I have often heard Catholic sisters and nuns say, “Join the convent, see the world” because many of us do travel quite a bit for ministry and mission. Along with that comes the always pleasant task of actually moving. You know what I mean — boxes, tape, clutter, dust, lifting, moving, renting, changing, bubble wrap, exhaustion!
Moving also gives one the opportunity for self-reflection, to think about what one is attached to, how simply one lives, what facilitates community and mission, etc.
As you might suspect, I am in the process of moving — like right at this moment. My computer is the last to go. In an hour I will be picking up our 17′ rental truck (the experience of driving that thing in Chicago will probably make for an interesting blog post!) in order to move out of my current abode and to a new house with another IHM sister where we can live and offer hospitality to our IHM sisters and others.
Chloe the Convent Cat is coming along with us, and as you can see, she’s a bit self-reflective too.
We’ve done a great job at sorting and donating stuff. It’s so easy to accumulate “stuff” so I’m hoping to keep things simple. I feel better when I have less clutter, less stuff to be distracted by. After traveling so much, I realize that most of what I need I can toss in a backpack.
What have been your experiences of “move”? What does living simply mean for you?
Here I go copying you again! I have been living at my family home ministering as caregiver for my mother and oldest sister. Well, we are only allowed to live outside of community to care for our parents, so my sisters have asked me to move back to our (current) motherhouse in New Mexico. (We are reconfiguring our 8 North American provinces into one, and the new provincial home will be just northof Pittsburgh, PA.) Anyway, I have already taken a trunkload of clothing to the local thrift store. I have sent one pick-up truck full of craft clutter, books, and clothes that don’t quite fit yet. Being 13 yrs in one place and 25 years in the same state where you don’t have to ship things when you move to your next assignment, I have acquired soooooooo many things. I think I will have a raffle with my 4th grade Bible class to get rid of the religious trinkets. My new assignment has me so jazzed. I was asked to be the Archivist! Whoo-HOOT! I had a taste of archive work when I wrote the history portion of my province’s memory book for our golden jubilee 5 yrs ago. I loved crawling through all those treasured photos and documents. I am so excited!
Oh my goodness! Chloe the Convent Cat is adorable! I’ve never actually moved, but I have been through putting a house on the market and helped others move. Not very fun at all, but it was interesting to see exactly how much stuff I and others didn’t need! And a lot of it was on accident and never taking the time to throw away or give away things. And also moving takes a lot of tears too. Leaving something that has become such a large part of your life is never exactly easy to do.
As for the living simply, I am no master at that! But I believe that through living simply, we clear the clutter of our lives to just focus on God once in a while. We focus on what the real value of life is and what true happiness is. How people can live simply? I think the best way that I live simply is through just stopping throughout the day and remember God. He kinda tends to put me on track on what I need to be doing throughout the day.
But I also believe that the “Join the convent, see the world” phrase has a deeper meaning than just talking about a nun’s travels. I’ve heard it before, but recently I had just looked into what it really said. Exactly why do people want to see the world? To discover themselves as a person. So I believe that “see the world” is another way of saying “discover yourself through God.” The world is a metaphor for yourself. If you search, discover, and dig up who you really are as a person, you become a little closer to God because you, youself, are a mirror of God’s presence. When you discover God’s presence within you, you are then able to see God’s presence in others. So, when you answer God’s call to become a religious, you discover even more about yourself when answering his call and can then become your fulfilled self God wanted you to be. With that new-found gift, you can see God’s presence in everything.
‘Have nothing in your home,’ wrote William Morris, ‘that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ I’ve certainly found in the past that de-cluttering can be a spiritual experience, so I’m in awe of Sr Julie for shedding her belongings until she can fit most of what she needs into a backpack. What would be the most precious belongings in your backpack, I wonder, if that’s not too personal a question?
Sister, Good luck on your move. My husband and I are decluttering the relatives home for the last 3 years and now I believe I will start on our own. Accumulation!!! A wonderful blog…I almost became a Carmelite…ages ago…but always wonder if I took the right path after 5 children. Sometimes my heart aches for the peace of the convent.
Susan, your last line made me think of, “You can’t take it with you (when you die).” When we were picking out a coffin for Mom last year, we found that you CAN take it with you now. Coffins now come with a little drawer in the lid were you can put personal mementos, goodbye letters, whatever in them. In the display room I saw golf tees, cigars, a deck of cards, crochet hooks, reading glasses, military medals, poker chips and gum. Yessiree, everything I’d want for the afterlife!
OK, I’ll be the weird one. In the last 22 years, I have lived in 8 cities in 5 states, never longer than 5 years at the same address, so I am well accustomed to moving. I can pack a box like nobody’s business, plus I excel at dumpster diving to find said boxes slightly used. I’m not a nun, but one of the things frequent moving does is force you to clean out all the junk, etc. I remember distinctly one day in the house I lived in longest when I had to clean something that I’d never remembered cleaning before. It was a while before I realized I had always moved out before I had to clean whatever it was (behind the stove or something).
My point is that the thought of packing again is so hard to think of, but reality is that we no longer live in a society where we can expect to stay in the same location for our whole lives. Even some of the sisters I know have had to move because of decline in their orders or a move to a new motherhouse. So it behooves us all to “pack lightly” for our life’s journey–something that is far easier said than done!
I had an emergency move last summer…I’ve never liked moving under the best of circumstances, but when it’s forced, it’s just that much worse. Stability’s a good thing.
Moving can mean so many things to so many people. It can mean adaptability, flexibility, willingness to go forth into the unknown. It can mean rootlessness, lack of “centeredness,” lack of stability. It can trigger hope, terror, fear, resentment, desensitization, passion, enthusiasm, letting go – a little death. To me, living simply means willingness to be.
Another Sister Julie: So your coffin can now be like a miniature time capsule! Do you suppose people will be digging us all up in 100 years to see what we buried with ourselves? That is just too weird to contemplate.
I have been living in the same house with my wife for 32 years. My kids are grown and out of the house. My only child at home now is Shelby, our golden retriever. I wanted to move many times, but, my wife says NO. We grew up poor, in small apartments, and we should be happy with the house we have. So, I can not relate to the process of moving. But, as a volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity, I never stop moving!
To avoid the clutter of “stuff” in my life, I made a rule for myself — for everything I buy, I have to get rid of something. Besides stopping that natural tendency to acquire more than is needed, it saves me money. Many an impulse purchase has been resisted because I didn’t want to give up something I already had.
I will most likely move before summer’s end, so I hope I do as well as Julie did. I will have time to sort, so that will help.