Sunday, July 26, 2009

The time has come....

Well, I moved into my new community....
...and decided to begin a new blog.

Please follow me to "communitas et caritas--community and love."

Blessings to all!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Feast of the Sacred Heart!

I've posted this before, but it's worth a repeat. The image can be purchased from Bridge Building Images.

Happy Feast Day!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Whirlwind

Well, life is complicated, and extremely busy these days. I've been out of town for the last two weeks: New Orleans, St Louis, and Milwaukee. This week, I have family visiting. To add to the confusion, I move in a week and a half!

But all is good. I greatly enjoyed the Giving Voice Conference in Milwaukee--and there, I got to meet Sister Susan from the Musings of a Discerning Woman blog, Sister Nicole from Life of a New Sister, as well as many other amazing young women religious. It was so exciting to hear their stories and get some advice for the many changes that are approaching in my own life.

And now, the "good-byes" are beginning. I saw my wonderful spiritual director of the last two years yesterday, for the last time (at least as my s.d.). Next week, the farewells begin in earnest. I have to admit that they are not my favorite thing. Yet it seems incredibly important to take in the sadness so that I can move on to new things.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Catching up

It's been a long time since I've looked at some of the blogs I like to follow, and so I thought I would throw in a couple of recent highlights here.

A Nun's Life talks about adopting a religious--what a great idea! It seems like an innovative way to get the word out about what it means to be a religious or a priest.

There is a lovely comment about the peace of the Benedictine monastic routine at Colwich Novitiate's blog.

The Sisters of the Holy Family's blog led me to the Women & Spirit website. They are presenting a traveling exhibit of artifacts about the history of women religious and their impact on American history in general. It looks fabulous! I think I need to try to get to it at some point.

Exciting things are going on in our world!


Well, I move in less than 6 weeks. It's amazing how fast the time goes.

Most of my furniture has been claimed, along with some of my kitchen stuff.

The first of at least three goodbye parties is on Tuesday.

Since classes are over, I've been working more on the moving thing--going through the stuff that I've been hoarding for the last 10-15 years. It feels really good to be cutting the strings, in many ways, but it also means leaving part of me behind. I've found letters from old friends, pictures, books, journals, calendars.... all sorts of things that I really don't need, and really never intended to keep forever anyhow.

Why do I say that it means leaving part of me behind? It's not that I will forget any of these things. It's just that, when I look at the old pictures and read the notes from friends, I realize how our lives have moved on. I think that's a good thing, really. We've all "grown up" a bit, become more who we are and who God wants us to be.

Seeing the old photos and notes also reminds me of how blessed I have been, how I've always had friends who loved me, and whom I've loved. I feel very loved.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Graduation reflections...

I'm preparing a short reflection for our graduating students, and I thought I would share part of it here. The graduation ceremony takes place in the context of Evening Prayer, and the reading is Colossians 3:12-17.

Love, says the reading, is the "bond of perfection." Love is the one thing that will improve all other facets of our lives, the one thing that can bring us into unity with each other.

With that LOVE in mind, Colossians says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another..." It seems to me that no one here is studying theology for their own edification. Each one of us -- in being called to service -- is here to become a better servant to others, to offer God's LOVE and WISDOM to those we serve. We have been transformed by our knowledge, and we continue the transformation in our ministry to others.

My little bit of advice today is that you remain open to the transforming power of God. It is only when we are open to receive love, and to share our love with those around us, that we are able to transform and to be transformed. I never dreamed that I would be called to study theology, or to teach it. It never crossed my mind that God would call me in the direction I now turn.

But if each of us remain open to God's transforming love, the world itself will be transformed by love.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A beautiful experience

I was talking with my last class today, and I told them about how I was leaving the area to join a religious order. They were all really happy and supportive. I told them a little bit about the Society, and about why I chose the Society of the Sacred Heart.

Afterward, one of the women came up to me and showed me a bookmark, asking me if the picture was of the foundress--the text was all in Chinese.

It was St Madeleine Sophie Barat, much like the one above. It turns out that the student went to a Sacred Heart boarding high school in Taiwan. She had tears in her eyes as she told me about how she remembers the love of the sisters, and that she still goes back to visit the school when she's in the country, even taking her grown daughters.

It was deeply touching.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Five: Bugs

From RevGalBlogPals:

As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised and delighted to find it swarming with ladybugs. The sweet little red beetles are one of my favorite insects and also my daughter's blogname--though as of this morning she was thinking of changing it to Butterfly. I'll keep you posted.

This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia: Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness? That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes? Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!

In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?
Ladybugs and water skeeters. There aren't any pillbugs or roly-polys where I grew up, so I don't know what to call them!

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?
Depends... but usually stomp on them. Though I once had one living on my window sill that I didn't mind--but I knew where it lived, and it didn't wander around the house scaring me.

3. Favorite insect?
I'm not a big insect fan. But maybe a ladybug or a butterfly. We had a ladybug wandering around the choir at church one Sunday. We kept putting her to the side, and she kept coming back to hang out on our clothes. We were all a bit amused.

4. Least favorite?
Almost anything else! I have to say spiders and cockroaches top the list.

5. Got any good bug stories to share?
One very weird one. I was at an odd Catholic celebration of Mary--I don't remember exactly what it was (it wasn't a holy day or anything), but there was a speaker, and the church was really packed. I was there alone, sandwiched in a pew between people I didn't know. And I was tired and feeling a little sick. At one point, I think I fell asleep, which I never do--so I was really exhausted. But the buggy part freaked me out. I felt something on my head, and so I scratched it, and found a bug on the very top of my head! I didn't know what it was--not huge, and sort of like a beetle. So, I grabbed it and flung it away, somewhere under the pews. But then, it happened again, another bug, same spot! It was very surreal, and made the whole experience very uncomfortable for me. I left as soon as I could, but I had to wait for whatever it was to finish because I couldn't easily get out. And another strange thing (not buggy) happened on the way out--a lady handed me a pin of Our Lady of Guadalupe and said that she just knew I was the one to give it to. Huh.

Bonus question: share a poem, song, quotation, etc. about insects.
I got nothing! It could be the early hour...

Everyone has a vocation

Lately, my mind has turned to the broader question of vocation, and that we need to talk more about it.

Most especially, I think we need to talk about a vocation to single life. Some don't believe it is a vocation, but it certainly is.

Some say it's not a vocation because it's not a permanent state, but a temporary condition until someone makes a commitment to another person, or to the priesthood or religious life. But there are single people in the church of all ages, some of whom will never make that kind of a commitment. Additionally, I don't think it needs to be permanent for it to be a vocation. Vocation simply means "calling" -- and our calls change throughout our lifetime.

How can single life be considered a vocation? Think about the faithful single Catholics you know--do they live lives grounded in Christ? I once had a student say that "all single people are selfish." It inspired me to post this prayer for vocations from the USCCB, which includes a section about single people who are able to offer so much of their lives in service because they do not have the obligations of (for instance) someone with a family.

Lucky for me, another student answered that single people are no more selfish than anyone else!

That's key, perhaps. The single person who is not part of the church, who does not uphold moral standards, and who does not offer themselves in service to others, is not living out a vocation to the single life.

But there are so many who live it beautifully. We can't say that there isn't such a vocation just because some people are self-centered.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Less than Three Months

Yes, there are less than three months until I enter the community.

I am so glad that it is coming soon, and also happy that I have some time to prepare. The semester is ending this week, and so I will be working on my own projects as well as the Big Move.

I'm trying to be more conscientious about this blog, but I really don't have a lot to say! I am at peace--and maybe that's the biggest thing I can say. My heart is peaceful. There seems to be so much to do before I'm ready to go, but I'm happy that I will be entering community, and the details seem pretty insignificant right now. Perhaps complicated, but insignificant.

The picture above is a stained glass of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, from the chapel at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston, where I visited last week. The chapel is lovely, and this window is the highlight. There are also windows there of Philippine and Mater Admirabilis.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This weekend.

I spent the weekend with the RSCJ community in Houston--and had a wonderful time.

One of the challenges over the last few months has been the separation from the community. I know I will be entering the Society this summer, but right now I live far away from the sisters. The weekend with them was just what I needed, a little reminder of why this is so important to me.

Thank you!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The busiest time of year

It's the end of another semester, which is always such a busy time for university people. I have two classes left to teach, and one class that will have a party on the last day (fun!). To add to the fun, I'll present a paper at a conference in about a week and a half, and then the week after that is graduation. And of course, my students will be submitting final projects next week. Wow.

But for now, a little break. Since I have been teaching Monday and Tuesday nights all semester, Wednesdays have been pretty quiet. I have some work to do, but it's not very pressing.

Life is moving along. I'm looking forward to summer plans. The contents of my apartment are slowly being given away, and almost everything will go by the third week of June. There's a sister nearby from a different order who is moving into her own apartment, and she's going to raid my kitchen supplies. Some of my furniture is going to my brother, and the rest will be sold or given away to Catholic Charities. It all seems pretty complicated, but I'm glad it's working out.

All in all, things are simply moving along.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Holy Week and Easter

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia!

I love Holy Week and Easter, but it always throws me off track a bit. Part of it is simply the different schedule. Since I sing in the church choir, I'm there for everything, usually including Wednesday evening practice. I love all of the services, but there doesn't seem to be enough time to do them all and to get a full night's sleep.

But part of the reason I find the season difficult is all the emotions. On Thursday, we celebrate ministry, and this year I found myself reflecting on the great value of each individual's contribution. The whole of humanity was present Thursday, represented by the twelve who came up for the footwashing, male and female, old and young, of different nationalities. All had their feet washed by the priest. It was beautiful.

On Good Friday, we see the starkness of death, of loss, of the pain and suffering of Jesus. We also do the extended general intercessions, where we pray for people of all backgrounds throughout the world. We are reminded that Jesus suffered and died for each of us, but that there is still suffering all around. It is a painful day, a black day--and in fact, they used to wear black vestments on Good Friday. I'm glad that's not the practice any more.

Holy Saturday is just a weird day. Jesus is in the tomb--what do we do? Traditionally, this is the day we believe that he "harrowed hell," and released from death those who were holy, and brought them to heaven. It is a day of silence, and (since we know something big is coming) of preparation.

And then there is the joy of the Easter celebration. The Easter Vigil lies between, connecting the sorrow of death with the joy of the Resurrection. The rituals march us through the transition -- from darkness into light, from the Old Testament into the Gospel, from silence into joyful song with bells and organ. The Exsultet, sung at the beginning prepares us for what is to come:
Rejoice, heavenly powers!
Sing, choirs of angels!

Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

It makes me grin -- and cry -- every time. The joy is so palpable!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

"How Did He Open Your Eyes?"

The Gospel reading for today really struck a chord with me. (We used the "Year A" option, for there were Catechumens and Candidates with us.) The reading was John 9:1-41, the healing of the man blind from birth.

The part that caught my attention especially was when the Pharisees were questioning the healed man about how he was healed, doubting his answers and asking him repeatedly. They ask, "How did he open your eyes?"

I find myself asked often "How did you decide to enter a religious order?"

I can relate to the answer of the healed man (one of several answers he has to give the persistent Pharisees): "One thing I know is that I was blind and now I see."

How did I decide to enter a religious order? I don't really know. I just know that one day Jesus opened my eyes to see that this is the path he wishes me to take. In a lot of ways, I don't see it as my decision at all, even though (of course) I did freely choose it, and I know I am free to choose another path.

I can give all sorts of little answers to the question--about how I'm a theologian, so Catholicism is really important to me; that I have a desire to grow spiritually and to serve others; that I am attracted to this particular group of sisters because of their combination of contemplation and apostolic ministry, as well as their educational focus....

But none of these answers is nearly as strong in my mind as that gentle tug that I feel from Jesus to love Him with my whole being, and to give myself to this way of living Love.

Monday, March 16, 2009

So Much to Do

I feel like I've been neglecting this humble blog! It's certainly not intentional, but there just seems to be so much that must get done!

That said, all is well. My spiritual director spoke with me about contentment this week. He has great reflections on that word, and I hope he writes about it soon. We talked about how being content with your life (with all the content of your world, self, mind, etc) makes everything seem right, and enables you to follow God's call.

I realized that I am quite content. Yes, there is a lot to do. Yes, my world is changing very drastically, and very soon. But I'm content. I like what's going on, and I know God is with me, leading me on this mysterious journey. I'm happy, but it's that happiness of contentment--of satisfaction with my life and world.

On another note, I've been receiving some wonderful email notes from sisters who've heard that I will be entering the Society. They are often words of encouragement and joy. Most have a few words of advice. The best message I've received is a reminder that God is always faithful, and that if I trust in God, all will be well.

I'm content, happy!

Image from

Sunday, March 1, 2009

So, what's next?

Things are starting to settle down from my big YES that you can read about in the last post.

So it's time to ask, what happens now?

For now, I stay where I am until the summer. I will move at the beginning of August. For a year, I will be in what's called "Candidacy," which is what used to be called "postulancy" (and still is in some religious orders). I will live in a house with a community of sisters and work full time in a ministry that's consistent with the mission of the Society.

For me, that means teaching in a university. For other people who enter religious life, their work has to change--and sometimes it changes very dramatically. In my case, I already teach theology at a Catholic institution, so what I do is already consistent with religious life. In the future, my ministry might change, but for now this is where I'm being called.

There are also many variations on housing in today's religious orders. The Society of the Sacred Heart usually lives in smaller communities of 4-7 sisters. Their houses are normal houses in normal neighborhoods. I really like this way of living (at least as an outsider looking in!). It includes shared responsibilities and space, but it seems a little more intimate than a big convent might be. I know that community life will be a challenge for me--I've lived alone for a long time--but I'm looking forward to it.

That's all for now!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The YES!

I have big news to share--the Society of the Sacred Heart accepted me to begin formation! I will enter the community as a Candidate beginning in August.

I am so thankful, so grateful, so humbled by this news. These women are amazing, and they have welcomed me into their lives, even to become one of their sisters. I am grateful to God for the calling, and grateful to the sisters for helping me to hear it and for hearing it with me.

There is (of course) much more in my heart, but I will end with a quote from St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, which I offer as a prayer for each of us:

"Give up all self-seeking and leave space for the Spirit of Jesus. Once this process is complete, everything goes like a vessel powered by steam: it is the breath of the Spirit that moves everything along."


Image from

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Five: Taking a Break

From RevGalBlogPals:

Where we live, it's February School Vacation Week!

Yes, that's an odd thing, a vacation extending President's Day. But it's part of our lives here. Some people go South or go skiing, but we always stay home and find more humble amusements.

In that spirit, I offer this Taking a Break Friday Five. Tell us how you would spend:

1. a 15 minute break
Probably walking down the hall to talk to a friend, and grabbing a cup of coffee.

2. an afternoon off
Now, that really depends on how ambitious I am feeling. Often, I will spend a couple of hours reading in the cafe of a bookstore. Sometimes I get the energy to go for a walk through the botanical gardens (it's about a 40 minute drive from home) or to work out. And then I would plan a nice dinner, since I'm often eating on the run.

3. an unexpected free day
Sleep In! Probably much like my afternoon off, but with some putzing around the house. And a matinee movie. There always seems to be something good in the theaters lately.

4. a week's vacation
I've been trying to plan one of these, and the possibilities are competing for attention! I like to visit family or friends for vacations, mostly because I don't see them much throughout the year. So I would probably go to see my brother and his wife in Maryland, or my best friend and her family in New Orleans. At other times of the year, I visit my mom in Oregon or my dad in Montana.... Even that conveys the sense that my loved ones are all over the map!

5. a sabbatical
What an intriguing question. At this stage in my career, I would probably want to go to France to do some research. I mean, if you have the excuse to go to Paris (such as research), why resist?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Almost there

So, I know my blog has been ignored for awhile.... I think it's about those "unbloggables" as some people say. Not to worry. All is fine.

My final interview for the application process is next Wednesday, and then the Society is supposed to make their decision shortly after that! I'm excited and at peace with all of it. And I am grateful to be able to say that (thank you, Jesus!).

Please send up a little prayer this week. Many blessings to each of you!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


30 = 2 x 3 x 5

30 days hath September,
April, June, and November

30 years ago, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

When Jesus was about 30, he started his public ministry.

And... I am officially 30 today. Happy birthday to me!

I pray this year for peace in my heart and in our world. I pray in thanksgiving for all my beautiful friends and family. I pray that this year, I might become God's heart in the world just a little more every day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Passage for Today

Wisdom 11:22 - 12:2

Because the whole world before you
is like a speck that tips the scales,
and like a drop of morning dew
that falls to the ground.
But you are merciful to all,
for you can do all things,
and you overlook people's sins,
so that they may repent.

For you love all things that exist,
and detest none of the things
you have made,
for you would not have made anything
if you had hated it.

How would anything have endured if you had not willed it?

Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?

You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord,
you who love the living.
For your immortal spirit is in all things.

Therefore you correct
little by little
those who trespass,
and you remind and warn them
of the things through which they sin,
so that they may be freed from wickedness
and put their trust in you, O Lord.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reflections on Being Called

I'm (again) in the middle of many books! The two dominant ones are Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.

The Cloister Walk is fascinating, with the author's Protestant faithful perspective on the liturgy of the hours and monastic living. She seems more catholic than she lets on! She discusses the saints and humanity in beautiful language, and what she says speaks to me in unexpected ways. Here's one example, from a discussion of Jeremiah:

"All of us, I suspect, have times when we're made to suffer simply for being who and what we are, and we become adept at inventing means of escape. ... Jeremiah reminded me that the pain that comes from one's identity, that grows out of the response to a call, can't be escaped or pushed aside. It must be gone through. He led me into that heart of pain, forcing me to recognize that to answer a call as a prophet, or a poet for that matter, is to reject the authority of credentials, of human valuation of any kind, accepting only the authority of the call itself." (p.38)

A few pages later:
"Walter Brueggeman, in a book on the prophets entitled Hopeful Imagination, suggests that 'a sense of call in our time is profoundly countercultural,' and notes that 'the ideology of our time is that we can live "an uncalled life," one not referred to any purpose beyond one's self.' I suspect that this idol of the autonomous, uncalled life has a shadow side that demands that we resist the notion that another might be different, might indeed experience a call. Our idol of the autonomous individual is a sham; the truth is we expect everyone to be the same, and dismiss as elitist those who are working through a call to any genuine vocation. It may be that our culture so fears the necessary other that it has grown unable to identify and name real differences without becoming defensive about them."

These words speak to my own internal struggles with a vocation and how it is perceived. All of us know that choosing religious life is countercultural--who else gives up sex, money, and power? But, of course, there's more to it than that. In my heart, there is the knowledge that if I don't listen to this calling, even if it leads me back to where I started, I will not be happy. I will not be at peace with myself and with God. Despite any hardships that listening to the call might bring.


I just came home from a lovely week with my dearest friend and her three-month-old baby. I miss her so much--we have lived in different cities for about a year and a half, and I still wish that I could see her more often than I do.

One of the interesting things about our relationship is how it has stayed strong, even though I am choosing a celibate life, and she got married and started a family. It helps that she's into religious things, since she (and her husband, too) understands my calling and sees it as a blessing. I'm very grateful for that, and it allows us to keep close even when our lives are very different. And of course, I value her way of life as well. Who wouldn't love a beautiful family, a precious babe?

Our friendship has changed, as she becomes a mother and her world is dominated by the needs of the little one. It's something that I enjoy watching, but at the same time I miss our old friendship, where I could claim more attention. Doesn't that sound selfish! I think she might miss it too, miss having more freedom to do what she wants. I know she wouldn't change it for the world, that she loves that little boy more than anything, but I know also that this transition is hard on both of us.

It's always funny to me that the most beautiful things in life are also some of the most difficult things to adjust to. Moving into something new is exciting, but it is also a time to mourn what you are leaving behind.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Beginnings and Endings Friday Five

The following comes from RevGalBlogPals. Conveniently, the questions are things I was reflecting on yesterday:

This Celtic Mandala represents life, noting how days and years turn from one to another. As we have stepped from 2008 into 2009 some of us look back with joy and others with sadness; probably most of us with a mixture of the two.

As we look back we may come to understand how God has worked in and through us in joy and sadness. how we have grown against what may seem impossible odds. As we look forward we may do so with expectation, and we may do so with fear and trembling. As we look back and forward in New Years liminality I offer you this simple yet I hope profound Friday Five in two parts:

First list five things that you remember/ treasure from 2008

Then list five things that you are looking forward to in 2009

As you read one anothers blogs today I challenge you to leave a word of encouragement and pause to pray for each member of Revgals as we step into a New Year. I leave you this New Year Blessing from the Iona Community:

We stand to face the future:
God behind us in the past
Christ before us; the way ahead;
Christ beside us in this moment;
Christ beneath us in our weakness;
Christ above to shield us-
beneath the shadow of his wings we are safe;
Christ between us to bind us in the unity of his love;
Christ in us equipping us with his all sufficient grace.
Thus armed and guided, and protected we face the new year.
Now we arise and go forth on the journey before us,
knowing that, where Christ leads, life is a journey home.
Therefore we travel in faith, in hope, and in love,
in the name of the Father/ Mother, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
May the blessing of God
be upon us
all this year
and into eternity. Amen.

Five things I remember and treasure from 2008:
  1. Beginning and going through the application process for the RSCJ. It's been a long road that's not over yet, but I have learned so much about myself. I think also that in the process I am becoming a stronger person and more confident in who I am.
  2. Spending time with my best friend as she prepared to have her first baby. I will meet the baby next week!
  3. Becoming more at ease in a new place. I moved here in 2007, and 2008 has been a year of greater comfort, more friends, and finding a place in this community. It is good even though I will be leaving this community over the summer.
  4. Spending time with the sisters at the retirement facility in California. I spoke with one sister for awhile and she said some things about religious life that I will never forget. She said that you have to "date God" and never stop. That this is a beautiful thing, and one that brings great joy. She also has the gift of tears, and she simply radiated joy and love. It was a very special conversation, as were others with those sisters.
  5. I am thankful for the many weeks I have been able to spend with the sisters. Each time I am with them, no matter where it is (New Orleans, St. Louis, San Francisco, Chicago....) it feels more and more like the place I want to be for the rest of my life. I am grateful that I have had the many opportunities to stay with them and to become a part of their lives as they become a part of mine.

Things I look forward to in 2009:

I'm ignoring the whole "five" thing just to explain what I look forward to. I'm hoping this year will be one of profound life changes, as I become more and more who I am and who God wants me to be. It's exciting and a bit scary at the same time, but for today at least, I am up for the adventure!

The year of new adventures begins (I hope) with acceptance into the Society of the Sacred Heart. I should hear the final word in February, and so then I can begin to think more about the next year, as we discern together where I will go and what I will be doing. The possibilities are pretty open, though I hope to continue teaching at the college level for the next year as well.

I'm looking forward to living in a house, in community with the sisters, even though I know it will be a challenge.

I'm looking forward to a new city, a new job, a new form of life. Again, these things are challenging, but they are also (I hope) full of blessings.

So, this year will be one of blessings, one of friendship, one of growing relationships. And one of hope. May each of you have a year full of God's love as well.