Tuesday, August 11, 2009

St. Paul Summer Program essay - "Impelled by Love"

I have a very bad habit of disappearing. :P One of these days I'll come up with a much more convincing excuse than the one I can only think of right now: busy.

Anyway, shortly after coming back from Boston one of the Sisters from the Pauline Bookcenter asked me to do a report on the trip! Although, it's more like an essay now...(it got up to ten pages on MS!) I had so much fun doing this and sort of got carried away :) I know the title probably doesn't make any sense, but there's kind of a story behind it: One of the Sisters mispelled "Impels" because "The Love of Christ Impels us" was the theme of the week. So after she made it "Impells", we were all saying that it kind of like 'impelllls' :) Like His love was really drawing us closer to him!! :D And, you don't have to read this if you don't want to. So, if you think this is boring by the first few paragraphs already, I don't blame you because I'm not much of a good writer :P I can only think up stories, but not how to write them as well. I also had a deadline, so this was kind of rushed so...... This is basically what we did that week at the Daughters of St. Paul Motherhouse in Boston, (not counting Saturday because that wasn't exactly part of the program) just a little more detailed than what I've wrote on the previous posts of our trip. No pics, but you can always scroll down. Again, I was half awake when I wrote the first part of our trip, so this probably makes more sense.

St. Paul Summer Program essay - "Impelled by Love"

Looking back, and even if was just a few weeks ago, the week still brings a smile and a laugh. Even if it did seem like a dream, and if it was, it’s the best dream I’ve ever had. I traveled from Hawaii, home, to Boston MA for the St. Paul Summer Program. I’d only heard about and seen pictures of the place, the Daughters of St. Paul Motherhouse, and only heard stories about the St. Paul Summer Program from another participant. So I was so excited when I found out that I would be going in July. It all happened so fast – too good to be true!
It would be the farthest I’ve traveled from home, but somehow I felt certain that God would be leading the way, so what had I to worry about? …I worried anyway. It was more like a nervous/excited sort of feeling. What were we (Cy and I) going to experience at the St. Paul Summer Program? What’s the place like? What’s going to happen?? What if we don’t make it there ok? During the flight and the travel to Boston these questions and many more bounced in my mind. But I had a good feeling that everything was going to be ok. God wouldn’t lead us to a dead end after those two months of waiting. Duh.
Of course, in the end we made it safely to Boston. We actually arrived almost thirty minutes early! My breath was nearly taken away as I finally beheld the sight of the Motherhouse. It was a relief, I have to admit, to finally be rid of the airport and reach our destination. We made it safely to Boston! Praise God! Again, I’ve only seen pictures of this place, so excitement and great elation seized me. Since Cy and I were half asleep when meeting with the other Sisters when we got there, we spent most of that day resting in the end. Even if I did feel a little ill the first day we got there, the following day – the day the program would start – I tried my best to stay awake.
Monday would be the day all the girls would arrive. Cy, another girl, and I went to help Sr. Maria Grace proof-read a story in the morning. That was a very fun and interesting experience. We also made a banner of our theme for the week. Later in the day we met with the other girls who arrived (there were 8 all in all), and started the program with a Visit with Jesus! What better way to start it with a holy hour of Adoration to him? Then we met several Sisters – including the postulants – and took a walk around the Motherhouse!

I couldn’t wait for the program to start – and finally it did! I looked forward to each day, but at the same time I wanted each to last as long as possible. Waking up early seemed like a challenge for us, since it would be 12:00 am HI time when we would get up from bed. It was worth it, of course. Despite being half awake in the morning we would always be just in time for Morning Prayer and Mass. After breakfast we would help out in the kitchen. I never thought drying dishes could be so fun, especially with the good company! After that, we would gather at the assembly hall for morning stretches (kind of like exercising) led by one of the participants and one morning by Sr. Carmen Christi. We would always have an hour of adoration each day of the week, and even though I almost fell asleep on one occasion, I still loved it.
At each meal it felt like a party! All the Sisters are so friendly and welcoming. At each table there was a different conversation and so much laughter could be heard! Everyone knew each other, and if some of them didn’t, they would get to know each other and treat each other like sister Sisters. ‘It’s like a family,’ I thought with a smile, ‘But a different kind of family…’ I really liked that. It made me feel really comfortable with them, and it’s probably one of the main reasons I didn’t feel homesick.
We ended each day with Lectio Divina, kind of like praying with the scriptures for the next day, to prepare us for tomorrow’s Mass. I liked that, especially because I would be only half-awake for the morning prayers and Mass.

The first class – an introduction to the Pauline religious life – was amazing! What really was my favorite part (or the part that struck me the most – I liked the whole thing!) is how they explained the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I never really thought about it the way they did. (it wasn’t exactly said like this, but similar) Poverty is ‘I love you Jesus above all things,’ chastity is ‘I love you Jesus above all peoples,’ and obedience is ‘I love you Jesus above everything, even above my own will.’ The way Sr. Margaret Michael said it, it felt like… I don’t know how to put it in words, but I loved it.
Sr. Diane Leonard, one of the Sisters who picked me and Cy up from the airport, gave a brief history lesson in the ‘historic room’ where there were several of the old items which the first Sisters brought from Italy to America. She talked about how it all began; the Pauline Mission in the USA. Then Sr. Jennifer gave us an amazing tour of the Publishing House, as well as the recording studio in the basement where they make their CDs! The tour was wonderful. It was really nice to hear what kind of work the Sisters did, and how.
Before we would have our class about Mother Thecla, Sr. Margaret Michael said, ‘You’re going to see Mother Thecla come alive, really!’ At first I thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to see that movie about her again?’ But it wasn’t. ‘Whenever Sr. teaches the class about Mother Thecla, she always comes out so alive to me!’ Sr. Margaret Michael continued. I didn’t understand, but then she ended with a ‘You’ll see.’ Sr. Carmen Christi taught the class, and then I saw what Sr. Margaret Michael meant. The way Sr. Carmen Christi taught the class about Mother Thecla – the way she described her as ‘in tune with the Spirit’ – she really did seem to come alive! She seemed like a really real person. ‘She was like a mother who really really cared for her daughters!’ I thought with elation. I’ve read the book, Thecla Merlo Messenger of the Good News before, and now, after that class it feels like everything she did and what the book says about her comes to real life. I can play the historical events in my head so clearly!
Some time after that, we did ‘praying with the news’. We watched a few things on the news; mostly about Michael Jackson’s death and funeral, and several other accidents and incidents that took place. Then we prayed for those people. It felt nice to pray for those people, and somehow after watching those terrible things happening on television it seemed like everything was going to be okay once we prayed for them.
After supper we had recreation. Some of us played a game called ‘pit’ and some of us played pictionary! It was really fun, and we had lots of laughs. It was a nice way to end the day, before Lectio Divina.
(Wednesday) After our usual activities we started on our Writing Track which Sr. Maria Grace led. It was almost like a writing class, except to me it was a lot more enjoyable than previous classes I’ve had. She talked about how important grammar was in a fun way, challenged us to think up a character using the ‘character maker sheets’, and let us write little bits and pieces of stories that depicted scenes and pictures. She encouraged us to write our stories based on the characters we thought up. So each of us are writing our stories now!
That day I had the ‘walk and talk’ with Sr. Margaret Michael. It was nice to both walk and talk at the same time, because the outdoors was so nice. I heard that it was rainy before we arrived, so we took advantage of the nice weather and walked around the Motherhouse. Usually I would be speechless when talking with another person whom I didn’t really know, but for some reason, I felt really comfortable… a lot more comfortable than I would usually be, anyway. At the thought of the walk and talk I was kind of scared, but I got through with a happy feeling in the end. In fact, I wished it had been longer!
Our writing track continued and the day ended with a movie. We took our dinner to the assembly hall and we all watched Little Women. I was surprised that I really liked it. Most of the girls had read the book by Louise May Alcott, and I never had, so it motivated me to read the book once I got home (and yes, I’m still reading it up to now). Our writing track would officially end on Friday, the day we were to visit the Orchard House, the house of the author of Little Women. It was hard to believe that it was already Wednesday night. We all were very sad that the program was already half finished!
Thursday was the Art Track day led by Sr. Tracey. We studied a painting of the Annunciation. Mary was sitting on her bed, her hands folded, quietly contemplating and listening to the angel, who was nothing but a beam of light. We answered some questions and told Sr. Tracey what we thought about the person and objects in the picture; of her expression, the room, the objects in the room, and the colors. After learning much in the art track I don’t think I could ever see a painting in the same way as before.
Then we had Confession, then lunch. Right after that we left for the Art Museum (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum). There, Sr. Tracey gave us sheets with questions to fill out about a painting we would find there that struck us the most. I didn’t find one that I really liked, though I would have chosen Remembrandt’s painting of the scene where Jesus would calm the storm on the sea, if it weren’t stolen. Instead, I was awestruck by the architecture and the designs on the walls and pillars. So in the end, I didn’t choose a painting. But I was happy with my choice. To me, it felt like walking through something like Cair Paravel from Narnia!
After arriving back at the Motherhouse, Sr. Tracey let us all think of ourselves as a vessel, just as Mary was…. Then we had to sculpt our image of a vessel for Jesus. Some of us made pots, vases, a candle holder, and even a box. I was aiming for a vase or something, but I ended up making a basket. Sr. Tracey said that our vessels could hold the Word of God in it, so I quickly sculpted a small scroll or piece of paper that said ‘I am the Way, Truth, Life,’ and stuck it inside the basket with a few roses.
While our vessels were baking, we shared all about the paintings that we chose. Cy pulled out a postcard of the painting of Remembrandt and gave it to me once I mentioned that missing painting. That would’ve been my choice, so I shared a little about it.
Then, after some playing on the piano and music, we continued on our sculpture projects, which were now baked. We painted and varnished them, something that was a lot harder than we thought it was, but we were able to do it.
Right after supper, Sr. Christina led the Media Night. She taught about how media can really be used to evangelize, and how it is already teaching other false information. She also said how much the media affects our lives and other people’s lives. Sr. Christina also showed an alphabet that consisted of the letters of the logos and names of other products (eg: Oreos, Lysol, Reeses…), and we all recognized most of them. She even gave an analogy about the media, how some things can be false, and some times it can be right. Like in the Wizard of Oz, the wizard was told to be a powerful one and looked like one, but when the curtains were drawn, all they saw was a little man moving the controls. She also showed us a clip of the movie Spiderman 2, when Peter was going to abandon his responsibilities and his powers so that he could live his own life. Sr. Christine said and encouraged us to use our talents to help spread the Gospel through the media. It was a very fun (and some parts funny) night!
Friday was the last day of the program. The other girls and I were really sad that it was going to end soon, but the Sisters would always say that the last day was always the best day. We didn’t understand how the last day could be the best day until later on… After the usual Morning Prayer, Mass, breakfast and helping out in the kitchen, we went back to the Assembly hall and finished up our projects (sculpture of our vessels). One of the participants played the guitar while Cy and two girls sang praises to God. A little while later I played a bittersweet song on the piano, a song that now always reminds me of that grand time we spent at the Motherhouse.
Then our mini-retreat began. We observed silence for about three hours, and walked outside a bit on our little ‘date with Jesus.’ It wasn’t as hard as we’d thought; some of us thought we could go on for more than three hours! It was so peaceful and quiet outside, and I found a little spot to sit on the stair steps leading to the chapel, and also next to some flowers. Then I took out my journal and wrote away.
What aspect of creation was I attracted to? What was I noticing about it that day? I loved the sound and sight of the trees swaying in the gentle wind, and the distant chirping of the birds. It was a lot like home (save the rotten mango smell :P ) except… different now. To me it was amazing how one could be so busy with God’s work, but then once she stepped outside, she could hear the sweet silence and see the magnificent works of God. I thought about the whole world, and I hadn’t realized it was this gigantic (I live in Hawaii; I never knew! :-P ). I traveled across the whole US plus across the Pacific Ocean. Still, God is truly there, and here, and everywhere! I remembered the time in the airport when I was asking myself so many questions and being so nervous. Why was I being nervous? God is here! …What was God’s presence like? Like the still small voice in the readings. If only I could pause and be silent for a moment, I’ll be able to hear him with the ears of my heart. But if I keep myself busy with something else, something that would block out the noise of God’s voice in my life, well then…:-P …I guess a part of Psalm 23 could sum up what happened while I was in prayer; “In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side…”
After that time outside, we were called back to gather in the small chapel on the 2nd floor. We prayed and shared what we experienced, and also answered briefly to the questions we were given (What aspect of creation was I attracted to? What was God’s presence like?...). That was our hour of adoration, too. Then we were off to lunch, then our outing!
Our writing track officially ended with the outing at the Orchard House, Louise May Alcott’s house. We got to learn about her family more, and we could tell a lot from her life that it was similar to the book/movie. Her little sister, May (Amy in the book and movie) was quite an artist. She even drew and painted on the walls; her father gave her permission to, as long as her skills improved and drew nicely. So it was almost like a continuation of the art track as well! After touring the whole house, we shopped a bit at the gift shop. The place was amazing! Then, after everyone gathered, we took a group photo, and then we were off to get some icecream!
I forget what the place was called, but I think it was ‘Bedford something icecream.’ We ate our icecreams and had lots of fun! Perfect for a summer day. The sizes were so huge it was hard to believe that it was just a kiddie cone size! After that, we hurried off to the Pauline Books and Media Center in Dedham. On the ways we talked story and had many good laughs with each other. We spend a little more than thirty minutes at the Bookcenter. Since several of the girls didn’t live close by them, they took advantage of this time. Cy and I spent our time wandering around, and we noticed that this Bookcenter almost had a different variety than the one we live close by to. So we looked around and then snuck in the small chapel to thank Jesus for the wonderful day we’d had, and the entire week.
We made it back to the convent in time to catch a bit of the Evening Prayer time. Then we had our supper, and invited some of the Sisters to join us in the assembly hall for one last recreational night, and our final group gathering. We also got to see the Junior Professed Sisters that night, and they joined us in our gathering. While Sr. Margaret Michael left to go ‘do something’ Sr. Tracey led us in a game called “Pterodactyl.” We all sat in a circle and we all had to say “pterodactyl” without showing our teeth. To change directions one of us would squawk loudly, still without showing our teeth. It was very hard to do that, and some of us started laughing so hard that tears came out of our eyes! I’m glad though, that I was one of the first people to be out; I got to record a nice and funny video of the group playing the game! We all had such a fun time! :D
Then Sr. Margaret Michael came back and we all got to see a slideshow of our entire week from a projector. It was so nice! It made me really really wish that the week was longer…or we could go back in time and start all over again because it was so much fun! Then came the ‘solemn moment’… Sr. Margaret Michael and Sr. Maria Grace called out our names and gave us St. Paul Summer Program Awards! There was the ‘Big Sister Award’, the ‘Gentle Surprise Award’, the ‘Brown Bread Roll Award’ (there are a lot of stories behind these names…) ‘Quiet Humor Award’, ‘Joyful Boot Award’, ‘Dedicated Writer Award’, ‘Meticulous Artist Award’ (Cy) and the ‘Musical Accompanist Award’, which I got for playing that bittersweet song on the piano all over again and over again. We also received a book called, “Life for the World” written by one of the Sisters, and a small image of St. Paul .
Afterwards, we shared a bit about our vessels that we made, now finished (mine was a basket, simple yet helpful, I guess, with the words “I AM THE WAY, TRUTH, LIFE,” inside of it, with some roses. I guess you could call them symbols of love for God’s Word.). Then we explained why we got such funny names for our awards we received. Then, while Sr. Margaret Michael ran up to get something, the participants and the Sisters asked me to play that bittersweet song on the piano again. I did so, but I nearly cried, knowing that this would probably be the last time I would play this song for these wonderful people. I held my tears back of course, reminding myself that this wasn’t the last day (we were leaving on Sunday). Everytime I play that piece I feel like reminiscing about that beautiful time we had together that whole week, especially that day. Then Sr. Margaret Michael came back with her ‘rapping shoes’, and gave us a little rap! It was so nice! I was able to record the first part of it, but unfortunately that’s when the memory got full. I was wondering when it would get full since I was taking so many pictures… I guess I got my answer.
Right before the final group photo (all eight of us participants, including the graduates of the St. Paul Summer Program), I was able to delete a few unnecessary pictures on the camera real quick. One of the Sisters asked me if I needed help and took the camera after I was finished with it to take pictures. Then we all had a group hug! Some of the participants felt like crying, and some of us even said our good-byes to the Sisters. I got the camera back, but I still didn’t know what to do since the memory was full. Then another one of the Sisters said she could take the memory card and put the pictures into CDs! The Sisters are sooo sweet! They are like a family! :D After several of the Sisters left, all eight of us and Sr. Margaret Michael and Sr. Tracey helped us compose a thank you letter to the Sisters. Most of us said thanks for the prayers, and I even added “Mahalo nui loa!” (that’s kind of like ‘thank you very much’ in Hawaiian). Sr. Margaret Michael then announced that we could sleep a little later, and then sleep in a bit the next day since everything was half an hour later for Saturday. We were all very thankful and happy that night, and we agreed that the last day was like the grand finale to the week.
The next day we were able to sleep in a bit. We made it just in time for the Morning Prayer and Mass. One of the participants had to leave right after Mass to catch the train with her aunt, so we said our good-byes real fast. During breakfast time we went up to the microphone and said a general goodbye to the Sisters present at that time. Then after help in the kitchen, we all did a cleanup on the third floor! It was tiring, but fun. During the rest of the day we said goodbye to all the girls except another one who would leave on Monday. It was sad for us, but we were able to exchange email addresses so that we could keep in touch with each other. Later in the day Cy and I went with Sr. Margaret Timothy around downtown Boston! That was so cool! :D After getting back to the convent just in time for supper (and had awesome cupcakes made by one of the participants and her sister!), we went over to the dinette on the first floor and watched Sense and Sensibility with a few of the Sisters and another postulant. It was a nice movie, but I almost fell asleep (not because it was boring, just because I was tired). It was sad for Cy and I that this was the very last day. So we packed up a bit for tomorrow…Sunday.
We had already attended Saturday afternoon Mass so that we could make it in time for our flight. Right before we went over to the dining room, Cy and I stopped by the Chapel for a last and quick Visit. Once more, We both thanked God for the wonderful time we had spent here. I almost burst into tears right there, but I didn’t want to cry, so I held it in. We both wished the week was longer. We then had our breakfast at 8:00, and we were able to take a photo with three of the Sisters who came to Hawaii. Then we said our goodbyes and thank you’s to Sr. Margaret Michael and Sr. Tracey, and to the other Sisters as well. Sr. Margaret Michael said, “Come back next year!” I responded, “Of course!” I really hope that we can go next year. I had such a fun time. This summer was the most memorable ever.
I felt like crying again as we said goodbye, so biting my lip, I decided not to say anything so that they wouldn’t find that my voice was breaking. I thought I was doing ok until… we got to the gate at the airport. Then the tears came pouring down… A flood of emotions seemed to wash over me as I recalled the fun and beautiful times of the entire week. I laughed at the same time, remembering the hilarious events that happened (like the Pterodactyl game, and the weird jokes!). Even after we boarded the plane we were still crying a bit. This was a little weird at first… why were we crying when we were going home?? I never felt homesick during the entire week. The Sisters felt like…well, older sisters to Cy and I too. It wasn’t until we landed in LA when we finally calmed down. Cy and I talked about our amazing experience, and how we loved it. We spent hours doing that! We both really missed the place, even if it was only a week we spent there.
Overall? I really enjoyed the trip!!!! It was the awesomest summer ever, and the most memorable summer as well. Why? Because…well…besides the fact we traveled all the way across the US … we spent a week at a convent, and we loved it. (yes, that sounds weird, but that’s ok, because I think I’m weird too). This experience took on a whole different perspective of religious life. (When the Sisters pray, they really pray, and when they play, they really play!) It was interesting to see so many Sisters at one time, since I’ve only seen a few at the Pauline Bookcenter. Their life, mission and spirituality… I’ve never thought about it that way! It was a super amazing experience – something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Our theme for the week was, “The Love of Christ Impells Us!” During the St. Paul Summer Program we really did feel His love draw us closer to him… and not only that, but also made us fall in love with Him all the more.

Ok, the end. :P

1 comment:

John said...

What a great story! This summer I got to go to a summer program at the St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee! I felt God's love " impel" me too! He works in mysterious ways! Your essay was great and you are a great writer!

May God Bless you and continue to " impel" you with His Love always!