Monday, May 30, 2011

St. Jeanne d'Arc

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, St. Joan of Arc, patron saint of France. I choose her as a confirmation saint when I was only 15. And really, back then, I had little knowledge of the saints. What really inspired me to pick her was the made-for-TV movie about her that aired around the time.
Now, at 25, it's interesting that perhaps my favorite saints come from France....St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise, St. Therese, etc...even though, besides a French 101 course in college, I have no connection whatsoever with France!

St. Joan's military successes aren't what amaze me about her. In fact, her military experience is what appeals the least to me about her. What amazes me about her is her courage in a world dominated by men and her willingness to follow the will of God, despite ridicule and the danger of death either by battle or by the Church itself.

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us! Who is your confirmation saint? What inspires you about him/her?

Saint Therese dressed as one of her favorite saints, Joan of Arc

Vincentian Quote of the Week: St Louise & Charity

The person who does not love does not know God, for God is Charity....the practice of charity is so powerful that it gives us the knowledge of God, not as He is in Himself, but we penetrate so deeply into the mystery of God and His greatness that we may say that the greater the charity, the greater our participation in this divine light which will inflame us with the fire of Holy Love for all eternity. (Spiritual Writings of St. Louise, A.29)
This week's quote is from St. Louise, foundress of the Daughters of Charity. This is from her private writings in 1630. It echoes the well-known and very true sentiment "God is love"! Remember that, in some translations, the verse actually reads "faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is charity" (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Perfect People Allowed

Mother Teresa - a Catholic figure I grew up with and who many others knew almost intimately by hearing about her ministries or reading her books. Many grew to admire her, Protestant and Catholic alike.

But eventually, I think our view of her turned supernatural. We started to say things like "Well, I'm no Mother Teresa..." or "I could never be like her..." Without meaning to (hopefully), we turned Mother Teresa from an imperfect human being to a sinless supernatural almost-deity.

But guess what? Mother Teresa was human. She was amazing and wonderful and admirable...but human, nonetheless. She was holy...but, just like all the other saints in heaven, she sinned, just like the rest of us. She was imperfect, just like the rest of us.

People were shocked when a book called Come Be My Light came out, containing excerpts from Mother Teresa's journals. We found out what few knew during Mother Teresa's lifetime - for the last 50 or so years of her life, in all the time we knew her, she was going through a period of spiritual darkness - a period in which she felt spiritually empty, in which she felt as if God had abandoned her, in which she felt deep and agonizing pain. We saw her humanity up close and personal for the first time.

I think we tend to have almost the same view of Sisters (or nuns, if you want to use that term) as we did of Mother Teresa - sinless, perfect, unlike one of us in every way, almost not even human. I have to admit that, during the beginning stages of my discernment, I fell into this exact same fallacy and it took me a long time to recover...I still fall into this fallacy sometimes, wondering "am I really worthy to be a Daughter of Charity?" But once you get to know Sisters (of any congregation)....and I mean really know Sisters, not just meet one on the street...that view comes crashing down. You find that they are human, not just mindless sinless drones. They cry just like you, they laugh just like you, and they make mistakes, just like you.

Thomas Merton, a monk/priest and a great spiritual writer, once said in his journals:
My vocation does not really make me any different from the rest of men or put me in a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race, and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!
If you're discerning religious life, please don't fall into the fallacy of thinking that you "could never be perfect like them" or you aren't "worthy enough to join them". It is unfair to yourself to think this...you're a loved daughter of God and you're just as imperfect as all of your other Sisters in Christ. Even if you're not discerning religious life, don't fall into this fallacy either...it was unfair to Mother Teresa to assume she was perfect and it is the same for all the other religious out there.

Religious life is a holy and great life, no doubt, but not one made up of perfect people...because otherwise, what a boring life that would be!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

White Wings and Barricades

During one of the many crazy uprisings in France, a group of rebels was chasing a government military officer. The officer ran into a house of the Daughters of Charity and then into their courtyard, where he stood feeling trapped. The crowd caught up to him, rushed into the house, and pointed their guns, aimed and ready to kill. A Sister named Rosalie Rendu ran in front of the man and blocked their shot. "NO, WE DON'T KILL PEOPLE HERE!" The crowd agreed - "oh yeah, you're right, Sister, this isn't a good place - let's lead him into the street!" Then, all the Sisters joined Rosalie, now completely blocking the man from the crowd. "NO!" Sister Rosalie cried and then fell to her knees "Please, I have given 50 years of my life for you. For all that I have done, give me this man's life!" The crowd put down their guns and left. Amazed, the officer then asked "Who are you?!" She responded "Nobody...just a Daughter of Charity".

There are many saints that were Daughters of Charity - St. Louise de Marillac, St Catherine Laboure, Bl. Rosalie Rendu, Bl. Giuseppina Nicoli, Bl. Marta Anna Wiecka, Bl. Marguerite Ruatan, Bl. Lindalva Justo de Oliverira - and there are more that are on the way. And of course, you have to throw St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the mix too, because her original congregation, the Sisters of Charity of St Joseph, merged with the Daughters of Charity soon after her death.

I have to admit I have a list of favorites (is that wrong?) among that list, but my absolute fav is Blessed Rosalie Rendu. Which is strange because I hadn't even heard her name until last October.

Rosalie Rendu grew up during the French Revolution. It admittedly didn't affect her hometown as much as, let's say, Paris or the big cities, but as anti-clericalism spread through the country, her family started hiding priests and bishops. Rosalie even made her First Communion in the basement by candlelight by one of the "servants" in the house. Eventually, things calmed down and Rosalie ended up discovering the Daughters of Charity when she started volunteering at their hospital. She joined during a time of unrest within the Daughters themselves - they had just formed again after so many had to return home during the Revolution and there was disagreement over the governance. (These issues within the Daughters eventually figured themselves out.) As a Daughter, she was sent to the Mouffetard District of Paris...and she would stay there for the rest of her life.

Rosalie started her life as a Daughter of Charity by teaching in the free school and visiting the sick poor. Soon enough, when she was not so much older than myself, she became Superior of the local community. During her lifetime, she would end up founding a free clinic, a pharmacy, a school, an orphanage, a youth club and a home for the elderly. She grew famous not only among the poor, but also among the rich. But life wasn't so easy.

Cholera epidemics kept popping up in her district, time after time again. Rosalie not only visited the sick, but was one of the ones (along with her Sisters) picking up the dead bodies on the streets when no one else would. And then there were the uprisings. Barricades were set up all throughout her district, creating battle lines within the city. But Rosalie didn't care. She needed to serve the wounded so, risking her life, she crossed the barricades as bullets flew around her, to serve the wounded on the other side. These heroics led to the name of one of the first books about her, "White Wings and Barricades", referring to the "white wings" of the cornette.

I admittedly don't like this picture
of her. "But that's what she looked
like!" Sr Denise told me.
But I don't think it captures her
courage and joy!
She's not even smiling!
While her actions are certainly to be admired, one of my favorite things about Rosalie are the stories about her. She was absolutely audacious. Apparently, there were times that even she was shocked by her own audacity, even in the midst of complete danger.

Here's one gem - one day, the prefect of police came to Rosalie to warn her that the police would be arresting her for harboring those accused of participating in the revolt (and she was indeed doing this). He had to fight his way through the crowd, in line waiting to see her, to reach Rosalie. When he finally reached her, she didn't recognize him and said "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but you're going to have wait, just like everybody else" And the perfect did. When it was his turn, he said "Madame, I have orders to arrest you. I have come to ask you personally how you dare to place yourself in a position of revolt against the law." Rosalie responded "Monsieur, I am a Daughter of Charity. I do not have a flag. I go to the aid of the unfortunate wherever I encounter them. I try to do good for them without judging them. I promise you, if you ever need help, I'll do the same for you", essentially confessing to the crime. She was never arrested, however. Another gem, of course, is the story I told you in the first paragraph.

Perhaps I feel such a deep connection with Rosalie because of the unrest in France, which I can relate with my time in Bolivia. Granted, Bolivia is nothing compared to the unrest during Rosalie's time, but I have had my share of fears and times of necessary courage and/or "what the heck is going on?!". I remember watching as a journalist and a cameraman collapsed on live TV because tear gas was thrown on them, watching in shock as the news reported that a bomb had exploded outside the archbishop of Santa Cruz's house in April 2009, listening to the Sisters as they told me of times they were sprayed with tear gas as children for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, biting my lip when the embassy requested all Americans leave Bolivia (I didn't) and as they evacuated non-essential personnel from the embassy due to unrest in La Paz in September 2008. The unrest didn't reach our little town, yet there were times we couldn't go to the city, either because barricades were set up blocking the city, strikes of drivers or protests that could climax into who-knows-what. Bolivia was absolutely nothing compared to Rosalie's France, yet I feel a deeper connection to her history because of my experience there.

Perhaps God's will won't lead me into a country so full of unrest like Rosalie's France, but I do hope and pray that one day I may have her utmost bravery in dedication to serve the poor, wherever or however that may be.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vincentians in Bolivia

One of the blogs I follow is "Voces Vicentinas" written by Fr. Aidan Rooney, an American Vincentian priest, who lives in the Altiplano in Bolivia. I read his entries with nostalgia, although I lived in a different city hours away. Today, he posted an entry on schools in Bolivia that I have to share because it almost completely echoes my own experience in Cochabamba:

His blog entry: Having What You Need

If you'd like to donate to Fr. Aidan's many ministries, click here. Although I've never met him personally (though I've heard great things about him from Sisters!), I have no problem saying that he's a great example of the whole Vincentian mission. The Vincentians were founded by St. Vincent de Paul and are the "brother community" of the Daughters of Charity. The two have always been intertwined, sharing a common history and supporting each other - their Superior General is also the Superior General of the Sisters, for example.

On a lighter note, check out this video of the Superior General of the Vincentians, Fr Gregory Gay (a Baltimorean!), during his visit to Bolivia. The hilarity starts around 3:00. (By the way, I'm really impressed with Fr. Gregory's Spanish!)

Vincentian Quote of the Week: St Vincent & the Poor

You see a great deal of distress that you are unable to relieve. God sees it also. Bear the pains of the poor together with them, doing all you can to give them whatever help they need, and remain in peace. (St Vincent de Paul)
The 1600s in France was a time of horrible poverty. Imagine how the first Vincentian priests felt as they witnessed this? (Interestingly enough, some of the first Daughters of Charity were poor themselves...some didn't even know how to read or write before entering!) St Vincent de Paul gives great advice - share the pain of the poor but do not let yourselves get overwhelmed with problems you can't relieve alone; rather, breathe and do what you can!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Never Give Up on Your Vocation

Two nights ago, I had a dream about a Bolivian friend of mine, Claudia. Yesterday was her 25th birthday so she was on my mind. We've always been close and now, I believe, closer still (at least spiritually) now that we both left the same congregation and joined/joining another.

Three years ago, Claudia and I were both in the same group of aspirants in that Salesian congregation. We grew close, partially due to our age (we were the oldest in the group) and also, I think, because we complemented each other in personality. When I decided to leave after six months, Claudia confided in me that she was having doubts too, that a part of her wanted to join the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMAs). (She did, six months ago) Another aspirant of our group of five also confided in me that she was having doubts too, that she was wondering if she had a contemplative, maybe even cloistered, vocation. All three of us would end up leaving, though be it years apart from each other.

"You are my sister, no matter the distance, you are my sister;
even though little we may see each other, my heart will always be united to yours
since my prayer will always remember you"

In my dream, I was visiting the motherhouse of the FMAs in the United States for some reason but years in the future - I was a Daughter of Charity (hopefully, in this sense, I'm predicting the future!). I was walking down the sidewalk outside of their chapel when I spotted a group of Salesian Sisters (FMAs) in their white habits further down the sidewalk. They were stopped talking to someone. I caught up to them, curious because I knew a few from my VIDES formation days with those same Sisters. One looked especially familiar to me though, though I couldn't pinpoint from where. Then, it dawned on me: "CLAUDIA?" I said after I tapped her on the shoulder. She looked confused for a second and then recognized me "AMANDA?" We hugged and I started crying out of joy because I thought I would never see her again. Then, the two of us started blabbering on in Spanish.

This dream is of no importance to you, I know. And it's most likely simply that - a dream.
But I swear there is a reason I'm sharing this with you.
What struck me was that, in the dream, there we were - me in a dark blue buttoned habit and a coiffe (head covering), her in a white habit and veil, a daughter of St Vincent and a daughter of Don Bosco - when, years ago, we were wearing the same aspirant jumper of a different congregation.

I think people tend to think that, once you join a religious congregation and leave, you must be done with religious life, that you can't "try again", that you're "damaged goods" so to speak.
But I think Claudia and I are examples of the opposite.

Please, never give up on your vocation. God never stops calling you. A step in the "wrong" direction may, in a special way, actually a step in the "right" direction.Whatever you do, don't stop searching, as discouraging as it might be to "make a mistake", until you find God's call..."where your greatest joy and world's greatest need meet".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pre-postulancy Application Update

So the final papers of my pre-postulancy application, at this moment, are on a USPS truck somewhere. Or they're still sitting in the back of the post office where the postal worker put it once I paid the postage. But either way, it's out of my hands and (eventually) on its way to the vocations office.

There are still more things needed for all the paperwork to be complete - my background check and credit report - but the Sisters get those themselves, not me. My part is done. Council meets on June 2nd...which means two more weeks until I found out if I'm accepted. Of course, that means, for me, two weeks of filling myself with grading and teaching to get my mind off of getting nervous! But since it's the end of the school year, luckily I shouldn't have a problem with that.

As I filled out the address of the vocations office, a wave of excitement passed over me. Is this really happening? Sometimes I still can't believe it. After all these years of searching, I believe I've finally found it - my vocation - and that is a feeling that I'm unable to put into words.
God is so very good!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why I Love the Daughters Reason #20: The "Sisterhood" Video

This video is so awesome that it doesn't even need an introduction:


Thank you, Sister Liz, for your amazing contributions to YouTube!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vincentian Quote of the Week-St Louise & Communion

Every Monday, I'll post a quote by someone of the Vincentian charism.

Today's is from one of my favorites, St. Louise de Marillac, one of the founders of the Daughters of Charity. She may frustrate me sometimes but I think part of that is because, in some ways, she reminds me of myself. She is so incredibly human, it's amazing...yet she's a saint nonetheless! What a great example for the rest of us!

This is from one of her personal writings, around the year of 1628, before the Daughters were even founded. Here, she talks about receiving Holy Communion. While sometimes St. Louise and others from her time can seem too self-loathing, I think that, if we deeply think about it, this is a fear Catholics in today's age too may have when receiving the True Presence in the Eucharist:

From time to time, especially on solemn feast days, the sight of my abjection, occasioned by my faults and my infidelities to God, causes me to fear to receive Holy Communion...sometimes, I experience an unwillingness to see such a good God come into such a miserable place. On the Feast of All Saints, I was particularly overwhelmed by the thought of my lowliness, when my soul was made to understand that my God wanted to come to me. However, He did not wish to come into some temporary dwelling but to a place that was rightly His and which belonged to Him. Therefore, I could not refuse him entrance. (Spiritual Writings of St. Louise, A.29) 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coincidence? I think not.

I read somewhere “a coincidence is just God's way of performing a miracle anonymously” I then posted it on my FB because it just seemed to fit perfectly in my discernment journey.

For the record, this has always bothered me
about alien movies...
(And no, this isn't the same type of coincidence
I'm talking about)
June Council, where the Daughters decide on my case, is only 18 days away. And I can't help but reflect on what's led me to here because, a year ago, I would have never imagined myself here.

So what has led me here? 

Coincidences.

I'm completely serious. I've known the Daughters since 2004, but since I went to college in the same town as their Provincial House, that's really no coincidence. The coincidences would happen much later. A year after finishing college, I entered a Salesian community (I won't say their name so they keep their privacy but they were a member of the Salesian family) About a month in, I started to feel as if maybe I had made a mistake. I started having major doubts. As I scribbled these feelings down furiously in my journal, I wrote once “Maybe this isn't for me. Maybe this aspirancy is actually preparation for another. Maybe I should join the Daughters of Charity. I've always liked them” But I stayed and continued to deal with these rough feelings of doubt and confusion.

A few months after writing that sentence in my journal, I met a Daughter of Charity...almost completely by accident. Us aspirants mainly stayed in the convent and the only other Sisters outside of our community that we would meet would be other Sisters in the Salesian family. But Sr. Mary Elko, a Daughter of Charity, just showed up at the door of the convent one day to drop off two girls for the orphanage but also visit with the Sisters. At first, I wondered what community she was from - her beige (missionary) habit threw me off because all Daughters I knew wore blue. But soon, once she told me she was a Daughter of Charity, we had long enthusiastic conversations about Emmitsburg and Sisters we maybe both knew.

Looking back, it just seems like a coincidence that Sr Mary Elko would show up at our door, precisely at the rough time of my vocation crisis, as I had fleeting thoughts about joining her community.

The other coincidence would be years later. After leaving the aspirancy, thoughts of being a religious came and went again and again. As I lived in Bolivia for another year, thoughts of being a religious would come back every now and then, never quite leaving me alone. I never saw Sr Mary Elko again simply because life was too busy to do so. I moved back to the United States after two years of living in Bolivia. It wasn't until I visited Bolivia a year later after the move, this past summer, that the second big coincidence happened.

After coming back from my visit, I felt an immense tug to start investigating religious life again. I knew I couldn't ignore it anymore. And, even though I hadn't talked to them in years, I knew I had to get in contact with the Daughters of Charity. I had no desire to contact any other community. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was scared to because I had no idea how they would react to me formerly being an aspirant of another community. Problem is so many years had passed that I had no idea who the vocation director was. So I, who throws nothing away, searched my Gmail and found an email from Sr. Denise, introducing herself as the new vocation director. An email from 2007. And this was July 2010. But I thought “well, why not?” so I replied to it.

Not only was Sr. Denise shocked that I had replied to an email from 2007 but she shared with me that I had perfect timing...because, for the past year, she had been in Chicago studying...and she had literally just now returned to vocation work. (On another note, we later found out that Sr Denise was actually one of the first Daughters I ever met...she was one of the Sisters on my first discernment retreat) And that is where the story that led me to applying for pre-postulancy begins - visits to different houses, retreats,  etc. 

I often wonder that if Sr. Denise were no longer the vocation director, would I have had the guts to "try again" and email whoever was the current vocations director? 
If I hadn't met Sr Mary Elko in Bolivia, would I still have been haunted by the thought of being a Daughter of Charity or would I have eventually forgotten about it?

I like to think that these "coincidences" were actually God working "anonymously", showing His immense love by trying to lead me to find His will for me, find my ultimate joy and where I'm free to be myself, where I'm meant to be. 

Obviously, some coincidences are just unimportant coincidences, but I invite to look back in your life and reflect..."which coincidences were actually God working anonymously for me?" And I'm sure you'll find more than a few.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The May 21 Movement


By now, everyone's seen the billboards, posters, etc. Here is an excellent blog post by Matthew Paul Turner about the May 21 believers and among other things, on the psychological damage movements like these do to kids....


Here's a taste of what he says:

Because there’s nothing funny about kids believing and anticipating THE END. And while I know that the kids who believe in May 21st have what they consider to be “great faith in Jesus,”–trust me, they are scared. They’re nervous. Some of them aren’t sleeping. They’re asking lots of questions. They’re hoping that it isn’t true. But they believe it is.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Charity, what?

The other day, I had an interesting conversation with my principal. He's known for months that I'm applying for pre-postulancy. And before the school announced it was closing, we even had a fun plan of me continuing to work there as a pre-postulant, but alas, God had other plans. Anyway, that day, at lunch duty, he turns to me and goes "So next year will your pre-postulancy. What are the Sisters called again? The Sisters of Charity?"


My answer was complicated "They're the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Some people call them the Sisters of Charity though so you're technically not wrong. But there ARE other groups that are Sisters of Charity" and then I attempted to explain the whole Setonian (St Elizabeth Ann Seton) history and the handful of communities she founded that are named "Sisters of Charity".  I decided not to explain the fact that the Sisters in Emmitsburg still are registered financially under the name Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. Good grief, he probably just wanted a "yes" or "no" answer but he ended up with a long dissertation from me.


Also, believe it or not, there are other groups that are "_______ of Charity" that have nothing to do with Elizabeth Ann Seton or Vincent de Paul! Crazy, huh? This is probably making your head spin. Don't worry too much about all the differences...maybe I'll explain them more in depth in a different post!


But, as I was telling my principal, although there may be too many religious communities to know, all these differences really speak to the universality of the Church. Each religious community has a specific charism - that is, their own personal spiritual characteristics shown by their mission and/or values they find important. (And how many religious communities are there in the world? My guess is thousands. ) Franciscan Sisters are different than Benedictine Sisters, Carmelite Sisters different than Salesian Sisters, Salesian Sisters different than Daughters of Charity....and those are just a few!


St Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan charism,
which includes a love of personal
poverty and a dedication to a simple
straight-forward living of the Gospel
Point is - in this great Church of ours, everyone fits. The Church doesn't expect us to be the same. She knows that each person is different - each person has different gifts, each person finds God in a different way and serves God in a different way. It's always frustrating to me when people lump Catholic Sisters (or really, Catholics in general) as all the same. Just do a little investigating in religious orders and you'll find out just how different we all are! (Not to mention, the Church asks us to practice our own personal charism, even if we're not priests, brothers, or Sisters!)


Obviously, I was talking about my Catholic Church just then but I also know that overall, this is a characteristic of Christians in general. I have a good number of Protestant friends that are able to use their own personal charism, their own personal spirituality, in their church. One in particular that I admire deeply is a friend, belonging to the Church of God denomination, who is currently working as a missionary in Bogotá, Colombia by working with at-risk kids and youth.

Jesus called each disciple in a different way. Even the Letters (of the New Testament) show us how different each writer was, how each connected to God in a different way. Peter and Paul were quite different, but they were both great followers of Christ. In the Old Testament, we see two prophets - Moses and Elijah - that experienced God in two different ways...Moses in a very active way through the burning bush and Elijah through the more contemplative "whispering wind". One experience wasn't better than the other - just different as our own personal charisms are. 


Go in search of your own personal charism...how do you feel called to serve God ? how do you experience God? what Christian values do you cherish the most? which saints or personal spiritual heroes inspire you?...and live it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I Love the Daughters of Charity Reason #15: Missions in the former USSR

Why I Love the Daughters of Charity Reason #15: It takes a good almost 8 minutes to simply list missions founded from 1991-2011 in the former USSR and show a few pictures.

Ever since I met the Daughters so many years ago, I knew they were an international group. But for some reason, it never occurred to me that they aren't solely missionaries, that there are thousands of native Daughters of Charity working in their own homeland (outside of the US). Of course, I knew that in the back of my head but it never really clicked.

That is, until I wrote a blog entry for Sr. Denise's blog (see first entry of this blog) and a British Daughter of Charity commented on the post. It was a moment that really made me smile. I imagined her...thinking in a British accent as she wrote her comment...and, just as I had seen around Emmitsburg and Baltimore, there were pictures of St. Vincent and St. Louise around her desk, photos of the Superiors on the walls. Okay, so I really have no idea if she actually has a British accent or if there are those pictures around her desk. BUT I did know that here was a woman halfway across the world that still was intimately connected with the group of women I knew, even if they may not have never met before. Here was a woman thousands of miles away that had a devotion to St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise and the rest; that read (and followed) the same Constitution I read; that shared the same joy of being Vincentian.

As I watched this video, the same thoughts went through my head. First of all, I was amazed by how many there were, founded in just a 20 year timespan. Not only that but some had been founded just this year! But second of all, I had the same feelings I did when I think about the British DC that commented on my post. I imagined myself in those pictures with them...the Sisters chattering away in a Slavic language I didn't understand and in a country I couldn't even find on the map, yet despite that, I felt an utter connection with them. I saw in them the same devotion to the mission I see in the Daughters of Charity here in the United States.

I know not every discerner out there is looking for a huge international community. But I am the kind of person that finds things like this fascinating. And how lucky am I that God would lead me to this community - the Daughters are in over 90 different countries in the world! So many different languages, so many different cultures...yet one mission! (Reminds me of "Lord of the Rings"...."one mission to rule them all!")

Monday, May 9, 2011

So why do I want to be a Daughter of Charity?

When I was 17 and first discerning religious life, I never would have imagined that I would be here. But alas, here I am. The Daughters of Charity weren't what I was looking for, at first. If you had asked me five years ago what kind of community I was looking for (if I ultimately decided religious life was for me), I would have told you that I wanted one without a habit, preferably American and focused primarily on foreign mission.
Blessed Rosalie Rendu (1786 - 1856)
 being her awesome self

The Daughters of Charity are a French community with a modified habit with a focus on serving the poor, not necessarily foreign mission. Go figure. But God always sends us curve balls.

So then, why do I want to be a Daughter of Charity? I've been searching for a long time, even an extended period with the Salesians when I was a volunteer with them in Bolivia. But I like to think I've found it here.

The Daughters love the poor. I know that sounds very general. To illustrate my point, I could give you a list of various Sisters and tell you their dedication to the poor. But I could go on and on and on.....so, I will save that for another post.

Bl. Rosalie Rendu, one of the great although often forgotten Daughters of Charity saints, said once “I have never prayed so well as I have in the streets”. (If you have the chance, read about her!). St Vincent de Paul said, when founding the Daughters, that the Sisters will leave the chapel during prayer time if ever a poor person knocks on their door and that they would be “leaving God for God” - that is, they would be leaving the God in the chapel for the God in the poor. And I think that says it all.

They are down-to-earth Sisters not afraid to be themselves. I've met about thirty Sisters at the very least and lived in two different houses. I've met Sisters who are young and old, introverted and extroverted, bookworms and sports fans, social workers, teachers, and nurses, converts and cradle Catholics, thinkers and feelers. The point is they're all different. Yet they all have this gravitation and love towards the mission – serving Christ in the poor – and their community. That overcomes all their differences and allows them to embrace them with joy.

They are saints. They are saints not only because of their utter holiness but also their bravery. St. Louise was the first founder of a religious community that lived and worked outside the convent – what courage that must have taken! Bl. Rosalie Rendu almost got herself killed when she crossed a barricade during one of the crazy revolutions in France, while shots were fired all around her, in order to serve the wounded on the other side. The four martyrs of Arras were guillotined because of their refusal to sign an allegiance that would contradict their beliefs and the mission. It was a bravery for the love of Christ but for the love of the poor, in which they found Christ. I am convinced that the Sisters today exemplify that very spirit – they carry it in them - and many are saints themselves.

A Daughter of Charity, to me, is someone unafraid to be herself, someone committed to Christ both in her prayer and in her actions with the poor, someone with a love for the Church, someone who follows in the 400 year old footsteps of the founders but with modern shoes, and someone who lives out joy in her community and her work. And I couldn't ask for anything more than being one of them.

Saint Louise said “I want all of you to become saints...in order to do this, dear Sisters, we must have continually before our eyes our model, which is the exemplary life of Jesus Christ. We are called to imitate this life, not only as Christians, but as persons chosen by God to serve Him in the person of the poor”. (Saint Louise to Sister Anne Hardemont, 29 August 1648, L. 217, SW 260-61)

To all those out there discerning, I do not want to say that the Daughters of Charity are the best community out there – because not only is there no “best” when all are loving and serving Christ, but what may be for me may not be for you – but if the Daughters catch your eye somehow, if any of what I have said “sounds like you”, don't be afraid to “jump” and take the next step by emailing, asking questions, going on retreats, reading about the Daughters.....because you never know when you just may have found God's call for you.
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