Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sister loves ELVIS...

Yes, you heard me correctly. It’s time to own this weird, little facet of my personality. When I was 10 years old, I hear a TV commercial advertising an album of Elvis’ greatest hits. I love the sound of him and the rhythm. I asked my Mom, if I saved my allowance, would she write a check for the mail order. She did…and cursed that day for several years thereafter.

Ten-year-olds are in that industrious stage psychologists refer to as “latency.” One characteristic of this time of life is the desire to collect things. Some kids have a box of things under their beds – strange little treasures. Some, boys especially, get into baseball cards or comic books. I fell for Elvis. I listened to the albums in the basement and tried to learn the moves. I had nearly 21 records eventually, and saw 31 of his 33 movies. I was relentless in pursuit of all things "Elvis." When my grandparents took me to Ireland and England IN THE SUMMER OF 1976, I used ALL the American Express Travelers Cheques to buy “bootleg” Elvis memorabilia – which you just couldn’t get in America. My Mom was NOT happy. I, on the other hand, was delirious. One of the albums actually included a swatch of his jumpsuit! (It was just a worthless piece of material, but the possibility of authenticity made it too tempting.) I was just two years into this obsession when Elvis Presley died – August 16, 1977. I was devastated. My Dad, who always just accepted my weirdness, brought home every paper from New York City that day. He knew the depth of my groupie-grief.

Fast-forward about 20 years to Collegeville, MN. I am studying for an advanced degree at one of the finest Benedictine seminaries in America. A package arrives from my brother-in-law, Mark, by Federal Express. (Mark’s brother, + GOD rest his soul, actually knew Elvis when they were teens living in Memphis.) I opened the box and I was 12 years old again. It contained a yellow dinner jacket worn by Elvis in the 1968 movie, “Speedway.” It was given to Mark’s brother and then came into Mark’s hands. Inside was a patch sown in the lining by the studio. It was the real deal. I wore the jacket. I danced in the jacket. OK, I even smelled the jacket. (We believe in relics, right?) And, there were witnesses – my prioress among them. Then, I mailed it to the auction house in NYC, as my brother-in-law had instructed.

Today is the OTHER king’s birthday. He would have been 74 today. Sister Charlotte got me a life-size Elvis to hang up. (Actually, she put him in my favorite chair at home before I woke up. I carried my prayer books downstairs, as usual, and when I got to my chair, I let out a girly scream because it looked so much like a real man. So much for holy silence! We were both hysterical once I realized what was going on.) Now, Elvis is in my doorway at school. Our students don’t know much about him (with the exception of a few songs from the Disney film, “Lilo and Stitch,” and the opening theme of a TV show about gambling.) Our girls don’t know that Elvis came to Richmond, VA in the summer of 1956. (Our Sister Charlotte Lee was THERE! The old Mosque Theater was packed with squealing, fainting teens. And, I wasn’t even a glimmer in my mother’s eyes.)

Like Marilyn Monroe or John Lennon, we can never know the whole story or the sufferings that accompany celebrity in America. We can only bless GOD for the gifts they shared and wish them peace in the Kingdom – where EVERY wound is healed and we are made whole again. Did you know that Elvis’ only Grammy awards were for gospel music? Yup. Now, he sings forever before the true King of kings. Next time you hear an Elvis song, say a prayer for him. And, if you ever meet an Elvis-geek like me, have mercy and ask them to show you a few moves. They’ll do it. Trust me…

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Year of Blogging Dangerously...

It's been just over a year since I started this vocation blog. It began just before Sister Veronica and I left for Rome. When we returned I gave the site a little face lift and created an automatic forward to the prioress. Whenever I post, Sister Cecilia gets an instant link via e-mail. (So far, I haven't written anything we've had to retract. Whew!) This morning I felt the winds of change blowing again and played with the colors and layout for a third time. If I need a change, perhaps you all need one as well.

Writing a blog is an adventure. There are many people who "know" me now - people I have never met. I have had phone conversations with strangers who are struggling in their faith journey. These have been precious encounters with grace. They are no longer strangers, but friends. I have heard some heartbreaking stories and seen the hand of GOD carving out a path of protection. I have prayed for and with them. And, I have been blessed by their gracious words and the honesty of their searching. I will be meeting a new "friend" next week for coffee and some soul-stretching conversation. While I am not a trained spiritual director or therapist, I come with a listening heart. The paths that have crossed mine are most certainly GOD's gift to me.

Although I began this blog as an effort to stay in touch with women who are in discernment with our community, it has become something more. It is a place of meeting...a journal for my wonderings...a ministry of sorts. I am grateful to all of you who faithfully "visit" me here. I feel we often walk together - bound in some mysterious way by the Word who continues to speak peace and risen love into our world. I remain a monastic on the journey...and invite you to share the graces of this new year in the life of our monastic community.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Monday, January 5, 2009


It’s still Christmas. Yesterday morning, Sister Cecilia asked the Sunday assembly to leave their holiday lights on. Christmas, as a liturgical season, doesn’t end until next Sunday – the Baptism of the LORD. So, with my prioress, I urge you to keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart – keep wishing one another a “merry Christmas.” Don’t worry if folks don’t get it. It’s the wish from your heart that carries the blessing.

Today, I’m thinking on the Epiphany. American Catholics celebrated this feast yesterday, but the rest of the Catholic world will celebrate tomorrow, January 6th. In many countries it’s called, tres reyes, or “three kings.” This feast is multi-layered and a never-ending source for our contemplation. Three foreign visitors bring gifts to the Christ child – the long-awaited “king” who has entered the world to redeem us. The Christ comes for all peoples everywhere. The star that guides their way indicates some primordial plan for our salvation. The heavens obey the cycles of time and space yet, therein, lay a plan for that night so long ago.

The word “epiphany” has several meanings. Miriam-Webster says:
1capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ2: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being3 a (1): a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b: a revealing scene or moment

The first definition refers specifically to the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem, but an “epiphany” can be any revelation of the divine to the human. Our Eastern brothers and sisters emphasize the Baptism of the LORD in the river Jordan as the ultimate revelation of Jesus as Son of God. Both feasts cast a glorious light. Both astound the on-lookers and confirm the faith of those who have followed the breadcrumbs scattered in the long history of the Chosen People.

Epiphanies can be personal, too. The GOD who came a homeless baby, who humbly knelt in the waters of the Jordan – this same GOD – comes to each of us. Those indescribable moments of grace and illumination, the unexplained knowing that we are undeniably loved, these small, personal epiphanies are the stuff of our faith. The ordinary journey is punctuated with more than we can count. If we could be always attuned to the grace that surrounds our days…what would we see? Whose voice would we hear? He still comes in the flesh of our sisters and brothers, in the winter sunset of purple and blue and at the last breath of one whom we love. For these Christmas mysteries and for all the epiphanies in our lives, we must give thanks. “I play for my drum for Him, ba-rum-pa-pum-pum, I play my best for Him, ba-rum-pa-pum-pum, rum-pa-pum-pum, rum-pa-pum-pum.”

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki