Four years ago I spent the summer living in New York City, interning at a major news corporation and spending my weekends traveling around the East Coast. It was glamorous and fun, and I declared it "one of the best summers of my life." That summer, I met a lovely girl named Marilis at some Catholic young-adult events. We were the same age and we had a ton in common, so we quickly became friends and then each other's go-to wing-women. I remember giggling together over the cute boys we met and road-tripping out to Princeton together one crazy weekend. We were both trying to figure out what we were supposed to do with our lives, and we had a lot of conversations about vocation in the midst of all the fun.
Fast forward to the following January: I hadn't seen Marilis since the summer, and although we kept in touch on Facebook and with occasional texting, it had been a while since we'd talked. I was amazed when she announced on Facebook that she would be entering a religious community of Franciscan sisters the following August. I called her up and we had the longest phone conversation of life in which she told me all about how she discerned that this was her calling. It was a beautiful and moving story, but what struck me the most was simply the fact that this was actually happening. A girl just like me, someone who had crushes on boys and loved babies and liked to party, was going to become a religious sister. It had never really occurred to me that a religious vocation was a viable life option. I was so impressed with her example, and her story helped me take a good long look at my own life. I even thought about whether I should share her vocation.
After she entered the convent, we kept in touch via letters, so she knew I was married and had a baby. But we still hadn't seen each other since the summer of 2010. Then a few months ago, I received word from her family that she would be making her first profession of vows as a sister on August 14, which I was told is like her wedding (please correct me if this is wrong—I don't know very much about religious communities). The convent is near St. Louis, a five-hour drive south of Chicago, and the ceremony was on a Thursday (and Frank couldn't take off work) but I wanted to be there so badly that I talked my younger sister Maria into driving down with me the day before, spending the night near the convent, and driving back to Chicago after the ceremony.
Yeah... it was a really crazy trip. Maria gets my eternal gratitude for driving both ways so I could entertain Frankie in the back seat.
I was thrilled to see some friends at the ceremony, Lauren and Mary Clare...
They're friends of hers from college. It was such a pleasant surprise to see some familiar faces there!
The moment when my dear friend met Frankie for the first time, at the post-ceremony reception, was just incredible. We were both crying! She said, "The last time I saw you, we were both trying to figure out what to do with our lives. And now I'm a sister and you're a mom!!!"
She received her new black habit at the ceremony (formerly she wore a white one) and I have to say, she absolutely rocked it.
I will never forget the sight of her kneeling in the middle there, in front of the altar, wearing her new black veil as the vows were made. It was powerful and inspiring. Despite the craziness of the trip, I'm so very glad I was there to witness it.
The local bishop celebrated the Mass and gave a beautiful homily about the religious life and how it is a radical imitation of Christ that bears witness to the Gospel and serves the Church's mission, giving an example to the world. I unfortunately didn't hear too much of it, as I was wrangling a certain grumpy three-month-old in the back of the chapel. I did really appreciate that the sisters set up a separate room with CCTV of the ceremony for nursing moms—it was so thoughtful. Sisters for the win!
When we got back to Chicago, I drove home and then turned right around and went out again as I had promised Frank we would attend an Irish music concert that same night. I was pretty beat at that point, but I still enjoyed the music. Frankie absolutely loved it. That baby shares his father's taste for Irish music, probably because Frank played it for him incessantly before he was born.
(Sorry for the quality of these photos—it was dark in there.) In between chewing on his bib, Frankie had a marvelous time.
The funniest part of the evening was how every single person who saw Frankie had to make a comment. You take a room full of Irish Catholic people, who are mostly all from big families and who are all old enough to have grandchildren, and you throw a baby in the mix, and that baby is going to be a star. Some of the best comments of the night:
An elderly gentleman sat next to me and said, "You'd best be careful bringing such a little one to this kind of concert! It's dangerous! We brought my youngest son to these sorts of things when he was a little baby, and he went on to play in an Irish music band for many years." To which I replied, "Well, that would be awesome!"
A group sitting behind us asked, "How old is the baby?" When I said, "Three and a half months," one guy said, "Yes!! I was right!" It turns out they had all been guessing how old he was and placing bets!
A sweet elderly lady came up and said to me, "It's good to see you're so young with your little baby. I wanted to have more babies but I waited until I was 40 to have children and by then I was too old. Best to start young." I didn't really know how to respond to that, so I just smiled and said, "Thanks."
And then there was the couple who told me, "Just you wait, tomorrow he'll be going off to college!"
I'm not very familiar with Irish music, but Frank frequently plays music from Planxty and Bothy Band in the car, so I knew these musicians and really enjoyed their stuff. The baby fell asleep halfway through the concert, so I stood with him in the back, where it was quieter. It was a nice night.