Friday, May 30, 2008

My Letter to the Sisters

[On the occasion of my departure at the end of my term of service, read to them last night after supper.]

“These desires are supernatural. They arise in a soul on fire with love. Such souls want the Lord to see that they aren’t serving him for pay. They try never to motivate themselves to serve God with the thought that they will be compensated with glory for anything they do. Their only desire is to satisfy their thirsty love. It is love’s nature to express itself through service in a thousand ways.”

-St Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

My Dear Sisters,

These last few weeks, as they ripped right past me, I realized that I feel no (alright, almost no) apprehension about graduate school, not even at an institution like Notre Dame – actually, I enjoy bragging about that a wee bit. Rather than having nerves about opening the next chapter, I am quite preoccupied by the pangs of closing this one.

Ever since I arrived here in August, my abilities as a word smith, meager as they were to begin with, have failed me. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve tried to put into words all the remarkable things I have witnessed and lived here in the St. John Bosco community, indeed within the Salesian community, but nothing I produce begins to do it justice. The quiet, miraculous wonders I’ve seen in the last nine and a half months are far too subtle and too extraordinary for my linguistic bumbling – I might as well be trying to recreate the Rocky Mountains with mashed potatoes.

There is something sublime about the life you sisters lead. The world is sliding further and further into a mode of thinking where selfishness if the norm. The idea that life not only can be lived for the good of others, but should be lived so, is increasingly foreign. The suggestion that there is right and wrong, even good and evil, is scoffed at. God is not ignored, he is exiled from our history. In the midst of this, you, my dear sisters, quietly love. In place of self-interest, you have self-sacrifice. Instead of material gain, you seek souls. Rather than hold grudges, you give pardon. In short, you love, truly.

I think I figured out why I’ve been having so much trouble putting words to the things I’ve seen and the lessons you’ve all taught me. It’s because what I’m seeing is no human feat. What I am seeing is Jesus, Himself, living, walking, and acting on this Earth. You are, in some sense, the Word made flesh. By your life, your vows, and your sacrifice, you make the Incarnation present and felt over and over for incalculable numbers of people. Words cannot begin to capture something so near to God’s heart.

So, finally, I get to the point of this letter. Before I fling my things into boxes and bags and move forward from this chapter of my story, I must thank you for letting me take part in your story. It’s a cliché for a volunteer to say she got much more from her experience than she gave, but it’s also a truth. I am so grateful to you all for the life you’ve chosen, and for letting punks like me join you in your work. Words, once again, fail me as I try to explain all I’ve learned and gained in my time among you. I am thoroughly and deeply changed, and equally as thankful for your support and friendship. Although I’ll be leaving you soon, it will be a long time before you leave me.

Thank you.
Love and God’s peace,

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