Audra Turnbull, Canidate with the Monroe IHMs and Julie Chrstensen, CSJ at MLK retreat weekend

The Counsels: Look to God

During open space conversation at retreat, the topic of vows came up. We had gathered with our respective stages of formation, mine temporary vows. The grace of the conversation during the retreat was stimulating and energizing.

A question came from the lone novice, Sr. Tracy Kemme, who is anticipating first vows. My memories of the active study and grace during the novitiate linger in me as spirit of encouragement as I listened to her. The question she posed was: "Who are you reading?" We discovered she was reading the same novitiate classics from decades ago. Each of us said quizzically, "Well, is there anything new out there, or anyone new writing?"

Could God so move me/you to write on the vows, for others to read? I challenged myself to pray with the vows, in this moment. I share with, as Sr. Jessi Beck says, "my Giving Voice Community" a bit of my prayer.

Prior to retreat, I was praying with the line "Look to God, that you may be radiant with joy" from Psalm 34. This is my present summation of the vows. "Look to God." Not looking at my vow formulary or constitution. I'm merrily looking in my heart, in this moment. Religious Life can be a lot of things, but I know "look to God" can easily be forgotten. I can act out of my former experience of God, out of yesterday's prayer, or another's experience. My call to the vows is: "Look to God."

Early Sunday morning I paused at "ears open to obedience" from Psalm 40. I began to wrestle with the words, eyebrows furrowed, knot in my gut; I took a deep breath and let the words descend. My heart opened, yet again, by the joy and laughter of the retreat weekend. The conversation on the vows was beckoning. I thought, felt, prayed: to listen is my vow of obedience.

I hold on to the momentum: My vow of chastity is to respond. "Kindness and truth shall meet" from Psalm 85 comes to mind. This is incarnate action, love in its most relevant form.

My vow of poverty is trust and confidence. I can easily buffer myself. "Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life" from Psalm 19 is my refrain. I choose to be available to encounter God in the newness of this moment unencumbered by my escapes.

We are "radiant with joy." My ears rang for days after retreat. En route to the airport, conversing about the past, present and future, I realized with certainty: we are free to live this moment, to write our own experience of the vows. So let's!

I hold you each in prayer. "Look to God, that you may be radiant with joy." 


*Photo: Audra Turnbull, Canidate with the Monroe IHMs and Julie Chrstensen, CSJ at MLK retreat weekend