To be honest, I didn't really even know that nuns or sisters or women religious just live in regular old houses on regular old streets. Turns out they do.
(I think I'd love to have a house full of sisters in my neighborhood...but that's for another day.)
We walked in late and sweaty and hassled. We found a group of young women, including Mary Kate, getting ready to go on a trip. We had parents and siblings there to support them. Teachers and some women who had gone last year were there to share in this moment. We had the wonderful teacher who founded the non-profit foundation that is the vehicle to our girls' journey to helping others and
we had Sister Maria.
She opened up her home.
She blessed our girls.
Well, actually, she provided the thoughts, prayers and beauty behind the ceremony that became The Blessing. She gave the parents the privilege of actually blessing our daughters.
First she reminded us of our many blessings of living in a first world country.
70% of the world lives without electricity, running water, healthcare and most of the time not enough food to eat.
70% -- that alone is a stunning number.
Then she went through the difficulties parents in the third world face. The lack of time to love and care for their children because parents are working so hard to meet the basic needs of survival. The lack of opportunity...not to mention the shorter life span...
just by having the misfortune to live in their country instead of ours.
Yeah, made the 105 temp not seem like such a biggie...or the traffic...or the hassle of juggling jobs and kids to get to the place...
Then Sister Maria handed us a piece of paper with some prayers and some blessings.
The girls stood in a circle facing out toward their parents.
We faced them.
Seeing my daughter staring at me with an embarrassed smile and a "hurry up" vibe made me, like a small child, want to do the opposite.
I wanted to linger over her eyes and ears as I dipped my fingers in water and blessed her clarity of vision and her ability to hear the truth.
Using a cotton ball dipped in oil, I rubbed her forehead and palms, blessing her thoughts, asking her to be filled with wisdom, and then blessing the work of her hands...asking that they become healing and compassionate.
We took a tiny muffin cup of salt and rubbed her feet. Reminding her that she is the salt of the earth. Asking that she walk steadfastly, gently and with reverence upon the earth. The blessing asked the girls to "never leave a footprint of worry" and to always walk humbly with God.
Finally, the girls were handed a candle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We lit their candles and watched the light fill up the room. I noticed the glow on her face.
I took a deep breath.
The girls were reminded that they are the light of the world. One does not light a lamp and then put it under a basket. Rather it is placed on a stand, where it gives light to a house.
In this same way, the girls' light must shine.
Even though they were in a circle, we were each in our own little world...stopping and taking in the beauty of our daughters...
their bright eyes
their keen mind
their big heart
their bright light.
In a little over twenty-four hours we will be sending that big heart off.
Off to Belize.
While she is away, we will light her candle.
We will bless her from afar.
We will hold her close and hold our breaths as she journeys out into this amazing world.
She's been blessed.
We have too.
Sister Maria, for the record, you rock.