by Therese Ivers, JCL
The Solemnity of the Mother of God is upon us, and with it, the New Year of 2009!
I was speaking to a friend about the holidays, the good food and cheer, and she recalled her years in the convent during the holidays. People loved “their” Sisters, and loaded her community with food. When she had entered and saw all the goodies- pies, cookies, cakes, etc., she was very excited because these marked a special day in the convent. One of the older nuns told her that it “starts to wear on you”, which she couldn’t believe. A Christmas and Easter season later, she understood. Piles of goodies day in and day out (which had to be eaten because of the generosity of the donors) had to be plowed through. The treats became old very quickly.
A similar thing happened to another Sister at another convent. Everyday during the holidays there were so many baked goods and candies that she quickly found them to be a huge penance rather than something special. The tales of these two, though, paled in comparison with a story I heard about an active and very popular order that helps with the poor. The Sisters/Brothers would eat what was donated to them. They eat a considerable amount of food (donated) every day because they work extremely hard. What a person might eat in a day might be the amount they eat at breakfast, they burn so many calories. I was told that one time they had something like 5 donuts they *had* to eat for breakfast, along with some other food, because these donuts were given to them (and had to be eaten up). While a donut might be a treat – 5 of them?!!! I felt sorry for the Sisters. This was in ordinary time. I shudder to think what they dealt with during the holidays.
Moral of the story? Please, be cautious in giving sweets to religious communities during the holidays!!! Likely as not, they will give thanks to God for the sweet thoughts of the donors, but offer it to Him as a penance… Instead of giving a plethora of baked goods, please consider giving other items to show you care for them. If you really want to splurge on Sisters (this can be adapted for Brothers), you could send them flowers, books that they want, fresh or frozen nutritious meals (to give them a kitchen holiday), volunteer services, or some other creative forms of gifts. I know one active community gives their Sisters $25 a month “allowance” to spend (including for their personal vacation expenses!) and they have to return any balance at the end of the month… So, if they’re eying a $26 item… they’re out of luck unless someone steps in.
As we come into the New Year, we will be continuing to gather great resources for you and your vocational discernment. We have some exciting things coming up, and be prepared for great speakers who are signed up to be guests on our teleseminar series.
Christmas blessings be on you and your loved ones!