Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Spiritual 'Estate' of a Contemplative Nun

Sister Mary Catherine Parks, OSsR

"Put on the mind of Christ,
that is, his attitudes,
from which will flow
all his words and deeds.
Only then will we be able to say:
Now, not I, but Christ lives in me,
and Christ will say to us:
"Now I can make of you
a viva memoria of me."
from "A Pool in a Deep Forest" by
Sr. Mary Catherine Parks, OSsR

Sister Mary Catherine Parks was 'a late vocation'. She chose to follow her call to religious life and leave the exciting milieu of post-W.W.II Washington, D.C. where she met and worked with many who challenged and inspired her including Eleanor Roosevelt. In the early 50s she entered the Redemptoristine Monastery in Toronto, Canada - the place she expected to be her home for the rest of her life. But in a few short years she would be the superior of a group of six nuns commissioned with the task of responding to the Redemptorist invitation to establish a Redemptoristine foundation on the grounds of their seminary in Esopus, New York on the banks of the Hudson.

She was second oldest in the group. Her age, education, work experience, commitment to Jesus Christ and the contemplative life suited her for the endeavor. None of the sisters realized at the time that, hard on the heels of their adjustment to new surroundings and autonomy as an independent monastery, even greater challenges would come with the call to renewal of religious life following the Second Vatican Council.

Because she entered at an age well into her 30s, Sister Mary Catherine never expected to see the 50th anniversary of her profession of vows. But she arrived at that milestone and was joined in celebration by her sisters and members of her family. Upon her death, four years ago today, her beloved friend in community, Sister Peg Banville, found issues of the Redemptorist publication Spiritus Patris, in which there appeared some of Sister Mary Catherine's spiritual reflections. We have gathered those reflections together and published them in a small book entitled A Pool in a Deep Forest. I share here some excerpts, views into how one contemplative nun experienced moments of the spiritual journey and the graces with which she was most blessed throughout her life.
In the depth of my being, there has been, as it were, a maypole, and I have been indiscriminately pursuing the multiplicity of projects and activities swirling on its streamers: important and unimportant ones, personal and communal duties, and mere desires concerning myself, others, and my community, as though I must take care of all of them at one time. Now I must destroy this wild maypole and raise in its stead a tree of life, a Christ-pole, on which I will discover each day activities planned for me by the Lord, for there is no limit to the ambiance of his will; it touches the least thing in our lives.

To surrender self-autonomy and all our agendas to Christ so that he can establish his Kingdom within us is our only hope for inner peace, integration, and fulfillment as a person. The me that is thus fulfilled will then be another Christ. That me is then a shadow of Jesus and a prism of his love; yet it will not be I; it will be Christ living in me.

As I aged I hoped that I would be better. On the contrary, I find my lion, though weaker, still difficult to control. I thank God for his patience with me and pray he will continue to be patient, as I try in my community arena to make my lion and lamb lie down together, side by side, beside Jesus and my sisters. For nothing is impossible for God.


mema said...

May I ask where one could get her book?
Thanks your reflections.

sandy said...

how does one purchase a copy of this inspirational book?? I am on a powerful journey with the Lord and trying to discern a vocation. However, I am older and not certain of my options.