day 5: mission possible

I’m home now…I have to admit I’m tired from the week and I have a lot to process, but I truly had a fantastic time.  I was sad to leave on many levels and yet, excited to be home (mostly to see kitty).  I hesitate writing a day 5 report because I really need to let some stuff slosh around a bit, but I can give some highlights of day 5 and after the sloshing is complete, I may do a cumulative review; we’ll see.

If you missed the other episodes…click here and follow the linkage…

day 5: mission possible (I so wish I could add audio to play when you bring my page up…)

If you’ve followed these days, I’ll bet you know what we talked about on the last day of the conference…ta da!  Of course, the Gospel of John!  Again, I have a confession to make…all this time I’ve been a Mark and sometimes Matt girl.  Luke is too wordy for me and John…well I just didn’t get into the whole ascetic Jesus as much as I like the down-to-earth (no pun intended), historical perspective.  And to sing the praises of Sr. Barbara Reid, OP a little more…my perspecitves on, well, pretty much everything Gospel related, study of Scripture, etc…have been flipped over.  The name of the conference was: Women and the Word: Preaching with the Mind, Eyes, and Heart of a Woman”…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read the Scriptures the same again–all for the better!  Seriously…she is amazing. 

We spent a lot of time on the Samaritan Woman.  You know the story, if not here are some cliff notes:  Women, well, Samaritan.  Jesus, tired, Jew.  Jews and Samaritans no talky talky.  Jesus thirsty, Samaritan woman bucket. They converse back and forth: 

I’m a Samaritan Woman!, J: Drink water of new life!, SW: What in the heck are you talking about?, J: I can’t believe you don’t know who I am…, SW: hmmm, maybe I am starting to get it, J: Uh Oh, my guys are coming; back go tell people, SW: Ok!  [runs to town] I’ll be right back with loads of people!

I’m quite confident that I’m not the only person in the world who thought this passage was about Jesus the “love one another” Jew who throws the law-book to the wind and talks to WOMEN and the OTHERS.  Jesus the model for social justice and humanity…I still believe that.  I never wondered or questioned the role of the Samaritan Woman though.  Isn’t it all about Jesus?  Well…she definately had something to say to us/me!

As in the other “episodes” of this “Katy visits the Dominicans” series, I’m not going to spend much time with the “academic” learning (although I could do that very easily), but attempt to connect the themes to my journey and discernment in these experiences. Sr. Barbara suggested we look at the Samaritan woman as a model of mission for us. Two key points I’ll reframe:  a) the dialog between Jesus and her was a “gradual self-revelation” that was mutual.  A quid pro quo, if you will; however, not in Latin and not with a sociopathic Anthony Hopkins.   b) As a person in mission–she experiences, goes back to the familiar, talks about it with her friends, and brings them back. 

Re-enter discernment, stage right…

Mission…this is important to me.  For me, it’s the “hutzpah” of a congregation (not to be confused with charism, which is a part of mission).  Why do a group of women, come together, choose to commit their lives together, and remain through the good, bad, and ugly for a life time, AND THEN…how does it continue on into the future?  That’s mission.  Each congregation has a mission to which the life, the energy, the membership, the fuel, the ministry…is born, nourished, grown, and moved forward.  If I can’t relate to a group’s mission or see myself entering into the mission with all my heart, then I can’t authentically commit my life to that group.  It’s an integrity/call/authenticity thing.  It’s a very important part of discernment for me…no matter what stage you’re in.  To what/to whom are you willing to commit your energy and passion to?  That’s the question I’m asking now.

Regarding the reinterpreted “model for mission”–this is classic Katy-now (I wish I could claim this process when I was a youngin’ looking at religious life, but alas…this wisdom is all new, uncharted territory) discernment.  It looks a little like this:

Katy looks at websites.  Katy tries to find mission statement on websites and is aware if it is prominent or not.  If Katy likes and can resonate, Katy moves on to experiences.  Katy returns home and will talk about it with people.  If Katy still experiences a nudge, a connection, Katy will return.

Sounds an awful lot like the woman in Samaria.  I know I write in jest often, and I do not  want to belittle the importance of her role as a model for mission–she risked, she entered into a mutual process transforming a relationship from perceived impossibility to friendship, and she returned after proclaiming the good news and brought more people with her. Her mission was to invite people to walk this journey of faith. 

Finally…the mutual conversation.  Dating (women, men, religious communities) is a lot like this conversation between Jesus and Samaritan woman.  It was a gradual process…they didn’t discuss “hot topics” right away.  Jesus wasn’t like, “Hey I’m the Messiah and you’re supposed to be a model for mission, I’m thirsty, give me something to drink and then go bring people back!”  They each gave a little at a time until the reached a comfort level.  The important thing for me was breaking open the mutuality of the conversation.

Dating religious communities can reflect this mutuality…you’re both trying to figure out if each other is a good fit.  Enter into the process with integrity and authenticity…it should work out the way it needs to for both parties.  Subtract that integrity and authenticity…people get hurt and quite frankly, why would you want to commit to something if one of you had a false sense of the other?

I’m not sure this reflection makes a concrete connection, but like I said, I’m still sloshing over the whole experience.  I’ll leave you with a few questions…feel free to comment/begin a dialog!

What kinds of “mission” taps your passion?  What do you look for when making a major commitment?  How do you engage in a risky relationship that still feels compelling enough to pursue?

Ah-ha…there’s my piece that’s floating around…How/Why would I engage in a risky relationship that feels compelling enough to pursue…that’s my discernment question right now.  Now I have to get to work too!

real.truth.experience.joy

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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

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

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

Washing Feet…not mine…not now…

Wash my feet? Mine? Now?

Sorry, they are rough and tired.

Profound gesture, thanks.

(Haiku.  Holy Thursday, 4/5/12.  KML)

It’s Holy Thursday…my “tied-for-first” favorite liturgical feast (the other?  Pentecost).  I find the story, the reflection, and the profundity of washing feet deeply touch me.  My tied-for-first  feasts are so closely related in meaning.  They both are about commissioning, service, mission…values embedded deep within me.  Values that led me to consider and pursue my call to religious life.

A short story insert to help with context:

Once upon a time there was a college freshman named, Katy.  Katy’s family went to Florida every year for Easter and unfortunately, because Katy’s college schedule didn’t allow for that, she was stuck at home.  Katy had to vacate the dorms for Triduum–Easter Monday so naturally she went to the convent to hang with the nuns.  Now, Katy, although growing up mostly Catholic, never went to a Triduum service in her life.  Not only was she churched that weekend…when she woke up on Easter Sunday (to get ready for more church), the nuns had the 8 o’clock MASS on the RADIO.  Katy hadn’t been to this much church, in consecutive days in her life…let alone listen to it on the radio. (although there was that one time she tried to convince her mom watching it on TV was legit because it was the Pope…)

Come to think of it…I think it was Holy Thursday that weekend of Nunning it where the universe united and I began considering religious life as an option.  After (you guessed it…) Mass, Srs. Toni, Guisselle, Kathy, and I sat in Toni’s room and somehow started looking at Toni’s ceremony pictures.  Then I slowly started to ask questions…and I still have the journal entry somewhere…but something changed within me.  That night my heart heard something different…

Fast forward…14 (ugh…) years…

I’m disinterested, not moved, not inspired…I don’t want church, hell…I don’t want faith, prayer, spirituality…any of it at the moment.  I love God and I know God exisists…that’s about it.  It’s painful to think about going to church.  It’s painful to think about a feast which represents my call…my vocation.

Selfish…probably.  Feeling guilty…yep.  Taking care of me, despite my charred insides…you bet.  (My spiritual director says that I’m allowed and I don’t need to be interested in God for God to be interested in me…hmmmm.)

So here I sit…on my favorite feast day, blogging.  I wrote the Haiku above this morning.  I have had many profound experiences with the feet washing ritual.  I’ve had the Jesus–“Hey…I gotta do this to be an example…”, the “Peter”–Wash mine? I should be washing yours…”, the “Collective”–we wash one another’s as communion, etc.  I’ve never felt the–“Disgust and the need to hide my feet (or self)” mode, like I do today.

My feet; they are rough and tired.  My feet have been on a hard journey–over hot coals, thistles, sand, dirt, rocks…you get the point…  They have been beaten up, they have been soothed along the way, yes; however, need to heal a bit more before exposing them again.

This self-care stuff, I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, in a deep way.  It’s hard!  It doesn’t feel right…especially when you feel called to pour out your love for others.  Tonight…I need to care for my battered and blistered feet…and humbly bow before my spirit and let myself be ok with this (and know God is too…). Not easy. Not comfortable…but what journey is easy and comfortable?

real.truth.experience.joy

molting…for the birds?

I live in a great lower flat with a lot of architectural charm (HWFs, leaded glass windows, built-in china cabinet, etc), I have the best land”people” who live upstairs (whom I adore), I’m in a familiar neighborhood where many of the people I love are…sounds great doesn’t it?  It is…it truly, is great, but…I’m moving.

Here’s the problem…I need to reinvent my life; start all over, essentially.  I did a lot of this discerning, searching, and finding once before…started when I was 18 and I found my niche/calling and followed it when I was 24.  Fast forward 6 years and I found myself having to start over (not by my choice either).

Now, I’m 32 and don’t have a freaking clue…all I know is that to reinvent, I’m feeling the need to divest myself of all things clinging to, reminding, taunting, and shaming me of what I devoted my heart and self.  This is excruciatingly painful (Hey, my blog is not named “Land of rainbows and elves” for a reason…) and sometimes down right maddening.  Everything around me in my physical space is attached to my former life…including my silverware!  I mean, c’mon… who eats a bowl of pasta and tears up because their fork reminds them of their broken heart?

So…I’m molting.  I started with finding an apartment, in a neighborhood where the median age is 37, there are fun things to do, beautiful Lake Michigan is 2 blocks away, and my nuns (whom I love dearly, truly) won’t be beeping the horn and waving when I’m out running off rage from my situation.  Ha!  New space/location…check.

Then I did the first grown-up house like thing–I bought a new living room.  It’s my style, my colors, my design…plus they all match and didn’t come from 3 other convents before.  Begin to get rid of nun-household items…check.

I also refinished two of my dressers (knowing I couldn’t afford new everything…how do you turn nun dressers into Katyesque Chic?  Spend hours on Pinterest and rehab them yourself!)  Begin to have own style…check.
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Sounds so glamorous and exciting doesn’t it?  I wish.  Today, I started packing by going through my boxes and bins to get rid of stuff…I have way too much crap.  Goodwill here I come!  Part of this cleaning out stuff is actually quite cathartic and meditative.  I was all good until a few things happened:

1.  I came across all of my ceremony photos and memorabilia.  I wanted to throw it all in the trash; wait, I did throw it all in the trash, and then one of my little voices said that might regret that in the long run.  It went in a bin that I hope I don’t open for a very long time.

2. I began getting rid of all of my nunny books and Franciscan memorabilia.  G’bye Francis and Clare!  G’bye San Damiano!  G’bye Joyce Rupp and Joan Chittister!

3.  I realized that no matter what I divest myself from, how I change my space or aesthetics…what I “molt”, I grow back the same feathers.  You can’t get rid of you or pawn it off on a charitable thrift organization.  I dissolved right then and there amid the boxes of books/paraphernalia ready to be moved on.  Boo!

Simply…I spent ~6 years discerning where I’m being called and then another 6 “integrating” and “transforming” to live out that call to end up unjustly discarded…unfortunately my heart and belief and faith don’t follow suit.  This life, this call, is in me…in a real way.  It brings me back to “Ignite or be gone” post…it was my “true and perfect joy”…I fell in love…I committed my life…ARGH!

Changing my physical enviornment…exterior molting, if you will, is an important part of my healing process…indeed.   Internal molting…it’s going to take a lot more than a box of Francis’, Clare’s, a Joyce Rupp prayer-book, your community’s history book, and the omnibus of Franciscan documents to settle this.  A new exoskeleton may look great, but they sure do come at a price.  What do they say…pain is beauty?  Hmmmm…

real.truth.experience.joy