Sunday, September 29, 2013

Finding Our Inner Gumby

         We plow the dust of stars
       Blown about us by the wind
         And drink the Universe
           In a glass of rain.”

                     ~Ihad Hassan

It has become a joke in the house this year, that we (the novices), are striving to find our inner Gumby.  You remember Gumby?  That green claymation character who made a cultural resurgence in the 1980’s?  He could stretch and change into anything.  For us this year, his example has become second only to Christ's.

Sr. Katy Pereira, Sr. Bea Tiboldi, Sr. Anne Knight, Sr. Joye
Gros, Sr. Christian Atienza, Sr. Kathy Flynn and Sr. Sharon
Zayac at Jubilee Farm, 9/26/2013.
The past week was no exception.  We spent a day at Jubilee Farm (the Springfield Dominican Center for Ecology and Earth Spirituality), learning about the New Universe Story.  Our host, Sr. Sharon Zayac, led us through a day of education, reflection, and intellectual discussion on the subject.  We read the beginning of Journey of the Universe by Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker for preparation.  As a group, we discussed the importance of story.  We thought about how it forms the base of our belief systems and assumptions.  We imagined a new context for theology, one situated within the structure of our scientific knowledge of the universe.  We discovered that we are related to zucchini. We acknowledged ourselves as participants in the Holy Mystery.  And this stretched us. 

As the deeper journey of discernment unfolds, God continually asks us to challenge our own deeply held assumptions and beliefs.  Whether it is being opened to a new paradigm for theology or our relationship with earth, I find the tension signifies areas requiring growth.  Living within that tension and cultivating inner elasticity is challenging.  However, we continue on this journey with the hope that, like Gumby, we will be transformed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Imaging and Imagining God

As you can tell from previous posts by Anne, Bea and Christina, life in the CDN is very full and very rich.  In our discernment, we are each learning more about ourselves - what makes us tick; why we are the way we are; how and why we react in the ways we do; what past behaviors no longer serve us.  This deeper self-awareness not only helps us in discernment of the call to religious life, it will help us in our future ministries and in life, in general.  Discerning deeply takes a lot of energy, a lot of emotion.  Our weekly Reflection Day has become a welcome oasis.  This is a day set aside for processing the activity of the week, our feelings, our struggles, our joys, our questions.  It also helps bring us in closer relationship to our God.  Recently, one of our Directors, Joye Gros OP, led a Reflection Day, using our image of God as the prayer and reflection theme.  I took a bike ride to a local park, people-watched, reflected, prayed, journaled and was led to this prayer poem.  It is meaningful to me; hopefully, it will be to you, too.  Thanks for reading it ... and blessings to you as you find God in the everyday!

                                                         God Is
               The man in the wheelchair at the Social Security office and
               the lady in the pretty yellow dress
               The young mother with two children in tow
               the little boy standing in the fountain
               with wide-open face of delight
                               the light shining in Rosa Maria’s eyes
               God is Poetry and Science and Art and Dance and Music
                               the very best in all that is
                              God is Passion
                                Times Infinity
               God is the unexpected check that arrives
                               in the midst of a struggle
                               to buy gas or milk
               God is the crying baby who starts to sleep
               through the night just when
               you are at your wit’s end
               God is the greeting card that arrives
       on a gray
                                       gloomy day
               God is laughter, a brook babbling, the roar of waves
               breaking on rocky ocean shores
                                          God is Love
                   Times Infinity
               God is falling leaves
               the breath that fills sails
               and keeps kites aloft
               God is in every drop of our blood
               in each beat of our heart
               in every tear we cry
               God is the hummingbird that whirred over
               my right shoulder
               the vein in a cicada’s wing
               God is a chorus of all that has voice
               the beauty of a Black Hills Pine
               and a mystic
               God is the suffering, the homeless
               the imprisoned, the joyful, the mute
               God is the biggest hug
                       the greatest ear
                              the most compassionate friend you will ever have
                    Times Infinity
               God is a good measure, tamped down, filled to overflowing
                       God is too big
                                              for me to know
                                   what God is.
               God is Mercy.
                               God is Love
                                      God is All Good
                                                      God is Just
                                      God Just Is
                       Times Infinity

Friday, September 13, 2013

Coming to Life

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received since entering religious life is self-awareness. BCE (“before convent era”), I had privileged my mind to a large extent. The fact is, we have so many more dimensions to our humanity, so many more faculties from which to draw insight about ourselves and others. There are heart, gut, subconscious, body, soul, and perhaps even more. When I began to pay close attention and to learn their different forms of expression, I found these faculties to be just as vibrant as my mind; and frankly, a lot less apt to deceive me. And as I listened, I also become more keenly aware that I don’t control any of their output. All I can do is choose to listen, and make choices based on what I’ve heard. Christians call this listening awareness and Buddhists call it mindfulness. It is what allows me to feel the life of the earth beneath my bare feet; to know that the joy I feel from seeing deer stems from my soul and its predilection to marvel at all creation; or to discern to which ministry I am being invited. I attribute this awakening to the practice of prayer and solitude, which have quieted my mind and made my inner senses come alive.

Yesterday we had a wonderful workshop on the Enneagram from Sr. Maria Beesing, OP. (I believe we owe this wonderful personality framework to the Sufis, but don’t quote me.) Today we had the privilege of a day’s worth of reflection using what we learned yesterday. I was completely amazed by the depth and breadth of psychological and spiritual insight I received from my reflection, thanks in large part to how deftly Sr. Maria wove Scripture and Christian spirituality into the Enneagram. Totally powerful stuff! The last piece we did was to each draw a mandala to represent the fruits of our reflection. We then shared the story of our mandalas with one another. Without a doubt, everyone was deeply moved, and learned a great deal about themselves, their challenges and their gifts. And our sharing itself was incredibly fruitful.
To be aware is to be more fully alive and free. How to do it is written in our hearts. I believe we are designed for it. St. Irenaeus said that the glory of God is a human fully alive, and life is the vision of God. Today we experienced beatitude. In the immortal words of Katy: Praise God!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Taste and see...

What’s up with tasting things? Why do so many people like it? I guess they like to take risks or they like going for adventures. There is one event that most cities have in common: “Taste of …” festivals. In the last two weeks, we actually went to an International festival, then to a Greek festival, and (jealous or not) went to Maker’s Mark Bourbon place in Kentucky.

Everyone has different preferences of food, clothing, art they like in their homes etc. However, preferences are the result of tasting… first many people take a chance to taste and see if something fits their preference or not.

In the novitiate, we "taste and see" God's desire with our life while deepening our relationship with God. It has been only three weeks, but tasting the novitiate life has been great. Once we were missioned, we all came together to “taste and see” Dominican religious life. Most things landed on my “sweet taste buds” and some on the other buds, but those are good to develop to live with and get used to, too. For example, medicine doesn’t always taste sweet, but it serves a good purpose, right?

Have a taste of our life in the novitiate. Anne shared last week, that we started school. Well, since then, we started to have some routines, so life has started to settle a bit. Since then, some recent tastes included

Prayer: it’s like an energy drink… it's cool, it's refreshing, it's energizing, and there is never enough. We tasted "day for reflection"; we are learning chanting the morning and evening praises, we started to lead prayers for the community, explored several places for Mass, and contemplation became part of our daily life.

Study:  we keep tasting until we find the best recipe for each food. Same with study: study is an on-going formation so that we can use the intelligence to serve others. We go to Aquinas Institute and take classes on preaching and also on vows. We also participate in intercommunity novitiate, learning from others to deepen our relationship with God and others. We lucked out, taking preaching class (I’m lovin’ it; it’s a very practical class with great teachers/preachers) and Vowed Life (it’s another great class; we are now learning the roots of it.)

Ministry: we didn’t just hear about things, we tasted them. We checked out different ministries... They were all wonderful, and the lucky ones are stuck with us, we are ready to serve. Week of September 16 we will start our ministries. What are they? Volunteering in hospice ministry; ministering in jails to women who are working on their GED as well as being with them with their emotional journey, helping women transitioning from jail to the common life, and helping immigrant population to learn.

Community: that has been the most fun; we have a great community here. As community, we pray, eat, study, play games, do chores together, but most of all, we are there for each other. We go to lots of places together as well. Last weekend, we had a nice trip to Kentucky that made our Vowed Life class come alive, as we just learned about the history of Nuns in the U.S., and Kentucky was the first one. First of all, we ate at Overlook restaurant on the way. The food and view of the river were both great. Then, we got to visit Dominican Sisters of Peace, who were really welcoming. We had a hay ride on the sisters' farm and property which was beautiful in the sunset, we learned about the history of Dominican nuns in the U.S., we had a guided tour at St. Rose Church, then on to Maker’s Mark, where we learned how they make bourbon and we also taste it. Then we drove to the Abbey of Gethsemani, where we prayed vespers with the monks. In the evening, we had a delicious meal and paa (pie in Kentucky) at Pat’s Place. Next day, we participated in Mass at the Cathedral in Bardstown, where we experienced a wonderful sense of community. The electricity went out and all pitched in smoothly, without interruption, and in a subtle manner to continue celebrate Mass. After that, we drove to Louisville, and went to Slugger’s Museum. You don’t need to love baseball to love this place! No funnel cakes, but a bunch of fun from Lego baseball player statues to learning how the best baseball bats are made. We had a short sightseeing, then we went to spend the night with two Dominican sisters, where we shared vocation and ministry stories and a yummy dinner with BBQ chicken. It was one busy weekend, but it was nice to do all these with community. 

Oh, one more thing: our novice directors are not like the directors used to be long ago... We've been mischievous at times; good thing that venia (sliding on the floor across the room for mercy) is not practiced anymore. We do have to take responsibilities for every good and not-so-good, but Sisters Megan and Joye are not grumpy or mean at all. They really are there for us in this journey. 

OK, now that you had a taste of novitiate life... I would say that great minds taste alike. I assume that so far, all of us like life as a novice and willing to spice it up or just simply take another dip.

If you are a sister or brother, what’s your best recipe for the novitiate? 

If you are not a sister or brother, I hope that this helped you have a taste, but honestly, as I wrote it above, to know if it is meant for you or not, you can taste and see if it fits your (and God’s) preference. 

If you liked this article, please come back for "another scoop" next week for Christina's blog.