Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Year ..... So What?

Part of our formation class on Saturday involved a discussion of the address that our prioress gave at the beginning of July Community Days. As all of us "new kids" shared something that struck us as we read the talk, I was taken by the comment made by one of my semi-adopted classmates. She was referencing the centerpiece of Chapter Four of the Rule, where Benedict tells us that Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else. Her thought was... how different is our way?? She was particularly stumped as she attempted to explain nunness to an inquisitive first grader. Yeah, sure, we live together, work together, pray together, and all that, but still... I could do that "out there" too. I'm a nun, a Benedictine. So what?

One year ago today, I began this blog. Somehow, I had discovered Susan Rose, and I was really intrigued by this idea of Musings of a Discerning Woman. A big part of my own vocational journey involved a struggle of ''normalcy" (you can stop laughing now!), and I realized what a gift Susan was giving the world of discerners as she shared her story.... and how much something like that would have helped me "back in the day".

Inspired by her openness, I decided to step up and contribute my own perspective on this seemingly odd and freakish journey that is called religious life. True, I'm a little bit removed from the initial discernment process, but I can give the heads-up of what's coming down the road from someone who's been there.

At least, that was how I saw it originally. Reality is .... I haven't said much about the journey at all, or even how I ended up here.

It's something that's been more and more on my mind, especially as I see various bloggy buddies reach various milestones along their way (deepest apologies if I missed anyone!). Religious life is so counter-cultural, and seemingly so rare, and yet to have this community that has formed of all these semi-normal people my age making this choice .... it's kinda cool.

But even cooler than that is the fact of how they use their blogs to spread the word about what this life is and isn't.

Not so cool is the fact that I haven't.

And then the question of this weekend .... how is my way different from the world's way?

Or maybe .... how is my blog different from the world's blog?

I came here to dispel the nun-myths that I myself still hold, but I end up not saying much about them at all. Sure, I talk about deaths and community meetings, and occasionally quote the Rule and/or Scripture, but so what? Lots of other people do that, too.

So .... what is it?

What makes my way different?

Is it different?

This is also especially on my mind as I begin another year with a whole new group of students. What is it that I am portraying to them? And as I get geared up to run this Teen Page blog ... what is it that I will be offering to these youth?

I think some of it is that "nun-denial" that Natty referenced. But I'm beginning my fifth year here. It's time to step up and claim that, despite the fact that I'm a big ol' chicken and constantly nervous about presenting myself as something that I'm not or making myself seem better than I am. I'm so apprehensive about the nun-pedestal that I won't even let myself claim it enough to shatter it.

So I'm rethinking, revisiting, refocusing. My first post spoke of "Blogging my Benedictine experience" .... I think it's time to return to the roots.


Blogger Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Happy Blogiversary!! And thanks for sticking around the blogosphere. It's been great to find this virtual community of folks at various stages of discernment& formation! And how cool that I was your inspiration!!

8/23/2006 1:03 AM  
Anonymous A said...

Congrats on being "here" (blogosphere that is) for a year. I hope it is the first of many.

Re-examining and refocusing is always a good thing. I look forward to reading some of the fruits of your "returning to the roots."

I'm also very honored to be a part of your blog world. As a Benedictine, you have a special place in my heart of course, though I don't know you much at all personally.

Peace to you sis

8/23/2006 4:03 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yes, congratulations and thank you! The reflection today is really powerful (although I was getting a wee bit nervous you were heading towards a blog fast :( ...)

Thanks for continuing to share your experiences of life as a religious and the charism of the Benedictine tradition...

We are all better for it!

8/23/2006 8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Steph, don't beat yourself up too much: you HAVE shared valuable things, things that illustrate just how you're "different from the world."

But more importantly to many of us out here, you've illustrated how you're not so very different from it either. You're still a vibrant, approachable, and animated individual that we are priveliged to get to know through your blog (and, for some of us, in real life a bit as well).

As I predicted I would when I met you about 10 months ago, I have (mostly) gotten over the little (ok, Major) puppy-dog crush I had on you once I met you, and now I can truly say in all confidence and pride that I love you, girl. And not in any sort of weird way that's not compatible with your vow and my move toward celibacy. I value having you as a friend, I look forward to what wonderful observations and nuggets of wisdom you will share next, and I worry for you when times get rough. I also love love love our impromptu phone calls--even through the occasional bouts of awkward silence! :) I look forward to exchanging emails from our respective infirmaries in our old age someday, and I definitely plan on spending more than a couple of my annual retreats on The Hill before that time!

I just wanna *HUG* you today!

8/23/2006 8:58 AM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

First off, Happy Blogoversary my dear friend! Congrats on the milestone.

Next, although I applaud you for going back to your original intention I also want you to know we've all enjoyed whatever you wrote about so don't forget to just throw stories about life in the mix now and again! I did originally start to read this blog because I thought it would be fascinating to watch someone go through this process but I've stayed fascinated - regardless what you wrote about.

Either way, I'll be here. :-)

8/23/2006 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Chris T. said...

Happy blogiversary!

You have definitely helped make this life more "normal" and real for me, too -- it is wonderful to see others on their paths struggling with the human things and still encountering God's grace in the midst of that.

I won't complain if we see more posts on your Benedictine existence, however! :-)

8/23/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

It has been a wonderful year, Steph, with you about in cyberspace.

Sending you much love!

8/23/2006 6:31 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Speaking as a non-Benedictine who has almost daily contact with your monkish counterparts up the road (during the school year, anyway), I've noticed that the Benedictine values of "ora et labora" and "receiving all guests as Christ" are huge differences. Could you do that in the world? Ok, maybe. But WOULD you?

I know of a monk who, for the last 30+ years lived away from his monastery because he held a prestigious teaching position at a really well-known university. He was an expert on churchy stuff. And it's said that he had stopped praying the office years ago and almost never attended mass.

Also, your house has something that a lot of other women's orders are struggling to maintain: a real common life, and common prayer. The only other thing I've seen in religious orders that are actually attracting new members, like yours, is a clearly defined common work (which is a little different than a well written mission statement).

The fact that you actually do live in community when so many orders have, for all practical purposes, left that behind... that monastic value makes you really different.

It's so hard as a person on the way to becoming a "secular" priest to maintain prayer and common life when I look ahead and know that one day, it is very likely that I will live in a rectory by myself, or with another priest who has an absolutely different schedule and different rhythm and different spirituality from my own.

Not to mention that much of your common life is around helping the aged and infirmed. Everyone will one day leave this world, but so many people in our contemporary society pretend it will not happen. Yet the monk(nun) keeps death before his(her) eyes.

Your life really is different. Plus, well, you're you. So that's pretty different. ;) Happy blogiversery.

8/24/2006 8:10 AM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...


Congratulatios on the blogiversary. I've enjoyed reading your thoughts and insights and questions. I think your blog is a bit of all of you. It's who you are, at least to us.

Thanks for just being there.


8/24/2006 9:53 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Happy blogiversary too. And I believe that by revealing who you are in your blog - who you want to be - how you interact with the world, etc. - you ARE revealing how and who a nun is. The generosity of spirt, the warmth, the humor, the peace and challenge. All this is true. Yes, many "other" people express this too. But doesn't that just dispell the myth that sisters are somehow "different" from others. We are all called by our baptism to this wholy and holy path. And as you walk it with integrity (which you do), you give hope and witness to all. And thank you for that.

9/01/2006 11:35 PM  

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