These past weeks I have been reflecting on the gifts of this fall season. Here are a few images that came to mind that are associated with the "fall" season or the word itself, which I have considered in light of religious life:
- Crisp air, grinning pumpkins and caramel apples -These speak to me of the light-hearted experiences and joys of religious life. At one of my community's chapters the facilitator commented that we were very demonstrative in our greeting and speaking with one another as we embraced old friends and delighted in catching up with one another. She spoke of our hugging, kissing cheeks, and even touching a sister's face in a tender greeting. These are among the sweet moments we know in living community.
- In autumn the brilliant leaves let go and "fall" to the ground - Much has been written and said about the "letting go" time we are experiencing now in religious life. I will only say here that there is great beauty in the being one golden leaf or a whole forest full of vibrant leaves letting go to become, with time, the rich mulch under the melting snow nurturing the new life that will come forth. I cannot even begin to describe the richness of the nourishment I receive as a younger Sister, and I am grateful.
- "Falling off" a bike and the skinned elbows and knees that are the likely result, along with getting back on (perhaps after appropriate band-aid application)--Let's just say I have had plenty of opportunities to practice all the conflict resolving skills and communication tools we are given to live this way of life. Often enough I have had scraped knees, and sometimes I have helped apply someone else's band-aid.
- And, of course, "falling" in love -first loves, crushes, and gazing into that special someone's eyes come to mind. We know this can refer to our relationship with God and the love that leads us to surrender, especially when what we believe we're called to do doesn't seem to make sense. For those of us newer to religious life, it can also be that overwhelming excitement at finding a community that matches who we are and delighting in discovery and growing with that community.
To deliberately misquote Kathy Sherman, CSJ, we know God is with us in all the "seasons of religious life." For me Giving Voice has been one of the best ways of negotiating our current season of religious life with peers who stand me as we also each grow deeper into the charisms of our own communities.