Monday, November 28, 2011

Postulancy is like...a ton of bricks?

Sometimes it just hits me. BAM! Right on the head. Like a ton a bricks. I’ll be mopping the floor on a Tuesday morning and BAM! …Ton a bricks.  All of a sudden I think to myself: I’m a postulant. A REAL postulant with the Daughters of St. Paul.
            Let me explain: My entire teenage life I’ve known the Daughters of St. Paul. I remember being 14 and meeting my very first Pauline Sister. (Who was Sr. Rebecca Marie, who now happens to be my postulant formator! Don’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor!) Ever since that day I imagined what life would be like as a postulant.
            Granted, I DID make it sound super glamorous in my head. For example, I thought that once someone entered Postulancy they automatically loved getting up early and praying at the crack of dawn. I thought postulants always had a cheerful and sweet disposition that never waivered. I thought they were never tired or lazy or irritable. I distinctly remember mopping my kitchen floor one day and thinking, “If I were a postulant I would love mopping.” (Ha…) Not to mention the fact that postulants were “super kneelers”! These "kneeling powers" allowed them to kneel for hours at a time in deep prayer without pain or fatigue. I couldn’t wait.
            … I remember waiting and daydreaming about Postulancy
 and waiting….
            And now, I find my self here. I’m a postulant. I live in Missouri and I’m a postulant with the Daughters of St. Paul. Sometimes I’ll just be mopping the floor and BAM… it hits me. "I AM A POSTULANT…and I’m mopping the floor at the convent…the convent where I live. ohmygoodness… I’ve been waiting for this for so long and now I’m here." It's in these moments that I can’t help but smile in bafflement at God’s mercy.
            It’s definitely not a glamorous life…but it’s definitely a beautiful one! It’s one that requires sacrifices and a lot of love. Being a postulant doesn’t mean that I LOVE waking up before it’s even light out, but I do it because He called me here out of love and it’s only because of those early morning conversations with the Lord that I get through the day. Being a postulant doesn’t mean that I’m never tired or irritable, but when those problems arise I am reminded to ask for strength, endurance and patience. He is always there for me. Oh and believe me…there’s no such thing as “kneeling powers”. It’s all offered up for the sake of the Kingdom.  ;)
            Wow. I’m having a brick moment right now…BAM! I’m writing a blogpost and I’m a postulant. BAMMM!

Praise God!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breaking Dawn: Cotton Candy for My Soul

In sickness and in immortality... 
Last weekend, I snuck off to the movies with Sandy and Carly. Well, we didn’t exactly sneak off – Sr. Rebecca, Cheryl and Chelsea were out of town. But it did feel a bit like we were sneaking – probably because we were watching the most recent movie in the Twilight series: Breaking Dawn.

I must sheepishly admit that I am a Twilight fan. Actually, I can honestly say that I have been a fan of all things vampire since I read several books in the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles when I was in middle school. I have not read the Twilight books, but I enjoy the movies – they are cotton candy for my soul. Of course any good dentist of the soul will point out that souls do not profit much from cotton candy; However, I do think there are redeeming qualities in this movie series. And as I watched Breaking Dawn this past weekend, I began to recognize some of the strong undercurrents pulling me in.

When I was in college, I vividly remember a debate I attended between an atheist and a Christian. The first argument that the atheist brought up was that pagan myths, far before the time of Jesus, spoke of virgin births. He argued that Christianity was just another concocted story that belonged in the pages of pagan mythology. I was a bit shocked at this argument at the time. I myself was an atheist but I had always thought the Christian “story” was at least original.

Now, as a Christian, that argument does not faze me at all. I am a Christian Catholic: Catholic meaning universal, all embracing. I do not believe that God only speaks to Christians or, in the time of pagan myths, only to the Hebrew people. Rather, I believe in a God who speaks to everyone. In ancient times, God may have revealed more of himself to the Hebrews than to the pagans but he did this because he ultimately planned to make himself available to all human beings. And this is seen by the glimmers of foreshadowing in other cultures and religions before the time of Jesus – God was setting the stage.

I actually think that most things in this world are like those pagan myths. If we hold them up to the light, we can almost always find traces of God. This is true for some of the most disturbing aspects of our culture, as well as the "cotton candy for your soul" phenomena that cause people, including myself, to go a little nuts - like Harry Potter or the Twilight series. If people are going a bit nuts over something, there is usually something deeper pulling them in, something that they are not usually consciously aware of themselves.

God’s Love

Every woman dreams of being pursued, desired and loved into eternity like Bella is loved by Edward.  And every woman wishes they had the awful dilemma of being pursued by two men who are willing to love her until the ends of the earth, even if she chooses the other guy. Of course these relationships point to the ultimate relationship that we are meant to have - with God. God pursues us like a gentleman. He is always there, ready for us to reach out to him, and even if we do not love him, he does not stop loving us. It may be hard for guys to relate to this analogy but that’s why most church pews are filled with women – men aren’t always into the idea of being romanced by God. But that is what we all are called to – men and women. We all have to become receptors of God or “feminine” (in a sense) to enter into relationship with God.


Edward’s family is filled with gorgeous people who will be young and attractive forever. Don’t we all dream of being young and beautiful forever? 

After reaching thirty, I have been on the lookout for wrinkles and grey hair. I know old age is in my future and if I get old I will die. Despite this obvious fact, I would like to stay young, or at least look young, for as long as I can. Why? The same reason our entire culture is obsessed with youth – I may know intellectually that I am going to die but I am in denial.

But immortality for vampires is not all it is cut out to be - Edward tries his best to dissuade Bella from becoming a vampire. For a human, the idea of literally living into eternity is excruciating – wouldn’t it be boring after all, after a certain amount of time? But that is the beauty of Christianity – we are promised not only immortality, but a life where boredom is impossible. God is all that we are made to live for – Beauty, Truth, Justice, Love. And exploring God is like a never-ending adventure. God is like a diamond with infinite facets or a world with an infinite number of countries to explore. 

Boredom is impossible with God.


Although there are differences, there is something in the immortality of the vampire that points to our resurrected bodies. Edward’s family is full of good looking people who will never experience the evil of death, will always be young and they sparkle in the sunlight. It sounds silly but this is not so far from Christian teaching about our resurrected bodies. 

We believe that at the end of the world, we will all be reunited with our bodies. Thomas Aquinas hypothesized that our resurrected bodies will look like our bodies when we were thirty-two or thirty-three years old, the perfect age apparently (I am quickly headed downhill). C.S. Lewis said that we will not be able to discern the age of our resurrected bodies, but, rather, we will be full of light and almost unrecognizable. We see this in the Gospels after Jesus returns from his resurrection – it takes his disciples time to recognize him.

In conclusion...

Suffice it to say, Breaking Dawn is not a film masterpiece. It will not go down in history for its acting. But there are themes in it that pull at our soul strings – which is the reason why anyone who is honest will shamefacedly admit that they enjoy the movies. 

Of course, our souls can only take so much cotton candy – we can’t survive spiritually on this stuff! But if we are discerning and thoughtful, we can all learn from movies like this. So next time you find yourself enjoying something you know is cotton candy for your soul - look a little deeper, it just might lead you to a greater understanding of God and faith.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Postulant Surprise: The Joy of Cooking

My life as one of the newest members of the FSP postulant community has called for many adjustments on my part. 

I suddenly went from being an only child to having a houseful of sisters.  When I left my job this summer, I was one of the “younger” people at my firm.  Now I’m the oldest of the postulants.  My wardrobe has been transformed from a nice selection of business casual clothes and suits into a small collection of blue skirts and sensible shoes.  As a native of Cleveland, home of perpetual heartbreak for sports fans, it is even hard for me to comprehend that my new “home” team, the Cardinals, are actually this year’s World Series champs!
To top it off, as a former estate planning lawyer, I know the ins-and-outs of drafting wills and trusts, but most of that knowledge has no direct application to what I’m doing now.  This means I’ve spent much of the past two months learning entirely new sets of skills.  One of these is cooking dinner for ten people on a regular basis.

To say I didn’t feel up to this task at first would be an understatement.  Sure, I’ve heated up many a Lean Cuisine dinner in my day, and I can microwave bags of popcorn with the best!  I’ve even scrambled an egg or two from time to time.  But cooking for ten people?  That’s a whole new ballgame.

Fortunately, my family and friends heard my desperate cries for help and generously responded by sending me their favorite recipes and even a subscription to the Food Network Magazine.

Armed with these valuable resources, I marched into our kitchen.  Fortunately, I was not marching alone.  The postulant community is divided into two teams who take turns cooking on alternating Mondays.

My cooking team consists of Cheryl, Carly and me.  While Carly has a lot of experience in the kitchen, Cheryl and I are still learning the ropes.  Our combined efforts would make for some interesting reality TV.
Our most memorable adventure in the kitchen was our attempt to serve Easy Cajun Jambalaya to our community and our special guests, the two sisters from our provincial government who were visiting us that Monday.  We were determined to impress (or at least not induce food poisoning).

To our dismay, as my team began preparing the meal, we discovered that most of the ingredients called for in the recipe were not in our fridge or pantry.   Bravely attempting to stick to our planned menu---  and with little time to spare--- we put out heads together and swapped almost ALL of the ingredients called for in the recipe with something else.
The result was a unique culinary invention that could never be mistaken for the original Jambalaya recipe.  Gazing upon our masterpiece, Cheryl suggested adding one final “special” ingredient: turmeric.  This transformed our dish into the most beautiful shade of yellow (an improvement over the original hue), and our meal was complete.  We lovingly named our concoction “Postulant Surprise.” 

Our "secret" recipe
I’m happy to report the meal was tasty and earned rave reviews!  More importantly, it was an experience of the challenges and joys of living in a religious community.   
With each turn in the kitchen, I am learning to let go of my desire to be “perfect.”   I am loosening my grip on my past successes and starting to live in the present.  I am being stretched and learning to adapt in stressful situations.  I am experiencing the benefits of working together with Carly and Cheryl to create meals that are not only edible, but enjoyable.  One of my cooking team members (who shall remain nameless) summed it up best, as she shouted out in one of our more frenzied moments: “I am dying to self!  I am dying to self!”

Despite a few close calls, we haven’t ignited any grease fires on our gas stove.   No one has been rushed to the emergency room after one of our meals.  Cheryl, Carly and I are still speaking to each other.  Those whom we’ve fed haven’t kicked us out.   Though you won’t find “Postulant Surprise” in any cookbook, life is good.
And who would have guessed I would grow to like this community cooking gig?  As a matter of fact, if I’m not in the chapel or Book Center, you might very well find me in the kitchen frothing eggs with some of my fellow postulants.
Illustration: the effects of turmeric on white rice

God bless,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Catholic New Media Conference 2011 - People of Good Will

Chelsea, Cheryl, Theresa and Sandy with our new friend Jack
(Carly and Sr Rebecca are keeping busy behind us)

Media is not my thing. 

I know, I know I am thinking of becoming a Daughter of St. Paul so that may be a problem.

I even worked in Technology for several years but I was always the odd person out – I never cared for or wanted the newest phones or technology. I actually refused to get a cell phone until after college when I was a teacher in a not-so-good area in Miami and someone was held up at gunpoint near my classroom, (my door faced the street). I realized it just might be idiotic for me to continue playing the anti-technology card. But I have always been a technology skeptic. 

However, God always has different plans for us than we expect. 

So, when I was told that the postulants were going to the Catholic New Media Conference in Kansas City I was not exactly jumping up and down for joy. I honestly expected to be bored out of my mind with technical gibber gabber. But I ended up finding the conference based more on spiritual matters than minute technical details. The issues that I think are the most important in evangelization were highlighted by all who spoke. First, if the messenger is not fully rooted in Christ, then our Gospel message will be lost in the noise or contribute to the noise on the Internet. And second, even though we all use different mediums for evangelization, it is still of vital importance to develop real relationships with the people we are trying to help bring to Christ. 

            But the thing that moved me the most were the people I met and observed. As I listened to other speakers and attendees at the conference, I realized that many other people working in the new media for the Church have a heart for evangelism, hearts very close to the Pauline charism. In the early 20th century, in a time when thinking about using technology for evangelization was not even in the Church’s mind, Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, knew that people in the future would unite together to use technology to evangelize the world. This premonition of the founder is found in one of the common prayers of the Pauline Family:

God, to communicate your love to everyone,
you sent your only Son Jesus Christ into the world
and made him our Master,
the Way and Truth and Life of humanity.
Grant that the media of social communication
press, films, radio, television, records and all audiovisuals
may always be used for your glory and the good of all.
Raise up vocations
for this multimedia apostolate,
and inspire all people of good will
to contribute with prayer, action and offerings,
so that through these means
the Church may preach the Gospel to all peoples.

(Blessed James Alberione)

Seeing these people of good will who are already involved in the apostolate that Blessed James Alberione knew would become a reality was truly an inspiration to me. As I listened to them, I realized that although I still can’t relate to wanting the latest iPhone, these people are my brothers and sisters in the heart of the founder. These are the people of good will that Alberione knew would spring up in our time to bring people to Jesus through media. 

I know that Blessed James is up in heaven praying for all of the Pauline family. But now I know he is praying for these people “of good will” who recognize the many souls who are thirsting for God and are in need of the Living Water that we can carry to them so effectively in the 21st century through modern technology.

And now all the postulants will be praying for the wonderful people we met at this conference - that their words and outreach through modern technology will touch the hearts of people all over the world.