Ask Sister

Ask Sister: What does the Bible say about student loan forgiveness, can a woman with a life-threatening allergy become a nun, how do I know if I’m a believer or not?

Podcast Recorded: October 6, 2022
Sister Max and Sister Shannon
Description

Podcast hosts: Sister Shannon, OSF, and Sister Maxine, IHM. Topics: What does the Bible say about student loan forgiveness, can a woman with a life-threatening allergy become a nun, how do I know if I’m a believer or not?
 

 

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Show Notes

(1:57) The best things in life are autumnal
(2:25) Celebrating St. Francis
(5:34) The biblical stance on student loan forgiveness
(8:02) Out of the mouths of tweeps
(9:56) The workers in the vineyard
(16:16) The mutuality of forgiveness
(19:39) Can a nun have a life-threatening allergy?
(21:09) Religious communities for women with allergies
(23:49) Sister Shannon’s experience
(28:09) Challenges make you a better person
(33:17) I want to believe – but I don’t
(35:54) Can you choose to have faith?
(36:49) Faith vs. science
(43:39) The reality of the faith journey

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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 we're recording this podcast on October 6. Today on Ask Sister, we talk about forgiveness and college loan debt, topics in the news a lot lately here in the United States. And a listener wonders what the Bible says. Should everyone have to pay the debts they owe? Or is it fair if some people don't have to? Another listener asks if severe food allergies would keep her from living in community as a nun because it would affect the whole community, not just her. And a listener wonders if faith in God happens just sort of automatically to a person or if faith is a deliberate choice that a person makes. We appreciate the questions that we receive from you, our listeners, and if you have one, please send it in. Just go to the contact page at anunslife.org and you can email us from there. We want to give a quick shout out of thanks to our awesome sponsors for supporting the Ask Sister podcast. You can help too. Just visit anunslife.org and click that donate button. Well, Shannon, it's great to be back in the studio again.

Sister Shannon  
It is a delight. It's been a while since we've seen one another.

Sister Maxine  
It has been and now all of a sudden, it's fall outside, headed into winter. How'd that happen?

Sister Shannon  
I think Autumn is the best season of the year. I love the coolness. I love the colors. And it's my birthday month too. So all of it together.

Sister Maxine  
It is?! Happy birthday in advance.

Sister Shannon  
Thank you.

Sister Maxine  
So we have an interesting group of questions, as always, coming in. Oh, before we go there, though, I want to ask: recently, you folks had your celebration of St. Francis. How was that?

Sister Shannon  
You know, we had a really marvelous two days. And the evening of October 3, we celebrate what's called the Transitus, which is the transformation of Francis from this world to the heavenly realm. So it commemorates his death. And our college students, dressed as friars, enacted that as we told the narrative and sang beautiful songs. It was a very moving celebration -- actually made me cry. And then on St. Francis Day itself, that's a big day of celebration for us. And we had a beautiful liturgy, everyone participating, and then we had dinner together. And it was just a marvelous night.

Sister Maxine  
You know, I can imagine for the students from Lourdes University, that that had to be a special feeling, to be to be reenacting that event.

Sister Shannon  
Very touching. At the end, of course, Francis passes away. So the young man that was playing the part of Francis just kind of laid across the steps of the altar. And each of us passed in reverence to him as we left the chapel because you were so engaged in the story. And I don't know what that felt like to him. But it was a very moving for everyone who participated.

Sister Maxine  
I'm sure it had to be a powerful experience just to feel all that. There's something about reenactments that, first of all, makes them very popular, but it's because it's, I think, a participatory thing.

Sister Shannon  
I was invited to read the gospel from the Gospel of John, about the washing of the feet. And that was a gospel that Francis required to be read as he was dying. And that's a thrill for me, because we don't often get to proclaim the gospel. Typically, that's only the clergy that does that. So it was a thrill. And in that context, to prayerfully proclaim the power of that story was good.

Sister Maxine  
Wow. What a wonderful celebration.

Sister Shannon  
It really was. I love St. Francis Day.

Sister Maxine  
I wonder if wonder if Pope Francis celebrates a special way?

Sister Shannon  
I bet he does. It's his patron saint. Yeah.

Sister Maxine  
Helping him out with the big job he has.

Sister Shannon  
He does have a big job, doesn't he. I read a little blurb recently, because of what's going on in Ukraine and Russia, and the threats that are coming from Russia, they showed in the scene that Pope Francis was praying. And the narrator said he was praying to John XXIII, who came in between a nuclear holocaust, who prevented it. I think you probably remember the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy and Khrushchev and what was going on. And so he was praying to John XXIII to save us this time. That was very touching to me too. Whose feast is October 11.

Sister Maxine  
Oh, big month again.

Sister Shannon  
I know, it's a big month, lots of good things happening.

Sister Maxine  
All right. So, to our first question. And this comes in from Julie in Wyoming. And Julie writes, "I'm kind of ambivalent about the recent forgiveness of college loan debt by the federal government. After all, no one forgave my college debt, and I dealt with it. But on Twitter, there have been lots of biblical references to debt forgiveness that make me reconsider. What are your thoughts about this from a biblical and theological viewpoint?"

Sister Shannon  
Even before going deeply into a biblical narrative that I think would respond to this, I just want to say to Julie in Wyoming, that, as Christian people, we celebrate the goodness that happens in our world, and the goodness that happens to our brothers and sisters. So regrettably, this wasn't a time that it would benefit you. But how wonderful that young people today are benefiting from this opportunity. And I think it's a good call for us to celebrate with them.

Sister Maxine  
And that's a good perspective, too. Because, you know, even if this good thing may not have happened directly to us, the fact that it did to somebody else, that in itself --

Sister Shannon  
Should please us.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah. And we should probably make a couple of points here for those who aren't familiar with what's going on here in the United States around this issue. And it has to do with loans for college that are made through the federal government. And they talk about it as loan forgiveness. Now, that doesn't mean the whole thing is just like, written off the books. What people are eligible for is between $10,000 and $20,000 of that debt being cancelled. It depends on some factors, like what your income is now, and some other things like that. It was announced in August of this year. So that's -- unless you want to go into a great deal of detail, Shannon, about the college loan forgiveness program.

Sister Shannon  
No.

Sister Maxine  
[laughter] Okay. One thing I would also add is like, Julie in Wyoming did not mention what exactly the tweets were that she was looking at, but I did look up a couple forests that might give us a flavor of that.

Sister Shannon  
Sure.

Sister Maxine  
Okay. So one says, "If you're a Christian, and you're upset about student loan forgiveness, get out your Bible and look up the year of Jubilee. Forgiving debts that someone can't pay is literally the basis of Christianity." Then, on the other hand, somebody tweets, "There's a new trope emerging. If the Bible talks about student loan debt forgiveness, then let's, yeah, go ahead and consult the book written 2000 years ago and dissect obscure passages that talk about debt in another time, and another society." And then I have to say, Shannon, one of my favorites: "I rejoice today with every single person who received some loan forgiveness, I hope that there's more on the way, and I pray every day for it, even if I never get it, because that's what Christ would do. And I would know, I have a Bible degree that cost me $40,000." That's what makes that my favorite.

Sister Shannon  
It's a very clever response. Without loan forgiveness. Interesting, the tweets and the responses to this. It's easy to become jealous of others that have a benefit that is not bestowed on us as well. And so it takes a great deal of kindness and thought and mercy celebrate with others at their good fortune and not to be resentful of that.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah.

Sister Shannon  
So I was thinking immediately when I read Julie's question about the passage, we just had it read recently from Luke at daily Mass about the vineyard workers.

Sister Maxine  
Oh, yes.

Sister Shannon  
This is a parable that Jesus took. So the vineyard workers are invited to go and work in the vineyard. Later in the day, the owner goes to get some more and sends them to his vineyard. And even the last hour of the day, he invites some men that are just standing around to go work for an hour. So as you can imagine, he pays them and he starts with those that only worked for an hour, and he gives him a full day's wage. So I think the people that had worked all day are rubbing their hands together thinking, "Oh, boy, how much am I gonna get if this guy gets a whole day's wage?" And they get the same wage. And they're pretty resentful. And the owner of the vineyard says, "Why are you upset because I'm generous?"

Sister Maxine  
Although I can understand -- the other people, you know, they've been sweating all day. But I would say, in the end, you know, the whole generosity thing. That's a good thing.

Sister Shannon  
I think that's a message at least that Jesus is attempting to share with us.

Sister Maxine  
It's taking nothing away. If I'm the worker that started at the beginning of the day, it's taking nothing away from me,

Sister Shannon  
He got exactly what he was told he would be paid for a full day's wage. And he's just a little upset that somebody who didn't work as hard as he did got the same amount. That's the thing we struggle with in so many areas of our lives, I believe. We notice that somebody got something that we didn't, or someone got a raise, and we didn't get the raise, or they have a nicer office, or they have a better computer, all of those things. And we wonder there's the even the phrase, that's a part of our English language, keeping up with the Joneses, right? We want what other people have, and perhaps the message is to be happy and satisfied with the gifts we have received.

Sister Maxine  
And that's not to say we can't be mindful of the times when there might be something unjust that happens.

Sister Shannon  
That's right.

Sister Maxine  
You know, it's not to ignore that. I think what you're saying, Shannon is it's to celebrate when things go well for other people, and we may ourselves feel like we should have deserved that too. And maybe we did. But the fact is, if a good thing happened to us, we'd celebrate. If it happens to somebody else, why not?

Sister Shannon  
It's the ancient question of why good things happen to bad people. And we judge that on the outside. It's the whole story of the book of Job. And so many of the other stories that appear in the scriptures, because it's a difficult pill to swallow, really, when we when we see that happen, and we don't understand it.

Sister Maxine  
But when it happens to us, then good things happen to good people.

Sister Shannon  
That's exactly right.

Sister Maxine  
Now somebody in one of the tweets, they mentioned the year of Jubilee.

Sister Shannon  
Yeah, you can find that in the book of Leviticus. I'm sorry, I don't have the chapter in my head right now. But you can find it there. And it's at the end of 49 years. So seven years of seven, you know, they love those sevens in the biblical literature. Then slaves are freed, the land is left to be fallow -- the recognition just like our seven days of the week, and we rest on the Sabbath, the land is to rest, and all debt is to be forgiven in the Jubilee Year. In a way, it's kind of like wiping the slate clean and starting fresh. We still celebrate that in the Catholic Church, not in the exact same way as it's indicated in Leviticus, but special celebrations on the 25th and 50th years, within a century, opening of the Holy Doors and basilicas throughout the world and a recognition of the great gift that God is to us.

Sister Maxine  
Now there's also a passage -- and I came upon it, I think it was in Deuteronomy -- and it talks about Jubilee. But it says, you know, creditors shall remit all claims on loans -- I wrote it down -- made to a neighbor, not pressing the neighbor, one who is kin because Lord's permission has been proclaimed. You may press a foreigner, but you shall remit the claim on what your kin owes to you." So I was like struggling a little with that, Shannon. Don't take it out on your family, forgive them. But somebody you don't know, go and press them for it.

Sister Shannon  
There's quite a bit of that in the Old Testament Scriptures, coming out of a social structure that we hope we've improved on over the centuries, I think. And there's that tendency to want to protect your own. I can say something about my brother, if I'm upset with him, but don't you talk about my brother. It's that sort of attitude toward protection of the family or protection of those close by.

Sister Maxine  
Well, and plus, they're gonna see their family members -- I was gonna say Christmas, but at that point in history not so much. So that that kinship bond, like you're saying, and the awareness: you're going to see these people over and over and over again.

Sister Shannon  
Sure. And that shouldn't be your only motivation. And the motivation ought to come out of generosity and kindness. And it shouldn't matter if someone's a stranger or not. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan that stops to help a Jew, and they were alienated in society. And yet, he doesn't see that cultural background when he stops to help somebody that's in trouble. I think that's really the message of the Scripture is to take us beyond ourselves, beyond our petty differences, beyond our limitations and our lack of forgiveness, and continue to help us to grow in kindness and generosity with one another.

Sister Maxine  
So for Julie, in Wyoming, who had some ambivalence about that, would you say, embrace, embrace the Scripture, embrace the Bible?

Sister Shannon  
I would. And I think about the Our Father that we say, all the time, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us." There's this mutuality that's involved in forgiveness, and it does something for both parties.

Sister Maxine  
You know, it's, it's interesting, because I also think of the other part of that equation, which is if a person takes out a debt, there has to be a good intention to pay it back. And I know, there's a lot of controversy around the college loan issue about that, which we will not go into. But I mean, I had college loan debt, and it was hard to pay it off. And I don't think when we're talking about forgiveness of debts, it means you go out and run up as much loan as you can, and then wait for that Jubilee.

Sister Shannon  
Forgive you. Yeah.

Sister Maxine  
You know, there's some personal responsibility that has to be part of that. So I don't want anybody who's here with us listening to think that we're just saying, take out loans and whoop it up, and wait for Jubilee to roll around.

Sister Shannon  
Hope you win the lottery.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah.

Sister Shannon  
No, that's really true. You owe it. And this is just a generosity of the administration right now, recognizing that it's also, in some ways, going to help our economy. I mean, they worked that all out, those people that are looking at what's happening in our world, in our economy. And so it's benefiting not only the student, but it's benefiting the broader spectrum, I think.

Sister Maxine  
So, Julie, we hope that helps, and we'd encourage you to pick up the scriptures and take a read, and learn even more. Let's 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. We'd love to hear from you. And your input helps us create the podcasts you enjoy. If you'd please take a couple minutes right after the podcast to fill out a short survey, that would be great. And you can do that by clicking on the survey link in the Episode Notes of the podcast. And also be sure to send in any questions that you may have for Sister Shannon and me. We are always grateful to get those questions. We'll be right back.

Welcome back, you are listening to Sister Maxine and Sister Shannon here on the Ask Sister podcast. You can hear previous episodes of Ask Sister, as well as the In Good Faith podcast on our website and you can find all of the A Nun's Life podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Our second question comes in from Sarah -- do you want to --

Sister Shannon  
Yeah, let me take this one. Sarah says, "I'm 20 and seriously discerning religious life. However, I have a life-threatening peanut allergy that requires me to carry an EpiPen at all times. For example, I can be near peanuts, but if I eat even a trace amount it is dangerous. Would this allergy bar me from religious life completely? I'd like to join an order that lives in community and work in the apostolate. I realized that entering religious vows precludes special attention to an individual. Have you ever heard of a sister with an allergy like this? Sincerely grateful for your ministry, Sarah." Thank you, Sarah.

Sister Maxine  
It's a great question. And it she mentions in there a thing called an EpiPen. So for people who may not be familiar with that, that's something that if a person goes into a severe allergic reaction, it can counteract those effects.

Sister Shannon  
Right. It includes a medication called epinephrine, which deals with that severe reaction that comes in an allergy attack.

Sister Maxine  
And so we understand from that, that this for Sarah is a big deal. It's not like a food dislike. This could be life threatening for her.

Sister Shannon  
So you ask the question, a couple of questions that are really important here, I think, Sarah. First of all, would a religious community accept you with such a severe allergy? I would like to be able to say, of course. I don't know the traditions and backgrounds of every religious congregation. But my first reaction is yes, that should not be a problem. But I think your more interesting question is, do you set aside the individual for the sake of community and therefore sort of want to be able to blend who you are and what you can do and what your issues are into community life without drawing attention to yourself?

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, and it's what we might call the common the common life.

Sister Shannon  
That's right.

Sister Maxine  
Sarah knows that her peanut allergy isn't going to just affect her, it's going to affect pretty much everyone who lives with her, because she can't really be exposed to that.

Sister Shannon  
So first and foremost, religious women who have consecrated their lives to God, care for and love others, and particularly their sisters in community. So I think naturally they would tend to whatever your needs might be, and try to assure that your needs are met. And protected.

Sister Maxine  
Yep. I'm going to back up just a little. When you come into community, if you're managing this responsibly, and it sounds like you are, that's not so much an issue. Again, there's differences between communities. But once you're in, you know, that's your community. And I think that's actually what you're talking about.

Sister Shannon  
It really is true, it's what I'm talking about. When you're entering into a religious community, it's important to present yourself as you are, and to educate the people that you're going to be living with. I think that's a really important aspect of it, so that people can assist in protecting you from a severe allergic reaction. But you have the responsibility ultimately, to make sure that you're caring for yourself and doing what you need to do, you've learned to do that. So that's important.

Sister Maxine  
And that idea of being sure to share things like this with other people. I mean, these are people you're going to spend the rest of your life with. They're going to want to know.

Sister Shannon  
That's right.

Sister Maxine  
They're going to want to be helpful in whatever way they can.

Sister Shannon  
I'll share with you, Sarah, that I deal with type one diabetes, and I've been insulin dependent since I was very, very young, and that requires, the sisters that I live with, and the sisters in my community to recognize that as an issue for me and to be supportive. Whatever sisters I'm living with, they know very clearly what this means, what to do, who my doctor is, if I'm in trouble, or I need help. I don't try to hide it. But I don't try to bring it to everyone's attention. I think I live well with it. But at the same time, I want people around me to be educated to know how to deal with it. And it's worked out, I think, quite beautifully in my own congregation.

Sister Maxine  
So you talk about some education. That process was probably kind of a kind of an extended process.

Sister Shannon  
It was.

Sister Maxine  
How did people receive that?

Sister Shannon  
Yeah, in the beginning, of course, I'd go to a Christmas party and there wouldn't be a single thing on the table that I could eat, because it was all a lot of sugar. So time and time again, I would just quietly say, "Do you have anything that's sugar free? Did you bring some crackers and cheese since I can't have cookies?" You know, just reminders. 'Do you have any diet pop or something that I can drink?" And it took some a while, but they began to really become much more sensitive to that. And now, it's like when you're dealing with vegetarians: you try to remember to provide something in the meal that a vegetarian can eat that doesn't have meat. So I don't go to a party now where there isn't a sugar-free version of the dessert, diet soda if I needed some other option, because over time they've become accustomed to who I am, without completely focusing their attention on me. So that's a good thing, I think. And it helps them in a sensitivity beyond, to other people they encounter.

Sister Maxine  
Because you know, the common life doesn't mean that we all have to be a certain way and all of our health has to be absolutely perfect. I mean, I don't know if any human being could achieve that. But the common life is much broader, Sarah, than the notion of everybody has to fit a certain pattern of being.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. And I think we support one another. We have had sisters with other serious illnesses in our congregation. We've had sisters with multiple sclerosis. And we've learned what that means; we've done the MS Walks to support. That's what a community does: it gets behind their community members. I remember walking into a restaurant one day, and they had taken a number of our elder sisters out for lunch. So there were probably 10 of them gathered around the table. I didn't know they were going to be there. And I was having lunch with a friend. And we walked over to the table. And my friend Sandy was with me. And I said, "Let me introduce you to my family." And she said to me later, the fact that I had claimed them, all of these sisters in the restaurant, and I referred to them as my family, touched her. And I said, "But that's how I think about them. They are indeed my sisters. And so I am pleased to be included in their number." And hopefully, and not always perfectly, we treat one another, like sisters like family.

Sister Maxine  
And for Sarah, when you're considering a religious community, look for things that suggest that to you. If what you are looking for are those close relationships, to look for that in that community. Again, everybody has different cultures and practices and policies. So the things that are in your heart that you're desiring for your life and community, be sure and get some experiences with that community.

Sister Shannon  
In the future, if you do pursue religious life and you engage in ministry to others, your own sensitivity will make you much more sensitive to others who are dealing with allergies, chronic illnesses, things that are a part of everyday life. And it enables you to know yourself and your body better, which is also a value, I think, in religious life generally. But in ministry as we engage in it. It gives us a tenderness and a heart for those that have an illness or issue that they can't control unless with discipline. And that's a good thing and a gift, I think.

Sister Maxine  
You make a great point about that. Because in the question, Sarah's wondering, is this going to interfere in the apostolic, and in what you're saying there's the reality of No, it can enrich you in your ministry. It can make you more expansive as a person, more self-aware and aware of really, truly the needs of others.

Sister Shannon  
That's very true. I've experienced it so often. I've had diabetes for 48 years and it hasn't interfered in dramatic ways. But it is certainly something I wake up with every morning and go to bed with every night, which is the same for Sarah with her allergy -- always have to be alert and attentive. But that doesn't prevent you from being your full self and engaging with others and educating and being empathetic to others that deal with similar situations.

Sister Maxine  
Do you feel that that that is one of the things that one of the values or qualities --

Sister Shannon  
I think it makes me who I am in so many ways. I probably wouldn't have thought that when I was 23 years old, and I discovered it, but it has made me a better and kinder person, I think, as a result.

Sister Maxine  
Because we can always choose what happens to us in life. You didn't choose that, Sarah didn't choose a peanut allergy that's life threatening. It's how we live with it, what we make of it. You know, I think that's really important.

Sister Shannon  
And a good religious congregation is going to walk shoulder to shoulder with you and support you.

Sister Maxine  
Now, one more thing in Sarah's question: she said that she equates this with the vows, poverty, celibacy, obedience, those are the main vows. She said, "I realized that entering religious life, or religious vows, precludes attention to the individual." I don't know that this is an issue of vows, Sarah.

Sister Shannon  
No, I don't think so either. Community living is certainly the way we engage in living poverty, chastity and obedience. But that communal sense is a recognition of one another and supporting one another in ministry and prayer and growth and formation and in the spiritual life. It doesn't affect the way you live the vows.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah, yeah, I think the important thing is to find -- if you are looking for a community. I got to just say it sounds like it -- to find one where you do feel at home. That is really, really crucial.

Sister Shannon  
It is.

Sister Maxine  
Yeah. For you and for the community.

Sister Shannon  
Sarah, we're gonna pray that the Lord continues to beckon and that your heart opens to answer that call.

Sister Maxine  
Amen. 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 give a big shout out of thanks to our sponsors, and to 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 in support of the podcasts? It's easy to do, you can head over to anunslife.org and click on the donate button, we would be very grateful. We have another question. This one comes in from Eileen in Minnesota. And Eileen writes, "I want to believe in God. But at the same time, I have what seems like insurmountable uncertainty and doubt. Sometimes I feel like faith is a story that we can choose to believe or not. I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of that decision. I don't know if I'm a believer or not. I would appreciate your insights on this. Thank you." Eileen, thank you so much for that question. I can hear the tone of angst in your voice, and I can recognize in it that this is a very significant question to you at this time of your life.

Sister Shannon  
Especially the way the question opens" "I want to believe in God."

Sister Maxine  
You know, it's interesting to think of a faith as a struggle and we know it can be. We know it can be. But the desire to believe in God -- yet something is telling her no. You know, that insurmountable uncertainty. So she doesn't mention why she wants to believe -- if there's something that has gone on in her life. If there's some call she's feeling that she's seeking to explain herself.

Sister Shannon  
She sees some value in it. She sees witness of others who are believers, that have something that maybe she doesn't. There are lots of ways to approach this. The first thing that comes to my mind, Eileen, is that faith is a gift. And it's not a gift that's offered once, and only once. And if you don't take it, you're out of luck. It's a gift of God's grace. And it comes to us over and over and over again, throughout our lives. Opportunities. We have graced encounters with others. We have graced encounters with God. And little by little, I think that enables us to open and receive this gift of faith.

Sister Maxine  
And in that sense, I think there is a decision to be made, and it is, are you going to open your heart? You know, and there's an internal struggle going on here, right now, where one part of the heart wants to be open, the other part, not so sure. So with that understanding, are you a believer, are you or are you not? Which part's going to win?

Sister Shannon  
I don't know where the question is stopped or what's interfering with you, where it comes from. But oftentimes, I think the question emerges for people who try to think rationally about faith, and try to look for definitive proof.

Sister Maxine  
Do some analysis and charts and graphs.

Sister Shannon  
Some way to definitively prove there is a God when in fact, I certainly think we witness it through the person of Jesus Christ, but recognition that Jesus is who he says he is, is another gift of faith that comes to us. So there are some of us that are open immediately to recognizing in the beauty of creation the wonder of how this world works. Even if you come at it scientifically, the wonder of how this world works, that that either reflects for you a really ordered something something going on in the world, or a power behind it, that sets it in motion, that guides it, and brings it to order.

Sister Maxine  
You know, when you mentioned, like how the universe works. There's a there's a wonderful Franciscan author that may be of assistance. I think she comes out of a science background doesn't she does.

Sister Shannon  
Her name is Ilia Delio. And she is a scientist, and also a pharmacist. I think she's got a whole armful of degrees. But she is a Franciscan sister. And she's written extensively on the cosmos and evolution. And the bigger picture. She's a big fan of Teilhard de Chardin, who is another wonderful scientist, anthropologist, I believe, who was also a Jesuit priest. So there's so many wonderful things that he writes about, as well as Ilia -- that connection between the world as we witness it and experience it and the power of faith. One does not deny the other. Faith must be rational, in order to be accepted. Science, if we're looking from that perspective, causes us to sometimes have faith. So I've never seen an atom, but I don't doubt a scientist that they exist.

Sister Maxine  
That's true.

Sister Shannon  
I mean, there are parts of science -- I love astronomy, and I'm not an astronomer by any means. But I've always been engaged by the vastness of the universe. And I recently went to a shell planetarium show, and she was talking about this new camera that they used over time and taken these pictures that went deep into space. And what they determined -- that there are 27 quintillion galaxies.

Sister Maxine  
I don't think I could count that high.

Sister Shannon  
I can't get past trillion. But quintillion. She said, there are more galaxies -- which are huge star systems, right? More galaxies than there are sands on the seashore. That just brought me to the realization of the immensity of God behind all of that, and what that did for me was to deepen my belief.

Sister Maxine  
And the other point of that is, as with science, you may have some doubts about science. But does that mean you don't believe in science? No. Just like faith, you may have some doubts, because every thinking questioning person will. And Eileen, just because you have doubts, doesn't mean that you lack faith. You can have faith and have plenty of doubts, just like you can love science and sometimes question things. And things change over time.

Sister Shannon  
So, Eileen, if you've listened to this podcast any time prior to this, or regularly, you probably know that my background and education is as a theologian, and theology is typically defined with this short little phrase that came from St. Anselm: Faith seeking understanding. And I think that's where you are, I think you want to believe in God, but you're not at that point yet, of being satisfied by what you're coming to understand. And maybe this seed of grace is in your heart that has planted the desire to want to know God. And in right now, you're dealing with the hurdles that seem to get in your way in terms of its rationality, or why you should or what's good for you, but I feel it in your question, that you do have faith, and that you're seeking a deeper understanding.

Sister Maxine  
So I have a possible idea that she could try. I'm not saying it's a good one. But why not try? Because a lot of times, you know, we aren't going to know something until we kind of move in the direction, and then we find out, right? So why not try like getting up in the morning and saying, "I believe," and see what happens? I don't know, maybe it's just me, but there's nothing worse than being how she says she feels stuck. To me, that's the worst feeling in the world. And those times where I feel stuck, I can't move forward in any direction, because I'm just stuck. And so I think trying something might be helpful.

Sister Shannon  
Claiming it.

Sister Maxine  
And I think that's a good thing. And who knows, maybe then the reality of whatever it is that you're dealing with will show itself.

Sister Shannon  
If we go back to science, again, it's the experimentation process is what brings about revelation. In so many ways, it's the same about faith: the more we know, the more we're formed, the more we love, the more we're grateful, the more we understand. And I think that's true. I'm ever grateful -- if you heard the whole podcast, I'm ever grateful that a scientist discovered insulin in 1929. I think we can't live without both: we need the power of God in our lives and the security of knowing that we're not alone. And we need the gift of this world and the great scientists and educators and question askers that continue to help us to grow and understand more deeply.

Sister Maxine  
I think you're on a wonderful path here. And it's not going to be without its challenges. You already know that though. Which is where this question comes out of, and know that you're not alone on this path. Even people who consider themselves believers will be on that path of doubt at times, and sometimes very serious doubt. It is part of what this whole spiritual journey is about.

Sister Shannon  
We will ask our dear God, as God is revealed daily to you, that you have the grace and the openness to recognize and see the fullness of God's goodness.

Sister Maxine  
Well, Shannon, I think that's our time for today. The time always passes so quickly.

Sister Shannon  
Doesn't it? I don't think that the people that write into us realize how much their questions help us in our own growth, in our own thinking, in the conversation that we have with one another. It enriches us and I go back, and I think about some of the things that we talked about and the questions that people have struggled with and it's a real blessing to be able to participate in these podcasts.

Sister Maxine  
It truly is. And I find myself during the day wondering how this person or that person is doing, and praying for everybody who has all of these questions. I think they're questions that touch the heart of every single person. And it is a gift to have them articulated. And it's certainly a gift to be able to be here with you, Shannon, and talk about these issues that are so important in people's lives.

Sister Shannon  
That's right. Julie and Sarah and Eileen are not the only one struggling with these questions and we're hopeful that their courage in asking the question aloud will help others who listen to the response.

Sister Maxine  
So if you have a question, don't be shy about sending it in. Please write it down and send it to us at anunslife.org. We will be so grateful for that. 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 Eeds. 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 very grateful for your prayers, your encouragement and your support. Visit us at anunslife.org. God bless.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

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