My random thoughts on life as I prepare to enter the religious life this summer. "In the first place, you must never think that you are alone in deciding your future! And second: When deciding your future, you must not decide for yourself alone!" -Pope John Paul II

Monday, December 29, 2003

Nuns having fun

Check out this video about the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville Dominicans).

A week ago or so, there was some talk on this blog about nuns playing ball in habit. Well, if you check out this short video, you'll see some examples.

Isn't it so inspiring to see the many groups growing with vocations?! I remember meeting many of the young sisters at WYD. The sisters come from various congregations, including the Sisters of Life and the Daughters of St. Paul. There are about a dozen or so congregations that have many vocations. In addition, there are several other groups that are small, but doing well. These sisters really give me much hope for the future of the Church and religious life. Sadly, many other congregations are going the way of the buffalo. The vocations are coming. They are going to particular communities that seem to hold fast to the teaching of the Church and tradition. Anyway, enjoy the video.

I just gave you the link to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. I estimate that 90 percent of women vocations are going to these orders. There are so many options. Happy discerning. And for us who aren't looking for an order of women religious, it gives us a sign of hope.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Dominican Student Journal

The Dominican student brothers of the Western province have just put out their very first online journal, O Lumen. Check it out here. There are some fine naratives, essays on the new evanglization, a humor section that made me laugh out loud, poetry, and other essays. The brothers are doing good work, that is for sure. Check it out.

I've also added many more blogs to the blogroll. It seems there are a lot of people in formation or discernment running blogs. Enjoy!
Spirituality Type Quiz
Vision has a online quiz that measures your spirituality type. I just took the quiz. It says that I am of the "Path of Devotion/Augustinian" prayer type. A majority of saints are of this spiritual type. This group sees the scripture as a personal letter from God and tries to have a personal relationship with God. They understand symbols in the liturgy. "This path concentrates on meditations that loosen the feelings and expand the ability to relate to and love others." These people can follow the steps of lectio divina.

Thanks to Enbrethiliel for posting the link to this quiz.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Autobiography Time

I need to get cracking on my autobiography. It is part of the application process that allows me to give the admissions board a little background on my life. The topics I need to cover are: my life story, a few successes and few failures of my life, important people in my life, as well as my awareness of sexuality, my ability to love, and my conception of my self-worth.
All of this in 12 double spaced pages? I wonder if people double my age are able to get all of this vital information into 12 pages? I wonder if I'll be able to get it all into 12 pages. My spiritual director already had me type a little autobiography out at the beginning of this year. It is missing a lot of my story, and a lot of what the order is asking for. Plus, it is 16 pages. So, I need to reduce, yet expand! I'm sure a few pages over the limit will be fine. So, on the agenda the next few days is at least getting some of this work done. It is a bit daunting because there is so much I can say. Do they want a day by day look at my life? No. I'll pray to the Holy Spirit to guide my writing. I have so many ideas swimming through my head, hopefully they'll translate to the paper.

UPDATE: The autobiography should not go over 12 pages. This news comes from one of the brothers. It is my job to select what is important and to write about it. This process will reveal what is important in my eyes. The admissions board only has 1 week to review the essay for the men applying. They could even get a little annoyed if someone wrote a novel. I guess I'll keep it short.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas!

And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2: 10-14.)

I wish you a very holy, peaceful Christmas. What a joy! How many gifts God gives us. Today we celebrate the best gift of them all: His very son, born in the humble abode of Mary, laid in the meager crib. Oh, how His light shines throughout the world! How beautiful is this babe? The Divine comes to meet us in the flesh! I celebrate this amazing day with my family. How happy I am to be with these people I love. And if I am accepted to the Order, this will be my last Christmas with my family for a while. It really gets me thinking. I am thankful for this time. I include prayers for all of the readers of this blog. A vocation is a gift. Be not afraid!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A question

We know there are all kinds of resources for those in discernment. What about resources for parents?
My parents have been asking me all kinds of questions lately. This interrogation is good because it helps me reinforce with myself the reasons I am going forward with applying to religious life. They just want to make sure that I have thought through things. They also want to know what I am getting myself involved with. Religious life is kind of foreign to many people. So besides getting information from their children, I wonder if any actual resources have been established for parents of those in discernment. I think it could be helpful for many in discernment and their parents. Any ideas, leave them in the comment box. Thanks!
Vision Magazine

When I was in high school, I wanted to learn more about religious life and priesthood. The problem was that I couldn't talk to anyone about it. I just didn't feel comfortable talking to ANYONE about it. One day I was at a church that had a magazine rack. In the rack, I found a copy of Vision. For those who don't know, Vision is a magazine all about vocations! What a joy it was to see such a resource!!! I was enthralled to read about vocations, to see pictures and hear stories of all the options that are out there for me and for others. WOW!!! I still get excited thinking about the first time I thumbed through the pages of that magnificent magazine. I remember having to hide it, so no one would know I was thinking about the life. I still battle with telling people that I am looking into the religious life, but I'll have a full post on this topic soon.

Thanks to Andy for reminding me about Vision. He found his congregation through Vision.

Monday, December 22, 2003

How do people get in touch with vocations offices?

There are five common ways people get in touch with the vocations office. Check the story here on DomLife.
Nothing too surprising. The number one way the millenial generation (born after 1981) gets in contact is via the internet. I agree that the internet has been a tremendous help in the discernment process. I knew the order in high school, but e-mailed the vocation director while I was a young college student. He gave me some encouragement, and invited me to do some praying and attend a Come and See. Many of my questions through the years have been answered on the internet. Vocation.com and Vocations.com are great places to get started. Vocation.com has a FAQ section that is worth a look.

In a similar vein, I did a check to see who's referring people to this site. Twice in the last month, someone has typed in "nuns that wear full habits" into their search engine. Well, I don't have too much information on nuns that wear full habits. I can only suggest checking the Institute on Religious Life link, found on the right. Sorry! For those who have come here looking for nuns in full habits, here is a picture of a few of the many Nashville Dominicans :

Update: I guess I'm not the only one getting hits because of a query for "nuns that wear full habits." Julie over at the Theoscope has also been getting similar hits. And just a reminder that the order she is looking into is the wonderful Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I am biased for promoting the Nashville and Sisters of Mary, but they really are something special. For more solid orders, check the religious life site. It is not a complete list of religious orders, but it is indeed a start.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I'm back from psychological screening

Well, what a week! I left Tuesday evening and stayed with the friars. It is always good to see these men. This time it was even more invigorating. The thought that in a few short months, I could be joining this community makes me happy. And one of the things I really enjoy is the nature of these men. They should be called the Order of Comedians. They really make me laugh. But, it is also good to pray with them. They can be serious too.

After morning prayer and Mass on Wednesday, I left for the psychological screening portion of the application process. It is interesting to note that several of the older members of the community are pretty skeptical of the psychological part of admission. For most of the older men, they were accepted without all the steps we have now.

We had a beautiful snow fall the night before and the ground was beautifully white. I took the train into the city and proceeded to the office. It was nice to be out and about in the city, to see the beauty of snow. The psychologist was very friendly. She really made this process quite painless. We started by filling out some forms. Then, we had an interview where I was asked to share about my life and family and all sorts of things to reveal who I am. Then, I took another few tests. One asked me to fill in the sentence. I also had to take 2 tests that where like the SAT, except dealing with pathologies and personalities. The interesting aspect of these tests is if several of our saints would have taken the test, I am sure they would have done pretty poor. "Have you seen a vision?" "Do you hear voices?" My favorite portion of the testing was the story creation. She would show me a picture and I would have to tell the story leading up to the scene, as well as what was going on in the scene. I would discuss the subjects emotions and the like. I thought this was quite fun. (Maybe that is pathology?) Either way, she was very excellent. She has experience working with religious candidates. She also teaches at a Catholic graduate school, so I feel she is qualified to judge me. I will again meet with her in a few weeks. I am excited to see what she has to say. It will be interesting to see how these tests are weaved together to present a portrait of me.

I think this whole process was an amazing affirmation of my application to become a novice. I was so happy with how things went, and I think it only shows me more that I am making the right decision. I know a lot of people I've talked with, even some of the priests, shared that they were pretty nervous about their own testing, but once you get in there, you realize that it is not too bad. I can take a sigh of relief now. Thank God! It's over and I'm still here, in one piece. Let's just hope that others have such nice psychologist. Let's also hope that my results were clear representations of who I really am. (Maybe she was a wolf in sheep's clothing? I doubt it.)

After the testing, I went back to the priory for the Advent party. What a great group of men!! So joy-filled. It is a family, and a warm and loving family at that. I enjoyed hearing from the men about their lives and the interesting stories they had to tell. Like I said, they are comedians indeed. Many of the older men gave me their stamp of approval, so that is refreshing. It is also encouraging to see the older men and think that they have made it 50 or so years in the order and look at them now: they are still going strong. It makes me know that we too can make it! How encouraging.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Off for testing.....

I'll be staying with the Friars tomorrow evening. Then, Wednesday morning I'll be off to the psychologist for the testing portion of the application. I don't know what to expect. What I do know is that I'll be completely honest and hope that my results speak for who I truly am. I'll have to let you know how it goes. Then, I'll be home the next day. So, there won't be any posts in the meanwhile. Today and tomorrow I'll be contacting the people I'd like to fill out my recommendation letters. As well, I'm filling out the actual application itself. A lot of the canon law type questions, "have you ever been married?" etc. Sometime soon I need to request my baptismal and confirmation certificates. There are some other forms, too. I'll also need to get working on the autobiography and the medical/eye/teeth exams. I'm glad the school work is done. Home is good.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Servant of God Fulton Sheen

Here is a story about Servant of God Fulton Sheen. It speaks about my own journey. I thought getting a masters before going into the religious life would be ideal because then when I joined the order I could work on a specialization, maybe Holy Scripture. I seriously considered graduate school after graduation, just so that I could be more intellectually grounded as a priest, better able to serve the people of God and defend the Holy Faith. My spiritual director told me that was hog-wash for my situation. He is right. Plus, he said, with the order there is plenty of opportunities to further my education. Well, obedience dictates that I would need to be happy with just the M.Div. It can't be about me, but about the good of the Order and the Church. But, if there was an opportunity for advanced study after ordination, then so be it. Plus, I don't think waiting a few years is smart, when I hear the Lord calling now. Here is the story, just after Fulton Sheen won a full scholarship to college:

"Then tear up the scholarship,"Father Bergan said.

"Father Bergan, this scholarship entitles me to three years of university training with all
expenses paid," said Sheen. "It is worth about nine or ten thousand dollars."

"You know you have a vocation; you should be going to the seminary," replied Father Bergan.

"I can go to the seminary after I get my Ph.D. There will be little chance of getting a
Ph.D. after I am ordained," said Sheen.

"Tear up the scholarship; go to seminary. That is what the Lord wants you to do. And if
you do it, trusting in Him, you will receive a far better university education after you
are ordained," repeated Father Bergan.

In the end the priest's prophetic words came true.
We got him.....

I can't believe the news today: celebrations in the streets of Baghdad....Saddam is captured. What a day!

I am so pleased, this is significant. I give a big standing approval to the armed forces that pulled this off.

Unfortunately, the media turned this event into a political issue. Is there anything wrong with CBS questioning Dick Gephardt? NBC talking with John Kerry? I don't think this is the time to turn into a campaign promotion for these two candidates, giving them many minutes to bash President Bush. (sorry for the non-discernment rant!)

Since this is the discernment group, here is something I wrote elsewhere:
As a priest, one cannot let a political ideology cloud their thinking. Actually, as a priest, one would probably need to keep their political leanings to themselves. Why? Because it effects our ability to be a neutral critic. Our credibility as a critic would be questioned, as well. We have to be able to stand strong against whatever ills may come. From the pulpit, it'd be fine to speak out against abortion and the like. But, to say "Vote for Bush," that would be illegal by canon law, and we'd have to talk about losing not-for profit status with the government. Christ is so much more than can fit into an ideology and political party. I often struggle with how my strong political feelings will effect me or my preaching.

How ironic?! I discuss the Democratic candidates turning the news into a political issue, and look what I do? I turn it into a platform to discuss political issues. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Amen! Application Papers....

As you have probably noticed, I've been away for a while. Well, really it is because the old thesis was taking much of my time. It's finished! What a joy!

For the rest of Advent, I will be preparing my application to the novitiate class of 2004. Yes, that is right. I, along with the vocation director, have decided now was a great time to make application. I was being moved, as I talked about on this blog.

Looking back on the time since I've received application papers a few weeks ago, I’ve been very content with the decision. It seems to make a lot of sense to me. It has been a long time since I first started thinking of priesthood, and several years since I first had an attraction to the Order. Over the years, the call seemed always there. There was often times when I questioned the call, but the consistency moves me. I find peace in just placing my life in God's hands. Like I said before, I must remain open to His call. But it seems now, the Lord strongly seems to be speaking, “Go and try.”

There have been moments of questioning since then. But, I feel a lot better! I know I can go forward. I felt like weight has been taken off my shoulders, because I had finally decided to do something that I had discerned for so many years. It was awesome to finally be making a decision to go forward. It was nice to know that I was not dodging the inevitable. The excuses and obstacles I had placed in the way where no longer blocking me.

As I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours over the few days after receiving papers, things would jump out at me, words that seemed so appropriate. Words that helped me feel an affirmation that I was making the right choice. I had prayed these psalms for several years, but now phrases and prayers were helping me in whole new ways. There were other prayer experiences that seemed to help me, as well. My friends reactions seem to affirm my decision to apply.

Everything now seems to be saying 'Yes, this is right." Now, of course I shouldn’t be shocked if there will be times when I will think “no." That is natural, and seems to be what the others in my boat have said happens.

Thank God I have finally been moved enough to take only a first step in a journey. And who knows where He’ll lead. I must remain open. I think this is a great time for application. It's Advent, a time of preparation. We are preparing the way for Christ. Meanwhile, I am preparing in many other ways, including preparing to apply. It seems the right time for this preparation

The application is like a book. For those discerning, don't let it scare you off. It's actually not that bad. From those who have gone before me, they say it was tiring, but a helpful process. Have faith! And please, do pray for me as I get this very important work done.
Some readings that were suggested for those discerning God's call:

Psalm 139
Romans 8
Mark 4: 35-39
Proverbs 3: 3-61
Luke 5
Kings 19
Psalm 23
Jeremiah 1: 4-10
Ephesians 1: 3-12
Isaiah 55:1-11

Maybe I'll make some reflections on here later.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Is the internet distracting us from contemplation?

I often ponder the amount of time I spend online in a given day. I check my e-mail accounts, I check my favorite blogs, and I check other sites every day. All of these activities take time. Precious time! Time that could be spent on spiritual reading, prayers, ministry, etc.

Is this internet time sloth? It may be.
Is the amount of time excessive? I think it may be.

In defense of the internet, it is true that the superhighway has been extremely helpful for my discernment and reflection. It helps keep me on my toes as far as the happenings of the Catholic Church and the World. It helps me continual reflect on my life situation. These are some benefits, but come on, do I really need to spend as much time on here as I do? No way. I have cut out instant messenger. That is a start. I will also stop checking the internet pages and blogs several times a day. Once is a enough. E-mail? That I check far too much. I must limit myself.

There is an article online (how ironic!) about recovering the contemplative nature in religious life. Electronic media are hurting the silent environment that breeds a contemplative nature, the author believes. I see his point.

I want to prepare a place for Christ. Isn't their a better use of my time then letting the internet constantly absorb me? This is day one of my new resolution: limiting my internet time. Let's see how I do.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

A prayer

To summarize what I was trying to say in the last post, here's a beautiful discernment prayer from Fr. Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
He's off the fence, a bit.

As I am now making a move off of the proverbial discernment "fence," many thoughts run through my mind. The several hurdles I had found on the path to religious life are being removed. Some other obstacles, by the power of God's Grace, are not nearly as threatening as they appeared before. Some others took time and prayer to get around. I know that in many ways, I was responsible for placing many hurdles on the path. I was overly critical of each of my actions. I had fear in my heart, fear of the unknown. I have mentioned several of the other things I have often pondered, things that kept me away from giving a firm yes to God.

But, as I place myself more in the Lord's hands, I realize that the hurdles aren't too foreboding. They definitely don't have to stop me from pursuing a vocation. I find peace in just placing my life in God's hands.

As I am closer now to application for religious life, I am open to God nudging me in other directions. The order must confirm the call that I believe is from God. Though I firmly believe at this instance that I am called to the order, I have to be open to finding out in the novitiate that this life is not my calling. I have to be open to the order telling me that they don't see me as part of the family, that they cannot confirm my sense of a calling. I have to be open to not being accepted at all. Or maybe, we'll find that I need to go elsewhere. We have to be open to the formation, and really, we have to be open to see the Truth.

The novitiate is a year long opportunity to further the discernment process. It's a time to try on the life of the religious, to come and see on a far more deeper level than reading a brochure, attending a retreat, or meeting with Father. But, how can we really know if this is our calling if we don't try it on when we hear the Lord call? It's one year of our time. We know the Lord will lead us. For me, this desire to test the waters is a result of the call becoming so strong, strong enough to move past those obstacles I often found on the path.

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