Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Reading from the Blog of Lamentations

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have heard the brief story of my very temporary pet fish.  Well, here is the story at length and in detail:

One of my students brought her goldfish to school on Thursday, August 29th and gave it to another
one of my students.  The student who received the fish then brought it to me saying, "Sister, look what I got today!"  Holding up a Ziploc bag with a fish swimming around inside she asked, "Do you want it?"  I couldn't refuse the little creature (the fish, that is), so I accepted.  I had a vase sitting behind my desk from a bouquet of flowers the Sisters had brought me during my first week of school, so I gave it to her to fill up with water and we plopped the fish inside.  Sister Feliz and I went immediately after school to pick up some fish flakes and when I got home I smiled at my luck upon receiving this little surprise.  "God must've wanted me to have a pet," I thought to myself.

On Friday I transferred the little guy to a large juice container since his water was already pretty dirty.  I watched him swim around and dart about, but as I watched him throughout the day his behavior seemed to be a bit odd.  That evening I browsed through Google to better understand my new pet and discovered that putting a fish straight into tap water is not a good idea.  I resolved to run errands Saturday morning so that I could get all the necessary supplies and give him a better home.  It turned out that Saturday morning was too late.  I woke up to a floating fish.  Needless to say this did not make me happy.  In fact, it put me in terrible mood.

Attempting to go to Mass now before running errands, I reverted back to trusty Google so I could find a late morning Mass in the area.  I found a site that said there was a 12:15p.m. Mass nearby so I got ready and was in the car by 11:40 a.m.  I got out my phone to pull up the site again so I could get directions.  I found the same link, but for some reason it wasn't opening.  I sat in the car attempting to find another Mass, but to no avail.  "Fine," I resolved, "I'll just run errands now and go to Mass in the evening."  By this time my own personal rain cloud had already formed.

I was in need of some pots for my plants as well as some potting soil, so I looked up "plant nurseries" in the area.  I found one about 6 miles away, so I finally put the car in drive and got going.  As I pulled up to my destination I found that I had arrived at the botanical gardens.  I might have stayed to browse a bit if they had been open, but they were closed.  Of course.  The next Google search led me to a wealthy neighborhood where the plant nursery I had hoped to find (again) was closed (again).  Frustrated and fully enjoying the presence of my rain cloud by now, I tried searching one more time.  This time when I arrived at my destination I could let out a sigh of relief.  I had finally found a real, live plant nursery.  And it was open!  I skipped happily around until I began to find that all the fancy pots I admired were made in China.  I finally found a little plastic green pot that said it was made in Canada, but I couldn't find any more.  Annoyed that no one had asked me if I needed help, I trudged up to the front for assistance.  The guy there showed me where I could find some more unexciting plastic green pots and offered to take a bag of potting soil up to the front for me.  As I picked out my pots, my eyes were drawn to some simple terracotta pots.  Read the label... Made in the USA!  I excitedly exchanged the plastic for the terracotta and went up to the front to make my purchase.  I was feeling a little bit better, but decided maybe a trip to PetSmart would help.

It didn't.  All I got to do was look at every pet I couldn't have and think of the many I had left behind.  After about an hour of sulking in PetSmart I went over to Staples for some very necessary classroom supplies.  I found some whiteout - made in China.  Looked for a stapler - made in the Philippines.  Checked out the binder dividers - made in Mexico.  As much as I really could have used all of those things and as much as I could have come up with good excuses to override myself, I wouldn't do it.  I couldn't, especially because I had just told my students about this shopping practice of mine.  In knowing that buying these products was going to perpetuate the poverty of others, there was no way I could allow myself to ignore my conscience.  No whiteout, no stapler, no binder dividers.  I walked away annoyed with Staples and the rest of the world.

Not wanting to further upset myself, I made my way to a thrift store.  While there I found a nice water bottle for a Sister who had lost hers as well as a small flower pot and a fancy watering vase.  Everything totaled $3 and I left feeling satisfied with my shopping items despite the fact that I hadn't actually found what I needed.

I returned home and relaxed with the Sisters a bit before going back out to attend a 7 p.m. Mass down the road.  I was excited not only about the time of the Mass, but also about the fact that it was in Arabic!  I understood nothing of what was spoken during the Mass, but it was absolutely divine to listen to and be a part of.

As Mass ended I just stood in my pew watching everyone reverently file out of the church.  Eventually, people started coming over to me, excited to see me as if we had been friends forever and hadn't seen each other in a long time.  I received warm greetings, handshakes and kisses on the cheek
from people I'd never met before in my life; it was beautiful!  One young girl, about 9 years old, ran over and held something out to me.  "Please accept this from me," she said, and waited until I stopped being confused so I could open my hands and receive what she was holding.  As she placed the item in my hands I noticed it was a bill of some sort.  I figured it was about $5 and smiled at this happy child who was giddy with excitement because she had just given me something.  "Thank you so much," I said, and I gave her a big hug which I could tell she was thrilled to receive.  She darted off as others continued to greet me.

As I turned to finally exit the church myself, I decided to take a peek at the bill since I hadn't recognized the face on it when I glanced at it earlier.  I thought maybe it was a $10 bill, but I soon found out that it was actually a $100 bill!  My heart leapt in thanksgiving to God as I quickly folded the bill back up and put it in my pocket.  As I did so, my fingers touched the rosary which was also in my pocket and I knew exactly what that meant.  Walking to the main entrance, I spotted the girl with her father.  I went up to her with my hand out this time and said, "Please accept this from me."  I placed the rosary in her hands and she immediately clutched it to her chest as she gasped through an instant open-mouthed smile.  "It's very special; it came all the way from Rome," I told her.  She thanked me, still smiling, and I thanked her father for the gift.  "It's just a small gift," he replied.  "Oh no it's not," I said, "I just looked at it."  He only smiled and asked that I pray for them.  I promised to do so and returned home singing praises to God.

I had sulked all day because of my dead fish and because I couldn't find what I needed at the store, but I felt like this $100 was God's way of saying, "Look, your efforts alone are enough.  Don't be so hard on yourself."

An excerpt from the Book of Lamentations 3:20-24
"Remembering [my afflictions] over and over
my soul is downcast.
But this I will call to mind;
therefore I will hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.

'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
'therefore I will hope in him.'"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Knock knock! Who's there?

It's me!

Me, who?

Good question.

Who is this "me" that is otherwise known as "Des", "Desire'", or "Sister Desire'"?

I must say that lately I have been questioning my authenticity.  "Who am I to be a teacher?" I wonder, or "What on earth am I doing in a convent?"  I feel sometimes like I am participating in a sort of game, like I am playing dress-up or teacher as I secure my knee-high stockings and put on my shiny black shoes before sauntering off to school.  "Is this really my life?" I ask.  "Am I really a 'nun'?  A teacher?"  Everyone seems to think so, plus I publicly professed my vows and signed a teaching contract, so I guess it's true.  But what does that mean?  What does it mean to be a 'nun'?  How am I supposed to be a teacher?

That's not me.

Sister Desire' the teacher:

She gives quizzes, assigns homework, tells her students to please stop talking, attends staff meetings, has to create lesson plans on a regular basis, sits behind a big desk during her prep period to catch up on attendance and never sleeps.

Absolutely not me, either.

Sister Desire' the 'nun':

Prays at 5:50 a.m. Monday through Friday, wears a habit, doesn't own a car, is responsible for contributing to community life, also tells her students to please stop talking, and is uninterested in popular music.

Why question my authenticity, you ask?  Because none of that feels like me.  The real me does NOT want to torture students with quizzes and homework, nor does she want to torture herself with the grading.  The "real" me would also love to chatter with a classroom full of teenage girls especially if it would decrease the amount of time I had to spend on lesson plans.  I don't mind the big desk and the attendance, but I would prefer a lot more sleep than I've been getting... Which brings me to the next point: prayers at 5:50 in the morning.  That is most definitely not me.  The habit is nice, although I wish I could wear a Franciscan cord with it; I don't mind not owning a car either, but it is tough to remember that I'm also supposed to put gas in it like the other Sisters kindly do.  And in regards to the popular music, I think perhaps the real me wouldn't want to know what's currently happening with popular music either, even though I still enjoy the rhythm it has that just makes me want to get
up and dance!

So if I am not those things, then what things am I?

Well, I know I love to ride my bike.  I love to feel the wind greeting my face and running down my back when I race down a hill.  Jumping on a big trampoline when the winds are strong also thrills me to no end.

Making rosaries and giving them away is one of my favorite hobbies.

I smile and laugh as much as I can, but it's hard to do when I haven't had enough sleep.  Sleep.  Ohhh, I love my sleep.  Sleep is like a prayer for me.

Shoes.  Those are fun.  I like to shop for shoes, but mostly I like to shop for gifts that I plan to give to my friends and family.

My favorite color is purple.

Mornings, as beautiful as they are, are my least favorite time of the day.  Can people be nocturnal?  I'm pretty sure I'm nocturnal.  To me the dark is like peace and quiet for my eyes.

Shopping at big businesses bothers me.  I love to shop at thrift stores!  Recycling everything is fun, especially clothing.  I recycle almost every scrap of paper I don't use.  If a plastic container is labeled as 'non-recyclable' in my area because of a number on the bottom, I send it in anyway.  Recycling food would be fantastic, too.  I wish we had a compost pile at our house.  One day I might try using handkerchiefs instead of tissue, but I haven't gotten brave enough just yet.

My secret dream, which is now not so secret, is to live on and operate a farm with lots of food and lots of animals.  It MUST include horses.  I could definitely do composting there.

I am a writer
and a dreamer.
I am a sister, a friend, a daughter.
I am compassionate
and imperfect.
I love God and His creation, especially people and animals.
I love to dance and sing, even if
I'm not the best at it.
I love the ocean
the desert
the mountains.
I love my family
which includes my friends
and the Felicians.
I love to be silly and laugh
as often and as frequently as possible.
I love to be.

This is the real me, the me who has been called to religious life and who is being challenged to develop gifts and talents that she didn't know she had, or didn't know she'd have to have.  I was scared that this "me" was trapped inside of the teacher and the 'nun', but I think I've figured out that the real me holds within her a Felician Sister who is learning how to be a teacher.  Yeah, that's me :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To be Consecrated

Sister Claire processing in with the cross
On Thursday, August 15, 2013, I made my first profession of vows as a Felician Franciscan Sister.  I deepened my baptismal commitment by professing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (explained here in another blog).  I was surrounded by Sisters, family and friends, all of whom have been and continue to be a wonderful display of God's affection for me.

Depiction of the Assumption at RR convent
August 15th is a major day for our community and for me in many ways.  Our Felician community is particularly fond of the Blessed Virgin Mary because of her selfless "Yes" to God which gave flesh and bone to God's own Son, making Him a brother to the entire human race.  The 15th of August is known as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary because it is that day the Church celebrates her assumption into heaven.  Each of our central Felician convents is named after Mary in her honor; the convent in Rio Rancho is named The Convent of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which means that August 15th is the day they celebrate their own special feast.  Each of the Sisters has her own personal feast day as well, so any Sister who has the same name as a saint would celebrate her feast day on the feast day of the saint.  For example, a Sister named Rose would typically celebrate on August 23rd because that is the feast day of St. Rose of Lima.  Because there is not (yet) a St. Desire', I chose a Marian feast.  I could have picked any day on which we celebrate the Virgin Mary, but I chose the Feast of the Assumption.  So not only is August 15th the feast day of the convent where I met the Felicians as well as my own personal feast day, but it was also my grandmother's birthday -- the woman whose faith has been a large part of my own faith formation.

As I stood in front of my ever-growing family, I spoke these words in order to profess the vows I have chosen to live:

I, Sister Desire' Anne-Marie, vow to Almighty God chastity, poverty and obedience for one year
according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice,
and I promise to live according to the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.
I choose Jesus for my spouse and Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary for my mother and lady,
the seraphic St. Francis for my model of evangelical life,
and this Congregation for my family.
I make my profession into the hands of Sister Mary Christopher, Provincial Minister,
and I entrust my vows to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To which the presider said:
And I promise you on the part of Almighty God and in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
that if you observe all this, you shall receive life everlasting.
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
And I responded with "Amen"!
After professing the vows, I received the symbols of my religious profession.  I was given a black veil to replace my white one which proclaims that I now belong entirely to Christ and am dedicated to the service of the Church.  I received the crucifix which serves as a reminder to me of God's infinite love for His people.  I was given the Rule of St. Francis and the Constitutions of our community that I may maintain them as my way of life.  The candle I received represents the light of Christ, which serves to enlighten those who chose to be His apostles.  This all took place throughout the Mass, and as a final blessing, all raised their hands over me to pray in the words of Blessed Mary Angela, our foundress:
 "May the Lord give you a humble love which expands itself, a generous love which forgets itself, a strong love which is not afraid of pain, a stable love which does not change, a patient love which can bear everything, a fervent love which never weakens, a constant love which never falters.  Amen."
 Afterward we took many pictures (posted below), followed by good food and company!
With Council members, my former director, and Mass celebrants
My sister Johnele and her lovely family!
Aunts, Uncles, Cousin, Mom and baby sis :)

Dad and Grandparents

Viola who, with her daughter Rachel, played for the Mass
Linda who also did a lot for the music of the Mass!
All photographs posted on this blog were taken by Evelyn Hornbarger, a young woman of the LDS church whose own faith and kindness have been an inspiration!  She also wrote a blog on the event which you can access here.  I will post more photos from the ceremony itself when I have a bit more time as well as some antics from recent Pomona Catholic high school adventures.
Thank you for continuing to be a part of my journey!  May we bring one another to heaven :)