that the "of Peace" was more of an attribute than a place, and that the title refers to the St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. The carpenter man.
Our founder Margaret Anna Cusack chose Joseph as our patron because she believed he was a model of peace:
"No doubt we may point to St. Joseph as the great model of every virtue, but it would seem as if peace was his crowning grace. In peace he fulfills all the Divine commands, many of which required from him the exercise of the greatest self-sacrifice; and in peace he submitted to the cruel injustice of Herod."
Or, as our CSJP Constitutions say: "“His courage to live a life of faith inspires us to trust in God's abiding love,especially in times of struggle and uncertainty.”
Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. And yes, this Joseph is the same one as well. But as tradition tells us that he was a carpenter, hence the title worker.
Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st in 1955. This was in the midst of the cold war, and was no doubt in response to the observance of May 1st in most of the world, and especially cold war era communist countries, as May Day, International Worker's Day.
While this Feast Day is a relative late comer to the liturgical calendar, it is nonetheless an important one in the Catholic Tradition. Catholic Social Teaching has a strong respect for the dignity of work and rights of workers.
Yet the workers' rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers' rights within each country and all through the world's economy. ...
Created in God's image, we were given the mandate to transform the earth. By their work people share in God's creating activity....Awareness that our work is a sharing in God's work ought to permeate even the most ordinary daily activities.
By our labor we are unfolding the Creator's work and contributing to the realization of God's plan on earth. (On Human Work, John Paul II)
To each of us who shares in God's creating activity through work .... Happy Feast Day!
To all of those who are living through times of struggle and uncertainty, let's pray for the intercession of Joseph. May we too be inspired by his courage to love.
Given my official agnostic status at the time, I didn't quite realize how cool it was that we were able to visit Siena. It was a beautiful city. The black and white marble Cathedral was incredible. You could taste the history. What was lost on me was that this was the home of Catherine of Siena, mystic, peacemaker, and Doctor of the Church. Today of course is her Feast Day, and so I thought I would share some of her thoughts on love.
"In your nature, eternal Godhead, I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature, boundless Love? It is fire, because you are nothing but a fire of love. And you have given humankind a share in this nature for by the fire of love you created us."
"O God eternal, Oh boundless Love! Your creatures have been wholly kneaded into you and you into us--through creation, through the will's strength, through the fire with which you created us, and through the natural life you gave us."
"The soul cannot live without love. She always wants to love something because love is the stuff she is made of, and through love I created her."
"You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love."
"Love transforms one into what one loves."
Happy Feast Day of St. Catherine!
(quotations from http://www.drawnbylove.com/Quotes.htm)
EVERYONE OF MY FINAL PAPERS
Next weekend I'm going to have an opportunity to gather with two of my CSJP Sisters to talk about the transformation of religious life at a conference in St. Louis, in the company of lots of other women religious committed to the future of Roman Catholic religious life. That is awesome. What is not so awesome is that my 15, 20, and 25 page papers are do shortly thereafter and as this gif illustrates, they are a bit of a mess and far from completion. The conference is 3 days plus travel, hence less time to work on said papers.
A wise Sister friend recently reminded me that I know what I want to say and research is the tool. I'm working on taking her advice. So far, so good even if it sometimes feel the way Rachel is so dramatically expressing things. Really, limited time is the only real issue. But it will get done!
Blogging may be light. Send good vibes!
On this day, I pray in deep awe, wonder and gratitude to my good, gracious, and creative God who managed to break through and lead me to finding my heart and mission in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.
On this day, I pray in love, friendship and appreciation for the amazing women (pictured below) who have entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace either with me or in the years since. While I may not know what the future will hold for our world, Church or religious community, I know that I will be walking in the way of peace with these women.
On this day, I pray in hope and solidarity with and for young women who are considering that maybe, just maybe, God might be calling them to religious life. As I ponder the future of religious life and my congregation, I return again and again to these words from Margaret Anna Cusack, known in religious life as Mother Francis Clare, the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. She said: "We are beginning a new order. We want brave, noble, large-minded, courageous souls." Indeed. These words are just as true today as when she first wrote them.
I also find myself reflecting on the words of Bishop Edward Bagshawe at the first profession of Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Nottingham England in 1884: "You will hope, if God blesses your work, to sow the seeds of peace in modern society."
Please join me in praying for our three Novices (Sisters Juliana, Katrina, and Sheena) and our two temporary professed Sisters (Dorothy and Sukyi) as they continue to put down roots and nourish their connections to this mission of peace. Please pray too for new vocations to help us continue to sow the seeds of peace in a post-modern society that is deeply in need of peace.
God of peace, thank you for your gift of peace and the mission entrusted to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace to promote peace in family life, in the church and in society. We humbly pray that you nurture the seeds of this charism in the hearts of young women who might be called to vowed membership in our congregation. May we grow together in love to embody these words from our original Constitutions. "The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, inspire the desire of peace and a love for it." Amen.
The other day Pope Francis referred in a homily to the way the Spirit sometimes moves us by annoying us. This is often my experience. Today in spiritual direction I shared a bit about my experience of the Spirit as a honking goose. Then I remembered that I wrote about this in the early days of my blog when I was a candidate. So here is my post from New Year's Eve 2005, courtesy of the way back machine that is this blog. Enjoy!
During my quiet reflection time on Christmas Eve, I spent some time with a reflection on the spirituality of CSJP founder Margaret Anna Cusack by Fr. Terry Moran. Margaret Anna was born in Ireland and was deeply nourished by Celtic spirituality. This tidbit in Fr. Moran’s reflection particularly struck me:
“The Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit is not the gentle breeze, the mild dove but the wild goose! Is that not how God often is made known in our lives, honking and annoying us into fuller life, out of our comfort zones and into risk and relationship?”
I was immediately reminded of a solitary walk I took several years ago, right before my return to the church. It was an unsettled time in my life, and I was struggling to find my way. I do not recall what I was thinking about or contemplating that day, but I vividly remember my encounter with the goose. I was at a City park with beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas, windy paths, quiet benches, and an assortment of water fowl. There was a lake and a beautiful wooden footbridge across it. I started across, got 2/3 of the way, and was confronted by a goose. Honking and charging towards me. Protecting a baby goose no doubt, but determined that I would not make it across. I turned around. But then I noticed that others were making it across the bridge no problem. So I tried again. Got about 3/4 of the way across, and was again confronted by the honking charging goose. I was reminded of the 3 Billy Goats Gruff. I had no intention of tempting the goose a 3rd time. I found another part of the park in which to meander.
I’ve never forgotten that day. I’ve been back to the park since, but have only attempted to cross that particular footbridge when accompanied by friends. Otherwise I stay clear of the bridge of the Billy Goose Gruff.
This New Year’s Eve morning I went to a different park for a morning walk. Lots of good reflection and consolation from God’s wonderful gift of creation. The Pacific Northwest is so beautiful this time of year. Lush and green. On my drive home, however, I remembered my reflection last week and that walk years ago. I found myself driving by the park of the Billy Goose Gruff. And so I parked. And I walked. And I came to the footbridge. Sure enough there were many waterfowl resting and playing in the lake, including an assortment of geese. And at one end of the bridge there was a goose standing guard, observing all that went on. Dare I cross the bridge?
There was not a repeat of the Billy Goose Gruff incident. The goose looked me over, and apparently deemed me no threat. I crossed the bridge, walked around the island, and crossed back with no minor or major incidents.
But by thinking of the goose as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, what does this story tell me? On that Saturday morning many years ago I was not on the right path. I was searching and looking and to be honest ignoring the soft gentle signs. So maybe I needed a loud and honking goose to turn me around and annoy me to finding my way to a fuller life. And now? Risks taken, comfort zones breached, I find myself more at peace and open to where my loving God is calling me. Even if I sometimes find my feathers ruffled.
Interesting to reflect on this last day of the year.
This week, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Pacem in Terris, this Sister of Peace is going to offer some of John XXIII's words and prayers for peace here on the blog. Please join me in praying for peace in our troubled and wounded world.
It is not irrelevant to draw the attention of the world to the fact that refugees are persons and that all their rights as persons must be recognized. Refugees cannot lose these rights simply because they are deprived of citizenship of their own States. (PT 105)
Drawing upon the teaching of his predecessor Pope Piux XII that "smaller States have the right of assuring their own economic development," (PT 124) John exhorts wealthier states to provide assistance to poorer states while respecting their national characteristics and repudiating "any policy of domination" (PT 125).
Since relationships between States must be regulated in accordance with the principles of truth and justice, States must further these relationships by taking positive steps to pool their material and spiritual resources. In many cases this can be achieved by all kinds of mutual collaboration; and this is already happening in our own day in the economic, social, political, educational, health and athletic spheres—and with beneficial results. We must bear in mind that of its very nature civil authority exists, not to confine men within the frontiers of their own nations, but primarily to protect the common good of the State, which certainly cannot be divorced from the common good of the entire human family. (PT 98)