Sister, I have a question!

“Sister, I have a question.”

These words fill me with a whole array of emotions: fear, curiosity, trepidation, excitement, and eagerness. 

And I must say, I hear these words a lot – most especially on the days when we journey to Athens, OH to be present for activities at the Newman Center at Ohio University.

Just last week, Sr. Maria Pio and I went down for the last Newman Night of the semester. As dinner was wrapping up, a freshman girl came and sat next to me, looked me in the eye, and said it: “Sister, I have a question” – and we were off! 

We passed through a whole range of topics in the next twenty or thirty minutes, from the nature of prayer (Why do we pray at all? What if God doesn’t want what we want?) to questions about our duty to be informed about our faith and its teachings (Can’t I just, like, turn the other way and not think about it?). By the time we finished our conversation, about ten students were at my table, their posture (leaning forward, staring intently) indicating that they were serious about what I was saying, that they cared, that they knew they needed to know. As we wrapped up, several students expressed their gratitude, “Everyone wonders about this stuff, but nobody ever talks about it,” they sighed.
Being a sister and wearing a religious habit is a little bit like walking around wearing a sign that says, “Ask me all of your existential and/or religious questions! I have all the answers!” I can’t hide from people. 

And while it can be exhausting to field the world’s questions and humbling to have to admit that I don’t have all the answers, it is a sacred burden to carry, and I do so with gratitude and reverence.

But I have also been thinking that it shouldn’t be just religious who take the questions of the world into our hearts. Indeed, the document Gaudium et Spes from the Second Vatican Council seems to feel the same way, opening as it does with these lines, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”
We who follow Christ – lay and religious alike – are called to take into our hearts the joys, hopes, griefs, anxieties, and questions of our neighbors. 

And who is my neighbor? 

The guy in the cubicle next to mine, the lady who checks out my groceries, the kids in my children’s class at school, the waiter who takes my order – these are all my neighbor. 

So often we are afraid to let these people into our hearts or we are afraid to enter theirs because it seems too difficult; the cost seems too high. So we don’t talk about the stuff we wonder about. We don’t invite real conversations. The most speculation we do focuses on the question of whether it will rain tomorrow. We keep things on the surface, where we feel safe.

Christ invites us to more! 
Christ invites us to cast into the deep. 
He invites us to leave the safe relationships and safe conversational patterns that we’ve grown accustomed to and to journey into the hearts of our brothers and sisters. 

Let’s not be afraid to ask the real questions in our hearts, and let us not be afraid to be asked questions. 
-Sr. Agnes Therese Davis

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