[Second story in the series "In the Habit", inspired by the post by Elizabeth Scalia, Cheating the Habit of Being. It is through these experiences, I found the answer to a personal prayer in regard to the importance of the religious habit today. Enjoy!]
During Easter vacation, the Canossian International Missionary Volunteers (VOICA) holds a time of reflection and prayer at the formation center in Rome. The days are mixed with play and team building, spiritual talks and formation, and times for sharing experiences of mission. During these gatherings, I have had the opportunity to share my vocation story with our various volunteer missionaries. One time, I remember being asked, “Sr Lisa, when do you feel most Sisterly”.
I find that in my twelve years of professed religious life, there are many facets of my consecration that I love, and these confirm my vocation on a daily basis. But there is something special that happens when the Lord allows my life to intersect for a brief moment in time with another human being.
One day I was visiting Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in the town where I grew up. I wanted to touch base and leave some materials about my religious institute with the pastor. After taking some time to pray in the Church, I headed down the road to the bus stop for my return home. Waiting for the bus, I just pulled out my prayer book to pray, when a young woman came up and sat down at the other end of the bench. She seemed to be sizing me up, glancing over now and then, letting her gaze shift back and forth from me to the hands in her lap. She seemed nervous about something and just as I was getting ready to ask her if everything was okay, she suddenly got up from her spot and approached me.
“Ma’am, ” she started out saying, “are you a nun?” I looked up at her and said, “Yes I am.” She sat down next to me and began to tell me her story.
She was a young woman, who married just over a year before, with a small baby girl at home. She admitted to me her husband was a former drug dealer trying to get out of the business, and was having a difficult time finding work. She herself was on her way that morning for a job interview at a upscale furniture store. She was wearing, I’m sure, her best clothes, and in my heart I feared for her chances.
“I really need this job,” she told me, her voice betraying her own fear inside. “Would….would you mind praying for me?”
I asked her if she belonged to any particular church, and she confided she was raised Christian, but didn’t belong to any church. They recently moved to get away from her husband’s former drug connections. I told her that I was going in her direction and could accompany her part way. The bus came and we found seats near the front, and for the fifteen minute ride, I prayed with her. We prayed for her family, affirming that God was aware of her needs, and would always provide.
“Do you believe – that even if you don’t get this job – God loves you and will provide for you?” I asked, holding her hand. She professed her own belief in God’s providence, and together we prayed for today’s provision for her and her family. As we approached her destination, we concluded our prayer with the Lord’s prayer.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
With the last lines of our prayer I heard from behind us and from across the aisle of the bus, others praying with us. The young woman noticed it too, and she was deeply touched by the power of the prayer through the voices of strangers. There, on a bus, strangers united to pray for her and in doing so, consoled her and gave her new hope. Her countenance changed from that young woman I first met sitting at the bus stop, filled with dread, to the young woman before me now, confident in God’s love shown through strangers who helped her through her worry.
She hugged me as she got up to go, thanking me and the fellow praying passengers. As the bus pulled away, I continued to pray for her as she made her way to her job interview. Little does she realize, that in reaching out to me in her need, she helped me to live in full my religious consecration. It is here, in these moments, my ‘sisterliness’ becomes a vehicle for God to manifest His love.
This story is cross-posted at Patheos.