+ 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.