Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Does Community Mean?

One pillar of Dominican Life has been the focus of my thinking and praying recently. I am a very independent person and have grown up doing things for myself, so when I became sick and needed assistance in November I began to understand what community means. I had to rely on my sisters to lift things, pick things up off the ground and even take notes for me in class when I was not able to go myself. They willingly helped me but still let me to do what I could do, however small it was. Community means helping even when it is not convenient, but also allowing others to still do for themselves.

When I went to the Mound this Christmas break I continued to expand what community means. I was blessed to lead some of the sisters in an art project and to witness their sense of accomplishment and pride when they had a number of completed projects in front of them. Over the next couple weeks I heard what the pictures were being turned into. Community means sharing the gifts I have and being receptive to how those gifts are used for others and God.

When I returned to St. Louis a couple weeks ago my understanding of community expanded again. We participated in a two day workshop that prompted a long conversation at supper one night where we learned quite a bit about each other and deepened our relationships. Community means really listening to the other and being present to the person/people in front of you. It means mutual risking of self as relationships grow deeper.

How do you define community?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Navel-gazing – useless or excessive self-contemplation (from

Call me old-fashioned, but I never cared much for psychology before. I remember taking a course in college, but honestly the only thing I remember about it is signing up to be a participant in various studies to I could get extra credit on exams.

I never, never expected psychology to be such an important part of my novitiate experience, but time has proven me wrong.

At first, this emphasis on “know yourself, know your issues, know how to cope with them” seemed excessive, even self-defeating. Why spend all this time thinking, talking, and remembering just to be able to shout “I'm screwed up!! And X, Y, and Z made me so!!” [insert your own favorite players there – parents, siblings, cultural mores, pop icons, etc]

But lately I've begun to wonder if this isn't so much about excuses as it is about explanations. An excuse is something you hide behind (“I couldn't do ______ because of __________!!”). It provides you an out, and escape, of an otherwise uncomfortable or unwanted position. It seemed at first that a lot of this “navel-gazing” was all about finding excuses (“I can't meet community obligations because I didn't have enough rigid boundaries when I was a kid!”). However, the more we talk about self-reflection and personal development, the more I see it can be used to explain our “quirks” or our “buttons” – not with the idea of using them as excuses, but with the goal of being able to work around them and try to make sure that they don't stand in our way.

So, I guess I'm coming around to the overall usefulness of this psychology stuff – or at least, I'm willing to talk about it!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

St. Theresa's Prayer

A few days before I left Sparkill, I found myself in our community room.  This had become my place of refuge each evening, after “good nights” had been spoken, and God was calling me to reflect on the day’s happenings.  The white lights from the Christmas tree reflected onto the floor, as I thought of my own reflection and the reflection of others with whom I received the gift of getting to know better; myself included.

In the quiet of the evening, I thought of the ways I tried to be Christ for my community, and how they in turn were Christ for me.  I thought of the humility that was shown to me when our infirmed sisters entrusted me to provide personal care, or simply to reposition them if they were uncomfortable.  Many of our sisters shared with me a trust in their God with whom they had grown to love more intimately now than when they began their own formation.  I remember the words of encouragement offered to me to be open to trust the God with whom I am beginning to know, who wants to deepen our relationship, and who understands my struggles.

During this particular night, the words to a song I had not heard in years came back to me. 

“Christ has no body now but yours
no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands,
with which He blesses all the world

Yours are the hands,
yours are the feet,
yours are the eyes,
You are His body

Christ has no body now but yours
no hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
with compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth
but yours.”

                                    John Michael Talbot

As I begin this next semester of my journey as a Dominican Novice, may I be more open to the God who is re-creating me.  May I be God’s hands as I contribute even more to my ministry and my community life.  May my eyes see the light I am invited to chase, to embrace and to make brighter.  And may my feet walk more firmly through the transitions of the day that lies ahead.