Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother Frangelico Speaks

It seems that my own history is a bit in question, even by my own community. Both Sister Caprice and Father have asked me why I'm so crabby...oh, excuse me, the term is "snarky" (what does THAT mean? THAT doesn't come from Latin!), so I've decided to share with you how I came to be Mother Frangelico.

I was born at the tail end of World War II. My parents were German Jews, but escaped the holocaust only through a miracle. They arrived in America just in time to conceive me on liberty's soil, and so I was born American. They were very practical people, made even MORE practical by the experience of the war and survival, having lost most of their family and friends in that bloody genocide. And their introductory years in the United States, sad to say, weren't really that much better. But they survived, and they loved this country and they clung to their heritage.

But in my own youth, I met some Catholic Sisters who didn't care that I was Jewish. They taught at my school and seemed knowledgable about what I believed. I was a precocious child, thanks to my parents, and often conversed with the Sisters about our respective faiths. And they weren't like the other "Christians" who said hurtful things to me. I heard those same "Christians" say that the Catholic Church was anti-semitic, but I was on the end of more anti-semitism at their hands than I ever was at the hands of the sweet Sisters and other Catholics I knew in a nearby ghetto there in New York.

So it was that over time, I saw how Catholicism and Judasim were not juxtaposed, but the latter was fulfilled in the former. Slowly, I ALSO felt a call to join the Sisters. One of the great graces of my Jewish faith was the life of prayer and of respect for God and His desires. We have a long history of respecting God's law and His call. Look to the prophets!

It wasn't until I was 16 that I revealed my thoughts to my mother, who behaved as though I'd just suggested I become a member of Hitler's Youth! I was so torn by her response that I agreed to repudiate my previous thoughts, and marry the young man she and my father had in mind for me. And he was a wonderful young man and I liked him fine. But I didn't want to get married; I wanted to become a Catholic Sister. Yet in prayer, I understood the importance of obedience, weighed with the trauma of my parent's time in Germany, so I obeyed them and got married. And I did my best to put my heart into it.

It wasn't long before my husband learned the reason for my melancholy, which I'd done my best to hide. He was far more open to my confession than had been my parents, and as it turned out, he'd had a similar experience with the Dominican Friars near to where he'd lived! This served to strengthen our marriage and we both realized together that we were being called into the Catholic Church!

Yet...how to share this with our parents?

Well, long story short, they were heartbroken, we converted to Catholicism while slowly educating our parents and family and friends, and shortly afterward, my husband took sick and died quite unexpectedly. And I found the importance of family; even though we had a Catholic funeral, they supported me and they prayed with us and they attended the funeral. We did have children; one was a miscarriage, the other died in his teens, the result of things I'd rather not discuss at this moment.

It was then that I realized that my first calling was nagging at me again...to become a Sister. And so, after my period of mourning and of discernment, I entered the Order that had so influenced me, and I took my vows, for the second time in life, and donned the black habit.

But something happened after Vatican II...my Sisters changed. Drastically. I know what happened, but I was powerless to stop it so I obtained permission to leave that community and I went into a cloister (from the same Order.) It was only recently that I was released from the cloister, given permission to call into being another community, one in response to the world today, in which the youth are so confused. And so I am Mother Frangelico.

I tend to be...what's that word? Oh, "snarky" but that's because both my German temperment, family upbringing, and the fact that I've had to suffer much to become what I am today. And yet, the youth and even adults I see today have no capacity to make decisions. Decisions are survival. They provide life, and in our lives as Catholics, failure to make a decision means that a soul somewhere is hanging in the balance, or perhaps being lost because of our unwillingness to make a simple decision!

Know that discernment is not about a final end; it is about taking a particular journey and taking actions towards a potential end. Just because you, in good faith, take a step in one direction and are diverted does not mean that you are bound to that for eternity!

I am living proof of that! At the Easter Vigil Mass where I was received into the Church, I took as my Christian name St. Frances of Rome. And although I didn't fully understand her, I do today.

My brothers and sisters and sons and daughters....trust God. He knows where He's leading you, especially when you are in darkness. Trust Him.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My journey has led me to another community, however, like you, I had to find a way to tell my family & friends. What got me is that they all KNEW that I would be a sister! (how come they didn't tell me???).

Now I get teased... they call me "Sister Mary ______" (fill in the blank). For instance, if I fix a flat tire on my car, they would call me "Sr. Mary fix-a-flat" or if I start typing on the computer & type fast, they would say "Sister Mary types alot". I just figure they're jealous!

mother frangelico said...

Unfortunately my family did not see my call. But for so many other young men and women...family sees it first and responds...or not.

What Community did you join? What is your story? How did you discern you were called to it?

God bless you, dear!

Anonymous said...

I'll send you my vocation story when it is complete. I have to write it for the application process into the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity. LM