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

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!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"The Trial of Benedict XVI"

The time magazine cover and story on Pope Benedict is more than enough of a trial for our dear Holy Father. I am supremely disappointed in the unprofessional and biased journalism in it. I would like to point out a few problems with the article. I have heard others say that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice, which I agree, but I think that this article is the most blatant form of anti-Catholicism that I have experienced.

"The crisis facing the church is deeply complicated by the fact that in 1980, as Archbishop of Munich, the future Benedict XVI appears to have mismanaged the assignment of an accused pedophile priest under his charge. "

The first issue I have with this is that we are told in the first line that this is a fact. It is not. Objectively, could this be true? Sure, it could be. But is it true? From what I have heard explained, and I don't have a reference for this, it seems that at the time the accused priest was changed to another assignment, our Holy Father simply approved it as was the custom without knowing anything of the priest's problem. Could he have "managed" this issue better? Maybe, I really don't know. The point is that this "fact" is malicious and without substance.

"Can the Pope, the living embodiment of the ancient Gospel and absolute spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, publicly atone for his sins and yet preserve the theological impregnability of the papacy?"

Wow, is all I can say. Last night when I was reading this article in the community room with the sisters, they were amazed at how many noises were coming from my seat. This line got a resounding "WHAT!?" I just want to know who told Jeff Israely and Howard Chua-Eoan that the Holy Father is the "living embodiment of the ancient Gospel." I have never heard anyone refer to the Holy Father in this way. Vicar of Christ? Absolutely. But "living embodiement of the ancient Gospel" is just strange.

I also take exception to the idea that the Gospel is ancient. First, from a secular viewpoint, Dinosaurs are ancient. 2,000 years is really nothing in comparison with the whole history of our world. Second, from a faith perspective, the Gospel is alive in all of us and alive in our World.

The next issue I have here is with the "publicly atone for his sins" idea. Our Holy Father has apologized for the Church and I believe in my heart that if he had done something wrong in his handling of this crisis, he would have already asked forgiveness on a personal level. I have no proof of this except for my faith in him.

Lastly, I have a real problem with any "reporter" using the incorrect word for something, for example, calling the apostolic visitation an investigation. It is bad journalism and misleading. So that brings me to the "theological impregnability of the papacy." I think what our dear writers were trying to bring up was papal infallibility. Throughout the rest of the article they make it supremely clear that they have no idea what they are talking about and have done no research in order to understand. Papal infallibility really has nothing to do with this whole situation anyway. If our Holy Father decided to say that pedophilia wasn't a sin as a matter of morals from the Chair of Peter, then we would have an issue with papal infallibility, a BIG issue. However, we all know though that that would never happen because it is wrong!

"In the end, the test is not about doctrine or dogma, not even about the wording of mea culpas and the resignation or prosecution of prelates. It is, rather, about the voices of children finally crying out, long after their childhood."

Finally, they got something right! However, it took them a page and a half to get to it and the victims are not mentioned in the article in a profound way after this! If this is truly what it is about, why not start from there? Because this article does no justice to the victims of sexual abuse. It is a smear campaign against the Holy Father and I am extremely disappointed in Time for using these people, who have already been used for someone else's "gain", for Time's own gain. They should be ashamed.

"For years, offending clerics were, at most, banished to silence and distant monasteries or to therapy or sometimes defrocked for what in civilian cases would have earned the guilty long prison terms."

What they forget is that these men were sent to live a life of penance to atone for their sins. It is a public admittance of guilt whether anyone else understood it to be so or not. Also when many of these terrible crimes occurred, no one in the psychological community even knew how deep a problem it was. People thought they could be "fixed" or "helped".

"In the language of the church, the sacrament of penance involves confession and then a priestly absolution of the sinner. But what kind of penance would a Pope with fingerprints on the controversy have to perform? There lies an intricate theological problem."

In the sacramental sense of penance, yes it does require confession and absolution. "In the language of the Church" however, penance has a much broader meaning. They do have a point though. We as a Church should be doing some penance for what has happened, whether we personally have done anything wrong or not. We are one Body and we are responsible for one another.

However, yet again, the Pope does not have "fingerprints on the controversy." Judging by the haphazard theology Time has used throughout this article it is no wonder that we are now going to have an "intricate theological problem." I can't wait to hear it.

"As the crisis grew in March and went on into April, many in the Vatican worried about the effect it would have on the papal magisterium — the historic, cumulative and majestic authority of the Pope to teach and preach the will of God."

Okay, I have to say, these two really have a wonderful repertoire of adjectives. They are just failing in using them correctly. Historic, cumulative, and majestic authority? I'm just not exactly where they got that from. I'm not disagreeing because I really have no idea what they are trying to get at... if I knew what they were talking about I might disagree.

"Vatican officials are concerned that a mea culpa would diminish the magisterium, which has been integral to the papacy's ability to project power in the world throughout its history, from the humiliation of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV at Canossa in the 11th century to the humbling of Soviet power in Poland in the 20th."

Who are these Vatican officials?? I'm not sure I believe they exist outside of the minds of these two "journalists."

Now this is the real clincher. I had to stop reading after this last night because I was getting so riled up! Brace yourself for this one.

"It plays a key role in the doctrine of papal infallibility, which declares that the Pope is never in error when he issues teachings ex cathedra — that is, elucidating dogma from the throne of St. Peter. It is tied up in the traditional prerogatives of that Apostle, to whom was given the power "to bind and loose" in heaven and on earth — in rough terms, the church's ability to open the gates of heaven to you or damn you to hell because it will always be holier than thou."

Do you care to tell me how you really feel about the Church? From the Catechism,
"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself."
Wow, isn't that interesting... nothing about damning anyone to Hell. Nothing about being holier than thou. Cliches really have no place in good journalism anyway.

"Presented with the scenario of a personal apology by the human embodiment of the church, a well-placed Vatican official sighed as he weighed the theological and historical implications. "It's dangerous," he said. "It's dangerous."

Again, who is this well-placed Vatican official? Maybe our Holy Father's cook? I don't know.

"The Catholic Church believes it is Christ's representative on earth, with all the sinlessness and omnipotent authority of its Saviour."

No one in the Church is without sin. The Church, herself, is Christ's sinless Bride. It is a matter of faith but it certainly has been twisted here.

"For some liberals, the crisis over sex abuse is a chance to argue old questions of dogma and discipline once again: for example, to address the necessity of celibacy in the priesthood and the church's vision of sex, to expand the role of women and to define the status of Catholic homosexuals. Others say the authority of the bishops — and the Pope — must now be shared with the faithful."

There are many married men and women who have committed abuse. I think we can drop the whole "celibacy is the cause of sex abuse" line. And it has nothing to do with women or the "status of homosexuals" which is the same as any other lay Catholic. We are all called to live a chaste life!

The last paragraph, in spite of all the other junk in the rest of the article, is actually quite beautiful.
"One vision for the future echoes from the past. A conservative website is circulating a prophecy uttered by a 42-year-old Catholic theologian in 1969, amid the turmoil of that year of radicalism and barricades. The priest envisioned a post-imperial papacy, shorn of wealth and pretenses of earthly power. "From today's crisis, a church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal," he said on German radio. "She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers, she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers ... As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs ... It will make her poor and a church of the little people ... All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful." The theologian was Joseph Ratzinger. And his vision from 40 years ago may now unfold in ways he could never have imagined."

We may get smaller... but God be praised if we do! Let us suffer this persecution well. Let us pray for our Holy Father, all bishops and priests, and all who have been hurt by anyone within the Church. But most of all, let us stay close to one another and call one another closer to Jesus, the lover of all.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Long Time!

I haven't updated in a while because last week I was on a very nice trip. No, I wasn't on vacation or retreat. I was helping to open our summer retreat house down the shore. Usually we have the internet there but one of the winter storms caused some damage to the computer room and things were not hooked up yet. It was a very relaxing and refreshing week. The sisters cleaned in the morning and then ate a late lunch and then we were off to the beach to enjoy God's creation.

Thank you for praying for my special intention I mentioned in my last post. It took much longer to be resolved than I was hoping for, but all things in God's time! Patience is a virtue I really need to work on. The reason I was requesting prayers was because I am receiving my first official change. In my community this is the season for sisters to be sent to different missions. We are educators so we find out in late May and we move to our new convent and parish communities in August.

I could barely contain my excitement to find out where God would be taking me next in this exciting journey of religious life and so I have felt quite restless these past few weeks. Good hard work down the shore definitely helped relieve some of that! Finally the day came for me to receive my change. After Mass an envelope was handed to me with my name on it. Inside a holy card and a paper saying, "Dear Sister, You are appointed by Holy Obedience..." Many hugs, good wishes, and prayers of thanksgiving later reality set in that I am actually going to be missioned! I am so happy and excited to go to this new home.

Please join me in thanking God for His goodness!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Funeral and Special Intention

Yesterday, I was at a funeral for a relative of one of my sisters when I met a very nice priest. He introduced himself when he saw the sisters because he was taught as a child by our community. One of the first things he said was, "Next week I'm celebrating my 53rd year as a priest... It's a great life." I was so touched. First, our sisters always use that phrase, "it's a great life!" It's true it is! But I've never heard a man say it about any vocation - not because it isn't true but I guess they just don't share in that way. This priest's simple sharing of his joy lifted my heart and made me thank God all the more for the gift of priests in this year for the priest. So my prayers today are for all priests and especially the one I met yesterday.

I also ask if you can hold a very special intention in your prayers this week for me. It is weighing on my heart and my hope is that it will be resolved in God's good time and according to His will.

Many thanks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I've been thinking a lot recently about the poverty of the vows. I don't mean this to be a theological or educational post on the vows but just a reflection of my experience and spirituality through them.

There is a time when I feel the emptiness of the vows in a way that is both empty and full at the same time. There is an inherent sacrifice in saying yes to chastity, poverty, and obedience. Sometimes, usually when I pray night prayer alone in my room, I have the opportunity to feel that emptiness more than in the business of the day filled with community and ministry. I can't completely describe the feeling, but it is both a longing and the answer to a promise at the same time.

Sometimes I want to run from it because the experience makes me afraid. I have nothing to compare it to, nothing to fill the emptiness with, and nothing to take my mind away from it. Sometimes I read or clean something until I forget it. But when I stay quiet and still in it; I can give it to God. In those moments I feel more united to Jesus than at any other time. I am dependent on Him and I am trusting in what He has already done for me. It is a gift for which I can never thank Him enough.

In living the vows authentically in that poverty of heart, I feel that there is made a place for God to dwell in my heart. It is the place reserved for Him alone, and the place that our society tries so hard to fill with relationships, entertainment, work, and recreation so that we don't have to feel the longing that lets us know that there is something more. The something more is a Someone who is desperately in love with us. When we feel the place He belongs, we know Him.

"The heart of man is, so to speak, the paradise of God." -Saint Alphonsus

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Our Holy Father's Mission Intention

"That ordained ministers, religious women and men and lay people involved in apostolic work may understand how to infuse missionary enthusiasm into the communities entrusted to their care."

Enthusiasm is a word that has had a lot of meaning for me recently. It is funny how God works things out so that whatever task a person is given, he or she is given the energy, knowledge, and grace to work for God's glory in whatever they might be doing. I have had wonderful experiences in certain places, doing certain jobs and now I am awaiting another mission. I don't have a direct quote but in one of Father George Aschenbrenner's articles or tapes on religious life he says that apostolic communities are held together by the experience of being missioned. I didn't realize how true this really was until experiencing the "ritual" that goes along with being missioned.

Typically in my community, if we are being changed, we receive our new missions during evening prayer. It usually happens during the month of May. Of course, when a particular need arises it can occur anytime, but there is something very special about coming together in prayer as a community and having God's plan revealed to you together with others who are focused on following Him. This year I am preparing to actively have God's plan revealed to me in that way. This is why the Holy Father's mission intention this month struck my heart.

I will be praying for my community that we do God's will wherever we are sent with enthusiasm for the community of faith we will be serving. Selfishly, I will be praying a lot more for myself! I don't know where I will be going or what I will be doing and there is excitement and nervousness... but in the end I know I will have enthusiasm wherever I might be sent. The key is in being sent, being available, and being full of love and zeal for the mission. We are sent together and wherever one of my sisters is, all of us are. We are united in the experience of being sent.

God grant all those who serve your Church to be filled with enthusiasm and love for whatever work You choose for them. Let us rely on You and on one another to fulfill Your will in our world. Amen.