Sunday, September 21, 2014

the art of making soap and building community

Yesterday I learned how to make soap.  
(No, not this soap.  Mine wasn't nearly this fun looking.)
It’s something I’ve wanted to learn for quite a while, so I was thrilled when one of our Dominican brothers, who makes homemade soap, agreed to teach me.  I brought the rosemary and lemon (yum), he brought the lard and lye (yuck), and we had a great afternoon.  I learned that lye and water create an exothermic reaction (i.e.: HOT) and I heard stories about his grandmother, who taught him to make soap.  We discovered that we both break into spontaneous song when something reminds us of the lyrics.  As we worked, other brothers wandered in and out, their curiosity piqued by the concoction bubbling in our crockpot.  We made soap, yes, but we were also building community.

There’s a principle in conflict resolution called “cross-cutting ties.”  Essentially, it’s the idea that one really effective way to build bridges between groups in conflict is to find a common interest or goal and bring people together to share in it.

I’m not suggesting that Dominicans are a group in conflict (though all families have their conflicts) but I do think that creating cross-cutting ties is part of being human.  We do it all the time: we search for common interests when we first meet someone new.  We find a common interest and feel more connected to that person.  Eventually, a friendship may even develop.  And in a society that prizes Structure, Productivity, and Collaboration, it's important to remember often it's the seemingly small things that "tie" us together.  

Collaborating on Big Important Things is good, but sometimes it’s also good just to be together.  Sometimes, you just need to make soap together.  Or play soccer.  Or dance, or cook, or learn to yodel, or gawk at glowing hot air balloons... together.  

Sadly, I didn’t snap a single picture of our soap-making endeavor… I’ll post some later with our finished product. :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rummaging For God

Some call it a garage sale, some a yard sale or tag sale and still others a Rummage sale, but, no matter what they call it they are all looking for that “gem” that says take me to my new home.  They wander from house to house, looking around at some houses longer than others and others possibly stopping just to visit with a neighbor they haven’t talked to in a while.  Some will go home with armloads of “gems” and others will just have enjoyed the walk.

Reflecting on our time this week discussing discernment, The Universe Story, and contemplation I found a few “gems” too.  There were times in my candidacy year that I wondered whether I was “doing” discernment or not, but, this week I realized discernment isn’t something we can do, it’s simply putting the Rummage Sale sign up and letting God show us the “gems” in our life.  When we open ourselves up to letting God rummage through us, the “gems” in our life sparkle a little brighter.

I personally find rummage sales a bit chaotic, but, as we learned at Jubilee Farm this week, beauty often comes from chaos.  Like winding through the tables of gems at a sale, we had the opportunity to explore 111 acres of lush farm land and marvel at the beauty that has become of the chaos of light-years ago.  By embracing Holy Mystery we can see beauty created from chaos.

Finally, we completed our week with a day of reflection on contemplation with our brother, Fr. Jim Barnett.  People have rummage sales for a variety of reasons; get rid of stuff, make a little spending money, get ready to move etc, but today we realized why we spend time in contemplation and let God rummage through our hearts…. because we love God!

While most rummage sales last only a few hours, our rummage sale with God is likely to last a lifetime if we pay attention to the “gems” God places before us.

(Kelly, Chuc, Christin at Jubilee Farm in Springfield, IL)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Journey Begins

Hello from the CDN novices of 2014-2015!

It has been a whirlwind few weeks since we arrived at the CDN.  We've been dedicated to the work of building community, settling in, learning how to get around (or how not to get lost), and learning how not to make the neighbor's dog bark at us.  We've been about the business of prayer, community, and study… which hasn't left much time for blogging!  In the next week or so, you'll begin hearing from us regularly, but for now we'd like to share some photographic evidence that we are alive and well here in St. Louis.  Enjoy!

We got settled in and blessed the house...

…we began classes at Aquinas Institute and met the student Brothers…. 

…we've explored the city and shared lots of meals together...

…we cheered the Cardinals on to a victory
(and showed Stan the Man how to swing a bat)...

… of course, we saw the arch...

… and we even ran into some of last year's novices at a national gathering of
Dominican women!  What a great way to bless our new beginning.

Peace and blessings,
Chuc, Kelly, and Christin