But I have a somewhat anticlimactic announcement: I still haven't got a visa. This means I'll be back in America a heck of a lot sooner than expected-- months instead of years-- to go to the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles and apply for it. I have no idea exactly when or for how long I'll be back, but I can only stay in Italy for three months as a tourist, so I'll leave in January or before. I'll try to post on this blog then and say hi. :) As for why I don't have a visa yet, I don't even know the full story but I think it has something to do with someone forgetting that the Vatican is run by Italians. ;) Meanwhile everything else is the same; I'm heading to Italy on Friday and two other girls and I are officially being received by the order as postulants on the Feast of Christ the King, which is October 31 this year in the old calendar.
It's been a hectic week, but with many lovely moments. Some of my friends came over for dinner and I was able to palm off many of my books on them-- it's satisfying to know they'll go where they might be read. Most of my favorite books and a bunch I haven't been able to read yet will be coming with me to the convent to be added to the library there.
My sister arranged for some photographer friends of hers to take pictures of the whole family at our favorite beach-- here we are about to get kicked off the lifeguard tower. :) 'Twas a nice day, bringing back many sweet childhood memories. I was the terror of the sand crabs.
On Saturday I had a last meal with a friend whose current project is chalking out Gallifreyan symbols to be painted on her living room wall. You either get it or you don't. :) I wish I could keep up with all the things she'll get herself into when I'm in the convent!
Then there was my last Sunday Mass at St. Peter Chanel. I sat in the second row and remembered one of my first Sundays, in early January 2007, almost four years ago. I had an appointment with one of the priests before Mass and I told him why I wanted to become Catholic. I was concerned I'd have to wait a long time because I was joining SPC's RCIA class halfway through, but since I pretty well knew what they were teaching already, and my sponsor could catch me up on the rest, Fr. John said he couldn't see any obstacles to me being received into the Church at Easter. I was thrilled to hear it and went into the church, where I knelt in the second row and prayed: "Dear Lord, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you thank you. I'm very happy. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou...." From that day to this, wow. :) I'll miss the parish where I've received so many blessings.
It was Fr. Craig, my spiritual director, saying Mass last Sunday, and when he saw me he called me up front at the end, told the congregation I was headed to a convent, made them all pray for me (especially for the gift of languages!) and gave me a blessing. Afterwards several people came by to congratulate me and promise to pray for me. One told me that she had a cousin with almost the same first and last name as me-- one letter off-- who died a year ago on the same day I'm leaving. She felt it meant something good. :) Two other women had tears in their eyes; one hugged me and wouldn't let go. It was... humbling, to see how happy and grateful they seemed that I was going to be a nun, because although I do want to serve the Church and pray for everybody, I think most of my discernment has been about what will make me happiest. "Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it"-- I feel like I'm just making the prudential decision, grabbing for the biggest prize. I'd be a fool not to do it and I'm really grateful that God is giving me the gift of a religious vocation. But the people who congratulated me reminded me of how connected we all are, how by doing God's will we can lift each other up. I've felt that way before. When I see others living their lives faithfully, raising their children or helping others or patiently accepting the suffering that falls to their lot, I feel like it's enriching me, even if I don't seem to be directly affected.
On Sunday afternoon Peter and Tam had a farewell party for me and I got to stay and chat with people well into the evening. They have six beautiful kids and they invited over other families even larger, so the house was full of life. Peter told everyone about the first time he'd met me. "It was right after the Christmas Midnight Mass in 2006, and I was holding Therese who was just a little baby, and I saw this girl walking around looking at everything, so I said, 'Hi, you must be new!'"
I remember that night, meeting Peter and his sweet little baby. She's now big enough to make me a farewell card:
Her big sis Maria too!
Both of them have depicted people sitting around the tabernacle at St. Peter Chanel. :)
As for my adult friends, they've been having Masses said for me, at St. Peter Chanel, St. Pius V, and St. Margaret Mary in Oakland. Most will be said in November right after I leave, so if I'm not inundated with grace in my first month at the convent, it won't be my friends' fault! I'm really glad they're doing it.
I also got a very cool card from Fr. Antolini, an Italian who's old enough to remember being bombed in Rome in World War II. He wrote his card in Italian, French, English, and Spanish, and all of it upside down. You'd have to know Fr. Antolini to know how typical that is. :)
The party ended with Peter and Tam giving Mom and me four very big suitcases for our trip. Exactly what we needed to haul around the four pairs of shoes, two pairs of boots, sheets and towels and a pillow, dozens of books, and all the other stuff I'm taking. It was a relief to get them; we didn't really have a good solution before that.
So that was the party. On Monday I worked in such a frenzy that a friend who called for a last-minute goodbye thought I must be sick (I'm doing better now, Rachel!) I spent much of yesterday stressing about the visa (though it was flattering when I called the Papal Nunciature in Washington D.C. and they said they knew who I was because they'd just received the nota verbale from the Vatican about me... but the bottom line was there's no way that nota and the letter from the Nuncio will get to the Italian Consulate in time.) For a while I thought I'd have to return home right after the little Florence vacation with my family, but now it turns out I'm going to stay at the convent and worry about the visa later, so I'd better get back to packing.
I'd like to say something profound here, conveying my gratitude to God for the settled feeling I've had all summer that this is what I need to be doing, in spite of the various ways I've been stressed out. I feel that He's given me all the assurance I need. And I'd like to express the strong desire I have to be there in Italy, because whatever the life will be like, easy or hard, I've got to start living it already-- feels like I've been hanging around forever!
I've no time to express myself better than that, so I'll just say: CARDINAL BURKE! BOOYAH! Did you know he was the first one to bring the Institute of Christ the King to the U.S., back when he was a bishop in Wisconsin? He still ordains priests for the Institute; just one more reason to love him. And now he has a bunch of important jobs in Rome and the pope's giving him a red hat to match, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. :)