Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Even before I really got started

If, as you live your life, you find yourself mentally composing blog entries about it, post this exact same sentence in your weblog.

From Susan Rose at Musings of Discerning Woman, who got it from Penni at Martha, Martha, who got it from .... well, you know how these things work!

To the people of New Orleans ....

There are no words to say.

Blessings on you all. I cannot even begin to imagine.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No, it's not stage fright .....

.... it's just Golden Jubilee .... and Postulant Entrance .... and New Testament tests .... and lesson plans .... and ..... [sigh].

I will say more, I promise! :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Thanks to Susan Rose and her Musings of a Discerning Woman for giving me some publicity. It's pretty cool .... I think .... but .... it's kinda heebie-ing, too. I mean, it's one thing to have people randomly come across here, it's another to know that they're being pointed in this direction. And I'm just starting out with this whole blog-thing. I still don't necessarily know what I'm saying. And now people might actually come here in search of things of significance?!? Gack! It's one of those things that's both very cool and extremely scary. So thanks for the vote of confidence, Susan .... I hope I don't make you regret your reference! :-)

Also ..... I take great pride in my instigating and trouble-maker tendencies. The truth of the matter is, I am such a brown-nosing little goody-two-shoes at heart, it makes me sick. I can threaten all sorts of stuff, but nobody ever pays attention because they know I won't do anything; I'm all talk.

What, you might ask, does that have to do with anything?

Well, I am very aware (possibly more so than necessary) that I am no longer just "Steph," nor have I been for three years now. In joining community, I became a part of something much bigger than myself. And while being on a rec league softball team is also being a part of something bigger than just me, softball was just something that I did. Joining the community is who I am. I am no longer just me; I now am a part of, and therefore always represent (to some extent), the Sisters of Saint Benedict. Not that I envision myself ever saying anything bad on here, but I am, as a good brown-noser, am also somewhat paranoid, and obsessed about doing the wrong thing. I love my community dearly, and would hate for something that I might say here to be misinterpreted by someone and then have that confusion then assigned to my community as a whole. It's something that I think I just need to feel my way out on .... but I'm just a little extra-nervous to be getting my feet under me with an audience! :-)

I did go back and forth with the anonymity issue -- if I don't give any identifying features, then I can't misrepresent anyone. At the same time, though, I'm proud of who we are. The amount of "hiding" I would have to do would run counter to my ability to both share my story and offer support to others who might be considering this journey ... thus defeating my main purpose in creating this. Besides, it wouldn't be that hard for someone to figure out where I am .... it's not like there are that many Benedictine communities in Indiana.

But, most importantly, I'm proud of my community. I love my community. I want to be able to brag and gush about my community. And it's only in sharing my community that I can share my story, my journey. The bland generic of the anonymity would dilute my discernment to .... well, I don't even know what.

Besides, one of my commenters already guessed it. I am a Sister of Saint Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana. If you like what I have to say, thank the folks at "The Dome." If these thoughts here bother you, it's all me.

I hope I give you all a good ride ..... may I not disappoint anyone's expectations.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Cultural Differences

OK, so the good ol' Catholic guilt has caught up with me, and I'm feeling kinda bad about starting up a blog to share my Benedictine journey and I start right off with poking fun at a less-than-ideal law enforcement situation. But then, as I thought about it, it does actually kind of fit.

It's all about culture. Coming from Washington, DC, I can't even imagine that even being in the paper (complete with the guy's address), let alone the fact that there are five cops out there with nothing better to do than chase down (at a low speed) someone on a scooter. But in my new rural small-town home --- that's just how things are. It takes a big shift of perspective to get used to the cultural differences between two geographical areas.

There are also cultural differences between two lifestyle choices. And, in some respects, the cultural shift between religious life and "normal" life is even more significant -- at least people can understand the concept of cows, even if they haven't had to smell them on a regular basis. But .... not having a cell phone unless you really need one? Not having your own personal TV, computer, car? Eating dinner around the dinner table ... together? Carpooling? Sharing resources as needed? Not having the biggest, the newest, the best? And, of course, everyone's automatic fixation ... no sex?

I offered (rather sheepishly now, in retrospect) my misconceptions and stereotyped generalizations about a small-town police force in the previous post. But it's not just me. There are plenty of misconceptions and stereotypes out there about people who feel called to this sort of life .... and I'm getting reacquainted with many of them as I begin teaching and get grilled by my kids.

Of course, with the kids, they have no concept of "nun" so they give more of the curiosity questions .... Can you drink? Did you have a boyfriend? What do you do? Can you see movies? Do you have to wear those wierd clothes? (That last one as I'm standing in front of them in a pair of khakis!) Do you have friends who aren't nuns? Can you get kicked out? What would they do to you if ____? Can you get married?

With the "grown-ups", though, there's a little more potential for the pointed comments and/or judgements. "Oh, don't worry, dear, you'll find someone." Or they see you as a target for everything that they don't like about the Church, and "Why would you want to do that?" Or you suddenly become the ultimate authority on all things church-y. Or, as the holy pious one, you cause a scandal by occasionally hopping off the pedestal you never even wanted to be on in the first place. Or, of course, the perennial sex issue.

I've been fortunate. I had very positive responses from all my friends and family when I decided to enter. However, not everyone's that lucky. I know several people who were practically disowned by their (very-Catholic) parents, parents who wouldn't even come to the various entrance ceremonies; I know others who, every time they talk to their family, get grilled on "So when are you going to leave?" or are told all sorts of stories about very successful ex-nuns.

Imagine .... [insert dream-sequence waviness here]

You've just met this guy. He's absolutely fantabulous, and you're giddy about the fact that he likes you. The two of you go out for a while, but you haven't really told anyone about him yet because .... well, you don't want to deal with comments, questions, or anything else. And besides, well, people don't talk about stuff like that. Things start to get serious, though, and once the proposal is offered and accepted, the guy can't be a secret anymore. If nothing else, think of the logistics. You're getting married. And you hide that .... how?

So you tell your friends, and you show them the ring, and you maybe even introduce them to the guy. But even before they've met him (or even know anything about him) .... "You're getting married? Why would you want to do that? You don't have to get married, you know -- something will work out eventually. Are you sure? Really sure? OK, well, if you're sure.... just know that you can always get a divorce. Hey, did I ever tell you about Suzie? They just had an article in the paper about her -- all she's been able to do since she got divorced. Do you really want to get married? I don't mean to be pushy, but ... have you really thought things through? Married people don't have any space to themselves .... OK, then. But just know that we won't think anything less of you if the two of you split up."

It's a life commitment. Just like marriage, there are a lot of unknowns. Just like marriage, you can never really know for sure. But just unlike marriage ... you have to defend your choice.

And I'm realizing now how bitter this all might sound, and really I'm NOT a bitter person. Like I said, I was (and still am) very fortunate in all the support I got from family and friends. Perhaps it comes at the end of two weeks of nun-questions from my students. But I don't mind those -- it's educating them about vocations, and for so many people who didn't know that there was such a thing as a young nun .... or maybe it's from reading other people's journeys, and hearing the comments that they're receiving.

I guess it's just like what I'm coming to see as the goal of my Social Justice class .... just tryin' to raise awareness, open some eyes.

I'll hop off the soapbox now .... besides, I have to go fix my scooter's tires!

LOW-speed pursuit?!?!?

From the county newspaper's "Arrest" column .... I guess I'm still just not used to the small-town stuff. Names have been omitted to protect their pride.

City police used a Taser to subdue a ____ County man accused of leading officers on a four-mile, low-speed pursuit early today on a motor scooter.

[Name, age, and full address] was arrested at 12:12 a.m. and charged with drunken driving (blood-alcohol test refused), resisting law enforcement and criminal recklessness, police said.

[He] was driving a motor scooter and allegedly ran a stop sign at 14th and Vine streets shortly after midnight, police said. An officer saw him and tried to pull him over but he wouldn't stop, according to police.

Four other officers, including a County sheriff's deputy, joined the pursuit, which left the city limits onto County Road #. The deputy put stop sticks, a device that punctures tires, in front of the scooter.

The scooter's front tire went flat when it ran over the sticks, but [he] kept driving, police said. He finally stopped near the ___ Road when the scooter fell over.

Officers confronted [him] but he allegedly resisted and an officer subdued him, police said, by shooting him with a Taser, a nonlethal weapon that stuns with a jolt of electricity. [He] was examined at the scene by ___ Hospital Emergency Medical Services technicians because he pulled the Taser's barbs from his body, police said.

[He] wasn't injured and was jailed at the ____ County Security Center.

So .... five cops, chasing a scooter, at a low-speed .... getting enough in front of him to put stop sticks down, but not still stopping him until he fell off his scooter.

I find myself imagining what this would look like televised from the helicopters, like the famous white Explorer...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ahh ... the Innocence of Youth

Interesting time with my Social Justice kids today. Included in the common misconceptions:
  • People intentionally go to prison for the shelter and food.
  • Prisons aren't that bad -- you get food, internet, cable, health care, and don't have to do anything.
  • Even the homeless aren't too bad off. They've got places they can go to eat, places where they can spend the night. (Although prisoners get much better health care -- for free!)
  • There aren't really too many homeless people around here.
  • The homeless made the choice that put them there, so they should be able to get a job instead of begging money off people.
  • You can live off minimum wage.
  • Once a criminal, always a criminal. If sex offenders are going to be listed on the internet, why not all the other criminals as well? (Which makes sense....)

They seemed pretty logical about capital punishment ....

I know I've got a lot of good discussions ahead of me, and good potential to really help open some eyes. At the same time, though -- I've got my work cut out for me!

If anyone knows of any good simulations, experiential-type things and wouldn't mind sharing .... those make a far bigger impact than my merely talking at them. I'm already thinking about guest speakers and books like Nickeled and Dimed.

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Narrow at the Outset"

Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord's service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.
~ from the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict

A little over a year ago, I used the second part of this quote (beginning with "Do not be daunted") as part of the cover artwork for my first monastic profession. And now, as I think about blogging my Benedictine experience, that one part in particular keeps coming to mind. Not that I'm a complete newbie -- I've been in community three years now. But, at the same time, I'm just beginning the mix of full-time ministry and smaller community life (away from the monastery). So, in some respects, I am just beginning once more.

But that's one of the things I love about Benedict. He doesn't expect perfection. He acknowledges that it might be a little tough in the beginning .... "but hang in there." For me at least, that's a whole lot more encouraging than the images of holy perfection floating on clouds.

"Sure, it'll be tough, but if you can just stick it out ...."
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