What Itch Distracts You from God?

Blog by Associate Theresa Kempker, OPA

In Sunday’s first reading, we hear that the king of Nineveh ordered everyone to wear sackcloth and he sat in ashes.  In fact, we often read in the Bible that penitents wore sackcloth and sat in ashes or put ashes on their head.  Why not just say dirt?  Isn’t that the point, that a penitent would sit in ugly sackcloth and be dirty?

Well, no.  Sackcloth, as you can imagine, is not only unfashionable, but it is rough and itchy.  I’ve always imagined that it must not be good at keeping out the cool of the night, either.

But what always strikes my soul is the use of the ashes.  Wood ashes, when combined with water, make lye, a terribly caustic chemical.  Most of the farm families I knew growing up made their own soap with commercial lye, and everyone had a healthy respect for it.  A small can of lye poured into a crock of water could have it nearly boiling in seconds.  Children were to be kept away from soap making so that they wouldn’t get any lye on their skin and be burned.

If a penitent sweated or if dew fell, the water would combine with the ashes and make small amounts of weak lye.  But it would be lye nonetheless.  And it would itch, maybe burn.  It would be terribly uncomfortable to be scratched by the sackcloth and then burned by the lye from the ashes.  And after?  We don’t hear about people being done with this ordeal.  It must have felt so good to leave the sackcloth and ashes behind, take a bath, and put oil on all the places that were rubbed and irritated.

What itch is distracting us from closer union with God?  What fear or pride burns at our souls so that we are not at peace with God?  God does not want us to stay this way.  God wants us to remove our sackcloth, bathe in His mercy, and feel His Love soothing us.

God made you and loves you because you are worth loving.

Posted in Associate Blog

Following God Joyfully

The dictionary defines a vocation as “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.” This “feeling of suitability” also extends to our life as Christians. Some of us feel called to family life, or to serve the church as educators or Extraordinary ministers. Some of us feel that “feeling of suitability” or calling towards life as a religious Sister.

If you believe that your calling is to serve God as a Dominican Sister of Peace, then this is the place for you.

Your next step? Learning more about religious life, more about the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and entering a process of discernment …  of determining God’s desire for your life.

To learn more, contact Sr. Maidung Nguyen
(405) 248-7027
Click here to email.

To register for this FREE virtual event,
click here.

Posted in News

Being Pruned

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

One of my favorite Gospel quotes is: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. (John 15:1-3) This message spoke to me during the retreat in preparation for my first vows and recently in the prayer before our Ministry of Welcome – Vocations team meeting.

Pruning can be a painful process – but the fruits are well worth it. Looking back at the time before I entered the community, I thought religious life was a life of prayer and helping the poor. The concept of helping the poor has evolved in me over the years.  I have come to see the poor not just as those who are materially poor but those in need of love, a spiritual life, and equal justice. The need to work on justice and dignity is present not only at the human level but also in the life of other species and the earth. This understanding broadens my view of ministry and daily prayer. Today, I realize that the call to live religious life is a call to live prophetically. This prophetic life is a dynamic one that must be built on faith and in the reality of life where I am living. So, it calls me to be open to on-going transformation and to accept the pruning necessary for new branches to form.

Another example of needing to be pruned happened when I was first called to religious life. At that time, I was worried that I would need to leave behind my love of engineering, life experiences, friends, and even my personal freedom when entering religious life. Later, I realized God did not ask me to cut them off completely but pruned me to see how to view them to bear more fruit and so that God’s work in me could be accomplished a hundredfold.  Thus, I am reminded of what Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Mt 5:17).

Now, we are dealing with COVID, job layoffs, violence, and division in our country. The questions that have been raised within our community echo inside me: “What does the world or our society ask from us?” “What does the earth ask of us?” These are all big questions. To respond prophetically, you and I must be pruned so a new way of thinking, living life, and doing ministry can bring forth and bear more fruit. How willing are we to be pruned for this process? And God will make the way for us to live such prophetic life.

The call to live in religious life is the call to live prophetically in our time, with one another in God’s grace. This is an authentic call from God. Are you willing to be pruned by God and to accept this call to be prophetic? If so, contact us or visit our vocation webpages to learn more about the discernment process. We also have a virtual Discernment retreat this March 12-14, 2021 at no cost. An online register link is coming soon.

Posted in God Calling?