While it would have easy just to talk about the LCWR experience, she didn't even mention it. Her reflections looked at several laywomen's stories (contemporary and scriptural).
She told of a friend's experience in DC. A disheveled woman in mismatched clothes walked down the sidewalk singing / proclaiming / praying "Abide with me!" In her seeming inner chaos, she called out to God and took the next step, and the next.
She told of another friend and her husband, and their lovely, creative daughter who, in early adulthood, was diagnosed with a mental illness that makes her moods and capacities swing with wild unpredictability. Through the years, her friend, the mother, has been the steady, loving, tough, tender face of God to her daughter. In the chaos of the illness, she has taken each step as it was needed.
She recalled the story of Naomi and her daughters-in-law. In a time of famine and devastation, all had lost their husbands - and Naomi had also lost her sons. Naomi encouraged both daughters-in-law to return with her blessing to the homes of their families, where they would find food and security. One left - and Ruth stayed, walking with Naomi into the unknown, trusting in God.
Amid what may feel like or indeed be chaos or madness, these women of Advent waited / took only the next right step. A time of waiting. That's where we are right now.
What strikes me most deeply is, how I'm different from these women of Advent and the sisters of LCWR. Two huge ways: faith and hope.
I might get a passing grade on love. But faith and hope? Even if I'm graded on a curve, I'm just not on the same scale as these women of Advent, these women of LCWR.
Sister Janet conveyed absolute confidence that even within chaos is a spark of the divine that will ignite and create warmth and light - but not in a predictable way or on a predictable timeframe.
That's why it's so important to me for me to read and listen to the sisters and to others who offer this Advent message of taking just the next step, in faith and hope, with no clarity or certainty about the step after that. It's downright un-American. But it's so often the right choice.
Catholic sisters right now show me that real people in profoundly challenging situations DO, in fact, respond with faith and hope. And with love big enough to absorb at least some of the violence without responding.