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Friday, January 31, 2014

Traveling with a Novice

 
 Ten years ago I would have never dreamed where God was taking me, my husband and daughter.


A son’s a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.

Unless she becomes a Nun?

It has been 2 years and 6 months since our daughter decided to follow her heart to Jonesboro, AR., at Holy Angel Convent to discern the life of a Nun. It seems like she has been at Holy Angels longer, guess the week-end visits and a few weeks here and there, before she actually left permanently, makes it seem longer. Strange as this seems to our world today, we embraced her journey. Even stranger was the fact that Jeanine and I had only been Catholic for two years and her dad was still studying the faith with a fine-tooth comb. 

This Christmas 2013 we had our daughter home for two weeks during the holidays. We traveled to Ft. Worth to visit family and then boarded a plane to visit our son and his family in Tampa.

As we traveled by car and by plane, the reality of it all seemed to hit us more than it had in the past. You see, we knew after she returned to the Convent she and the Sisters would be discerning a major BIG step, concerning the process which one must go through before becoming a Nun, with the help of our Lord guiding all their steps.  

Becoming a Nun is not a quick decision and becoming a Nun and the discernment process is not a single decision of the one discerning. It is a process of prayer, learning the life of a monastic, and the reality that the “Community” you desire to enter are praying and discerning for the discerner too. Each step is bathed in prayer and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit, if this is truly a calling from above. It becomes a decision of “all” in the Community and the Community of Sisters in the end will make the final decision, if you stay or go.

Each step was a process of discernment for Jeanine and the Sisters at Holy Angels.

The week-end visits, the weeks Jeanine took off to visit before she entered were times of discernment for Jeanine and the Sisters. Each time she went, they always invited her back. When Jeanine made the decision to enter, it was not only her decision, but the Community.

Jeanine entered as a Postulant and began the journey of following her heart. She was a Postulant for one year and we had continued contact with her. She got to come home for 2 weeks after the year was over. We had a wonderful visit with her and she informed us that when she returned, she would be discerning if she wanted to continue and enter into her time as a Novice. She was excited and her heart wanted to continue, but she had to wait and see if her desires were the same as the Sisters. They all needed to be in “One” accord in the discerning process, and they were. Jeanine started her Novice year. A Novice spends their time studying, praying and helping with the daily routine of a monastic, living in a Community of many Sisters.

Her time entering into the Novice year would require her to stay off the computer, Facebook, emailing and limited contact with her parents. A true challenge in today’s world for anyone and it did not seem to faze her at all. She took this time serious and used this time to focus on following her heart.

Nobody will ever understand, except a mother, to see a daughter wrestle with this vocation in which a woman is following her heart to answer the call in the life of a religious.

Her first visit at Holy Angels she left with tears flowing; already missing being there. Her tears then turned to doubt, “I can’t do this, what about my Nana who is aging and Grandma? I can’t leave them now!” I reassured her that she could not build her future around her grandmothers’ health and circumstances. She needed not put anyone in the equation, only herself and the direction she felt a tug.

She would visit several times before she made her final decision and her last visit to the Convent, many steps and a few months would pass before she actually knew if she was accepted. She would be so excited with the thought of following her heart, and then the next day I would see her in her room crying. “What’s wrong?” her reply; “I will miss so many things, like make-up and my jewelry and my clothes and I’m just realizing all these little things that have been a part of me.” As a mom, I wanted to say, “Okay, then let’s stop right here and go no further.” But, for reasons I still don’t understand today, I would always remind her to take one day at a time, don’t look at the whole picture, if this is of God, He will show you. You can’t let your emotions of “STUFF” determine something that could be a “BIG” blessing in your life.

It was an up and down emotional roller coaster for her until she got the final word she had been accepted as a Postulant. She was so excited and was so ready to go. After all the tears and wrestling with so many things, she was happy to be following her heart. We packed her up and dropped her off. Only time would tell if this was her vocation.

We visited her many times during her Postulant year and stayed in contact through email, letters and the phone. She seemed to be settling into the lifestyle and embracing it with a “joy” and a “purpose”, in which we as parents had never witnessed in her before.  Though when we did visit her that first year, as we left, the flood of tears would be hard on us all. Time has made it better, but when you love someone, there will always be tears during departures. I think our tears have changed in time, and they are different. We can’t really explain it. Maybe I will one day.

Her Novice year was one of surprises and the reality that seasons change in life. Two months before she became a Novice, and while she was on her two weeks off and with us on vacation in Florida, my mom, her Nana, had a stroke. It was a serious stroke and she got to say her “goodbyes” to her Nana before she left to become a Novice. My mom seemed to have recognized her, as they would share their last embrace. God works in mysterious ways.

December 2013 Jeanine is off for two weeks and she is coming to the end of the road as a Novice. She will return in January and go into a silent retreat for a week and pray, discern and see if she is ready to say “yes” to this way of life. The way I’ve looked at the process in which she has been discerning is much like a couple; dates, gets engaged and then marries.  Rushing into a relationship, sometimes folks find out they made a bad mistake. Jeanine and I’ve discussed it at length, and when she left for Holy Angels over two years ago, she was dating the idea and knew she would be dating the “process” as a Postulant and a Novice. Two years would allow her the ability to understand what this life would be like and if she wanted to walk away, she could. If she wanted to stay, it all came down to her and also the entire Community of Sisters. They would all be seeking her vocation together. Very much like a couple who invites “God” into their relationship for answers. God will guide them if it is meant to be.

The next step after dating would be the idea of engagement and I’ve known a few who did not make it to the altar. Some did not make it to be engaged.

Our time over Christmas was rush, rush, rush. She wanted to go see her Grandma in Texas, her brother and family in Florida and spend a few days at our place before she returned. I admired how well she handled being in her “habit” in the presence of family who still don’t quite understand it. Remember, we come from a long line of Protestants. It was interesting in the airports and the restaurants and many public places to be accompanied by a Nun in a habit. Funny, folks with tattoos all over their bodies, nose rings and pants hanging at their butt crack, never got a second look. But, a Nun in a habit; my, my, folks do wonder what it is all about. If they only knew…

When we finally made it to our place, I got sick and did not feel like getting out. Though we did do a few things and got to see some of her friends, she got to attend Mass and see folks at her Parish. It was nice having her home and we discussed her next step. A mom is a mom until her last breath. She was most definitely ready and hoped the Sisters felt as she did, to continue. The next step; temporary vows (the engagement) and becoming a JR. Sister. I personally know someone who wanted to be a “Religious” and the Order, in time, felt this was not this person’s calling. It devastated this individual, but in time, they knew the Order was right and God had a special plan for them in marriage and kids. We discussed it at length, what if? What if the Sisters in seeking answers, feel this is not your vocation Jeanine? To my surprise, she was very aware of this, and shared she would be disappointed, but would accept it as God’s plan for her life. Yes, she would be upset, but knew it could happen. All in all, she seemed at peace, and she was no longer the young women that left two years ago, who was on a roller coaster of emotions concerning her make-up and jewelry. She was at peace; being in God’s will.  Something we seem to have a hard time with.

I drove her back to Holy Angels, a five hour drive, and asked her if she would like to stop in Little Rock or Jonesboro before we returned and do some last minuet shopping. Because I had been sick, we had only been able to go to the Mall and shop one day. She was looking for a coat and everything was picked over after Christmas. We were ahead of schedule getting her back and I felt sure we could find her a coat in a larger market than our area. She loves to shop. When I ask her if she wanted to stop and shop for a coat, she says “ No….. I am ready to get home.” It was the “first time” I ever heard her calling a place “Home” that was not connected to me and her dad. It felt strange and was bitter sweet to my ears.

January 20th would be the day the Sisters would make their decision if our Jeanine would continue. To be honest, I had mixed emotions and in some ways had selfish motives, maybe they would not. As a mother, I’ve learned many things after she left to follow her heart. Guess my mother’s death brought this reality center stage. There is nothing like a mother and daughter relationship and all they share in life. Many women, including me and my mom, might have had growing pains through the years. But, the joy in which “maturity” finally brought our relationship as adults was priceless. We could always be ourselves around each other, no mask and no acting. Jeanine and I have always gotten along, though we have had our moments too. For some reasons, I’ve never pictured her with her own children, guess God had been preparing me. That is something I’ve come to realize and never really thought about it until after my mother’s death. Selfish reasons; knowing some moments will never take place, that only a daughter and mother share. Like the old Irish proverb says: A son’s a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.

 Though we will have many, many memories as the years go by, it’s different; just being honest with myself and whoever reads this. These thoughts were a part of the processing of the reality of it all. But, in my heart I hoped the Sisters would accept her, because I see my daughter blooming and growing and loving following her heart.

The good news is she has been accepted and will take her temporary vows March 21st.  She called to tell us her news and we shared a special moment together, as she rattled off the plans for her special day. She said; “guess what? I take my temporary vows on the anniversary that my Nana went home to eternal rest!” It was as if my mother had planned the day and I know she will be there in spirit looking down from heaven, taking it all in. She then goes on to tell me that; “St. Benedict went to eternal rest the same day.” Makes me wonder if St. Benedict greeted my mother the day she arrived and said; “So, I see your granddaughter is going to be a Benedictine Sister?” After Jeanine takes her temporary vows she will no longer be called Novice Jeanine. We will now have to call her “Sister Marie Jeanine.” The engagement process will begin and we still have a few more years before the wedding (final vows). Keep her in your prayers, you never know, she, or the Sisters, might get cold feet. God Bless!

 

The following links will take you to earlier writings, as we have journeyed in sharing our story about our daughter discerning the life of a religious, a Nun.


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