Since I first got here a few days ago, I’ve found it hard to just chill and decompress and digest. We’ve had a pretty tight schedule, even for orientation, the entire week and what little time we do have off is spent catching up on sleep. Lately I’ve enjoyed exploring the town of St. Cloud, an extremely active community, with lots of parks, coffee spots and almost the whole place is bike friendly! I couldn’t wait to borrow one of the Sisters’ old school bicycles and ride around, exploring the town, and I got to do a little of that earlier today. I strapped on my helmet (of course) and rode around confidently atop my purple wheels, everyone waving to me or other bikers giving me a customary head nod. It was a special feeling!

The four of us – myself, Spencer, Adam and Will – have met more nuns than most will in their whole lives, and let me tell you what, nuns are the cutest, most compassionate people on earth. Each of them are eager to meet me, talk to me, know my name and hear what I’m up to while I’m here. The community with the Sisters is loving, palpable, virtuous and honest. These 200 or so ladies have been fostering intentional community most of their lives, and for 800 years or so. That’s how long the Franciscan order has been around, and it’s still going strong. So that’s encouraging to us, being able to look up to an actual community of people who love, respect and care for another. A huge community based on truth and grace.

Now there’s still some theological points of Catholicism I don’t enjoy or agree with but I have a deeper understanding for the Franciscan way of life, why they do what they do, why they revere St. Francis of Assisi so much, etc. Which helps when you are trying to be an overall more open-minded, understanding person. Which I am. I understand nuns and appreciate their community more than I’ve ever understood the Lutheran church or community… it’s so desirable. That’s because it’s intentional. These woman are purposefully providing, caring and loving each other. No one is left out, everyone is an equal (even “Mother Superior” has changed her named to “Community Director”) and everything is purposefully shared. Where else do you find that?

I think it’s easy to run around in circles trying to explain and attain this sometimes mysterious “community” thing, but what we’ve vowed to do is just love each other and let natural community arise, instead of obsessing over attaining it like some goal, since that can easily turn to idolatry and God knows I’ve put community up on an unattainable pedestal before.

Pedestals… it’s not good to put anything besides Christ on them. Not just that it just isn’t good, it isn’t right. Especially not other people, and I am guilty of doing that a lot. Not that I see people as gods, but that I place unfair expectations on them, and of course doing that means one way or another they’re going to let me down, sooner or later. I don’t want to place that on the Sisters, or other volunteers, or my coworkers this year.

I hereby vow to strive to keep this community and it’s people free of my silly, unfair expectations. And maybe to think before I speak. Tonight a few of us went for a long, impromptu walk in downtown St. Cloud and we chatted about our lives and theologies and how we’d gotten to this point in our lives, and maybe I was a little blunt or divulged a little more than I should have at that stage in our friendship, because our convos got very deep very fast. And that’s uncomfortable when you barely know people, when you’re most likely spurting out things to make yourself sound justified or super spiritual, like I do, and not thinking before you talk.

More and more in my walk with Christ I find myself “walking the walk” – praying aloud in front of others when my fellowship with God is really crappy, for instance – but what I’m saying and doing is a poor, poor reflection on what’s really going on in my heart. Isn’t that really hypocrisy? To say one thing yet do, think or say another? Lately I am really walking that fine line, that fine line of Pharisees if you will, who were the most notorious hypocrites in Jesus’ day. Tonight we all made the goal this year of not being one of those Pharisees by the time we leave in July.

Tomorrow we’re traveling to the Mother House in Little Falls where the convent and other Franciscan facilities are, helping around the gardens, hopefully harvesting something delicious!