Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Wonderful World of Vows Part III

Not proofread yet-- will do that tonight...

I saw it as very providential that our obedience classes started on the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. I planned prayer that morning, last Wednesday and just found so much life and such a strong message. Ann and Bernie didn't plan for thisbut God did and the message came strongly within my heart. Through the two days with Pat of LA-Carondelet and with out ICN class yesterday, I felt the cnonection and draw of Mary's fidelity to God's heart and will in her life. Pat shared with us her insight about Luke 1's example of the Annunciation. Mary says, "How can this be? I've had no relations with a man." Pat's insight was that Mary realizes if she's not in relationship that there's no way that she can bring about life. I thought of this in the bigger context of how so many times when I withdraw or am just selfish about my time with others OR God, it's impossible to get new perspective and be changed and transformed. I think this hit me as the basis for this vow, we can live the other vows alone, be chaste without relationship and live a life of poverty alone (as so many do) but obedience requires a relationship with not only God but with those we surround ourselves with.
Pat talked a bit about the State of the Heart as one of the ways that we, as CSJs, have a built-in way of practicing obedience to one another. We get the chance to share the movement of God in our lives and although it's not a conversation or a dialogue about prayer, it helps us own up and be honest as to our response to that movement. It also hit me that with my community, our Renewed Local Communities are a second built-in way to practice obedience. I have a new appreciation for them now when Pat said something about needed to believe that my sisters are prayerful people that could talk about discernment together. It's not about coming to my RLC or leadership to say I've decided but about asking questions, looking at options, asking for what you need. I know that I didn't decide to enter this community alnoe or just with God and so really, why should I make any other decision without floating the stirrings and ideas to those around me? In this way, Pat mentioned that obedience is a vow of mutual collaboration. Through this vow, we are called to attentively listen to our lives and share that with others. But obedience isn't just about being in relation with God and people but also to "lovingly tend all creation given to us". That idea struck me deeply: to be in relationship with everything God created. With all of this said, it reinforces the desire in me to share my life with people and creation that help me love life more and live it better.
We also talked a bit about the difference or "grand canyon" between the experience of older members and younger members. It's obvious that the externals of the formation process looked a lot different than they do today. My mind wondered about the internal process though. I know we've both experienced missing home and missing important events in the lives of family members to a different extent. I can say at least that I have the advantage with technology because I've been able to meet and visit with my 2 month old nephew through Skype which is like an Internet video conversation. But nonetheless, I've missed many things in my family and have had to put a hold on any peer relationships that were outside of community. It's hard to believe what formation would have looked like without all of the talk of charism, history and spirituality. I'm surprised that all of this would be new to so many CSJs since many (if not all) of our speakers went through formation pre-Vatican II.
I always wondered why all the sisters weren’t given that same opportunity of learning as it's obvious our speakers did. I guess that's a new responsibility for me, to share the knowledge that I've gained these past months with people that are interested. I think this blog is a way to start that but maybe when I get home it can be more of a conversation that I hope some (or many) are interested in having.
In this same area, I also thought about how older generations grew up many times with rich customs and holiday traditions that were very cultural and religious. Then they entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and weren’t really educated about the history of the order. That really seems flipped for my generation. We really grew up in the melting pot culture and sometimes don’t know where our family traditions came from, if we have any at all. On the other hand, we’ve entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and are filling that part of our lives that didn’t have an understanding about history or tradition and this life is what helps give our experience, our life, our relationship with God, much more meaning and energy. I never really saw that correlation between generation but I think it could help me and others gain perspective when speaking in intergenerational circles. Either way, I think we're invited by God to honor the experience of the other, no matter what generation they belong to and no matter how different it may be from our own.
I remember at my novitiate ceremony speaking of being attracted to the authenticity with which the sisters lived their lives. At the time I didn't think about it but not I can label that as the outward experience that I had of others living out their vow of obedience. The attentive listening to the Spirit and God's movement in life can be an outward sign to others. It's what makes then ask questions and wonder what is different about us.
So I guess I've come full circle with this class: Mary's fidelity. For guidance, we can look toward the created trinity of Jesus, Mary and Joseph because they were the best examples of how to live out our lives deeply connected to the source of our lives. Jesus shows us how life can be fully lived with all of our humanness: hands, feet, heart and mind and how those parts of us when connected to God can lead us to find God in one another. Mary, through her fidelty can teach us how to honor and reverence each moment and to always trust the energy that comes from solitude that will lead us outward. And finally, Joseph, shows us how to surrender to the experience, to listen for God's voice and fearlessly respond to that inner voice that calls us because that attentiveness will decide all of life. I could share so much more but I think God's still moving it around in me, maybe you can see that.

I'm leaving for Disneyland in 5 minutes. WOOHOO!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Wonderful World of Vows Part II

This week Tuesday and Wednesday we were graced with the presence of Janet Mock, a Baden CSJ. There seems to be so much within this vow of chastity so it's hard to put it all together in a nice neat package on here. Maybe that's just because I haven't done my reflection paper on it yet.
There were three areas that Janet focused on that I picked out. 1: How to live the vow inside myself. 2: How to live the vow in community. 3: How to live the vow in our world as it exists today.
One of the first things that Janet said was that the heart of this vow is reverence. I believe that this reverence comes in the ways that we are able to respect the heart of God that lies within each other, religious or not. First that respect must be for myself and all that God's created me to be. Then that reverence is what draws us to each other and calls us to energize and effect each other.
In community, we are meant to live Church in our own homes in order to be an example for the world community. A question that I asked myself: What kind of community member am I? And how do I want to be so that others may see me as an example of living healthy/right relationships?
Janet said, maybe the fact that we're getting smaller and have fewer entering is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit. That way we are called to be more nimble, flexible and open to more because we are small and can look for the most influential opportunities. I wonder if that gives us the possibility of doing bigger things for change??
I think I come to this community at a good time. I don't have the same questions that older sisters had while in formation and I probably don't have the same questions that they have now. I've lived in the American culture without the knowledge of vowed life and the idea of a global community in the same sense that we're used to hearing as CSJs. I grew up with different values and the culture of a different generation. Because of this, I see things a bit differently in this formation process. Some of these changes in my belief system will help me grow personally and I hope some things may even influence the community perspective.
I realized after talked about the community peice, that I'll need to be more open to the world around me as far as peers go. This is difference than other sisters that were able to enter with their peers. They maybe didn't have the deep relationships in the beginning but they had companionship that moved into deeper relationships. Because I don't have many peers in religious life or in our community, I've need to look for more mutual relationships outside the community in order to remain healthy. I don't think this is a bad thing, just reality. Maybe that's another gift of the Holy Spirit at this time because taht way our charism won't be contained to community conversations. These mutual relationships outside community may look a bit different because of my future vows. I know that it will be a bit difficult because even though sisters aren't often put up on a pedestal like they used to, I think the opposite is true for my generation. They think something's is wrong, strange, or flawed for the most part. (Mostly just because they aren't familiar with religious life like people used to be.) So in that way, it may be hard to find that equality or someone that can respect this life that I've been called to.
Also, another question Janet asked us to ponder was: What grounds you in your belief in God amongst the growing chaotic times but still allows you to grow? What a weighted question! I think one of the responses I came up with is that I have the hope and faith that God is continuously manifesting Himself in the heart of humanity. Sure bad things happen but a saying comes to mind: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Some students are ready for a different awareness and consciousness, some aren't. Those students are the ones that will be filled with the truth of God and will be given the grace to live it out. I see all of this happening and know that God can only work with those that are open to His Spirit. I can only choose that openness for myself and hope that God sees my heart fit enough to carry the message that He places inside. So far, I feel like I'm on the right track but I have a lot to learn, I know.
After hearing Janet, reading on my own, and listening to our ICN speaker. I know that I have experienced God in a way that no other relationship or exclusive relationship could touch. The place in myself that God created for himself is meant to be energized by more than one person (ultimately from God) and is also meant to feed more than one person. My experience of God personally and communally tells me that an exclusive relationship for me is too narrow for the heart that I've been graced with. I've wondered many times what I would do when I fall in love with someone while in the community. (After all, it's inevitable. The statistics show that each person falls in love an average of 7 times throughout their life.) I started to come to the conclusion that it would be a very hard decision because I've invested so much of myself into this. At that same time, I would welcome the discernment. I realized after some reflection that if I hold my heart away from falling in love, then really I'm choosing to hold myself away from all love. I think at this point, if I were to meet someone, the question wouldn't be: Am I supposed to be with this one person or am I supposed to be a sister? The question is bigger than that. Instead God asks me, "How can you best love in this life that I've given you?" That bigger question takes away the fear in me. I'm called to live big and love big and God's calling me to be in relationship in a different way, one that our culture isn't too understanding of. I'm called to have mutuality with more people than just the one that I might have exchanged rings with in a different life.
All of us have an inate drive to connect with people. Some are meant just to be intimate with one person. All of us are meant to give life though. My challenge, a religious's challenge, is to find ways to bring about life outside of actually creating another human being. I'm still meant to have intimate/close relationship, just not with one person and not in a sexual way. In which lifestyle does love seem more expansive? This is a question we all have to ask ourselves.
As of now, I feel the way I've been called and personally choose to live my life is in the context of community. It is where and how I'm called to love, make decisions and share goods.
Finally, in all relationships and all situations, God asks me to stay in it for the lesson. Don't back out too quickly or withdraw. God's in it if I let Him find me I won't fall into the darkness or negativity of any situation if I choose to allow God to be present in everything.
Our culture today says that this vow is unhealthy, unnatural, and definitely not the norm. Was Jesus the norm? Did people of his time believe in the way he lived or what he believed? He was unnatural and out of the ordinary as well yet look at the broad impact he had. This life is where I've found God, where my heart is challenged and where I've experienced the most life changing growth. Unnatural? Yes, but Abnormal? No, there's too many people living it successfully and with passion. God's call has gone beyond those labels and I can only see myself growing deeper into that love of God and bringing it to all who cross paths with my life.