Today is a landmark day for me, for I am stepping into the world of the BLOG! Our Visitation community launched into this world last month on the feast of our Founder, St. Francis de Sales, thanks to a team of “vocation partners” who are committed to helping us get the word out about our inner-city monastery. We want others to know that there are religious communities of women committed to living a contemplative life in an urban setting with a special heart for those marginalized and disenfranchised by society. The scripture readings for the first Sunday of Lent lend themselves to sharing about our life. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans,
“The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart—that is, the word of faith….” (Rom. 10:8)
How do I experience that Word near me? There is nothing contrived about how this occurs. It is as simple as being open and willing to let life lead me to God. I will share three vignettes from yesterday that became portals for St. Paul’s text about the nearness of God. Hopefully these stories will encourage you to recognize how near God’s Word is to you!
After Morning Prayer on Saturday, I drove our hybrid car downtown for an errand and for a short swim at the local “YMCA”. As I prepared to turn right from a one-way street on to another, I discovered that the huge charter bus to my left was also beginning to turn in the same direction, unaware of my vehicle. Its back right wheel was inches from the driver’s door, and the bus was beginning to “squish” the front of our Prius. I blared the horn, and after what seemed like a very long few seconds, the bus driver stopped and jumped out of the bus full of cheerleaders from Omaha — en route to the Minneapolis Convention Center for competitions! In my heart I felt “cheered on” by heavenly cheer leaders ! I crawled out of the car on the passenger’s side, relieved that no one was injured. The car was in remarkably good shape as well! “The Word is near you….” Yes indeed, and as the day progressed, so did my gratitude as my heart rested in the protective love of God.
Later that morning, one of our friends came to share about her recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Annette had just returned from a pilgrimage that combined study, prayer and touring of the biblical sites, especially those of the Gospel. Annette’s love of the Lord, her friendship with us and her obvious awe over visiting these sacred sites struck a chord within me. Although I have never been to the Holy Land, I have been on pilgrimages, and I believe that life is a sacred journey, one that has a destination. Writing on this blog today honors the sacred “40 Day Pilgrimage” that we are beginning as people of faith who hope to be renewed for celebrating the Holy Days and Easter. Let us walk it together and help each other meet Jesus on the way. For he is as near as the brother/sister at my side or in my consciousness.
The “pilgrim company” was particularized last night for me as my community of seven beautiful women of faith sat around the roaring fire in our living room and had a communal “lectio divina” on this Sunday’s Gospel : Luke 4:1-13. Using a simple method that allowed for each one to share if she chose, the Gospel came alive for me through the openness of each Sister’s encounter with the Word. The Word IS near….as near as my community member… as near as the child in Haiti whose photo in today’s paper draws us into his plight… as near as my bedroom vigil light lit in the early hours of this day invites me to place the day, the world, into God’s hands.
I welcomed this “nearness” on this Sunday when, 80 years ago on February 21, my great grandmother, Pauline Maloney, died. I never knew her, but I did know her daughter, Uceyle Pauline O’Connell, who died 38 years ago today, February 22. I am named after each of these women: Karen Pauline Mohan. The years pass but the nearness of God’s Word continues to convey the presence of the Holy One among us. My life as a Visitation Sister offers me a lifestyle that supports the daily welcoming and savoring of this Word. Perhaps it is a lifestyle that will “fit” you!