Sunday, January 07, 2007

Make Yourself Available

Make yourself available…

Mother superior has a wonderful little dog…well…not SO little. Like me, he too had been abandoned by his family at one point. Perhaps that is why when he came to the convent to live, he took so well to me. Birds of the feather, or at least, beings who had been abandoned, flock together. I guess he and I understand one another. And so we get along famously. It is a great relationship with one small problem. Every morning, rain or shine, winter or summer, day in and day out, no matter how many other people are here in our convent, he comes to MY room to get me to take him out every morning bright and early. And when his “bladder-larm” goes off before nuns wake up you KNOW that is early. Long before the sun ever gets up, this little dog gets up. I turn over when I feel him jump on the bed - open my eyes - to the sight of a very large, very wet dog nose about 2 inches from my face. His tail is wagging so hard, it is as if he is trying to embody the old “tail wagging the dog” adage.

At this point, if I may indulge in a bit of anthropomorphism for a moment, Mother Superior’s dog looks at me and says, “Ok. Time for a walk Sister. Your choice, in your bed or on the front lawn. Take your pick.” Now, I am not nuts and I am not Doctor Doolittle. He doesn’t actually talk to me. How do I know what he is thinking then? Simple. He has made good on said threat a number of times. There is nothing to launch you out of bed like a intercontinental ballistic missile like discovering a dog has used your blanket as a tree substitute.

At first , to say the least, I was not happy. As time went on, I allowed the little fella to depend on me, and I got a wonderful reward in return - unconditional love.

It seems, sometimes that God’s greatest commandment, though seemingly the most simple, is often the most difficult to fulfill - “Love one another as I have loved you.” Yet when our dear Sister Therese fulfilled God’s “New Commandment” she did so with joy in her heart.

One of the insights concerning this commandment, or charity as she often called it, was one that she taught to all over her novices. That is to make yourself available to people.

One of the great talents our dear sister had was painting. It was often that the other sisters would bring objects to Therese to decorate - and she always obliged them. She did so happily, even when they brought them to her at odd hours, during work hours, or all at once (as had happened when everyone got presents on a holiday). Even though some of the sisters would complain that Therese had done one better than the other, she still taught her novices this lesson…

“To make a service wait,” she said, “to promise it for later, means not to fulfill perfect charity.”

Before I became a nun, a sign hung over my desk for years. It read, “She who expects no gratitude shall not be disappointed.” Therese taught her novices this same lesson.

“When you work for God.” she said, “you don’t expect gratitude from a creature, and her reproaches can’t take away the souls peace.”

In other words, what she was teaching her novices, was that truly fulfilling Gods New Commandment means being of service to others. Interestingly enough, this is also one of the central lessons of Buddhism. During the day at Carmel, there would be a period called “Recreation” during which all of the sisters got together to share activities. What she taught her novices, was not to make sure they had fun during recreation, but rather to make sure all of the other sisters had fun at recreation. She taught them to do so with something very important in their heart…


Which is what we will talk about tomorrow.

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