I think the gift of listening is that gift. It’s priceless and something we can all give. We often need to be reminded how treasured such a gift is to us and to others.
How many times have you yearned for someone to just listen, to truly listen with their heart and their eyes to your joys, your sorrows, your concerns? In the hustle and bustle of Christmas gatherings or any social gathering, we need to stop, look, and listen to each other.
Can we stop long enough to let others know we hear them, acknowledging their existence and that they matter?
Can we look around us and make eye contact with others, seeing into the eyes of the lonely and offer companionship and compassion?
Can we take time to listen by giving others our undivided attention, silencing and not fiddling with our electronic devices, and letting others find and speak their voices without interrupting their thought process?
I know when someone stops, looks, and listens to me, I feel valued and uplifted. I know too that when I don’t listen to others, I’m hurting and discounting the other person, even if this is not my intention.
Imagine what peace would abound all year round if we all listened more to each other.
Are you ready to listen to how God is calling you? Take courage and take a leap of faith to explore with us whether God is calling you to religious life as a Sister. We welcome journeying with you and invite you to contact us.
Advent reminds us of waiting for the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ birth. But for me, Advent also reminds me of my vocation journey when I was waiting to enter the Dominicans.
My serious discernment with the Dominicans began when I moved to Boston, Massachusetts. I stayed temporarily with the large family of my aunt-in-law’s sister. Three families lived in a three-floor house. Each floor had two or three bedrooms and was for a family of four to six members. Imagine how crowded the house was, and yet, they still welcomed me.
In my first two weeks in Boston, I stayed with the daughter’s family on the first floor. The couple let me stay in their bedroom, while they stayed in their children’s rooms. Later, I moved to the third floor and stayed there with the parents and their adult children. The son slept in a room with a couch, and the daughter gave up her sleeping space to me and slept on the floor next to her parents’ bed. Her room was a “public” room for everyone living on that floor, including the computer and their storage space. The space I had in that room was a queen-sized mattress on the floor in one corner of the room with my suitcase on it.
To entertain me, God gave me two new friends. The five-year-old granddaughter visited me most nights and sometimes did not want to leave my space. The daughter took me with her to shop or helped me with the basic needs of my job search. To comfort me, God gave me my aunt-in law’s sister. Every time I wanted to move out, she kept telling me; “Stay with me until you move to the convent. I consider you as my daughter. If my daughter lived far away from me, I would also wish that someone cared for her. I just do what the heart of a mother tells me to do….”
I stayed, ate, and shared life with that large family for three months. Day in and day out, I yearned for the approval to enter the convent. It was extremely hard to wait, but at the same time, I was grateful that I had a welcoming space to stay with those who truly cared for me. I owe that family my deep, heartfelt gratitude.
This Advent is the twenty-year anniversary of that journey. Looking back, I cannot believe how I went through that time of waiting without losing my vocation. It was a real miracle for me. The only thing I can think of is: “God will provide.” Yes, God provided for me in a way that I did not expect but enough for me to live out my call with a huge transformation within me.
How about you? What are you waiting for? Are you willing to accept what God provides even if it is not what you expect? Also, how do you create a welcoming space for others?
If you are seeking clarification about your vocational call, contact us. If you want to welcome strangers to your life and help them out, come to a Mission Immersion week with us in New Orleans (January 4-8, 2020). Click here for more information and registration.
I became a U.S. citizen at the end of October, and the memories are still so vivid. There is no good way I can describe the joy and the emotions we all felt, because it would limit the experience. It left me very inspired, grateful and with deep joy.
Just a day after the ceremony, a line caught my eyes during morning prayer: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God…” (1 John 3:1) By God’s grace, we received God’s parental love for us, a parental love that always loves and has our backs. What does that mean for us? Can we claim being children of God or being “citizens” of God’s kingdom with (at least) the same enthusiasm, excitement, and overflowing joy as when immigrants become U.S. citizens?
The oath ceremony was all about what we were about to become and how we would use this new gift of citizenship. A feeling that is very similar to when we hear a Gospel passage – we might have a bumpy journey some days, but when we hear God’s Word, let us pay attention to how we receive it, how we claim it, and then how we share the love that God has for everyone.
I entered the congregation of Dominican Sisters of Peace in 2011. The call to religious life came from God, and I chose to respond God’s call by entering this congregation – the Sisters were always so welcoming and their witness of faith was very visible; like the Sisters, I had a deep passion for the mission, I loved the way we prayed, and I felt a great sense of community. However, the more I learned about our mission, the more we worked for a more peaceful world, the more I felt limited by not having a voting voice. I built and preached peace in various ways, but it has been difficult to listen to the news – whether it is a mass shooting, human trafficking, death penalty, or the situation at the USA border, the list goes on. I wanted to respond compassionately, speaking on behalf of those in need, but I didn’t have a voting voice to use.
Twelve days after becoming a citizen, I went to a B.R.E.A.D. Annual Assembly meeting with some of our Sisters. At the entrance, some of the organizers were collecting signatures for advocating for background checks to create safer gun laws. I was so happy that, finally, I could give my signature. Being a new citizen empowers me to speak on behalf of the less fortunate – like the children effected by school shootings. I invite you to ponder what it means to you that God’s love has been bestowed on us, and how we can radiate this love in a heartfelt way.
If you would like to learn more about Dominican Sisters of Peace, go to http://oppeace.org. If you would like to learn more about becoming one of us, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. May God continue to bless you and peace to you!
Earlier this week, the daily Gospel came from Luke 17:1-6. The apostles asked Jesus to “strengthen their faith.” Jesus responded by saying, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” As I pondered Jesus’ words about “faith,” I thought about the movie “Harriet,” which I had just seen (for the second time) the day before. The movie tells the story of Harriet Tubman, the most noted “Conductor” of the Underground Railroad. Harriet escaped slavery herself, then returned to guide hundreds more slaves to freedom. It was a, seemingly, impossible task for an illiterate slave woman who had only the stars and her faith in God to guide her.
The Hollywood production, as movies usually do, took dramatic liberties in sharing Harriet’s story. But they got the basic events and the guiding focus of her story right. Harriet was depicted as a small but strong Black woman whose faith and experience of God in her life led her down a path that she never expected and one that she could never have accomplished on her own. Once Harriet discerned the plan, her faith and experience of God enabled her to carry it through. The thread that connects Harriett’s story to a conversation highlighting vocation and formation in religious life—is faith. Her story highlights a kind of faith that trusts, listens, and responds to the Spirit of God within us even when we cannot clearly see the path ahead.
Whether one is beginning to discern a call to religious life, is in some stage of religious formation or has been a Sister for a number of years, the foundation of the call is faith. It is a faith that reflects an openness to trusting, listening, and responding to the God that dwells in each of us. The “yes” of our response to religious life or any life that is lived based on one’s faith in God carries a responsibility. It is the responsibility to love and respect the dignity of all people. A life based on faith tries to discern how God is calling you to use your gifts to address the needs in the world around you. Living by our faith is not an easy task. Yet, I am convinced that the problems and divisions that we face today can only be overcome if people of faith and goodwill stand together—trusting, listening, and responding to our God who lives in each of us.
The movie “Harriet” was inspiring to me on many levels, especially regarding the power of faith. It ended with the stirring song, “Stand Up,” which I invite you to listen to and to view a clip from the movie. While the song was written with the mission of Harriet Tubman in mind, I think part of it reveals a more universal theme that can inspire us today. The song’s refrain says “I’m going to stand up. Take my people with me. Together, we are going to a brand new home.” As I reflected on these words, in light of our world today, these personal questions surfaced for me: “In light of my own faith, who am I being called to “stand up” for with my voice, with my actions, with my pen or my vote? And who am I “taking with me” to a better place of justice and freedom?” In fact, I would invite each of us to ponder these questions for ourselves. In today’s world, the choices are many and the ways to stand up for change are varied and plentiful. So the question becomes, “How is my faith calling me to respond or stand up!”
Perhaps you are being called to respond to God’s call as a Sister? Call us, we can help.
Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep! These two sentences are from the opening verse to the song, City of God. What does an “awakened life” mean to you? This is a question posed on an application for a spiritual direction training program that I’m considering. The question is an intriguing one that invites some reflection. How might you answer this question? It’s a good question for those of you considering religious life to ponder.
For many of us, waking up is hard to do, and this is true both physically (from sleep) and spiritually. Sipping coffee, exercising, or listening to upbeat music may be some ways to awaken your body and mind so that you can face a new day. But, how do we wake up our heart and soul? How do we live an “awakened life.”?
I offer three words—awareness, acceptance, and aliveness—as ways to live an awakened life.
Awareness or self-awareness is so important to living a fulfilling life in so many ways. By being aware of my strengths, I can use my gifts to help others and to enrich my own life. If being an artist, for example, is my gift, I can create beauty for others to enjoy while bringing joy to myself as I nurture my craft. Knowing my weaknesses teaches me what I need to work on and where I might not be of service to others. If I’m not mechanically gifted, for example, it’s best that I let someone else take care of such matters or I might create more of a mess instead of being part of the solution. I need to know my limits and appreciate what others can offer.
Acceptance is another word that communicates an aspect of an “awakened life” to me. When I can accept myself for who I am and others for who they are, we can both be free to become our best selves. Acceptance opens the door to compassion and once we have developed self-compassion, we can connect with and reach out to other people in a meaningful way. Living an awakened life means you accept life exactly as it is and as it unfolds for you. Acceptance means understanding that life is filled with both joy and sorrow. Some things we can change; some things we cannot change. Acceptance sometimes requires letting go of our notions of how life should be and seeking to accept the way things are, and in this process, we may create an open space for God to enter and speak to us.
Aliveness is the third word that speaks to me of an “awakened life.” When I am fully alive, I am being present to the moment and engaged in my surroundings—I am living life to the fullest. I am seizing the moment, pushing through the clouds, and finding the light that illuminates my path. In living life to the fullest, I take risks to discover new possibilities, I am open to exploring new ways of being and doing things, I find and use my voice to speak my truth and to speak up for injustices so others can experience being alive too.
Being fully alive requires a willingness to be stretched and to live outside my comfort zone, to see through a new, unbiased lens and to hear the truth with an openness to being transformed. To be fully alive, we awaken to God, to others, and to ourselves. As we awaken to all that surrounds us and seek to understand our purpose in life, we become alive with new insights, new ways of employing our senses to live with open hearts and open minds to the Creator’s many blessings.
Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep!A new day is dawning for those who seek to live an awakened life.
Are you ready to be awakened by God through life as a religious sister? If so, we invite you to contact us here to take the first step on the adventure of a lifetime.