Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Beginnings in Old Bones

#38 is the first hymn in the song book.

As soon as the opening chords played tonight at Mass something sung down deep inside me. Welcome to a new year it seemed to say. And I took a deep breath and began to sing... to sing a song that is deep within my bones... a song that in its singing seemed like it might be inviting me to something new this year. O Come, O Come Emmanuel. 

Each word reverberated deep in my chest, flowing out over my lips like honey, the sweet feeling of harmony captivating my ears. This is where I am, I thought to myself, and this is exactly where you should be, my heart murmured as I gazed around at the church, the people, the moment I was in and sharing with the Divine. There we were together, the start of a season, full of invitation and exploration. I can only hope I take to it as it offers moments to me.

I remember the moment as a freshman in college when the word sacramentality was introduced into my vocabulary. Reading it on the page of a textbook, I swirled it around on my tongue like a fine wine, picking up hints of flavors, memories of things gone past, my own salvation history laid out before me.  Without even knowing it, I had been taught this word; this sacramentality was a part of me. I cherished knowing I had a name for it, that it was a reality beyond my being. Something instilled and shared.  Some of my greatest, dearest friends would have this same sacramental sense, be they Catholic or not.  They knew and longed for something bigger yet something so tangible and inherent that every ounce of your being contained it.

As the words poured out of my mouth tonight I knew that. I remembered. This is what I long for...what I love. A beauty deep within, requiring beauty all throughout. In the darkness is light. Keep watch and wait for all that is to come, all that has been promised, all that is already here.

"Be sure to tell the people in your life you love them" the pastor said before the Mass came to a close. Each person seemed to pause recalling those dear to them with love in warm glow of the light.

This is a season of joy I remind myself... of hope... or expectant waiting and heart-felt grasping, allowing God to come among us, to be in all places. What are the places God long to be in me? I wonder. Where do I need to let God in? Where do I need to see God in the world and how can I help to bring God-with-us to places yet unknown?

As the congregation shuffles out I feel a little less lonely. The darkness is that of a dawn not a dusk.  Joy is in this place, this space, this time. I simply need to let it roll in...let it rise up...feel it in my bones.

And that is where I leave it. No more, no less. It simply is and among everything else I could expound upon, the still silence of those opening lines settle deep.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel. 


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow...

Last week, my latest column on the Global Sisters Report was published. The piece entitled "Tomorrow's Leadership Today" looks at the leadership that is being called forth in our church and the idea that leadership is part of each and every person's vocation. "Who we are" is leaders, each of us in our own way.  Coming to that realization takes time but it is a call each of us must answer.

As we come to that realization, we also come to see that the people we interact with... each and every person offers us the gift and lessons of their own leadership and being. It's only when we come into dialogue with one another that we can truly appreciate this and reap the fuller benefits of relationship.  Together we grow and learn and lead together.

The article comes from my time at Georgetown on which I continue to reflect.  Leadership was a key component of that talk and in it the call to everyday leadership as each of us encounter and must rise to the call of it. May we be blessed in each moment to lead, whether we realize it or not. May we recognize the leadership offered to us by others. And may we always pause to reflect on the moments, relationships, and experiences that reveal to us who we truly are and who we are called to be.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Monday night, I had the great pleasure and honor of being able to speak at Georgetown University. The talk I delivered was entitled "Being Your Vocation: A Young Nun/Sister's Perspective on Life, Love, and the Call to Leadership in the Church Today." And over the span of forty-five minutes, I spoke to just that- the call in our world today not just to be people of faith, but people engaged with God, true to ourselves and seeking evermore to deepen our relationships with the world around us. This means being true to who God has made us to be. It also means being honest enough to ask big questions and courageous enough to listen for the answers in whatever form they take.

Being at Georgetown was a blessed opportunity to look at those big questions. Yet as I reflect on my time there, I am struck by something far beyond the talk I gave or the questions it posed.  It is the time for questions and answers that sticks out to me as I reminisce about this time of deep engagement and sharing. I don't think I ever imagined that the Q&A portion of talks would be my favorite, but there is something daring about these moments that sticks with me long after a talk is given.  I am always surprised by the way in which these moments go. There is a sense of mystery mixed with tension and slight anxiety whenever the floor is opened up to questions. What will people ask?  Sure, I know what I have said in my talk, but really there is no telling what individuals have heard or what this hearing may have stirred within them. 

There is something exhilarating about the moment a question is placed on the floor. I don't think I ever expected this feeling but sure enough it was there Monday night. Once a question is asked it is the speaker's chance to volley.  As the one doing that volleying, I am constantly surprised by the way in which answers emerge. For someone who's craft lies in carefully spun phrases and sentiments, the opportunity to compose extemporaneously is a gift. Clips and phrases surface in ways I never could imagine. Stories from days gone by suddenly rise to the top, as if they had been waiting in queue for the opportunity to make a match.  

Listening to myself, I wish I could hold on to the words that flow forth from my mouth and in that desire to hold, to savor, to continue to learn and grasp the grace of the moment of response, I recognize the gift being given. God is responding. And so, I simply listen. 

I found myself on Monday night doing just that. There was something playful to the Q&A; students displayed genuine interest and so the scene was set for meaningful conversation.  At one point, in response to a question about the role of communities in our personal formation and human development, I found myself echoing that exact sentiment.  "The gift of community," I heard myself say "is the ability to hear one another. The communities that have helped me to grow the most are those that have given me the space to ask questions and then to listen not only to my own response but to the responses of others."

I couldn't have crafted something better (though I fully realize my retelling is, in and of itself, a crafting.)  That is the gift. To hear one's self in the moment and to learn from how you respond.  Sure there are difficult questions at times, it is then that you find you way in navigating the minefield.  There is no shortage of that when you are talking about women's roles in the Church. Still, I find a pleasure in speaking my truth, and ultimately I hope the Truth, to these questions. There, there is dialogue and what a sweet gift that is.

A few weeks ago, I moderated a panel at Saint Joseph's University here in Philadelphia about the connection between long term service and women's religious vocations. As moderator, you don't really get a chance to share your own two cents about topics, rather you guide the conversation. In preparation for the evening, I met with the three sisters who would be sharing their stories that night. As we talked, a concern arose about the prospect of the Q&A at the end of the panel. How do you field difficult/tumultuous questions? that seemed to be the anxiety-inducing question.  My response to them was one learned from enough Q&A's on the topics at hand- give an answer you are comfortable with, you have the control to offer whatever you want... answer from your heart, if that answer actually responds to the question at hand great. If not, you've still responded and whatever the other chooses to hear, a conversation deeper than what was before will have been begun within both of you.

I think that's what I love about Q&A's. You gain insight into yourself and others all at the same time. You see what is stirring within and are graced by what emerges in the process. The blessings of such an encounter can be boundless... if only you take the time to listen... not only to the question but to the response too.