Friday, March 31, 2006

I'll Write This Weekend, I Promise!!!

In the meantime .....

MAJOR prayer requests of various varieties:
»»» Last July, my mom's best friend's husband was killed in a car crash; the best friend was driving right behind him and saw the whole thing; he was pronounced dead on the scene. Yesterday, the best friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has already metastasized. My mom said that the pastor was pointing out that folks are looking for John Paul II to have his first miracle towards canonization and so maybe ....

»»» The wife of one of the teachers at my school has I'm-not-quite-sure-what-exactly, but I know that apparently she had a kidney transplant last summer ... and there were problems with it (rejection, perhaps?). She was going to have another transplant over Christmas, but she was having other problems (so I'm not sure if she got it or not). Today, there was an announcement that she was back in the hospital again (I feel like such a horrible co-worker, not having anything to say!). During December, when her problems were really bad, some of the kids in my class were talking about it -- they really like the teacher and feel horrible about the situation. One of them talked about something from last year, pointing out that "You know how when people have been married for a while, you can kinda tell? But you can tell that [the teacher] is still just SO in love with her." Today, after the announcement, one of my kids made a card for her & took it to the teacher. When she came back, she asked me to do special prayer request with all my classes for her --- when she took him the card, she asked if she should get her friends to all make cards (like she did in December); he told her that his wife won't even realize it. Then the kid asked about going to visit her in the hospital (which she's also done before), and he told her that his wife won't even know who the kid is. So ..... things apparently are pretty bad. I don't know how long they've been married, but I'm guessing he's maybe in his mid-to-late 30s, so .... it's still way too young to be facing this.

»»» And, speaking of my kids .... it's Spring Break ..... need I say more?

»»» For all the sisters in my community who are battling cancer .... some of whom seem to be reaching the bottom of the treatment possibility barrel.

»»» When I entered the community, we had assigned seats in church; I got to sit between Sr. Mary Hilary & Sr. Mary Ethel for my whole first year. I also became quickly involved in Ethel's Monday and Tuesday night card games, but it wasn't until January that I realized that she only LOOKED like a "sweet little old nun" -- it was all an act!!! I saw her in the dining room that afternoon and she asked if I was OK, since I hadn't been in church that morning. I had been knocked out of commission with what was later discovered to be bronchitis; at the time I just said that I was sick. I pointed out, though, that I was doing much better than I had been that morning -- "This morning I couldn't even talk." She replied with the oh-so-sweet "Well, I guess there are some blessings in life" or something along those lines. It took me a minute to process what she said, then a little bit more to decide if in fact she said what I thought she said. But, since I just got a grin back in response to my indignant "Hey" .... I knew I didn't misinterpret anything. And thus began my awareness of what she was REALLY like.

And it continued. And as it continued, I learned more and more the truth about this woman. It got to a point where I'd sit down at her lunch table and the comment would be "Well, look what's here" .... not "who." I don't quite remember when it was, but eventually I even lost my name. No longer was I Steph. Nope, now I was "Trouble." Even in church. If I was sitting next to her in Mass, when it'd come time for the sign of peace, she'd turn to me with a "Peace, Trouble" as she'd give me a hug.

Ethel's a good lady. She's somewhere around 85-ish (and been in the community for 68 years!), but still working as a Director of Religious Education for two parishes. She was thrown (rather unwillingly, to hear her tell it!) into the role of Novice Mistress during the extremely chaotic times just after Vatican II .... but she must've done alright for herself, since two of her first novices were also a part of those Monday & Tuesday night card games. She's had various cancers and brain swellings and all sorts of that stuff, back when she was younger. It was back in the day before radiation was as advanced as it is today, so apparently she's had residual problems with her intestines and everything else since then. Nothing too problematic, but definitely some issues from time to time.

Maybe six weeks ago, she ended up in the hospital for an illiostomy. They had some issues doing it, because of the extensive radiation burns that she's had. And, all those previous radiation problems are still making their presence known, since her electrolytes have been out of whack ever since then. She comes home for a bit, but it's only three or four days before she's gotta go back in and get things balanced again. Now she's also got a staph infection, bladder infection, and fluid on her lung.

My thought as I read that latest e-mail update? "Ethel better not sneak out on me the way Elaine did...." The way I phrased it during prayer requests in school today: "One of our sisters is having some major health issues and she's not supposed to die yet so .... that her body realizes that." I can't keep losing all my fun old fiesty nuns!

So .... blessings on you, Ettel, and know that Trouble loves you dearly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Scripture Scribblings -- Yeah, but do you really want it?

At my house, since we don't have daily Mass like we do back at the monastery, we use the gospel of the day as the reading for Morning Prayer. Today's Gospel was John 5:1-16 and, as I heard it being read, I remembered a little creation of mine from retreat last summer, so I figured I'd share it here with you all today. Maybe this amount of text can make up for the recent absence of text around here ....

For those who need a refresher, here's a snippet [New American Bible]:
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
The two relevant footnotes provide this additional information:
The Caesarean and Western recensions, followed by the Vulgate, add "waiting for the movement of the water." Apparently an intermittent spring in the pool bubbled up occasionally. This turbulence was believed to cure. And ... Toward the end of the second century in the West and among the fourth-century Greek Fathers, an additional verse was known: "For [from time to time] an angel of the Lord used to come down into the pool; and the water was stirred up, so the first one to get in [after the stirring of the water] was healed of whatever disease afflicted him." The angel was a popular explanation of the turbulence and the healing powers attributed to it. This verse is missing from all early Greek manuscripts and the earliest versions, including the original Vulgate. Its vocabulary is markedly non-Johannine.
And now ... a story.
So there I was, hanging out with my buddies at our standard spot on the beach. All of the sudden, a cry goes up: “The tide! The tide’s coming in!” Everybody immediately leaps up, and falls all over themselves as they form this mad stampede to be the first one in the pool. Well, almost everyone. Me, I don’t buy into that hooey. This ain’t your standard “Last one in is a rotten egg.” Noooo. This is FAR more significant than that. “First one in will be completely healed.” Yeah, right. And if you believe that I’ve got a freshwater fishing permit I’ll sell you for the Dead Sea! It’s just some urban legend that seems to be making the rounds these days. Things like this always resurface every couple years or so, and that’s when you can find out just how many people have nothing more than camel turds in their heads. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel obligated to admit that even I have fallen prey to this scam once or twice. OK, I admit it, it was sixteen times. But this hot sun’ll do wonders on your brain and make you think that maybe this time’ll be different, “I’ll just try one more time.”

Really, I’m actually quite ashamed of how long it took me to finally face up to reality and stop joining the idiotic herd of lemmings. And for that I have to give thanks to my uncooperative joints. See, there was the one time the cry went up, and for the seventeenth time I scrabbled to get up and beat everyone else into the lake. Except this time, I couldn’t even make it to my knees, the pain was so bad. After a couple more attempts, I realized that I didn’t stand a chance, and flopped down into the sand. Tears filled my eyes, from both pain and frustration, but, as I watched the events at the shoreline, I began to laugh. How ridiculous they all looked! How embarrassing to think I had been a part of this absurdity! All these fools fighting and tugging one another, doing anything they can to hold their neighbor back so they can be the first to dive in! Some were pathetic enough that they did nothing but sit on the beach all day, jockeying for position for the instant the cry went up. And yet even the stupidest Samaritan could see the futility of such mob mentality, if he’d just take a half-step back and look. There are no healings here. No wonders, no miracles, no signs. Think about it. Everyone’s fighting to be first in the pool. So who’s gonna win – crippled me or Joe Decathlete? Duh. It’s always the healthy guy who gets in first, so of COURSE he’s “healed” – he was healed before he even LOOKED at the pool.

But, it’s all good. I mean, once I got over my original self-imposed humiliation and all that. Actually, it’s turned out to be some pretty good entertainment, now that I’m just kickin’ back and watching. And the funny thing? Some of the “healed” still come back! Ha! What a scam!

On the whole, life is pretty good. For one thing, I’ve got the lemmings for laughs – what more do you need? My leg hurts enough to make me look weak and helpless, but not enough to be unbearably miserable – MOST of the time, anyway. Folks around here are pretty generous. Especially the “newly healed” – get the right puppy-dog eyes going and you can do well off the guilt/pity combination! And those stingy with their silver tend not to be with their scraps. As a “poor decrepit beggar” I am “so far” beneath them (they think!) that they cannot under any circumstances bring themselves to speak to me – even to tell me to stop lurking by their table. They eat well, so I eat well! Ha! They look down on me, but really I’ve got the better life!

Anyway, so it was maybe six months after my epiphany of enlightenment, when all this commotion arose. “Yeah, sure, the tide. Go find your ‘salvation,’ boys,” I mumbled as I rolled over to drift back to sleep. Then it hit me – this CAN’T be the tide – the timing’s all wrong. Besides, the noise should be coming from the shoreline, not from … I sat up quickly and looked around. Still groggy, it took a minute to sort things out. Finally I spotted some guy walking across the beach. Of course, it was hard to make him out, what with all the gawkers and simpering ground-kissers. With that big of a crowd, he MUST be famous, and fame means funding! I threw myself down and put on my most pained and pathetic face, with some moans thrown in for good measure.

SCORE! He’s coming this way! We’re eating good tonight, boys, so break out your best barrel of …

“Do you want to be well?”

Huh?!? I stop, mid-internal celebration, and stare. What’d he say?

“Do you want to be well?”

I can’t even think. What’s he talking about, do I want to be well. I am well. An occasional twinge of pain, perhaps, but I’m eating and getting handouts and managing quite nicely, thank you very much. So just drop a few coins in the cup and …

He’s still looking at me.

OK, man, you’re beginning to creep me out. Forget about the money. Just stop …

“Do you want to be well?”

Great, now all his little sheep are following his lead and staring at me, too. OK, think fast. If you disrespect this guy and show him to be a fool, you’ll have all these people mad at you and you’ll lose your source of livelihood. If, however, you …

“Do you want to be well?”

Argh! Enough with the eyes already. OK, since he’s obviously NOT going to go away … I know! I’ll play into their little legend. They’ll sympathize, he’ll have pity on me and toss me a few coins, and I can get back to …

“Do you want to be well?”

“Well, see, there’s this tide, and I’m weak, and … a couple times I got pretty close but then that guy over there stepped on my hand … put me out of commission for three weeks, and so really I’m trying, but …”

“Get up.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake! What is WITH this guy? That pained pathetic face, it wasn’t ALL an act, you know.

“Get up.”

Come on, man, leave me alone. We can pretend like this whole thing never …

“Get up.”

OK, now I’m starting to get mad. Do you SEE this leg?!? What’s left of it, anyway? What’s your deal, man?

“Get up.”

And how exactly am I supposed to do THAT?

“Get up.”

I sigh exasperatedly. Fine. I’ll “get up.” You’ll see what a struggle it is, toss me a couple of coins, and leave me in peace to …

Wait a second.

What happened to my leg?


Everyone’s celebrating, congratulating this guy. Sure, you’re welcome. Glad to be of service. Glad you could use me as your prop, your tool.

Dang it.

What about me, huh? Everyone’s so ga-ga over him, what about me?

Wait a sec … if I’ve got my leg back …

Crap crap crap crap crap.

By-bye panhandling, bye-bye scrap-scavenging, bye-bye buddies on the beach.

Hello … what? What now? NOW what am I supposed to do?

I didn’t want this. Why didn’t anyone ask me?

What gives this guy the right to go around fixing what ain’t broke and don’t even belong to him?

Maybe I can get myself trampled at the next tide …

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Catholic Social Teaching

Article sent to me by Lorem ....

Called by God to Help ~ by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, on the proposed immigration legislation going to the Senate ... and the seemingly controversial instruction he might be giving his priests if it goes through.

Since I'm Still In Hiding ....

Grades are done, but I'm still in hiding (in case you haven't noticed) .... tomorrow I get to spend my hour of study-hall-usually-work-time meeting one-on-one with someone from the Board of Trustees Education Committee as they ask me (the religion teacher) about our school's "Catholic Identity." I just wish I knew what exactly they are wanting to hear, so I know what kind of spin I need to put on my possibly unorthodox classroom comments. Then, during my planning period I will attempt to give blood --- unless I'm my traditional 2 irons short. After that, it's bolt quickly home so that I can leave at 3:15 to drive to Indianapolis for a weekend conference for new nuns in the area about celibacy. Yeehaw.

And, of course, since Wednesday night has so evilly snuck up on me, me with wrinkled clothes in the dryer, a non-packed suitcase, some unplanned sub plans, and lots of other chaos ..... I guess we'll just have to wait until next week for the backlog of posts to come gushing out of my fingertips.

In the meantime, I'll share with you all a little something I picked up from Susan Rose ...
You Should Be a Joke Writer
You're totally hilarious, and you can find the humor in any situation. Whether you're spouting off zingers, comebacks, or jokes about life... You usually can keep a crowd laughing, and you have plenty of material. You have the makings of a great comedian - or comedic writer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Guest-Blogging, Feast Day Edition

Icon written by Sr. Mary Charles McGough and explained here.
Post written by wonderful friend, confrere, and frequent commenter ~ Jeana
Feast of Saint Benedict
Founder of the Benedictine Order and Father of Western Monasticism

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which members must foster with fervent love: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other” (Rom. 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No monastics are to pursue what they judge better for themselves, but instead, what they judge better for someone else. Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters and brothers; to God, reverent love; to their prioress or abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life.

~ Rule of Benedict, Chapter 72: The Good Zeal of Monastics

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order and the Father of Western Monasticism. Living from about 480 – 547, St. Benedict lived first as a hermit, and then in community with others seeking God. After years of experience leading others, he gathered the wisdom of the various monks who had gone before him and wrote his Rule. In it, he mitigated many of the harsher practices which had been part of the desert and Irish ascetics’ lives; St. Benedict believed that the everyday living in community could be itself an equally formative kind of asceticism.

In this penultimate chapter of his Rule, St. Benedict lays out the terrain of monastic life and the goal: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior … Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ.” We are to love God and our neighbor. We are to love Christ through our neighbor. We are to love our neighbor out of love for Christ, fervently.

Though we are fully capable of nurturing bitter zeal, our angry thoughts, our critical judgments, our resentful feelings, St. Benedict reminds us that we are called to higher things. We are called to seek God with all the good zeal that is in us. We are called to love.

Of course we’re all beginners, and none of this happens overnight, but thanks be to God for giving us such a practical, humble, and yet inspiring guide.

Monday, March 20, 2006

If the Transmogrifier Fits .....

A Bit Of Both

You are 40% Calvin and 60% Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes, like a scruffy yin and yang, are in perfect balance within you. Like Calvin, you're weird, a bit insecure, and can be a trouble-maker. But like Hobbes, you're down to earth and sensitive. It's a risk to say it here, after just a ten question test, but I'll bet you're smarter than most. Both Calvin and Hobbes are crafty, clever characters, and any one made from equal parts of each is a force to be reckoned with.

The Calvin Or Hobbes Test written by gwendolynbooks on Ok Cupid.
As seen at Overread.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Weekend Wonderings -- The "Exasperating Existance" Edition

Why can't I take the few moments needed as the semester progresses to grade assignments when they come in, instead of making my life a nightmarish hell at the end of the term???
And why in the WORLD would I say I could lead a Confirmation retreat tomorrow .... that's over an hour away .... that BEGINS at 8:00 on a Saturday morning ..... that I haven't even begun to look at the materials for yet?
Sigh .... lots to blog, but it'll just have to wait .....

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Just Checkin' In ...

.... to say that I am alive. But, with the quarter ending Thursday, and tests to get back to the kids today so they can do corrections, and tests to write for tomorrow, and the never-ending stack o'stuff that loads up my schoolbag, and the intense desire to be virtually done with my grades before the weekend so that it's not another all-nighter on Sunday night ..... you'll just have to wait to hear more from me!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hidely-ho, Neighborinos!

Courtesy of mi hermano ....

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

With a Heavy Heart

One of my Social Justice kids yesterday was asking if I'd ever heard of Prussian Blue ... she briefly told me about them; I just checked out their website. Apparently these blonde-haired blue-eyed thirteen year-old twins have been singing and making music since they were nine. Not a big deal, unless you consider their band's description, according to their own web site:

Recently they received international media attention because Prussian Blue is a White Pride band. The songs they the girls sing reflect their White Nationalist beliefs. Today, if you are White, and proud to be White, it is considered Politically Incorrect by the media. The music that Prussian Blue performs is intended for White people. They hope to help fellow Whites come to understand that love for one’s race is a beautiful gift that we should celebrate.
I had seen some of this kind of stuff, primarily from and its "hate group" information. But in terms of actually visiting some of these sites (especially National Vanguard) ..... with the exception of Fred Phelps & Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kansas, this was my first real exploration.

I have to admit, much of what I was reading wasn't nearly as inflammatory as some of Phelps' stuff, but at the same time, that could be almost worse. At least Phelps is upfront about his beliefs; you know where he stands. But some of these other groups do a really good job of presenting themselves as fine upstanding patriotic family-values kinds of folks — what's wrong with that? We joke at the house sometimes about loaded questions -- you could ask "Do you want to pray at 5:00 AM?" and, when the others say no, you could follow it up with "What, you don't want to pray?" Who doesn't want the best for their kids, families, and nations?

With Westboro Baptist, on the other hand, I can't see the appeal. It is a site filled with such hatred and such venom that even though they don't use four-letter words, I still would not be able to read any of it to my students. Plus, they have a lovely game where you have to keep the kids (represented by a baby bottle) away from the sodomites (represented by a pink swastika). And, it's nice to see that they've broadened their domain names beyond the traditional "God hates fags/america/sweden/canada/everyone else" .... there are now some new improved domains like "Priests Rape Boys" and "Your Pastor Is A Whore" and "God Is The Terrorist."

Ahhh ..... what a way to spread the good news.

Of course, as I Devil's Advocately pointed out a while back .... how does my passing judgment balance out their passing judgment? And how does this fit with the idea that we are to be a prophetic voice to the world, proclaiming the wrongs that we see? {Other related posts of mine about that are here, here, here, and here.}

I guess part of the "proclaiming the wrongs" comes from how we proclaim it. Are we doing it out of love and concern for our neighbor, or out of an "I'm better than you" mentality? In my Brokeback Mountain post, I had something I snipped from a Focus on the Family editor, where he's commenting that a victory won gloatingly is not a victory in Christ.

In looking for Fred Phelps' site (without wanting to use one of the more pointed URLs), I made the mistake of trying fredphelps{dot}com. That took me instead to "Fred Phelps Hater Blog." And, while I am no fan of Fred Phelps .... neither am I a fan of the Fred Phelps Hater Blog. It's no more Christian to be calling him a "bigoted southern cracker" and a "publicity whore" that "spawn[s] offspring." Don't they realize they're doing the exact same thing they're complaining about?

Hatred is NOT the answer, people. Even if you think you're on the "right" side. After all, isn't everyone? I can't imagine there are too many people out there who feel that they themselves are truly promoting the "wrong" agenda. As the seven-year-old daughter of a friend of mine asked when her mom was trying to explain what had happened on 9/11, "But, if they thought they were doing what God wanted them to do, then how can that be wrong?"

Hatred will only breed more hatred.

When will we learn?

Let us not become the evil we deplore.

The site that I still absolutely love .... the one I discovered last fall with my Phelps posts ... comes from the website godhatesfredphelps{dot}com.... and I love the message it displays:

God Hates Fred Phelps
...well, not really. In fact, we don't even hate Fred Phelps, and we certainly don't presume to speak for God at all.

What we do know is that we are gay, straight, bi, Latino, Southern, Asian-Americans, of German ancestry, Boston Irish, forty something, twenty something, Catholic, Atheist, Jewish, heavyset, athletic, legally blind, hearing-impaired, tall, short, masculine, gender-neutral, feminine, transgender, polyamorous, monogamous, married, single, parents, children, professionals, students, singers, dancers, web designers, janitors, teachers, artists, aspiring rock stars, taxpayers, sisters, brothers, neighbors, friends, and lovers, who won't stand for intolerance, hatred, and violence against the people we love.
And I haven't even mentioned all the hatred among nations ....

Will we ever get it?

I Wonder ....

....if my previous post about comment porn will bring me people who do google searches for "free Playboy"? And if so, it makes my devious head wonder .... wouldn't it be fun to somehow bury phrases like that here in my blog, so the searchers would end up at a holy and pious nun's site? Not that I'm a holy and pious nun, but I can pretend, can't I?

Look At Me!!!

In my quest to be officially declared an Amateur Catholic, I've managed to get myself canonized. Whoo-Hoo!!!
Amateur Catholic B-Team Member
{Or maybe they're trying to shut me up?}

Not quite the "desert" I was talking about ...

.... and yet, I find it strangely ironic that my first round of spam comments in a long time (since that 5,000-word treatise on Islam that I got a month ago) is for free Playboy .... attached to my post about how Jesus was driven into the desert, and how that parallels my own vocation story. I mean, sure, there's that whole "celibacy" thing, but that's not quite what makes Lent, or the monastic journey for that matter, a "desert." Although, given some folks' obsession with the "You mean you don't have sex?" piece ........

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Scripture Scribblings -- Driven to the Desert of Vocation

Mark 1:12-15 ~ New American Bible
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
One of the traditions of our monastery is that at Saturday Evening Prayer (which is First Vespers of Sunday), we use the Gospel for the next day as the reading and then one of our sisters gives a reflection on the text. The sister who gave the reflection {her reflection will be posted somwhere here today -- Jeana, can you comment with the real link?} last night focused on the fact that this passage has Jesus being driven out into the desert — how much stronger an image than being led, as you sometimes hear.

But she spoke of being driven out into the desert. Not led, not accompanied. Driven. Pretty forceful concept. Not too much of a sense of "going willingly." She spoke of how, at this beginning of Lent, we are standing at the edge of our own desert, with some hesitation and trepidation about going in.

After all, the desert isn't known to be all that much fun, as our priest this morning was pointing out. It gets romanticized, sure, especially in our monastic tradition with all the stories of the desert monks. And, as I've been teaching my kids Friday and tomorrow ... the early monks went out in the desert to face their demons. Desert — silence, no distractions, nothing to use to procrastinate your inward quest. As we discover in our first experiences with week-long silent retreats here at the monastery, there's only so long you can avoid yourself when completely on your own before you get driven inward to "face your demons" and find God in the process.

Being "driven." Sometimes it's a good thing; you think of musicians, athletes, scholars, being "driven" to work, to succeed. Of course, sometims in those situations people get "driven" to an unhealthy degree. None of that "All things in moderation" that the Benedictines encourage!

Then, as a high school teacher, I keep thinking of being "driven" in the very literal sense — where most of my kids can't go anywhere unless they're driven. Whether it's by mom, or a friend, or the bus driver — there's no action unless they're driven.

And then, of course, there's the sense in which at least I find myself "driven" to the edge of my desert. More in the sense of being forced, perhaps kidnapped (to use my student image). Don't really wanna go to the desert — too much work, not enough Girl Scout cookies {Random: If chocolate chip cookies are made with chocolate chips, and oatmeal raisin cookies are made with oatmeal and raisins, then Girl Scout cookies .....?}. I readily admit it. I'm a big ol' chicken. I am a huge weenie wimp. I live for avoidance. Face my fears? Never! Go into the desert? Wrestle my demons? Yeah, right! I got no demons. Really. Life is great. That pit from before? Oh, that was just a bit of mild indigestion, that's all. Really, I'm quite fine. Peachy-keen, that's me. I find it hard to "give something up" for Lent because I know I don't have the self-discipline to actually stick to it. And with retreat, I'm so used to doing nothing normally that I end up bike riding and wandering and each day wondering "Uh-oh, what am I gonna tell the director about today?" Self-introspection is not always my strong suit, at least not when it's to be done in a positive and life-giving manner.

And I guess that's part of the reason why I still haven't answered those "Why Benedictine" questions from before. Because I don't know if I have an answer. Hearing Anita's reflection last night gave me a little more insight into how to present it, though.

How'd I end up here? I was driven. Kicking and screaming every step of the way.

I'm gonna take the cheater's way out and give you two links that can give you at least a brief nutshell version of my vocation story {because I still have papers to grade for tomorrow!}; I'll say more later, I promise. The first is an article I wrote for my parish Young Adult Ministry newsletter maybe just a month or two before I entered the community. Scroll down to page 5 and read the article that begins with: “So... how long have you wanted to be a nun?” Dunno —
I’ll let you know when I find out. “Are you excited?” Ummmmm....
It's funny, coming back to that article now; how fitting that I call it a "compulsion." Being driven, perhaps?

The second is the "Vocation Story in 200 words or less" for our Vocation newsletter; I wrote it five months after entering in the middle of a lovely round of bronchitis. But, it gives a decent (if brief) overview of my journey to nunhood, and really gives a sense of my inevitable drivenness.

Here's the thing. I wasn't gonna be a nun, never wanted to be a nun, never even thought about it. Church was a nothing thing for me. I went cuz, well, that's what you're supposed to do on Sundays, right? Sure, I lived a good life, did lots of service, that kind of stuff, but religious? Nah, that's not me.

Then, once the inevitability hit, I began my series of "obsess-over-it" periods of time alternating with the "freak-out-run-away-and-hide-under-a-table-in-the-corner" periods of avoidance. But I knew that "whenever I get around to doing this nun-thing, it would be with Sacred Heart." They ran my high school, I worked in one of their schools, I love their system of education ... heck, a friend of mine was calling me Poster Child for Sacred Heart. So I met people from other communities and even thought on occasions that certain things they did were cool but "I'm not looking." The only "looking" I was doing was trying to figure out how in the world I was supposed to be being a nun? What exactly was God smoking?

In the process of trying to figure out "Why me?" — not in the grand dramatic "Woe is me" sense, but just "Why me? What the heck do I have to offer? I mean, me?!? Yeah, right!" — I came across {actually, it wasn't as accidental as that, but that's another story for later ... just remind me!}. And the rest is, as they say, history. {Again, to be told at another point when I'm not needing my bed so soon!}

I thoroughly stunned myself by "buying a plane ticket seven days out to visit a Benedictine monastery in the middle of Nowheresville Indiana where I know no one and have e-mailed the woman twice" .... but I did. And I got sucked in. Actually, to read my journal from the first website hit, it's obvious that I knew even then. But what did I know? I have no idea. What I do know is that I went for that visit. And then another. And then another. My standard line was that "The grounds are beautiful and the people are awesome." I just got sucked in, like The Thing From Outer Space. As I would tell the vocation director, "Praying is against my religious principles" — and yet I would continue to visit. The webhit was December 28; the first visit was Presidents' Day weekend, which began a year's worth of monthly visits. By August I had received the application materials and by the following February I was accepted.

My reason for going forward in the application process? The fact that I was. The fact that I kept coming back. The fact that I hadn't freaked out, spazzed, and hid under a table in the corner. My reason for moving on to the novitiate? Because that's the next step. Because "the grounds are still beautiful and the people are still awesome." My reason for requesting permission to make profession? "I don't have any deep theological and spiritual reasons. But I'm still here, and you all still let me be here. There's gotta be something to that."

And just this past fall, I had probably three solid months of wondering why the heck I'm still here, in a very serious way. One of those "non-bloggable" batches of mental processes, but since that seems to have passed (for the time being, anyway), I figure I can mention it. How I made it through that? Dunno. Happy pills help, sure, but .... maybe I'm too chicken to have left?

When I was visiting the monastery, the sisters always asked me if I had looked at other Benedictine houses; my response was "I'm not looking at communities; I know where I'm going." They'd ask what drew me to the Benedictines; "I'm not looking at the Benedictines; I just got sucked in here." They'd point out that there were Benedictines in Baltimore and Northern Virigina and how come I didn't look there; "Cuz I wasn't looking at communities!" I knew nothing about the Benedictines {which is another reason why I've avoided the "Why'd I Choose Benedictine" question}, and I wasn't exploring communities. I just came across this place, spent a couple months agonizing over "What about Sacred Heart," and then gave up and gave in.

My vocation story has never been one of choice. With Sacred Heart, you spend six months in Rome before making your final profession at the Trinita at the top of the Spanish steps; here, it's among the fragrant cows. Believe me, if I had a choice in the matter .... :-)

Truly. If you had told me six years ago that I would be a Benedictine nun teaching high school religion, I would have said you were crazy. First off, it's Sacred Heart; secondly, I'm never gonna actually do the nun-thing; and thirdly, a religion teacher? Me, Miss Queen Not Religious or God-dy?

And yet, at this point, I can't imagine it any other way. I have grown so incredibly much in the process that I can't even begin to describe.

But, at the same time, I guarantee that I never would have done it on my own. Left to my own devices, my own motivations, I'd still be in that same holding pattern that I had for the eight or nine years previous.

Some things have gotta be pushed. Some things have gotta be forced, have gotta be challenged. Would I willingly go into the desert, even if I had the Spirit kindly "leading" me? I seriously doubt it. Would I go, "kicking and screaming every step of the way," if I were being "driven"? Probably depends on how hard and forceful the driven was. But would I regret it once I went? At least with this one, no, not really.

Yes, we all have the personal responsibility to act on our own, to enter the desert of our own free will. But, at the same time, we are weak humans, prone to fear and avoidance. Sometimes we need a little encouragement; sometimes the "encouragement" might not look so encouraging.

Me, I'm not a grown-up-enough monk to enter my desert on my own. Heck, I still don't even do too good with it during retreat. But, maybe if I get driven there enough times, I'll learn how to get into the driver's seat. Or at least be a good little desert monk and offer hospitality and a comforting and supportive welcome to those others passing through the desert after me.

But, Benedict calls it a "little rule for beginners" ... that "we intend to establish a school for the Lord's service .... [with] a little strictness in order to amend faults and safeguard love." Benedict acknowledges our human weakness, tells us not to run away in fear, and that the narrow road is only just to get us started before it opens wide up.

So we need the prodding. And it's OK, because Jesus did too. Driven into the desert, just as the demons would later be driven out.

May we all make the most of this Lenten desert time; may I make it a true desert.

And may I allow myself to be driven. go to main page

Friday, March 03, 2006

Weekend Wonderings -- Poetry Edition

Twas the day before weekend, and Steph was confuzzled
She needed a blog post, but ... what? Twas a puzzle!
There'd been lots of entries stashed back in her brain,
But to find time to type them .... well, that was a pain.
But she had to post something, could not skip a day,
Or her two loyal readers would quit coming to play.
So she racked through her brain to see if she could figure
Out something to type that could make people snigger.
"I've got it!" she said, with a
musical flourish,
"I've got just the thing with which I can nourish
Their brains and their spirit, oh golly gee whiz.
I'll just post a meme or I'll take a new quiz!"

(But this last line of mine leads me to a conundrum,
for to make it all rhyme is my first rule of thumb.
But how do you rhyme words you cannot pronounce?
Could add phonetics --- not sure if that counts.
Is it mee-mee or meem or mee-me or mim?
Or mee-me-ma-moshu-pork-mu-mu, now ... hmmmm?
But I suppose my word order makes all of this moot
So let's all just give this sad stanza the boot.)

And it's six hours later, I've returned to my verse
That I left so abruptly to quench students' thirst
For knowledge of justice and church history
(Though I think their thirst was for stuff like coffee).
But I taught them all lots, and I taught them all good,
And it's time once again to return to the 'hood.
That's right, I'm returning to
Chez Ferdinand,
Where the smell of manure drifts all through the land.
And on my way there, I'll have dinner with
If my kids go to fish frys I might have to ignore 'em!
Then it's off to the airport, to pick up a guest
Who is joining this weekend's
Vocational Fest.
I'm still trying to figure out how her I'll find
With no picture, description – do I make dorky signs?
But I'm sure things will work out – they have thus before
And the ride's conversation? An hour or more.

Then it's back to the Hill, to the great monastery,
Where the sun will be shining, the air will be .... airy.
My plan is to not bring my schoolwork along,
But I'm so far behind that that might be just wrong.
Oh, curse my bad case of procrastintinitis —
Tests and quizzes beforehand, why can I not writest?

But my words are now fizzling far worse than their norm,
And I fear that this poem is losing its form.
So to those who have suffered all through this bad post,
Let it count of your Lent sacrifices the most.
So I'll now sign off Blogger, I'll leave you and say:
Happy Weekend to All; To All a Great Friday!

And my wondering of today is ......
Has Steph completely lost it?
And, if so .... can you help me find it again?
Peace out, fun friends in BlogLand!
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