Our Sr. Joyce Munson, OSC went home to God several days ago. It seemed fitting for our first blog, to let Sr. Joyce share her “testament;” an article that she wrote some years ago for a publication called, “Wrapped In Joy.”
“I Have Created You For My Glory”
I was not a person who always wanted to be a nun. I would have thought that was a crazy idea for me. When I was quite young I felt a great compassion for the black people, both in their history as slaves and at the present time. I wanted to help them and make up at least a little for what they had suffered. After I graduated from high school, while I was working in a bank, I spent my Saturdays as a volunteer at Friendship House in Harlem. I’m getting ahead of myself.
I went to public school for the first eight years so I was used to being with black kids, Jewish and Japanese kids, etc. When I was 11, the war ended and the concentration camps were liberated. There was no TV at the time, but we went to the movies once or twice every week and there were always newsreels.
I was very struck by the pictures of the concentration camp and I wanted in some way to help those people, to be with them in their suffering and to do what I could so that those things wouldn’t happen again. Being so young, I did not know how to accomplish this, but I didn’t forget the suffering people.
A couple of months before my seventeenth birthday, I read a biography of St. Teresa of Avila. Two things impressed me most: I didn’t know that one could have such a close relationship with God, and I hadn’t realized my own responsibility to all other human beings.
I wanted to spend my life helping others, so everything quickly fell into place and I was convinced God wanted me to be a contemplative. Not only did God want it, I realized it would fulfill all my deepest longings, though I had never realized it before.
From the beginning of my vocation, I have always been very aware of the great needs in the world…the needs of individuals and of groups and nations. That’s why I was in such a hurry to enter the Monastery and get started doing what I could to help. I know my efforts are not worth much but, united to Christ in the Incarnation, my life can be valuable. I think I’m living the life for which God created me.
Over the years, my ideas of being a contemplative have refined, strengthened and developed, but basically I still see my vocation s a close relationship with God and a chance to help others. I pray for everyone, but the ones who have influenced and inspired me most over the years are the Jewish, black and Japanese peoples.
I pray for people but I think that what is most important is that my life should pray. I don’t think saying prayers or private prayer is enough. If I live the words of the “Our Father” then my life prays and it is the only way that I can be of use to God and everyone…”Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; Thy Kingdom come; Thy Will be done.”
To live these words has meant some hard times along the way, but nothing ever happened to me that couldn’t be used to give glory to God.
In the Creed we say that Jesus “…descended into hell…” after he died to see the just ones who had died before Him. But I think that Jesus also descended into hell while He was on the cross. Scripture scholar Raymond Brown says that over the centuries people have tried to whitewash Jesus’ words: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” They said He always had the beatific vision and He couldn’t despair, so we shouldn’t take His words at face value.
But I agree with Raymond Brown that Jesus was actually expressing his terrible depression at that time, so we would know he had experienced everything horrible in human life. I’ve experienced the hell of severe depression, but why should I complain? After all I’m supposed to follow the Lamb wherever He goes and if a time in hell was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for me.
I want to mention something about forgiveness. When I was a child my mother didn’t tell me the truth about my origins. All she really did was to make a big mistake. She treated me the way she would have wanted to be treated in those circumstances. We were very different and the secrecy and misinformation caused me great pain. She didn’t do anything wicked; she just made a mistake. It took me 50 years to forgive her and to grow up. At the end of her life, we were fine.
I learned about forgiveness and now I don’t think I could not forgive anyone and anything. I also think that life is too short to hold a grudge. When I went to the Social Security Office at 65, the lovely lady who interviewed me asked me, at the end, to give her a spiritual thought. I was not at all prepared, so I said the first thing that came into my mind. I said that I think forgiveness is always important. She was pleased with that.
Long ago I read in a book by Caryll Houselander the words of the British wedding service; “With my body, I thee worship.’ I can say, especially when I have pain: “God, with my body, I worship you” but most important, I always say: “With my life, I worship you.”
In 1974, I was very sick for five months. It was the closest I ever was to death. I was extremely suicidal and nothing helped, not medicine or shock treatments, psychotherapy, etc. Finally, the doctor found the right medicine and in two days I was sitting on top of the world. It usually takes weeks for the medicine to work. One of the sisters called it “spontaneous combustion.”
At the end of that year, some of us were sitting around and saying what we had learned that year. I said I had learned that I couldn’t be destroyed. Amen.
Sister Joyce Munson, OSC
May 20, 1934 – January 30, 2016
“Live always in truth that you may die in obedience.” CantExh 2