Sunday, January 27, 2019

Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community

By Sr. Annie Klapheke, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Annie

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Holy Father, Son and Spirit
Holy Communion, Three-in-one.
Come with your peace,
With your invitation
Bind us together in Holy love.

(Trinity Song by Sandra McCracken)

These words rang out, filling the center of a circle of twenty-six women religious, gathered for a weekend of prayer and fellowship. Each year in the middle of January, Sisters from a variety of congregations gather for the annual Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat. Giving Voice is a peer-led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life. Praying with the image of the Trinity was the ideal way to introduce the retreat theme, Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community. The Trinity teaches us that God’s very existence is as community.

Circle of young Sisters at the Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat (photo: Giving Voice core team)

For women entering religious life today, community life is one of the biggest draws. Yet, as we immerse ourselves in this life, at times community is also one of the greatest challenges. Throughout our weekend together, we reflected on wisdom from Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities. One quote, in particular, seemed to ring true for many of us:

“We can choose to live in a community because it is dynamic, warm and radiant. We find happiness there. But if a crisis arises, with tensions and turmoil, we begin to doubt the wisdom of our choice: ‘Maybe I made a mistake.’ If we enter community because of our own choice, we will stay only if we become more aware that it was in fact God who chose us for this community. It is only then that we will find the inner strength to live through times of turmoil.”

The call to religious life, and the call to a particular community, can feel exciting, challenging, and totally mysterious. And at times of greatest struggle, as Vanier suggests, it may even feel like a mistake. At these times, returning to the core of who we are, which ultimately leads to returning to the core of who God is – the all-loving community of three who first chose us – helps to reaffirm that God makes no mistakes. God is always working for our good.

Gathering with Sister peers helps each of us return to our core. The weekend together was steeped in meaningful conversations, voicing dreams and struggles, laughter, prayer, kickball, and breaking bread together. As we listened to and affirmed one another, we created community among us. And it is in community where we find our belonging; our belonging to God and to each other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Dawn-Bringer

By Sr. Rejane Cytacki, SC Federation Perpetually Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Rejane

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

downy woodpecker in the tulip tree
I have come to love winter as it is the time the earth rests and renews itself, and I try to follow nature’s example. When we allow our minds, spirits, and bodies to slow down in the amount of activity we do, we open up time and space in our hearts to reflect on God.

In these winter months, I have been praying and reflecting with Joyce Rupp’s book, Open the Door. I was praying with Joyce’s meditation on pgs. 78-80 “Opening to Oneness” and the first line is “Opening the door to the inner self is reminiscent of a new day dawning”. As I began this day, I was greeted by my friendly little downy woodpecker who sits in the tulip tree outside my window welcoming the dawn. He is the only bird at this time of year in the tree and he chirps and chirps for his mate as he turns and looks every which way for her. As he calls for his mate, his chirping reminds me it is time for me to pray with my Beloved. Joyce uses a quote from James Finlay to express what God is saying and a typical response – (God) “Open the door and come in, so we can experience just how one we might become. (Instead I) stand outside the door reading one more book about how to open the door.”

How often do I do this! I say anxiously– I have one more thing to do, or let me read this book about prayer instead of actually opening the door. But once my heart’s door is opened there is interior space to sit and be with my Beloved. In the interior space of my heart, when I walk through the Divine door Jesus is waiting for me. I visualize him as surrounded by light emanating from his heart. If I can bring myself to grasp his hands I can feel the energy of his love flowing into my heart. I believe this is the oneness that Joyce writes about and this is my personal time with Jesus. I do not always succeed in oneness as exterior thoughts pull me out of my interior space. But just the commitment of time, space, practice and even failed attempts are valuable. These times teach me what being a religious woman is truly about: a personal relationship with the Divine. When I finally sit inside Jesus’ sacred heart, then I am able to explore my inner self with safety and security in the Dawning light of God’s love and find I have come home to my true self.