Antoine left today and invited me to visit at the seminary at Venasque, which is about 20 minutes from where I will be with Bob and Inez in May.
I went for a nice walk with Sister Pierre-Marie this afternoon. She is an inspiring lady with an amazing list of ministries in the missions. We had a wonderful discussion again tonight at dinner. There was Sister Pierre-Marie and I, Patrick, the doctor from Marseille, and another younger woman. ( I've learned that if the French do not offer their name early on the conversation, it is not considered polite to inquire. This is why some of the people remain nameless here.) This young woman, who leans towards Buddhism, has been with us for 4 meals now. Tonight she asked some direct questions of Sister Pierre-Marie about her vocation. Buddhist philosophy makes a presumption about life that it is always changing. I think that is why it is so attractive to people of this day, in France and even in the USA. The culture cannot accept permanence and so they, albeit falsely I think, accept Buddhism in order to support their inability to accept permanence. True Buddhism recognizes there is a path we all must take. It also acknowledges that changes can happen, but it is not to deter from the importance of reaching that goal of nirvana. Our culture offers us very little of a real goal other than a humanistic individualism and materialsim. And so there is little acknowledgement or even the value of permanence in life choices like vocations to priesthood, professed religious life, and sacramental marriage.
The discussion centered around the quesition, "How are we able to live with vows, promises, and committments for a lifetime in spite of the changes in life that are inevitable?" Each of us; me ordained 28 years, sister professed 50 years, and Patrick married 36 years, all agreed. We have a gospel vision of that happiness which Jesus promises to those who are faithful to his Name and to his Word. Changes do not offer us a new goal. The goal is always the same. The changes that come our way require from us new and varied responses in love and charity, for church, for community, for spouse. People find it difficult to make that committment because they often begin with the presumption that nothing can remain the same. There is no acceptance of permanence because of our need for convenience, and our need to put so many conditions on our committments. Sister put it best. For each of us there is a call from a God who loved unconditionally and and invites us to love unconditionally. So it is not about convenience, or relativism. It's about the daily choice to love no matter what. This is true in ministry in the church, in community, in marriage and family.
Tonight after night prayer, Frere Romeric, the prior of the Domincans, invited me to have the noon meal with them again to celebrate my birthday and to be the principal celebrant at Mass. On Wednesday, when I celebrated Mass, it was with the sisters, and a few local of the laity. Tomorow all the priests will be there. Its a bit more unnerving, but I think all will be well. I don't know all the chants, but the friars will all take that over I think. It was nice of them to invite me, especially since birthdays are not all that important, especially in religious circles in France. The day that is important is the feast day of our individual patron saints. To tell you the truth, I am not even sure when my feast day is. But you can sure I will finding out soon. Another reason for a celebration.
Also looking forward tomorrow to Skyping with Isabel Andrade, who will celebrate 101 years.
Actually its after midnight here - already February 11.
Happy Birthday, Isabel