+ J.M.J.A.T. +

Thursday, December 30, 2010


My flash drive just broke in my computer... it has all my schoolwork on it... all of it.  Tests, Quizzes, Notes... Everything.  Please pray that I can recover these files.  I just was saying the other day that if I lost that flash drive... well it would be bad.  Now here I am.  I will be lost without this stuff.  Please pray!   I am extremely grateful!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out and About

This is one of the best weeks to be a teacher... because you're off all week.  Our sisters usually use this week to visit other convents, their family, and friends.  It is nice to have some less structured time to be able to nurture the relationships that God gives us.

I went to visit a sister who I am good friends with last night and I stayed over at her convent.  We had a wonderful time catching up on everything going on at the convents, talking about community stuff, and taking notes on school things (we both teach the same age group... which means good ideas from one another!)  It was so life-giving to spend some time with someone who really is a friend in the spiritual sense.  You can't share with everyone your struggles, imperfections, successes and heartaches.

I'm thrilled to see the world picking up on growth in religious life for many communities, especially in the recent spotlight on the Nashville Dominicans.  I would hate for anyone to think I'm being petty, but it isn't the same for all communities who are really faithful.  My community has always been faithful to Church teaching and we just aren't growing in the same way they are so I have a different experience of community life than some of those sisters do, which is good, not a bad thing!  I'd just like to give voice to my own experience.

I was realizing the other day that I really have no day to day contact with peers.  The sisters with whom I live are all older and I teach middle school students.  I love community and I love school but there are times when I miss very much the interaction I have with people of my own age.  The sisters with whom I live are very intentional in allowing me to be young... in fact I think it entertains them to entertain me but they sometimes can't relate to everything going on in my life.

That's why it is so great for me to have a religious who is a friend.  We have the same generational experiences and so she helps me to be able to understand my struggles and joys in the context of religious life and my own life experience in a way that someone much older wouldn't be able to.  It isn't a downplay of the older sisters at all.  They offer me wisdom and example that I can't get from anywhere else.  They challenge me to live religious life radically.  They just might not be able to sing along to the same song on the radio or go to a freezing cold soccer game.

There also comes the points of temptation in our world now.  Many things that come on the TV or movies or out of our student's mouths are not up to Catholic moral standards.  I hate to say this but... it goes over the older sisters heads sometimes.  A rainbow to them means hope, to me it means homosexual rights.  The word gay means happy to them.  Eminem is a candy, not a rapper.  A player is in a board game... not the dating world...  The list could go on and on (I tried to use the most G-rated examples I could think of!)  But this doesn't even mention the unwanted attention I receive sometimes as a young sister in a habit that can only be described as inappropriate that they might see as being complimentary.

We all have to talk about it, and I'm grateful to have a friend who gets it and can offer solutions and support for all the ins and outs of religious life in our world right now.  Hopefully, I do the same.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


These past two days have been so wonderful and I am just terrible.  I don't know what is wrong with me sometimes.  I love my life, I love religious life.  I love the sisters I live with and I love what I do.

In my convent, which is relatively young, the next sister in age to me is over 20 years older than I am.  I am the youngest sister in my whole community and it's tough being the youngest - not impossible, but still hard.  Part of it being hard is that God is in it.  If He weren't in it, it would be easy, simple, and wonderful all the time.  But it's not and so I know He is really here.

Today I was annoyed.  I was annoyed at the preparations for dinner.  I was annoyed at the crazy nun-dom stuff that happens.  I was annoyed at Mass.  I was annoyed at things people said and did.  Ugh, I was just terrible.

I tried to remind myself that it isn't about things being perfect because Christ came into this imperfect world in a really super imperfect way.  Nothing was ready; nothing was pretty, nothing was regal... It was all love though.

It is so hard to balance everything and to do it all perfectly and I realize more than ever now that it is completely impossible.  There is too much in everyday life.  There are only 24 hours a day and much more to be done.  I'm still going to do my best but I'm not working towards perfect anymore... I'm working towards love and selflessness.  I can't possibly be perfect... I can't live in the perfect circumstances... But maybe, I can do what Jesus did in imperfection and love.

I expect to be blogging more this week... we are having a major snowstorm.  I'll be with the nuns all week which will be a plus for my love in imperfect circumstances.

Prayers for all this holy season.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

There are so many things you can't do when...

you have no voice!  The past few days of Christmas preparations and last days of school have been interesting since I can only whisper.

I had to elect a spokesman in school to make all of my announcements and give directions to the students.  They were thrilled with this but still told me they hoped I would feel better for Christmas.  Today one of my boys came over with a present for me and was very entertained that I still couldn't speak and was cleaning when he came to the convent.

I'm feeling fine but my voice has just escaped me.  Do you think St. Anthony works on things like this?  I'll have to ask him to help me out.

Today all the nuns were around and about cleaning and decorating and doing last minute wrapping.  We were answering the door every other minute as people brought us beautiful baked goods and lovely Christmas offerings.

This evening though was the most touching.  I went out after I was finished working in the house to get my hair cut and to pick up something to help with my throat.  When I walked into Hair Cuttery, a man offered me his seat.  He was handsome, maybe a few years older than me but still young.  The woman next to me was called and he sat down next to me.  I was very impressed with his kindness and he began to tell me that he hadn't been to church in a while.  He seemed a little bit nervous but finally he asked me if I knew anything about a cross he was wearing that had some symbols on it.  I didn't.  He very nervously made a comment about my ring being on the ring finger of my left hand.  I think he must have been really checking out the nun thing to notice such a small, though meaningful, part of my habit.  I explained to him that when I made my vows the priest put this ring on my finger while saying that I was betrothed to the eternal King and I showed him the engraving.

He was called back and he offered me his hand and wished me a happy Christmas.  I know it doesn't sound like much but I could tell by his facial expressions and the way he spoke that he was touched by meeting a sister.  It just goes to show that we are all responsible to bring Jesus into the world - to make Him visible to others by our lives.

Jesus, come into our hearts and make us more like you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Well... someone did cry...

Well, someone did cry because it is Christmas.  It was a student.  Actually, it was many students.  This week I've had probably about ten kids crying their little eyes out.  There is so much pressure in the lead up to Christmas with report cards, Santa, Demerits, last minute school work, and other goofy antics that cause them to get into trouble and hurt themselves.  Basically, I've been a damage controller all day.  It is exhausting!

Last night the eighth grade girls came over to decorate the convent for Christmas.  It was a lovely night.  It is so nice for me to be able to chat with them outside of school.  They gave me the dirt on all the love connections and asked me for all the "convent dirt."  "Do you always get along with the other sisters?" "Do sisters ever say bad words?" "Do you ever wish you had a husband?"  "Do you ever wish you had kids?"  "What if you don't like what's for dinner?"  "Who does the food shopping?"  It made it well worth it to endure the tears and chaos in school these days to spend time with the girls as we trimmed the tree and goofed around.

Today it snowed!  The kids are aware that I love the snow and immediately turn into a child when I see it.  They were a big bundle of giggles as the snow fell and we didn't get a whole lot of schoolwork done.  However, after all the tears, they did need a little bit of a break.  At dismissal time one of the buses didn't show up and so I had a bunch of kids in my classroom while we waited for the bus to be sorted out.  One by one they left was parents and friends came to pick them up until I was left with a little first grade girl, Mary, and a seventh grade boy, Justin.  I never met the little girl before but my seventh grade friend is quite a character.  He is always in trouble and always doing something fresh.  For some reason I love the fresh boys so we usually get along but I always worry about him.  He is always being written up and staying for detention.

Mary started making me play silly games and Justin looked a little disgusted with how goofy I was being with her.  Eventually though he started to warm up and was laughing and being a fool right along with us.  After about an hour of waiting I picked up a styrofoam ball that was going to be used for a science project later and I just yelled, "snow ball fight" and I threw one at Justin and one at Mary. I thought Justin would be too cool for my game but he started throwing it back and I saw something in him I never saw before.  He was enjoying himself like a kid, with no concern about whether he was keeping up his appearance of not caring, and without trying to prove himself.  It was beautiful.  The sad part was that his facial expression told me that he couldn't believe that he was being allowed to just be a kid and be loved and enjoyed.  I wonder if he has never experienced that before.  I also saw that he was shocked that he was being allowed to be a goof with me, and that I actually was enjoying him as a goof.

It made me realize that the late nights, the painful feet, the papers, grades, and parents are all worth it for moments when a child realizes that he is loved and respected no matter what.  I hope he remembers it.  I hope he knows that he really is loved and liked at the same time.  I hope he knows he can count on me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's not Christmas unless someone cries.

Most of the sisters in my community would say these weeks are the worst weeks of the year; in school grades are due, the convent is being decorated, the kids are crazy, time is short, cookies need to be baked, presents wrapped, cards sent, and all the everyday things keep happening.  I had my melt-down day today.  In the novitiate, we always used to say that it wasn't Christmas if someone didn't cry.  I was never that someone until today.

People sometimes warn about over-spiritualizing normal events in everyday life.  I think I have failed to spiritualize them enough though these days.  I've been so overwhelmed with school and community preparations for Christmas that I've forgotten that God is in all these things too.  I hate to cry.  I really don't even like emotions all that much... I know they are necessary but it's just not in me.  Tonight though it all became too much for me.  I spent all weekend at school working on some things that really weren't justly mine.  I endured the advice of others to "relax." Then I felt the wrath of missing something important that I should have done a while ago.  Needless to say, I found myself getting ready for bed and just crying.  As I felt sorry for myself I realized that there are still opportunities that God gives me to forgive, to love, to be humbled, to sacrifice and mortify myself, and to work for His mission in the world.  I just forgot that all these everyday things had that kind of meaning and grace in them.  Basically, I was being a whiny brat.  (I usually tell my middle school kids to "take it like a man" when they get a demerit or a detention, and I was not taking my own advice.)

Confession time - I haven't prayed as I should these days.  I have bronchitis and I am exhausted so for the past week I have missed my daily prayer time in order to get more sleep so that I can work my life away.  I know that has hurt my chances of doing anything the way God intends me to do it.  Anyway, my prayer hasn't been great when it happens either.  It's like I'm in a rut.  Usually, I do really well to journal about things.  It helps me to discern God's voice and action in my life but recently I've just been telling Him all the things I have to do.  It has nothing to do with Him and it is all about me.

I don't know what I need to do to fix it, but again I know I'm falling into the trap of trying to "do" something in order to reap a benefit I see that I need.  I know I really need to just entrust it all to the mercy of God and know that in His goodness He will show me His love and compassion.

I struggle with whether or not to share this particular part of my sadness tonight on a public forum but I think it is appropriate to share using prudence.  It is hard as an active religious sometimes to totally avoid occasions of sin.  Sometimes something small that someone says, while I am trying to be charitable and understanding, will stick with me and torture me.  It may touch my pride, envy, or desire for affection and that thought will invade all other things.  Something like that has been happening to me lately and I don't know quite how to handle it with charity and gentleness.  Jesus did say to Peter, "Get behind me Satan."  I do know that I need to end the relationship from which this temptation is coming toward me.  This doesn't mean I stop praying in charity for the person or the situation but that I distance myself in witness to the Gospel of Christ and my vocation in His holy Church.

I know that Christ has given me a very particular grace to realize this lack of spiritual discernment and the harm being done me by a particular relationship.  I must respond to it.  I have been blessed to know that no matter what I have given my heart to Him and it can't belong to anyone else.  I can't share it; I cannot entrust it; I cannot let it be seen by any other in the way I have allowed Him.  It is difficult and painful at times but I do believe that the convergence of all these things at this time tonight was in His plan for me to rededicate myself to Him and to promise further my love and devotion to Him alone.

God keep giving me the grace!  Amen.    

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Art Museum

Today I took my kids to the Philadelphia Art Museum for a field trip.  It was wonderful.  I haven't been in a while although I really do love it there.  After we arrived the kids ate lunch and then we had an hour to tour alone.  One of the parents didn't show up so we had about twelve middle schoolers in a group.... of course it was interesting!  Because I offered to make the groups, I gave myself all of the "special" children of God.  I really do love them and they are good kids, but they have a lot of spirit in them!  Since there were mostly boys we went almost straight to the horse and man arms.  Lots of beautiful armor, knives, and guns kept the boys more than occupied.

God's grace did prevail in the beginning of our tour when, without my planning, we came upon some beautiful sacred art.  (I just looked at the museum website and tried to find the exhibit but I don't see it and don't have enough time to research.)  We entered thought a portal to a beautiful room and in the center an enormous Crucifix.  The kids were amazed at His beauty and grace.  They moved right past everything else in the room to get up close to Him.  I read the information sheet on it, however; I don't remember much though because I was so taken by their faces as they identified the symbolism and love put into the creation of this work of art.  I could see in their eyes that God was working in them as we pondered the beauty and richness of this image of Christ.  We also saw a beautiful stone altar which filled them with amazement.  They also saw some old Office Books on display and I reminded them of my own office book which I let them look through and explore one day when we went over it in class.  When they realized that Catholics have celebrated these mysteries in the same way all this time they were really amazed.

Of course, we moved right onto the armory exhibit, which was also wonderful.  It doesn't matter though... I saw God in their eyes today which is what I hope to see everyday.  This morning while I was praying my Holy Hour before Morning Prayer I journaled that I hoped to be patient and loving this day with them.  They were the ones who showed me their patience and their love.  God's gifts are so great each and everyday.  Today though, I am grateful to Him for my children who show me His life each and everyday.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immaculate Conception

Today is our Community Feast Day!  This morning we celebrated in prayer with one another and then at Mass.  At the parish Mass we renewed our vows publicly together.  Yesterday, I told all the kids that if they came to that Mass they would see how we celebrate this day very especially.  I was really touched by their presence, especially when after Mass was over they came up to say congratulations and happy feast.  I celebrated the rest of the day by going to the doctor for the cold I'm sure my little angels gave me.

I'm going to take a nap until evening prayer, which is unusual, however, seeing as I am sick, I need all the rest I can get.  Tonight we will pray together and have a little supper party.  The best part of this day is being able to renew our vows in the presence of the people where we live.  Our professions are made at our Motherhouse but the people we serve get an inside look on the vows on this special day when we celebrate and share with them as well.

Friday, December 3, 2010


When I first became a sister, I never thought I would tire of hearing people actually calling me "Sister."  However, after a long week in school after a week off for Thanksgiving... I would be glad if no one ever called me anything again!

I love my kids so much and I love school but they break my heart sometimes.  Sometimes, I want to say, "Please, don't say sister again!"  My love for them never ends, however, I quickly move in a matter of moments from disappointment, to pride, to fun, to sorrow, to happiness and many more!  I try to remember they are only in middle school, but I see so much potential in them that I am terrified they will let all that go in favor of what the world has offered them.

So today, the boys were telling me all about who is breaking up with who and who has a new girlfriend... I do love that they feel comfortable to tell me because I do try to be very open and available with them.  Then one of them said, "Sister (that was his first mistake :)  ), Joe is a player."  Now poor Joe is one of those all around great kids.  He's smart, polite, and popular.  He is a good kid - always helpful even when he doesn't need to be, always kind, always a gentleman.  I didn't know how to say anything I was thinking.  What came up was something like, "Please don't ever be a player... You'll break my heart - all of you!  You're too wonderful and special for that!"  The hard thing in middle school is that they never let you know if they are taking you seriously or not.  It is like planting teeny, tiny seeds that you never see come to fruit.  They are always there, and the kids might actually think about them sometimes, however, they would never tell you!

They then proceeded to start singing a song that has some not very nice lyrics which I stopped immediately.  They responded - "Sister, we wouldn't have said the next line, not in front of a sister, not in front of a lady."  So I guess that's a step in the right direction.

My point is really that it is almost impossible, except for grace, to counteract what our culture is doing to our young people.  I always have to tell myself that I just need to fall back on the fact that I have loved them, prepared them, guided them, and done my best to shield them from those things that can and will diminish their understanding of their own dignity and the dignity of others.  I hope and I pray that God will bless that and that even the word, "Sister" that they speak so often will be one that reminds them of love, peace, joy, and faith.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today I am giving thanks for the gift of community.  On Tuesday the kids asked me where I would be going to Thanksgiving.  While my convent is going to the convent down the street for our Thanksgiving dinner, I told the kids that the sisters celebrate all holidays together before doing any personal visiting of family and friends for the holidays.  My kids were upset and asked why we couldn't go home for the holidays.  I told them that some sisters don't have anywhere to go and we would never leave a sister alone.

They don't know this, but I am one of those sisters who doesn't have anywhere to go for the holidays.  I think a lot of people still take for granted that sisters come from wonderful Catholic families full of love and joy.  While I guess that seems to be true for the majority, for me it isn't.  It makes the holidays very difficult at times.  If we didn't celebrate together, I would be alone.  My parents are divorced and I don't have a family home to stay in.  I depend on community for companionship and that truly Christ-centered family love.

Our visit to the convent down the street for Thanksgiving was so lovely.  When we arrived the sisters stopped what they were doing to talk and chat in the community room until dinner was ready.  All was being kept warm in the oven when we went together to Chapel for prayers.  We got together to "swell the crowd" and we certainly were stuffed in together in Chapel.  It was such a nice way to share faith and community.  There was a beautiful prayer waiting at our spots in the dining room which we said together.  Then the feast began!  Laughter, tears, stories, fun, and joy flavored every minute of our delicious meal with one another.

It was also a gift to be with sisters I know well and sisters I've never met before and still feel welcomed and at home.  After all, our hearts and minds are one and no matter what we belong together to walk this journey to the Lord.  I can't help but think that our little gathering was a small beginning to "Preparing the way for the Lord." as we enter into Advent.  Where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there and tonight was a wonderful example to me of that true Presence.

So thank You God for my vocation, my community, my friends, my sisters, my consecration, my vows, and the love you have put into my heart.  Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chastity and Community

Well, believe it or not, I'm actually posting two days in a row.  This is just a super honest post about something I've been thinking and praying about lately.  I'm going to be totally honest.  Chastity is hard.

The tough thing about living with women much older than you is that they love love stories and romances.  There's nothing wrong with those beautiful hallmark movies about families and love and children and marriage and all that wholesome goodness.  However, when you come from a broken family and you've sacrificed that part of your life for the Kingdom, it does start to wear on you during the Christmas love story season.

On top of that, it is difficult at times to see children come in and out of your classroom where you love them with all your heart and  they don't realize it.  It is increasingly difficult I think for young women entering religious life to reconcile their lived family situations, which are increasingly difficult, with the experiences of many sisters with whom they live.  It is painful for me sometimes to think of the idea of family because of my own family experiences.  I've been wallowing in it a little bit these days.  I know that isn't the best or correct thing to do but it's just where I've been.

Anyway, tonight when I was wallowing, I got a phone call from a friend.  It is amazing what friendship in religious life can really do for you.  I became friends with this sister who is about 40 years older than me, when I took care of her sick sister, who was also a religious sister.  I only talked to my friend for ten minutes, and not about chastity; however, I left the call feeling loved, strengthened, and ready to continue on my way in spite of the sadness I've been feeling.

Community can both be a challenge and a blessing in trying to live the vows.  Sometimes we are so worried about being "holier than thou" that we shy away from challenging one another to live the Gospel more radically.  Sometimes we are so concerned with keeping up appearances that we forget to share with one another our struggles and needs, especially when it comes to chastity.  Sometimes we get so defensive we lose the freedom to be obedient.  In short, humanity comes in and makes things confusing and hard.

God is so good though because just when I think it is too difficult He takes care of me through the sisters He has chosen for me.    His ways are mysterious and as I told my kids recently, you can't find a better man than Jesus.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Sometimes I feel like Super - Nun.  This is not one of those times!  

Nothing really has happened to make me feel so 'bleh'.  It is just difficult being a religious, a teacher, a blood sister, a daughter, a friend, and a speaker.  In each of those categories a million other things are required and they never fit into the twenty four hours I'm allotted each day (which is something I've been meaning to ask God about!  Why such short days?! :) )  

As a religious I spend about two hours a day in scheduled prayer.  I live in community where I have charges to do and common life to participate in through meals, prayers, friendship, and chatter.  As a teacher I am counselor, friend, parent, confidant, grader, planner, and a million other things.  I still have a family that I never talk to and wish I could.  My friends are getting engaged and married and sometimes I can't even keep track anymore!

I love my life, but sometimes I live it better than others.  Sometimes I have so much energy and I get that balance so right and I feel like a million bucks.  Those are the times when I feel like super - nun.  When it all doesn't quite come together; when my emails are busting my inbox seams, when the papers, tests, and homework assignments are up to my eyeballs, when I'm running in the door just in time for prayers, when I'm going to sleep at midnight, and when I'm forgetting everything not attached to me... I wonder if I can actually do it!

This is one of those times... yet here I am blogging.  Maybe not the best use of time, but it does help put a name on this lack of "super-nun" feeling.  And it has given me some perspective.  Jesus didn't call me to be successful and to be super-nun.  He called me to be the woman I am in the life He chose for me in relationship with Him.  I have to learn to be humble enough to accept my shortcomings and failings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


So often as a young woman religious I think of the future of religious life.  What will it look like if we can't live next door to the parish school?  What if there is no parish school?  What if there are no priests to say Mass for us?  What if we live in a faithless world?  Will we fail to persevere?  Will we be faithful to what our sisters have left us?  Will the Church still want us?  How will we take care of our elderly sisters?  How will we serve God's people?... When will we sleep while were doing all of this???  :)

It is overwhelming and humbling.  I have no answer to any of the questions above because they aren't happening yet.  Right now, my job is to grow into the religious woman God has called me to be and all I need to do is stay focused on that one thing.  Prayer, community, and ministry will all come together the way He has planned in each moment.  I truly believe that what is happening to us through closures, financial problems, and lack of vocations are God pruning us and preparing us for a future that He has in mind, not the future we've been thinking of.

That's what makes me sure it will be wonderful, it is His and not mine!

Pray for us that we follow His will!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How do you know?

The top most asked question of high school girls about vocations is, "How do you know?"  I answered quite a few of those questions this weekend at a retreat for young women discerning religious life.  However, I also received a question that I've never been asked before, "What if it is all a waste... what if God isn't real and you've wasted your life for no reason?"

I guess people have eluded to that question at times and I've answered that I'm happy in my life and I'm doing good so it really isn't a waste... at least it isn't a waste any more or less than anyone else's life in those circumstances.  However I answered a little differently this time around.

So far, what I've come up with is more of a conviction than an answer.  Intellectually speaking, sure, it could all be a mistake.  God could not be real, He could not exist.  I'm not going to argue the possibility, although I know there are wonderful theological proofs!  My answer is that I love Him enough to take the chance.  I'm willing to lay down my life for the very possibility that the love of Christ exists.  Let's be honest, as human beings sometimes belief seems to be more about how we feel than what we know.  I've decided to commit myself to the hope of Christ's love whether I feel it or not.

There are many times when I don't feel it.  There are a lot of times it doesn't all make sense and yet again I remember that I made vows to that which I know only by faith.  I pray that God continues to bless me with that gift and that He continues to call out generous, self-sacrificing women to carry that gift as well.    

Friday, November 5, 2010


My kids are preparing to receive Confirmation this fall and I'm starting to get nervous.  Basically, I had three months to prepare them for this wonderful sacrament but there are so many things I feel like I haven't even gotten to yet.  It is such a responsibility and I frequently find myself feeling overwhelmed by everything I want to share with them.  However, a little victory this week made all the stress and rush of it seem worth it.

The students were writing their letters to the bishop who is going to confirm them and as they wrote their rough drafts they asked me to read them before they wrote them on the paper with the school seal on it.  As I read each of their letters I was so touched by their words to the bishop and I realized a) that they really do listen when I talk to them and b) that they really do care about their faith.  The most beautiful of the letters was one by one of my boys.  He wrote that he was choosing the name Joseph because "Joseph took care of Mary and Jesus and I admire him for that."  No matter what I do, God has obviously touched his heart and brought him to that beautiful desire to be like the foster father and mother of God.  We had first Friday Mass today as a school community and all of them were their beautiful selves but as I watched their faces and their movements I was so proud to be their teacher.

At Mass, Father spoke about praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and as I looked at my boys and girls I remembered what a student said to me when I was giving a vocation talk one time.  She asked, "Sister, can you tell when you look at us?"  My answer was, "yes."  It is amazing the look in a child's eyes when it dawns on them that a) it could be possible that God is calling them, and that b) they feel something that they haven't noticed before.  Well, we were talking about the will of God when one of my dear boys stated that it must have been the will of God that our classroom pet died.  (Nothing is theologically sophisticated with sixth graders.)  It was off-topic and meant to throw me off onto something "more interesting." (I know their game :) )  Anyway, I responded by asking this child if he was asking God what His will was for him.  He answered, not to be a priest sister... don't even try!  Now, he is a sweet heart so it wasn't meant as a dig.  But my answer was, "You said it, not me!"

Tomorrow I will be part of a vocation day for my community.  I'm excited to be able to offer my Saturday (which I love because it is great to catch up on schoolwork) for potential vocations to the religious life.  It's a great life!!  Please pray that God's will be made known to the young women who will be joining the sisters for a day of prayer and discernment.  Lord, grant us more vocations!

Monday, November 1, 2010


This has been such a great weekend for me.  It was even better because my principal gave us off from having a formal plan this week and I got to hang with a nun friend (without having to worry about school!).

I started my Friday night with 2 hours of soccer games in the freezing cold.  All my kids play soccer and when they invite me I just can't say no so I worked after school and then drove over to the fields to watch the girls lose and the boys win.  It didn't matter though... they really don't care.  They just love to have fun.  

On Saturday I went and picked up my sister friend.  We went to visit some of our sisters at our infirmary and then went to a vigil Mass on our way back to my convent and to dinner.  I didn't realize that we were dressed in our habits and it was the night before Halloween so we had quite the interesting reception at dinner.  On Sunday we ran errands and just hung out which was really nice.  There aren't a million young sisters out there so when you have the time and opportunity to just spend time together it really helps.  We can talk about the struggles of juggling community life, apostolate, and prayer and just enjoy one another's company.  

So, tomorrow I still won't have my little saints at school, but I will be back.  There is still too much to do before I get there though!  Goodnight!       

Thursday, October 28, 2010


How do you live the Gospel with seventh graders?  Well... I have no idea but here I am learning anew each day. First I want to say that I love my kids with all my heart.  I am so grateful to God for each and every one of them.  I'm grateful for the quiet ones, the loud ones, the obnoxious ones, the intelligent ones, the struggling ones... and the ones that drive me insane.

Needless to say.... when you have all those special "ones" in your life, you are in for a surprise around every corner!  I can't believe sometimes how much of my life I spend as a relationship counselor.  Yes, I am a science teacher but the back of my classroom doubles as a romance advice booth.  I don't know what it is about me but something says, tell me your boy and girl troubles!

It is really humbling for me to have my boys and girls confide in me and ask me for advice and acceptance as they try to navigate these difficult years.  Recently there has been an influx of these problems.  It continues to amaze me that they come in and want to talk to me about boyfriends, girlfriends, parent problems, and a whole host of other issues.  One such incident really touched me recently.  One of my boys, who is quite a ladies man, came to talk to me yesterday.  You would think that a seventh grade boy wouldn't want love advice from his nun science teacher but... think again.  The touching thing about it is that as I watch them grow I see all the characteristics of responsible, loving, and holy men and women.  They want to do the right thing, but they don't know what it is.  The boys want to be gentlemen.  The girls want to be beautiful but not in the way the world tells them they should be.

What I have realized is that I'm in a unique position as a religious woman to guide them.  They really see me as their sister and because of that they feel able to interact with me in a way that is different than their parents, other teachers, and other students.  Practically speaking, the boys carry things for me whenever they can, run errands for me, ask me to come to their sports events, and open doors like it's their job.  They actually notice when I get my hair cut out the front of my veil (I know... I can't believe it either).  They feel like they can because I'm their sister.  It's the same reason they feel like they can tell me all their girl, family, relationship, and sports problems.

The girls see how they treat me and they realize that they should always be treated with the same respect and with charity.  They come to me and ask me millions of questions about all the same things because they know I'll hold all their tough tween stuff in my heart.  And they are right... I do!

I'm always tempted (without ever giving in) to pray out loud during lauds and vespers at our intercessions, "for Gina's broken heart," or  "for Tommy's mom and dad," or "for Brandon's breakup."  Instead, I hold them in my heart like God intended me to do and I offer my acts of charity and counseling for them.

Basically... it is tough being in seventh grade.  I love them though... my little brothers and sisters, and I'll do anything to help them and guide them to be their best, holiest, truest selves.  God help me... it certainly gets confusing!

Please pray for all our kids!  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Expecting More

I haven't written in a while because my life has gone crazy over these past few weeks with progress reports going out and many community events taking place.  All good things but still things that require more energy than any one person can have.

I have found myself these days expecting more; of myself, of my sisters, my students, my fellow teachers, and basically of everyone I meet.  I have this problem of being a perfectionist and I never think I'm being hard on other people, even when I am, because anything I criticize about someone else is just a fraction of the criticism I give myself all the time.  It is definitely a problem and definitely a sin.  I know all of this in my head but my heart gets all caught up with the "should have" statements of my life.  I don't trust God enough to know that He will always take care of me and that my worth is dependent upon Him... not me.

Today I found myself confronted in a big way with this attitude.  In an email from a parent I felt that I was being accused of not doing what I should be doing because her son didn't bring home a certain paper.  It really wasn't a big deal but right away I felt defensive after a long and exhausting week.  I just wanted to say, "Your son is the reason you didn't get the paper... not me."  Now I would never say that but I was still going through this imaginary conversation with myself in my head.  While I was getting all steamed up about it I realized how ridiculous I was being.  I don't serve mom and dad.  I'm a teacher.  I serve children and families.

As I was thinking about how unfair it was that she was blaming me for something her son lost or forgot or blew up like sixth grade boys always do, I realized that there must be a reason God had this plan in store for me.  Because I'm new in this parish, convent, and school I don't get all the background sometimes right away on all the students.

One of the sisters in the house commented, without knowing about the email or anything else, that this student gets hit when he does something wrong.  Well, I felt terrible then that I ever wanted to say it was his fault and I realized how providential it was that God would have mom assume it was my fault and be angry with me.  If I really believe in dedicating myself to God's most abandoned poor it is going to cost me.  For me the hardest cost to pay is that of being insecure and of allowing myself to mean less than someone else.  I wish I were more confident but I'm not.  It bothers me when I think that others think of me as incapable or not good enough.  I care too much about what people think of me.  However, here is an opportunity for me to allow God to love me as I am and allow myself to be hurt instead of one of His little ones.

I still don't know what I'm going to email back, but I know it won't be that her son is the problem.  Because he isn't the problem.  He is a normal, forgetful and irresponsible, sixth grade boy.  I am a sister to all so why shouldn't I share in the sufferings of all?  And that is my answer.  I should.  So, if I say I'm willing to sacrifice, how much better is it for her to be angry with me than for him to get smacked around for forgetting a paper?  I am certain it is the better way.

So now I'm still expecting more from myself but I'm also expecting it all to come from God.  Lord, help me to sacrifice my own self confidence, capability, and reputation for the good of Your little ones and for the coming of Your Kingdom.  Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Science Class

Today, I went to Shop and Save to get some materials for my science class experiment.  I had to get, among other things, some carrots.  While I was waiting in line the woman behind me was talking to me and asked me if I was cooking for the nuns tonight.  When I told her it was for a science experiment she definitely thought I was crazy.  But I explained to her that I teach science and she was thrilled.  

I love that I'm a sister who teaches science.  I teach my homeroom's religion and I love teaching religion.  I went to school and studied theology but here I am.  What is so awesome about being a sister who teaches science to middle schoolers is that my kids know that when I'm not with them, I actually do something other than pray on my knees for them (although I do that too!)  They realize when I'm excited that I have other interests that don't take away from my vocation in any way but add to my faith and science is one of those things.

When I got changed, I cannot even tell you how excited I was to be teaching science.  It gives me such an opportunity to infuse faith and practical real life situations for students who are at the perfect point for molding into dedicated and faithful Catholic Christians.  These kids are asking all the right questions; "How could the big bang happen if Adam and Eve happened?" "Why is sex before marriage wrong?" "What about stem cell research?" "Why are people poor?" "Why is there war?"  It all goes back to science and ties in with everything that they want to know. They want to know that God created everything, that scripture is telling the truth, just maybe without historical accuracy.  They want to know that God created their body in a good and loving way to mirror how much He loves them.  They want to hear that their life is special and cannot be thrown away and cannot be replicated.  They want to know why there is greed over resources and places that causes the meek and humble to be hurt.  They want to know that death is not the end of everything and that the way we live really matters.

At the same time, aside from all the big questions of life, we have a lot of fun.  They are still kids and they want to know; "Why do people have the hiccups?" "How do the waves get bigger when we are down the shore in the summer?" "Can we blow up a.... (The boys always want to blow something up - the answer is always no.)?"

Basically, I love everything about it.  I feel like I get paid... no wait, that doesn't happen... to laugh all day!  And I love them.  Our kids need to know that we love them, in school, in the parish, at Mass when they are being obnoxious, or when they are serving with reverence, and at home.  God is love.  Let's show them Him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Daily Vow Renewal

I wrote the other day about renewing my vows each day in my heart at Mass.  Usually I do this after I receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Someone asked what words we use to renew our vows.  The renewal formula is a shortened version of what we say at first and final profession but it still holds all the meaning of the longer formula.  Here are the words:

Almighty and Eternal God, I, Sister M. ____________, 
renew and confirm with all my heart
 the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience 
which I made at my profession; 
and I implore your grace to accomplish them perfectly.  

Sometimes I forget how touching these words are after saying them each day, however, there is a great and mighty grace and responsibility that comes with those words.  I  renew and confirm with all my heart that I have given my whole self to Him who is the One, the Beginning and the End, the Savior of the World, the Most Powerful, the Creator of the Universe.  And here I am, sinful, small, nothing, and I make a promise, a sacred bond with Him.  My desire to give of myself still isn't enough though.  To fulfill that desire, which He placed in my heart, I need His help.  It really is strange when you think about it, that you want to accomplish this for God but you need His help to accomplish it... for Him!  It's like asking someone to buy their own birthday present and then write "from me" on the card.  

I think it must be very much like the life of the Trinity, the constant flow of love and grace from one to another without end.  You can't even trace it because that grace and love becomes so much a part of each person that there is no beginning or end to it's movement and power.  God is so good to give this gift of vocation.  The vows are such an amazing grace.  Some days I wonder, "who thought I could do this?!, How could I have ever been permitted to take on this responsibility?"  And the truth is that I cannot do it!  Only God can.  Young women tell me all the time that they "could never do that!"  And I always say, you are absolutely right, you can't, but He can if you respond to His call of love.

God, grant us more vocations to love you and witness to your plan of Salvation!  Amen. 

Friday, October 1, 2010


I always have really vivid dreams.  Lots of color, imagery, movement and I almost always remember them.  However, I haven't had many great nights of sleep this week.

It all began on Sunday night with the school alarm going off in the middle of the night.  I had to get dressed and go out there to see what happened before I could go back to bed. I'm also very clumsy and the night ended with an alcoholic beverage spilling all over me... I know, its wild.  I had to take a second shower before I went back to bed because I smelled like this disgusting drink that was left on the school steps by whoever was trying to break in.

Anyway, back to the dream.  This morning we all slept in because we had Mass today with the kids in school so I woke up a little later than I normally do.  In my dream, I was running through a desert and I was afraid.  When I woke up I was all out of sorts.

At school, I wished I was running through a desert... my kids were off the wall, my room was hot, sticky, and wet, it smelled of middle schoolers, and I just felt like I got nothing completed and anything that I did get done was wrong!

Now the nightmare really came to life in religion.  I love teaching religion and I love my students but the questions they asked today and the things they didn't know made me want to... well... run through a desert.

From nuns and priests being married to the Trinity being "impossible" I was left feeling less than confident in the future of my student's religious education.  They, of course, thought my reactions were hilarious.

I just want to know what we are going to do for our children to bring them to God and to teach them to love our Church if they have such a lack of experience.

Now I know it's not all bad... the other day one of my boys who serves at Mass told me how upset he was that people didn't bow before they received the Eucharist... it made my heart melt.  However, some of them really are clueless.

There's really no point to this post except that we need to pray for them and do our best to surround them with what matters.  The problem isn't that they are not being taught.  It is that the second they leave us they are attacked by everything else.

Our Lady of Good Counsel, Pray for Us and Them!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Homeless Husband

Well, tonight I was very upset during Mass.  I decided to go to the Saturday Vigil Mass because I have been sick with a cold this week and a sleep in tomorrow is exactly what I need.  On my way over a man came to ask me for prayers.  There are many homeless people who live around the convent because of our location and I make it a point not to ever turn them away from me.  They want to know the sisters love them and care about them.
He didn't ask me for any money.  He just wanted to pray together.  I took his hand in mine and he closed his eyes while I said a few words for both of us to God asking for help and thanking Him for our lives.  He smelled of alcohol and after I prayed with him he hugged me and thanked me for caring.  I was reminded of Father Damien and the lepers.
When I reached the doors to church an older woman scolded me for speaking to him.  She told me he was a drunk and a good for nothing freeloader.  He didn't belong here in our parish.   I was quite angry, and told her that Jesus had no home and relied on the people in the towns He visited.  I also told her that love had no limit and that he asked me for prayers only.  I almost told her my natural father is an alcoholic... thank God I controlled myself!
However, when the Gospel began about Lazarus I came close to crying.  Are the homeless not allowed to attend Mass?  Can they not be in the presence of Jesus unless they are cleaned up and straightened out?  Are they outside of salvation's reach because they don't have a house to live in?  And what about that woman who scolded me... will she be accepted into the Father's house after denying this man prayer?  Will she be able to look Jesus in the eyes after turning Him away?  Her disgust and hatred was so evident, it was sickening.
When I got home, I told the sisters all about it and I was glad they agreed with me.  We have problems with security in our house.  It isn't safe sometimes because of the amount of people living in tents and other haphazard structures around our convent so I was worried they might have the same feeling about this poor man.  However, they agreed.  I shouldn't have even second guessed them.  He is a human being.  He deserves and needs love.
Anyway, I realized when I got home that I could look my husband in the eyes because of what I said to that man today.  I don't care about that woman's hatred for this poor soul or what the more well - to - do members of the parish thought of seeing me conversing with him and holding his hand because the only person who matters is Him.  I truly believe that Jesus has much more in common with that homeless man than He does with the people who tell him he doesn't belong.  He loved. He asked for help. He accepted charity. He forgave. He prayed.
Lord let me do the same.  Let me never become so complacent and particular that I cannot accept the ways in which You decide to reveal Yourself to me.  Never let me deny Lazarus a drink of water, a bite to eat, a prayer to share.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Everyday Life

Well, I was thinking about the enormous amount of things I am so blessed to get to include in my day and I thought I would share a little with you of what a typical day for me is like.  During the week, I wake up at 4:30 and get dressed quickly.  It is the least favorite part of my day.  If I could change anything in the world, it would be that in the morning you would wake up dressed and washed and ready to go.  The prayers I say as I put on my habit in the morning are so beautiful, however, being human, I don't remember even saying them when I make it to Chapel because I am usually so tired!

I spend an hour in prayer in our convent Chapel before morning prayer in common with the sisters.  Sometimes I pray my Rosary, my stations, journal, or spiritual reading.  What I don't do in the morning I do at night.  We always say the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.  I live in a small house right now and none of us are good singers.  Thank God He loves us whether we are good singers or not because some days just starting the hymn is a comedy.  The General Superior doesn't ask about musical skills before she changes us under obedience.

After prayers, we have to drive to the next parish over for Mass.  Each day after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, we renew our vows privately in our hearts.  Usually I put my face in my hands so that I don't get distracted as I remember those words I have said each day that are the very meaning of my life, and the very meaning of the Eucharist.  These words, which I so often say without the reverence they deserve, shape my whole life and my every day.

When I get home from Mass, I pick up my school bag and off I go!  I have a half-hour to set up my SmartBoard, my laptop, and other classroom resources before my little children of God show up.  They come in like a flash of lightning and they actually are not little at all.  I teach middle school.  So, you can imagine how their entrance each day goes!

I try all day to talk some sense into preteen boys and girls - mostly a futile task - and love them.  Those are my two jobs when I am at school.  However, in addition to that, they confide in me, they laugh with me, they cry with me and they share their lives with me.  What a gift from God!

After school, I pack my bag and scuttle home after my desk looks somewhat neat and clean.  I unpack my things, do a little work, and go to Chapel for evening prayer.  After vespers, we eat dinner together.  I clean the kitchen after dinner because it is my charge.  If I don't have a parent, school, or community meeting (which seems rare sometimes) I go watch the news with the nuns and then get in the shower and put my pjs on.  This is one of my favorite parts of the day! Ha!

I might do some schoolwork, go to the community room with the sisters, or go to chapel after this.  Either way I always end the day in my bedroom praying compline and doing a little spiritual reading before I hit the hay.  As I fall asleep I start my second rosary.  My guardian angel always finishes!

So thank you Jesus for the weekend! I am exhausted just from writing this and need some major rest.  On Saturday the parish mass is at 9 am!  So goodnight and God bless!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Nature of Sacrifice

This weekend I was at a community meeting and it became painfully clear how much we need to talk about what sacrifice and hard work really are.  After enjoying a wonderful day with my sisters, we had Mass in our Chapel at our Motherhouse.  The priest who said Mass was just wonderful - a Redemptorist like our dear founder.  He was, maybe not so prudently, saying that religious women have done more for the Church than anyone.  The heart of his comment was really to let us know his gratitude for us and the gratitude of the Church for our sacrifice and our hard work.

I'm not sure quite how it happened next but all the sudden from behind me I heard a clap.  Someone was actually clapping out loud during the homily.  While I was immediately disturbed by sister's lack of etiquette and reverence, I pondered from where her reaction came.  I found myself meditating on the sentence, "Because we have sacrificed so much..." and I realized that the way I finish that sentence is, unfortunately, different from the way she does.

The way I finish that sentence is "I still haven't given enough, I need to give more, Christ calls me to continue, our Blessed Mother aids me in my perseverance, we must give it all, we have to keep serving, we have to keep going."  The way my dear sister finished the sentence is "we deserve a break, we deserve respect, we deserve more freedom, we are finished our work, we should relax, we should take a break, we should be put on pedestals and not be expected to live the harsh, difficult, and radical life God has given to us."

I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't upset me that any of my sisters feels this way... it profoundly does.  It breaks my heart that some of their hearts have become so hard.  At the same time I realize she didn't just decide one day to wake up and think this way.  It probably started with a superior who made her go to school when she had the flu, then a pastor who didn't support the school, then an older sister who yelled at her for nothing, a principal who put all the responsibility of the school on her shoulders.  Soon enough, she saw other sisters moving into their own apartments, taking on prestigious positions, and earning their own way.

Fortunately, her position is not one that many of my sisters share, but it is painful nonetheless.  It is painful both for her and for the rest of us.  I don't know how anyone else felt after the little outburst.  It was little because no one joined her.  However, I felt called very much to pray and think about sacrificing more and about protecting my heart from the hardness that can come from being treated with a lack of charity.  We are all human and our sisters will always fail.  I will always fail them.  But it is Him who does all things in us.  We do not need to worry.  We do not need to take all of these things on our shoulders.  He who has called us will see us through.

I leave this little reflection feeling very much at peace and very much dedicated to continuing to sacrifice, especially for my sister who needs my prayers and my love at this point.  It is so easy to see her as "other" and as "outside" the group.  Her views may be, however, she is still vowed in the same way I am and I am still responsible for her, as she is for me.

Community is the place where we lead one another down the road to Heaven.  God gives us those who need help and those who can help us wherever we go.  Sister may never know this but God was able to use even this for His good because He was able to remind my heart to trust, to love, and to give unreservedly so that I never lose sight the purpose of my life.      

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Full Week of School... ahhhhhh

Tomorrow the first full week of school comes to an end and I am overwhelmed yet peaceful and happy at the same time about how the week has gone, and how the weekend is going to come!  Quite frequently these days I have felt the uncontrollable urge to cry... and not because I'm having a bad day like I did before.  I could chalk it up to the very human feeling of lack of sleep and overwhelming circumstances, however, it seems more like a heightened emotional state.

I am in a new convent, teaching in a new school, living with new sisters, praying in a new chapel, and living basically a totally new life.  I just feel so touched by the small things, whether they be sad, happy, difficult, simple... they are all just such vivid feelings.  My children are especially big reasons for my tears.  Middle schoolers... anyone who has children in that age range or have taught them certainly understands my feelings.  They can be so profound, so needy, so loving, so compassionate, so mean, so sad all at once and it changes so frequently.  I almost feel like they are rubbing off on me!

Really, I know that I have been given such a gift and a privilege to walk with them as their teacher, as someone who loves them and desires all the best things for them.  It gets my emotions all riled up, because they have so much potential and they don't know it.  But, I love them.  That is what I promised to do and I know that there are many people in their lives who have not promised to do that in the same way and they get messages all the time that they are no one, that they do not matter, and that they won't be anything important ever.

It just breaks my heart and at the same time I can see so much in their eyes when they look at me, when they realize that they learned something, that they pleased me, that they are having fun, that they look like little children sometimes, even when they are in trouble.  I know that every moment is essential to their formation as Catholic young men and women.  They just always make me want to cry! :)

This weekend I will be at our Motherhouse for some community meetings and with a friend of mine for some fun.  Hopefully, both will help me unwind!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bad Day

I always hate it when this happens, and I never want to admit it but I am having a terrible day today!  It's really all very silly except that it is the first week of school and so I'm already a little bit on edge.  Here is how it started...

This morning at the crack of dawn, which is when I wake up :(, one of the sisters told me that I made the coffee too weak.  No good morning, no how are you, just that the coffee was not strong enough.  So I felt bad, but I felt worse when another dear sister in Christ came and told me that the coffee was too strong.  Now, I know, coffee is not the most important thing in the world.  There are people who are starving, who are in despair, who are uneducated, who need health care.... however, this morning all I could think of was this one pot of coffee and how mad I was!  I mean how can I make one pot of coffee both stronger and weaker at the same time?  Please, someone tell me how, I will do it!  But I can't, because it is impossible.  Isn't that insane?  I know it is insane, but somehow I have found myself in the middle of this day just wanting to go hide in my room with a cup of tea and have a little cry and go to bed.  

It isn't just the coffee, of course, but it is funny how one thing can become a catalyst of emotion for many things that have been building up.  I know I have a lot to bring to the Lord tonight because I'm being very hard on myself and I need His gentleness and compassion.  Someone told me one time that it is a sin to expect yourself to be perfect because you make Christ's death insignificant and unimportant.  If we were perfect, His death would be in vain.  So, here I am in the same sin as I always am, of wanting myself to be perfect.

Although I am always working on this it is much harder when you move to a new convent and new school.  I think people think sometimes when you are a sister and move somewhere that it's just part of the life and you get used to it.  But you really don't.  Each time it brings up new insecurities, failures, shortcomings, and a plethora of other awkward things.  Each time it also brings God's grace, and makes me pay more attention to the fact that I am in need of His grace.  I'm not perfect and neither are my sisters, my students, my school, or anyone else I meet.  

Please just say a prayer for me today.  I feel like a little kid at the end of a vacation; tired, overextended, thrust into a schedule, and having to follow rules that I don't like!  I must say it feels great to get this out in the open like this!  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dinner Out

I have mentioned before how nice it is in the summer to have a little extra unstructured time to have fun and be spontaneous.  Well, today I was working diligently on my lesson plans for the new school year when I received a call asking if I was able to go out to dinner with a priest friend.  I said yes, of course, and tried to get as much work done as I could before he came to pick myself and another sister up for dinner.  

I have heard some sisters from other communities say before that they would never be allowed to just go out to dinner... some even have it in their rule.  Not that it's a bad thing to have in your Rule, but it is part of my community's history to be hospitable in this way.  While I was in the novitiate a sister taught us Community History and one large part of that was that when our sisters were missioned to a foreign country they always made sure to be available when priests came, especially priests from their home countries, so that they had someone to talk to in their native language, to enjoy a meal with, and to pray with when they arrived.  It is so lonely to be in another country without a community and so the sisters were encouraged to always be available, even in the middle of the night to rise and make preparations to welcome one of their fathers.

Well, I was delighted with a visit from this very holy and fatherly priest.  So often in our world today priests live alone without much support.  Maybe we could all take the time to pray in gratitude for these holy men who have touched our lives, nourished our souls, and given us the grace to respond to God.  Maybe we could also pray for those men who have felt abandoned, broken, or alone and have left God's service, that they might know God's abundant love and goodness and, if able, return to His service once again.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your holy priests!  Send us more!  Amen!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Random thoughts

You know what?... I just love being a sister.  I don't know why, but some days I just feel overwhelmed by how awesome it is to be a spouse of Christ and a sister to His people.  Community, ministry, mission, obedience, chastity, poverty... what gifts they are!!  

As I have mentioned before, the summers are frequently chaotic as sisters are going on retreat, offering service in one of our many missions, and getting ready for another year of educational ministry.  Tonight our superior made hot dogs for dinner.  I love hot dogs!  It really is the simple things that make everything worth while.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner together on the porch.  As we shared all our adventures from the day, I felt so blessed to be on this journey with my sisters.

Speaking of adventures.... my adventures were many in number today.  I had to find some of the textbooks for my dear children, fix the showers in the convent, clean my charge, plan my lessons, meet with my superior, and decorate my classroom today.  It was wild.  As I reread everything I have done today I feel energized and excited because all of it was done in love and prayer for my sisters and for God's people.  

Tomorrow another adventure awaits me.  It is the last weekend before school starts and my dear sister - friend is coming to stay over at my convent.  I am going to pick her up and we are going to buy a few things for my classroom before grabbing a cheese steak (I am in Philadelphia :)) and coming back to the convent.  

Please pray for me as I prepare for school to begin!  I will be praying for you!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Well, last night someone told me that I was beautiful, but not in the, "oh, you're a young nun, you're so beautiful..." way.  It was more in the way that a man tells a woman that she is beautiful.  It really caught me off guard because I really haven't experienced that in such an obvious way as a religious before.  As a religious I have experienced attractions that come and go but much more subtly.

Anyway, I didn't know what to say and it was super awkward, which I'm sure everyone can appreciate.  That kind of awkwardness, unfortunately, happens to everyone.

It doesn't really matter what was said by this man to me or why or how, although it probably wouldn't have made me think so much about chastity if it had been rude or out of order instead of just a genuine compliment.  What mattered was what happened in my heart after.  I felt so discombobulated and distracted.

I knew that I needed to speak to God about what I was feeling.  I prayed a very distracted compline and then I got into bed while still thinking about this interesting conversation I had just had.  My normal practice when I get in bed at night is to pray my Rosary (my guardian angel finishes it for me every night!).  Nothing spectacular happened except that a peace that transcends all peace relaxed everything in me.  I was so moved by this peace that my deepest desire at that moment was to offer all my mixed and uncomfortable emotions about the night for the salvation and peace of the man who caused them to begin with.

I don't know if any of this is making sense, and I hope it doesn't scandalize at all because I am just speaking candidly of the struggles and daily choices all religious experience and make.  What happened though was what chastity is all about.  I was able in that sacrifice of myself to offer God a soul, to offer Him in prayer this son of His.  What an amazing goodness that can come from a real interior struggle.  I am just filled with awe at God's goodness to bring this man to me and to allow me to hold him in my heart the way that God would.

One time a very special religious told me that love is a commitment.  Commitment is the definition of love.   I am young and am still learning but I feel so clearly that God has won a small battle in my heart and in the heart of the one He brought to me last night.  Love has prevailed.  He is so so so good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I am home at last in my new convent.  Since my retreat ended I have been running around like a crazy woman trying to get unpacked in the convent and school while figuring out where the soap, broom, milk, and other household items are!  The sisters have been wonderful to me, especially since most of them are new as well!  We have all been lost in the basement more than once since we arrived due to the fact that there are three stairwells in this house.  It makes things quite confusing. 

It is so overwhelming to spend so long packing and preparing to move and then have to undo all of it and put things in order again.  I am so glad to finally have most of my life in some organizational scheme.  School is coming along as well.  I went over yesterday and stayed all day but today I decided to sleep in and go to the 11:30 Mass.  After, I cleaned my charges and did laundry.  However, there is still much to be done.

One of the things I love about convents is that they are old.  I know not all convents are old but a lot of them are... mine is one of them.  Old things frequently need repairs and we have been having a hilarious time trying to figure out what is wrong with more than a few items in and around the house.  One of those items is the internet, which is why I haven't been posting for a while.  Other items include the sewing machine, phone, television, refridgerator, ice maker, carpet cleaner, and almost everything in the basement.  During the day all of the sisters have been going their own ways to fix up their charges and get classrooms ready, but at night in the community room the big discussion is always about the discoveries during the day.  One sister found the key to a door we couldn't open, another found the dust brush, another gave up and bought a new mop (I'm sure in a few months we will find the old one!). 

No matter what there has been much love and laughter as we have banded together in community to get comfortable in our new surroundings. 

Thank God there is still time before school starts because there is still so much to do.  I know He will take care of it though!

Many prayers!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


This evening I am going to begin my retreat and I am so excited.  I have a few good books that I can read if I desire, but the best part of retreat is that it is all about what desire God gives me in each moment.  There is no "achieving" in retreat, no "doing."  It is just time to be with the Lord and let Him guide me and bring me to a place of rest and refreshment.  So, please pray for me during these days as I will also be praying for all of you!

God bless!

PS. The visitor was "caught" and released!

Monday, August 2, 2010


Well, yesterday on the feast of St. Alphonsus, all the sisters gathered at the Motherhouse for our annual Convocation.  It is a wonderfully beautiful day where we gather to pray together, share with one another, and be renewed by the words of our General Superior.  Watching my sisters gathered together to celebrate our grace-filled heritage filled my eyes with tears.  However, the most touching moment for me was when we sang St. Alphonsus' O God of Loveliness.  Being daughters of Alphonsus, the words were very touching for us and I was not the only one with a few tears in my eyes.  Here are the words:

O God of loveliness, O Lord of Heaven above,
How worthy to possess my heart’s devoted love.
So sweet Thy countenance, so gracious to behold
That one, one only glance to me were bliss untold.

Thou art blest Three in One, yet undivided still,
Thou art the One alone, whose love my heart can fill.
The heav’ns and earth below were fashioned by Thy Word,
How amiable art Thou, my ever dearest Lord.

To think Thou art my God—O thought forever blest!
My heart has overflowed with joy within my breast.
My soul so full of bliss, is plunged as in a sea,
Deep in the sweet abyss of holy charity.

O Loveliness supreme, and Beauty infinite,
O ever flowing Stream and Ocean of delight,
O Life by which I live, my truest Life above,
To Thee alone I give my undivided love.

After our guests left the Motherhouse and we collapsed after a joy-filled day, everyone wandered back to their rooms to rest.  I awoke to the news of another guest - this one not so pleasant.  I went to get some coffee this morning and there was a note on the white board which is usually reserved for schedule changes.  It said, "BAT ALERT."  

Well... after a busy day of sisters roaming in and out and all over the Motherhouse a bat decided to pay us a visit.  So needless to say, he scared many a sister and is still stalking around here somewhere.  It is a good thing we have some expert bat catchers.  It is a frequent occurrence in the summer for us to find some of these dear creatures making themselves at home in the high ceilings and stone cellars of our beautiful Motherhouse.  Naturally some sisters scream and run when they see them, while others have honed their skills and have become our very own bat catchers.  They have their own nets and systems to find and capture our guests to release them back into the wild.  Hopefully we find this little guy soon and return him to where he belongs.     

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I have been thinking today of a prayer that I haven't said in a while but was given to me by an older sister before I entered.  The only words I can remember right now are, "in the bounds of thy creation, no one needs thee more than I..."  It's surfacing has given me such a wonderful feeling of being held by God and of the rightness of my life.  It has been a peaceful presence today.

It's amazing how God reaches into the memory to pull out things you forgot you had but He knows you need.  When I find the prayer (which may already be at my new convent... so it could be a few weeks!) I will post it because it was very helpful to me in learning that it is okay to be needy before God.  He knows I am but I always need a reminder.  All of my things that I usually have in my "prayer corner" of my bedroom are in containers waiting for my arrival at my new convent and so I have been a little low on visual reminders of God.  It's a good thing that He lives within me and He continues to call out the reminders I already have.  So, God, come to me because in the bounds of thy creation, no one needs thee more than I!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"We wait for peace, to no avail..."

Life sometimes feels like this, doesn't it?  I always think that the reason I am lacking peace comes from the outside.  Whenever I feel that nagging anxiety rear it's ugly head, the first thing I do is try to figure out what is causing it.  I always come up with wonderfully creative answers; it's the way sister so and so spoke to me this morning, it's stomachache from dinner last night, it's the sister who keeps moving around in front of me and distracting me from prayer, and on and on and on...

Really though, it is always me that causes me to lack peace.  Sure, those outside things are related, but they aren't the root.  The root is that I am waiting for peace from the world, which I will never get.  I'm waiting for peace to come from something I do, something of which I am in control.  There will never be peace in those things.  I know that on an intellectual level but I have spiritual amnesia and every time God teaches me this lesson I forget and have to start over again.

It is scary how far along I can get sometimes without bringing this to Him.  And then it happens... I mess up!  And usually I mess up pretty big.  Then I think, "Peace, what's peace?"  All the sudden it seems futile to continue to try to be holy, to be prayerful, to be charitable because there is no hope.  I depended on me, and I failed.  

That is why God is so good... even though I do this over and over and over again (and it is one of  my greatest faults) He is still there waiting to give the peace that I have been refusing.  This peace always involves a true show of myself to Him and to everyone around me and unfortunately I don't always look my best.  His grace heals all that though and as hard as it is, I get back up and keep on walking.  Each time I hope it won't happen again, but it always does.... I guess I haven't learned humility yet.

But it is a learning process, and only good things come from God so I am convinced that peace will come and God is here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


This week I moved some of my things into my new convent home.  It was an adventure as always.  I've been cleaning out and packing since I received my obedience and finally I had most of my stuff sorted and packed.  It was nerve racking making sure I remembered everything.  I was nervous too to meet some of the sisters with whom I'll live.  However, when I arrived at the convent all the sisters helped me bring my things in.  They were so hospitable and warm.  We went first to visit Jesus in our chapel and then I got the whole tour of the convent.  I stayed for evening prayer and dinner as well.  It was so nice to be welcomed in that way and I can't wait to begin a new assignment in that convent home.  For now though there is more to be done and retreat to happen.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

That one thing a vocation depends upon...

"There is need of only one thing."

Sometimes I have to ask myself, what is that one thing?  I often catch myself saying, "I just need to get ___ before I can do __."  Most of the time when I am saying that it is because I want to be comfortable.  I want to have everything I need and to use it as I please.  Once in a while it really is just procrastination but usually it is the issue of comfort. 

Many people ask sisters if they have to give up x, y and/or z things in religious life.  It is definitely a valid question because you need to know what you're agreeing to if you choose to enter into religious life.  However, that mentality is discarded in formation and community living as you are challenged and stretched into the attitude of "yes."  

Suddenly the change occurs, sometimes we don't even realize it happening, and we become more selfless.  We stop litigating within ourselves what we will give based on what we think we're going to receive.  When we do revert back to that older way of thinking it shocks us and we think, "Didn't I already get past that?"  

However much we do get past it, original sin makes sure that we are always on our guard against letting it become our primary way of relating.  

Recently, I have been experiencing this more and more as I get ready to go to a new mission. It preoccupies my mind almost all the time, haha, as it would anyone else who is making a big change.  I think, "Oh, if only I had this computer program, I could do the coolest things in school!"  "If I only had a little money to buy this kind of book, I could really teach this."  

This little voice in my head goes on and on and on about all the things that would make my move more simple, school more successful, and convent life more comfortable.  But it isn't supposed to be comfortable.  It needs to be challenging, selfless, life-giving, sacrificial, and above all prayerful.  The one thing needed for this attitude shift is prayer.  God gives to those who rely on Him and that is exactly what I intend on doing.  I know that little voice is going to continue prodding me with wonderful suggestions, but if I give in, there will be more and more and more.  The peace I need, the comfort I desire comes only from Him.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm a blogging disgrace!

Wow, over a month and all silent on the nun front. Actually, while that sounds very holy and relaxing - it isn't true. In fact is that things have been so busy I haven't had a moment to spare to write a thing. So far this summer I've had a lot of exciting things going on; Bible Camp at an inner city school, classes in education, preparation for my new mission, packing, cleaning, and lots of prayer work. By prayer work I mean entering into a deeper time of reflection for myself.

Change is always difficult and exciting and a whole lot of other emotions at once. Religious life is one big adventure and you never know where you will be next which is such an awesome opportunity to meet and serve God's people. I've been thinking a lot lately about the vocation to religious life and identity. Many people ask me at times, is your community liberal... are they conservative, are they traditional... are they progressive? And, I never have an answer because my answer is that we are Catholic religious sisters.

As I've been reflecting on the ability to give of myself completely to others in imitation of Jesus, I have found that there is far too much resting on labels like those above. Although it is true that I act in a more conservative manner and I pray in a more traditional manner; conservative and traditional are not my identity. Being a sister to all is my identity. And it is such a wonderful and life-giving opportunity to let go of comfort zones.

I feel comfortable as a conservative and traditional religious sister; but if I polarize someone by not being able to leave my comfort zone and enter into theirs, how will I ever be able to show them that God loves them and that the Church loves them? I can't tell you how many uncomfortable situations I have been in at times because of this labeling and I continue to try to escape any label other than sister.

I am doing a summer camp right now in the inner city. Many of the kids are not Catholic, and many don't understand what a sister is, except that we really love them and like to have fun with them. Well, yesterday a four year old came over and asked myself and a sister who looks just like me (it really makes things difficult, no one can tell us apart! We're also the same age in religion!) "Are you two sisters?" Sister M. answered right away, "We are Catholic religious sisters but we aren't related, we don't have the same mom." Our dear little angel then offered, "Oh, I get it, you have the same dad," and skipped off on her way. Well, we thought it was hilarious, but it offered for me another opportunity to examine the attitudes I have. I was able to accept her for her lack of understanding and her lack of exposure to sisters.

Now, we didn't continue the conversation there, but it continued in a more subtle way throughout the days we have spent with the children. They see that we love them, that we care about them, that we want them to be happy and safe, and in that they see a sister. They may not be able to put that into sophisticated words but I can tell by the way they hug me and talk to me that they know that I am their family in God.

Now as I get prepared to go out on the mission I hope and pray that this understanding continues to grow so that I can meet all people and work towards bringing us all into the Church together. It is such a gift to be a sister and nothing else to those who need us most. Thank you, Lord.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Formation Fun

Summers in formation in my community have always been times of great excitement, anticipation, joy, and expectation for all the young sisters... and the more mature as well! Everyone looks forward to these days of preparation and anxiety because they mark the continuation of our journeying together closer to Jesus. All of our ceremonies (Reception of the Habit, First Profession, Renewal of Vows, and Final Profession) take place in August, so tomorrow we will be in June and the planning must begin! Countdowns from all levels of formation are also beginning these days! You always hear the "How many more days...?" and "When is the next thing happening...?" during these months!

Postulants are having their habit "fittings." They learn how to hem and care for their habits. By far though the most exciting part for them is the veil. As they slowly get to try on different parts before the big day, the dear sisters see whether they have a good veil haircut! This begins quite a frantic search for the way to wear ones hair. Everyone wants to look nice on Reception Day. The other exciting part for them is their congregational crucifix. Once they find a chain that is the right length (tall sisters need longer chains, shorter need smaller) it goes to the jewelers. We don't have clasps because they usually break. It is just one long chain. All look forward to the day they come back shiny and "new" from the jewelers so that they can "hold it" overnight before it is put back into the habit closet and locked away for the big day!

The canonical novices feed off the excitement of the others because this is their year "off" from celebrations. They go out of their way to make sure that these days are wonderful for the other sisters. However, they are very ready to emerge from their intense year of formation to begin more apostolic work outside of the novitiate.

Senior novices are by far the most excited and nervous! These days mean making vows, but they also mean going out on the mission and teaching. They have both religious preparation to make but also practical preparation for school. Being changed to a new convent with an apostolic assignment is exciting but scary after spending three years in the Motherhouse. The novices love to shop for school supplies and personal supplies that they may need before they leave (Usually after three years, they are in sure need of new slips among other "worn out" "falling apart" items. Shoes are another big item.). While they are excited for their habits, they are already wearing them so the biggest change is the black veil and ring. Every novice longs for the black veil so they can "fit in" with the crowd but also because of its symbolism. They want to say I have given my life to Jesus.

There is usually an evening when, upon entering the community room, the novices are surprised by the "ring box" being open and all the sisters gathered to watch you try them on and see which one fits best and looks the nicest. Stories of receiving rings 25, 50, or 60 years ago abound and the anticipation of wearing one "for good" grows. We recycle our rings and when a sister dies her ring goes back "in the box" for another sister to wear. The same is true of our crucifixes. It is so special to know that another faithful sister wore that ring because of her consecration before you. The rings carry the inscription, "ego te sponsabo" - to You I am espoused. At final profession the rings are engraved with the hearts of Jesus and Mary on the outside. The chosen ring goes to the jewelers to have the hearts buffed off until the day the sister can say her vows "for all my life."

Junior professed are ready to get some summer rest now that a busy school year is over. Trips to help in the retreat house down the shore and working in our nursing home offer some relatively unstructured fun time to be together. When they come to our formation retreat in August, they prepare for renewal of their vows and enjoy some quiet time. They also enjoy watching everyone else get a little wild about the upcoming events! The sisters who will be making final vows have lots to do before the big day but make sure to have lots of fun also!

As these days draw near please pray for all the sisters who will be making these steps. They are fun-filled, exciting, and prayerful days of preparation for the "next step" of our life in an apostolic religious community. God bless!