Weeeeeee’re back!!! Last Wed, the 8th, we regrouped back in St. Louis, braving no less than a polar vortex, to commence the second half of our canonical novitiate year. We came back full of emotion, and as of this writing are still riding high from all the love and attention we received during the holidays from our Sisters at our home congregations and family and friends. I sense we all came back strong, confident, with a let’s-do-this mindset.
And what exactly is the “this” to which we came back? Of course, the answer would be different for each one of us, but I would venture that the struggle of putting into words exactly what is happening to us here is something we would all share. Properly speaking, it is called formation, which has always to me implied a certain reshaping. But there is another sense of the word, which I’m beginning to think is more appropriate: the sense of coming into being, of emergence. “This” is the place where I get to ponder the question and discover some answers to: Who am I?
There are many levels to this question, I’m learning. The Buddhists were onto something when they identified it with a lotus flower. The outermost petals are the really superficial things, like what kind of car I drive, how much money I make, etc. Going inner, I began to encounter who are my friends, what’s my job title, and so on. Going inner still, there are the values and beliefs, like how I should be in the world. This is as far as a lot of us get, I think, and I sense this is where I am now. And I am mindful of how easily the question can get lost in the cloud of What should I do? especially as the apostolic year starts coming into view (yikes!).
The mystics seem to be the ones who persisted with the original question and found the answer for themselves. Beyond the shoulds, the systems, the theologies, the virtues and vices and even mindfulness itself, they seem to have experienced, paradoxically, the dissolution of their very sense of self – perhaps nothing more than a construct of the mind – to be The definitive answer to Who am I? The jewel in the lotus. The mind free of itself. The one who has gained her life after losing it. The most interior room in the castle. Who they are in God. Their deepest Self. Sounds like something worth longing for. I imagine they had to cross many, many polar vortices along the way.
I get the feeling that this road to Self-knowledge is the very same one as the road to realizing ever more deeply just how much God truly loves each one of us. It’s a long road that keeps going, a lifelong formation, I get that now; and that “this” is a time and place like no other. Thank you.