Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thanks for the Peace

I just want to send a big ol' thank you to everyone's words of advice, support, and encouragement to my last post. After having a long talk with our vocation director this afternoon (to clarify -- she has no "official" role with me anymore except for very close and trusted friend), I'm feeling a little less panicked. It helps a lot to get some of my struggles out there, and have her tell me that (1) it's all good and (2) to take my time with it all and (3) the first year, no matter what, is hard. [As an aside, she's also the very wise woman whom I quoted in blue with regards to my first monastic profession.].

It's interesting ... Benedict uses Chapter Seven of his Rule to address the twelve steps of humility:
The fifth step of humility is that we do not conceal from the abbot or prioress any sinful thoughts entering our hearts, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly. Concerning this, scripture exhorts us: "Make known your way to the Holy One and hope in God (Ps 37:5)." And again, "Confess to the Holy One, for goodness and mercy endure forever (Ps 106:1;Ps 118:1)."So too the prophet: "To you I have acknowledged my offense; my faults I have not concealed. I have said: Against myself I will report my faults to you, and you have forgiven the wickedness of my heart (Ps 32:5)."

Joan Chittister, OSB, of the Erie Benedictines, says in The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages:
The fifth rung of the ladder of humility is an unadorned and disarming one: Self-revelation, Benedict says, is necessary to growth. Going through the motions of religion is simply not sufficient. No, the Benedictine heart, the spiritual heart, is a heart that has exposed itself and all its weaknesses and all of its pain and all of its struggles to the one who has the insight, the discernment, the care to call us out of our worst selves to the heights to which we aspire.

The struggles we hide, psychologists tell us, are the struggles that consume us. Benedict's instruction, centuries before an entire body of research arose to confirm it, is that we must cease to wear our masks, stop pretending to be perfect and accept the graces of growth that can come to us from the wise and gentle hearts of people of quality around us.

Humility such as this gives us energy to face the world. Once we ourselves admit what we are, what other criticism can possibly demean us or undo us or diminish us? Once we know who we are, all the delusions of grandeur, all the righteousness that's in us dies and we come to peace with the world.

I've not felt and/or understood that before. Perhaps it's because my sharing has been more out of obligation and "trying to do the right thing" than from truly reaching out for help and guidance. I've discussed struggles and trouble-spots with both my novice director and the prioress (and, in fact, the whole formation team) as I've journeyed along this road. Going to the prioress is especially hard at times (even though she's incredibly kind and loving, it's still intimidating), but "that's what I'm supposed to do."

But the conversation today .... it's been the first time I've discussed some of these things with someone who's not in a "need to know" position, and has been around long enough to be able to offer some guidance and advice. And, as hard as the conversation was to initiate .... I truly do feel that sense of "confession is good for the soul."

She didn't have any answers for me ... yet. But she assured me that it's all good, that she'll think on it for me, and that it will all work out somehow.

So I'm now much more at peace. Nothing's resolved, but at least I'm breathing again. Less panic-striken, more able to focus on these last two weeks of school. (Yeah, like this is why I'm behind on my grading...)

I realize that, even in the midst of saying "I'm not sure how much to share" that I've answered my own question to a great extent. My concern hadn't been about what elements of the "shadow side" of religious life to show; it was more "should I even show that there is a shadow side." So I thank you all for your wonderful kindnesses and support, and ask for your prayers as I continue to discern where my call is and how to make that happen in the best and most authentic way that I can.

And I thank my senpectae, those "wise elders" who offer encouragement, comfort, and support to the "wavering" monk (RB 27)... though not always "elder," they are an incredible blessing.

Disclaimer: I'm realizing that some of this could sound like I've been being a "bad nun" -- that's NOT the case. But, for me, brown-noser that I am, to feel negatively about certain aspects of community life even counts as "bad nun." Hence, my hesitancy to make myself "look" bad to "other people."


Blogger AveMaria1 said...

Steph ~

Hey, thanks for the post. As far as you being a "bad nun", I don't think that is really the case. You see, you are honest and that in and of itself constitutes you being a "good nun". It was good to read that you still have continued support from your Vocation Director, as you have grown in your discernment and formation. Sounds like you are in a pretty awesome community that supports one another. Be grateful for that! Peace, Lauren

12/05/2005 1:40 PM  

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