Wednesday, February 22, 2012


My view of Lent has changed as I grew up. As a kid it was about giving up things –candy, sweets, caffeine –whatever my addiction was at the time. Later, it was less about giving things up and more about what new things I could do to better myself during Lent (and hopefully after) –exercise, volunteering, smiling more.
I've realized recently (meaning while writing this blog post) that I have also changed the way I view the vows during my discernment of religious life. In the very beginning, they were about giving things up: poverty meant I couldn't own anything, obedience meant I couldn't decide anything, and celibacy meant I would never get married (remember, I did say this was my thinking at the very beginning).
Of course, a large part of religious formation is examining the vows from all different perspectives and applications. We've had/will have a semester-long course, panel discussions, and workshops on the subject. Before coming to St. Louis, and definitely since being here, I've come to see the vows as less about giving things up and more about taking on an entirely new way of living – a prophetic life with less fetters and more openness to God's call, God's will, and God's people.
Lately, I've been re-examining the vows in the light of solidarity with diverse groups of people. Poverty obviously helps put us in solidarity with the poor. Ron Rolheiser talks about how the vow of chastity puts us in solidarity with the lonely. The vow of obedience puts us in solidarity with the powerless. It's a new and interesting way of thinking about them and I'm enjoying the reflection.
So, to complete the circle, let's go back to Lent. This year, I'd like my Lenten observance to not just be about giving up, or even about taking on. I want to try putting this newest reflection into practice. How can I use the next 40-some-odd days to become in solidarity with a group of people I've previously overlooked, ignored, or been ignorant of? I'm still figuring it out, but at least it's given me plenty of food for thought.

So, what are you doing for Lent?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What does it mean to be “homeless”?

A hole lies exposed where there once used to be a window.  Inside are strewn blankets, empty cans and markings on the wall that indicate this “home” has been claimed.  In a nearby hospital, people are being taken through the Emergency Department door, uncertain of their diagnosis and feeling some anxiety about their future.  And at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate, a novice visiting from another congregation is welcomed to what will be her new “home” for a few weeks.

As I reflect back on the examples that have been shown to me of what it means to be “home”, no longer are those who are homeless limited to those who must survive on the street.  No, they have become for me anyone who must “pick up their mat and walk”.  Where they lay their head one day may not be where they are being called to place it the next.  Like the paralytic person, we are being invited by Jesus to try something new, be open to a new way of living and not to close the door on the gifts that await us. 

During these last few weeks, we have been blessed with the presence of Mary Therese Perez, a second year Dominican Novice from Mission San Jose.  At this time, her congregation is not a part of the Collaborative Novitiate.  After meeting Mary in October, during the Young Dominican Conference at Mission San Jose, her congregation asked us if Mary could come visit for a couple of weeks, but it is we who have been blessed.  We have been changed. 

We have learned through Mary that when we open ourselves up, risk the journey into the unknown, we come out stronger than we first began.  Home is more than shelter.  To me, home is where we can lay our head in trust, resting in the belief that where we are provides food for our journey.  What “food” we receive, through the support of new friends, a dry place out from the cold, a new diagnosis that reminds us our bodies have changed, are gifts that feed the soul and give us strength to face tomorrow.