Posts Tagged ‘discernment’

In one of Pope Francis’ reflections on consecrated life, he hit upon a reality that resonated deeply with me.  Speaking about community life, Francis acknowledged that

“It’s good for the elderly to communicate their wisdom to the young, and it’s good for young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom.”

I experienced this when I entered the community at the age of 18.  It was a different time, and at 18 women were marrying out of high school, so entering the convent was not such a surprise.  I was responding to the voice of my God and I simply trusted.

At that time there were four retired sisters living in the same building as we were as postulants and novices. It was an experience in history for me. Sister Mary Brigid, Sister Mary Walburge, Sister Mary Cletus and Sister Mary Balbina embodied all that it meant to live a lifetime commitment to consecrated life. At the time I didn’t even suspect what I didn’t know about the new life I had chosen- or that had chosen me!  But I could recognize that these women had succeeded in making it a lifelong choice. These were prayerful women, holy women, women who had lived the Gospel and their vowed life with joy and dedication.


I remember walking by their small rooms, noting the rosaries in their hands, and being sure that they were praying for me and for the needs of the world. It was only years later that I learned more about the many sacrifices they made in coming to California from their native Ohio, and about the many challenges they embraced in beginning a new venture in California. All I knew as a young postulant was that these were holy women, models of all I wanted to be. Their quiet lives in prayerful retirement motivated me to want to

“…carry it forward, not to safeguard it, but to move forward with the challenges that life brings us, to carry it forward for the good of their religious orders and of the entire Church.”

Pope Francis said it so well! As we celebrate our consecrated life, Francis’ words challenge us to allow the Holy Spirit to animate us, and to live our lives with joy

“always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens up, who leads and guides us toward the horizon.”

– Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

Sisters Mary Walburge and Balbina were among the first SNDs to come to California. Follow their journey here.


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“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about—quite apart from what I would like it to be about—or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions…. Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear”.

Herbert Alphonso, SJ

Listening for God’s call to holiness; which is a personal and unique invitation to live our deepest purpose in life; is a lifelong clarion call to a conversion of heart. In the silence of a contemplative, listening heart, we can respond to His gratuitous gift of our life in deepest gratitude. A gratitude that is in actuality a faithful, trusting response to His will. Think Mary’s “Yes!”. Our personal vocations, each lived distinctively, contribute to the prism of Christ’s light shining in our world. A vocation which God has created specifically for you, at this time, now, in history. It is a dance of Creative Love that the Trinity wishes to engage you in, and for a certain part of this dance, only you alone know the steps. As we discern God’s will for us in the quiet of prayer, you realize your questions were always being answered. You only needed to listen for the music.

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St. Joseph with Christ Child by Michael D. O'Brian

March 19

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son and you will call His name, Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

Matthew 1:20

If St. Joseph were living in our century, we might describe him as a loyal husband, a hard-working craftsman, a wonderful role model for Jesus, a “down to earth” religious person, a devoted son of the Law, a Faith-filled member of the House of David.

We find little “windows” to St. Joseph’s vocation and mission in the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke. In many ways, he is a “silent man.” We “hear” his actions not his words.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph learns about Mary’s pregnancy. He responds as a faith-filled, loving and trusting husband. “Her husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” In some special circumstances, the Law of Moses tolerated divorce. The Law of Moses determined that the punishment for a woman who had committed adultery was stoning to death. Joseph did not seek the letter of the law, but in a spirit of compassion sought a private separation from Mary because he knew he was not the child’s father.

After being assured by the angel of Mary’s miraculous pregnancy,  Joseph lived his vocation as husband to Mary and guardian of Jesus diligently. He became a refugee, an exile in Egypt, to protect his wife and Jesus.

St. Joseph supported his family as a working man, a craftsman. St. Matthew’s and St. Mark’s Gospels describe St. Joseph as a “tekton” – a mechanic in general and a carpenter in particular. He taught those skills to Jesus.

He knew the effects of “job insecurity.” There were times when he needed to travel to other cities and towns to secure employment. Does the need for work possibly explain why he would have moved from Bethlehem, the city of his ancestor David, to the far north, to a province known for its political unrest and extensive non-Jewish population? Herod provided a burst of work opportunities for a “tekton” in Galilee with his plan to build a new and elegant city that would redound to his glory.

The last time Joseph appears in the New Testament is Jesus’ bar mitzvah. He prepared Jesus to become a “son of the Law.” From Joseph’s everyday faith, devoted love, and care of his family, Jesus learned how to live the spirit of the Law.

In 1870, Pope Pius IX named St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. Pope Pius Xll created the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955.  We celebrate that feast on the first of May.

St. Joseph, loving husband of Mary, guardian of Jesus and patron of all workers, pray for us!

Sr. Emilie Ann Palladino

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An insightful meditation on being patient with the now and not yet:

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient on everything; to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time, (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming in you will be. Give the lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete”.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

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Back in January those of us in formation in the SND Congregation got together in Toledo, OH for a weekend of prayer, instruction and plain old socializing. One of the most memorable days there was a visit to the “Big House”, otherwise known as the Provincial Center. It was a joy visiting with the many Sisters in residence there. A beautiful and very thoughtful gift they gave each of us were bags full of hand written notes of inspiration and encouragement from all the Sisters. What a blessing it is to know that so many are praying for you! Among the lovely notes one struck me as the perfect description of Vocation, and I’d like to share it with you:

A Vocation can best be described as

A Strong Challenge

A Great Gift

A Singular  Joy


Always a Mystery!

Handle it with Reverence.

Note it starts with Challenge! 🙂

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rt_nuns1_070510_msAlthough many women are attracted to a common life with other Sisters who share their vision and commitment, it does not take long before they realize the truth of the old saying, “It’s grand to live with the saints in glory, but here on earth it’s another story.” We know full well that the community gathered in Christ is a fragile and cracked vessel. I have never been a perfect Sister, or superior, or community member. Then again, nobody else has been either!

Yet, community is the place that the Spirit of God forms us over time. It is the place where we are made whole and we are made holy. It calls us to a deeper wisdom and a deeper sense of why we are together.

“Our living of community in this spirit witnesses to the love of the Father for all people, revealed in Jesus, his Son. It is a sign of the goal toward which we are all moving, the new Jerusalem, where all will be one in the love of the Triune God.” (SND Constitutions, art. 62)

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images“There is a need for heralds of the gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of present-day humanity, participating in humanity’s joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with God.”  by Pope John Paul II.

This is a great description of who we are as Sisters of Notre Dame and gets at the heart of what it means to be contemplatives in action!

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FCB_SBA_0042Time for another vocation story, this one from our newest candidate Rhea:

“My desire to become a sister began to stir in me as far back as I can recall. However, at age sixteen, I let go of the thought. To my knowledge no sign from the Lord was given to me. In my childlike ignorance, I assumed God would provide me with a supernatural event that would make clear to me that my desires were His as well, and not merely the romantic notions of a young girl. After a period of loss and acceptance; I then proceeded to live my life pursuing the secular goals of family and career.

I have had a fulfilling life which includes a loving family, good friends, a rewarding career and a rich spiritual journey. However, I am now at a turning point. With exception to the gift of motherhood; no pursuit, accomplishment, or relationship; has fulfilled me other than my love for Christ and His love for me. So at this point I have given myself permission to take the time to discern what He truly wants for me. I am drawn to the Sisters of Notre Dame for their vitality, devotion to witnessing to God’s goodness and provident care, and undying desire to serve God’s people with vigor, humor, and humility”.

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Nun_in_cloisterThis was the title of a booklet which was given to me while discerning the choice of religious life. Forty years later, the question is still posed. Why would a woman choose this life? Why would a Sister stay in this life? (The reasons are not always the same.) Stay with us and you may get a few answers!

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