Amazing Week

Praying for the needs of humanity at Yorkdale Mall

This has been an amazing week. First, we had our Discernment Come and See Retreat Weekend here in Toronto. I think all the participants felt the presence of God’s hand guiding them. I found the weekend beautiful and inspiring, as I witnessed the generosity and openness of these young women.

Then Wednesday, I started to slide back into writing projects:

  •  I started editing the manuscript of my new book on the saints. (Title and release date to be announced.)
  • As I mentioned earlier, I’ve started writing for The Catholic Register, and I start with this week’s issue (Sept. 23). I’d love some comments and feedback–the article is already online! 
  • Finally, I’m back to my usual film commentaries with Salt + Light Radio. This week, I had the privilege of reviewing two Catholic films: October Baby and For Greater Glory. 

I’m really racing to complete the various projects and deadlines before I leave for my 30 days of Spiritual Exercises. That’s right, I’ll be offline and silent for an entire month–this may be my last post until early November! But I’ll be keeping all of my blog readers in my prayers. If you send in your intentions by Wed., Sept. 26th, I’ll bring them with me and pray for you by name.

Invitation to the Pauline Mission

It’s been a busy week, and I hope to share in future posts this week some of what I’ve been up to. Among other things, I spent some time updating our website that assists young women in their discernment of religious life and especially Pauline religious life. And then, Sr. Ann posted a lovely video that beautifully illustrates the invitation of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, to future Daughters of St. Paul to enter into the Pauline mission:

 

I’m back…to snow and blogging

Life kind of overtook me in mid-February. I made a big writing deadline–or almost–I was a few days late! Then last week I was at Texas A & M for our Daughters of Saint Paul meeting for those sisters who serve as vocation directors all over the U.S. and Canada. As you can imagine, it’s a very challenging role to help young people discern God’s call for them. (It’s also extremely rewarding!) We had a great series of meetings, sharing with each other, and receiving input from students and campus ministers from the amazing St. Mary’s Catholic Student Center. We also enjoyed incredible Texan hospitality, as people opened their hearts and homes to us! For a lively summary, check out our postulants’ blog. Here are some of the events we hosted.

This morning, I enjoyed reading through the Oscar wins. (Unfortunately, I missed the broadcast, but will watch it tomorrow night). I “guessed” many of the winners correctly. Maybe next year I can post my predictions…

Tonight we have a Faith & Film Evening with the theme of the Sixth Commandment. We are watching the film Lantana, and will be dialoguing about it afterwards.

I’m looking forward to getting back to my regular writing routine (another half-book is due at the end of March!), as well as posting here.

For any young women interested in discernment events, the Daughters around North America have a number of events coming up through the spring, so you may want to check these out!

Distracting Winter Winds

It was a sunny -2 degree Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit) yesterday, so I took a walk. As I made my way through a little park, I suddenly noticed a bird, chirping loudly and flying overhead. I stopped to look up and try to identify the bird. Then the wind blew, and I huddled back under my jacket and started walking quickly again, but frequently glancing back to see if I could glimpse the bird.

A whitebreasted nuthatch playing hide-and-seek with me on a day that I was paying attention

As I walked home, I realized how much I miss birdwatching. In the chill of winter, especially with that piercing cold wind, my walks are more about exercise and getting places, and not really about enjoying my surroundings. The discomfort of the icy winds blowing through me trick me into rushing.

A question rose in my mind. What are the “winter winds” in my life that distract me or hustle me away from paying attention? As a writer, as a contemplative, but also as a human being, it’s important to me to pay attention. Sometimes the details in my life–or the significance that I give to them–can be the key to understanding the bigger picture. Deadlines, a New Year resolution to “accomplish” more, the satisfaction of completing my own agenda–these can become my “winter winds” that hustle me through the day and prevent me from paying attention–to the people I live with, to the invitations of God in my day, or even to the movement of the Spirit within me.

As I walked the rest of the way home, I deliberately stopped a couple of times to observe the neighborhood and to try to find a cheeping hidden sparrow. The winter sights may not always be as pretty as spring or fall, but they offer stark contrasts, which can be just as beautiful.

Unworthy of the Call?

Sunday’s Scripture readings had an unexpected connection and similarity that struck me very deeply as I was praying with them. Isaiah, Paul and Peter all refer to this very human reality: That we all feel unworthy when we “bump” into God, or God’s invitations, unexpectedly.

The truth, of course, is that none of us is worthy of the relationship that God wants to have with us.

There is a deep irony in the reality that self-awareness and recognizing the truth about ourselves is part of the journey that brings us closer to God. As we journey deeper into that dark inner landscape of our sinfulness, we discover aspects of ourselves that we’ve avoided facing. And yet, it’s only when we face the truth about ourselves that we can bring all of ourselves before God, and experience God’s unconditional acceptance of us, as we are.

The good news is that God wants a relationship with us anyway. In God’s perfect vision, there is plenty of darkness in us. But God also sees the light.

This is a very powerful realization for me also as a writer. It is in the nature of a writer or any creative artist to have great ideas and then to dare to pursue them. But it is also in the nature of a writer or artist to sometimes fall far short of our big dreams and visions. Indeed, sometimes it is impossible to fulfill the potential of the really great ideas.

As artists, writers, communicators for Christ, we have to live with the bigness and littleness of who we are. Sometimes we swing back and forth between the two. I know when I’m in the middle of intense writing, I think one of two things: either what I’m working on is great or it’s terrible. This is very common for a writer–and I’m guessing, for any form of art or communication.

The truth about my writing is, of course, somewhere in the middle. My writing could always be better, could always be improved. But sometimes what I’ve written is enough to communicate what I want to convey. Sometimes it touches people. Sometimes it captures in words an insight that I’ve been struggling to express. For me as a writer, what’s most important for me is not to be fooled by the swinging pendulum. Yes, dare to dream big. And yes, dare to bring that vision into reality. But don’t be surprised that it’s not perfect. Just keep working at it to make it better.

The more I reflect on it, the more parallels I see between the spiritual journey and the creative journey. The beauty of both is that it’s not a one-time deal in which we either  sink or swim, fail or succeed. God’s desire to be close to us, God’s desire to work in and through us, is not going away. God renews his invitations to us daily. Real success is trusting in that graced invitation and responding every day.

Back to blogging and deeper listening

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve blogged. (And I’ve barely done any writing in any form the past several weeks.) What I’ve missed about it most is the insights–formed by the collision of disparate ideas.

A few things that have happened: we hosted our annual Christmas Party for Kids on December 5th. It was a lovely event, with over 215 children passing through to put on a costume and pose as part of the manger scene (at the center is our lovely statue of Baby Jesus). I usually get to help out at the busiest and funnest place–dressing up the kids. St. Nicholas makes regular appearances throughout the day, and the cake, crafts and face painting are popular too. This year we had an amazing troop of generous volunteers–without them, we cannot pull off an event like this.

We’ve also enjoyed our last Faith and Film Evening for 2009–Gran Torino proved to be an awesome choice which led to a dialogue that lasted almost an hour (and could have gone on longer, I’m sure). And our discernment mini-course seems to be touching the hearts and experiences of those who are attending!

In addition to our busy bookcentre and all the Advent and Christmas preparations, we’ve also had two new sisters join our community. Our Toronto community is now complete with six sisters! I hope to post photos and an introduction to each sister shortly.

As I turn my focus back to writing, one of the things that preoccupies me is how I can become a better listener. Like Mary, I want to “ponder in my heart” so that I understand how God is working in my life (and perhaps how God wants to work in my writing). In her book, The Way of Mary: Following Her Footsteps Towards God, Mary Ford-Grabowsky describes what she thinks this uniquely Marian phrase means: “Ultimately, pondering in the heart means reflecting on things from a perspective of love, with the realization that God is close and involved in every experience.”

Contemplation is seeing with the eyes of love. If I can practice doing that more and more, maybe my pen (or more accurately my keyboard) can become “of love.” God is loving me in and through every experience of my life…if I have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Wouldn’t it be awesome if my contemplation helped me to be free enough to allow God to love others fully in and through me?

Come and See Weekend with the Daughters of St. Paul

ComeandSeeCanadaWhat:       DISCERNMENT RETREAT

with prayer–talks–sharing–Eucharistic adoration
silence–discernment helps—community life

Who:        Young Women ages 18-30 who are discerning a call to religious life

When:      Fri., Oct 23 @ 6 pm – Sun., Oct 25 @ 6 pm

Where:     Daughters of St. Paul Convent in Toronto, ON

Why:        To better understand how God is calling YOU to return his love in your life.

Limited spaces available!  Applications due Oct. 12th
For applications, please contact:

Sr. Marie Paul

Phone:  1.416. 781.9131 ext. 247 or Email: daughters_stpaul@yahoo.ca

Sr. Margaret Michael

Phone:  1.703.549.1323 or Email: vocations@paulinemedia.com