Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life of Pi

This is by far one of my favorite movies.  Let me tell you why...

In struggling with the division that seeks to infiltrate the silence of my heart, I came to identify with the young man stuck on a tiny boat with a tiger in the middle of an ocean.  How?  Well, the answer stems from the idea that Pi's story is supposed to lead his interviewer to believe in God.

Pi presents his story in two different versions.  His first version is the one he chooses to believe: the story where, in the midst of chaos and peril, a hyena kills a zebra, then kills an orangutan, and then is himself killed by a tiger.  This tiger ends up being Pi's unlikely and unwelcome companion as he drifts about the ocean in waves of courage and despair.  At first Pi is terrified of this tiger, doing everything possible to avoid and distance himself from this fierce beast.  Eventually he hopes to tame the tiger, but realizes his only hope of survival lies in accepting this animal and situation for what it is.  The two almost become friends.  Pi even saves the life of the tiger on at least two separate occasions.  When they part ways in the end, Pi remains heartbroken into adulthood, wondering why the tiger never even looked back to say goodbye after all they had endured together.  However, each time Pi recounts this version of his story, no one believes him.  They all insist, "You could not have really survived at sea with a tiger.  Tell us the true version."

At the urging of two investigators from Japan, Pi gives us his second version:  This time a cook kills an injured passenger, then proceeds to kill Pi's mother, and then meets his end when Pi kills him.  The investigators listen in horror as Pi gives them the gruesome details, tears streaming down his face, as he describes watching his own mother die and then his own shocking and violent murder of the cook.  By the end, the investigators remain stunned.  "So, which version is true?" they wonder, not really wanting to fully grasp the horrific scene just illustrated for them.  "Which would you rather believe?" Pi asks.  When we are given the details of the report filed by the investigators, we learn they report the event as the first version Pi gives.  When Pi asks his interviewer this same question toward the end of the movie, the interviewer also chooses to believe the first version.

In relation to my interior struggle with division, I see these two stories as one:  The hyena represents the cook, the zebra represents the injured passenger, the orangutan represents Pi's mother, and the tiger represents Pi himself.  Pi is at first frightened when he realizes he is travelling with such a dangerous and savage creature.  Fear insists that distance must remain between them,
but deep down Pi knows that this will only result in his death.  He decides to tame the tiger, but that also fails, so what does he do?  He teaches himself how to co-exist with the beast.  Pi is the tiger.  The tiger is the side of this young man that emerged when Pi needed him to.  In a moment of extreme pain and violence, Pi responded by taking the life of another human being.  He acted in a way that shocked and scared him, so he tried to escape this side of himself he never knew existed and which he now did not want to exist.  He attempted to put as much distance as possible between the person he had always been and the person he now saw himself to be.  But it wasn't working.  Neither did it work to try and tame this part of himself.  Pi needed the new found strength and courage of this beast to survive, and so he integrated this creature into his person.  Thus, as this side of him simply disappears when his journey at sea comes to an end (this journey representing a time in his life marked by excitement, confusion and loss), Pi is heartbroken.  He had learned how to love this side of himself, and now it simply departs, never to be seen again.

I have begun to examine my own stormy journey at sea.  I have seen this tiger emerge, and so am trying to understand what to do with it.  I have tried keeping it at bay, refusing to accept it as something that is a part of myself.  I have tried taming it, pretending it could be made docile, perhaps invisible.  But none of this is working.  How do I integrate this tiger into who I am?  And what is this tiger anyway?  What is the beast I am attempting to escape?  Hope comes in the fact that Pi learned to integrate his beast, even to the point of loving him.  Hope emerges as well in the second part of the interviewer's concern:  The idea that Pi's story is supposed to make him believe in God.

As the movie comes to an end, Pi explains to his interviewer, "I gave you two versions of the story.  I choose to believe in the version with the animals.  You, and the investigators, choose to believe that version as well.  I think God would also choose to see things that way."

Could you imagine if the movie had looked the way Pi described it the second time around?  Had we watched the cook kill an injured passenger and then kill Pi's mother, then later watched Pi kill the cook, we would have been horrified by all of the violence.  Instead, we saw the first version, played out as something tragic, yet somewhat natural.  We know that hyenas kill other animals and that tigers do the same, so it's sad, but it's a reality we can live with.  Pi tells us that God also chooses to watch life played out as the version with the animals.  Thus, God looks at our violence toward one another as something that is sadly a part of our nature rather than as something that is unforgivably brutal.  And how is this supposed to help us believe in God?  Well, who could not believe in a God so merciful?  Who would not want a Heavenly Father that sees beyond our sins into the heart of who we truly are?  By choosing to see things according to the version with the animals, Pi tells us, God is choosing to see our sinfulness as part of our human nature, but not necessarily as who we are.  Reflecting upon some words of Louis J. Cameli, we are sinners, but we are not sin.  We are murderers, but we are not murder.  Who would condemn a tiger for killing?  It is in a tiger's nature to do so.  Thus, according to Pi, God says, "How could I condemn my children for sinning?  It is in their nature to do so."  Unfortunately, in this fallen world, we regularly see humans brutally killing humans.  We see the violence; but God, in His mercy and compassion, chooses to see the tragic situations that lead us there.

And so, my second source of hope is that whatever my tiger may be, I trust God sees the chaos which summoned this creature from deep within me.  One day I will learn to integrate it, and then a day will come when perhaps I do not need its ferocity to survive.  In the meantime, I seek to embrace it and discover its role in my life.

If you have not yet seen the movie I hope I did not give too much of it away, but I highly recommend you watch it (or read the book).  May we all learn to see our tigers as the result of our difficult journeys and so live with mercy and compassion the way our Heavenly does.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Shout Out to St. Michael's Catholic School of Livonia, Michigan!

Near the end of the 2013-2014 school year I received several letters and cards of encouragement from the sixth grade classes of St. Michael's Catholic School in Livonia, MI.  Several of our Sisters live in that area and a few of them still minister at the school.  For Catholic Schools Week the students were asked to pray for a specific individual and then send him or her a card.  I was blessed to be one of those recipients, and so I still have in my possession their very thoughtful, colorful, inspirational and prayerful messages.  So a very big THANK YOU to them!


Some of the cards from the fantastic kids at St. Michael's
Some of the students who sent me a letter also asked me some questions.  I couldn't fit my answers in the Thank You card I sent, so I am going to answer those questions right here, right now...


Ellie R. asked:
  1. At first, was it hard to understand God's call when it happened, or did you understand it right away?
  • It started out kind of slowly, like an idea that popped into my head when I was around your age.  It seemed like something that would be really interesting and unique and I thought to myself, "I think I'd like to join the convent."  I thought about it again in high school and then again in college.  It just always appealed to me.  Eventually I met some Sisters at a convent near my house and I started spending time with them.  Soon I decided to join, and I've been happy ever since.  For me, God's call was very subtle, but very simple, so I understood very easily what God was asking of me.
Elizabeth C. asked:
  1. Do you have to stay inside all the time?
  2. Do you like to read?
  • I do not have to stay inside all the time, but there are some communities of religious who do.  They are called "cloistered" and their main ministry is prayer.  Our community is active-contemplative, so we pray a lot, but we also get out and do a lot.  If you're wondering what sorts of things we do, we help the homeless, some of us teach, we go shopping for things we need, we go to the beach, we go to the State Fair, we go out to eat, we go out to get exercise, we give retreats, we visit with people in hospitals, we do lots of stuff!
  • I love to read.  Some of my favorite books are "The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Hunger Games", and pretty much any book with stories about miracles and Mary.  I like to read books that help me learn more about my faith and that show me how God works in other people's lives.
Hannah B. asked:
  1. How old were you when you decided that you wanted to devote your life to God?
  2. How do people in formation earn money to feed themselves and the poor?  Do you earn the items you need by getting a part-time job, or do you rely on donations?
  • I was 22 years old when I decided to devote my life to God.  I had just graduated from college and I wanted to be and do something that would give my life purpose.  I was not living for God before college, so I wanted to change that.  I felt a strong desire to dedicate myself to God by surrounding myself with others who wanted to do the same.  That's when I met the Felician Sisters!  They were women who had dedicated their lives to God and I admired them very much, so I decided to dedicate my life to God with them.

  • People in formation receive an allowance once a month.  Since they don't have paying ministries (jobs), Sisters in formation receive money from the Sisters who do get paid.  Basically we have one main bank account, like a big pot where everyone's money goes.  Then, from the big pot everyone gets money according to what they need.  If I need a lot of things because I have to buy clothing and food for the poor, then I might get more money than someone who only needs to buy school supplies.  Our vow of poverty reminds us that we must be willing to share what we have, including money.  Now that I teach, I’m happy that the money I make can be shared with Sisters around the world for whatever they need.  Sometimes we do receive donations, and that is very helpful.  When people donate their money, it helps us provide for people in our jobs, on the streets, and in other countries.
Isabella S. asked:
  1. How did you know you wanted to become a Sister?
  2. Did God ask you?  If he did, how did he ask you, or how did you realize he was calling you?
  3. Why did you want to become a Sister?
  • I knew I wanted to become a Sister because I knew I wanted a deeper relationship with God and I felt that this was the best way for me to do that.  I think that whatever vocation God calls us to is the one that He knows will deepen our relationship with Him.  For some of us, getting married helps to deepen our relationship with God.  For others, like me, a vocation to the religious life is what helps.  As soon as I made the decision to become a Sister, I was at peace.  Even when I miss my family or have a tough day, this peace never leaves me.
  • I never really heard a voice of God asking me, but it was more like a longing in my heart.  I wanted something very special, and this seemed to be the answer.  So instead of a voice, it was more like I felt God’s love drawing me here.  I realized this because of the peace I mentioned.  My heart was asking for something I had not yet given it, and so when I decided to dedicate myself to God, it was like my heart finally felt at home.

  • I knew this was the place for me because any obstacles that might have kept me from becoming a Sister were cleared out of my way.  For example, someone who wants to join the religious life cannot be in debt.  We cannot owe money from loans or large purchases like cars, and when I decided to join the convent I still owed $3,000 to college.  I did not have enough money to pay off that debt so I said to God, "If this is really where You want me, You'll have to figure something out because I can't take care of this."  About a month later I received money from my school and was able to pay everything off!  I didn't have any more debt.  It was like a big, "Yes, this is what I want you to do," from God, so it was very clear that I should move forward with my decision to become a Felician Sister.
Hannah M. asked:
  1. How long did it take you, or how long has it been, since you decided to become a nun?
  • I am 27 years old now, so it has been five years since I made my decision.  I was 22 years old
    From the ceremony last year
    when I made my First Vows
    when I decided to join the convent (fresh out of college!) and it will take me about four more years before my commitment is permanent.  Right now I am in a stage called “temporary vows”.  This is a time where we take our vows, but they sort of expire after one year.  When they expire, we renew them and continue our commitment for another year.  After about six years in temporary vows, we make “final vows” and that’s when our commitment is permanent.  If at any time during temporary vows I thought God was no longer calling me here, then after my vows expired I would choose not to renew them and then I would return home.  But before we even take vows for the first time, we spend three years learning about the community and getting to know what it’s like to live as a Sister.  So it takes a while, but that’s to help each person make sure this is really the life for them.
Julia S. asked:
  1. When did you get your calling to be a Sister?
  2. Are there any other people in your family that are involved in religious vocations?
  3. Are you interested in community service, such as teaching or working with the poor?  Or would you rather do things within the convent?
  • I believe the first time I really felt called to religious life was around your age.  I remember already thinking in middle school (or junior high) that I would probably like to join the convent.  When I was 22 I felt like it just needed to happen, so after getting to know the Felician Sisters I asked to join their community and here I am five years later!
  • No one else from my family is in religious life yet.  I had an uncle who was studying to be a priest when he was a young adult, but he got sick and was never able to fully recover.  Other than that, I’m the one and only so far, but perhaps one day that will change.  My youngest sister is 9 and she already thinks that maybe this is the life God is calling her to.

  • I really enjoy being with people, so I am very happy to be teaching.  This is only my second year as a teacher, but I already love it.  I teach at an all-girls Catholic high school here in California.  It’s such a blessing to minister to young people through education, but one day I do hope to work with the very poor here in our country and in countries like Africa or Haiti.  We have convents all around the world, so it is definitely a possibility!
Again, great questions all of you, and thank you everyone for the letters!  I loved reading every single one of them and I will definitely keep all of you and your school in my prayers.  If I had any advice to give you about finding your own vocation, it’s this:  Be confident of God’s love for you.  He knows what you need and what you desire, so pay attention to those things and He’ll lead you on the greatest adventure of your life!



The Sisters in Temporary Vows as of August 2014
(I'm on the far right)


Monday, August 18, 2014

Renewal of Vows

Here is a write-up from my renewal of vows!
 
What is so special about August 15? In the Felician world, a whole lot. Not only is it the celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it was also vow renewal day for S Desiré Anne Marie Findlay.

In a ceremony during Mass at Immaculate Conception Convent in Lodi, NJ, Sister Desiré made her temporary profession of vows for the second time. SM Christopher Moore, provincial minister, officially received the vows that were witnessed by S Judith Marie Blizzard, director of formation, and S Barbara Marie Brylka, co-director of the sisters in temporary profession.

Brother Dominic Michael Hart, a Franciscan Brother of Peace, was a special guest of Sister Desiré for the renewal.  Paula Binsol, a graduate of Felician College was also able to attend, as well as Seeds of Hope participant, Natalia Tomczyk.

In his homily, Father Leonard Stunek emphasized the call of the Blessed Virgin and Elizabeth as examples of being faithful to God--how they did not ignore the call of God, but wholeheartedly embraced it. 

Because of the holy day, the entire community renewed their vows, thus making Sister Desiré's fiat even stronger with her sisters' fiats supporting her. The feast of the Assumption is also Sister Desiré's feast day and, at breakfast, the sisters sang and wished her many blessings for the upcoming year. 

The temporary professed sisters also continued their semiannual meeting on Friday. SM Ambrose Wozniak, promoter of the cause of Blessed Mary Angela, spoke about Blessed Angela and her devotion to the Eucharist. In her presentation, Sister Ambrose described Eucharistic processions in Poland and their customs. She explained that the people set up elaborate altars in front of homes throughout the parishes, and the processions were filled with pageantry and attended by thousands of people. She noted that it was at one of these processions that the young Sophia Truszkowska became enraptured with Christ in the Holy Eucharist, as well as the fact that Eucharist was not received by the faithful on a regular basis. 

S Heather Marie Deneen said that the talk helped the temporary professed sisters to receive a fuller understanding of Blessed Angela's gift of Eucharistic devotion to her sisters. 

During the afternoon, the temporary professed sisters had a Q and A session with Sister Christopher and Sister Judith. Sister Heather said, "They gave advice on how to handle community life situations, answered questions about policies and what was going on in the province, and listened to our concerns." 

SM Monica Ann Blazuk said, "We really appreciate Sister Christopher and Sister Judy taking the time to be with us, to be sister to us, and to answer our questions."
 
 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Never Alone: A poem by yours truly

Never Alone

The fan turns in my room
but the heat still settles on my skin
and I feel the weight
of every heavy heart
I've ever encountered.

Their faces linger in my mind
traveling all throughout my body
as if they've always existed
in the crevices of my life.

Their eyes cry out
seeking validation through the window
which bears my soul
seeking love
from someone
barely learning to love herself.

But these messy lives
create a masterpiece
revealing the face of God
because we fit well together
holding each other's hearts.

Dedicated to everyone.

With love,
Sister Desire' Anne-Marie Findlay
June 27, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

To Teach is to Learn

I taught high school seniors this year.

They also taught me.

Full of noise and energy all year long, these young women taught me the importance of humor and excitement.  They reminded me that to be fully human means to be fully yourself.

Not all of the noise from the seniors was screeching and hollering just for the fun of it.  Sometimes they were loud in other ways.  They were loud with compassion.  They were loud with their genuine concern for people.  They were loud with their many gifts and talents, enjoying the abilities God gave them by excelling in sports, academics and creativity.  From this I learned the importance of embracing my gifts as well as developing them.

At the beginning of the year I was concerned that teaching World Religions meant I would be bombarded with questions about the many religious traditions of our world.  I was right.  But I loved it.  Their thirst for knowledge increased my own and kept me open-minded.

As young women with barely 18 years of experience, they also carried with them a lot pain.  I saw heartache.  I held them as they cried.  I cried with them.  Embracing their hurt taught me to embrace my own, showing me the value of acknowledging life's trials.

Though they did not know it, the seniors did well to remind this teacher that she is still a student..  I will be forever grateful.

I love you Pomona Catholic Class of 2014!  There is wisdom in remaining learners for life, but know that you also have the ability to educate.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Love Thyself

This semester my religion class has been learning about and discovering many of the world's major religions. We have covered religions such as Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Sikhism and a few of the primal religious traditions. Discussing the different aspects of these religions, and coming to a better understanding of their practices and origins, has provided insight beyond the surface of the rituals and creeds that constitute these belief systems. I teach senior religion, which means that as the year ends, so too does their high school experience. They will soon enter the world as young adults where expectations will go from turning in homework and showing up to class on time, to creating their own schedules and paying their own bills. But just as the externals of religion must point toward something greater, I wanted my students to know that the external expectations of them must also stir something deeper.

First of all, I wanted them to know that there will always be expectations placed on them, sometimes by others and sometimes by themselves. Sometimes they will be able to fulfill those expectations, and sometimes they won't. Our list of what is expected of them during this stage in their lives looked a bit like this:

Be on time
Turn work in
Dress modestly
Don't drink
Don't do drugs
Don't talk in class
Learn to drive
Be kind
Be charitable
Be respectful toward authority
No sex
Curfew
No partying
Forgive
Go to college
Get a job
Obedient
No cussing

When I asked them how they felt when they didn't meet these expectations, they provided a list that looked somewhat like this:

Guilty
Low self-esteem
Disappointment
Frustrated
Angry

When I asked how many of them were actually able to abide by our list of expectations, only a couple raised their hands. "What do we tell ourselves when we don't meet these expectations?" I asked. They said, "Oh it's ok, maybe next time I'll do it," or "What's wrong with me?  Why can't I get it right?" So we concluded that we come up with excuses for not meeting these external expectations in order to defend our mishaps. Other times we let that negative voice take over and tell us we must not be good enough.  However, I let them know that these excuses and feelings of shame can be done away with by simply and honestly trying our best. And as important as these externals are, they mean nothing if there is no internal connection.

There are also those times in life when we don't get the externals right, but there is still something happening beyond the surface that others don't see, or refuse to see. Only you and God really know what you are capable of. I told them, "If you truly couldn't get that homework assignment in on time, but you know you did your best and are not making excuses, then there is no reason to feel guilty.  There will always be someone we disappoint, just know that. Others will disappoint us, too. It's freeing to accept the fact that you can't and won't please everyone. We are responsible for doing what we can and loving ourselves in the process."

I just wanted them to know it was ok to celebrate the little victories, even when no one else sees them, or even when everyone else sees failure. Little victories still count. I guess I wanted you to know that, too. Celebrate your victories. Celebrate you. ♥

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Pomona Catholic Dance Production

The Pomona Catholic dance class is working hard to put on a dance recital in early May!  Please support us with your prayers as we attempt to choreograph, purchase costumes and make it a wonderful event for both participants and viewers!  If you're in the area (and even if you're not, but would like to be) you are more than welcome to join us for this unforgettable event. :)
Go Pacers!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Welcome, New Members!

 Lauren and Gina with vocation director, Sister Mary Beth

Lauren Gault and Gina Garofalo (both from PA) have joined the Felician family as Candidates.  They join Michele Curry (from CA) and Suzanne Cook (from IL) as they pray to discern a religious vocation with the Felician Franciscan Sisters. Please pray for these young women as they strive to discover God's plan for their lives!


Suzanne Cook

Michele Curry




Saturday, February 1, 2014

Whisper of Hope

As I look at the sprouting pomegranate seedlings I planted several weeks ago, and as I reflect upon some sad news I received yesterday, I figure now is a good time to post a poem I wrote last summer.

Whisper of Hope

There is something inside
which has not come out
it still lies beneath
as a hidden sprout

I feel it is growing
deep
deep
into the soil
while the toiler sleeps

Silently slowly
down slide the roots
holding like hands
the laborer's fruits

Movement and stirring
and upwardly climbing
the green starts to show
the sower is reaping

Up
it is stretching
silencing strife
this beautiful
indescribable
wobbly
new life

It has come so far
but there's much more to grow
so toiler, laborer
you keep what you know
until the sun moves
and beckons you follow

Rise
little one
reach for the heart
surrender yourself
to the Master of art

Calling
He's calling
as if for the first time
you hear Him
He says
I love you
you are mine.

I dedicate this poem to all who are struggling, to all who feel lost and in the dark.  Remember, the roots must be submerged into the darkness if the new growth is to make its way to the sun that sustains it.  Do not be afraid to bend yourself towards the light and love that reaches out to you.

My baby pomegranate trees!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christ Beside Me

Crazy hair... It runs in the family
I woke up late Friday morning after staying up to prepare lessons for the coming week.  I meandered slowly into the bathroom to brush my teeth and looked sleepily at my reflection in the mirror.  I chuckled at my wayward hair and thought, "Wow, I look like a mess."  I freshened up my breath with some minty paste and plastic bristles and went back to my room.  As I crossed the threshold from the bathroom to my bedroom which is the hallway, I thought for a moment about my silly hair and my reflection.  "I'm kind of like that on the inside, too," I realized, "A mess."  I sat on my bed to think about it a moment longer and thought about the "cracked pot" story (see below) and it prompted a simple prayer.  "Lord," I began, "I don't want to let my brokenness get in the way.  I want to learn how to let You work through my brokenness - don't let it stop You.  Don't let it stop me, either."  With that, I offered an "Amen" and continued to get ready for the day.

I love being outdoors and so am often looking for an opportunity to walk or ride my bike somewhere.  So, after having gotten myself ready, I decided to walk down to the RiteAid near our convent.  I only needed a few things, but any excuse was good enough.  I left without a coat or sweater, it was so warm, and as I skipped down our steps the woman across the street greeted me with a kind "Good Morning!"  It added an extra piece of goodness to an already beautiful day and I happily prayed a rosary down the street to my destination.

I found only one of the items I was looking for, so I decided to continue my walk and went a block over to Walgreens.  Looking around at a world I don't normally walk through, my eyes landed on an auto shop that was coming up on my right.  Some music was playing and I caught a line of a very familiar song.  "I just want you to know who I am" was all I heard, but in that very brief moment, as I peered into the lot of cars and felt the sun on my face and listened to the music, I was somewhere else.  I was in someone else's childhood, someone else's memories, someone else's reality.  For a split second, I knew that no one else has or ever will experience life like I have, nor will I ever experience life the way someone else has.  It seems so basic, so obvious, but even though I knew that before, I never understood it.  As I waited to cross the intersection, the words from the song came back to me - I just want you to know who I am.  Though they may just be lyrics from a 90's song by the Goo Goo Dolls, at that moment it was part of God's answer to the prayer I had uttered earlier in the day.  By saying, "I want to learn how to let You work through my brokenness," I was basically asking for Him to be my teacher.  "Teach me," I had pleaded, and this was part of His lesson: "Know who I am."

When I got back home my dear mentor - and most frequent comment-giver on this blog (thank you, Sister Seraphine!) - returned from picking up some groceries.  We chatted for a few minutes before I hopped in the car to run a few more errands.  As I left she mentioned it was First Friday and with a smile said, "Stay close to Jesus."  That was the second part of God's lesson.

The next part took place at Mass.  After I ran my errands I drove to a nearby parish where I knew they had an evening weekday Mass.  I arrived a bit early, so I took some time to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and began another rosary.  I got halfway through when I looked at my watch and saw I only had about five minutes left.  Finding a seat, I took my journal out so I could jot down a few thoughts from the day and then I quieted myself down for Mass.  We began with a song, although there was no official choir, and I found myself somewhat reluctant to chime in.  I enjoy singing, but I have not yet figured out how to use my vocal chords for something other than talking.  However, I noticed that the church was actually loud with song, that almost everyone was singing, perfect or not, so I quickly gave up on my insecurity and gladly joined in an a cappella "Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing".

The priest started his homily with a story: "I was at Wal-Mart shopping one day when this woman passed by me in the aisle.  She was looking at me in a very strange way and I wasn't really sure why.  Finally she said, 'Do I know you from somewhere?  I feel like I've met you before.'  I told her I wasn't sure, so she asked what I did for a living.  'Well, I'm a priest,' I told her.  'Aha!' she said, 'from church.  That's where I've seen you.'  It's funny," he continued, "how people don't recognize us outside of a familiar setting.  I think that's how it can often be with Jesus.  Jesus is present in every situation, but sometimes we only see Him when and where it's obvious, like church.  I think Jesus is more often found in those places and people we are not expecting, places in which it would be a surprise; that's where we need to look for Him."

The priest's homily was the last piece of my lesson for the day.  In conclusion, God's overall message to my plea was this: "In order to receive what it is you're asking for, you must know who I am and you must stay close to my Son by looking for Him where you do not expect to find Him."  Perhaps knowing who God is has to do with entering into the experiences of others and perhaps one of the places in which I can begin to look for His Son is within the brokenness that I have been reluctant to embrace, like our dear friend the cracked pot.


The story of the cracked pot

An elderly woman had two large pots.  Each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck to gather water each day.  One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.  At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.  The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what the pot perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.  "I am ashamed of myself," it confessed, "because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house and I only bring home half as much as the other pot."

The old woman smiled.  She placed the pole on her neck to begin the walk back home.  In doing so, she replied, "Look at the path as we walk.  Do you see the flowers growing on your side only?  I have always known about your flaw.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and each day as we walked back home you watered them.  For two years now I have been able to enjoy seeing the beauty of these flowers during my long walk home.  I need you to be just the way you are."