So often you hear the term “another world” in reference to living life as a Religious (living a life of giving to the God-Quest in service of others; Sister, Nun, Priest, Brother etc).
Reflecting back I can see it was indeed a massive world change. In a lot of ways I am living in a different way, but not in a different world. I walk the same stress and cry over the same sad news stories and movies as everyone else. Religious life however focuses energy on the spiritual world, prayer life and service of others. It's a new way of living, a spiritually focused way.
The initial shock and emotional roller coaster was something that you really cannot plan or prepare for, and really such is true for any new choice in life. The choice to live a 'Religious life' is not better than any other, there is no status to be achieved. In fact; official church doctrine states that within the church a Sister or Nun has the same hierarchical status as a married or single person. This journey is simply about my relationship with God, the God-Quest and what I feel peacefully called to within my heart.
The movement from running design business into essentially becoming a student of theology and prayer has all in all been very much a graced world change. And hey, those roller coaster moments certainly make for great road trip stories!
UPS AND DOWNS
I’ll be totally honest. It has not all been smooth sailing. There have been ups and downs. Tough situations, interactions and false judgments that have left me in tears. Plus joyful moments filled with laughter and a new sense of inner and outer peaceful joy… Clearly our good God loves a bit of drama.
Through the ups and downs I make time to take time out, I listen to my gutt // my insides // my spirit… am I still feeling at home? Am I in the right place? The overwhelming response is always the same - an inner peaceful YES.
I have moved through highs and lows with these points:
1. GRATITUDE :: First daily prayer = Thank you
2. PRAYER :: Meditation + contemplation + honesty
3. TRUST GOD :: listen to your heart
4. KEEP ACTIVE DAILY :: Running, Walking, Yoga
5. CREATIVITY + OPENNESS :: Artwork, Writing, Reading
6. ONE DAY AT A TIME :: Enjoy the present
7. HUMOUR :: Seek & Find - Joy in Life
One of the initial day-to-day changes was being asked to wear the Emmaus journey cross on my clothing every day. In 2016, as an apostolic congregation it’s our version of the habit (more info @ the FAQ page ) + see pic below.
The cross does not change who I am or what I stand for. I do not need to wear it to know that God is LOVE. The cross to me symbolises equality and open loving merciful welcome that Jesus showed us here on earth. It also has the emblem of SOSJ, symbolising our history and those who have courageously served before me.
I feel strongly called to stand for equality and to humbly acknowledge the dignity in every person, regardless of race, background or sexual orientation. Gay, straight, yellow, purple, black, white, what ever… we all bleed red. We are all equal. All created by God. All deserve dignity and LOVE. We all bleed red.
Because I am on the journey to become a Sister of St Joseph I fall under the Catholic umbrella. As person that is Catholic this umbrella includes those who are very conservative and those who are very open minded (such as myself). This is often a delicate balancing act. It continues to be eye-opening to view the division within church and to view how other people judge you based on the past experiences and lack of openness. The same can be said for Muslims; not all are terrorists, Islam is a beautiful peaceful religion. Unfortunately lack of openness and understanding can lead to false judgment.
Theology and church teaching has changed dramatically within the past 40 years. Some are aware. Some are not. And so, with this Catholic umbrella // this cross comes a new type of interaction, a new judgment from others. Often when I meet new people they will see the cross, then their eyes change; some happy, some sad. I met a lovely woman in the supermarket this week while buying fish. She asked about the symbol, we chatted for a while and she was surprised how open and welcoming I was.
"Most of us think and act as if God is a God of retribution and even eternal punishment. But the Bible, Jesus, and the mystics of all the world religions reveal that God is infinite love, which really changes everything. Most religious people have put the cart before the horse by imagining that we can earn God's love by some kind of moral behavior. Whereas, according to the saints and mystics, God's love must be experienced first--and then our moral behavior is merely an outflowing from our contact with that infinite source toward all other people and things. Love is the powerful horse; morality is then the beautiful cart that it pulls, not the other way around." ~ Richard Rohr OFM
Some of my friends that do not have a religious background have been the most curious and welcoming. However some that were raised with a religious background still have old guilt driven theology in their minds. Perhaps because of past hurts they are now not open to change? Perhaps they stopped learning about their faith? And now even though the church has changed dramatically when religion is mentioned they go back to their initial education?
I know that years back I can clearly put my hand up for doing this. I needed to re-learn my faith and went through a conversion, opened my heart, and now continually grow my spirituality. I try to renew my faith every single day, one day at at time. Now, I don't judge, but observe, be aware, be open... as Pope Francis says "Who am I to judge".
Faith has changed so much and grown throughout the past century. I hope and pray we all will be OPEN to letting our hearts renew and grow... "Never stop Learning".
Wearing the cross and being under the umbrella ultimately includes weathering the judgments of others. Each day my openness deepens and as I give those judgments back to God. I simply feel lighter, they are not mine to carry… do not let their insecurities affect your inner peace (some days are easier than others!).
“Laugh, Let Go, Let God”
~ Frances Smith
“Your image of God creates you. This is why it is so important that we see God as loving and benevolent and why good theology is still important.”
~ Richard Rohr OFM
“…Poor theology has led most people to view God as a sometimes benevolent Santa Claus or as an unforgiving tyrant who is going to burn us in hell for all eternity if we don't love him. (Who would love, or even trust, a god like that?)…”
~ Richard Rohr OFM
WHY AM I CATHOLIC?
Various interactions have allowed me to reflect on why I am Catholic? What is it about our faith that makes me feel so at home?
Firstly I have a deep love and reverence for all religions, spirituality and all walks of life.
The beautiful souls I continue to meet at the Detention Centre show me God through their pain, their joy and their hope. We don’t really talk about faith or God when I’m there. I just listen, we don’t need to talk, actions speak. God is bigger than any one religion. God is energy; God is in everything and in everyone. God is Love.
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
Francis of Assisi
For me, I was born and raised Catholic. Being Catholic is in my blood. I was baptised about 3 weeks after I was born. Christianity makes sense to me and it is where I feel home. I practice elements of Buddhism and other religions. But I am not Buddhist. I am a Christian. I am a student of other religions, but I follow of the ways of Jesus, I simply keep coming back to the examples that Jesus set out for us…
- He was treated with equal dignity: men, women, tax collectors, prostitutes, sick people, rich and poor. I am certain that he would have embraced anyone who was LGBT - "Who am I to judge?" ~ Pope Francis
- Christians have a book called the Bible. It is historical, but in many ways it is a book of metaphors, a guidebook. Think metaphorically; keep love, mercy and compassion first - "What would Jesus do?"
- Reflecting on scripture we can see that Jesus surely had a sense of humour and was joyful.
- Forgiveness, Mercy, Peace and Compassion are central to Christian faith.
"Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And Jesus opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."
As I put the cross on each morning I keep it simple… All religions come back to one thing: Openness and Love of your neighbour.
That is what I try to do every day. One day at a time. Sometimes I have failures of epic proportions, I’m a sinner and I fail often and sometimes if I'm walking humbly enough I'll honour the cross. It’s a work in progress.
No matter what, as a beautiful sister with Parkinson’s reminded me this week “never give up".
Never stop loving, never let those who hurt or judge you stop you from Laughing, Letting go, Letting God. And always remember first and foremost…
WE ALL BLEED RED.
”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31