Called by God...ignited by compassion...hearts on fire for the mission
Why would someone become a sister nowadays? This was one of the questions I frequently heard when I started to discern religious life.
But really, why are we who we are, and why do we do what we do?
About three weeks ago, younger Dominicans came together in San Antonio for the "Dominican Women Afire" gathering. We explored ways of moving into the future together while we surfaced the needs of our times.
Some of you are probably too young to remember the TV ad of a bygone era that proclaimed, "When E. F. Hutton speaks, everybody listens!" Well, God's got it all over E.F. Hutton, and it’s inspiring to see the response young women make when they detect within themselves the rumblings of a possible "call" from God to consecrated life. They listen - and are moved to take action. For some, this newly dawning "awareness of call" can be scary, confusing and even anxiety producing. For most, it is recognized as something very important—not to be suppressed or ignored. Whenever possible, it's always good to find others who are feeling similarly so you can reflect together on what you are experiencing, and share to what God may be inviting you.
When I was in Girl Scouts, I learned how make a fire. I collected the tinder, kindling, and large pieces of wood and then constructed and lit the tinder which then lit the kindling and the larger pieces of wood. The fire would leap from the small elements to the larger and the fire would then burn strong and hot.
The Holy Spirit sometimes works in the same way in our own lives. I know that the still small voice inside of me that first began to beckon me to discern my Call – began as a little spark. That spark was tended and fanned into flame by the sisters I met as I discerned my vocation. Perhaps there was a particular sister who did that for you? Perhaps you are a discerner who has a Sister doing that for you now?
Sometimes there are events in our lives that deeply touch our hearts and engage our minds and we cannot wait to tell the ones we love all about them! Over the Labor Day Weekend, 13 of us had such an experience in San Antonio, Texas, where we prayed, listened, and deliberated with over 130 other Dominican Sisters in our formation cohort from around the country. This event was named - Dominican Women Afire!
In the days ahead, after we have had some more time to reflect on what we experienced, we hope to share more with you about this San Antonio gathering. We will want to solicit your thoughts and glean your wisdom and insights about ideas that surfaced there for how we all may with Spirit-fed vitality continue to offer our "common treasure"—Dominican Life and Mission—as an OP Family in this 21st Century.
There is a growing group of individuals who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious" (SBNR). Though the phrase can have different meaning for each individual, it generally means that the person sees themselves as spiritual people, but they do not subscribe to organized religious traditions. With its own Facebook page and website, the SBNR phrase seems to resonate with a good number of people, especially in the younger generation who are seeking deeper meaning and spirituality in their lives, but have become disillusioned with traditional religion for a variety of reasons.
"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Recently I was able to take some precious time away for retreat in the great state of Maine. One day, with another of our Sisters, I had an opportunity to walk along a very special path there called "The Marginal Way." This narrow path winds and stretches for a mile high up along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean where the views of the sea are pretty spectacular. There are some shaded spots along the path too with benches nestled between trees, trees that seem barely connected to the craggy rocks. These invite walkers—perhaps pilgrims—to pause and drink deeply of the beauty and majesty of God's creation.
The candlelight procession around the Garden of Our Lady of Peace reminded me of those held each evening at the Grotto in Lourdes, France. Candles were carefully shielded with paper lanterns, rosaries swung from the hands of old and young alike and the voices of more than 40,000 pilgrims rose like incense before God. This Procession and Opening Mass marked the beginning of the 37th Annual Marian Days Festival.
I was unprepared for the swell of emotion I felt as I watched the people walk, sing, and pray with such joy and deep faith. I could feel God's presence with us as we walked along with them. In the background the crickets and tree frogs sang along on this muggy August night in Carthage, MO. It was as if all of creation was singing along.
At evening prayer today Dominicans (the Order of Preachers) all over the world will begin this year’s celebration of St. Dominic de Guzman founder of the order. Happy Feast Day
Two aspects of Dominic’s life stand out for me. First, he engaged the Word of God in the Scriptures with all that was happening in the lives of the people of his time. His willingness to leave the cathedral where he lived a more monastic life as a canon gave him the opportunities to see the struggles of the people of his time and to take direct actions to make a difference.
When I first moved to Columbus, OH, it might have been assumed that I would become a "Buckeye" fan. However, friends quickly learned that my usual way of picking a team (if I watched the game at all) was to cheer for the underdog. You see, I was neither a "fan" nor a "follower" of football. Recently, I read an interesting article about a retreat in Denver given by Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D., of the Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee. Bishop Steib asked the participants to consider if they were "fans" or "followers" of Jesus. The distinction, of course, lies in the level of action, connection and personal commitment.
As I listened to Sr. Sandra Schneiders, IHM, talk about how Jesus had invited some of his disciples to drop everything and follow Him (like Matthew the tax collector) and other disciples to change how they treated people in the places where they lived (like Zacchaeus), I realized this might be a good way to begin a vocation talk. Jesus needs both itinerant disciples and householder disciples. He himself had no place to call his own. He traveled with his band of followers, both men and women, but they relied on his householder disciples for places to lodge and likely, for food to eat.