Thursday, April 24, 2014

On the Horizon...

The last few months have been thick with the work of novitiate. Now, I find myself nearing the end of my time in Chicago and headed back to Philadelphia in less than a month.  The time has flown.  It feels like just yesterday, I was returning from winter break and the day before yesterday, I was arriving in the Windy City for eight months of intensive study with three novices from congregations of Sisters of Saint Joseph from around the country.  This time has been blessed. It has given me perspective I didn't have before, has added to this two year process of discernment I am quickly coming to the end of, and has taught me object lessons that have affirmed the path I am on.

The last few months have also been marked by the dawning of new opportunities on the horizon. As I approach the possibility of making first vows in August, I am currently looking for and discerning ministry options. (If you want to know more about this... or have any leads, e-mail me.)  And still, my deep love of and passion for writing continues to make its way to the surface.  Back when I started this blog, I was a young woman who was leaving her job in New York City to pursue a year of service with a group of sisters in Philadelphia.  When I did that, I told myself and those around me that 1) for me, relationship was key, 2) story was/is the gateway into relationship, and 3) that being a writer meant that if I had a pen I could write anywhere and still pursue the deep call I felt to serve.

In the last four years, those points have rung true over and over again.  Staying true to myself and who I am called to be has led me to where I am today.  And, I believe, it is what will leads me forward as I pursue this call and discover where my gifts and passions meet the world's deep needs.  To this end, I have two pieces of news (and publication) I'd like to share with you all:

1) I'll have a piece in the May 2, 2014 issue of Commonweal entitled "Living Witness."  The article, a Last Word feature that I wrote during the first few months of my novitiate, tells the story of when I first came to visit Philadelphia as an inquirer, my fears and hesitations, and what the future of religious life is calling forth from me and us as women religious. 

2)  I'll be taking part in an exciting new project from the National Catholic Reporter.  Earlier this year, I was asked to become a columnist for the Global Sisters Report (GSR). The GSR is a project funded by a grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation that will work over the next three years to disseminate news and information about Catholic sisters and seek to foster the voices of women religious through "commentary from their perspective."  To this end, I will be writing on a monthly basis as a part of the Horizons column, offering my voice in union with other younger sisters.  The GSR website launched this week and my debut column, entitled "Party of One", will be the inaugural voice of Horizons.

Happy reading as you enjoy these wanderings in Commonweal and the Global Sisters Report! It is a blessing and a privilege for me to be able to share this journey with you all. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy having the opportunity to write and offer my thoughts.  

Easter blessings as we emerge from the darkness of Holy Week. May we face the light of new life with eyes and hearts open and overflowing, with hope and joy abundant, in all that we do and we are. Amen. Alleluia.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week: Receiving in the Darkness

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Those words rang out like a discordant chime from the pew behind me tonight at Mass. They made me pause as I heard them. Their familiarity is ingrained in me and for a moment, as I continued to say the words of the new Missal that I have been taught over the last two years, they made me consider that perhaps I was saying the wrong thing.  Of course, I wasn't, but hearing words spoken so confidently, from a sort of spiritual muscle memory, made my ears and heart perk up.

For the clash of liturgical norms that they stirred up within me, these words seem to fit at the beginning of this Holy Week.  Maybe, as this week begins, that's exactly what I need to be saying. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I will be healed.  

I stand at the threshold of this the holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar and I know that Jesus is coming. I watch as he mounts a donkey and parades into Jerusalem. Entering triumphantly on the back of an utterly ordinary creature, Christ comes into this final week of life inviting us into the extraordinary mystery of his life, death, and resurrection. His disciples may not have known it then, but we do now: this march triumphant and jubilant is also the beginning of the end. It is a procession toward the cross.

And so, as this week begins, I am struck by the way, even though the light of Easter is right around the corner, darkness rushes in.

As I watch Jesus ride past me into this week, I can only utter to myself... Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.   

I went to a late Mass tonight in celebration of Palm Sunday.  There is something intimate about the 8PM Mass I have found here in Chicago at Old St. Patrick's Church. The intricate Celtic designs of the church are somehow subdued by the night lighting; the crowds that fill the pews Sunday morning are slightly thinned, allowing for the feeling of being a part of a community of faith while also granting you a little space to yourself in the pew; and the beautiful stained glass windows normally illuminated in the daylight give way by nightfall to a lighting design that is cozy and calming, welcoming worshipers and inviting deep reflection.  And then, there is the music.  Let's just say it fits all that I've mentioned above- soft, reflective, enchanting, and serene- and so much more.

As Mass ended tonight, I could feel the darkness closing in. With a simple piano and violin accompaniment, we sang "Were You There." I had used John Angotti's version of the song for community prayer this afternoon, drawing off of Pope Francis' impromptu words today about entering into Holy Week and, in so doing, entering into the story of faith, the story of the Passion that we encounter these holy days.

We must ask "Who am I?" says Francis. Who am I in this story? What part do I play? and, most importantly, "Where is my heart?"

That is a question for all of us to ask.  As the words of the song rang out in the Church, something deeper came.  The song gave me goosebumps. I could feel the trembling within me, the "Oh" resonating from a depth created by pain, wisdom, experience, and grace, rooted in faith and self and yet beyond my very self all the same.

I closed my eyes as I sang and each time I opened my eyes, it was a little darker in the church... as if with each word the light was being drained from the sanctuary of Old St. Pat's.  By the end of the song, the light in the church was a dim glow. I felt depth within and the brief applause for the music ministry that broke the silence felt dreadfully out of place.

The darkness had come... the darkness of this holiest of weeks.

This is a time of reflection.  A time, the presiding priest reminded us, to listen for responses from God; to hear what God is trying to say to us at this very special, very sacred time.  Pope Francis' words echo is my ears, "Where is my heart?"  That question is a call. The call to be with Jesus this week, to be in the Passion- living, loved, forgiven, given, beloved.

There is much to be attentive to and so let us pray that we can be... attentive to God, to the deep call within, to the words that echo in our ears, and to the presence that is crying out to us.  May we be open to receiving Christ these days, no matter how difficult that may be. To hear God's words, to know God's love, to feel and encounter our God, and to allow ourselves, in the midst of darkness, to move toward all that is offered to us by the Light.

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.