I’ve not blogged for a few days because I left home without my laptop to spend a weekend in Burbank, CA with a number of Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary—known to insiders simply as “BVMs”—and some BVM associates. Associates are laypersons who join in the BVM ministry in a long-term committed and official way.
I led a full-day workshop on the topic: Days of Deepening Friendship, and it was just that for me—an opportunity to be in a roomful of nuns and benefit from their wisdom and energy. For me it was an easy retreat because I had only to introduce a topic and say a few words, and they were off.
Most of them were older than me, and I knew that they already bested me in life experience and the wisdom it brings. Also, a number of them had spent years in classroom teaching. Nothing silly or contrived would work in this crowd (not that I strive to be silly or contrived elsewhere). I dared to use Scripture stories, knowing that these women (and a couple of men) had probably read, studied, and presented these stories many more times than I had. This was just the sort of situation that compels a person to rely on the Holy Spirit. I was not disappointed.
What makes for wisdom? Judging from my time with the BVMs:
- Openness to learn, even from someone younger, even when you’ve covered this topic a hundred times.
- The humility to ask questions—to admit in the first place that you have them—and to struggle with those questions out in the open.
- The dedication to community, the understanding that holy work always happens in the context of conversation, acceptance, help, communication, and cooperation.
- The love for life with God, whether as a vowed religious or as a layperson. More than one of the women had been nuns early in life, left the convent during the 60s and 70s, embarked upon family and career, only to return as associates—still in love with the mission, the community, and the Christ who remains at its center.
I confess that we sang “Alleluia” even though you’re not supposed to use that word during Lent. I also confess that the weekend was declared “Lent-exempt” in terms of eating sweets (this was reiterated by one of our leaders when hotel staff brought in fresh-baked cookies). But it was a true Lenten experience, in which we explored our inner worlds, described and named that terrain, and kept walking toward Easter.
Copyright © 2010 V.H. Wright