A Phone Conversation

I received a letter last Monday, the 16th, from Mother superior informing me that I should really call the Novice Mistress, or if that’s inconvenient, to email her. The irony is that I sent a letter because there was no response from the email I sent her two weeks ago. I called and let Sister know when she could call me.

She called on Thursday (traditional Corpus Christi). In the middle of an initial session with a client and her parents. This kid needs a lot of prayer, her parents, more. Anyway, the call went to voicemail.

So I called later after Mass and Eucharistic procession, around 10pm. We did eventually speak on Friday the 20th. She told me about how they still maintain duties for hospitality because they follow the Order of St. Augustine; they are a “daughter” of a religious order over here. Sister spoke frequently of “if you’re a serious discerner” and “you could come visit”. Sister seemed to be understanding of my work schedule, but suggested visiting on the weekends. I may be able to find a time to visit for 4-5 days (especially if I take advantage of weekends), perhaps as early as the middle of July. I’ve also received a copy of the “simple” vocation questionnaire. I can answer most of these easily, I’m only concerned about how to phrase the response about my family.

I need prayers for this.

I spent time today driving to Hermosa Beach to speak with my spiritual director about this, but he had a previous task which ran late; it was cancelled after I got to the residence. Since I don’t know when I’ll be speaking with him, I didn’t feel confident in thinking about it (I like to do my thinking while hiking). Instead, I cleaned my room. I have a ton of junk: chargers with nothing to charge, an ereader without a charger, books, 3 trashbags of clothes, jewelry, etc. It took all day and a set of plastic containers from Target to sort, organize & clear up. I also found my old vocation story and acceptance letter. Heh! That was strange; I felt like I was reading about someone else, and back then, still living at home and hampered, I was someone else. I’m not going to use any of the previous materials in this questionnaire, since I’m more fully myself today than I was in 2008.

Please keep me in your prayers; the spiritual attacks are, well, you know how they get difficult.

spirituality i

Perhaps the best thing about endlessly purchasing and perusing books is knowing exactly where to look when I’m needing a particular turn of phrase.  All of Austen is available for wit, Merton for quasi-Christian-Buddhist ‘silence is golden’ tendencies, etc.  But if I want a mood, I also know know which authors will squash or evoke something.  I have four statistical books perfect for insomnia, Heller for cynicism, Malachi Martin for caution.  More to the point, I picked up the book I had dropped last year and resumed in in the same spot.  I’ve always had this knack for putting a book down for one or more years, picking it up and resuming without needing to review the previous page or chapter.

If you don’t like what I’m doing, saying, or reading without good reason and just object; you’ve automatically lost my audience.  I’d say that two years ago I didn’t understand or value in any sense the nuance between religion and spirituality; I couldn’t parse out foundation from trappings.  I frowned upon it and adhered only to religion, not understanding that spirituality has its own importance.  I didn’t go seeking for any grasp or understanding, I had shut it out.

In November ’09 I took any job that I could find; I worked as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army: paid to ring a bell next to the red bucket.  I hated it as a job.  Coming out of my rejecting the SMMEs, the days and months were already darkly tinted; I was already in the shadows, and this job provided the transition from shadow to darkness.  At first I fought against it, but in buying a book from the library resale I learned that I didn’t always have to fight off the darkness.  The author, Thomas Moore, has a way of writing in a spiritual manner but not a religious one.  Reading his work, automatically took me out of my comfort zone.

As I was being pushed out of my comfort zone in terms of religion versus spirituality, I was pushing others out of their own.  I stopped fighting the darkness and the depression.  I didn’t give into the depression, obviously, but I just sat in it.  Like a hiker lost in a thick fog, I didn’t waste my lethargic energy on wandering around but sat down on a mossy rock and waited for the dawn.  It was one of those fogs so thick that the trees drip and it sounds like rain, and the drops pierce through your sweater.  You’re on-edge sitting there in the dark just waiting, waiting.

So I sat and waited.  I got through my depression, intentionally this time, the hard way; it’s the only way I’ve ever known for getting through depression.  I lost quite a bit of audience.  I remember one prayer meeting, some religious people who were emotionally sensitive but religiously neurotic (cautious in all the wrong ways) told me to just make nice, to play pretend.  Those blithe statements of “smile and soon you’ll feel happy.”  Pardon me.  My emotions and states of mind are my own.  I chose to share with some people and not all were understanding.  Anything that’s not within their experience wasn’t valid.  So I ignored their opinions and turned to others who understood.  My spiritual director was understanding and supportive, my therapist a phone call away; the bases were covered.

So, this week with it’s crazy paperwork fiasco at work (let’s just torch it and start over), mom’s episodes, finals, lack of sleep, Grampa, and other things, I made the choice to just shut down emotionally.  It’s really its own state of consciousness – being emotionless.  I’m capable of emotional reactions, but I chose to ignore the ones that relate to my interior world.  Knowing that I was in need of spiritual component again, I turned to Moore’s writing.  It’s nice to get confirmation that it’s okay to be awake at night, to be in the dark.

Reflection on the need for retreats

Sometimes we let the things in the world crowd and clutter our minds. All these superficial things, all the “you should do this,” “why can’t you do this instead?” Demands from people, pulling us out, thinning us. Have you ever rolled dough? If you roll it out too much in one direction, a hole tears in the middle, at the core.

As cliché and age-old as this is, you really do need to be true to yourself.

In Scripture God tells Jeremiah (and all later generations of Bible owners) “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, why you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you […]” Jer. 29:11-14

Many things around us in life call out to you and demand you to pay attention – but how many of these pay attention to you? How many care enough about you to put the world on hold and listen – You’re His Child. Father says we can call Him Abba, which means Daddy. God says that He’ll listen to you – that nothing is more important than you in this very moment, and the next, of each and every day. Remember how often Jesus would say that He goes out looking for that one missing lamb while the other 99 are safe? Important things get repeated (example: teachers drill things into you, parents nag, etc). He’ll listen no matter how small or big the request; it’s just that sometimes His answers are different than what we expect.

SMME Retreat

Went on the SMME (Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist) retreat this weekend. I flew in Friday evening and had a convent dinner because 5 of us (including the Dominican priest) did not get in until after 6pm. There were only about 30 of us there for the first night – we had all flown in. One from Alaska, Oregon, Me (Los Angeles), Boston, Vermont, Texas, and NY, etc. It was in the 40s and 30s the whole weekend.

In the morning they took us to Domino’s Farms. Tom Monoham, the creator of Ave Maria Univ. set up a Catholic chapel in his Domino’s office building and its down the road from the convent. I met with Sr. Joseph Andrew, vocation director, on Saturday morning and asked for my papers. She asked if I wanted to wait until Sunday morning, after all night Eucharistic Adoration. No. She squealed with delight when she found out that Fr Thomas Nelson was my spiritual director, too! She said that my student loans were very manageable.

Before I left the convent on Sunday afternoon, I stopped by the Spiritus Sanctus Acdemey chapel. I looked about to make certain no one else was around. Back when I was interested in Opus Dei, I started to tell Jesus ‘Goodbye’ when I left the establishment. This time I said, aloud, “I’ll be back.”

So, I have my application. I should probably give Fr. Thomas a heads up before I start, though.