Friday, February 27, 2015

Growing Awareness

I have been networking very intentionally with other young and middle-aged religious for some years now. Our conversations are always very rich and grace-filled. This blog is a result of those conversations, the result of my own prayer and reflection and the result of my lived experience of religious life at this time.
At this point, we know that religious life has changed radically in each of the last several decades, and that it will likely change even more radically in the coming decades. My ministry calls me to journey with communities that have come to accept the reality that their community's life journey is coming to an end. They come to embrace this reality with amazing courage and grace, and the realization brings them a great deal of peace and freedom. Accepting their current reality, they can fully live the final decades of their community's life journey with grace and integrity.
They are writing their community's last chapter. Like any good book, we don't want it to end, but end it must. And the sisters in this generation have the challenge and the grace to write that chapter. The chapter that will tie together all the strands of the community's life story.
It is a privilege for me in ministry to walk with the sisters and the brothers whose communities have made these decisions. With disarming simplicity and courage, they see the things they gave their lives to coming to an end, or better, given over into the hands of competent, committed lay people.
More and more communities come to this place of acceptance and peace with their own completion. In many of these communities, there is a small cadre of sisters in their 20s, 30s 40s and 50s, still in active ministry, still vibrant. We acknowledge the decline of the largest generation of religious ever to live and pray and serve in the USA.
In the midst of this reality, I am coming to find my hope, my strength, my joy in the inter-congregational networks of sisters: Giving Voice and Sisters 2.0. I am coming to value both my deep and lasting relations with my home-congregation, and the rich and vibrant relations across congregations.
I discover and celebrate a 'sisterhood' that is bigger than any one congregation. I have a deep joy when I think of these sisters, women of faith, women of courage and women of hope. Intelligent, well-educated and broadly experienced, these sisters are taking up the challenge of carrying religious life into the heart of the 21st century and beyond.
May we cherish the sacred trust of our communities, live it with joy and share it generously. Pray with us. Pray for us. Join us.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lenten Journey Home

Pascha MapOnce again we begin our Lenten journey, signed with ashes, with strains of Attende Domine wafting through our churches and in our ears and hearts.

Listen, O God and have mercy on us... We have wandered off, lost our way and once again we find hearts longing to set out anew on a journey that leads us back to God, to peace.

This Lent, I find myself thinking of 'home'. It is perhaps because once again I find myself needing to move my residence. So as I begin the Lenten journey, I ask myself where this year's journey will bring me.

I think that the Lenten journey isn't about giving-up, or doing-more, but about finding balance. Where in my God-life do I need to find balance. What one thing would make me more centered, more God-ly, more Christian?

Each Lent, the answer is different. This year, as I contemplate yet another move, I feel that my Lenten journey should be a journey home, a journey that brings me to a more rooted place in God. That will take two directions for me. Groundedness and intentionality.

I think the call to groundedness is a call to settle into prayer, into contemplation with a renewed sense of finding my home in the heart of God. This is where I often find myself in prayer, but I feel the call to a more conscious presence there.

I think the call to intentionality is to accept my journey to a new house, a new location. And to find in that journey a call to that place of groundness in God. So it's a sort of dual call to the same place. A Lenten journey home....

This is my prayer for my own journey, and I pray for you, as we all walk this journey together....


Friday, February 13, 2015

The Road Not Taken...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,  
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler...

This is a simple poem that I memorized in school so many years ago. It came to mind as I was praying this morning. How many times in my life have two roads diverged, and "I looked down one as far as I could... then took the other, because it was grassy and wanted wear."
The particular choice of roads that came to mind this morning was one that I made in the waning months of my college days. I was a pre-med student, and I had been accepted at several medical schools. In just a few months I would be graduating, and then in the fall, off to medical school.
At that time, as I recall it now, my one dream was being fulfilled. It had taken all my time, energy and attention to study, get good grades and get into medical school. Now that I was "in" I could relax somewhat, and begin to think of medical school, and a career beyond.
It was when my thoughts began to wander to that career beyond medical school that the thought of religious life first entered into my thinking. At first it was just a vague possibility: maybe, some day. But it soon became a stronger sense of invitation and call. What if this is something real? What does a vocation really feel like? What does it mean? Could it be?
I don't remember the time line, but looking back, it must have been rather fast. From those first musings, a deep sense of call took root, and I began exploring religious communities. Haltingly at first, I did not know how to start the conversation. I didn't even know how to start the prayer.
In time, I was visiting religious communities, and by degrees, this 'call' took over my life. I began to question the goal of medical school that had been my pre-occupation since sometime in high school. While communities assured me that I could certainly go to medical school, then enter, I had a sense of the timeline. This call to religious life was something that I needed to pursue now.
I entered religious life that fall and the rest, as they say, is history.
The road not taken? Medical school? The question of going to medical school came up over the years, but in the end I never went. I have used my pre-med, scientific background in many ways over the years. The med school class that I would have been a part of, graduated the spring when I made first profession.
But I, I took the road less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
I sometimes wonder what that other path would have been like? Would I have entered religious life? What would ministry as a physician been like?
But I know that my life as it has played out has been a gift and a grace, to me, and hopefully to those among whom I have prayed, lived and worked. I have prayed deeply, and had opportunities and helps in developing a rich spiritual life. I have met interesting people and have many wonderful relationships. I have lived in many different places and had opportunities to travel. I ended up studying law and theology, and I serve the legal needs of religious communities, a ministry which I love.
On this Valentines Day weekend, I say:
To all that religious life has been: Amen, Amen, Amen!
To all that religious life will yet be: Yes, Yes, Yes!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Vacation of the Spirit

I am going on retreat for the coming week. I look forward to this once-a-year opportunity to set aside ministry, community, projects, deadlines, challenges, etc. and turn my full attention to God who is at the center of all these important parts of my life. Retreat is a time to 'choose the better part' and focus on the 'one thing necessary.' It is like a little vacation-of-the-Spirit.

Who has this kind of opportunity? Every year, for the last 30+ years, I have taken this time apart: good-years, bad-years, high-years, low-years and everything in between. I hear the call of my God: come apart with me and rest a while.

I've come to the realization that winters are the best times for retreat for me. The rhythm of my life and ministry have a naturally quieter time now, allowing me to slip away for this time of prayer without too much worry about what I'm leaving behind. In the weeks coming up to the retreat, my thoughts turn to this special time, gradually opening my heart to the gifts it will offer.

As I settle down to prayer in these weeks before retreat, I've let my heart and mind wander quietly through the last year, noting events, gifts, challenges, and more especially, the presence of God in big and small ways through the year. When I get to retreat, there will be time to be more deliberate and probing about this. But in the time before retreat, it happens naturally and gently, as I look forward to this special time.
I am ready for retreat, and grateful for this blessed opportunity. I pray with and for all those I leave behind in community, in ministry, etc. And I look forward to coming back renewed - recreated - refreshed, and ready for what lies ahead.