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It’s happening again: the blooming of the summer snowflake viburnum shrub outside my study window; its fresh pointed leaves give way to showy blossoms preening in the sunshine and attracting honey bees and occasional sparrows. 

From a distance, the swirls of whiteness suggest a frigid season long since passed. When we had planted the shrub, then about three feet tall, I wondered how many springs I would delight in its flowering. I would find out.

For six winters, I had shivered as drenching rains and ice storms pommeled the shrub, encrusting its lower branches within snow banks next to the house—Even found myself speaking words of encouragement to it, knowing I would have to be patient and wait. And the summer snowflake viburnum continued kept coming back, only taller, larger, and filled with more blossoms.

Like the summer snowflake viburnum, I wonder how many more growth cycles I must experience before going home. I feel ready but more winters could still lie ahead, and with them, even deeper learning.

Far more than a pumpkin patch, its orangeness quickened my psyche: an advancing color calling for a response. The components of the photo are simple: the bright dawn awakening the world, the solitary farm with its irrigation system, the plumpness of innumerable pumpkins no longer tethered to vines—a bountiful harvest with its delicious yield.

Yes, bountiful, that’s the word: its dynamism inspirits the color orange and gladdens hearts.

If acres of ripening pumpkins receive such care, what can we say about the bountifulness in our lives?

Their Source is the same.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” I fidgeted with the laminated card containing the vow formula—almost dropped it on my lap as I struggled to regain awareness of what I was doing. I was twenty-nine years old.

It was July 22, 1965, feast day of St. Mary Magdalen, a steamy morning in the fan-cooled Gothic chapel of the Motherhouse in Rome, Italy. Perspiration filmed sallow cheeks within my frilled cap, hunger scoured my innards, and skirts of my Sunday habit covered my polished Oxfords. Behind us, knelt families and friends gathered to witness our final profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience, until death, in our community.

Despite worsening stiffness in my knees and generalized malaise, I had completed five months of probation, the final formation and testing before taking this step. Conferences on the Rule and Constitutions—although in French, the universal language of the community—long hours of prayer and reflection, and direction with the Superior had spirited me toward this oblation, I perceived as God’s will.

Yet, emptiness smacked within the fissures of my psyche as I continued reading the vow formula. Where was my heart? Did I ever have one or had I been pretending all along? Who was this inner stranger, scowling at me? I was supposed to be happy.

As it turned out, seventeen years later I left the community to search for my heart, an arduous process more austere than practiced as a nun.

In the midst of another formation, this time in hospice, I’m preparing for another oblation that will jettison me from all forms of death into the arms of my Beloved. To Him, I’ll offer my scarred, but graced, heart. This is working out…

 

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