Ask Sister

AS239 Do Protestants have saints, does the Mass need updating if people leave early, how do I know God wants me to enter religious life, 54-day novenas

Podcast Recorded: May 13, 2022
Ask Sister
Description

Join Sister Shannon and Sister Maxine for lively conversation in response to listener questions! Topics: Do Protestants have saints, does the Mass need updating if people leave early, how do I know God wants me to enter religious life, 54-day novenas

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Show Notes

(2:33) Listener question: Do Protestants have saints?

(4:19) The Catholic road to sainthood  

(7:07) The communion of saints  

(14:34) Listener question: A friend of mine says that when a lot of people leave Mass right after Communion, it's a sign that some updating about the Mass is needed for parishioners. Is that true? And if it is, why?

(15:58) The Sunday Mass obligation

(19:16) The Vatican II perspective  

(26:37) Listener question: I know I want to become a sister. I don't want to start the discernment process yet, but would like to visit a community to see if that can help me get my calling. What are your thoughts about this?

(27:07) Signs from God

(30:01) What do you mean by “discernment?”  

(32:25) Joining the community

(37:26) A 54-day novena

 

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Transcript (Click for More)+

Sister Maxine  
From the studio of A Nun's Life Ministry, this is Ask Sister, a program where we take your questions about prayer, faith, community, ministry, and everything in between. You're here with Sister Maxine and my co-host, Sister Shannon Schrein. And today on Ask Sister, a Lutheran school graduate wonders why her college is named after a saint. Then a listener asks about post-Communion attrition. Is there a theological explanation why people leave mass after Communion? And finally, a listener is waiting on God for a blessing. But how will she know when it arrives? We get lots of questions from our listeners. And if you have one, please send it in. Just go to the contact page on our website, or leave a comment at anunslife.org. We also want to give a quick shout-out of thanks to our awesome sponsors for supporting the Ask Sister podcast. And you can help too. Visit anunslife.org and click on the Donate button. You're here with Sister Maxine, and my co-host Sister Shannon Schrein. It's great to see you, Shannon.

Sister Shannon  
Thanks, Max, it's nice to see you again.

Sister Maxine  
So it's been a while since we have been together here in the studio. A lot has happened.

Sister Shannon  
I am grateful that this happens to be the Easter season, the season of resurrection. The readings are hopeful. We lost one of our sisters about a week and a half ago. And she was our former General Superior and was my leader for the last six years. So it was a heavy loss for all of us. But the joy of Easter gives hope. You've had some loss as well.

Sister Maxine  
You know, I have. My mother died in mid-March. Looking at the Easter season now, there is a lot of grace. You know, she was a faith-filled woman, as I know, your Sister Mary John was. And it's a consolation, I think, for me.

Sister Shannon  
It is for me as well.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, for as hard as these losses can be.

Sister Shannon  
So we'll think about your dear mom and Sister Mary John as we talk today.

Sister Maxine  
That sounds wonderful. So we've got some great questions from our listeners. Our first question comes in from Lee in Idaho, and Lee writes, "I attended a Lutheran college called St. Olaf. But how is it that a Lutheran school has a saint?" And we had a similar question, Shannon, come in from Julie and Ohio, who said, "Do Protestants have saints?" So these are wonderful questions. We so appreciate hearing about your questions about the saints. And it may be interesting to know that St. Olaf College is halfway between Minneapolis and the border of Iowa, not far from where my family is. So everybody there knows about the college.

Sister Shannon  
So I think the first thing you think about when it comes to saints, especially within the Protestant tradition is that the Scripture makes reference to all of us who are believers as the saints of God. So it's a general term that can be applied to all Christian believers. But there are certain individuals who have devoted themselves and their lives so especially to the call of Christianity that they're recognized above others, and often called out specifically as saints.

Sister Maxine  
And I think in the Protestant tradition, it doesn't mean that if they have like a St. Peter Church or St. Paul Church or St. Olaf College, it doesn't mean that they subscribe to a belief that a saint is canonized.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. Canonization is a Roman Catholic process, when we recognize the well-lived experience of an individual. The church has a whole list of criteria they follow when they examine the life of that person. It takes a lot before. First, they're made Blessed and then canonized as saints. But I want you to think back for a minute to when the church was one. Up until the 16th century, there was one Christian Church, one Catholic Church. It was only at the time of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 that we began to split. Probably the church that was remained most like the Roman Catholic Church is the Anglican Communion. And they do, as we do, have a very similar understanding of the power of the saints as intercessors. They recognize them. And so they don't use the term as generally, as I would say, the Methodists, for example, who would only refer to some biblical characters as saints, but wouldn't acknowledge that, other than all people are saints.

Sister Maxine  
And so for example, here we have somebody who's asking it out of a Lutheran context. You know, it is the belief like a saint is somebody who lives in exemplary life, present or past. They're honored, but I would say maybe not venerated, as we tend to do.

Sister Shannon  
And within the Lutheran tradition, they have that same approach that all Christian believers are the saints of God. But they also recognize that there are saints within the Christian church, who pray for the church, who serve as intercessors, which is the way that we venerate a saint, right? We ask, in much the same way, Sister Max, that I might ask you to pray for me, I might ask one of those saints that's gone before me, to hold me close to God and to pray for me. So it's a kind of similar thing.

Sister Maxine  
And I think there's also the similarity in that, before the church began to canonize saints, we still recognized--as you say, back when there was the universal Catholic Church--we still recognized that the goodness of the example of a holy person all called to holiness. You know, there's a little echo of Vatican II, so I'm jumping around in time. But that those examples exist for us to encourage each other in this life of faith and the life of Christianity and our life of prayer.

Sister Shannon  
I think most Christian traditions, whether they name it as the Roman Catholics do or not, believe in the sense of the communion of saints, which is all of those who have gone before us, upon whose shoulders we stand. Those that we trust intercede for us on our behalf, and we have the hope that we will be reunited with them when we come into heaven. And so we have that sense of a connection with all of the saints that have gone before us.

Sister Maxine  
And so the naming of a college, the naming of a church--if it's Protestant, to have a saint name acknowledges that example, that goodness, that the holy people--recognizing we can all be holy--bring in our life.

Sister Shannon  
I think pretty typically the saint that is selected embodies the values that are significant to the community that's selecting the name, right? Either as a goal to become like that person or to recognize that they've lived their lives the way that we want to live our lives. So in our Toledo diocese, the newest parish that we have is called St. Pope John the XXIII.

Sister Maxine  
Well, I think I've seen that. It's down on the way to Bowling Green.

Sister Shannon  
It is, and he hasn't been officially named a saint for very long, but people that are alive today, remember Pope John the XXIII. And they recognized his wonderful life, and they honor him, and I think the community chose that name as a way to honor him, but also as a way to elevate themselves toward becoming the kind of person he was.

Sister Maxine  
Have you been in the church? I've only been by it.

Sister Shannon  
I've been by it, too, but I understand there's a picture, there's an image of him opening the window, which is the aggiornamento part of the Second Vatican Council, that he wanted to open the windows to let in the fresh air, but also to hear the voices of the people on the street.

Sister Maxine  
You know, I am going to do a little bit of sleuthing work. I will drive down there and visit the church and I'll report back. Yeah.

Sister Shannon  
That would be great.

Sister Maxine  
Take some pictures. Yeah.

Sister Shannon  
That would be great. So I think the notion of saints is a broad Christian concept. And within Roman Catholicism, we've organized it more profoundly in terms of the acknowledgement of individuals who are saintly. But there is a book in Rome, in Vatican City, that lists all of those that have been literally canonized by the church and the number is incredibly large. Thousands and thousands and thousands. We honor probably in the church year 200 or 300 saints. So today, for example, is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. And she was named a Doctor of the Church.

Sister Maxine  
One of only a few women!

Sister Shannon  
That's right. She's cool. And so we, in the church calendar, we can't acknowledge every single saint, there are so many. And there are everyday people that have done extraordinary things for the sake of their faith. And that's really what it is. And naming them as a saint is a way to honor. I don't know how you're thinking about it. But I would guess that you would think of your mom as a saint.

Sister Maxine  
As you were just describing that, I think, on my calendar at home, I'm going to write in the Betty Ann saint feast day.

Sister Shannon  
You know, my Uncle Si, he was my great uncle. And when my Aunt Veronica passed away, it was very hard for him. They were older, they'd been together a long time. And he sent me a thank you card after the services, and he signed it, Uncle Si and St. Veronica.

Sister Maxine  
Aww!

Sister Shannon  
I saved that card. I just thought, he gets it. He understands that the fullness of her life had been completed. She was now enjoying the wonders of heaven, as a full saint.

Sister Maxine  
And I think, as you're talking about that--certainly with my mom, and probably you with Mary John--that however we think about saints, they can be a huge comfort in our life. Not just an inspiration, but a comfort. And, you know, the idea that they are still present--whether inspiration, or whether we pray with them for something, that it can be a great source of comfort. You know, I miss talking to my mom. And so my prayers with her feels like we're together.

Sister Shannon  
Right. And I think it's important for us to recognize the power that our Christian brothers and sisters, as saints of the church, have for us. And to make them always a part of our life. I always thought that was one of the great wisdom. things of the Catholic Church: to recognize the whole sense of the communion of saints, those that have gone before us and those that have continued to live on this planet until God calls us home--that we're all one family. In fact, the Synod that's been called for by Pope Francis recognizes the communion of saints, and the power of synodality means to walk together, to be in each other's presence, in a sense to walk shoulder to shoulder with one another. And that's what the saints do, right? That's our goal in our journey: to one day be united fully with one another and with our God.

Sister Maxine  
And for folks who are listening, maybe they've been involved in one of those processes in their parish. It's a great moment in the church.

Sister Shannon  
Yeah, it is. It is very exciting. So, Lee, thank you for your question. That's a great question. And I'm sure there are others that have wondered about that when they've seen some Protestant churches with a saint's name. I hope we helped you to understand that a little bit better.

Sister Maxine  
Well, thanks again, Lee. And we always encourage people if you've got other questions, please send them into us. We're going to pause for just a brief break. This is Ask Sister, a program of A Nun's Life Ministry. We want to thank our sponsors and individual donors like you whose support makes the Ask Sister program possible.

Welcome back, you are listening to Sister Maxine, and my co-host, Sister Shannon, here on the Ask Sister podcast. You can listen to previous episodes of Ask Sister, and also you can catch our In Good Faith podcast on the website at anunslife.org. And you can find all of our podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Okay, Shannon, you ready for our second question?

Sister Shannon  
Sure.

Sister Maxine  
And it comes in, interestingly, another sort of Minnesota-related question, although Lee was from Idaho. Lou is in Minnesota, and she writes, "A friend of mine who has studied theology says that when a lot of people leave Mass right after Communion, it's a sign that some updating about the Mass is needed for parishioners. Is that true? And if it is, why?" Very compelling question.

Sister Shannon  
I think it is too. It kind of made me smile, the first time I read it. I had an image of those who hung to the back of church and made sure they got a copy of the bulletin to have proof positive to their families that they had indeed attended. But they slipped out the minute they received Communion.

Sister Maxine  
It also gave me sort of like a throwback. When I was a kid, I do remember seeing what we have since called the post-Communion attrition rate. And generally--for those who may not be familiar with this--what would happen is, people might even come in late to Mass. They'd be there and then they'd go up to Communion. And usually, you know, if somebody had their coats on--

Sister Shannon  
You'd know they were going out the door.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah--not accusing anybody or anything. So they go up to Communion, and then instead of returning back to their pew, and then waiting for everybody to return their pew, and then going to the conclusion of the Mass, out the door. And yes, usually they did grab a bullet and along the way. But there was there was some purpose some reasoning behind that.

Sister Shannon  
Yes. So prior to the Second Vatican Council, in the Baltimore Catechism, it was taught very clearly to all of us as Catholics, what were the principal parts of the Mass. In order for them you to be able to validly claim that you had attended Mass, which was an obligation on Sunday--

Sister Maxine  
And it came with consequences if you didn't.

Sister Shannon  
Right. Mortal sin, if you missed Mass. You had to be present for the offertory, the consecration, and Communion. You did not have to be present for the reading of the word. So often people came in late. They might make it in time for the Gospel, they might miss the first reading, it just depended. And once they had received Communion, they were finished, essentially. They did not have to stay for the final prayers, the closing song. And so people got kind of lax, I think, about that, in terms of being able to claim that they had been to Mass even though they hadn't fully participated.

Sister Maxine  
That was sort of a letter of the law approach.

Sister Shannon  
It was.

Sister Maxine  
And the consequences of not following the letter of the law were substantial. But I think, for the understanding of people as to what the purpose of the Mass is-- Like Lou here in Minnesota: maybe it's a sign that parishioners need to be encouraged. If she is seeing the post-Communion attrition happening, it could be a sign that the parishioners need to be encouraged to look at this a little bit different.

Sister Shannon  
Maybe there's not necessarily an update of the Mass itself, that needs to be changed, but perhaps the education of the individuals who participate in liturgy.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, because it kind of makes me sad to think that the parishioners would forego the full experience of the Mass in the community.

Sister Shannon  
It would be like being invited to a very lovely dinner, sit down at the table, eat your meal, set down your fork, and walk out the door. That's not the kind way or the gracious way that we would treat others who have invited us to dinner, right? We would have some chat after dinner, we would be glad to have seen everyone, we would have our goodbyes, maybe a hug out the door. But not just an abrupt finish and leave.

Sister Maxine  
That would be like going to a family dinner if you really didn't want to be there. You had to show up to save face. And so you do the bare minimum and then you leave, and you miss out on the richness of relationships.

Sister Shannon  
So I think the great wisdom of the Second Vatican Council really helped us to understand the power of the connection between the spoken word from the scriptures and the Eucharistic experience of Communion. So we began to talk about the Mass as having two principal parts, right. It's important to be present to hear the initial reading and to participate in the response to the reading and then to listen to the Gospel and to hear the teaching that comes from the pulpit. And then to offer the gifts, to seriously offer the gifts at offertory time. It's not just about collecting money at collection time, but it's bringing the bread and wine to the altar so the priest can prepare it so all can partake in the meal. And then sharing that meal with one another. And receiving that final blessing from the host who is the presider that offers us the blessing.

Sister Maxine  
And going forth together, hopefully renewed or encouraged. And going forth together after all of this.

Sister Shannon  
At the Second Vatican Council, they brought the scriptures into the council room and enthroned them in the center for the entire conversation, which had not been done previously. So they venerated the power of the word. At the Second Vatican Council they also designed what we call the lectionary, to ensure that everyone heard all the major readings from the Scripture in the course of a three-year sequence. So there are certain readings during Lent, certain readings during Advent. But in addition to that, there are three cycles of reading so that every three years we've heard essentially all of the scriptures. The Anglicans accepted the lectionary, the Lutherans accepted the lectionary. There was such power in its organization, and its preparation. And then they saw the word helping us to unfold the significance of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in the consecration. So the Mass was updated, Lou, in a powerful way, but what sometimes is lacking is people's education on its significance.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, and I think as more theologians have come into our midst--certainly, Shannon, you're one of them--that that can help with that kind of education. I agree, it's a reflection that maybe some of that kind of understanding about the Scripture, how it can enrich your faith life, how the Mass all works together. And for folks who are serious about deepening that relationship with God, using some theological resources, even beyond the readings of the Mass, to develop a bigger understanding of, of the role of scripture in our life.

Sister Shannon  
I'm not sure what the person intended, who shared with you that there needed to be some updating in the Mass. But there might be, behind that, the sense that maybe the priest isn't an engaging speaker, or that the songs that are selected, the liturgist isn't that good. And so if we would have more engaging music, or a better homily, people would stay for the whole thing, or we had doughnuts after church, then maybe people would hang around for the coffee and the doughnuts. But if that's the case, then it loses the sense of what I contribute to the liturgy and expects that when I come, I'm going to be entertained by others. Mass is what we make of it. I think we bring ourselves, we bring our needs, we bring our joy, we bring our sense of fraternity with one another into that experience of the Mass. And I want to stay for the whole party.

Sister Maxine  
You make a good point. You know, there may be things that are not to our particular liking. But that's not the reason we're there. Really. You know, I have to just reflect for a moment--like at my mom's funeral. There's a lot of great-grandkids. And they were trying so hard to be good that you could see, partway through, the struggle was being lost.

Sister Shannon  
Wiggly and tired.

Sister Maxine  
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And so, of course, the adults, whose very last nerve might have been frayed, they take the kid to go out and, and calm down. So all of these factors, you know. When you look at the Mass, I found that when kids do that, I feel bad for the parents, but I also celebrate the life of the child there. And so you know, when you look at this, and you look at the Mass, and all that it can do for you, and all that you can do for it. You know, whatever happens in there is you bring your whole self to it.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. And I think that it's good for us to recognize in our neighbors that maybe sometimes somebody doesn't feel good. They leave a little bit early. They're concerned about something that's going on at home and they need to rush but they don't want to miss Mass, so they might leave a few minutes early. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, people whose work schedules--you know, they might be doing good just to get there for 10 minutes. You know, that is very true. So for Lou and for all of us, that's a good thing to keep in mind.

Sister Shannon  
This was a good conversation. Thanks for that question, Lou. I think it's important for us to recognize the power of the liturgy and its significance in our lives.

Sister Maxine  
And it sounds like you show up, Lou, and you're present to the Mass, and we encourage you and everybody with you to keep doing that. We're going to take just a moment for a break. This is Ask Sister, a program of A Nun's Life Ministry. We want to thank our sponsors and individual donors like you whose support makes the Ask Sister program possible. We'll be right back.

Welcome back. You're here with Sister Maxine and Sister Shannon on the Ask Sister podcast. If you enjoy the podcast, then we'd ask you, would you please make a donation? All you need to do is head over to anunslife.org and click the Donate button. We would be very grateful. Our final question, Shannon, comes in from Cindy in Arizona. And Cindy writes, "I know I want to become a sister. But I'm just waiting on God to give me a blessing. I don't want to start the discernment process yet, but would like to visit a community to see if that can help me get my calling. What are your thoughts about this?"

Sister Shannon  
I smiled to myself when I read your question, Cindy. I was delighted, of course, to read that you are thinking very seriously about becoming a sister, that you felt that that's what you want to do. You were strong in your words: "I know I want to become a sister." But then I was kind of mystified when you said, "But I'm waiting for God to send a blessing." So I don't know what exactly your expectation is. But it sounds to me as if perhaps the blessing has already come in the form of a call.

Sister Maxine  
Well, that's sort of how I read this question too. Because I will admit, I was looking for a sign. When I felt called, I'm like, "No, no, it can't--this cannot be." I had very different plan for my life. And so I thought, "Okay, I'm just gonna wait for a sign." And maybe that's what she means by bless.

Sister Shannon  
Yeah, maybe a sign.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, like a distinctive sign that was just unmistakable. That's what it's gonna take. And then I'll do it. And she said, she doesn't want to start the discernment process. But, Cindy, it sounds like that's already been happening. Yeah.

Sister Shannon  
You know, when you bring up the notion of the sign, I think you and I talked about this maybe several years ago, but I'm reminded of the story of Gideon in the scripture. God wanted him to go and take a small army and fight against this giant army. And he wasn't so sure he wanted to do it. And he said, "If this is really you, God, then I'm going to put this piece of fleece out on the lawn and tomorrow morning, if the fleece is dry, but the grass is wet, and I'll know it was you." So he does it. And of course, he gets what he wants: the fleece is dry, and the grass is wet. And then he says, "I'm gonna put it out again tomorrow night. [laughter] And this time, I want the grass dry and the fleece wet." And sometimes I think we get a little caught up in, we want to hear God's voice. But then when we do, we're like, "Is that really you? Do I need to do this?" And of course Gideon did what God wanted him to do. But it's not always that clear, the sign that comes. I think there are moments over and over again, if our hearts are open, and we choose to listen, that we see the direction that the Spirit is leading us.

Sister Maxine  
And sometimes that doesn't happen just by itself. And that's why I think Cindy's idea of maybe visiting a community--because if you have a sense of it, even if you definitely feel this calling, there still needs to be some exploration done because it's not just you feel this way and then it happens,

Sister Shannon  
I think there are a couple of different ways that we could consider how she's using discernment here, Sister Max, because she already feels quite soundly that she's got a vocation. "I know I want to become a sister. But I don't want to begin the discernment process." So as you and I think about it, the discernment process is that initial decision of "Do I want to pick a different life altogether? Do I want to advance my career? Do I want to get more education? Do I want to do those kinds of things that will take me in this direction, but not toward religious life?" Or is her discernment process, as she's talking about it here, discerning what community to join. I don't know.

Sister Maxine  
Oh, that's a good point. I did not think of that.

Sister Shannon  
But maybe. And that would be an excellent reason to go to a community and visit, because you need to learn about their charism and their ministries and their values and how they approach life because congregations are different. Many of us, like myself, I had sisters in elementary school. And I joined the congregation of the sisters who were my teachers. I also had two aunts, great aunts, who were religious Sisters of Mercy. And I had a great-great-aunt that was in your community, Max.

Sister Maxine  
But it was just like, coming down the line for ya!

Sister Shannon  
It was! But I knew the Sylvania Franciscans. So that that was that part of the discernment was easy for me. I knew where I wanted to go. The discernment was more about should I become a sister or not. But I think that maybe Cindy is at that point where she's discerning--or not ready to discern what community to join, but knows pretty soundly that she wants to be a nun.

Sister Maxine  
That's an excellent point. Because if she's discerning the community, you know, then her notions here--you know, you're going to live your life in the context of a religious community as a sister. And so it is good to be very attentive to thinking about what community is going to resonate with you? What community is going to feel like home to you, feel meaningful to you?

Sister Shannon  
Yeah. Those visits are essential and getting to know individual sisters who are members of a community, looking at their ministries and how they engage. And I think not to get caught up in the externals, but really to investigate what's the mission of the congregation? And what is their hope? What do they desire to do? What have they committed themselves to? Are they educators? Are they health care workers? Or do they have a variety of ministries? Are they cloistered sisters that live in a monastery? How do they live community life? There are all kinds of questions like that, that need to be explored.

Sister Maxine

Yeah, and to take that long view to look at the whole tradition that that congregation has. Because you're not just entering religious life, in a sense, at this point in time; you're entering religious life that has a huge tradition. And you are part of that for all those years past too.

Sister Shannon  

You know, people joke when they marry someone, they marry their whole family. And that can be challenging. Sometimes it's the same thing with religious life. You want to dedicate yourself to God, you want to give yourself fully over, but you married the community--I use that term broadly, in the sense that they all become your family. So it's interesting and important to know who they are.

Sister Maxine  
And those family stories become your story. You know, Great Grandpa Jones, who did X, Y and Z, that then becomes part of your story.

Sister Shannon  
Recently, in my congregation, we rededicated a room, a very large room where we could gather, and we call it Serra Hall after Junipero Serra--long story. But as a surprise to the sisters, yesterday, we had a great reveal party. And what we had happen was that we got photographs of every member of our congregation that ever was a member: 522 of us, all the dead and all the living, right.

Sister Maxine  
That whole communion of saints.

Sister Shannon  
The entire community of saints. And a five-by-seven picture of every sister and when she lived, and then we put them on the walls all around this room, according to the decades when they died. And so when we opened the doors yesterday, and the sisters came in, and they walked around the room and they walked around the room and the stories that they told! And they looked at this picture of this sister that they had lived with at one time or administered with or was their principal in a school where they taught. And it was kind of interesting, because of course they were all in habits to begin with. And then the pictures got more and more colorful as those of us that are alive. And then there were the comments like, "I wish they wouldn't have used that picture for me. That's not my favorite." Was just kind of fun.

Sister Maxine  
[laughter] "My hair doesn't look great there."

Sister Shannon  
But I tell the story because the whole experience of community life is so essential, and who these characters are and who we lived with and how we shared life with them. And that part of the discernment process, it's not too early ever to begin that, to explore where you fit.

Sister Maxine  
And even the sisters, that you may come into the congregation, not having known personally, there will be something in their stories that will speak to your heart. I can't even tell you how many times that has happened for me. You know, I became an IHM--by that time, there are many IHMs who had gone to God. But I made a point to try to learn some of the stories about them, because it spoke to my heart too. And it really encouraged me in my faith and in my own vocation to hear that these are the women who have helped to advance this tradition and this mission that I now am part of.

Sister Shannon  
They built the foundation.

Sister Maxine  
Mm-hmmm. Mm-hmmm.

Sister Shannon  
It's powerful stuff. So Cindy, I think I want to encourage you to begin that exploration. And the signs or the blessings from God, you will see when you when you engage in visiting some communities or talking with some sisters. Maybe that's the next step.

Sister Maxine  
And in that blessing, you know, you're going to walk forward with that blessing upon you right now. And to not forget that, if you feel called to religious life, you've already felt that. Don't be afraid to take those next steps. Don't be afraid. It's going to all work out how however it needs to work out, and you can trust that God is going to do that.

Sister Shannon  
You're part of it. Yeah. Well, as long as we're talking about discernment a little bit, can I mention that we got a request for prayers?

Sister Maxine  
Sure.

Sister Shannon  
While we're here on the air, so that we can assure Steven--we don't know where Steven is from, but he shared with us that he's in a sabbatical year and he was seeking prayers and he asked for some very specific prayers of a novena, but not only a novena, but a 54-day novena. And I thought maybe we could just chat about that for a minute.

Sister Maxine  
Sure.

Sister Shannon  
What that kind of prayer form is.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah. When I when I saw the 54-day, I thought, "There's some ambition!" Because novenas usually are shorter.

Sister Shannon  
Nine days.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah. Much shorter.

Sister Shannon  
The word novena comes from the Latin to mean nine.

Sister Maxine  
Mm-hmmm. So if you've got 54 days--

Sister Shannon  
That's six novenas!

Sister Maxine  
That's like a supercharged novena.

Sister Shannon  
Yeah. Steven has asked us to make a 54-day novena on his behalf. And while we don't know if he has a specific intention, or if he needs support or prayer, if he's asked others to join him, we wanted our listeners to be aware that often people just are desiring the prayers that come from sisters, and we wanted to assure Steven that we would hold him in prayer.

Sister Maxine  
Yes, and for listeners to not be afraid to ask for prayers and to offer prayers. And, you know, when we think about Cindy, for Cindy to know that we will absolutely include her in our prayers, just as we will for Steven, in the way that we can.

Sister Shannon  
Everything we've talked about this morning, whether it's what constitutes a saint, or should we stay for the whole Mass, or should I begin discernment? It's all about prayer and prayer support and about the community, which I think we've brought that up many times already this morning: that we join with one another as the communion of saints, as those that are called by Christ, to believe and to pray for each other. And so all these practices--and there are many kinds of pious practices. Besides saying the rosary, there are novena prayers and there are other ways of offering sacrifice--we talk about almsgiving and fasting. All of those things for our own edification, but also for the edification of the community.

Sister Maxine  
You know, I hadn't thought about that until you just mentioned it, Shannon, that really that notion of community did go through all of these questions.

Sister Shannon  
It's really a theme today.

Sister Maxine  
And the importance of being community to one another, in our faith and in our own life.

Sister Shannon  
Steven mentions in his request that Our Lady will reward us generously if we say these rosaries for 54 days. And it made me think about the fact that we don't often call her St. Mary, but we call her the Blessed Mother, we call her Our Lady, we know who we're talking about. But she's kind of the ultimate model of what it means to be a saint because she was so faithful to her son, and to the call of God in her life. And, indeed, the reward comes from God. But Mary serves as such a wonderful mother and intercessor for us.

Sister Maxine  
Mm-hmmm. And oftentimes, prayer is its own reward. You know, there is something about the mere fact of praying that I think is like when he says, "Our Lady will reward you," I think prayer itself brings us that.

Sister Shannon  
Because it's the relationship.

Sister Maxine  
Mm-hmmm. It's a relationship with God, it's a relationship with the saint. And it's also, for us, a way to speak our heart. And, you know, sometimes there's no answers for the questions that rest in our heart, but we do need to say them. And prayer is a way that we could do that.

Sister Shannon  
That's right.

Sister Maxine  
I think I think Steven's right about that. Any prayer.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. And, Steven, we will hold you in prayer over these next days, and especially as you spend your sabbatical.

Sister Maxine  
And for Cindy, we'll keep you in our prayers. And we do encourage you: go out there, visit some communities. You're on the road.

Sister Shannon  
That's right.

Sister Maxine  
Well, Shannon, that is our time for today. Wow. I feel like we covered a lot of ground.

Sister Shannon  
I think we did. And what I noticed about it today is the connection to our personal lives, the connection among these individuals, that we're all, as the Holy Father would hope, walking shoulder to shoulder with one another, to change the church, to deepen the church, to grow the future church. And that's powerful, I think.

Sister Maxine  
It really is. And you know, for our listeners, one of the great graces of the questions you send is that Shannon and I are learning along the way with you.

Sister Shannon  
And making lovely connections. I think that's helpful. Each of us with insights into, "Oh, I never thought about it from this perspective, what a great way to think about it." So thank you for your questions.

Sister Maxine  
We so appreciate them, and always feel free to send them in. We also want to say again, thanks to our listeners, we so appreciate your interest in this podcast. And if you have questions about God, faith, religious life, and really anything in between, please send them in and all you need to do is use the contact form on our website. Ask Sister is a production of A Nun's Life Ministry, helping people discover and grow in their vocation by engaging questions about God, faith, and religious life. The songs in our program are Bits and Pieces by Wild Carrot and In the Deep by Jen Eads. This program is made possible through the grace of God, the support of the sponsors of A Nun's Life Ministry, and you, our listeners. We are so very grateful for your prayers, encouragement and support. Visit us at anunslife.org. God bless.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

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