Tuesday, September 10, 2013

“And I have nobody except you”

At the wake of the 12th anniversary of 9/11, I find myself thinking about conflicts and peace. Our world is troubled by many conflicts. These clashes occur internationally, in our community, and even within us. In the midst of all these struggles, I have been wondering where God is.
            What have we learned from 9/11? Like many people, I have been troubled about what is happening in Syria, where many are dying. This issue got me to think about the work that I have been doing in Bristow. For these first few weeks, my work has been mostly at BEACON, the adult literacy program.  At BEACON, I had the privilege to meet people from all over the world.  Some are coming from Guatemala, others from S. Korea, still others from Egypt, many from El Salvador and many other countries.  I should be happy and satisfied that the people that I am meeting are learning English to improve their lives.  Indeed, I am happy with the work that I am doing.  But upon further reflection, I asked myself the reason why so many people, like me, left everything behind to come to America.
            Since it was the first week of classes, and during this first month I got to observe all the morning classes as part of my training, I had the chance to hear many stories.  What kept coming to mind is a woman who could not go to school past fourth grade. Many in the classroom relate to her story.  In the same class, another woman who hold a Masters degree in her native country left all that she knew and is now happy to settle in a housekeeping job.  As I kept thinking, I am reminded of the sob of this elderly couple, both engineers, who believe that they are now worth nothing more than putting stocks on the shelves of Home Depot.  Those I met left their country for different reasons.  For many, violence, poverty, and a lack of opportunity push them to leave all that they know behind to adopt a new culture, a new home.  In their new country, they dream of reaching their full potential.  And I kept asking where God is in the midst of all these trials? Why doesn’t God bring justice?
            That was before I read Tutu’s words. During a conference at the University of Virginia, Tutu was asked a question similar to mine and he responded: “God has a such deep reverence for our freedoms all over the place, God will not intervene like, I mean, sending a lightning bolt to dispatch all despots!  God waits for God’s partners— we! And God has a dream: God has a dream of a world that is different, a world in which you and I care for one another, because we belong in one family… God says, … will you help me realize my dream… I have nobody except you”
            This was an amazing answer to my question.  It reminded me that God is present and wants to work through all of us… I have been enjoying my work at BEACON. I am working alongside wonderful people who are also passionate about making a difference.  I hope that throughout this year, we will be able to make a difference in the life of the people we meet and that we may be open for them to make a difference in our lives as well.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A knock at the door

 Who is there? Multiple guests. Some are strangers to the community and others are well known. But for all of us who were knocking at the door, we have heard a call and we decided to answer. Our calls are different.  God has given us diverse gifts and God wants us to use them for the need of Her people…
            This weekend, at St. Benedict’s Monastery at Bristow, Virginia, we had three big celebrations.  On Saturday morning, one of the sisters made her final profession. On Sunday morning, another sister renewed her profession, and during evening prayer, we had a woman entering as a postulate and another one as a novitiate.  What beautiful ceremonies!
            The Sunday evening prayer started at the gathering place, where members of the community stood and waited for the postulate to knock on the door.  S. Cecilia, the prioress, opened the door for her and asked that she introduces her guests and responds to the question of what it is the postulate was seeking.  The same question was asked of the novitiate.  Both women were welcome into the community. What a wonderful community these women were entering into!
            On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to experience the love, the compassion, and the respect that the sisters have for each other, for their friends, and their guests. As S. Mary was making her final vows, God’s presence was truly felt. This is certainly true when I saw S. Mary kneeling with her arms open and each sister was going one-by-one to offer her blessings and a kiss.  Tears were rolling down my face when I saw S. Mary got up to kneel in front of the fours sisters who were unable to walk down the aisle to ask them for their blessings. One could clearly see the wisdom, the care, and the respect that the sisters have for each other.  Their relationship with one another (and their guests) is undeniably an example of what Christ asks of us when he asks us to welcome all people as we would have welcome him (Matt 25:35). I am very fortunate to call myself a member of this community for at least a year.
            As for me, the hospitality in which I have been embraced is immeasurable.  Although it can be hard to be the “new one,” I already feel at home here.  All of the sisters have taken me under their wings. Slowly, but surely, I am learning my way around.  Since a sophomore at St. Ben’s, I felt a call to serve with the Benedictine sisters upon graduation.  I chose to answer that call and it led me to serve at the BARN, BEACON, and living in community with the sisters at Bristow, Virginia.  I hope that through the sharing of my gifts and my presence, I will be a host of hospitality (and all that it encompasses) to those around me.

Until next time,