I will preface this reflection by stressing that I mean no disrespect to any members of other traditions; I am not saying that, within this “universal church” to which we belong, one Rule of life is superior to another.
With that being said, I came to a greater appreciation of my own spirituality this past week, spending a couple of days at the lovely University of Mary in Bismarck. I had not grasped before the strong Benedictine presence on that campus, although a couple of my aunts had graduated from there.
We had been invited to the campus to take part in the fourth annual “Vocations Jamboree,” an opportunity for which I was very grateful. We even got to stay in amazing guest rooms on campus; the virtue of hospitality was definitely evident there!
Wednesday morning, I found my way to a little chapel in which to have my morning visit with my Beloved. I was so thankful; one never knows if a chapel and/or time for prayer will be available at special events such as this.
Part of my Lenten practice this year is trying to make the Stations of the Cross each day. I really cherish this special form of prayer which brings us more deeply into meditation on our Lord’s sufferings. Thus it was that, after finishing my half hour of meditation on the scriptures, my eye searched the walls of the small oratory, looking for plaques of the Stations. There were none.
I think of Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, who said: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I was not in a Franciscan house anymore…
Other aspects of the chapels there reinforced this realization for me, including but not limited to, the monastic style positioning of the pews. (Again, I want to stress that I am not saying that one way is better than another.)
Being immersed in the Benedictine spirituality, which is somewhat foreign to me, brought me to the conclusion that I really am a Franciscan.
Actually, St. Francis’ three great devotions, to Christ in the Crib, on the Cross, and the Eucharist, have been key to my spirituality since childhood.
There are pictures of me as a toddler sitting before the manger set (the stable was built by my dad and the ceramic statues painted by my mom), absorbed in the scene. In fifth grade, I was part of a living stations-type performance, acting as a woman of Jerusalem. I also remember fondly attending Friday evening Stations of the Cross at our parish church.
I remember a evening in (5th grade??) CCD (Religious Ed.) class, when our teacher took us into the new Adoration chapel, and introduced us to how to visit Jesus there. (This was to become the place I first experienced my call to religious life almost ten years later.)
With all of this, it’s no wonder I ended up in a community following St. Francis’ way of living the gospel.
However, it wasn’t until late in my process of “searching for the right place” that I became open to the possibility of a Franciscan community.
But, that’s another story altogether!