day 4: mary, mary, quite contrary?

day 4: Mary’s not so sweet lullaby…aka Magnificat

(if you missed day 1, day 1.5, day 2…click on the previous episodes. If you missed day 3, I’m sorry, I wasn’t feeling well…so no day 3 for you.)

I’m learning some wonderful things: spiritual, personal, scriptural, practical… Allow me to share a few:
1. If you look younger than 35, no matter where you are, you become the resident techie and cell phone specialist.
2. I’m not the only one who has had a “biblical icon” crisis. (I’m currently in one with Sarah, Abe’s lady, but I’ve had my fair share of Mary confusion too)
3. Wearing tiaras at birthday parties are essential. (no matter who you are(even the prioress), what you do, or how old you are…you wear them! If you’re lucky, you get feathers!)
4. It’s ok to not participate, especially when you are choosing self-care (some people reading this should be applauding loudly…you know who you are)
5. Dominicans make the best cookies and lemon bars I have ever had. (Seriously, I should join for the life-time of these cookies. In fact one may have had an image of something holy on it and told me to become Dominican, but then I ate it, so I’m not sure. Hahaha)
6. Good preaching starts off with a story…I just so happen to have a few stories for you today! Yippee!

I’ve never been a Mary person. I mean, she’s ok…I’m not anti-Mary or anything. I didn’t get into statues, I had a couple rosaries over the years and didn’t really connect with that way of praying. I got to be the revered 2nd grader…the “chosen one”, if you will…to crown Mary in my communion dress. I didn’t really want to do it because my dress was so ugly (another funny story actually) and I didn’t see what the big deal was. But then girls were crying because they didn’t get chosen, so I thought I better suck it up and do it. Mary…momma of the big J…great!

When I got older I was more than disgusted with these frail, dressed in blue, hands perfectly folded gazing upward images. I decided she must be pretty boring and not much personality. I even went to a nun camp with a Marian order of nuns who love Mary more than anyone I’ve ever known. They even start all their prayers and meals with a Special Mary prayer! I thought I must be missing something.

Then when I became aware of women’s roles, treatment, impacts, etc in society…I perceived Mary as a strong woman and was irritated by those images even more so. I didn’t pay much attention to how she was written about in the scriptures, but I knew she wasn’t one of those “mouthy, renegade” women that we are warned about. I truly admired her faith and her ability to say “ok, angel…that sounds good”…or so I thought…

Then today, a newly inducted member on my “oh my gosh, you’re brilliant and an amazing teacher, and my hero/ine” list: Sr. Barbara Reid, OP¬†gave us some new lenses and ways in which we could view Mary with the eyes, ears, and heart of a woman.

Story #2…I made a silent directed retreat right before I was received into the novitiate. My director gave me the assignment to write my own Magnificat. It was a great assignment! I was so happy…i praised God for EVERYTHING…just like Mary, in her innocent, frail, good girl way. Great…I’ve mastered the Magnificat….WRONG!

Sr. Barbara suggested that we take Mary from the perspective of her singing like a prophet. She helped us break open the Greek translation to come to the understanding that this was no “sweet lullaby” sung by a wimpy, blue veiled, child. Nope…now I’m intrigued and way into this.

Mary’s song could be interpreted as a counter-cultural ideology for her day. She urges, dreams about how life can be different for oppressed women in society. Naming God as “Lord” was sticking her tongue out at the emperor. It’s subversive, a dissent on the Roman Empire and treatment of women. Mary is basically saying “nan an nan an na na…you cant have me, I belong to Go-d, and I’m empowered…”. It’s her dream for new life…which coincidently is then taught to us in a more direct way by her son. As Sr. Barbara said, ” Well, when mom is singing songs like that at home, what political views would you work toward?” Now I’m in. Mary is awesome….and no wimpy Jew either!

So…relating back to my Kumbaya version of the Magnificat 5 years ago, I thought, what would I sing today, knowing this new lens and interpretation? That’s how I spent my afternoon, reflecting and composing my more historically accurate Magnificat.

Recently, someone asked me if I truly listened to God in prayer and in my formation. Um….yeah…that’s kind of a dumb question. She went on to tell me that she didn’t think I did listen or go deep enough because it was clear to her that God was not calling me to live religious life. I was furious! Let me be very clear…NO ONE, has the right to interpret and tell you how God is speaking to you in your heart. A vocation is a personal conversation with God that should be discerned with trusted people, yes, but no one can have the answer except you.

As if you can’t sense some of my passion for religious life…fire is an important symbol in my life. It speaks of me to intense passion and love. It is a God symbol for me. My Magnificat had to include fire. Between my rough spots the last couple years and trying to continue to move forward, frustrations with hierarchical structures, lack of integrity..etc…I, like Mary, stepped out of bounds to address God aflame in me today. Enjoy!

My spirit is ablaze with you, my God. All that I am, all that I will become, sings of the fire of your love in me.

God fires my life with love; Guides me to spread the fire among those who experience darkness, those who need warmth, the hungry. God persists with love beyond those who wish to snuff out my flame; from now on my spirit is ablaze with you, my God.

God loves through this and every moment, how blessed is the love of my God.

The fire of God’s love is a healing flame…sterilizing selfishness and greed, ego and ignorance; God torches misuses of power. Seemingly destructive, but not so, God blazes paths for new life.

God whisks away my abusers, fooled by the smoldering embers. With that same gentle breath, breathes me into a passionate blaze, recognizing the flame that once carried my spirit forward, responding to God’s call in me.

God’s flames envelop me and all those who walk their journeys with integrity. Fueled with this profound message, my flame rises. Today, her embers have transformed into quiet, gentle flickers in the night air. Trust provides her with the promises of blazing new trails again, raised up by those who are likewise impassioned to walk with integrity and passion in their hearts.

Only you, God, can light the fire within me. Fire my life with your love, my God. My fire has been lit and tended to by your love and persistence. My heart’s fire is not determined by ones who lack integrity and justice, nor those who use fire to destroy. Only for you and your people who burn for justice and with joy is this song being sung.

My spirit is ablaze with you, my God. All that I am, all that I will become, sings of the fire of your love in me.

real.truth.experience.joy

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day 2: the cross and the call

(if you missed the previous episodes in this series click here:  Part 1Part 1.5)

Today we looked at Mark’s Gospel (with a side of Matthew every now and then), putting into action our new lenses with which we can read the Scriptures through a woman’s perspective.

Now, I’m going to be honest here…praying with Scripture is not usually my thing. Too many words, I end up analyzing it instead of letting it enter me on a spiritual level. Give me images, music, nature, art, clay…anytime, but Scripture…mmmm I don’t think so. Well…one of the tenants of Dominican life is: study. Now, I love school. I love learning and I actually don’t mind studying most of the time, but to integrate that into my spiritual life/religious charism??? Hmmmm….maybe this Dominican thing isn’t for me. Enter, stage left…the voice of a few dear people who have walked with me: “make room for the spirit, listen, notice, experience…”. Oh, yeah! How could I let that slip?

Yesterday, we looked at frameworks (ok, she called them hermeneutics…) on how we might read Scripture in different ways, questions we might ask, imagine, etc. It totally made sense to me and I actually thought this studying scripture business isn’t so bad!

Today, we took learning into practice (sign of a great teacher, and Sr. Barbara Reid is an amazing teacher!) and broke open Mark and the women we encounter and the ones we don’t. I could write pages of what I learned and discussed today, but I’m sticking with relating my noticing and experience to discernment.

Call stories–

Who knew there was a framework for Biblical call stories (give me a framework and I’ll be happy!)?
So, it’s pretty simple for the New Testament : Jesus sees someone, invites them, commissions them, there are signs, Holy Spirit. Or my interpretation: “Yep, I want her”, “Hey you, come with me!”, “Why don’t you try…”, [person still doesn’t get it] “oh! A sign!” “hahaha…we got her!”

I was thinking about my initial call story in relationship to this pattern. Mine sounded more like this:

Nun I know: hmmmm she would make a good sister.
Nun I know (NIK): “Katy, have you ever thought about being a sister?”.
K: ” are you out of your mind?”
NIK: “Why don’t you come to this concert/program/over for dinner…you should really think about becoming a sister…”.
K: “ummmm…no.”. [go back and repeat over and over for several years…].
In Katy’s head: wow! I really feel at home here! Wow! I can be myself! Wow! I’ve never felt closer to God! Na?..none of these are signs!
FINALLY…Katy: “I can’t NOT DO anything else with my life…”

There were the initial thought, many, many, many invitations, many, many, many “signs”, finally an acceptance and awareness of letting the Holy Spirit fill me. It sure does sound like its following the framework! Much like discernment, figuring out your call, responding to it, and living it is a process, not something you check off your todo list.

So what does this mean for me in the here and now? I’ve learned a little since I started acknowledging my call nudges 14 years ago. That makes me happy! When I’m in the trenches or a dark space, I can’t always see the learning or the growth, that frustrates me. Just allowing myself to come here with the expectation of noticing and experiencing (as opposed to signing up and movin on the fast track) is a big step for me. I’m creating a space within for the spirit’s movement.

We also talked about the interpretation of “taking up your cross” from the eyes of women. Without over generalizing(that’s not my intent), often in patriarchal cultures this can be perceived by/about women as “embrace suffering…and suffer in silence”; the differences between denial of self/self-denial and service/servitude. We broke this open pretty deeply today.

One of the questions for reflection was: How do you understand taking up the cross in your circumstance? What came to me surprised me…for me, freely accepting the “cost” of being a disciple, and embracing myself in order to give myself to where God is calling me, said to me, ” Stay on the journey…”

Stay on the journey? Really? What kind of a cross is that? My journey of love (my vow theme, by the way) has paid the price of my heart…in the most joyful of senses and in the most agonizing of situations. It took me a lonnnnngggg time to acknowledge and respond to where I am being called, when I responded freely and wholeheartedly…I knew. I just knew. Then to be hurt, I questioned the journey. I was angry I responded. I ached. I still question the cost of my investment.

Here’s a creative piece I did a few months ago. The text says: she wondered where she belonged and if it was worth searching

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I think risking to continue on the journey with an openness to notice and experience is what I’m being invited to now. I won’t know the cost or the outcome or where I’ll land, but I’m choosing to accept this freely.

real.truth.experience.joy

day 1; part 2

Day 1; Part 2

(If you missed Part 1)

Enough discernment context, let’s get to the juicy part where I decide to adventure on this 7 day mutually blind date…yep! My first ever blind date, me and 80 nuns whom I’ve never met and vice versa…am I crazy? We’ll see…

My coming here for this experience is a ginormous risk for me; a lot of mixed up feelings. Will I fit in? Will it be fun (will it be the anti-fun?) What if we don’t like each other…or…what if we do? Normal pondering of trepidation before meeting someone for the first time I think. I also was excited! NUNS! SPIRITUALITY! COMMON PRAYER! NIGHT TIME CARDS! I’ve been painfully out of my element, where I feel most at home, and thrive. I truly couldn’t wait to be back in the women religious culture. And…I was a little sad. Moving toward another community means I’m also journeying away from my former community…cognitively, I can say, “oh, that’s healthy, that shows progress, that’s positive movement in the grieving process….”. On the inside, what’s real…doesn’t speak the language of my head.

As much as I only wanted to take the excitement with me, the others have a place in this experience too (growth and all that stuff…) So, I piled trepidation, excitement,and a tiny coin purse of sad into my suitcase…got on that boat and sailed across the lake to experience and notice.

A few observations I had when I planted my feet on Michigan soil and put one in front of the other to begin this experience were…peace, acceptance, and welcome.

So what happens when an ex-Franciscan (who still practically bleeds Franciscanism), who is re-entering the wild world of beginning discernment, and decides to go on her first blind date? Three very interesting things(Bonaventure would be reading into that too…clearly I’m not! LOL!):

1. The sisters gave me a journal. On the back, there was a sticker of the painting of Dominic and Francis embracing! OY!

2. On their motherhouse grounds, there is a meditation walking path called Instruments of Hope…the journey of ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI.

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Oh and…the first stop says: Francis on the road looking for a new life. OMG

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3. The first slide of the speaker’s PowerPoint presentation FOR THE ORDER OF PREACHERS, was “always speak the Gospel…use words if necessary” and in fades a picture of…that’s right…not Dominic, but Francis.

Ummmm…ok. Interesting start. Clearly the sprit is speaking in her subtle ways. I have more to unpack with today and all that’s swirling, but I think I need to take a few steps back and talk about discernment and what this all means for me in my journey….stay tuned…very soon, I promise!

Oh….I guess there was one more thing, but I didn’t want to lose the Bonaventure moment of a Trinitarian moment…I’ll let the image speak for itself….

Oh yeah, sure does have me labeled as an OP….hmmmm what is the spirit trying to say?

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We’ll have to see what Day 2 brings..

real.truth.experience.joy

the dating game…discernment 101

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I’ve decided to start dating again! After a painful break-up and some good ol’ grieving, it’s time for re-entry into the normal world again. Well, as “normal” as religious life gets…maybe I should back up a little and fill in the missing parts. Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor!

First, a little context…I’m sitting on the grass over looking a pond at Marywood convent. (You’re what?) I’m here at a weeklong (like 7 days! sun-sat!) spirituality conference with the Grand Rapids Dominicans (OPs). The conference is called: Women and the Word: Preaching with the Mind, Eyes, and Heart of a Woman.

Before I post about today’s juicy details…I think we need to take a gander at Discernment 101. In my other blogs: Nunspeak and Religious Life Rocks: The Adventures of one Fun Nun/Inner Excavation is some more information about discernment as well, I invite you to check those out too.

I’m writing this on my iPad which is not blog formatting friendly…

Discernment 101
Discernment–fancy schmancy nun-speak for thoughtfully, prayerfully, communally, entering into process to help make a decision or choice. Great…now that’s all cleared up! So what does that mean? I think the key words are: process, prayerful, and thoughtful (and if you’re married/partnered/parenting/or religious there’s the communal aspect too).
Discernment is not an impulse or a clear, concrete, correct answer. Discernment doesn’t start or finish…it’s ongoing, it’s a process. Discernment takes into consideration the whole–where am I being called? What are the needs of the community?(interpret that as you need to make it fit) what do I have to give? What is healthy for me? It’s (unfortunately ) not a flow chart (trust me, I tried this…nope, not gonna happen), nor is it a direct path. The serpentine road in this process is “inviting” you to walk gently…sometimes whether you want the invitation to this suare or not. The big “D” does however have stages in this process…now all of you flow chart lovers who just took a sigh of relief…guess again!
My image of the discernment process is more like playing the game Twister. Yes, you know, “right hand on green” “left foot on yellow”, then the times the caller keeps spinning, “right foot on red…right foot on red…right foot on red….”. Yeah…you know what I’m talking about! Sometimes people are in your way, sometimes you can look over at those intertwined people while you have one foot on red, sometimes you don’t have a spinner! Get your comfy clothes on and a pair of socks with no holes, because we can’t have this party without a little Twister! (I’m really jazzed about this image!)
Does all of this sound unsettling? Raise your hands if you think this is resembles a form of interior torture…If you said yes…My friends, consider yourself Discerners.

I’m going to try and blog my experiences this week as much as I can. I’m approaching this writing as I process what it means for me to be basically right in the very beginning of discernment AGAIN. I’ll be sharing my real, my truth, my experience, and my JOY as it relates to my discernment and journey.

Stay tuned….today’s reflections will be coming shortly….
real.truth.experience.joy