Learning Sisterhood from My Brothers: A Letter from Sarah
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My dear sisters,
I have three older brothers. Strong, compassionate, funny and kind, they are one of my greatest blessings. Though close in age to one another, there is a significant age gap between myself and them. Growing up, I cherished their time and affection. I loved the way they played with me, and found peace in how fiercely they loved me. They were my boys, my protectors and best friends. They aren’t perfect, but witnessing their struggles and challenges has been a great grace, helping me to grow in my own faith and relationships.
My brothers have taught me so much about being a sister. It was from them that I learned how to stand up for myself and for the things I believe in, to be honest and fearless, to not take myself too seriously. They lead by example, both in the way they treated others and in the way they treated me. By being men of God, they taught me to be a sister in Christ.
As a young woman trying to navigate the realm of Christly sisterhood myself, I know that it can be scary. Like, really scary. It is often a great challenge to be vulnerable, especially with those whose opinions we care deeply about, or with those we don’t want to disappoint. But if there is one thing I could share with you that I’ve learned from my brothers, it would be the importance of sisterly vulnerability. They have taught me that to have honest and true relationships, we must first have openness. We must have the kind of transparency that calls us into the hearts of our sisters and invites us to love them right there in the middle of their mess and chaos. That’s what Jesus does – He beckons us with his vulnerability, he draws us in, fearless of our judgment of his wounds and scars. The most beautiful part of our spiritual sisterhood, for me, is the way we are able to relate to one another in the way Christ relates to us – with bold sincerity and open hearts.
At my college, I have been fortunate to find women who long to do just that. I have sisters here who have shown me what it means to be a woman of Christ. It has been a blessing to share my heart with them, and I am grateful for the way they fearlessly share themselves with me. By embracing what my brothers taught me, about being vulnerable and honest, I have gained some of the loveliest friendships and the truest sisters. I am young, and I have an unimaginable number of things still to learn, but I do know this: the risk of authentic vulnerability is absolutely matched by the fulfillment of uplifting and deep relationships.
I encourage you then, my sisters, to be not afraid. Find rest in the realization that we are all a little bit messy, and that our mess is just what Christ longs for. By embracing the outstretched hand of a sister when we are in need, we embrace the outstretched hands of Christ on the cross – the most vulnerable act of all. He has given us the gift of sisterhood as an image of his relationship with the Church, and I am beyond blessed to be a part of a community of women who cherish this gift so deeply.
Know you are in my prayers, whoever and wherever you are.
Get to know Sarah
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Sarah Malone, and I am a student at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Currently, I am pursuing a double major in Engineering Science and Math, with minors in Theology and Operational Excellence, because I have an incredibly hard time choosing between things that I love – and so I’m doing them all! It's busy and messy and stressful I love every second of it.
What do the first two hours of your day look like?
Piping hot, strong, black tea and a quick prayer of thanksgiving are a morning must-have for me to be in any way functional, and from there, those two hours change depending on the time of year and schedule at the time. Sometimes it's class, sometimes it's mass, sometimes it's sneaking back into bed until the sun rises a little higher, but those two things are a constant. Also, music. I need that to function as well, especially if it’s an early morning.
Describe your favorite part of your current occupation.
Like I said above, my “occupation” right now is to learn. My favorite part of that is hard to narrow down because I get to spend almost all my time doing what I love, but if I had to choose, I’d have to say that my most favorite part is when I take a class that challenges me to grow as a person. I love learning about myself through the lens of my own education; it is such a uniquely fulfilling experience.
What's one fear that keeps you up at night?
I think one thing that continually comes back to haunt me is my fear of letting people down, whether it be my family, or someone I look up to in my faith life, or myself. Even from a young age, I had this phobia of disappointing those whom I care about. I must remind myself daily that grace is not earned (it took me a while to realize that at all.) But with those little daily reminders and a quick prayer to Mama Mary, I am usually able to deal with late-night thoughts of inadequacy.
Tell us about the first time you experienced a strong sense of belonging in the Catholic Church.
The first time I felt a strong sense of belonging within the church was the summer before my freshman year of college. I was on a week-long retreat that ended with a youth conference, and during the week we had been taught how to give a witness talk. After hours of practicing and rewriting and prayerful preparation, I had been asked to give my witness during the conference, to an audience of over 2000 people. It was the most beautiful and humbling experience I have ever had, and it was the first time I felt, deeply and truly, that this is where I belonged – that the church and the Lord had a unique and desperate need for my heart. And giving it fully was the best thing I have ever done.
Tell us about a woman (or women) you look up to.
Too many to choose from, but a few include: my beautiful mother, who has shown me (probably without even realizing it) what sincere and true femininity entails, and how much beauty and power lies in the heart of women.
I have a professor here at Saint Vincent who has also been a strong role model for me – she is elegant and bitingly intelligent and has one of those voices that command attention in this regal and empowering way. She is quietly strong, hilarious, and (again, probably without realizing) has helped me to find my voice and use it to lift others.
Favorite character ever. Go!
These questions literally keep getting harder and harder, but favorite characters… From TV: Pam Halpert, from The Office, because she is true to herself and hilarious and a little awkward, but in this incredibly endearing way that makes me think we would have been the very best of friends.
From literature: Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice, for her warm heart and compassionate nature. She is soft yet strong, a quiet leader, and one of the most beautiful literary characters I know of. Her biggest fault is seeing too much good in others, and I would trade flaws for that in a heartbeat.