Kit mentioned in the comment section earlier that maybe I could write about what I'm reading for the oblate program, and I just heard back from Sr. Jean today about my first essay/response, and I think perhaps I'll go ahead and cut and paste it here as well. Jean has asked me if I'd like to make my oblation this fall instead of next...but I don't think I will. I think I will spend the full year. But anyway, here is what I wrote--it is in response to an essay/talk by a Sr. Dolores, OSB, which has the premise that all Christians are urgently called to holiness. I was supposed to write about holiness and where this call might lead someone. Like me.
"We are urgently called to be holy." That statement would have meant nothing more to me than a demand to follow a moral code a few years back. Holiness = not sinning. Praying was part of that equation. But I’m starting to see that this is a somewhat immature attempt to know God. No wonder it didn’t work too well. But, Joan Chittister writes in her Insights for the Ages, “the God of mercy knows what we are and revels in weakness that tries” (p. 56). Revels in weakness that tries. Striving against the quicksand of my daily life, I keep reaching, however weakly, not realizing that not only is the mire of my own making, but God has the rope. I just have to grasp on and pull. Because of our great gift of free will, God is not going to reach into my quicksand, hog-tie me, and yank me to freedom. But the rope is there.
It has taken me a long time to see that light within. We don’t search for God—we don’t knock on the door—God is the one knocking on ours. However faintly, however loud the other noises in my life may be, if I acknowledge that call, the voice gets louder. (Samuel—here I am Lord). The more I say “I hear you, I know you hear me,” the more desire I have to integrate this newfound light into my whole life, which is fragmented and sticky. I want to shine that light into my parenting, teaching, into my interactions with neighbors, friends, parishioners, family, into all my actions.
I think (and hope) that the idea is that the more the light within becomes transparent in my external life, the closer my relationship with God will become. This snowball effect is the beginning of holiness—desire for God leads to a deeper understanding; putting my mind and heart and day in the right order lines everything up in its correct order. It challenges, but it also satisfies.
So I’m interested in becoming an oblate because…
Something about making a promise, a public promise, with a framework and a Rule, helps me towards that holiness. I can tell myself I will do it, but there is no one to hold me accountable except myself. I am not hermit material. If God does know what we are, that we are weak and in need of support, then God understands that community is the most logical situation in which to find that support.
I told my five year old daughter Sophia this afternoon that thunderstorms were expected this week. I like to warn her because she is anxious about storms and tornadoes. After the initial anxiety about the news, she said, “Mom, even if there’s just one other person around, I don’t feel so scared in a storm.” I thought about community and holiness—even if there’s just one other person around to support my desire for God, for what is truly important, that other person can buoy me up and help my pursuit of holiness. That's why I'm looking for a community of faith like the oblates. There is more to it than that--or I would just join a bible study group or an online chat room. But that is the beginning.