Vocation lessons from Cla-Clare!

(l-r)Cla-Clare, Sister Clare, and her mother Susie at Sister Clare’s First Vows celebration.

My Grandmother Clare Hornsby passed away recently and I would be remiss if I didn’t share some life lessons I learned from her on the topic of finding and nourishing your vocation. She lived 95 full years of life, not without hardship and trials and tribulations, but also with vigor, faith, and love to be able to face what life threw at her.  We lovingly called her “Cla-Clare” which is “Clare” twice because she did not want to be called Grandma or any synonym for grandma! So the rest of the article she will be addressed as “Cla-Clare”.

First a little background is that Cla-Clare served as a lawyer for 70 years in the state of Mississippi. She was married for fifty years before my grandfather Warren past away. She had three children, whom she lovingly called “her Freddy, her Susie, and her Bo”! She had 9 grandchildren who always knew of her love and support, and many nephews and nieces who also knew how much she loved and supported them. She was a vital piece of the community and stayed active doing what she could for the betterment of it.

Cla-Clare loved the law and was able to practice for 70 years because she sustained and nourished this vocation in her life. Most importantly she was able to become a lawyer because her parents never told her she ‘could not’, in fact they told her otherwise. This is the first lesson: how are we supporting and promoting children to reach their full potentials?  Are we personally and systemically helping them to develop and become their true selves? Or are we blocking this development in any way?

Cla-Clare had many sayings or little life tips she always shared and one of them was “the Law is a jealous mistress, you woo her well or you lose her.” She was passionate about her job. As we all know the law is ever-evolving and changing and is not stagnant. She kept learning and growing in her knowledge and becoming stronger in practice. Her nickname was “the barracuda” in court because she knew how to get her clients what they needed and would not settle for less. This did not happen overnight. It was an ongoing process. Cla-Clare loved my grandfather Warren very much and they had a loving and supportive relationship. Being a wife and mother was also part of her vocation. She would do those things that kept these relationships with her husband and children going. The second lesson is: nourish your vocation. Do those things which help you to grow and enhance you. Be with people who nourish your vocation. Be mindful enough to know who these people are in your life and what actions you take or choices you make help nourish you.

The third lesson is have a strong faith and spiritual life that sustains you. Cla-Clare had a faith life that sustained her. She had a relationship with God, Jesus and Mary. Her sense of humility and justice flowed from her faith. She trusted God and even when she waivered she knew God never did. This lesson is a personal one in the sense that each person’s relationship to the Divine is unique. Be mindful of your own relationship with divine and know what works for you and how you want to enrich or grow in it. There is no one “cookie-cutter” shape or mold that is the specific way for everyone to have a relationship with God.

Last but not least, Cla-Clare would always ask me “Do you love it?” when speaking of my vocation to Religious life. She would always ask others, “Do you love him/her?” when speaking to them on their marriage. She knew deep down this was the key ingredient, the glue that holds life together. She loved God, her family and friends, and her career. This love was evident in everything she did and it was catching. Where is your love coming from and going? How is love evident in your life? Is it love in the truest form? The answers to these questions are personal but they will help reveal and sustain your vocation.

I’m grateful to have had Cla-Clare in my life! I’m grateful to share a little bit about her with you today! When she was here Cla-Clare always said, “I’m sitting on top of the world, Darling” when anyone asked her how she was doing. Now we’re all saying she really is sitting on top of the World! So I hope to keep growing in all the ways Cla-Clare taught me and she is with me in a different way now. But nevertheless with me.

Blessings on the journey fellow pilgrim! ~Sister Clare

Be All You Can Be

I’m a Sister of St. Joseph.

I’m a lawyer.

I live in an ecovillage.

How cool is that?!?!

I often have the opportunity to talk with other sisters from the younger and middle-aged group of sisters. There are not a lot of us, but I love having conversations that help nurture the amazing life among us in this middle-time.

One sister recently reflected that as sisters, we are able to do many things and experience many things. We are able to maximize our potential personally, reaching goals that might not otherwise be possible. We are able to maximize our spiritual potential with a lifetime dedicated to the spiritual journey. And we are able to maximize our potential for service.

Religious life is a gift to those of us living it, when we are able to move in this direction. It is also a gift to the wider community with whom we are able to share our gifts, our wisdom and our service.

So the phrase “be all you can be” has taken on fresh meaning for me as a way to describe religious life. It is not a selfish phrase, but a celebration of God’s call and invitation to fullness of life and to sharing the abundance with those we serve.

I am full of gratitude for this wild and wonderful gift that is religious life.

Amy

The Inspiration of Now

“We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.  This attitude will make us fruitful. Most importantly, it will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival.”  This text from Pope Francis’ homily on the World Day for Consecrated Life is a call to courageous remembering to guide future-oriented action.

On retreat over Martin Luther King weekend with seventeen other sisters in our twenties and thirties, one sister shared a question posed to her community:  “What was the best time in your community’s history?  What was the most inspirational time?  Why are the answers to these two questions different?”  While many of the sisters, in answer to the first question, automatically thought of the decades with huge entering classes, droves of sisters, and massive institutions, they typically then thought of, perhaps, the story of their founding, a time when the community took a risk on a new mission, or something comparable as the answer to the second.  Inspiration does not require numbers.  Prophetic work on behalf of the Gospel does not require numbers.

In our society we too often get stuck in deficit-based rather than asset-based thinking.  We see smaller numbers as a deficit, not as a very real asset.  While it is true that our congregations cannot be run with the same leadership model, structures, and institutions they were once able to maintain, I am excited about the relational, nimble, collaborative model that is being birthed.  It’s not something that will happen, it’s something that is happening now.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, selfie, outdoor and natureOne example is Giving Voice (G.V.).  Giving Voice is an organization for sisters under fifty from across the United States.  It maintains a core leadership team comprised of five finally professed, young sisters with staggered, three-year terms.  All of these sisters are in full-time ministry or are full-time students.  Our work is done via monthly Zoom meetings and one annual face-to-face weekend with e-mail and shared Google documents doing the trick in between.  In addition to the core team, other young, G.V. sisters are discerned and invited to lead things like the annual retreat, biannual national summer conference, and other committees as needed.  Everyone takes a turn and never have I been disappointed with an event or outcome.  I would name deep listening and shared leadership as two deeply seeded values of the organization.  We believe strongly that, “There is a leader in every chair,” and we consistently call each other to that reality.

This leadership model is how our vocation team functions and is comparable to other designs young sisters are developing across the country.

Pope Francis calls us, in the same Day of Consecrated Life homily on the Presentation to, “…go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation. It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus. When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality.  Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.”

So, whether you are discerning religious life and concerned about the rhetoric that “religious life is dying”, or whether you have been in religious life for many years, Pope Francis and I challenge you to asset-based thinking, to possibilities, to hope, to the joy of encountering Jesus and into the inspiration the Spirit is birthing among us.

–S. Sarah

 

Teaching the Humble His Way

By Mary Flick, CSJ

Early in the liturgical year, we begin again with the life and teachings of Jesus. Since the Christmas season ended, Jesus has been baptized and has called his disciples. Today, his teaching and preaching begins in earnest. Up on the mountain, on a grand stage, Jesus shares his seminal teaching on what his students and followers are to seek and be. As we listen to these eight beatitudes – these “be-attitudes” – we find a description of Jesus’ own attitude of being, his life’s attitude, with all its blessings.

What is the attitude, the blessing which underlies this and all of Jesus’ teachings? It is the blessing of humility. “Humility” has as its root the word “humus,” of the earth. Lowliness is built into the word. To be humble is to know who I am, a creature of God’s. Imperfect, I accept my defects and have a modest assessment of my own worth. This virtue stands in contrast to pride and is unappealing in our “Look at Me” society. To know my identity as one dependent on God for all blessings, is a life certain to gain no attention. To be poor, meek, merciful and clean of heart, to hunger for justice and peace – these are clear ways to stand apart from what is acceptable in our political, business and entertainment circles, where wealth and power are the goals.

Yet, humility is the attitude and spirit Jesus models for us throughout his public life. Later, he will teach his disciples that those who humble themselves will be exalted, that he came not to be served, but to serve. And in his final hours, he will wash his disciples’ feet.

Humility is not simply a Christian ideal. It is an essential aspect of every major religion. The prophet Zephaniah states clearly our life task: to seek the Lord, to seek justice, to seek humility. And when you do, expect to be a “remnant,” small and insignificant. But also expect to live in freedom from fear and fullness of peace.

In the second reading, Paul assures us that we, the humble, who know who we are, also know that God has chosen us. Like the One we follow, we can expect to be seen as foolish, weak and despised. But our humility is our boast and our cause for rejoicing because we are ever more like Christ.

  • Ponder
    • Which beatitude do I find most appealing?
    • Which beatitude do I most need to grow into?
  • Do
    • Offer humble service to a stranger whose path you cross this week.

Open to the Possibilities

Open to the Possibilities:

Earlier this month we shared questions that help lead to interior freedom, which could be another way of saying “I’m free and open to all the real possibilities that exist in and for my life.” At first I thought discernment was just a stage that I would eventually pass through. However as I moved through formation and learned more about this lifestyle, I was surprised to know that ‘discernment’ is not just a stage but a way of life for religious women—that is to always live with a ‘discerning heart.”

What does that mean? How does that feel?

It begins with having a relationship with God. God wants what is best for each of us. I take everything to God in prayer. Along the way I’ve learned God’s timing is not my timing! As I have matured I have also learned to listen more, rather than talk all the time.

Stay open to the possibilities…

Eventually you do have to make a choice. After a choice is made some options are not on the table anymore, but new ones present themselves. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “when one door closes, many more open,” well it is kind of like that. Right now the focus is on the time leading up to making a choice. This time is called discernment. This time should be free from coercion and so it’s helpful to be aware of any pressure you feel and where it might be coming from. If there is a sense of urgency, notice and be aware of where it’s coming from too. Sometimes there is a real deadline to meet for a major decision and in other situations there is not.

Stay open to the possibilities…

It might or might not be plausible to plan every detail out in order to have a precisely calculated decision. Instead there is much time spent ‘in the middle space’ for a little while moving between the known and unknown. It feels uncomfortable at first. There are a million and one questions and few or no answers. This is the time of trust. Trust in God, yourself and others whom you are close to is paramount during this time. Be aware of how the Spirit is working and moving in your life. Notice what is most pulling at your heart and stirring you to action.

Stay open to the possibilities…

Newness and change will come. Do I want more of the same? Or do I welcome change and whatever the newness might bring?

Living with a ‘discerning heart’ means staying open to the possibilities. In my personal experience the times when I have been able to stay open and try something new my expectations more times than not have been exceeded. I for instance never thought I would ever work in a nursing home. It ended up being a life-changing experience and I am grateful that I was open to that possibility. At first, I also felt that I could not be a consecrated religious sister, that it  would not work. But as I prayed and trusted, and became open to the possibility being a Catholic Sister turned out to be my life vocation.

Actually looking back on my journey thus far, I remain ever grateful for all those times I stayed open because I would not be where I am today in all aspects of my life if I were closed to newness, to possibilities, etc. This does not mean I have not struggled or had hard times, because I have. Along with staying open to the possibilities, I have a willingness to follow through and make it work. But that’s another topic for another day!

Much peace and many blessings today and always fellow pilgrim on the journey!

~Sister Clare

 

Questions to Help Towards Interior Freedom

Discernment requires openness and freedom–what Ignatius called “holy indifference.”  Thankfully, discernment is typically between two good options; if one option were bad and one good, the choice would should be easy.

Almost ten years ago, S. Marian Cowan, who has since gone to God, directed a discernment retreat.  She gave these questions to help toward interior freedom.

1.)  Given my strong inclination toward one choice rather than the other, am I willing to accept the possibility that even the choice toward which I am less inclined might be the word of God for me/us at this moment?

2.)  Have I consciously or unconsciously dismissed any of the possible choices?

3.)  Do I fully intend to accept the outcome of this discernment, no matter what it is?

4.)  Do I believe that the others involved in this discernment are really willing to be led by God, and are sincerely trying to be open to God’s Spirit?

5.)  Am I indifferent to all except that to which God is calling me/us?

6.)  Am I willing to name, own, and examine my thoughts and feelings in order to assess even the possibility of self-deception in discerning God’s word to me/us?

7.)  Am I aware of my past lack of freedom and my ever-present need for conversion and purification?

8.)  Am I aware of my fears and ready to move beyond them?

9.)  Am I ready to counter, by intense prayer, any desire I might feel within myself that could impede or block the word of God?

10.)  Can I accept the fact that God may not choose to speak in the most humanly efficient process for making decisions?

 

Take, Lord and receive,

all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will

all that I have and possess.

You have given it all to me.

Now I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and grace.

That is enough for me.

-St. Ignatius

 

Blessings on your discernment.

–S. Sarah

Join us for a Convent Crawl

by Sr. Amy Hereford

We are joining several other communities of religious women in the St. Louis area for a Convent Crawl. A Convent Crawl is an opportunity for single women ages 18 – 40 to visit with Catholic sisters in their houses and convents in mid-February 2017.
• Discover firsthand how sisters’ communities and ministries are making a positive impact in the world today.
• Join sisters for prayer.
• Get to know sisters and ask them questions.
If you think you might be interested, head on over to the event website:
https://sites.google.com/a/csjlife.org/vocation-retreat—feb-2017/
There, you will find more information about the event along with an itinerary, contact information and a registration page.

When a person is discerning religious life, he or she will take time for prayer and for exploring this call that they are experiencing. It is also important to connect with religious communities to discover more about how communities pray, live and work. A good spiritual director is also a great help for discernment.

This particular event can be helpful if someone would like to get to know several religious communities in a short space of time. If someone is going to enter a community, he or she will want to build a more in depth relationship. This is more like ‘speed dating’. A chance to meet some great communities and some other discerners. A chance to pray and spend time with others who are living the life you are considering.

So check it out! Pass this on to someone who may be discerning! And by all means pray for those leading and participating in this event.

Waiting. A poem for the 4th week of Advent.

Waiting

We wait in hope
But what about when hope seems lost?

We wait in wonder,
But what about when wonder is gone?

We wait patiently,
But we are so impatient.

We wait with love,
But it is quickly fading.

O Come, O come Emmanuel
Even when our hearts seem hard.

Come to change our hearts,

Cosmic Birth, by Mary Southard, CSJ

So that we may never fully lose
All hope, wonder,
Patience, and love.

Come and fill us with your mercy
And compassion so that we might
Never lose sight again.

Come. Be with us.
Stay with us.
O Emmanuel we
Need you most right now.
Come.

~Sister Clare