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Sister Mary Evangelista, Jessye the Cat, and Advent Waiting

A number of years ago, when she was well into her nineties, Sister Mary Evangelista Herber (RIP) told me that she had decided to learn to wait. Her life involved a good deal of waiting, she reported. She had never been very good at it, so she had begun to use the ordinary activities of her day to build the habit of waiting well.

The most useful exercise, she said, was waiting for the elevator. Instead of looking up at the numbers above the doors, tracking their progress and growing more impatient with each stop, Sister Mary Evangelista had trained herself simply to look at the doors. “And when they open,” she said, “I get on.”

Jessye the Cat also knows how to wait. Jessye is past her prime now, but in her day, she was a champion pouncer. She would wait, crouched and alert, poised for action, ready to spring at whatever came into her line of vision — a shadow on the wall, a feather on a string, a hapless cricket or ladybug who dared venture into her domain. And when the time was right, she acted swiftly, decisively, purposefully. Jessye the Cat could pounce. And she could wait.

For Christians, Advent is a season of waiting — not passive, standing-in-the-checkout-line waiting, but active, purposeful waiting for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, for the inbreaking of the Holy One into our world and our lives.

Like Sister Mary Evangelista, we wait in stillness for what we know will come. Like Jessye the Cat, we wait in readiness — ready to hear God’s word of justice in a new way, ready to act as agents of that justice in the world.

May we all know the blessings of this season of waiting.

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Sister Lisa Stallings

Sister Lisa serves as vicar of the Sisters of Providence leadership team. After teaching junior high and high school, she spent twenty years ministering in music and worship in parishes in Chicago, Kentucky and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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