Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Profession of Vows: Wildflower in the Pages of an Ancient Book

Sr. Theresa Aletheia and Sr. Margaret Michael
before the profession Mass begins
I made my first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on August 30, 2014.

Visibly not much has changed. The biggest change is the veil I am wearing now. It has cleared up a lot of confusion. When I walk down the street, people now look at me and usually know what I am. In my novice outfit, people could rarely figure me out. At various times I was mistaken for being Jewish, Amish, Mormon, and a member of hotel staff.

These days people usually look at me curiously for just a few moments, then quickly avert their eyes before I have the chance to do a jig and yell, "I love Jesus!" in their face.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the outward changes involved in making vows and how they would affect my life. But really, the biggest change is interior.

I prepared for four years to make vows. I took classes, discussed the vows, observed other sisters living the vows, discerned my ability to live the vows. But none of these things adequately prepared me for this covenant with God. What can really prepare a person to vow their life to the Creator of the Universe?

Absolutely nothing.

It is hard to describe in a concrete way how my interior life is different after making vows to God to live chastity, poverty and obedience in imitation of the way Jesus lived on earth. The only way I have been able to describe it to myself is that I now feel that I have stepped more deeply into the mystery of God. I feel like a small piece of metal that voluntarily dove into the magnetic field of the strongest magnet on earth. It is as if my vows pressed my soul upon God like a small wildflower between the thick pages of an ancient book.

I am still overwhelmed by the mystery of what I have done.

In the Daughters of St. Paul, we usually keep our baptismal name and add another name. My chosen name is Aletheia, the Greek word for truth. It has caused some confusion and incited a litany of misspellings and mispronunciations, (although I was assured that pretty much any way you can pronounce the name is a way the name has been pronounced at some point in the history of the Greek language). If you are interested, you can go to the link above and hear the way I pronounce it.

But in the end, I am not really concerned about all that. The name chose me a long time ago and regardless of the impracticality and confusion I love it.

Why Greek?

Because the New Testament is written in Greek. St. Paul spoke and wrote in Greek. His mission was to the Gentiles. In the same way, I see my mission in the Church as one that is to everyone; it is beyond the walls of the Roman Catholic Church and extends to other Christians, people of other religions and nonbelievers. I believe the Greek word for truth communicates my identity as the daughter of the Apostle to the Gentiles and heir of his universal mission.

Why Truth?

Because God is Truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Throughout my life, even when I was an atheist, I believed in truth, I thirsted for truth and wanted to live for truth. Little did I know that Truth is a person and he is Jesus. The entire time I sought truth, he was right there beside me, inviting me and guiding me back to him.

Also, God approaches me through my mind. He helps me to understand the complexities of a world that is impossible to understand without him. But at the same time that he respects my intelligence and my ability to reason, he also overwhelms my grasp of the truth with his overwhelming, all-encompassing Truth. I have been seduced by the mystery of God’s Truth.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays in the high priestly prayer saying, “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:17-19).

I have consecrated myself to God through my profession and in this act of faith, I know that I have consecrated myself to the Truth and in the Truth. The very process of sanctification and consecration occurs within the mystery of God’s Truth and I have surrendered myself to it—to him, to Aletheia.

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I wish you all could have been at my profession. For those of you who would have liked to have been there or would like to feel that you were there, here are some of the highlights:

*If any of the videos are not working, try accessing them directly on the Daughters of St Paul website.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and love, my commitment is not possible without you!

Oh and one more announcement, I have been stationed in Miami, FL and will be helping at the Pauline Books and Media bookcenter there, known in Miami as Paulinas Libreria. I will be practicing my Spanish, eating a lot of pastelitos and drinking copious amounts of cafe cubano, so if you are in the area, come say hello to me at our bookcenter and buy some fabulous Catholic books!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RIP Robin Williams: "I Only Knew That You Were Thirsty"

 "I Only Knew That You Were Thirsty"
As most of you probably know, Robin Williams passed away this week in what is an apparent suicide. One of the sisters I live with came and told all of us the sad news. We paused and prayed, “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let the perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.” 

In the moment Robin Williams chose death over life he must have been standing over a yawning abyss of despair that he did not feel he could cross. Mental illness and addiction are mysteries few of us can comprehend so we often lack clarity in these tragic situations. I do not try to pretend I can understand the decision or the degree of culpability, if any, that another person has when they choose to take their own life. I leave that to God’s unfathomable mercy.

A story that Robin Williams’ character Parry tells in the beautiful movie, The Fisher King, seems to be an appropriate reflection for this tragic situation. It tells the story of us all, of the wounds of life and the healing power of grace that is available to every person up until the very last moment of their life.

It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. Now while he is spending the night alone he's visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy Grail, symbol of God's divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, "You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men." But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn't love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn't see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, "What ails you friend?" The king replied, "I'm thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat". So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, "How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?" And the fool replied, "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty." It's very beautiful, isn't it?

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Rest in peace Robin Williams, we pray that the God of love welcomes you into eternity.

(Can we all pause and pray an Our Father for this beautiful man's soul?)


I will leave you with the beautiful tribute that Jimmy Fallon made to Robin Williams which includes a clip of Robin Williams' first appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It's not to be missed.