Friday, February 29, 2008

RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five: Happy Leap Day!

A lovely Friday tradition...and my first time on the playing board! Here's RevGalBlogPals' original post.

Tell us about a time you:

1. Leapt before looked
I have to admit, this doesn't happen often--I'm too much of a planner.

2. Leapt to a conclusion
Now this, on the other hand, happens to me far too often. And sometimes to great embarrassment. Most recently: I leapt to the conclusion that one of my students was not doing his reading, and I asked him about it. My students are he was offended, of course. In my defense, his homework assignments did not reflect having completed the assigned reading...

3. Took a Leap of Faith
I went to graduate school--moved halfway across the country to the midwest, and had no idea whether I would make it. I don't think I believed then that I would. But I don't think I was the only one who made a leap of faith--the graduate director who let me in the program and gave me a scholarship also placed a great amount of trust in me (I was certainly less qualified than my peers, if only because I was the only one coming straight out of college). It seems to be a successful leap of faith--no net needed. I did complete the program, after all, and now I'm using my PhD in the world of theology.

4. Took a literal Leap
I'm not one for heights or for leaping. I can tell you about a few trips down the stairs, head or bottom first, if you wish...

5. And finally, what might you be faced with leaping in the coming year?
Ah. This one is easy, though I'm changing it to the next year and a half. Entering religious life--without a dime to my name, leaving behind my worldly possessions, and trusting that my friend and comfort Jesus will be beside me along the way. He's always there, but sometimes I don't see him clearly (my fault, not his). This move is both exciting and a bit terrifying--but all is good as long as I remember that God has a safety net is available in case I have an emergency.

Divine safety nets are the best, aren't they? They seem to be the only ones that never fail to appear on time.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Love and the Law

Maybe I have been reading too much of the mystics lately, but it’s hard for me to understand such a focus on the law as is in today’s readings. Not to devalue the law, but I get the sense sometimes that we place so much emphasis on doing things “right” that we forget why we do them in the first place. And the reason we do them: Jesus' law of love… which (it seems to me) is not so much a law that is followed like other laws, but a way of living and being in relationship with other people.

I was thinking about this issue last night with regards to the liturgy. I have been to parishes that place such great emphasis on doing the liturgy right that they neglect other aspects of human life. They might have the proper incense and half a dozen servers, but the homily will be unprepared or out of touch with their congregation. I have heard many a homily on the necessity of going to confession… not that it's wrong to discuss confession, but how about a little guidance on how to live life in such a way that there is less to confess? (And how about calling that sacrament “reconciliation” like the contemporary documents do? Even that word change alters the significance of the sacrament, into a sacrament of mended relationships rather than a sacrament simply of guilt and penance.)

The world of theology is not so different either. Theologians have to question the way things are—that is part of their job. If no one questions things, then nothing can change. (This isn't the right place for a digression, but the dynamism of creating is an integral part of God's being... so change among the created world is good, and change in the church is guided by the Holy Spirit--even better!) Yet there are some people in this world who are so opposed to change that they become militant at any intimation that theology can be expressed somehow other than the Catechism or Thomas Aquinas expressed it. Again, not to devalue the Catechism or Thomas, but the brilliance of being Christian is in knowing that God is greater than any one person’s conception of God…or even any one catechism’s conception of God. The history of theology shows us that—each theologian throughout history has taken a different approach to understanding the divine, and most of those approaches are not heretical! So what is God like if each of these expressions is different? God is all of them combined, and yet more than we can possibly imagine. That’s the great mystery, and also a great reason to be open to the ideas of those around us. Our neighbors and those we disagree with might see something of God that we cannot see.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Holiness and Responsibility

A friend just gave me a copy of Life and Holiness by Thomas Merton, and I was struck by this sentence from the introduction:

Christian holiness in our age means more than ever the awareness of our common responsibility to cooperate with the mysterious designs of God for the human race.

This reminds me of some of the things I have been talking about with my spiritual director. He speaks of doing God's will in the sense of knowing that what I do is the will of God. It's hard to express (he is much clearer than I am), but I get the sense that he means this type of cooperation with God's designs. We cooperate with God and follow his designs when we do God's will.

I also think about how freeing this must be--to focus so completely on God's will that we lose our desire for material wealth and earthly acclaim. As I look more deeply into myself and my desire to follow God's call into religious life, I begin to see that these things bind me in ways that I never realized. I don't even think that I am particularly ambitious, yet those bonds are still there. I know that I am bound by my desire to be successful at my job in a way that is somehow quantifiable. Once I "name" that desire, I recognize that in it I will never find happiness, that ultimately my happiness is in doing my job well because it is the will of God that I do the job!

Those are my small thoughts tonight.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

From the Rule of St. Benedict chapter 1:

"Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love."

I've probably read this passage four or five times, and it never struck me before. I'm always amazed at how different things become significant at different times in life, when before they were simply overlooked.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Connections Part 2

The second part of my week was good also. I spoke with some far away friends (always pleasant), and I had a new friend to my home for dinner.

And I got to tell her about my vocation journey. It is so nice to have someone here, in my new community, with whom I can share this story. As you might notice, dear reader, this blog is anonymous... that is for the protection of my current status, my current job, and so most of the people I see on a day to day basis have no idea about the call that resides in my heart and soul at this point in time. But now, one more of my dear new friends shares my "secret."

I really wish the secrecy was not necessary, and I long for the day when I can shout from the rooftops the joy that is in my heart! I'm in love! And I am "going to live in God's house" - the house of my Love - just as soon as I can!

I think that is inspired by St. Valentine's Day.

"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!"
--Song 2:10


I'm having one of those days where it is hard to connect. I'm just not into the work that I need to be doing, and I'm nothing in particular.

So maybe what I need is a recap of the week. This week has been a good one--a little rest after a long weekend of working, and then some productive days as well. I teach one weekend a month (last weekend) for a marathon of 9 hours over 2 days (sounds okay, but it's way more than the usual 3 hour seminar length class). And at the end I am exhausted. So the rest of the week, I basically have to make up for the work that was put off last week in preparation for the weekend. Phew.

But I did it. It's done for now. And I'm still in need of more sleep.

Spiritual direction is going so well. My spiritual guru guide is fantastic--always full of wisdom that helps me further on my path. A phrase from him that keeps coming up is "mystical union with Christ in action." He's talking about "contemplatives in action" - that mode of religious life that wants to keep the contemplation of the monastery while also actively participating in the world. Fr. Joe relates it to several phrases from the Gospels, especially when Jesus talks of doing the will of the Father. So that, mystical union with Christ in action is about uniting my will with the will of God, knowing that what I am doing is what God wills. Really being an instrument of God. It also means trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit in me, in my (religious) community, in those whom I vow to obey.

I don't think I explain it well, but it is an idea that will captivate me for some time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


"Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn."
-- Fulton Sheen

I read this and couldn't help laughing.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Leaving Everything Behind

"Leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed Jesus."

So I think this might be my answer to reflections from Thursday--leaving everything behind. How gutsy was it of Levi to follow Jesus? For that matter, how gutsy is it for anyone to leave behind their lives to follow Jesus?

While I struggle with the "what-ifs" of this question, I am so happy with my decision to join a religious community. I was walking last night, under the stars, and I was thinking about friends who are far away, whom I love and miss. I was sad. And then I started thinking about how my life is changing, how my attitudes are different, and how I am going to (as my friend put it) "live in God's house." God has chosen me, and I see that chosen life in front of me, and I am happy.

I'm still sad about the friends that I miss, but they are still with me, and they are still supportive of me, even if they are far away. I look forward to the time when I will not be just thinking about religious life and what it will be like, but when I will be living it!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

from Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup?

"Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That's community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world."

Reflection on yesterday's Gospel

"If anyone wishes to come after me, she must deny herself and take up her cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save her life will lose it, but whoever loses her life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit herself?"

Gospel for the day--I can't get it out of my head, especially "whoever loses her life for my sake will save it."

I have been really worried about money lately--specifically about how to pay off all my debts and still have a little left over to save just in case religious life doesn't work out, or to give to the Society if it does (as a small contribution toward my many student loan debts). But I don't think it will work out with much extra. It will be possible to pay off my debts by the end of summer 2009, but not with leftovers. Though I know it will work out, I had to resign myself to the possibility that there will be nothing left after the debts are taken care of.

Scary--to enter into religious life with nothing.

But I also know that that is the point--to release myself from my material bonds. It's just easier to think about when I am not actively trying to do it.

Whoever loses her life… whoever abandons all plans and safeguards for future comfort and follows the Lord in the present moment, wherever he might lead. Jesus, I know you love me and will take care of my needs, but I am scared.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


As Lent begins, I am thinking (along with so many others) about what sort of penitential act I will be doing for the next six weeks. I have to admit, I'm not one who is "into" penance--I think it's probably better in our world to look at Lent as a time to develop a better relationship with God, not necessarily a time to deprive ourselves of something that we enjoy. That said, some of the things we enjoy are not that good for us, spiritually or physically.

My Lenten decision: no television. Sigh. That is going to be hard, but I think it will be good for me. Six weeks without sexy advertisements, trying to get me to buy things that I don't need and to eat or drink things that really shouldn't be part of anyone's diet. Six weeks without sitcoms that focus on the characters' sex lives. Six weeks without the blood and guts of CSI and Law and Order. Even six weeks without the latest poll results for the upcoming election.

Six weeks of reading books! Praying more. Cleaning my kitchen more often. Exercising. Reading books (!).

The hardest part for me is the silence--living in an apartment alone is very quiet. I hear the tic-toc of the cuckoo clock, but little else. Again, that means more time for prayer, good solid habitual prayer.

My hope: that by the end of Lent, I will be ready to give away the television for good.

(I was thinking also about shutting down the computer--clearly something that has not happened. But I think that computer/internet use will be curtailed as well.)

Happy Lenting!