O.M.G...you’re a nun!
First stage of the return to Ottawa is completed and I am sitting here in the Porter lounge waiting for my connection to Montreal. I have to be honest, when I board a flight, I am always weary who is going to end up sitting beside me. I’m a bit of a nervous flyer especially for take-off and landing and believe me, there are many decades of the Rosary said during the flight. So I took my seat and hoped for the best. Shortly afterwards, a very official looking business man, probably in his late thirties, sat down beside me and introduced himself as Julian. He took out his magazine, some financial magazine with a headline reading ‘Become rich and retire’, catching my eye. That was about the height of the niceties until I took off my coat, to which I got the reaction (loud reaction!): “O.M.G, you’re a nun!”. He obviously saw my cross. Half the passengers on the plane turned around. Yes, he did actually say, ‘O.M.G’.
Throughout the flight, the presence of my flight companion did give me food for thought. What is it that makes us happy? Is it all really about working hard throughout life so as to have lots of money to retire in luxury? Here was a young guy obviously focused in life but was he happy? In the same vein, I thought how people must think that religious life is so bizarre. First of all, we don’t get to retire! (at least in our Congregation, there will always be need for people to pray before the Eucharist and intercede for the world!). The concept of being rich is understood purely in a spiritual sense for the riches we aspire towards are out of this world (literally!) More than likely I will go to the grave penniless because anything I own belongs to the Congregation. Some people feel sorry for us because of our vow of poverty. Often I hear it said: “It must be terrible to not be able to buy X, Y, Z”. The poverty we live in religious life is a poverty which ensures we entrust ourselves to the God of Providence. We don’t lack anything but we are always asked to be rendered accountable for all that we have and that includes our time, gifts and talents. It is about stewardship in all things. There is a phrase in our Rule of Life referring to poverty which reads: “We live simply so that others may simply live”. To live simply is very freeing because the greatest benefit is that you can appreciate the little things in life which are more than often the big things in life.
About half-way into the flight, my flight companion turned to me and began a conversation. At least this time he spoke a little bit quieter! “So tell me about this nun-stuff”, he said. “Are you a real nun?” Guessing this wasn’t the time for semantics, I tried to explain a little about religious life and the ‘nunhood’(his words, not mine!). Apparently I was the first ‘real live nun under 90’ he had met (again, his words...and probably exaggerated at that!). As the conversation went along, I sensed a deep hunger for truth and meaning together with disillusionment with the structures and ministers of the Church. During this Year of Faith, I continue to think about the mustard seed which is present in every person which can be watered with even just a few drops of water of dialogue, encouragement, listening and good will of another. We have many opportunities to welcome grace in its many forms, many of them hidden. Today, I was grateful to be able to give witness to religious life...and I am grateful for Julian, wherever he is! It is the questions of others which spur us to ‘be prepared to give account of the hope that is in you’ (1 Pet 3:15). So Julian continued upon his way and I continued onwards to find my connecting flight...both of us pilgrims on the journey!