This week my mom, my aunt and uncle, their three boys, and I took a very long road trip–driving from south Louisiana to Ann Arbor, Michigan (and back!) in the course of six days. My aunt and uncle’s daughter was taking her first set of vows to become a nun and we all wanted to drive up for the occasion. You see, taking vows is to a nun as getting married is to most girls. So this was a big deal.
We took two cars and caravan-ed, which proved to be difficult considering my mom and I are slow, cautious drivers–while my uncle, on the other hand, has a lead foot. With seven people in tow, we had to stop once every hour or so for someone to use the bathroom or get a snack (which extended our travel time a good bit). After two full days of only driving, eating, and sleeping, I was so happy to finally arrive in Ann Arbor.
Since we had come this far, we figured we might as well go a little further to see the Great Lakes. So the next day we took a day trip north to visit Lake Erie. The next morning we attended the vow-taking ceremony, followed by a reception at the convent. Once the reception ended, we hit the road again and headed back south. So basically, this was a week of nonstop driving.
Driving can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to caravan with someone who drives like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. By the end of the first day on the road, I voiced that I could really use a cup of hot herbal tea. For some reason my 11-year-old cousin was quite tickled by the fact that I enjoy hot tea (which amused me). And so it became a running joke that everywhere we went, I had to find some hot tea. Multiple times throughout the trip, this child and his 18-year-old brother made me laugh so hard I was in tears. I had forgotten how hilarious boys this age are, since my brothers and I are grown and have lost that child-like silliness.
I was hoping that visiting the convent would be a guiding experience for me, as I’ve been struggling to figure out how I want to spend the rest of my life (single, married, military, religious, kids, no kids, etc.). Although I didn’t exactly have an epiphany while there, the visit 1.) confirmed that I don’t want to be a nun, 2.) gave me more respect for those who do chose religious life, and 3.) made me realize that material possessions and money are not that important.
See, these nuns own nothing but the clothes on their back; they never will own anything but that. The convent will provide their basic needs, but they cannot have any items or money in their name–everything belongs to the community of sisters. While it would be nice to not worry about money or be weighed down with material possessions, this lifestyle requires a lot of sacrifice. I’m not materialistic in the slightest, but I can’t imagine not having my dogs, cell phone, running shoes, or car (to name a few). And what would I do without access to hot tea?!
Our last night on the road, we stayed in the area around Nashville where all the country music stars and music producers live. The cheapest houses in this area are half a million dollars, while the country club is lined with mansions up to four stories high. What a culture shock to go from the convent–where everyone has taken a vow of poverty–to this town!
On our drive home we went to mass at Mother Angelica’s shrine, a beautiful church and grounds in north Alabama that is home to another set of nuns. As chance would have it, the priest talked about the importance of not hoarding material possessions, saying “It’s important to work hard to earn enough money to provide a comfortable and decent lifestyle for your family; but beyond that, do not want for more.” Jesus said to not hoard possessions; if you have more than one of something, give the extra to someone in need. If you have more money than you know what to do with, don’t buy unnecessary luxuries. Rather, give to charity.
I guess my spiritual lesson turned out to be this: no matter what life I choose for myself, I should live it for others. I should use my extra money to help others, rather than saving up for some giant house with 10 bedrooms when all I need is one. There’s no need to take a vow of poverty; just realize that you don’t need “things” in order to lead a happy life.
Sorry I went on a tangent there! These are my thoughts and reflections on the last week. I think I’ll go steep some hot tea now. 🙂