Courage and Hope

IMG_2032I just got back from a weekend retreat with some of my Giving Voice sisters.  This retreat happens every year in sunny Arizona but this is only my second time attending.  I’m so glad I went because it was just the weekend with God and community that I needed.

The weekend retreat is peer facilitated.  As participants we were free to engage small group sharing, large group sharing, private reflection, ritual, and prayer.  The first evening opened with a check-in process where we all shared how we were as we began the weekend.  Some had positive things to share, many had difficult things going on in their lives, but all of us were grateful for the time to be and pray with our peers.  As we each placed an object from home in the center of the circle we shared how the item symbolized our hope.  I brought a bronze relief depicting Jesus breaking bread on the road to Emmaus.   This little bronze reminder has hung on the wall above my desk since it was given to me as a gift when I was received as a novice.  Being reminded of that ceremony and the wonderful year I had afterwards always fills me with hope for the future.  Also, this image was my symbol of courage and hope because the story of Emmaus talks about how people can walk through fear or loss, and find hope in God.

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Like the couple traveling to and fro on the road to Emmaus, I think of my vocation as a journey.  Sometimes I run away like the couple, and sometimes I turn back and return just as they did.  As a woman on a journey I began to think about traveling lightly during the second day of this retreat.  Sisters shared their reflections from Saturday morning and I began to hear what I needed to hear: “Authenticity” “What is it that I really need?”  “You Only Live Religious Life Once.”  As I prayed about my own journey I realized I was holding onto things that no longer served me.  I tend to hold onto supposed-tos,  should haves, and what-ifs.  These are the things that weigh me down on the road back from Emmaus.  These are the things I thought about letting go of during our prayer service Saturday night.  I wrote what I needed to let go of on a paper and stood with my sisters as we burned our slips of paper in a campfire.  I prayed for the grace I needed on my journey as a sister anointed my hands with oil, and we lit candles to symbolize our hope.

Two more words of wisdom came to me on this retreat: “Grief does not stop who we are” and “Hope is a way of life.”  As my journey takes it’s ups and downs I pray I have the grace to let go of what is no longer needed so I can make room for what God is giving me now.  For now, this weekend with my cohort has refreshed my hope and shown me courage.

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Human-Becoming

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Awhile back I asked my ministry if I could have two weeks off and people politely inquired where I was going on my vacation.  I laughed and told them it was no vacation but rather a two-week meeting with my community in Buffalo!  I am here with my community volunteering on the hospitality committee, or as I like to call it the ‘fun and games commission’.  This is my first experience of Chapter since this meeting only takes place once every six years and last time I was a first-year candidate.  As Sisters have asked me how my time here has been and what I think of the whole process I reflected back on where I was in my discernment and incorporation six years ago during the previous Chapter.  Looking back to who I was as a candidate I realized how lost in translation I was then and must laugh at the image of me partaking in that Chapter.  Sometimes I still get lost but now I am not shy about asking for context or history, and people are always ready to fill in my blanks and share the ongoing story of my community. 

From my point of view this Chapter depends a lot on history since we are sitting with a document produced three Chapters ago.  As my unofficial table of support staff Sisters discussed the discernment questions we came upon the image of transparencies.  I may be the last generation who knows what those even are!  Nonetheless, I have found it to be a good metaphor for our discussion as we sat with our Critical Concerns.  We placed the transparency of our discernment question asking where our God of Mystery and Wisdom is calling us now along with the transparency of our impertive to deepen our integrety of word and deed.  In this light my table saw that the destructive dynamics of pervasive power were fundamental to all of our Critical Concerns.  The next piece with which to overlay these layers was not completely clear for us but we do feel called to, in someway, let our lives model a new way of being and becoming which counter this pervasive power. 

There is some sort of gray space between our ministerial lives of service to the materially poor and the ministry of our lives as Gospel women committed to prayer and community.  My unofficial table began to discuss this space which we have dubbed the space of becoming: as in I am not a “human-being” but rather a “human-becoming” on this faith journey.  The witness of our lives as one community within this human family models the lived understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings in creation.  This modeling may be one way to fight for equlaity, the environment, and peace.  We have been doing this all along yet I feel called now to go deeper and seek this level of connection with every moment, and fiber of my being.  Who knows where this next phase will take us, but I can confidently and comfortably say that whatever is next I believe we will continue to be faithful to our call and will depen and widen our understanding of who God is as Love.

Live from the Thomas Merton Center

Here is the video of my live interview in cased you missed it.  Feel free to ask questions by commenting on this post!