Ever wonder what we do at a monastery all day? The answer's quite simple really. We fall and we get up. We fall and we get up. We fall and we get up. The important thing is that we keep getting up. All of us fall. All of us make mistakes. Here's praying that despite it all we continue to get up.
Remembering Sister Carla Mitchell, OSB
You may have noticed on our home page that Sister Carla Mitchell died October 27. Sister Carla was 104 years old and would have been 105 in December! I can't even imagine all the changes and innovations that she witnessed during her lifetime. I've seen many changes in my lifetime and I'm only half Sister Carla's age plus a few years!
Sister Carla was well known as a teacher in Indiana, North Dakota, Arizona, Louisiana, California, and probably a few other places. She touched the lives of many, many children and she touched the lives of their parents. Last night at her wake service one of the parents spoke about how Sister Carla tutored his daughter in Latin because that subject wasn't offered in her high school. Great nieces and nephews spoke about her encouraging them in their studies and the fun they had with her.
Many of the sisters shared their memories of Sister Carla. One memory was about her wanting to take voice lessons as a jubilee gift from one of the sisters. She had one voice lesson and at the end of it she was asked if there wasn't something else she could give her as a jubilee gift! The music teacher knew that singing was just not Sister Carla's cup of tea!
Sister Carla always had such a positive attitude. She looked for the good in whatever was happening and encouraged others to do the same. She was a faithful, prayerful, fun-loving individual who will be missed by all of us. Sister Carla, pray to God for all of us.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
A Weekend at the Monastery
This past week has been so busy and full of lots of things at work. They were all good things, and I enjoyed every minute- helping students, getting several events ready, and the like. But, I was so ready for the weekend at the end of the day Friday! Then, I got to come to the monastery for community meetings. It has been such a refreshing time- a time to catch up with friends, reenergize myself, sleep, and learn about all the terrific things that are happening for our community and what people are involved in. And we get to celebrate Jubilee this morning! What a blessing for me. I feel ready to tackle a new week of work tomorrow!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Ten Spiritual Tips
(1) Stop worrying. Worry kills life. (2) Begin each day with a prayer. It will arm your soul. (3) Control appetite. Over indulgence clogs mind and body. (4) Accept your limitations. There are few who are great and they have enough worries. (5) Don’t envy. It wastes times and energy. (6) Have faith in people. Cynicism is caustic. (7) Exercise. Go for a walk. Get out and about. It clears the mind. (8) Read a book to stimulate imagination and broaden your views. (9) Spend some time alone for the peace and solitude of silence. (10) Try to want what you have instead of spending your strength trying to get what you want.
I'm taking a Master's class at IUS this fall. I'm really enjoying it and learning about lots of things I'm doing wrong in the classroom. HA! I shouldn't say that they're wrong, I guess. There are just better ways to do things. Teaching 3 year olds to 8th graders does get tricky at times. I am enjoying the class and learning lots. One thing our teacher had us do was write down 16 action steps we'd do for ourselves. It's easy to burn out in teaching - or any occupation for that matter. Especially those that have the person constantly giving and doing. I thought it was a good idea. I tried to write down realistic things that would be fun and beneficial. Some things I already do on a regular basis, but I put them down anyway as ways that I'm helping myself.
It's easy to get stressed and overworked. There's always more to do. If a person's job is serving others, their job will never be done. It's good to make a list of things to do for yourself - either daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, whatever. I plan to keep the list handy and treat myself to different things from time to time. The good news is that the treats don't have to involve money. They could be playing a game on the computer, reading a book for fun, playing cards once a week. Two things I put were that I would play the piano for enjoyment and take time to learn the guitar. Connecting with music is a good way for me to revive my spirits.
So, go ahead. Treat yourself to something fun. Even if it's eating lunch at a park or writing a letter to a friend. Do something for yourself and enjoy it. You deserve it. Dairy Queen blizzards are always a good idea also.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Holy Saturday Time
I know it's not Triduum in the larger liturgical season, but I feel like I'm living in a Holy Saturday kind of time right now. I've been between worlds lately. After a valient struggle with cancer, my aunt Susie passed away last week. I wish I could make it to the funeral tomorrow, but distance and demands at work this week are making that trip unrealistic. Please pray for my uncle and cousins. A building contractor his whole life, my uncle has spent years building houses for other people, and over the last couple years he started building his own house, situated on my grandma's farm where he and Aunt Susie planned to spend their retirement years. The house now is just about finished, but the way things have played out, that dream is not to be, at least not the way he hoped it would be. Talk about a Good Friday heartbreak on so many levels.
At the same time, looking ahead to the Resurrection (or perhaps I'm totally jumping around the liturgical year to the celebration of the Incarnation), my sister and brother-in-law are expecting their first child any day now. We expected the little one by C-section last Thursday, but her little lungs weren't quite ready yet, so they are giving her another week or so to develop a bit more. I am so excited about this little girl's coming into the world. She will be my first niece, and when you aren't having kids of your own, nieces and nephews become even more wonderful! I have been praying for my sister and this baby for months, and now the time is almost here. I can't wait to meet her.
I wonder if God anticipates our coming home to heaven as much as we anticipate the birth of a new baby. Of course we don't want to be born into eternal life too early; some of us need a bit more time to develop our spiritual lives here on earth first. I would like to think God allows each of us as much time as we need. And while I can't believe God actually wills for us the terrible suffering of cancer, I do know that my God loved us enough to experience suffering with us in the crucifixion, and that he also experiences it, in us, with us even now. We are the Body of Christ. While I don't understand the whole mystery of why good people suffer, I do trust that the answer is in the Paschal Mystery, that in Christ's dying and rising to new life, our deaths, our pain, our losses are also transformed into something new, and good, and beautiful. Life is worth living, even if it involves pain, because woven into the same fabric are incredible joys and fantastic beauty- the mystery of love that takes us through pain and death to life.
And so with all the hushed excitement of Easter Vigil, I await the birth of this as yet unnamed niece, with all the prayers and good wishes I can muster for her: may she know joy; may she know love; may she know her gifts, and be a blessing to her family and to the world. May she be a holy child, know God, and bring others to God. May she be good, and true, and beautiful. As Christians, we are an Easter people: in every day, in every pain, in every graced moment, new life beckons us forth.
Friday, October 17, 2008
A few weeks ago, Sr. Catherine Marie made her perpetual monastic profession in our monstery church. Last weekend, my cousing Sarah married the love of her life at their home parish in Louisville. Though the two of them are embarking on very different journeys, the relative proximity of the two ceremonies left me thinking about how they are more alike than different.
I think the most striking thing is that both feel quite strongly that they are following the path God has lain out for their lives. At a prayer service the night before her profession, Sr. Catherine spoke so eloquently about how she felt God calling her to this lifestyle. At my cousin's reception, her lifelong best friend spoke of how Sarah and her husband were so different that only God could have seen the beautiful couple they would form. Though the lifestyles are radically different, I believe that God has called each of these young women to the lives that are best.
I was also struck by the similarity in the ceremonies. Both made their commitments as part of a community of faith. My cousin had all of her friends and family there to witness the ceremony. Sr. Catherine had her monastic community along with many of the other important people in her life. Neither of these ceremonies is private. Vows were stated, documents were signed, rings were exchanged, hugs and kisses shared... all done publicly because their vocation is not meant to be a privte one. For both, it is important to be part of the community of God.
Finally, they each stood in the sanctuary and made their commitment not just to the community or to their husband, but also to God, to faithfully live out the lifestyle to which they have been called. Both ceremonies included prayer as the backdrop for everything that was done. I find it absolutely awe-inspiring to see people commit their lives to following the voice of God, whatever it may be.
And so I end with a prayer for Catherine, for Sarah and for everyone else who is striving to find the will of God and to follow it all the days of their lives. God bless them all.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love to watch the leaves change colors. I also like the cooler weather. Fall is also a time for Parent Teacher Conferences. I am preparing for these next week. Then we have Fall Break. I am looking forward to a small break. I am going to spend it at the Monastery. I always find it invigorating to spend time at home in Ferdinand. It is a time to reconnect with the sisters that live at home.
Fall Gathering on The Hill
Here at Ferdinand we had a Fall Gathering. Many sisters came to Saint Gertrude Hall where we played games of choice. Some played cards and others played dice or board games. Sister Betty and I played some bowling, golf, and tennis on the Wii, which was donated to us by a very nice family. We also had floats, which they call brown cows around here. The sisters in our infirmary made some wonderful fall sugar cookies, too. We finished off the evening with Compline (night prayers). It was a delightful, fun evening!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Mmmm, Mmmm, S'mores
Just wanted to share some pictures from Sister Traci's feast day party. I live with 5 others in a house in Louisville. We follow the Rule of Benedict, pray together twice a day, and eat supper together in the evening. And, of course, we like to have fun also. We try not to miss a chance to have a party. October has kept us hopping with 3 feast days and a profession party.
Here you can see we got a little creative with the city life. This idea came to use when we were out of power for a week because of the wind storm, and we decided to do it again. Nothing like s'mores to make things better.
They teach English to immigrants at the school next to us. Some of the kids were playing in the playground and came over for some s'mores also. That was a lot of fun. After the s'mores we enjoyed a game of Pay Me - a card game. It's easy to play and doesn't break your pocket books. We play for nickels. Since I'm writing this, I'd like to brag a little and let you know I WON! My profit was a whopping 80 cents!
Hope you're having fun wherever you are.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The Challenge of The Express
As Sister Sarah Cathleen mentioned, she and I went to see The Express this past Saturday. Unlike Sister Sarah, I am not a football fan, but I absolutely loved this movie. While it was inspiring to see a young man overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, I was also challenged by the behavior of the "fans" attending some of the games in which Syracuse played in 1959-1960 or so. I became very distressed by the racism and the absolute hatred conveyed by some of the fans of the opposing teams as well as the judgment of Ernie Davis and the other players through preconceived notions. At one point I thought, "I could never say or do what those people did and said to those players." The thought that followed was, "How do you know? Would you have followed along with what was popular instead of what was right or just? Would you have let fear rule you? How can you say that you wouldn't do that?" I would like to think that I wouldn't, and yet I don't know how I would have responded if I had been raised in that culture and time instead of the one in which I was raised. At this time, The Express calls me to examine the ways in which I still let judgment and injustice into my life and to decide who or what I am following: the way of Christ or the boulevard of popular opinion.
I love watching football! This weekend, Sr. Briana and I went to see the movie, "The Express." It is about the first African-American football player to win the Heisman Trophy- an award given to the most outstanding college football player each year. His name was Ernie Davis. He went to Syracuse University from 1959-1962. He overcame so many odds and prejudices in his experiences growing up in Pennsylvania and New York and when he started college. Yet, he knew how important it was to be true to himself and use the gifts God had given him. I was very inspired. Growing up, he was very nervous about speaking and reading in front of people and often stuttered, but throughout the movie, he was put in situations where he had to stand up for himself, use his voice and his actions to help people become aware of the way they were judging him and others because of the color of their skin. During 2 games in particular, fans threw all kinds of things onto the field because he was playing, and the coach pulled him out for fear about a riot if he scored a touchdown. He even had to sleep in a dingy, awful room with cots when his team made it to the national championship game because he was black. Yet, he persevered, hang tough,and showed the world that it is what is inside that matters! He made people believe in him. His teammates trusted him, cared about him, and went to bat for him because of his integrity. It really made me think about my ability to persevere in the midst of judgement on the part of others towards me. Can I live with integrity- truly being the person God is calling me to be, even if people might judge me or not understand? Wow- what an inspiration! (And it didn't hurt that my favorite college team is Syracuse! Go, Orangemen!) If you get a chance, you should see the movie!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Prayer Changes Things
I was rereading some of my journal entries from past years. It was interesting to reflect on where I used to be, how far I've come, and how far I have yet to go. I know it may be hard to know what God's will is and to answer it. At least it was hard for me. Hearing it wasn't too hard, but answering it was difficult. I'd like to share excerpts of 2 journal entries with you.
9/9/1998 Dear God, My life feels so ideal, but yet I feel so lost. I have a great job, but yet I don't feel like I'm inviting God into my life or my decision making. I made a Big step when I went on retreat. I told all the people there I wanted to become a nun, but now I've retreated back into a black hole that I've made for myself. I want it to be a secret from lots of people. I'm more to myself - withdrawn. I want to be close to God, but I want to keep my relationship with God separate from everyone else. I'm lost. I can't give myself over to God. I still have fears and worries and I don't know if I'll be able to get rid of them. . . . It worries me and literally wears me out. Everything takes time, patience and more than anything else prayer. We must pray for the things that we are scared of so that God will give us strength and lift us up. I think that I'm afraid of prayer and its extreme power. When I pray for things that I'm afraid of, I know that things will change, but I'm afraid of that change. I don't know if I'm ready for it and I certainly don't want to pray for it to come. . . I hope I'm ready when I have to face the truth, to walk the path, and live the life that I feel God is calling me to. God, I pray that you unchain my heart and help me to erase my fears and worries. I feel lost, God, and confused. Please help me. Amen.
After lots of praying, visiting Ferdinand several times, and getting to know some of the sisters, I entered the monastery in August 2001. Here's what I wrote in November.
11/7/01 God, I do enjoy being here. I enjoy this life you have called me to. I've been wanting to ask people if they like being a nun. I can't fathom being here as long as the other people. Just one day at a time. Right now I'm loving it. Other people are here and they're loving it. I find it all very crazy really. God, you know what you're doing. I'll just follow you. Thank you, God. I love you. Amen.
God works in mysterious ways. I look back and wonder why I fought it so much. It did take time and education for me to accept where I felt God leading me. We pray that you may be open to wherever God is leading you.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Be Careful What You Say
I teach music to 3 year olds to 8th graders. It's so interesting to hear how kids interpret what you say. I made perpetual profession on Saturday. One of the 3rd graders had heard that I had become "a full blooded nun." She was concerned that I had had some kind of surgery! That they had done something to my blood! Having around 450 students, I hear stories like this all the time. I hope you enjoy them too.
Profession was absolutely beautiful. I'll write more when I get a chance. But right now I better get ready for the pre-k students. They're getting ready for the Christmas program.
Monday, October 6, 2008
How Many People?
38,800! Can you believe it! That is how many people showed up to a Friday night football game. Where did this happen? In Louisville, KY Saint Xavier High School and Trinity High School have one of the longest and largest rivalry games in the country. Saint Xavier Tigers had the Trinity Shamrocks for supper that night beating them 30-6
I only mention this because I have worked at St. Xavier (St X) for eight years and Trinity is our rival. There is another sister in our house who is in her first year of teaching at Trinity! Oh what fun we are having making subtle jabs at each other in defense of our schools. So the race is on to see who will have the most State Championships this year. St X or Tinity? Stay tuned the fun has just begun.
Catholics Please Vote!
Please take the time to go to the polls, November 4, 2008!!!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
We are in the midst of parent teacher conferences at school these last couple of days. My role this year has been to be available to answer any Religion or Resource questions people may have while they are in the building, providing whatever help or info they may need. What a gift that has been for me. I didn't think very many people would want to stop by my office- and I brought lots of puzzles and quirky things to work on- but I didn't have a free moment at all last night! What an awesome adventure to be able to talk and share with people about Confirmation, about Church, about Reconciliation- God in their everyday life! And of course- people stopped by to talk about football and the Miami Dolphins (several families know it's my favorite team!) Each moment is beautiful. I was so grateful for the people I am able to work with and minister with and for- even if it's just to play with my toys I have there while they wait!