About Sr. Nun Other

May 16, 2012, completed my 30th year as a Sister. It was both a milestone and just another day in an interesting journey. Some of those thirty years included singing with Gloriae Dei Cantores, marching in Spirit of America band, and serving on our Sisters Council. As a monastic, I live surrounded by beauty and within a frame work of opportunity and possibility. I'm sixty-four (much to my surprise) and extremely grateful for my life as a sister - past, present, and future.

As He Loved Us

I’m a great fan of the late composer and performer, John Denver. My favorite song is “Perhaps Love.” You may think I have a sentimental streak, and you could be right, but among Mr. Denver’s credentials is the title Poet Laureate of Colorado. His words are simple, profound, and down to earth. Here are some of the descriptive phrases present in his lyrics:

Perhaps Love
Is a resting place, shelter from a storm
Like a window or an open door
It can be like a cloud or strong as steel.
Sometimes love is holding on,
At other times letting go.
It can be like the ocean
Filled with conflict and pain,
Loves’ memory will bring you home.

I’ve been searching the scriptures to understand love. I know it’s essential to love and be loved to find wholeness. I pondered this verse, Ephesians 4:2, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in Love. I fall short on all counts because of my nature and history. To love as Jesus loved is hard work that requires personal transformation and His grace.

The Dormition of Mary

On August 15th., we commemorate the death of Mary the Theotokos (Mother of God or God-bearer.) The Latin root word of Dormition is dormire, meaning “to sleep.” Mary is our example of a trusted and faithful servant of God sharing intimately in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Although scripture doesn’t record the time or manner of her death, history (or tradition) informs us that Mary remained in the care of the Apostle John and that she lived eleven years after the death of her Son. During John’s missionary journeys, she lived in the home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. A source of consolation to all believers, Mary nurtured the fledgling Church with her prayers, conversation, and presence.

There are many traditions regarding the end of Mary’s life, but much remains a mystery. Three common themes, recorded in the Transitus Narratives, written at the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, are that Mary was informed of her approaching death by the Angel Gabriel, that the Apostles miraculously appeared at her bedside and that Christ, Himself, came as a Child to receive and transport her soul to heaven. Sometime after the funeral and burial, the Apostles witnessed her body taken up to heaven, and reunited with her soul.

The following is a quote from a General Audience given by Pope John Paul II on June 25, 1997:

“It is more important to look for the Blessed Virgin’s spiritual attitude at the moment of her departure from this world. In this regard, St. Francis de Sales maintains that Mary’s death was due to a transport of love. He speaks of a dying ‘in love, from love, and through love.’

Commemoration of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist – August 1

Today is a holy day on which we pay honor to the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.  Beheaded at the drunken whim of Herod Antipas, St. John was forerunner not only of Christ’s birth but also His innocent death at the hand of human wickedness.
Many followed John and looked to him for hope.  He was to prepare the way and was not himself the Way.  John gave his life and death to fulfill his call, and to lead others to Jesus, his Savior. John’s persecutor, Herod, demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Regardless of threat and imprisonment, confident of God’s love and grace, John courageously spoke truth, repentance, and salvation in the face of Herod’s disgraceful actions.
May we, like John, answer our call with all our hearts. May others see in our lives the joy of knowing and serving Jesus.
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St. James the Great – July 25

James the Great (or Greater), son of Zebedee, was born in approximately 3 AD. He was brother to John, also one of the original Twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus. His father Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman, was a man of means; Salome, James’ mother, was a pious woman who later followed Jesus and used the family’s wealth to help His ministry.

James was a man of “firsts”:  one of the first disciples to join Jesus, one of only three chosen to witness Christ’s transfiguration, and believed to be the first apostle martyred for his faith.  

He was known to be a man with a fiery temper. He and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or “Sons of Thunder”.  The Bible, in Luke 9:51-56, records the following: As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then He and His disciples went to another village. How refreshingly human!

Universally, St. James the Great is recognized as the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. Tradition maintains that St. James preached the gospel in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) as well as the Holy Land. Upon his return to Judea circa 44 AD, he was decapitated by Herod Agrippa, who used his own sword to commit the execution. Legend maintains that disciples of James carried his body by sea back to Iberia, and then took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela.  A pilgrimage route was established and remains today. Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James, is among the most famous of all Christian pilgrimages.

James the Great is often depicted clothed as a pilgrim, with staff in hand, pilgrim hat, and a scallop shell on his shoulder. Scallop shells became a symbol of pilgrimage because of their abundance on the coast of Galicia, near St. James’ tomb. In the Middle Ages, a pilgrimage was often a penance assigned by a priest, and the pilgrim was required to present proof that their journey was complete. A local souvenir, such as a scallop shell, served not only as proof, but could be used as a bowl for food or water along the way.

St. James the Great (or Elder) is honored by tradition and legend and rightfully so.  But perhaps his greatest accomplishment is found in Matthew 4, verses 21 and 22: Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

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The Paradox of Age

I was a Girl Scout once, and a pretty good one. I especially took to heart the Scouts’ long-standing motto, Be Prepared. You see, I was – am – an introvert with a busy inner life (code for obsessive worrier) and being prepared for everything seemed like great advice. Be Prepared worked well for me until I approached seventy. Nothing could prepare me for seventy and a straight-up calculation of remaining years, creaking knees, and escaping memories. I function much better when I grab pen and paper to categorize my musings. Here are my loosely poetic thoughts on growing older:

Creation. God’s intention.
Every leaf, every star.
Everything was made to be
With purpose and effect.
No accident, me, as I am
As I shall become,
When age reconfigures
My original composition.
Lower energy,
Increased wisdom.
Eyes that see less clearly,
And yet more clearly
At the same time.
Accept what I must.
Change what I can.
Make a strong finish,
With love and joy.

The Whole Truth and Nothing But

I’m convinced that the most difficult question one can be asked is, “How are you?”

“Who me?  How am I?” I freeze.  I mind-stumble over words and can’t speak.  I ponder—perplexed and suspicious of an ulterior motive. Why? I have no idea. I mentally sub-divide this one question into three of my own: Do I lie? Do I care? Do I even know? Moment of truth: the one with an ulterior motive is me — my aim is to please the asker.  Should I be fine? Have a problem? Or maybe they’d be relieved with a simple “okay.” They do, after all, need to move on with life.

The situation escalates in importance.  I search for truth like a bloodhound who knows he buried a raw-hide bone somewhere.  Sounds crazy, I know, but this is my process. I’m caught in a self-made trap of how I wish to be perceived (generous, earnest, grateful, serene). I want to at least portray a person who’s really trying. Finally, I reach out in sympathy to the caring person who asked. I speak. “How are you?” I ask.

Perhaps – A Good Friday Meditation on Darkness and Light

As we approach the ultimate darkness, a day we call Good Friday, I find myself reflecting on why that’s so. Perhaps God’s mystery is revealed in darkness. In Genesis 1:2,3, we’re told the world was void and darkness covered the earth. And God said, “Let there be light. And there was light.” Just like that.

When alone and afraid, I run through darkness. Perhaps I should embrace it. Perhaps.  For hidden within its shapeless shape, is a pin point of light that beckons. It twirls like a ballerina, full of grace; etches a sunrise; reveals a presence of goodness that truly never left us. As a fresh canvas waits for its artist or a night sky its stars, we await the risen Christ. He always comes back to us, the essence of love.

Whatever the Approach

I have two friends.  Four footed ones.  I also have permission to give them one dog biscuit a day.  (I’m limited because they’re limitless and I tend to be obsessive compulsive.)  I find their approach to this little exercise fascinating.  Let’s take Toby, the golden retriever.  Toby is a self-assured extrovert, albeit on the lazy side.  When he wants his treat, and he often forgets he’s back for seconds, he slugs me in the back of the knees with whatever is in his mouth.  And he’s always carrying something:  a stuffed toy, a slipper, an old shoe, or quite recently, someone’s wrapped Christmas gift.  Womp!!! My knees buckle. Thanks, Toby.  Message received.  I stop what I’m doing and head for the dog treat cupboard. He awaits:  expectant, grateful, and unabashed.

Then we have Tank, a polite, soft-spoken,  border collie.  I sense someone staring.  When I finally locate the source, there’s Tank, ears down, one eye on me, the other looking another direction.   Experience to the contrary, he’s overcome with shyness.  Suspended above his head is an imaginary bubble that reads, “Geez, I’m sorry. Is this a bad time?  I apologize but I just can’t stop thinking about that biscuit.  No hurry, in fact, if you’re busy, let’s just skip it.”  We stroll to the dog treat cupboard.

I stop to think about my approach to God.  Am I a Toby, a Tank, or a bit of both?  As I’m sometimes the keeper of the dog cookie jar, God is at all times the keeper of blessings.  I suspect He doesn’t tire of hearing from me, whether I’m demanding, mistrustful, or get it just right.  He sees  through His lens  who I am, how I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going.  God is not capricious.  His love is everlasting,  and generosity unencumbered by our negative imaginings.

Psalm 10:17  You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and listen to their cry.

 

 

 

 

An Open Door

by Sister Nun Other

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that I am. Not for what I have, not for what I’ve achieved or hope to achieve, but simply because I am. I am opens immeasurable possibilities: participation in a sunrise, interaction with a friend, an occasion for laughter (or tears.) Today I might enjoy beautiful music, lucky dip a scripture that fits just right, or encounter kindness when I least expect it.

All because I was, I am, and will be forever.  All because God extended his arms and invited me in.

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To Be a Pilgrim

by Sister Nunother

We are the Magi bearing precious gifts, the shepherds tending  flocks, the angel chorus on a star-lit night, the carpenter father, the tender mother. We are conversely Herod and his soldiers, rumors of war, haters of holiness, lovers of iniquity. We arrive at rehearsals with our back-pack burdens of musical score, pencil, bottled water, energy bar, and unruly emotions about to be stirred.

I turn to my bible and explore the profound effect of Bunyan’s he Pilgrim’s ProgressI choose Hosea 14:1-2. Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to Him, “Take away all guilt; accept what is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips.”

It’s such a privilege to sing and listen to powerful words united with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ music in his opera, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Life is a difficult journey, filled with danger real and imagined, temptations blatant and subtle, sorrow, grief, a longing for home, and a search for love that forgives. It’s all present here—visible and audible—lovely in its simplicity and candor.

In January 2017, my beautiful niece lost her life in unspeakable tragedy. Her manner of death left a trail of tears for others’ grief to follow. I see her now in House Beautiful and hear Bunyan’s words, An open door shall be set before thee and no man may shut it. Come thou blessed, enter into the joy of the Lord. A treasure of joy and gladness, joy and gladness be given to thee. A room is prepared for thee; the window shall be toward the sun rising, and the name of the chamber shall be peace.    

I end with this question to myself, “Who am I to argue?”

A Sister
Member of the Chorus