a shoe story

One of my core faith principles is that God will provide for all our needs.  Recently, a little sisterly community experience re-convinced me of this.

Last week I renewed my vows. It was a beautiful, joyous event.  Several sisters gathered in our chapel, Mary of the Angels, for Taize’ prayer and meditation Friday night. After a prolonged period of silence I stood up and professed to “live poverty, obedience and consecrated celibacy in community for one year, according to the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis and the Constitutions of Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.”

“Sister Julia’s Vow Renewal” Photo by Nancy Chapman

Getting ready for this exciting event required a lot preparation for me. In addition to readying my heart and mind with a lot of prayer and contemplation, I also had to get my outward self ready. I got a new haircut and a nice new dress, but then I began to fuss about what to put on my feet.

As a Franciscan Sister and a disciple of Jesus, I don’t have really have that many possessions. Living simply is really important to me and I don’t like to have more than I need.  In fact, for several years I have been very content with having only one pair of multipurpose sandals.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  Could I wear my dirty, worn out Chacos® for the special occasion? Could I go bare foot?  Should I just wear my wintry dress shoes or look for a new pair of dressy, brown sandals that I could also wear for teaching and other occasions?  No matter what, I knew that I didn’t want to spend much money or contribute anymore to the destruction of God’s creation by being a consumer.

I hemmed and hawed a while and decided that if it was God’s will for me to wear nice shoes for my vow ceremony then God would provide. This seemed like a safe way to think about it, although in order to receive guidance and gifts from God I need to be open, pay attention and do a bit of work.  To have what God wants us to have, it seems we must be willing to seek.

Once I decided that I was okay with having a pair of new sandals, I wondered how to find them. First, I began checking out the feet of all my sisters, hoping to see a pair I might borrow. I went to Goodwill and studied their shoe options with no luck.  I asked the sister in charge of our community clothing exchange if she knew of a pair that had been donated and might serve my purpose. I looked at everything she had in the closet with no luck.

Then I started asking sisters what they thought I should do. Several of them assured me that it was appropriate and acceptable to buy brand new shoes.  I didn’t like the idea, but I was trusting in the wisdom of my elder sisters.  So, I asked Sisters Kathy and Mary Ellen, who I live with, if they wanted to help me shoe shop. With a hope and prayer we went out to the stores and quickly became overwhelmed with options–most were completely impractical and just too trendy. Eventually, we realized that it is hard to buy sandals this time of year because they are all so picked over.

Sisters Kathy and Mary Ellen were being very patient and helpful.  I was starting to feel a little bit of unnecessary, goofy guilt that they had been putting up with my picky indecisiveness for over an hour. Strangely, I started to use that guilt feeling as my guidance.  After spending so much time and energy I didn’t feel like I should leave empty-handed or disappoint the other sisters, so I bought a really dressy pair and home we went.  I still felt unhappy about the new shoes or the price but convinced myself I should make them work.  (Duh! I know and believe that when we “should” too much, we just get stuck in a big pile of “should” and it really stinks!)

Later that night after prayer in our house, the three of us told Sister Laurie about our shoe store adventures. I said I was concerned for the fact that I have hurt my ankles every time I have tried to wear heals, but if I practiced walking in them I’d be fine. I didn’t admit that I chose to buy the shoes for the wrong reasons, but I think I knew it.

For practice, I put them on and tried walking up the stairs. It was awkward–I wasn’t smiling and my stomach even felt weird. I was trying to be a good sport.  Sister Laurie was tuned into me.

She took the shoes off her feet and said “Here, try these.”

I did. I hadn’t noticed her shoes before. They were pretty much exactly what I’d been looking for and fit perfectly. “Wow. What size are they?!”

“Seven and a half.  Keep them.”  she offered.

“What?! Just for Friday? I can give them back to you after the vows.”

“No. Keep them for good. They’re yours. I don’t need them.”

“Thank you! Thank you!” I said, delighted and relieved. I could take the other shoes back to the store and, after all, God provided just the way I was hoping for.

I am so thankful for my new shoes and for the generous, sisterly love I experienced as I prepared for my vow day, on my vow day, and everyday in this wonderful Franciscan community. I am thankful for all the simple lessons I learned through the experience of getting these new shoes. Wow–thanks be to God! Amen.

Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.     -2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

Discernment via Reality TV

Last Sunday night I joined about nine million other Americans in a guilty pleasure past time—the season finale of The Bachelorette with Emily Maynard. First off, I have to say that in no shape or form do I ever suggest dating more than one person at a time. I also would strongly suggest against signing a TV contract which includes the clause that they may humiliate you or put you in death-defying situations. The whole set up sounds like a very bad idea.

But I did tune in. And I think I actually caught a genuine moment and the lesson to use your deepest wisdom to seek always after the eternal.

To catch you up, Emily, the single mom of a bright six-year-old, had narrowed down her choices to two men–Arie and Jef. She introduced them both, separately, to her family. Then she became quite frustrated with her family when they wouldn’t tell her who to pick. Though her father did add, “ I don’t believe you can be in love with two men.” And her mother (Ah-Ha, a voice of reason!) suggested that now was not the moment for an engagement. Emily was looking to outside sources for a sign and not into her deepest heart.

Ultimately, she chose Jef. Why? For one thing, she told Arie that while they might really last for a year or two she did not feel that they were made forever. With Jef she could see an eternity together. Also, breaking all bachelorette models, Emily and Jef do not plan on cohabitating before the wedding and are starting their life together by building wells in Africa.

So, not completely unlike Emily’s struggle to look away from the bright lights and the cameras to see what was in her heart, how do we discern our vocation? How do we hear what God is calling us to and not just what makes us happy or is most convenient? Ask a priest you know or a long-married couple and often they will tell you there are no fireworks in the sky, but the still-small voice of God in the deepest recess of our hearts. Our call is discerned slowly in trust and love. Not following just the whirlwind of emotions or the practicality of our reason, we must reach beyond this to follow the wisdom of our hearts. And once we are truly there to persevere in the hard work of relationships and ultimate trust in God. May God Bless us all!

You can see a little bit of the Bachelorette Finale here:

content within

in Christ there is:

a Kingdom Come            a sunset soaring

in Christ ALL is

there, here

contained

embraced

grounded

gained

like a garden perpetually growing

in Christ we are home
like how a bold blanket           can hold our creases and quiet our senses

so we are open to the the hushed silent presence of Love emerging,

desire burning, fire warming

in us

in Him

praise Christ!

fostering life in farming, pregnancy and meditation

I’ve been thinking, all of us are called to help foster environments where life can flourish.

This past week I have been blessed to spend time on my sister and brother-in-law’s organic farm.  It was a bit of a retreat, of sorts, as I am in the process of preparing to renew my temporary vows and I am in the midst of some life transition.  (Please pray that I’ll be fully prepared to rededicate myself to Christ at my ceremony on July 20. Thanks!)

The simplicity of country life is healing for my soul. Among the growing plants and animals I was thinking: in ministry, prayer, and community, I am called to foster all life, for Christ is Life.  The awareness that farming is full of Christ’s life isn’t new to me.  I meditated on its endless lessons when I gave a speech of blessing at my sister’s wedding in 2010.  This past week on the farm, though, my consciousness was opened to the truth of Life in new ways.

Life flourishes in healthy community. We are all called to foster the environments that help life be fully alive.  There are a couple of ways we get to do this holy God-work.

First, to foster systems and spaces where life can flourish, we need to care for all who share an environment. I was reminded of this in many ways during my visit, but my example here relates to the impact of chemicals. Although my sister and brother-in-law don’t use chemicals on their farm, most of their neighbors do. Sadly, there was a nearly constant buzz of crop dusters interrupting what would have been otherwise a space free from human noise.  I observed a distinguishable difference in the amount of wildlife present on their chemical-free farm than in the neighbors’ fields. Just going down the driveway to my sister’s house guaranteed encounters with multiple flocks of birds who were seeking refuge in the healthy ecosystem. Naturally, birds can’t flourish in places where insecticides are killing off their food.  Our care for the other creatures who share environments with us allows others to feel safe and at home.  This reminds me of how if we love one another in our homes and communities, we can then open up our space to offer healthy, radical hospitality to those in great need of refuge. Sounds like God’s reign come to me.

Second, fostering life so it may flourish requires attention to the workings of the internal and external.  We are invited, always, to balance our attending to each.  My time visiting the farm was a mixture of prayer, reading and contemplating this translation of St. Theresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle, and also assisting with the work of weeding, cleaning and cooking.  It was a blending of internal and external attending. The book helped me gain peace about the work of balancing all elements of internal and external spiritual living.  Plus, my sister is pregnant. This is a joyous first-time thing, that offered its own profound experiences.  Listening to my sister describe the sensations of pregnancy and constantly consider how her choices were impacting her child, plus seeing the external changes to her body gave witness.  Truly, as I continue to struggle through the trials of loving Jesus with great joy, I am continually challenged to balance and integrate all the ways that God offers blessings to me, internally and externally. We all are.  All activities are full with graces that can bear the fruits of new life.

Our fostering of life shall allow justice to flourish, thanks be to God!
“Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain down justice upon you.”   Hosea 10: 12

In the internal and the external, in our communities and homes, may we foster Life so it may flourish. Amen, Amen, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

“life quite full” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

meet the blogger

Guest blogger: Jane Comeau

Messy Jesus Business readers, here’s your chance to meet this blog’s creator, Sister Julia Walsh!

In this video, set inside her former ministry, Hales Franciscan High School, Sister Julia talks about her journey to religious life.

The video is part of a new series, “Called,” launched earlier this year by FSPA. The series includes stories from five Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The women share what drew them to religious life and to their current ministries.

 

For Sister Julia, this is the second video diary—sharing her call to religious life. The first featured her as an associate with FSPA, filmed in 2006.

 

This week’s guest blogger, Jane Comeau, works for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in the Communications Office located at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wis.