Writing is an intensely personal experience for me. Being an editor and writing emails that are work related do not translate to my desire to write for myself. Journaling is tortuous for me as I edit, rewrite, edit and usually delete any self-reflective musings. Even just writing this blog post made me feel a bit queasy.
As one of the editors of ImagineOne, the magazine published twice a year by the Congregation, I recently put an email out asking for sisters and associates who might want to write for the magazine. Knowing my own feeling about writing, I wasn’t sure what to expect in response. I shouldn’t have worried. I was immediately overwhelmed by the numbers of people who felt called to write.
Hearing from over 25 writers who really want to write is inspirational to me. I was offered haiku, personal reflections, spiritual reflections, cartoons, and self-help articles. A bounty of writing within our sisters and our associates! Such a gift and a responsibility; I’m still sorting it all out.
One of our sisters sent me a twine bound folder of writings from over 60 years of religious life. Time fell away as I read of her personal challenges in the 1960s, her friendships and losses, and read different pieces on life as a Sister of St. Joseph. I thought that I knew this sister, she has known me and my family for over 50 years, but I was wrong. The depth of her experiences took away my breath. The pages and her writings felt sacred and momentous to me. I looked at her with new eyes. Unfortunately, as moved as I was, there was no place for her writings in the magazine. Her trust in me as a reader sits with me. Gift and responsibility; I’m still sorting it out.
A picture of our Sisters from the 1960’s
One of my children will be confirmed in April and struggled to choose a name. For most of my children, picking the confirmation name was the easy part. Who hasn’t wanted to choose a name for themselves? I love my confirmation name (it’s Elizabeth, by the way) and I always longed to use it. So, the reluctance of my child to make the choice was surprising to me. I offered books on the lives of the saints and encouraged him to choose a name that had meaning for him. Weeks went by and the deadline loomed.
So many saints to choose from!
Finally, I cornered him. “What did you decide?” He narrowed it to two choices, he said. One was the patron saint of his grade school, Christopher, and the other, the patron saint of music, Cecilia. Athletic and musical, both saints made sense to me for him. Sensitive to how others might interpret the choices, I mentioned that boys usually chose a male saint. He asked me if he was ‘breaking a law’ if he chose a female saint. “Of course not”, I replied. He will be confirmed as Cecilia. I looked at him with new eyes.
How does this connect to the sister who shared her life writings with me? Her name is Cecilia.
I’m struck by the links here between holding the experiences of two totally different lives and how they have been shared with me. I’m touched by the trust that is present in each of them as they offer their gifts to me and the world. There is a melody here. I’m determined to keep listening to is as it plays.
About the Author
Eileen Biehl is an Associate of the Congregation of St. Joseph and also works as the editor of the magazine, ImagineONE. She loves her family, good coffee, and Pilates. She’d like to love writing for fun, but she’s not quite there yet.