By Sister Ann Letourneau
Each year as the leaves change from their summer green to brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow a memory from junior high returns to me. I am circled up with my classmates on a concrete floor in the basement of the parish convent. The lights are dimmed and pleasant music is playing. Sister Pat Stanley, CSJ is in a chair sitting outside of our circle meditatively reading as each of us pull slimy seeds from a pumpkin.
I don’t recall the exact words she actually spoke but now I imagine them to have been an adaptation, appropriate for a junior high school student’s understanding of Father Medaille’s Maxim 3:
“Empty yourself continually in honor of the Incarnate Word who emptied himself with so much love for you (Philippians 2:7). Make your commitment to live in the practice of the most sincere, true, and profound humility possible to you. Do so on all occasions, to everyone but especially to God, from whom must come all the blessings of your institute.”
Father Medaille invites us to honor Jesus by emptying ourselves as he did when he took on human likeness. Jesus never stopped being God and our goal is not to be emptied of who we are, but to live fully who we are while being emptied of ego traits that allows us to believe life is about anything or anyone but the love of God.
As I ponder what this call might mean for me in the Fall of 2020, the year of the pandemic, I realize this emptying of self has happened over and over again since Mid-March. I have been emptied of the control I thought I had in my life and the ease in which I lived. Before, I rarely thought twice about stopping at a store or whether it was safe to connect with someone in person. Now, I truly limit where I go and with whom I socialize.
I will admit that some days it is hard not be overwhelmed or to let irritation, sadness, or depression be the driver of my life. I am continually reminded of how little control I have ever had and that all the day to day experiences I have held as important are not core to who I am. I am humbled to remember that I am God’s and all the trappings and the comings and goings in which I easily get caught, are not core to being me. The core of me, of being God’s, is to be a love which is always pointing to and bringing God’s love to all.
Just like the millions of pumpkins who will be emptied of their interior in order for a small candle to be placed inside to light the way for trick-or-treaters or to bring a smile to faces who pass, so too I am continually emptied so that in my countenance, my very being, will light a path to God and feel the love and life of the one who, out of love, emptied himself for us.
As you carry out the ritual of carving a pumpkin this year, I invite you, as Sister Pat invited my class, to contemplate that which you need to let go of in order to remember that you belong to God and are to be a witness to the light of Christ.
About the Author
Sister Ann Letourneau, PsyD has been a dedicated Sister of St. Joseph for 34 years, living in Kansas, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois. Ann currently ministers as a clinical psychologist at Central Dupage Pastoral Counseling Center in Carol Stream, IL. During the pandemic she has been meeting her clients virtually. Ann also mentors the mentors of new members by serving as Director of Initial Formation.