Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A prayer for God's help, letting reality teach us how to live as Jesus lived

During meditation this morning, I offered the Lord the following prayer:
Lord, the effects of Hurricane Irene are devastating. Hugh sections of New Jersey and Vermont and other Eastern States are inundated with water. Homes and businesses destroyed throughout many towns and villages, including Denville, NJ, where I live.  Rivers rising, not cresting. Trees toppling. People without electrical power. On the other side of the world Taiwan is flooded by the typhoon. In the western U.S. fires and drought are consuming towns and villages, as well. 

We are in a pitable state, Lord. Have we so abused Mother Earth that it is wreaking its fury upon us? Are these disasters forcing us to focus on the essentials of human existence: reaching out to, being concered about each others'  welfare rather than on having the latest electronic gadget, the biggest yacht, the most expensive home, being better than another, tearing others apart for political gain.  We are all brought to a state of equality, Lord--human beings needing to be there for one another in their need--as we face one disaster after another.  Help us, Lord, learn what we need to learn about living well according to the way You lived among us. And show us  Your mercy as we face the realities around us and within us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The goodness and the mystery of our God

August 30, 2011:  The responsorial psalm of today’s liturgy challenges us to look for “the  bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” I found that yesterday when searching the internet about the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. I came upon an audio done by the “Voices of Oklahoma,” featuring Sister Theresa Gottschalk, SSM, former CEO of St. John’s Medical Center.  Her story is now available on the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother Facebook.  It is an incredible story of a sister’s faith journey. Truly, as we read in the liturgy of this day, Sister Theresa is a “child of the light, ” to thousands of people in Oklahoma and beyond.  She truly is one of the “lights” of our religious congregation and the church of today. 

Denville has been experiencing the wrath of Hurricane Irene, as the Rockaway River has overflowed its banks in a myriad of places.  St. Clare’s Hospital literally was hemmed in by the flood waters!  God’s goodness to us here at Our Lady of Sorrows Convent and St. Francis Residential Community could not have burned more brightly, however, as we are safely protected from such fury. O, the greatness  and the mystery of our God, as not far from here a man clung to life yesterday as he fell into the raging waters. All that was found, as of this moment, were his boots and trousers!  We are hoping he surfaces safely somewhere downstream from where he slipped into the river!

Monday, August 29, 2011

God's protection, God's way of communicating

What a gift this day is—New Jersey, New York and surrounding areas have survived the hurricane.  A rainbow appeared, reminding us that God is with us!  Lots of flooding! Lots of downed trees and branches.  St. Clare’s Hospital, Our Lady of Sorrows Convent,  and St. Francis Residential Community are temporarily locked in—the streets to our left and right (Diamond Spring Road, Morris Avenue and Pocono Road-- are flooded and temporarily blocked off. The National Guard escorts employees to St. Clare’s Hospital.  Three cars in Our Lady of Sorrows Parking Lot were damaged by a fallen tree—cars diverted to this parking lot because all of the parking lots around St. Clare’s were flooded.  What luck! However, no lives have been lost here in Denville. Kids were out on the streets with floating inner tubes having fun amidst the realities traumatizing the adults in their lives! Perhaps it is the children who teach us to trust in the Lord—everything is in God’s hands as, for a child, everything is in the hands of their caring parents!

As I walked down the ramps from Our Lady of Sorrows Convent, next to the two ceramic or bronze deer, stood, to my amazement, a real deer (a fawn) staring at me while eating “his leafy dinner.” I went in to share the news with another sister and during that few minutes the tree across the road crashed unto cars in Our Lady of Sorrows parking lot!  I decided along with others that the wind was too strong to venture out safely!  God has subtle and not so subtle ways of conveying His protection.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Religious Life--the fabric of Christian life for all ages

Many individuals today believe that religious life is on the decline. Why, some people ask, do you continue to promote religious life?Are you not aging? Diminishing? The answer to that first question is "yes, we are aging". The answer to the second question is "No, religious life is not diminishing"! Like Gideon in the Scriptures whom God asked to reduce his army, so, too, have the number of women and men religious been reduced for various reasons--attrition, fewer individuals answering God's call, fewer families supporting the call of their son or daughter. As with Gideon, however, the power of God is the force that builds religious life, that builds "our armies," and is truly evident in a few good men and women-- yes, ordinary women and men--doing extraordinary things in a variety of ministries. In many cases, women religious are involved in more ministries than when first founded! Through the power of God's Spirit this form of serving the Lord will continue for many, many years to come. It's part of the fabric of Christian life--always has been and always will be, in my estimation.

The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, with fewer members than in the early and mid 1900's, are serving the poor in several countries and in  many more ministries than when first founded. Through the generosity of God's love and the power of God's Spirit, we will continue as we began, uniting action and contemplation as a means of ongoing conversion and that we thus be catalysts in the transformation of the world in which we live. The essence of our lives is this relationship with the Lord and one another, whereby we are transformed and transforming; whereby we grow in trust, in faith, in love and interior strength to serve and seek the Lord above all. Through all these efforts, the refounding of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother continues on a daily basis!

Serving the Lord as women religious today

Today is the 25th day of the month, the day that Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother devote to praying for an increase of vocations to religious life.  Why, you may ask, do you promote your religious community?  Are you not aging? Diminishing? The answer to those questions is “No”!  We are flourishing as a community of women devoted to serving the poor in several countries: the USA, the Caribbean countries of St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic; in the European countries of Austria, Germany and Italy; in Brazil and in Tanzania.  Our mission in Tanzania opened as recently as 2006.  The Franciscan Institute staffed by our Sisters in the Caribbean was created in a 2001 brainstorming session with the Sisters in the Caribbean who were looking to establish a corporate ministry.  This mobile ministry serves St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad. We also run a secondary school (high school ) on the island of Grenada. In the Dominican Republic we also serve the people in healthcare, education and community development ministries. In the US we began and continue to serve the needy in several healthcare institutions. Some of our Sisters in the US, as volunteers or staff members of various professional entities, work with Native Americans, Immigrants,  prisoners, the mentally ill and those suffering from the disease of alcoholism and drug addictions.  Others work in education to children ages 4-14. So, every day, we are vibrant and growing more deeply in our commitment to Franciscan values and to the Gospel. Religious today, are like Gideon in the Scriptures: our numbers are smaller but we are strong in the Lord.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A call to serve, to witness God's power to delight His chosen ones

What a privilege to be a staff member of the July 19-29, 2011 Summer Bible School at St. Rose Modern Secondary School in Grenada.  Several incidents stand out that communicated God’s caring, compassionate love at work among the participants. First of all were the volunteer young people and Sisters  who  orchestrated the daily schedule as well as helped organize the breakout sessions: bible study, banner-making, Tai Chi Chih, Karate, Arts-and-Crafts, sport events, and dance.   A support staff provided meals for the students and the staff as well. The chefs went out of their way to provide delicious lunches.  Throughout the two-weeks, teachers were completing and/or preparing for next year’s regular classes.  The children participating in the summer school experience were eager to learn and excited about being a part of this experience.  I was deeply touched by being able to help students learn ways of dealing with anger that would not add fuel to volatile emotional atmospheres and that would bring them increased self-confidence in their ability to defuse anger. It was a delight to witness students take pride in learning songs that expressed their desire to deepen their God-experiences, in discovering their artistic abilities and proudly sharing the Scriptures their group was given to memorize.  I certainly would say that the challenges/difficulties and disappointments we staff members encountered along the way in planning this event were overshadowed by the results of seeing children’s delight in the service provided. As a friend recently reminded me, God did not say it would be easy but God did say it would be worth it! I am proud of everyone who made this experience an memorable one! And I am proud to be a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Living life as directed by the spirit-self versus living life as the ego insists on living it; trust/mistrust, humility/pride, darkness/light

This past week I vacationed with a best friend who came to NJ to spend a week with me. We spent three of the seven days in NY, visiting various sites of interest.  What an experience to tour the UN and see the work of this organization in promoting peace throughout the world.  God truly is alive in the efforts of so many who are involved in these peace-keeping efforts and in promoting the UN Millenium goals.  We also went to Ground Zero. What a heart-breaking experience to tour St. Paul's Chapel across the street from the tragedy. Volunteers stopped to pray and console one another at this holy spot. Tears came to our eyes as we read the stories of heros and heroines who risked their lives to save others that terrible day.  The compassion of God working through humankind was evident in many ways. We went to the Top of the Rock (top of Rockefeller Center) and viewed NYC--what a sight!  My friend saw God at work in millions who orchestrate a city in ways that reflect God's creative work when He first created the world out of a formless waste.  God continues to order chaos through those in public service in NYC and throughout the world.  How great a God have we, who orders all things new every day of our lives and weeps with those who weep,  and waits for us to call upon Him in our neediness. Yes! waits for us to seek His assistance when we face consequences of unfathomable tragedies that crash in upon humankind on a regular basis.

I was challenged daily by the invitation to to let go and let God work in my life during this week's vacation, working through difficulties and challenges that surface in close relationships, gaining self-knowledge as I took the issues to prayer, seeking God's counsel. I recognized in a poignant way how much I need God's help in loving, caring, and relating  humbly, respectfully,  patiently and trustingly when "lost" or uncertain or when my ego insists on being right and implies another is wrong. Every day was a day that invited me to deeper conversion and to live the challenge of my annual retreat: "Complete trust!"  I learned anew what a different path the spiritual self travels in comparison to the path the ego wants to thread! What a grace life is!