Friday, April 27, 2018

A week of “yes”

As I wake up this morning with the waves crashing on the rocks, I ponder where saying “yes” all week has led me. Emotionally drained, physically fine, and wonderfully, spiritually filled, I smile at the complexity of my current state of being.

It all started on Monday. There was no conscious choice to say “yes” to everything, it just seemed to be where the spirit was calling, so I followed. Bingo happens every Monday night at the church my novitiate is attached to, and though they often need help, I have never felt I had the energy by the time Monday night came around. Spiritually fuelled and surprisingly full of energy from putting the finishing touches on a 15-page paper on Teilhard de Chardin, this particular Monday I felt great – so I went.

I met a community of people who told me all about the parish they love so much, where their kids received their sacraments, where their grandparents were married, and where so many memories lie for them. Having moved every few years, I can’t fathom this, though I can relate to loving the church where my parents were wed, as that’s the church I attended most on PEI. I never expected to serve in the church by peddling lotto tickets, but I can see that for $10 you could have a night of entertainment, the possibility of winning prizes, and being surrounded by friends.

On Tuesday there was a memorial for one of our sisters. I don’t remember her, just as I don’t really remember meeting the last few sisters who passed away and who’s services I attended, but I’m not sure memorials are for this. When asked to go, I said “yes” to be around a community of sisters who were grieving through their own pain and celebrating the joy of her life. I said “yes” to learning more about who she was and how she lived her vocation. I said “yes” to being in a room filled with love.

Wednesday held a “novitiate training” activity (that I was expected to go to and only learned about it when it appeared on my calendar.) So rather than answering a question, this was an internally motivated “yes,” to go with a willing heart, an open mind, and a smile. It was a panel discussion about a new book written by young sisters “In Our Own Words.” A nice read on many aspects of being a sister, including a hopeful and well-written chapter by CND’s own Debbie Warner.

Being regularly told from lots of different sources how so few sisters are joining religious life, I am always surprised to go to a gathering and see so many young sisters, especially ones I didn’t even know existed. In a room of 100 sisters, I knew only 3 people. There were at least 40 sisters there my age (or there about), confronting the notion that I know in my heart is false – that religious life is dying. I met vibrant, joyful, and hope-filled sisters who knew what I did – there is a reason we are being called and we need to meet occasionally to remind each other. As you can tell – it was easy to say an internal “yes” to this.

Thursday morning started with the usual greeting of friends at the local food bank and putting together bags of food for the local community, before running off to mass and an all-day novitiate class. On Thursday afternoon, I learned they needed people to sit in an adoration chapel at the local convention center because there was going to be a gathering of 2100 young’uns. When I say local – I mean walking distance, less than a mile away. It’s amazing what happens right under your nose and you don’t even know about it. I went to the early shift, prayed for an hour, and kept Jesus company until the next companion came along. Later in the evening, a few of us went back to the rally to see the charismatic event in action. Filled with impassioned speeches and witness talks, I was surrounded by an army of priests administering confession for eager teens. A second “yes” to go back, I learned that in the NY area, the future of the church is ts Hispanic youth. It felt nice, like I was back in Texas, the only blonde in the crowd.

Friday involved a four-hour roadtrip (twice as long as it should have been due to traffic), a slight bribe getting to stop at Chick-fila along the way (my favorite place for sweet tea and waffle fries), and a weary arrival at shore. In Quonnie, Rhode Island, we were greeted by the sound of the ocean and a towering 3-story inn. When sisters tell me about this place on the shore, their eyes always brighten, their smiles come easily, and their minds drift to happy memories. Arriving in the fog and cold under the veil of night enhanced the feeling of magic. Like Hogwarts or a false wall in the wardrobe to Narnia, this seems to be the setting for a number of mystical tales. My “yes” today really means helping tomorrow morning to prepare the rooms, so all summer long, guests can enter into their own tales and stories n this mystical setting. Even though this is my first visit, the feeling of “opening the cottage” is familiar. Each year on PEI, our family comes together on a cold, wet day, laughing through the mundane tasks to wash dishes and make the beds, enjoying each other’s company and expecting a summer of adventure. Among the PEI trees, the silence of the forest is as deafening as the waves I now hear on the Rhode Island coast.

During this week of “yes,” I have encountered so many people, my little introvert inside is crying for quiet time. Though not physically tired, I am emotionally drained and mentally wiped. With everything else, this week held meetings, a term paper, reading 3 books and a few additional chapters, and 2.5 intense hours learning from Elizabeth Johnson. And that’s since Monday. Spiritually, I am so gratefully full, in part for the awareness of the many “yes’s” that just as easily could have been “no’s,” for the people I met this week, and for the many places where I saw love weaving its way through the tapestry of life. I leave you with this quote that has accompanied from the noisy bingo halls, through the conference room-turned temporary chapel, to a wood paneled room on the Atlantic coast:

"God is the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle – of my heart and of my thought" - Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist and author.

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