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

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Working Together

Last weekend we discussed our community life at our local house meeting.  House meetings can be stressful sometimes, uncomfortable, and really grace-filled moments of peace and love for one another.  This was one of those times.  Identifying our strengths and weaknesses brought out all of those emotions.  Sometimes recognizing the good makes you just as uncomfortable as recognizing the weakness.  What I love about the sisters in this house though was made very obvious by our comments.  Nearly everyone shared, without talking to one another in the beginning, that we appreciated the generosity in our house.  

Working together is one of the greatest bonding moments for us as sisters.  When we work towards a common goal with one another while enjoying each other and sharing thoughts and prayers for success - we become joined together in a really life giving way.  Today was a big fundraiser for our sisters and we worked all week, long hours, after school, in physically taxing conditions and... it was a huge success.  Besides meeting our goals we grew in love, respect, and sisterly affection for one another.  It was a wonderful week!

Friday, September 30, 2011

One of the Best (and most practical) Perks of Being a Sister

There are big changes happening in the diocese in which I live especially as regards Catholic education.  I love Catholic education.  It is my life - my heart and my soul are completely invested in the formation of children in the Catholic tradition and excellence in education.  My dream is that there will be a new springtime of birth in intellect and will in our Catholic schools which calls forth saints of God to serve the Church in this future age.  In order for that to happen we have a lot of work to do in our Catholic schools which has made for some very fun community times as well.

Because my community is one of educators, I have the great gift of being able to call up a "sister" of mine and ask her what's new... what is happening at her school... did she go to the workshop... does she have any new materials... what is she working on.... and this is exactly what is happening in my life right now.  It has been so much fun.  Often people talk about sisters praying together, which is really wonderful... I love praying with my sisters.  But, working together is something that brings us together in a more creative way.

Today I got to connect with a sister who I really respect as an educator and receive information from her on what I was doing and get immediate feedback on my work.  It was great.  I also talked to a friend of mine who is younger and asked her what she was working on.  I also worked with someone I live with but who ministers at a different school - and yet again, another perspective was added to my own.

The other night this sister and I sat down in the community room with all the information both of us had collected about a particular change in the education system in the diocese and we were so excited by the time we put our heads together and came up with something workable.  The excitement, passion, and unity was able to be filled in the air.  It was a wonderful experience in working together.

What a gift it is to have such a proliferation of gifts all working on the same project - what a joy!  what a work!  Thank God we have one another to work with and to build upon.  God, I am just so thankful for each and every one of my sisters; for the intelligent, gifted, passionate, and wonderful women who surround me with their faith, love, prayer, sacrifice, and work.  Thank You!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I had the strangest experience the other night.  As I've mentioned before I love to drive through the city, especially at night when there is no traffic, and I was coming home late the other night and decided to take the "scenic" route.  As I was watching the cars and the lights and the people and reflecting on the very good meeting I was returning from I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God to me.  How, when I look at all these people, have I been so blessed to live and work and have my being in this great God?  How, after all the missteps I should have fallen into, have I become this woman I could not have even imagined five years ago, not for myself and not for anyone else either?  What have I done to deserve the community I love, the apostolate in which I experience redemption, and the intimate relationship with the King?

I know it is nothing I have done but it still boggles my mind... how did I end up here?  I ask this question not in disbelief but in awe of what God can do with so little - with less than anything at all.  When I look at my past and my experiences of life... I should have been a disaster.  There is little to nothing that would indicate that I would ever be a woman religious.  I could never think of a better life and I am humbled that God would want me, that in spite of all my flaws and my sinfulness, He would desire me.

It was a painful transformation into this person I never knew but who is me entirely.  It required facing masks, accepting loss and transition, losing control, surrendering, sacrifice, and being open to a whole other person - the one God always desired me to be but the one that I never was.

Now, I know God's work with me is not done.  The transformation is never complete until eternal life with Him.  But I am, if I might use a strange word, in harmony with my whole self and with God.  There is no wall, no huge contradiction, no mask, no hiding, no compensation - just life with Him and His people.  It is freedom.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I wish I was about to share some words of wisdom and comfort or some spiritual gleaning I've experienced in a time of anxiety; however, I have nothing.  Without going into detail, I've been working myself up over something all weekend.  I have prayed and distracted myself but until I actually act - I'm going to continue to be preoccupied.  I'm a worrier.  I can worry about things a normal person would never even think of.  This time I'm worried about something worth worrying though and I'm having a hard time pushing it out of my mind until I need to think about it.  On a Sunday afternoon though there isn't much to do that distracts me.

I tried writing my lessons for school - and I did - but it was an exercise in concentration and it took painfully long.  I took frequent breaks to look up again and again the same things on the internet trying to find some answers.  I didn't even make my bed I'm so tired from all this worrying.  It all seems ridiculous doesn't it?  But that is the human condition.

At this point I'm not hoping or praying for a positive outcome or good news... I'm praying for an accurate outcome and quick news so that I can get some relief from all this worry.  So, pray for me?  Thanks

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School

Well, it's that time again... the most wonderful time of the year according to some parents (and TV advertisements).  It's time for children everywhere to come back to school.  On these beautiful end of summer days, teachers are scrambling around with books, papers, computers... and kids are running around like little crazy people!

The other night all the kids came to school to get their new books and to check their class lists to find out which teacher they have and who is in their class.  I was excited to see them with their too long hair and crazy summer outfits.  I could predict who would show up and who wouldn't have any books until they got to school the first day.  However, I was wrong about one student.

I watched him walk into the hall where we were selling the books and he went to see his class list but before he got there he saw me and ran over.  I was so surprised.  He isn't the type who really cares about school or does any extra work or activities or hangs around when he doesn't need to be there.  Without any thought he came over and hugged me and said he was excited to come back.  I never expected that one!  I touched my heart to see him excited to be back at school.

There was one day last year when a few students, himself included, were stranded by their bus in the snow.  We had a pretend snowball fight in the classroom with some foam balls I was using for a class project.  I think that made them all feel special and important - and I think everything else comes easily from their.

So please pray for me as I prepare to continue with these wonderful children through another year of their formation as strong Catholic young men and women.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I got home to my local convent a few days ago after a very long summer.  I had a lot of great experiences and some challenging ones too!  But the best part of summer by far is retreat - a week of vacationing with the Lord.  It was wonderful.  The priest who gave our retreat was so wonderful and we were in a beautiful place.  Our chapel has these enormous windows that look out over beautiful fields and stained glass pieces designed by our sisters hang in the windows.  It is simple and small but a very intimate place to be with the Lord.  It's also private, located in the same area as our bedrooms so it is open to us all night as well as during the day.

One of the things Father asked us to do on retreat was too look over the past year with the Lord - looking through His eyes. That night I tried to think about where God was during my year and I came up with a lot of wonderful places - in my daily prayer, in the Eucharist, in my work, in my community - but I was left feeling anxious and upset.  I kept thinking of all the places where I failed to see or follow Him.  The next day after Mass I made a cup of coffee and went to sit in the community room by myself.  I turned the chair next to me to face me and I closed my eyes and imagined that Jesus was sitting across from me.  Instead of reflecting myself on the year I asked him, "What do you remember about our year together?"  The answer caused me to laugh out loud, to cry, and to smile.  The answer was that He remembered me dancing around my classroom on the weekends changing decorations and grading papers while I listened to music, cleaning out the convent, eating breakfast on the porch with the nuns, being heartbroken about a child's circumstances, hitting the snooze on my alarm, breaking my flashdrive, crying after a bad day in school, shoveling the cars out of the snow with the neighborhood boys, attending basketball and soccer games...

They were the places where I didn't recognize Him immediately but He was with me and in me through them. It amazed me that it was these moments when I was just being myself, just offering myself unconsciously for others, that God was most interested in - not in the times when I was trying very hard.

We have more good in us than we recognize or think sometimes.  I was so touched by His presence in my everyday living that I felt even more compelled to try to give of myself completely but I was motivated by love.  I will try to keep that spirit alive this year.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Okay, so here I am at our wonderful retreat house down the shore.  I am much less of a stick in the mud than I was last time I wrote.  However, I am still very wanting of my own shower and bed... but there are definitely some perks that my home convent doesn't have.  The beach, the ocean, delicious home cooked meals ready for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a beautiful chapel with seaside air, and lots of really wonderful nuns from all over coming together to pray and play.

Our mornings include sleeping in - nun style (which really isn't sleeping in to most people, haha), pick-up breakfast and Mass in our convent.  After Mass the sisters who aren't on retreat start doing their charges or their jobs around the house.  Everyone has a job but the sisters on retreat do something simple like cut vegetables while we try to do the things that would be intrusive to their retreat times.  It is nice to be able to help them have a good retreat.  In the afternoons we go down to the beach, swim in the ocean, relax in the air conditioned community room or on the porch overlooking the ocean, or go down to the main drag and look in the little shore shops or buy candy for our home convents.  Then we have prayers and dinner and more time to hang loose.  It is a lovely schedule - I think it's how God meant it to be :).

One set back has been the heat wave which has also been an occasion of unity through suffering.  Everyone is a little bit miserable from the heat so we are all trying to make one another comfortable.  It's been fun hearing everyone's remedies and seeing the kindness of the sisters who's bedrooms get the ocean breeze leaving their doors open so the rest of us can get a little cool air during the night.

Right now I can hear the ocean out my bedroom window and I am excited to sleep when the temperature is less than 90 in my room with the sound of the ocean waves around me.  Tomorrow begins the next retreat so it will be quiet around here and there will be a lot to do around the house - but there will still be that beautiful background of the sea.      

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Did summer start yet...?

Well, tonight I called my sister friend who is generously driving me down the shore this week.  On the phone I complained and complained and complained some more until my friend did a really supportive and intelligent thing.  First she asked me why I didn't want to go to the shore... so I listed my reasons.  Number 1 - I am tired of sleeping in other people's beds... I want to sleep in my own.  Number 2 - I want to shower in my own shower without carrying my shampoo and things down a hallway.  Number 3 - I need some time to myself... I'm tired of being social.  After my friend listened to all my reasons she said she understood but I was being negative - she is so honest and reaffirming at the same time.  She never said I was selfish about the shower or that there are people who don't have any bed to sleep in.  She just took me where I was and told me it was going to be a good few weeks down the shore if I could stop being a stick in the mud.

I've been away doing service more this summer and have done more work than I did during the school year.  I just want a few days to relax but I am excited to be down the shore these days.  I'll be working but it will also be relaxing to spend some time in the sun.  It's super hot here but I'm sure I'll survive.  Just say a prayer that tomorrow I can snap into action and stop being such a party pooper.  I want to have fun... I really do, haha.

The other problem that you probably wouldn't guess a nun would have is that I can't fit all my stuff in my bag... I hate packing.  It is the thing I am the worst at.  I think... I might want... I might use... I might need... and I never use those things.  The other problem I have is that I hate the process of packing so much that I just throw stuff in.  It doesn't help.  It is actually quite funny from an outsiders point of view though... you should see me, haha.

So here I am at 10:30 blogging when my bags are unpacked and I'm unprepared to go down the shore.  Jesus help me!  Goodnight friends... and sorry it's been so long!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Community and Confession

This past week has been an insanely busy one... it was especially hard because in my mind I know I should be on some beach somewhere relaxing and enjoying the summer... but instead, I was driving from one workshop to another and only stopping to sleep at my convent.  The rest of the time I was on the road.  I love being busy and I love to go to workshops and to work on different projects with different people.  I like to talk and to share ideas - but by the end of this week I was ready to crash.

On Friday night when I came back to the convent I dropped by bags on the floor of my bedroom and collapsed.  It was like 7 pm and I was out for the night, haha.  The next day I decided instead of going to the parish Mass in the morning I would sleep in and go to a nearby shrine that has confessions and Mass in the afternoon.  It is also a shrine that has significance for my community so it made it that much nicer.

I've been struggling this summer with some personal conflicts with some sisters.  (Yes, we have conflicts and broken relationships and negativity too.)  The basic situation is that I lived with these sisters at a very difficult time in my life and they were less than understanding.  As a result, I made some mistakes.  Because I "knew" that they didn't care - I didn't treat them as if I cared either.  Since then, I tried to explain my actions and ask for forgiveness for what I did wrong and while I have heard the words, "It's okay," the actions do not match that.  It is still being held against me.  Meanwhile, no one has ever apologized to me.

So I'm going to be spending a lot of concentrated time with these sisters this summer and I see the need for reconciliation.  I also know that I've done everything I can do to make that happen.  I see in the big picture of our future that we have to put these silly things behind us - but I think because they are so close with one another they don't see this need in the same way.

Anyway, I've been thinking about it and I was uncomfortable with my attitude towards those sisters and with the way I was feeling.  So when I went to confession I told the priest that I really felt resentful.  I also knew that I was holding onto it, that I was measuring who was "better" and who was "right" and how much I had done to mend these relationships and how little they had.  Of course I was the "better" and "right" one - so I included pride in my confession as well.

So Father was wonderful.  He spoke so passionately about how when these feelings come it is the time to pray and that's all there is to it!  There is no past, we live in the present and though the past colors it we have the gift as children of God of freedom.  So regardless of how my sisters choose to use their freedom, I have dedicated mine to living a particular way in the present and I will continue to try to reconcile.  I pray that they do the same and I know that they are trying to live the best that they can at this moment.  I have to remember that even if they don't put value on our relationship as sisters - they are putting value on something that is maybe more important right now.  We are all working on love - for God, for people, for community, for prayer - and somehow I'm sure it will all come together.      

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer - Part II

Okay - so other than the cleaning and fun times - there are other wonderful things about summer vacation.  Although I am starting to miss the kids I am still reveling in the freedom from lessons, meetings, papers, grades and discipline.  I am also enjoying the great fun of connecting with lovely sisters who I haven't seen all year, who are my friends, who are visiting from far away, who are working with my on summer assignments... the list goes on and on...

This week only myself and another sister are home and a sister from far away came to stay with us and it has been lovely having her here.  Next week I have workshops for school in the morning and then I'm helping a sister friend with her job in the afternoons.  I'm sure it will be lovely and renewing.  It is just so nice to have a break from the school schedule of things.  Next week I have to wake up early each day and I'm dreading it because I have so loved this week of "later days"... meaning Mass at 8... another wonderful summer attribute.

I'm just so happy to be spending time with the sisters telling stories, laughing, playing around, working together and just enjoying one another.  Community is difficult sometimes but it is also such a great gift... Thank you Lord for my sisters... even the most difficult of them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer and Cleaning

I've tried to write like ten times on the topic of summer - but it is just so wonderful I haven't been able to put it into words.  The feeling of my aching muscles after a day of manual labor, the late night chats with the sisters, the leisurely meals, quiet times of prayer, and laughter throughout the day... it's just great.  In these first three days without lesson plans, tests, copiers, paperwork, school books, papers, grades, and students I have enjoyed myself immensely.

All year I've been formulating plans for what I would do once this wonderful, free summertime came.  I have quite a few projects keeping me busy in the house... in fact, I've been cleaning since Monday.

The convent I'm living in now was "abandoned" so to speak for quite some time and there are a lot of places with hidden problems and tons of dust.  The other problem is that this convent was built for 20 plus sisters... currently it houses 5.  Of the five, only 2 are able to really keep up with the necessary work to keep the house in good working order.  You can imagine how much there is to do in an enormous convent like this for the youngest sister.  But I am happy to do it - and it is good for me to do something more physical than mental for a change of pace.  It is liberating to wipe all that dust away, move furniture, reassign towels and sheets to their rightful homes... it feels like a new beginning.  Plus - someone else cooks so I can work!

I feel so happy about how well this year has gone and yet there are things I've let go a little too long that I need to take care of in my personal life.  I must clean out that stuff too while I'm doing it for real in the house.  Tomorrow I'm going to take a very big step in cleaning out and sorting through some of my personal "stuff" on the inside and I ask your prayers for this meeting.  It will be difficult but I know good will come from it and that peace will follow whatever transpires.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

School - Graduation

Tonight some of my kids graduated from grade school.  I am heartbroken.  I mean - I am so happy for them but at the same time it is a loss for me.  Teaching is so much a part of my heart that each child I meet becomes my own.  I have the blessing of listening to and sharing in their desires, thoughts, mistakes, dreams, and everyday life.  I will miss each of them as a unique expression of God's love in my life.

As this week went on I spoke to many of the kids individually about how special they are and how many gifts they have to offer God with the gift of their lives - how much I needed them to do that for the future of the Church and our world.  I'm just so proud of them and I can see all the grace and all the gifts that God has just filled them with - with the intention of them becoming great saints.  I told two of them I thought they had vocations.

Tonight was a happy one, in spite of my heartache, and after Mass we were celebrating with pictures and hugs and congrats outside Church.  I could tell one of the dads wanted to talk to me as he came over and I was in the middle of teasing a few of my dear "little ones" (who are in reality quite big!).  I went over as soon as they "freed" me from our fun and I was surprised by "dad's" interaction with me.  I love this family but I don't really have any special relationship with them.  They have a lovely son and are just all around good people.  But tonight, Dad hugged me and thanked me and I could see in his eyes that there was something he wanted to say - but he didn't say it, whatever it was.  I probably won't know what it is that was obviously important to him.

You can never know what you do for others and how much it is just a gift from God.  I wish Dad could have told me what it was he was thankful for... but maybe in God's plan for me it's better I don't know.  What I do know is that my heart is really touched by the beauty of God's plan for my life this year with each person I've encountered.  I'm happy that I've been able to tell them how much I love them, about how they show me God, about how proud I am of them.  It's hard to tell anyone that they are important to you but I feel good knowing that they know how much I care about them.        

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Envy... Holy Envy... I don't know...

I envy families.  A lot!  I've talked briefly about my own family before here but not as the actual topic of a post.  Tonight it is.  It's hard for me to write about but I think it is important too.  I've felt in religious life quite often that I don't quite belong because of my family history.  Most of the sisters with whom I live and work view family in a very different way than I do.  I should say, they view their own family's differently than I do.  I think we have the same objective value of the family but our experiences are so different.  A lot of sisters I live with can't imagine not being devoted to their parents.  They can't imagine not thinking that their parents are saints in heaven... that they gave them their vocations.

Then, on the other hand, is me.  My family is broken.  I hate the way it sounds but it is the truth.  Throughout everything that has happened and everything I don't understand still - I never thought that it would all come together like it has now in my life.  God alone knew that that suffering I had to endure would prepare me to be the bearer of immense grace toward others.

I think the hardest thing about having such a dysfunctional family is the not-knowing.  As the child, no matter the age, you can never fully understand the effect of, the sequence of, and the cause of the events which forever change your world view and your understanding of life and then somehow you must pick up the pieces.  For someone as logical as I am - walking around with such doubts and insecurities is very difficult.  Every day I remember something new that didn't click when everything was "under the rug."  But now that my parents are divorced it sheds a new light on all the experiences I've had.  I wish I could understand all of them but I know that there is no way for me to do so... so I must live with the unknowing.

Anyway... now it serves me well.  The pain is still there and the discomfort is still raw... I imagine it will stay that way.  However... most of my students have this same experience and I offer it for them.  I share it with them.  My co-workers share this pain with me and they come to me with their experiences of family strife because I understand... and I think it is a sad gift now that I have been given.

There is certainly a reward in seeing the heart animate a face which has found understanding in another person's heart.  God is good in providing these loving moments of solidarity with one another to give the love that was lacking in other ways.  Blessings are always around.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Generosity and Gentlemen

I think it is really interesting being a young religious in a church that is aging in the United States.  I mean really... I'm the only person at Sunday Mass who doesn't have white hair at this point.  I know its different in other areas but where I am the truth is that I'm alone as a young person.  Which is why some socially Catholic things - if I might call them that- surprise me all the time!  Most often I'm surprised by manners and the generosity of others.

For example, last night I was at a function in the parish hall for a family.  Now my superior always worries when I'm out late because the neighborhood is kinda crazy - but I'm in my twenties - I'm kind of fearless.  I always say they should be worried about the other guy!  So as it hit quarter after 10, I started to say my goodbyes and go back to the convent.  Now, I know I shouldn't be surprised by this at all, but one of the dads walked me home.  I felt like I was some crippled old  nun, haha!  However, although it made me feel old which I hate, I liked that someone took the time to make sure that I got home safely.  It was a nice gesture.  I started thinking about my life before religious life and I don't think there were many men around who thought to care for the safety of a woman going home at night.  That's just one example though - when I'm taking the trash out the guys from AA run to the door to grab the bag for me before I step out, parishioners offer me rides when I'm out for a walk, people try to carry my bags for me, when I buy the soda and water the coaches come out from practice and bring it in the convent.

No, I'm not trying to highlight the perks of entering religious life (although it's a great life!) - I'm just surprised coming from our modern culture of equality between the sexes which has resulted in a loss of courteous behavior that some people still do these small acts of kindness.  I try all the time to instill in my boys in school those kinds of behaviors but it doesn't come naturally to them.  Even though their dads are a good example to them, they think it's old fashioned.  It is - but who is to say it's wrong - I say bring it back!  They are just getting the hang of it and they love to be complimented when they do the right thing.  Unfortunately, they now fight over holding the doors for me - but they'll stop beating each other up eventually... maybe when they are 30...40??.

Then there is the generosity of others.  I have had a tough week as far as generosity goes.  A priest I know gave me twenty dollars for helping him with something - I felt terrible and I tried to tell him I didn't need any money - but he made me take it.  So, I thought, I'll use this for the fundraiser the parish is having so it will go to charity.  When I got to the parish event - someone else paid for my ticket.  Then people paid for tickets to put my name in the raffle drawings.  So not only had I not given my charitable offering - I had actually gained in winnings.

What's a nun to do when she can't get rid of money??  I have a few other ideas but I'm hoping I don't get foiled... one of them is a nice treat for the kids.  We'll see if they deserve it after these last days of school, haha.  Either way - here I am - stuck between these two foreign cultures coexisting.  Sometimes, like today, they bang together.  I was at Walmart and I was standing in line watching the cashier watching me.  He was young and I saw him staring at me while he was ringing up the customer in front of me.  When he rang up my purchase he gave me my receipt and change and patted my hand and said, "God bless you, Sister."  Then he turned his light off for his break and offered to take my one bag to the car for me - on his break.  I talked him out of it but it was unbelievable.  Men never treated me so nicely when I was available and now that I'm not I'm continually surprised.  I think there is merit in religious life just for the culture and for society in general.  It isn't about me but somehow a religious inspires thoughtfulness and generosity and I think the visibility of religious is a leaven for a society which is becoming increasingly self-centered.

So there you have it, generosity and gentlemen in religious life.  I hope they are trends that continue!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Good Days

I've been really down the past few weeks.  I was nurturing some bad habits and some big time pride and it all caught up with me last weekend.  Basically, it was terrible.  I felt like a fool and God and I had a really big talk about how dumb I had been.  It wasn't like He was telling me with some big club held over my head - but I knew it in my heart with a very honest self-knowledge - the kind I rarely feel.  It's like I know how wonderfully made I am and how far I have fallen or cheapened God's gift to me.  I know His mercy is there right away - it certainly isn't a despairing moment - just one of truth.  There are no excuses, no questions... just an almost emotionless desire to end the habit or thought because of God.  I'm glad this time He didn't give me feelings of extreme joy, or desire for Him.  He instead gave me the grace in the moment to see truth and decide my response to it.

So here I am, tentatively and reflectively attempting to renew and rebuild!  It feels good to do some of this "spring cleaning" of my life and soul.  Since the soul stuff went so well - I decided to spring clean in the house and my classroom today too!  To me, cleaning is one of the most relaxing things I could possibly do.  I just love to clean.  When I say clean - I mean ceiling to floor scrub - not dusting and putting things away.  I'm talking serious cleaning.  It was great!

Now I'm in crunch time for the end of the year and I feel renewed to pack up my classroom and get ready for some busy summer adventures.  I'll keep updating!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The source of my annoyance - Napkins

Is there anything that really riles you up?  I get pretty intense about a few things but there is one that I am absolutely irrational about.  It doesn't even make sense to get mad about but I do! I think everyone has these things and I'm sure there is something that I do that makes other people, particularly the nuns, crazy!

You see, there is a sister in my house who is older and she is lovely - all the time.  She is a joy to live with.  She does a harmless and meaningless thing that drives me insane though.  It's ridiculous but I'm going to tell you anyway... after she eats - she puts paper napkins on all the place mats around the table.  I know - how could that make me angry?

The thing is I'm 20 -something years old.  I live in a world where everything is efficient.  It all serves a purpose and it is done in a methodical and practical way.  I've never lived any other way.  Anything less can be infuriating!  It just so happens that the two rooms in our house where we eat are both my charges.  So, these napkins are everywhere and before I clean the table I have to pick up all these napkins.  Sometimes they are even underneath the place mats.  It makes me wild... not with her... but just with the impracticality of the whole thing.

You would think, "oh, its a small thing... get over it."  And that is what I say to myself most of the time too... but it still bothers me.  Everyday when I clean it I cringe because it bothers me.  I am so tempted to throw all the napkins away or not put them back or tell her to stop putting them everywhere...  However, through the grace of God I am able to resist that temptation and in extreme discomfort, I put those carefully placed napkins right back where they were before I cleaned.

Community life is made of things like this.  I know that there are things that people do for me that are nice that I don't even know about or that they don't think I know about.  One time when I was sick, my superior cleaned my charge... she didn't tell me but I felt terrible about it.  She was taking care of me.  Sometimes I'll go down to the laundry and find my wash folded for me.  The sister who folded my laundry might have been thinking, "She can't just come get her own laundry!  Why isn't she folding this laundry!?"  We all lose our patience with one another but the struggle is to treat one another with charity and grace through it all.  It's a sure way to the heart of Jesus to love one another in close quarters and in a radical way.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Confession and Contrition

I almost always pray for more contrition when I'm going to confession - I just don't feel bad enough sometimes.  Maybe because I didn't grow up Catholic I'm missing a guilt gene or something.  I've definitely assimilated - ask my students, I work to instill a healthy guilt in them - but maybe it's still not deep enough.

On Saturday, I knew I only had a small window of time before judgment began at 6 to go to Confession and be ready to meet my Creator (just kidding - but I did think it was funny I was going to Confession right before the world was about to end!).  So I drove down to the next parish and waited my turn.

As I was waiting in line for Confession, I felt so lukewarm.  It was like I was in line at the grocery store or something.  I realized how I felt and I was disappointed in myself for being so casual about approaching the sacrament but somehow I still couldn't muster up much feeling for it.  So I just said to God, I know you want me here... I want to be here if not in my heart definitely in my will, so You need to bring whatever else I'm lacking.

Once I got into the confessional I waited a long time.  Father was taking his time with the penitent on the other side so it was me, the plastic-y kneeler, and the crucifix.  I felt a stillness inside, still no desire or feeling, but a prayerful stillness.

When I began confessing my sins I was amazed at how much feeling came into the words as I spoke them and how my heart opened up to share the deepest desires, fears, values and thoughts that motivate my actions.  It all came with more sincerity and honesty rather than as a laundry list of problems.  When Father began speaking I felt like I was talking to Christ.  I could see Father's face through the screen and I really saw Jesus speaking with me very gently while still full of wisdom and insights calling me to be better.  

It was such a blessed confession.  I always hold on to my crucifix as I pray my act of contrition and kiss it at the end of confession as I do each day when I put it on in the morning and take it off at night.  I felt very close to Christ in those moments.  I'm still pondering everything now because I don't think I have reached the depths yet of the experience.  I'm certainly grateful to God, and to Father, for the gift of the sacrament.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Today I had a great experience of freedom.  Sometimes I watch the kids running like wild people at recess and I think - wow - that must be so much fun! haha.  Sometimes I play a little bit too!

After school today I went to the store to do some of the food shopping for the convent.  When I had paid and was on my way outside the sky just opened up and poured.  It was beautiful but everything was getting wet and I was rushing to try to get everything into the trunk of the car.  As I was getting a workout with my groceries I was hit with this great feeling of freedom.  My veil and habit were soaking wet, I was alone, and the rain was so beautiful - it was great!  At first I was thinking oh no I'm soaked right through, my shoes are getting messed up, my hair is totally wet... and then all my cares just melted away and it was freedom.

When I got back to the convent it was still pouring so I got to do it all over again!  After that I went in to prayers and dinner with the nuns.  I was so tired and I had a tough day in school - good but challenging - and I was ready to go right to sleep... My superior knew this had been a crazy week for me so she left a candy bar in my room as a little treat.  I felt like a kid... in a good way.  I felt like I had gone out to play, been taken care of, and was being sent off to bed for the night.  It was refreshing and comforting.

I don't usually relate well to the whole child of God thing, probably because my own childhood was so tumultuous, but today I felt very much cared for as a dear daughter of His and I am very grateful for that blessing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I hate this word - correction... I just honestly hate it.  Sometimes I try to act like I don't hate it.  Sometimes I try to convince myself that it is a growth in holiness to be corrected.  Maybe it is... however; it still stinks!

I don't know if I was corrected tonight but I felt like I was.  Either it was a helpful suggestion or a downright correction... I'm not sure.  Either way, my ego didn't like it.  Not at all.  I had some really high hopes for a little meeting I had today with a Sister but no matter how many compliments or applauds I get... those corrections stay with me and ruin it all.  Maybe I'm terrible at humility.  Maybe I have no virtuous motives.  Maybe all I care about is looking good to other people.  I don't know... but I do know that I hate to be corrected.

I know in faith that it is good for me.  I also know that I value deeply in community the fact that we are able to share with one another... sometimes it hurts.  Sharing with one another requires that I be able to admit my shortcomings, accept constructive criticism, share my desires and hopes, and think of Christ and His Church before I think of my own interests.  Community demands that I be able to both value myself and put myself, good and worthwhile, as last instead of first.

I think I might be praying about this struggle a lot in these next few  weeks and as the summer months give me more time with myself and with God in prayer.  Thanks be to God!  I hope that He enlightens me with peace and growth.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Family and Religious Life

I'm really only close with one member of my family - my brother.  I love my brother a lot.  He is my only other sibling and he understands me very well... and he's not Catholic.  He loves having a sister who is a nun.  I don't exactly know why, but I do know that we bonded very well when we both made life altering commitments against the desires of our parents about a month apart... we really threw them for a loop!  My brother went into the service a month before I entered the convent... it was not taken very well.

Today I went to a meeting at my community's motherhouse and then met up with my family who lives nearby.  I'm always happy to see them but I'm also always more aware when I leave the gathering of how different my life is from theirs.  Some of my family is Catholic... most are nonpracticing but it certainly makes for an interesting gathering when the nun shows up.  Today was mostly good.  It's hard to explain my life to people who have no concept of convent, apostolate, community life, living a Rule, vows... all of it!  They just seem like outsiders to me sometimes and I hate that.

It isn't that I don't love them... it's more like we live on two different planes.  And then when it comes to my parents - it's a whole other ball game.  I know... it's hard to imagine... but nuns come from broken homes too - myself included.   It's certainly more difficult but here I am and I just hope and pray that God accepts the carrying of that cross as an act of love for Him.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Summer in the Habit

Oh my gosh it has begun... summer in the habit.  Each year it feels like that first summer all over again - hot, sticky, hot, uncomfortable, hot, tight, hot, exhausting, hot, disheveled... I could go on.  Today was probably the hottest / most humid day so far this year.  School was brutal.  Imagine thirty, gross on a good day, middle schoolers all packed into a classroom without air conditioning.   God knows I love them but they are full of hot air and can't keep themselves... to themselves!

This morning wasn't too bad with the fans on and the lights off.  The kids were doing some science projects so I wasn't directly instructing them most of the time!  This afternoon took a turn for the worse though and by the end of religion class - filled with questions on the state of Osama bin Laden's soul - I was exhausted!  I thought... I'm grabbing my laptop and my books and going home!  Usually, I stay in school for a while after and work but it was just so hot over there.

When I got back to the convent I grabbed a cold drink and started my three floor climb to my room.  I never made it to the third floor.  When I got to the second floor there was a whirlwind of curtains all over the place.  They were hanging over the banister, over chairs, on the ironing board and my dear short sister was trying to hang them up.  I happen to be quite a tall sister so I stopped to help her.  Getting on a ladder and fighting with a metal rod was not what I had planned for the afternoon before prayers and dinner!  Anyway, I did it.

After dinner I raced up to the third floor finally... it was like a victory lap.  All I could think about was getting out of my hot and uncomfortable and now dirty holy habit and under the fan.  Now here I am!  The evening is cooling down a little but it feels like thunderstorms... which I love!  I'm in the middle of writing the last set of progress reports of the year for my darlings in school and I'm content that summer is here and very soon... I'll get over that first hot summer day of the year in the holy habit!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reading the Mind of God

I know... it's not possible... don't worry I'm not suggesting anything heretical, haha.  But I cannot help but wonder sometimes what it would look like to see the whole picture of myself or of someone else's soul at a particular moment of grace from the eyes of God.  He obviously sees so much more but in that moment, for us to see, it would be breathtaking.  The past, present, and future of a person plus their unique makeup of personality, nature, dreams, hopes, fears, and sins all at the same time from one point of view - it's amazing.  And all of that perspective, all that knowledge at once fits into the equation of what grace to give... what God's will is for them individually.

I'm always trying to figure Him out... I love solving big questions.  I know this isn't one I can solve, haha... but I still always try.  When I know that there is a decision I have to make I think to myself, "How is He playing this round?"  I know I'm being fresh, haha, but I really do take it very seriously.  I think about what decision would be contrary to my own selfish will.  I think about the future effects of any decision.  I think about what I've done in the past.  I think about my usual sins, my usual goodness... I try to see the pattern, the design.  I never succeed.

I should probably just trust that God will give me the grace to follow His will when He has planned it.  However, I still am so fascinated by how He works that I just can't stop analyzing it.  I mean, try to imagine the way God sees you in each moment with all your complexities at once.  It's mind boggling.  Then add in the fact that you are part of the Body of Christ, all joined together - and He sees all of that at once... each of us individually and each of us together as one.  How can we not trust?!      

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Heart to Heart

I'm avoiding it... the heart to heart talk... the inevitable.  I've been filling my time and my spirit with work, reading,  stress, cleaning, email, and many other insignificant things.  Even my prayer hasn't been prayer but more of a task to complete - and a difficult one at that.  I feel a very real desire to bare my soul, to pour it out, to share myself - but at times it feels like there is no place for that - in community, in spirituality, in my busy-ness.

At the Easter Vigil, Father's homily was very touching for me.  He said that the vigil is the time for us to revisit the place where we first met Jesus - the tomb of our hearts - where He raised us from the death of sin to our new life in Him.  I was thinking... yes... that is exactly what I need to do - to meet Christ again in my heart where I first encountered Him.

Father went on to say that the place where we were all gathered as a parish community was our Galilee of that very moment and that in all the universe that was exactly where Christ had planned for us to encounter Him - Risen!  For me - that meant where I was in community.  It meant that the sisters I was with were the disciples I was meant to bring Christ to.  At the same time, they are the disciples who are meant to bring Christ to me.

I have to be honest - I haven't felt that way recently.  Maybe I haven't been holding up my end of the bargain.  I expect often a lot from community life.  I expect to be challenged, taught, educated, called, appreciated, corrected, and loved... but have I been doing the same?  Have I been putting my whole self out there - my faith, my heart, my convictions, my desires, my vision?  The truth is no... because I have been afraid of what the reaction would be.  I have been unwilling to be challenged, corrected, affirmed, and encouraged.  It is scary to share your heart.  But I know that right now it is what I most desire.

The other thing I desire is a spiritual director - but God has not seen it in His plan to give me one quite yet... I am getting desperate though so I ask your prayers that He puts someone in my path.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Reflection

Well, my reflections from this Good Friday weren't so "good" for me.  I'm sure they are good for my soul but I don't think anyone ever looks forward to loss and sacrifice -  both places where God brought me in my retreat today.

I'm finding myself feeling more and more confused as I ask, "What needs to die in me?"  The answers are all things that I don't want to have to give up... or things that don't want to give me up.  I am sure that there are deaths that must happen for my relationship with Jesus to deepen and spread to those around me.  This time though, I don't feel the zeal or the fight to let those things die.  I can see quite clearly where I am going wrong and how I can fix it.  I can see how my life would be better.  But for some reason my heart is not jumping to act on this knowledge... and I'm not sure why.

I spent my prayer time today reading Jesus' Prayer for the Disciples - John 19.  It hits me anew each time I read it and I think it must be my favorite Gospel.  Here is one part that really touched me today.

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

I can hear Jesus' impassioned prayer to the Father to care for each of His own and it amazes me that he could be so close to arrest and death yet so focused, not on Himself, but on me and on you.  And here I am, avoiding the death and sacrifice that is so necessary to what is happening in my church, my community, and my own soul right now.  Is that how I lost my zeal and my "heart"... by losing sacrifice?  I'm not sure.  What I do know is that it was unintentional but has now become learned and I must unlearn it with little or no feelings passion and desire to do so.  My mind is on one track and my heart is hardened on the other.

I'm sure this happens to us all at some points.  There are times when we are at our best and others when we are at our worst.  My best is when I'm working hard at a very focused task and when I'm praying and living well the community life I've been called to.  My worst is when I become preoccupied with my "image" - how I look, how people see me and when I feel stressed and out of control.  I know I need to hand this over to Christ but I'm having a difficult time doing that now.  I know who I want to be and how to be that... but the work - the sacrifice and the suffering - seem more than I can give right now.  I know that that feeling - the feeling of some task being beyond my resources - is really a very special opportunity to trust completely in the power of Christ's saving love.      

I know I must die to have life.  Christ please give me the grace to die the deaths I must die to truly be a follower of You.  I want to be close to You only.  Hold me in your Sacred Heart and let me respond to Your words alone.

Edited to add... Can you tell I need a spiritual director??  It's extremely difficult to find one! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's all about me!

Actually... it's not - but I like to think it is.  I guess it's human nature to a certain extent to see the world around us in terms of how it affects us personally.  I've been doing that a lot lately.  I think, first, because of necessity.  I've been having to do a lot of reflecting at this time of the year so I've been a little focused on myself.  Secondly, I've been under a lot of stress and because of that I've been looking at all MY work, MY school, MY prayer, MY charge, MY time.

It's strange how something small can suddenly jerk you back into perspective.  For me, today, it was the simple fact that someone I care about hasn't answered an email from me for two days!  I know - how impatient - two days is nothing... but it was important to me.  Then I got an email from someone else about that person and I just felt my heart sink.  All of the sudden I realized that I was being really self-centered.  I couldn't rejoice with the other person because I was so caught up in myself.

It stinks to realize that it's not about me... it stinks to realize that I've been so full of pride and selfish.  But I'm thankful it happened.  I'm thankful I can see it now.  Perspective really makes all the difference in the things that happen.  I'm going to definitely take this to prayer now that school is ended for the holy days to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Cross is your cross

This week has had me doing a lot of thinking in preparation for this holy week and I've come to focus through my prayer on something that has really touched me.  I don't know if I can quite put it into words because it is more of an experience but I'm going to try.

I have had a lot of suffering in my life.  Lots of that suffering has been suffering that I haven't been able to understand.  It has been confusing.  It has made me feel worthless, self conscious... just plain bad.  I get more and more in touch with that everyday that I am with middle schoolers.  Their own lives are such a raw picture of the suffering that I have somehow "made it through."  This week I've had students being beaten up by their parents, students failing, students hurting one another and fighting... It has been insane!

Those were just examples of what I've been thinking about though.  I've felt really called in prayer recently to penance and suffering for the sake of the Church.  The scandals, lack of vocations, moral deterioration, Church and school closings are all calls from God to step out of the comfort zone and into the unknown - an unknown that I am certain is filled with sanctifying suffering.

Each of us is carrying a different part of the one Cross carried by Christ for all eternity.  Each of us is blessed with a share in this saving, suffering cross because none of us can possibly carry the same weight Christ did once and for all.  I need for you (whoever you are) to carry your part of the Cross - because I can't carry all of it and in order to participate in the life of Christ I must pick up my Cross and follow Him.  I know intimately that this Cross was specifically chosen for me to carry for you so that you wouldn't need to.  You carry a cross for me so that I can carry my own.  We make up the one Body of Christ crucified on the one Cross of our Redemption.  As I look at all the pain in the world around me I see so many people offering up a suffering I could never offer.  I see others who make the offering of the Cross more and more difficult for those around them.

We are all called to carry our crosses.  The question I am faced with this week is; how have I been carrying mine?  Have I carried it well?  Have I united it with Your's? Am I offering my suffering for those around me?  Am I appreciative of the unique Cross each of my brothers and sisters carries for me?  How do I show my gratitude and love for each of them?  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Going back in time...

Do you ever wish you could go back in time?  I frequently do - but especially today.  I'm just too fiery for my own good and for the good of others sometimes.  I wish God would calm me down a bit because I'm so bad at prudence sometimes!

Have you ever known that you are right about something but haven't discerned correctly in the moment whether it was the right time, place, or person to discuss the topic?  That's exactly what I did today.  It wasn't the right person, time, or place to discuss what we did and I showed more than I was comfortable with of my emotions about the topic.  I wish I didn't - but I did.  Maybe I wasn't wrong in sharing... maybe I'm just uncomfortable with sharing my feelings like that.  Maybe I care so much about the topic that I felt too vulnerable, too raw - not "ladylike" enough.

Maybe, really, I'm just uncomfortable with being passionate about something.  It is as if sometimes there is a wariness in me about "rocking the boat."  I feel like there is this expectation that we don't talk about things that cause disagreement, discussion, emotion, and different viewpoints.  I don't know where the expectation comes from.  I'm not sure why I even entertain it... I'm not exactly a peacemaker most of the time.

I just don't know.  What is the right way to stand up for what is right?  How do you know though?  Is it only good when you're comfortable afterwards with what was said?  Or is it good that I'm disturbed and uncomfortable with what happened?  Is it an indication of passion and growth?  Or is it stubbornness and close mindedness?

I don't think I'm going to get an answer.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Daily Life, the Cross of Christ, and Prayer

I have this enormous crucifix in my classroom.  It is beautiful - dark wood, detailed corpus.  I've never seen such a large crucifix in a classroom but it definitely is helpful when I start a spiel to the kids about how Jesus died a terrible horrific death on the Cross and they should be able to give a pencil to the person sitting next to them, help pick up someone's books, do their homework, stop complaining... etc.  I get all serious and dramatic and point up at it and give my lecture - and surprisingly they listen in the little things and I know it makes a spiritual impact.  If only these little situations were the only ones.  Unfortunately, they have crosses that are much bigger.

They have parents who have betrayed them and their families.  They are shuffled from house to house according to a legal document.  They feel unlovable, unworthy, and unimportant.  They have to justify their very existence because most of them never see the love that brought them into the world.

I just read a study about how the brain feels emotional pain in the same way as it feels bodily pain.  I can honestly say that I have experienced and felt that abandonment, confusion, frustration, and pain that comes from family strife.  I'm sure that that abandonment and pain is united to Jesus on the Cross.  I'm sure that my students don't realize it but they are also held closely in the heart of Christ as they suffer that same pain.

The other day one of the teachers at school asked to talk to me after school.  We sat in her classroom and talked about our students, our own families, our own trials and sufferings.  We had tears in our eyes during most of the conversation.  She told me that her sister says she doesn't pray enough and that she should pray the rosary more.  Now, I love the Rosary... like super love it, so my comment was NOT about not praying the rosary.  It was in recognition of the prayer that was already happening in her.

God's grace really came to me in that moment bringing me to the realization that the carrying of that pain and those crosses each day  are absolutely moments of living prayer.  It is a true crucifixion.  Jesus wasn't sitting in a Chapel.  He was carrying a Cross.  He was actively involved in the march to His death and the crowd around Him.

Now it is my turn, and that teacher's turn to carry our crosses with Him for the crowd around us - our children, who will unfortunately carry their crosses in turn.  I can't quite explain the feeling and "knowing" I have that this is true - that this suffering is important to life, to the Church, to the Body of Christ.

It is a comfort to know that my suffering means something to Him.  It is a comfort to know that I can understand and share my suffering with others in love and hope and peace.  It is a comfort to know that that same love, peace, and hope are waiting, as gifts of grace, to our children.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Well, it has been a crazy March!  I haven't had a minute to myself in weeks.  Finally, this Saturday I could take a little holy relaxation!  That is probably why I am up so late because I just don't want this free time to end!  So, anyway, I think a post is in order.  Between school, community, and prayer there has been nothing but sleep in the middle!  However, I really feel very called right now to sacrifice and suffering as the future of religious life and I am happy to suffer and sacrifice because of fatigue, generosity, and zeal.

My community has been talking a lot about the future lately and I feel compelled to share some of my insights.  First, I am really blessed to live in a community where I feel I can share my own feelings and thoughts without judgement and while knowing that although not everyone agrees with me we all respect one another.  There really is a spirit of fraternal charity and the work of grace in our everyday conversations with one another.  At the same time, I think we are at a point where we have to be challenged and challenge one another to be the religious women we are called to be.  A sister recently told me, "Your religious life is your ONLY religious life."  You only get one and you are the only one who gets to live that particular life.  It was so amazing to hear someone verbalize that calling in such a profound way.  I don't know what is ahead for me but God has given me this religious life at this time for a particular reason - and the same is true for everyone else.

That very simple thought makes me feel extremely personally responsible for the future of religious life in my congregation.  What am I doing that furthers God's mission in the world?  How am I building up the Kingdom of God?  How am I witnessing to the relationship I have with Jesus to everyone I meet?  Am I really living the religious life I desire and God desires for me?

Now I will be busy all April answering these questions.  Holy Spirit - enlighten me!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lesson Planning

Any teachers can appreciate the much used acronym, "SWBAT."  For those who are not teachers or who don't use this acronym all the time... it stands for, "Students will be able to..."  When I write my lessons for each unit I write a list of things that my students will be able to do by the end of the unit or lesson.  After the "to" I always begin my objective with a dynamic verb from Bloom's Taxonomy.  I know all of this sounds ridiculous (unless your a teacher) but it has some really practical applications that I hadn't thought of until this evening when I was talking to another sister about our religious life.

What if I changed "Student" to "Sister"?  What should sister be able to do?  Well, looking at the verbs from Bloom's Taxonomy I have a few ideas.

Sister will be able to...

  1. identify God's presence in the people she serves and the sisters with whom she lives.
  2. explain in word and in action God's salvific work.
  3. be an example of the intimate relationship between God and each soul.
  4. demonstrate charity and mercy working with justice and morality by showing compassion while still challenging God's people.
  5. prepare for the coming of God's Kingdom.
  6. differentiate between right and wrong and help others to do the same.
  7. relate to her sisters as "one in mind and heart."
  8. reconstruct the world around her to be in line with the values of the Kingdom of God.
  9. justify her belief in her Spouse through prayer and knowledge, with the gift of faith, for all people.
Now, I'm sure I could come up with a lot more... and much more eloquent examples.  However, it was an easy way for me to meditate and pray over what it is that Jesus, the divine teacher, is trying to bring about in my heart and soul.  This is a quick, five minute, list of objectives.  It is a really easy way for me to both examine my conscience and look to where God is calling me.  What could God be calling you to be able to do?

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Well, as far as my life is concerned, March is already a wash.  No free weekends, free days, time at all - just lots of new and exciting, exhausting and overwhelming, work and fun.  It looks like the storm before the calm is here.  Summer is coming but these next few months are going to be wild.

On Saturday I went to a funeral and then straight to the Motherhouse for a community meeting.  After the community meeting, feeling quite overwhelmed by what I needed to get done, my young nun friends and I went out for a little pizza and a lot of chat.  It was great to be together and just talk about what is going on in our schools and houses.  Although we are all inundated with tons of work it was great to take a little time to enjoy one another's company.

It's amazing how much a good friend does for the spiritual life.  I came back to my local house feeling refreshed and rededicated to doing my best to live religious life to the fullest.  It doesn't always feel like roses and rainbows.  It requires a lot of sacrifice and we all get rundown and unenthusiastic at times.  Spiritual friendships form the foundation to continue forward in charity and forgiveness to be better than before.  My friends helped me remember whose I am and who I am.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prayers Please

With fear, I admit going to Dunkin Donuts again today.  Today though I went to get a little treat for a sister who lives in my convent but is currently taking care of her sick family member.  On my way to visit her, I stopped to get them some muffins as a little treat for them.

While I was waiting in line, a man came over and asked if he could pay for my order.  I said that I was actually getting a gift for someone else so he offered to buy me a cup of coffee instead.  I said yes, but only because I knew he really wanted to do something for a sister.  I asked his name and he told me so I held out my hand to shake his and he kissed my hand!  I've never had something like that happen before!  Well... the woman behind the counter said, "wow!"  That was my response as well!

Anyway, he was very sweet and told me that he hadn't been to church in a while and that his children weren't baptized.  He was really upset about both.  Please say a prayer for him that he has the courage to come back to us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Well, It is 10:30 pm and I just got in the convent.  I know you are probably thinking..."What are you doing out so late?  Why would a nun be gone until 10:30?  Was she at a wild party?"  Okay, you might not ask the last one... but it's true.  I was at a wild party.

I just got home from a Home and School Association function for the kids.  I've been awake since 4:30 this morning and I have been working since then.  That's apostolic religious life.  I think sometimes people think that because we have more freedom in this way of life that we aren't "real sisters."  Maybe they think that we don't pray enough.  Maybe they don't think we should be out of the house as much.  Maybe they think that because we are out, we aren't with community enough.  I don't really know the exact reason.  But I thought I would give a really realistic look at my life today.  The real freedom is in being able to respond to God's movement, the needs of the people, and the structures of community living all at the same time.

I've already said what my normal day to day life looks like but this was a day full of schedule changes and special circumstances but it was also pretty awesome.  My life is a real balancing act because I am a religious called to be apostolic - to go out into the world to do God's work.  It is much different from being a monastic who, in addition to structured prayer and community life, does some ministry or work.  Intrinsic to my vocation is being with the people as a faithful witness.  This balancing act includes prayer, community, and apostolate and everyday is a different and new adventure.

Today after Mass at the nearby parish to which we drive each day, my sister principal and I stopped for a Dunkin Donuts treat on our drive back to school.  Sometimes the kids give us a gift card and we save it for special occasions (with the permission of the superior) - like the beginning of standardized testing.  We definitely needed the caffeine before a long day.  Once I got to school I took all my test materials out of my closet and was trying to straighten up my desk before I had a meeting with my grade partners.  For 40 minutes before school started we hashed it out (in a good way :) ) with our school counselor about a few kids with major issues.  Then we picked our homeroom students up from the hall and brought them back to the room.  As I took roll and got the kids unpacked they told me about Grandma being run over (I'm not kidding - she's ok but say a prayer for her if you can), a cousin who died, their punishment for not doing their homework and so on and so on.

When we were finished unpacking, we began our testing.  I used the time between giving directions while they were filling in all those bubbles to pray my rosary as I walked around the room to make sure they were in the right section and taking their time.

When they were finished we had religion class, lunch, and then I had one science class.  We said our afternoon prayers and I took my line down the street and said, "See you soon."  I talked really entertaining "trash" on how I was going to beat them at the activity that night and they cracked up laughing.  It was a fun walk at dismissal.  After that I went back to close up the classroom.  On my way out, a parent showed up about a demerit her child received from me.  So I had an impromptu and unfortunate parent conference and then left to get an early dinner in the convent.  I took my office book back to school with me and I was changing my decorations to Lent.  I took a break to pray and continued working on my decorations and on grading copybooks.

At 7, I went to the HASA event.  The kids were hilarious and we had a wonderful time.  It was also time that they were not spending roaming the city streets or getting into trouble.  It was time they spent working as a team, spending time with their teachers, parents, and friends, and just having wholesome fun.  But here it is, 11:00 pm now, and I'm writing on my blog.

If I was in a community where prayers were solemn-high at night on a Friday -  I wouldn't be there for these kids.  I pray for them ALL the time.  Prayer is vital to my life.  However, as an apostolic religious I have to take it when I can get it and let it invade my life.  The kids see that I pray.  They see that I love God because they are such a priority in my life.  They are there for so much of my prayer time.  School isn't something I fit in... neither is prayer.  They are both vital and frequently they overlap.

Basically, it's a great life.  It's an exciting life.  It's a challenging life.  It's the life God has called me to live for Him.  A stricter community is, objectively, more attractive to me; but I know the reason is because it would be easier for me (not for everyone, but for me).  I hate having to work things in.  I'm a very scheduled person and I hate having to be flexible.  I have a difficult time being moved by the Spirit and going with God's will.  I plan everything.  I believe God has called me to what is more difficult for me to stretch me and change me.  I have to find the time for each vital part of my life until they become one living reality.  It is difficult but it is the most joyful.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Sometimes it is a tightrope act in school when trying to be there for the kids while at the same time being a professional.  Today I had one of those days.  I've said it before but my kids tell me everything.  The boys gave me a real lesson on a few phrases today which I found quite... interesting...   I'm still not sure about any of it but after we talked the kids told me how grateful they are that they can say what is going on in their life when they are with me and I don't yell at them.  I said to them... why would I yell?  What would it help for me to get angry with you for knowing something that is "bad?"  It isn't their fault that they know it.  If I'm mad at them for knowing... I can't exactly help them to live the Gospel.  I'm just pretending that they are something they aren't.  It isn't 1950 anymore.  

A week ago, I knew that one of my girls was in the middle of a difficult family situation.  I thought and prayed about it and, although it wouldn't be my number one choice, I chose to tell her about my own family situation.  They were so similar and I felt like I might be able to help her by telling her.  I kept some things to myself but I shared what I could.  Today she gave me a piece of paper with badly written paragraph on it.  It was kinda rambling; however, I got what she meant.  I wrote her back with a popular song lyric and a quote from JPII.  It was all about freedom and living life to the fullest amidst her own pain.

I hope all of it helps and brings fruit.  In faith I know that God will bring fruits that I will never know of.  It's just amazing.  Each time it happens I think how blessed I am to watch God work over and over again.  It is like seeing grace under a microscope.  I watch it move and change, grow and transform.  It is a science of it's own.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I haven't really identified too often where I live and I usually don't talk about particular situations but I feel like I'm ready to say what I've been thinking and praying about these past two weeks.

When I was in high school I converted to the Catholic Church.  My parents thought I was brainwashed by a priest.  I really didn't care.  I had finally found someone who really cared about my soul and I was grateful to God for that.  I was in college, before I was a sister, when the first sex abuse scandal broke in Philadelphia.  I remember being in Spanish class and having my teacher bring it up.  He was so insulting to the Church, in a Catholic college.  I walked out and reported him.  He told me he would fail me.  I really didn't care.  I knew it was an unfortunate and sinful thing that had happened but was being fixed.

However, I have to be honest when I say that I thought this was all behind us.  If you don't know... there is another grand jury report on the sexual abuse of minors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  That's what I'm talking about.

Now as this next round begins; I'm a middle school teacher in the city.  Sisters and friends keep asking me, "Did you read what the Cardinal said?" "Did you see the news story on...?" "Has anyone at your house said...?".  My students eloquently ask, "What happened with those perverts?"  Now, I am normally the one who has read/seen/heard all the news on everything.  Most of my nun friends count on me to have the answers because I like to read and ponder and explore issues.  However, my answer these days has been "no" or "I don't know."

My "no" isn't because I want to pretend it isn't happening.  (Please, I work with 12-15 year olds... I don't get the luxury of pretending anything-they are like lie detector tests.)  My "no" is because I can't see that in my life right now my keeping up with this news is going to be the most fruitful or grace filled way for me to be present to the Church here.  My response has to be solution-oriented.  That is why it makes me so angry to see people protesting outside the Cathedral, spreading gossip and hearsay, and giving radio interviews about the whole situation.  None of those are solutions to the problem that is at hand.  They are simply talk and distraction from what God is really asking of us.

I'm sure that there are many people who would disagree that my approach is geared to a solution but I feel it truly is.  I am offering my sacrifices and my prayers for the Church in Philadelphia and I am trying to educate the future leaders of the Church here.  That is all that I can do.  I can see in the eyes of my students God's grace calling them forth to radical sacrifice and trust in His promise through these events which will shape their understanding of Church and holiness forever.  I can only rely on my own experience, that God brings forth great grace in times of great sin.  I have to believe that he will use even this terrible experience for the building up of the Kingdom.      

Then I look again at my kids... how do they make sense of this stuff?  We did talk about it in really general terms but the saddest thing is that they aren't even shocked.  They hear about this stuff all the time anyway.  Maybe it is better they don't get upset by it.  I don't really know.  I just know I'm trying to encourage them to live knowing that they are preparing for a future where they will be responsible for the unfortunate situation we are in now.  That's why I'm so proud of them.  They are living up to it though.  They are my hope.

I know it affects everyone in a different and daily way.  For me, I go to chapel in the early morning hours in the convent and I pray for our Church.  In my convent, the sister in charge of chapel put sign and candle in front of the altar saying that we are praying for our priests.  In my apostolate, I am trying to foster the spirit of loving sacrifice, perseverance, and selfless giving.  These seem to be exactly what we need... at least in my mind and heart.... during this time of sadness and pain.

I hope that God will accept my gift of self and the gifts that I know my students are offering for the Church in Philadelphia.  We have been blessed with saintly leaders like St. John Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel and I really believe God will give the grace to raise up more holy men and women to work hard - to give their lives - for the Church here.  I think my students find that exciting (except the whole body in a glass box thing - that kinda creeps them out :) ).

Jesus, please help us.  We have nothing if we don't have You.  Please enter the hearts of Your children and inspire in them radical faith, love, and hope to follow You unreservedly, knowing that You alone will fulfill their every desire.  Change our hearts Lord!        

Saturday, February 12, 2011


This morning I felt so much comfort in the response to the psalm at Mass, "In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge."  This is probably going to be a really scattered post because I'm still thinking myself about everything that has happened in Philadelphia in the past few days.  Another indictment and another scandal has come out again.  It breaks the hearts of the people - the priests, the religious, the laity, the victims.  I'm still working it out in my mind and heart right now.  I have tried to post a few times but have stopped each time because I'm just not sure what to say.

I can't describe the sorrow I feel about everything.  I really do believe in faith that God is allowing us to experience this terrible mortification and purification right now for our own good.  When I look at the state our Church is in at this time I just wait and watch to see the great holy men and women God will call to do His work... to rebuild His Church.  My students fill my heart with hope as I watch their hearts slowly be enflamed through the purifying fire that is upon us now.

We received a letter to send home to parents after the news broke but the teachers were not allowed to comment on it.  My kids being the holy-rollers they are, wanted to read it right away when they saw it was from the Cardinal.  As I told them to put the letters in their backpacks they reminded me, "But Sister, this is important.  It's from the Cardinal!"  The next day they wanted us to talk about it again.  I wish I could have but I was under not permitted to do so.    Instead we spoke about how God could be calling them to be the hope and the future of the Church.  A few days before we were talking about the story of Abraham and the idea of sacrificing our wills.  My students came up with a few ways they could try to sacrifice their wills.  They are really competitive so it wasn't hard at all for me to get them to think of the best way to beat themselves!  They decided that they would offer one of those sacrifices for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia without any prompting of my own.

How much will God listen to the sacrifices of His dear children in response to the pain and hurt of His children before?  I believe their sacrifices will be what saves us.

I have to be honest when I say that I am angry at those who have caused this to happen to our Church.  That is not to say that I believe everything in the media but that I'm sure what they report has happened at some point and I am furious with a righteous anger that we have been betrayed as a Church and as children of God.  I am also convinced that God will raise up leaders whose holiness will be a brilliant light for the world.

We are at such a unique time where the sin of the world has entered into the Church and we are losing more and more everyday - not to say that there aren't any hopeful signs - but to be truthful that it is a difficult time for anyone to follow Christ.  I really believe that there will be a new springtime of generous sacrifice, radical love, and deep conversion to living the Gospel.  At the same time I hope they don't resent the rest of us too much for our shortcomings.  They have been failed.

Please join with me in prayer that God does for us what we need... that He cares for us as His children and that He protects the children under our care now and always.  Jesus, we need you!  Amen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


This week my convent had the joy of having one of our sisters stay with us.  It was lovely.  Today she came to school to see my classroom and my students.  Of course, I was bragging up and down about them.  "They made Confirmation this year and they are so holy and wonderful..."  And they really are, usually, pretty holy for sixth graders.  They may not always make the right decisions but they definitely have consciences that work.  When something happens sometimes they turn themselves in before I even find out about it.  It makes my heart fill with happiness to see what wonderful young men and women they are.

However, that picture was then shattered this afternoon - okay... I'm being dramatic.  It wasn't shattered but it did take a heavy blow.  At dismissal the boys were talking to me about the dance that a local Catholic, not school, organization has for them monthly.  They said, "What if Sister came?"  "I wouldn't go."  I acted very offended (I wasn't; I just know they think it's funny when I act like that because they giggle and giggle) and asked why they would ever not want me around.  After all, I'm the best Sister they have (and the only one!).  

I was so sad when they really told me why they wouldn't want me there - because of the way they "dance."  Yes, I know it has a name but I'm not going to even repeat it here.  I guess maybe they thought I wouldn't know it, but I'm in my twenties so I know everything they are talking about.  It just broke my heart to hear that they think that is okay to do.  They don't understand even a little bit how terrible it is.

So here is my dilemma... the world is taking over our children.  I don't feel like we can compete... other than by our faith in Jesus that He will be present to them.  But we have to be doing something wrong.  Or there has to be something more that we can be doing?  I don't know what it is though.  A few ideas for the moment are; modelling, sacrifice and penance, and intentional prayer for them.  We really are in a battle for the future of our world and for the salvation of souls.  It is increasingly difficult to form a good conscience everyday.  Everyday there is a new assault on things good and beautiful and right.  Whether it comes from the TV, the parents, the friends, or the neighborhoods... or all of them, our kids are being sucked in without a chance to a way of living that will never give them the true peace and joy that comes with a life of love.  

I know one conversation doesn't mean the world is over... but one conversation can be very telling - and this one was.  Pray with me that God calls up new leaders and new models for our young people and that they respond wholeheartedly to His call to live and love in faith.      

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Nuns Rock!

My local convent community is basically awesome.  This is my first year here and these sisters amaze me with their generosity and hospitality ALL the time.  Whatever shortcomings we all have... together... we are a really great group.  I'm so grateful to God for putting me in this community with these particular sisters.

This weekend I realized all over again how awesome they really are.  I asked to invite a large group of young sisters to stay at our house overnight so that we could recreate and be together.  They said yes and were thrilled to have the youngin's invade the house.  We live in a rather large house for the number of sisters here so there is a lot of room.  As part of our community spirit of hospitality I got all the sisters rooms ready for them before they came; beds turned down, towels out, extra blanket ready, homemade welcome sign, and a little Valentine gift on their beds.  I had a lot of fun, haha.  I love to entertain.

After everyone arrived safe and sound, well almost sound... this was Catholic Horrors...ummm... I mean Catholic Schools Week, we found out that one of the sisters had a little gift for us too.  Her superior gave us a little donation to get a bite out to eat.  We went for some wonderful food and talked, talked, and talked some more... about convent life, prayer, community, school, students, friends, family... and anything else we could think of.  When we got back, we joined the nuns in the community room and chatted for a while again.

When the majority of the group had fallen asleep in their chairs we got everyone up to bed amidst a lot of giggling and smiles.  It was just great to be together.  We slept in and went to a late Mass... after which we continued talking and just enjoying one another's company.

Bottom line is... other nuns might be annoyed by a bunch of giggly, loud, and goofy young nuns hanging around but mine are awesome (obviously we aren't disrespectful but it is nice to let loose with one another).  They were just happy to share our convent home with other sisters and enjoy one another's company.  It was great.

So now I am feeling quite happy and energetic about everything.  I love this feeling... it is definitely God's way of telling me to keep going and enjoy the exciting ride of religious life.  He is so present in that hospitality and goodness of the sisters with whom I live and I love to see Him there all the time!    

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can there really be more?

I have already lost count of how many snow days we have had here... but it seems like each week we are off from school once again because of a freak snowstorm.  Today was another day.... tomorrow will be another.

Today I spent about three hours with some of the boys trying to dig the convent cars out.  They are adorable but I'm not sure if I will be able to get out of bed after shoveling for so long.  We only got one car out!  One car after three hours of work.  I can't believe it!  Also after the three hours of work we had hot dogs and a snowball fight.  That was their pay for all their hard work!

This year I chose as my yearly intention the survival of Catholic Education.  However, I am wondering more and more about the survival of education period if we are never in school!  Now again we are hearing that there will be another storm next week.  The kids are loving it, but as a teacher, I am exhausted with the lack of instructional time.

I love being a teacher and being in school.  I wonder all the time how we can respond to the needs of young people through Catholic education.  It is getting more expensive, enrollment is going down, we are losing our ability to be in the worst neighborhoods, discipline is lacking because of family dynamics - and we have more and more students who are non-Catholic (not a bad thing because it is evangelization, but we must educate our own children.)  Another struggle is forming young men and women into the adults God has made them to be when their lives are filled with over-sexualization, partying, lack of self-discipline, and lack of motivation.  We have to be everything to them and there are less and less sisters teaching in schools who can be available all the time for our children.

Just some thoughts on the situation as we approach Catholic Schools Week next week - if we are ever in school again!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Germs and Community

Sometimes it is good to take stock of life... almost always it doesn't measure up to expectations though, haha.  These past few days I have been at workshops and I have a wicked cold so I have been like a ghost in the convent.  They see my shadow move around... to get tea, sometimes venturing to get food... but not much else.  To be honest... I miss the nuns!  I miss Jesus in Chapel!

Now, I wouldn't be such a ghost if the circumstances were not out of my control, however, it does make me realize how important those parts of my life are... and how easily I can forget them.  Tonight when I ventured downstairs out of my bedroom to get some tea for my cough I thought... how long has it been since I've been in the community room?  The answer is a few days.  I hate that!  But I've been sick and leaving early and coming home late from workshops.  It isn't always like this.

Tonight though I found myself thinking... is there anyone out there?  It felt quite lonely to not have seen anyone in a few days.  I don't know how some sisters do it; living in apartments or doing jobs that keep them travelling frequently.  I would find that so difficult.  I love my nuns.  I love living in community and I love living with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

We always joke.  When someone is sick the nuns always say, "Stay in the same temperature."  It really translates into, "Please stay in your room... we don't want your germs."  That's where I am right now... I've been exiled so I'll just have to wait it out.  I know the nuns will welcome me back without my germs as soon as I get rid of them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vocation Awareness

Well... I just wanted to say I was grateful for the comments on my last post.  I'm going to put it on the side burner until I get a little perspective... or distance, from this strange encounter I have had.  In other news... it was vocation awareness week this week and I tried to make my dear students very, very aware.  I know, I always say it, but, they are the best kids in the whole world.

Many of them, as their hormones rage in middle school, say that they would not want to be a priest, sister, brother, consecrated virgin...   I love their honesty and questions and I want them to feel like they can talk to me about anything in their hearts and minds.  It is interesting to me that the sixth grade boys tell me everything, the eighth grade girls tell me everything and seventh grade, boys and girls, can't keep a secret to save their lives.  It makes them all the more endearing to my heart!

Anyway, the other day, one of the girls in eighth grade was giving me the update on the two boys who are both attempting to win her affections these days.  She is just a beautiful girl who has had a very difficult family life but has matured with the help of God's grace.  I listened as I always do and gave her my advice... (one of the boys seems much nicer than the other!).  Her homeroom teacher came to me at the end of the day and told me that she said that I was the "perfect nun." HA!  Her reasoning was that I "was holy, but still understood the business..."  It made me really happy to hear that - even though I'm not holy... she is right that I understand "the business."  It isn't that long that I have been out of the dating scene and I think I do "get it."

After that, one of my boys came to talk to me about something I told him the other day.  He was goofing off with one of the other boys.  They really are good kids but it certainly wasn't the most respectful conversation as far as women go.  I said to him, "If I were (the girl he liked), my feelings would be hurt right now."  He said to me, "Sister, you were right.  I talked to 'Mary' last night and she was upset about what I said.  I said I was sorry and it's alright now."  I won't lie... I definitely was happy to hear I was right! haha.  But I was happier that he learned something about how much it matters how he acts.  He is really a leader among his peers and if he knows how to behave, he can influence many of them to behave like young Catholic men.

No matter what my girls or boys choose to do with their lives, although I hope and pray that they follow God's will for them, I will be proud of them for their decisions.  I know that they are growing into mature and responsible young men and women.  I thank God so much for the opportunity to walk with them.  It is such a gift to me to be able to see His grace operating in their lives.  It fills my heart with gratitude and love as I watch them grow into God's own special gift to the world.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Religious Habit

I've been thinking quite a bit recently about the habit.  I've had some uncomfortable experiences in the past few months regarding my habit and so I have been trying to work it all out in my head and heart and for some reason, I feel like sharing.

My take on the habit is that it is absolutely necessary.  My community has some options and to be completely honest - I hate it.  I wish we all wore the same thing all the time.  However, we do wear a habit and for that I am grateful.    The style of habit I wear is definitely in my opinion - "poor, modest, and becoming."  It is practical for the work I do and the place I live and it certainly offers a witness to the people I meet.  

However, my recent experiences have left me questioning my attitudes about the habit and the attitudes of others.  It doesn't make me uncomfortable when people point out how happy they are to see a young sister in a habit - it is a normal and appropriate conversation piece.  However, when a grown man tells me that I'm too young and beautiful to be a sister - a red alarm goes off in my mind.  When someone stops me in the store to ask me where I work and what community I am in - I happily answer, with as much information as I can safely give.  However, when someone asks to touch me (yes - I'm not joking - this did happen) I am extremely uncomfortable.  I mean - how do you graciously answer that question?!  

The above examples being strange - I would also add that others are just plain scary.  While I love that the world knows that I am a spouse of Christ because of my habit - because of that witness I can also become an easy target.  I didn't realize this until very recently when a man (a man who should have known better by his state in life than to say this to me) stated, "You should be careful, many men will find you attractive because you are young, pretty, and in a habit."  (His intention was not to honestly warn me.)  

Since then I have found myself extremely uncomfortable in a few situations and I have been asking myself a few questions to which I still have no answers.  Should I stop wearing the habit I now wear in favor of a less feminine version?  Does the veil always incite this type of attention?  Are there times when it is appropriate, prudent, and justifiable not to wear the habit for the safety of oneself?  Would people identify me as "less of a nun" if I wore a habit that was not as traditional as the more feminine one I wear now even though it is still blessed?  How do I continue to give an open, approachable, and honest witness while still guarding myself from the inappropriate comments of others?

So those are my thoughts at the moment on the habit - not the most religious and inspiring, but a struggle that I'm sharing for now.  I hope it wasn't too much to share, but I do feel like sometimes the issue of the habit isn't talked about with a lot of openness and understanding and I just wanted to shed another light on it.  Let me know what you think.