It is Wednesday, sitting in my hotel room in Midtown Manhattan and I can finally start detailing my adventure with the Sisters of Life.
It began on the 17th of November. I arrived at on a chilly New York evening, dropped my bags off their Convent on W 51st Street and then headed to meet them at St Patrick’s Cathedral. They were doing Night Fever. It was huge, the doors of St Patrick’s were thrown open, with Eucharistic Adoration going on and confession too. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) were doing music and more CFRs and Sisters of life were inviting people in to pray and light a candle. It was a good way to begin the next 17 days.
I settled into my room at the postulant house in the Bronx. Not the dodgy part of the Bronx… The really nice part!
Saturday it was up early to go out to Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stanford, Conneticut for the Coworker Formation Day. What a full on day! Communication skills, talks by the sisters, food… 60 people from all over the place to help out the sisters.
The talk that had the biggest impact on me was Mother Agnes’ Delighting in Her talk. It essentially boiled down to this…
We can only truly will the good for someone else (i.e. Love them) when we perceive and receive their intrinsic goodness first. Otherwise we are not working for their good, we are working because we are good.
Kinda makes you rethink your whole interpersonal relations ever. I got a lot out of that day. But alas, it was only a day and we made our way back to the Bronx in the evening for dinner and sleep. It was then up for a regular week. Up at 5 am, morning prayer, meditation and mass followed by breakfast in silence (silence till midday usually). It was then off to the days activites.
Tuesdays it was off to the Mother House about 30 minutes upstate for philosophy classes with a brilliant Jesuit and Sr Mary Gabriel. A rousing game of soccer, ultimate frizbee or football in between, this week it was soccer.
Wednesday was apostolic day where the postulants were split up and sent to what ever tasks needed doing. I was sent to the Apostolic Centre in Manhattan to help sort out a huge load of donations that came in. Mostly clothes. Friday was a day of silence and prayer.
I also had a whole library of spiritual reading and at Sr Antoniana’s recommendation, I dived into Fr Timothy Gallagher’s Discernment of Spirits and Ignatian spirituality.
I was busy. Which was a good thing, considering I spent the entire freaking week in the throughs of spiritual desolation. It was not fun. At all. The whole week was numb and blah, going through the motions.
It was not fun. It was frustrating and discouraging. Being caught in a cycle of despondency is really not fun. I have no idea how Mother Teresa lived and was productive for decades in that state. Thank God for Sr Antoniana. Thursday afternoon she says “Kiara, how do you feel about going on the Young Adult Retreat we were talking about? I’ve signed you up!”
So Friday afternoon, Sr Virginia Joy drives me out to Villa Maria again for a retreat with 40 other young people. The retreat began in the evenin with dinner a conference and vocation story from Sr Filumena, the first kiwi Novice. Following that was a Eucharistic Healing service where the monstrance is bought down and you can get close and touch it.
That was my lowest point. I went up and knelt before Jesus and felt nothing, just blah. Confession was going on so I went and the wisdom of the young priest was just what I needed. I was still in desolation, but I came to grips with it and was able to move to a place where I could resist it.
The Saturday was a much better day. It was a silent day so I walked the grounds and read, there were a couple of conferences and spent every opportunity in the Chapel. I was still feeling the desolation but I had better sense of what this was and perhaps why I was suffering it.
Saturday night was party time! We had an All Saints costume party. Complete with Purgatory, the place you go to ‘clothe yourself in sainthood’ if you didn’t bring a costume. I dressed up as GK Chesterton. It was hilarious. No his technically not a saint, but his cause is open for canonisation.
There you have it! We also had Irish dancing going on in the basement and the we make a fire. Unfortunately we only had green wood so Sr May Karen and I split it into matchsticks to make it burn. No, I don’t have a photo of Sr Mary Karen and an axe.
Sunday was the final conferences finishing with Sr Mary Loretta. This little lady from Brooklyn has the most phenomenal charism for evangelism I have ever seen. No matter who you are, she can talk about Jesus to you. I left that retreat with a shot in the arm spiritually but I was not quite out of the woods yet.
Stay tuned for part II in a couple of days!