Tag Archives: vows

Memories & Gratitude

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Six years ago on this day… final vows!

Today is November 11th. A day to pause and remember during this month of memory and thanksgiving.

Since the first World War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, today has been known as Remembrance Day in many parts of the world. In the United States we mark this day as Veteran’s Day.  At breakfast this morning we sang Anchors Aweigh to Sister Mary Robert, a navy veteran of WW II.

In my family, today is the day we celebrate the birthday of my eldest brother Joe.

In my CSJP community life, November 11th has two very special meanings.  On this day last year, we said goodbye to Sister Kristin, a vibrant community member who I was privileged to get to know and love deeply during our two years together on the Leadership Team.

And six years ago, on November 11, 2011, I professed my final vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

Our lives together in communities, as families, nations, and part of our global community are filled with so many moments, big and small, that make us who we are and bring the best out of ourselves for the sake of the whole.  Sometimes we dwell on the problems, the challenges, the things that worry us or aren’t quite going right, not to mention the very real existence of evil and the darkness that exists along with the light.  We need to pay attention to those messy bits, but even more we are called I think to stop and smell the flowers, to celebrate the gift of life and the joy and laughter and hope and very breath we breathe.

Blessings upon blessings if you think about it, really.

And so I pause this November 11th to remember …
I pause this November 11th to give thanks …
I pause this November 11th to pray for peace, for love, and for joy for all of God’s creation.

Amen

Morning Star Rising

When I professed my perpetual vows as a Sister of St Joseph of Peace four years ago this November, I felt great joy planning the liturgy and carefully chose  the readings and songs. For the meditation song after communion,  I chose a somewhat unusual song: “We Are” by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

This morning as I prayed with the readings for today’s Feast of the Transfiguration,  I remembered that moment, sitting in the chapel at St. Mary-on-the-lake, surrounded by community and family and friends, after proclaiming my forever yes, after remembering together Jesus as bread broken for us, in the silence, the song played.

“For each child that’s born, a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are.”

It was a powerful moment of the love of God for me, and I wanted that song to help the moment sink in for all those present, to reflect a bit on the light they bring to the world, that we are called to bring together.

In today’s second reading from Peter we hear about Jesus and the “unique declaration:” This is my son, my beloved,  with whom I am well pleased.

That is powerful enough, especially when we imagine that declaration being proclaimed from the heavens, to the universe,  that each of us is indeed a beloved son or daughter pleasing to God by our very existence!

This morning I spent more time with what follows in the reading. “Moreover we posses the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

God is love, and we are invited into that love by our very existence, pleasing to God. We are called to share in that love, to share that love ever more deeply and widely, that it may rise in our hearts like the morning star.

God’s love is altogether reliable, and we are part of that love.

Because God Loves Us

When I professed my vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, I said as part of our vow formula: “In response to God’s call to seek justice, to love tenderly, and to walk in the way of peace …”  What is implied in that introduction to the profession of vows is made clear in today’s first reading from the Letter of St. John:

“Beloved, we love God because he first loved us.”

Having just finished up coursework for a graduate degree in theology, I have big theological words for this thanks to Thomas Aquinas – exitus et reditus. God loves us and so we seek to respond in kind.  But I don’t need big words or theological concepts, because it is written on my heart.

God seeks justice, and so I seek God’s justice. God loves tenderly, and so I desire to love tenderly. God is peace, and so I begin each day praying that I too may walk in peace.

Simple, really, when you get down to it. I love the readings this week from John.

Love. As another John once sang, maybe that is all you need.

LoveisAllYouNeedYoda

Vow-iversary

Three years ago today I professed my final and forever YES as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. In our chapel at St. Mary-on-the-Lake, in the presence of my congregation leader, community members, family and friends, I said:

In gratitude for the wondrous gift of God’s love, I ask to life a life of love and service as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.  I pray that each day of my life I may “take that step which will lead [me] into the deepest depths of the heart of Jesus.” (Mother Clare)

Trusting in God with all my heart and relying on the support and example of our sisters and all others who touch my life,  I hope to live with an open heart by listening, pondering, and contemplating the word of God in my life and witnessing to it in action for justice and peace.

In response to God’s call to seek justice, to love tenderly, and to walk in the way of peace, I Susan Rose Francois, in the presence of Margaret Byrne, Congregation Leader, and in the presence of the community gathered here, vow to God, poverty, celibacy, and obedience for life according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

Three years later I continue to be so very grateful for God’s love and the opportunity to respond to that love as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. I continue to feel the call to live with an open heart and to seek justice, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace. New adventures are still to come as I continue to take steps which lead me deeper into the deepest depths of the heart of Jesus. And for that, my friends, I am very grateful!

Signing my final profession of vows in our community vow book
Signing my final profession of vows in our community vow book

Openness

2014-11-01 13.03.00If I had to sum up my experience and call of the spiritual life in one word, I think it would be “openness.” Part of my story is that I spent about 10 years as a young adult away from the Church, and really away from any intentional relationship with God. Funny, I know, especially given that I’ve spent mostof the last 10 years as a Catholic Sister.

The challenge, and ultimately the blessing, of my own spiritual journey has been to break through the self-imposed barriers that kept me from God’s love. It’s hard to explain, but my own growth in humility and love has been to open myself more deeply to God’s love for me, as me, in all my brokenness and beauty. Somehow, it’s easier for me to experience God’s love for others, especially people in need in our wounded and broken world. But me? That’s been a constant invitation to growth, life, and love which has led me in surprising directions well beyond the boundaries and limitations I placed on myself. In the end, it was my response to that invitation that led me to community and life as a Catholic Sister.

In my religious community we have a tradition where you can choose to have a personal motto engraved in your vows ring. When I was discerning to profess my vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, the phrase that kept coming to me in prayer was “Live with an open heart.” So that’s what is engraved inside my ring. That’s what I wear each and every day, part of my reminder of my commitment to act justly, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace.

I found myself reflecting on this call, invitation, and response today as I was revisiting the renewal of virtue ethics in Catholic moral theology as part of my preparation for comprehensive exams later this month. I’m working through texts I’ve already read, but this passage by theologian Charles Curran on the particular Christian virtue of openness caused me to pause in my studies (and write this blog post!).

“Openness is a virtue that many Americans today gladly accept. We talk about the importance of being open and the dangers of being closed. However, being open is much more challenging in reality than it seems. Being open to God (and others) stands in opposition to self-centeredness and self-sufficiency. The person who is closed in on oneself can never hear the promptings of the Spirit. … The Christian has to be open to hear the call of God and seize the opportunity in the midst of all the daily duties, obligations, and distractions of our lives. True openness thus calls for a contemplative aspect to our being that allows us to truly discern the call of God amidst the din and cacophony of the many voices we hear. God comes to us not only in the depths of our hearts but also in the circumstances of our daily lives especially in the needs of others. The spiritual tradition often recommends time for contemplation and retreat precisely so that one can truly be more disposed to hearing the call of God in daily life and acting upon it.” – Charles E. Curran, “Virtue: The Catholic Moral Tradition Today”

My response to God’s invitation cannot be a passive response. It requires intention, presence, and attention in the midst of the very many distractions of our lives.