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

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!