This is my friend, Sister Titziana.
See that smile on her face? That's the real deal. I'm not sure I've ever met such a peaceful woman. She is a little Italian who speaks in broken English and often asks "How do you say...?" or "What is the word for...?" As I was taking the above picture she was showing us the statue of Jesus at the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master Liturgical Center. The book in Jesus' hand is scripture and it reads "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Her enthusiasm in this picture comes from reciting those words out loud and having us do the same.
For half a dozen years I have been having Sister Titziana visit my Worship Ministries class. After she gives us an orientation to Catholic worship in one session, we take the next day to visit the convent where she lives and works as a spiritual director.
Most of the students in my class come from evangelical backgrounds and know nothing of liturgy, not to mention the Catholic mass. It always seems there is a bit of anxiety the first time I bring Sister into class. But by the time we are through with a couple of class sessions with her they are glad for the opportunity.
Sister Titziana's ability to teach matches her ability to bless and encourage. We learn about the mystery of Jesus through the holy communion of the Eucharist. Though she points to the Lord's Supper as the high point of the worship service (Protestants have almost completely replaced this with preaching of the Word as the high point, while relegating communion to a ten minute experience once a month), she is quick to convey that all of life is communion with God through the mystery of the Spirit in Jesus Christ. Protestants love to make Jesus their best friend and often reduce God to something that is reasonable, rational and tangible. Sister has helped me understand that worship is most powerful when we understand that God is transcendent, ineffable and unknowable. There is both a horizontal dimension (more Protestant) and a vertical dimension (more Catholic) to understanding God.
So many people believe that a formal-liturgical style of worship is cold and meaningless. That's because no one has ever taught them the meaning of the rituals. There is a reason that college students have a growing interest in liturgy (example: thousands of college students make the journey to Taize, France, to experience ancient practices of silence, chants, meditation, etc.). The postmodern pilgrim is hungry for the spiritual, the supernatural and the mysterious. Ancient disciplines often bring the depth and meaning they seek.
When we drive away from the convent I like to ask my students a question, "Do you think Sister Titziana loves Jesus?" After spending time with her, there's no doubt about it.