In a little less than a month I'll make my first profession. The date has been chosen, and the invitations have been sent. The liturgy is planned.
And I'm not sure I'm ready.
Oh, I've prepared. For three years I've studied, prayed, and journeyed into the life of the community. I've been accompanied by sisters who have lived their vows twice as long as I've been alive and have tried to absorb a tiny fraction of their wisdom. I've explored the congregation's deep story and tried to remain open to the stirrings of Spirit within. When asked whether this is what I choose, I have wholeheartedly responded, "Yes!"
I'm as ready as I'm going to be, yet many days the commitment I'm about to make still feels like a total mystery. Although my life over the past three years has looked much like that of a vowed member and I have lived it as fully as I know how, professing vows qualitatively changes things. Until I begin living them, I won't know what that difference means for my life.
The closest comparison I can draw is my parallel experience of learning to farm. Earlier this year, when I was invited to teach high schoolers to grow vegetables and sell them in food deserts as a way to address the inequity in our food system, I jumped at the opportunity. Having volunteered at a small-scale organic vegetable farm before, I assumed I had some idea what I was getting myself into. I was very wrong.
Without a doubt, it has been one of the most physically and emotionally demanding experiences of my life. The spring has been wet, delaying our preparations and planting. Our field, which has been cultivated for only year, is a nutrient-sparse, clay-based soil that daily tests my perseverance and patience. More than once I have surprised myself by breaking into tears as I struggle aching muscles to push a wheel hoe or tuck a transplant into impossibly cloddy soil.
Slowly, though, I'm gaining confidence. I know how far apart to space the transplants and how to prioritize tasks. I know when to try to solve a problem on my own and when to ask a more experienced farmer (that is, a farmer with any experience at all) for help. I'm learning to work with the weather, and even to respect our difficult soil. I'm discovering I'm capable of far more than I thought. It is taxing, but I still love it. And I continue to say "yes!"
I'm learning to farm by doing it. I'll learn to make my vows, I hope, not only by proclaiming them on profession day but by living them anew each day.
So am I ready? The answer is still unclear, but I'm starting to think it matters little in comparison to my willingness to live into the mystery.
[Christin Tomy is a novice with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. She has lived and worked in Central and South America and has a background in Spanish and social work. She is passionate about social justice, good hugs, Iowa and most outdoor activities. She also writes for her community’s blog at catherinescafe.blogspot.com.]
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