Monday, October 31, 2011

How do I know when I am following the Holy Spirit's promptings?

Discernment:  We are discussing how the Holy Spirit and evil spirit operate in our lives.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit are opposite those that flow from decisions prompted by an evil spirit, that is, a spirit that tries to block us from carrying out the will of our Father, the will of God, our Creator and Sanctifier, our Redeemer and Lord.  The Holy Spirit “strengthens, encourages, consoles, inspires, and gives inner peace to the person striving to follow the path of God” (Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615, p. 15).  The evil spirit, on the contrary, fills our being with despondency, frustration, and a discomfort.  Sometimes we are aware of where the agitation is coming from, as God uses all of our feelings as messengers of His will.  If we pay attention, going apart to reflect on our lives and get in touch with our deeper selves, we will come to realize when we are making choices contrary to what God is asking of us. God is always there to help us turn around and embrace His will with courage!

Mother Frances Streitel: Immersed in darkness

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Life is never simple, as we follow Jesus to Calvary and, with Him, go through a dying, a death, a resurrection and a Pentecost in our own lives.  We are reviewing an experience of these events in the life of Sister Angela prior to the actual assignment to take over the administrative position of the Marian Institute in Wuerzburg, Germany.  The pastor is in agony in not having followed through with the Board’s request to assign Sister Angela to that position.  Letters flowed between individuals involved. A couple of those letter were derogatory toward Sister Angela, the one referred to above written by a Sister Elizabeth and another by a Reverend Father Braun, whom Sister Angela described as one who is “hot-headed” and “makes ado about everything.”  Father Beckert learns that the directress of the Institute (perhaps the woman he assigned in Sister Angela’s place) is “someone to be feared.”   His reply is “Oh, why do I first learn of this now?”   Certainly, this is a period of darkness for all involved. We know from the Scriptures that darkness is not darkness to the Lord and that no darkness will destroy the Light.  Sister Angela, I believe, lived in that Light and relied upon the Lord in the situations of her life that were far from ideal and that led her to the foot of the cross.  How do you deal with the dark periods of your life?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Members of the household of God

Today’s first Scripture reading (Eph 2: 19-22) tells us that we are no longer “strangers or sojourners”, but are “fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”  Think of times  when you felt like a stranger—you knew nobody and were unable to connect with anybody.  It’s an awful feeling. We want to feel connected. We want to belong. And Paul tells us that, not only do we belong, but that we are members of “the holy ones and of the household of God.”  Ever envy children of another family—“oh, I wish I belonged to her/his family. They have everything. They are not poor. They are popular. They don't have the problems we have, etc.”  And here we are members of the most envious households of all: God’s household. There is not any household here on this earth that compares to it, no matter how loving, how well off, how endearing, how envious to others.  We are members of the household of God, by God’s choice. “I have chosen you!”  

The struggle to make good decisions

In any phase of our lives, in any decision we are about to make to live a good life, to strengthen our spiritual life, to nurture our faith or even in choosing a state in life, the evil spirit will be there suggesting that we are not worthy of making that kind of decision or that the price we will pay will be too high.  Satan tries to convince us that, if we make the choice we are considering and that we know in our true self is the right thing choice for us, we will miss out of something too great to sacrifice.  For example, let’s say that you are considering saying “yes” to attend a weekend retreat.  An evil spirit could raise all kinds of reasons why you should not do that:  “You are going to miss your friends’ gathering at the Mall—it’s a big shopping weekend with incredible sales. You don’t want to miss that!  If you go, your parents will miss you. Your siblings  and/or friends  won’t forgive you. Something bad could happen if you do not stay around.” Any effort to grow more Christlike, to nurture one’s spiritual self by going to a place of solitude to pray, as Jesus often did, will be met with opposition.  

Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: Bearing the cross that Jesus bore

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  The pain and suffering that surrounded the Marian Institute assignment was caused not only by Father Beckert but, as indicated earlier, in some way by a Sister Elizabeth. Sister Elizabeth must have written a letter to Mother Salesia, Sister Angela’s Superior General,  that portrayed Sister Angela in a poor light, as indicated in the following statement that Sister Angela wrote in a letter to her on May 7, 1879:  “The things,” Sister Angela says, “that Sister  Elizabeth enumerated make me believe that I have lost your confidence. Oh, God knows how I suffer. I have no other refuge than the Cross. Oh, why are you so hostile toward me, robbing me of all hope of your maternal love?”  How easy it is for human beings to believe things said about another without checking out the truth of those statements!   This tendency to say things about another that later could cause deep emotional pain is a reality of life here in this life. Even Jesus suffered deeply because of untruths told about Him, a classic example of which was when He was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus met criticism in most  of his activities. When we who are His disciples encounter critics and those who speak ill of us, the pain cuts deeply into the marrow of our bones, as it did for Sister Angela. And sometimes the very people we have begun to trust seem to treat us harshly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

God's acquittal

Romans 8:31b-39--"If God is for us, who can be against us. He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all...."  From time to time we go through an experience worried about being reprimanded, rejected, judged, and/or accused of coming up short, or, in fact, doing something judged "horrible" or unacceptable.  And many times we are our own worst critic.  In this "courtroom of life" sits  God, who has acquitted us, forgiven us, and holds us in the palm of His hand. Here in this "tribunal" is our God who handed His Son over to the accusers to save us from all in life of which others, and we ourselves, reject us, question us, and, yes, at times condemn us.  With God on our side, with God as our judge, no human verdict separates us from God's love, God's compassion, God's mercy and God's acquittal.  What makes us feel alienated from God and others is, many times, our own condemnation.

Discouragement--a tool to block us from following God's guidance

 Discernment:  What spirit is guiding me—God’s spirit or an evil spirit? St. Ignatius’s experience of the spiritual life is that early in one’s spiritual journey “the evil spirit often tempts us to discouragement”(Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615, p. 14).  In this stage a person is likely to say with Gideon when God called Him to a special task: I’m not capable of doing that; “my clan is the weakest in Manassah and I am the least important of my father’s family” (Judges 6:15) or with Moses: “Who am I go to Pharaoh?....I am slow and hesitant of speech…(Exodus 3:11 and 4: 10).  The evil spirit raises questions, puts doubts in our minds, tries to convince us that it will never work, instilling anxiety and fear. Every obstacle imaginable is suggested to  discourage us from walking the way of Christ, of taking up the cross, of living the Gospel life.  In exasperation, we are likely to complain: “Why try. I’ll fail anyway. I’ll never be a saint. That’s for priests and nuns. Forget it.”  Those thoughts are not from the spirit self or God-self but from an opposing force. Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615, p. 11.

Mother Frances Streitel: "Lord, can this chalice not pass from me?"

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Sister Angela unraveled more of the mystery of the painful events that preceded her assignment to be administrator of the Marian Institute, as requested by its Board.  Besides the fact that Father Beckert, after requesting that Sister Angela be assigned to that position, gave the position to another person, the accusation that Sister Angela “was stirred up” was based on statements made by her Superior General to Father Beckert. This is obvious from the following statement in Sister Angela’s letter to her Superior General: “Father Beckert relies on your assertion that I was stirred up and presently he is deciding everything.”  “O dear Venerable Mother! For weeks I have prayed “Lord, can this chalice not pass from me? Yet not as I will but as You will.”  She adds that she has sought “peace with those around” her and “prayed much for the project [the Marian Institute].” And then says: “…a matter like this, which bears the stamp of misery, cross, and trouble, must prove to be good.”  She then says to her Reverend Mother: “Do not write again to Reverend Pastor Beckert in regard to this matter; he does what he wants anyway” (Letter of May 6, 1899 to her Superior General).  We see Sister Angela’s faith but also her humanness in the statement “he does what he wants anyway”—a statement that expresses her anger at the way things have unfolded thus far, especially at being accused of having “an evil motive” and letting herself “be used as a plaything by the people. ” (Quotations from Sister Angela’s May 6, 1879 letter to her Superior General). No wonder Sister Angela wanted this “chalice to pass her by.”  When have you asked the Lord to remove a cross from your life?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Holy Spirit's Intercessory Power

Today’s first Scripture reading (Romans 8:26-30):  (Put your name here), the Spirit…comes to help…[you] in---[your] weakness; for, when…[you] do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes…[your petition] for…[you] in groans that cannot be put into words; and he who can see into…[your heart] knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for…[you] are always in accordance with the mind of God.”   Wow! When I do not know how to pray, which is whenever I do not know God’s will in a conflictual situation or I am anguished over it, the Spirit groans within  me. I may be screaming: “How could this person or that, how could I, do such a thing!  How wrong is this person’s or my own behavior.”  The Spirit, who reads the heart, knows what led an individual or myself  to act poorly. “God knows the intention of the Spirit” (Rom 8: 26-30) in the person/s  about whom I’m distressed or about me, the agonizing one. Knowing God’s will, the Spirit, in deep groans, approaches God the Father and God the Son, with a request that turns “the evil” into good, one’s despair into hope, one’s doubt into faith, one’s  hatred into love, one’s revenge into forgiveness, one’s alienation into reconciliation in God’s time and in God’s way, even if my eyes remain closed to what the end result will be, even if only a “mustard seed” is being planted and the “mighty oak” is not yet, or the “brokenness” has only entered into a lengthy healing process.  After all, the man at the Pool of  Bethesda waited thirty-eight years (Jn 5: 1-9), the bent-over woman eighteen years (Lk 13: 10-17) and St. Monica twenty-eight years.  Am I an exception to the work of the Spirit respecting the readiness of a subject?

How do I know whether a good spirit is speaking within me

Discernment: When we are uncertain of what to do or what decision to make, we may also be asking ourselves:  “How do I know that what I am hearing within me is coming from a good spirit or an evil spirit.  St. Paul himself says that when he is about to make a good decision, evil appears” (cf. Rom 7: 19). The good spirit wants us to do what is right. The evil spirits’ goal is to block us.  When a person rejects Satan and all his works—to deter us from seeking, honoring or carrying out God’s will—feelings of peace radiate from one’s deepest self. The person is confident in knowing that a right decision has been made. One’s inner self is strengthened and experiences relief in having had the courage to say “yes” to God!

Mother Frances Streitel: Standing up for herself

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Concerning the details of what occurred prior to Sister Angela’s actual assignment to take on the administrative position at the Marian Institute, more light is shed upon the situation in a letter she wrote to her superior general on May 6, 1879.  She writes: “A lady has just come to me, sent by the Reverend Pastor Beckert, to tell me you [Rev. Mother] had written him that I had been stirred up by a woman, in regard to the directress [administrator] of the Institute. Dear Venerable Mother, out of delicacy of feeling toward you, I wrote nothing of the art and manner in which Father Beckert has harmed the interests of the religious from the very beginning, but now I shall be frank. A man came to me and informed me as a friend that Father Beckert had come to him and had said: ‘Mr. N., I am in a nice predicament. I have requested religious [namely, Sister Angela] and have accepted an elementary lay teacher in the Society and bade her open the Institute. If only she would find a husband! See to it!’ Literally true.” This sounds like someone trying to cover his tracks through manipulative maneuverings!  Imagine the consequences of these behaviors!  How disillusioned Sister Angela, a young sister, only 35 years of age and only professed 11 years, may have been.  Think of times when you felt disillusioned by persons in your professions or your mentors and/or persons who you admired.  How did you handle these experiences of disillusionment?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ways to figure out what God wants of me

St. Ignatius speaks about three well-defined situations in which we find ourselves when making a decision: 1) We definitely know what to do, 2) We are conflicted; we are not sure what to do and 3) We don’t have a clue!  How we wish it were always as easy as knowing, beyond a doubt, what it is God is asking of us. That is rare.  Most times, we are conflicted—do I do this or that? Do I get married or remain single or enter religious life? “Where can I best serve God” is not always crystal clear.  And then, of course are the times we do not have a clue of what decision to make and then it is easy to simply make no decision at all (which, in fact is a decision)!  So how do we come to perceive the will of God if we are torn or clueless?  St. Ignatius gives seven practical suggestions, the first two of which are: 1) Clearly identify the issue over which we are making a decision—name it! We cannot make a good decision or a prayerful one if we do not know what it is we are deciding. 2) Pray for the grace to desire one thing: God’s will and that alone. “Open my eyes, my heart and my will to what it is you want of me!” Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615, p. 11.

Mother Frances Streitel: Suffering that led to inner strength

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela. As indicated in the previous blog, both the Pastor, Reverend Beckert, who is the one who gave the position to another person,  and Sister Angela were physically sick from the events surrounding the administrative position (both suffered loss of appetite and insomnia).  In regard to Sister Angela, there was also a Sister Elizabeth involved in the painful events, as Sister Angela in a letter to her superior general says: “I received Sister Elizabeth’s letter and I say over and over again thanks be to God for the dispensation, thanks for every humiliation, thanks for everything!”  We do not know what “dispensation” means. One definition is “allowance”, so is Sister Angela thanking the Lord for allowing Sister Elizabeth to do what she did that humiliated Sister Angela? Another definition is “indulgence”—in what did Sister Elizabeth indulge that led to significant pain?  Or is Sister Elizabeth’s involvement positive? We do not know the answer to those questions. We do know that Sister Angela thanked God for the suffering and pain that He allowed. Genuinely thanking God for the pain in our lives does not come easily. We know that Jesus’ suffering and pain, including His crucifixion and death on the cross, led to our salvation. My contention is that Sister Angela experienced the salvific dimension of her suffering, was consequently a stronger person, and was led closer to her Redeemer. With those graces, she could genuinely say “Thank you, God.” Times when I have handled suffering heroically, not giving in to attacking the persons who caused me pain, not retaliating, not gossiping, I come through the suffering a much healthier person, stronger in my faith, more Christian. I am then able to say: Thank you Lord!  How have you suffered in a way similar to Sister Angela’s sufferings and what has helped you? How has suffering made you or a loved one stronger in the Lord?

The glory that awaits us

Romans 8: 8-15—In this passage St. Paul gives me the following message: Dorothy Ann (insert your name), consider the suffering of this present time as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for you.”   That led me to say to God: “Lord, I stand in hope of that gift, the fullness of redemption, a body transformed into the image of God that it is meant to be: thoughts transformed, hope fulfilled, love made perfect, sin destroyed and grace restored.”  What an awesome God!  No beauty on this earth compares to the beauty of heaven or the glory of God alive in those who believe. Eyes, truly, have not seen, ear has not heard nor has it entered into the mind of any person what God is preparing for those who love Him by loving oneself and others and striving to love as God loves.  How great thou art, O God!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Patience in the face of roadblocks

What a day ---all day long the Lord tried my patience. Only 30 minutes before the end of my work day did I accomplish what I set out to do.  I met one roadblock after another all day long in efforts to complete a computer function!  Two projects were completed that clears the way for “smooth sailing” the rest of the week!  Or am I kidding myself. I think of Jesus, in this morning’s Scriptures. He was at a synagogue service, saw a woman all bent over from what seemed to be severe osteoporosis. He beckoned her to come to him, laid hands upon her and she was cured. She stood up straight for the first time in 18 years.  How elated He must have been at the good He did for this woman and how excited she must have been. And then the stab from the Pharisees—a putdown, a reprimand, a criticism aimed both at himself and the woman.  “Don’t you know it is the Sabbath?” And to the woman:  “come to be cured on any other day but not on a Sabbath. “ Every turn, it seems, Jesus makes He meets roadblocks yet continues to reach out to heal, to teach, to do good. May I, too, continue to do the work I’ve been given to do in spite of difficulties that lay in my path.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Created to do good

In meditation this morning I reflected on Eph. 2: 4-6, 8-10.  Saint Paul reminds us that by grace and through God's mercy we have been saved, raised with Christ and set with Christ in the heavenly places. We were created for goods works prepared for us by God's mercy.  Truly in baptism we were recreated in Christ Jesus for doing good in accord with God's will.  Our essences, our spirit selves, are clothed with salvation in Christ Jesus. The core of our beings is goodness, a gift of God's infinite love and mercy freely given to us in the sacraments. May be discover that goodness within us and within others.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Discernment: Tuning into one's true self; tuning in to God

In order to be a discerning person,  perceptive to the workings of the Holy Spirit in your life, one needs to take time away from busyness, being productive, getting things done, measuring one’s worth on achievements. Otherwise, withdrawing to meditate, reflect upon one’s life, to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit will not happen. Contemplation is key to hearing God’s quiet whispers. When was the last time you shut off your cell phone, turned off the computer, spent a quiet evening alone with yourself. Or when was the last time you set some time aside to listen to the One Person who is to matter most in your life—the God who made you, sustains you, loves you, cares about you and affectionately calls your name?

Mother Frances Streitel: Her hopefulness and perseverance

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Regarding the Marian Institute and its future,  Sister Angela  tells her superiors that her prayers and the prayers of the Sisters with whom she ministered at St. Elizabeth’s Home were that the will of God, not their own, be done.  The priest involved in assigning the administrative position of the Marian Institute to another person deeply regretted his action and could neither eat nor sleep, he was so upset over what he had done. He therefore reverse his decision.  Sister Angela’s response to her superior was: “Only the express command on your part, however, can let me again take up a matter which has been made so bitter for me.”   She herself says: “In spite of insomnia and lack of appetite, I am, God be praised, well and in good spirits. Never before have I felt as I do this time the power of sufferings borne for the love of God” (Walk in Love, p. 27).   St. Paul tells us that “…hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope….” (Romans 5: 4-5).  No doubt this is what Sister Angela was experiencing!  In what ways have you experienced the truth of St. Paul’s comment about hardship?

A God who saves

In today's first reading (Romans 7: 18-25) St. Paul is frustrated with himself. The good he wants to do he does not do; the evil he wants to avoid he does.   Sounds familiar. How often does the Spirit not nudge me,  to do good, for instance, to drop an email or call a friend who has just experienced the death of a loved one and I do not do it; or to avoid returning evil for evil and, oops, there I go again: not doing the good I could have done and not evading the evil or which I fell prey.  Paul's conclusion is mine as well: Thank God that I have a Savior, one who rescues me from this pit of discouragement, lifts me up, sets me on the right way with the resolve to keep trying to do good and avoid evil, asking God, the other and myself for forgiveness. And even this act of seeking forgiveness is a good I want to do and frequently do not do. Thank God that God does not grow weary of me!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Discernment: A summary of the qualities of a person seeking God's will in all things

The seven attitudes essential to picking up God’s signals are, in summary: openness, generosity, interior freedom, prayerful reflection on experience, having one’s priorities straight, and not confusing ends with means.  Developing these attitudes or qualities are preconditions or prerequisites to hearing God’s call in an authentic discernment of His will in daily life as well in discerning the state in life to which one is called.  To develop these qualities, it is important to shut off cell phones, iPods, Smart phones, computers, TVs—whatever the latest technology may be that occupies any free moment in one’s life—and seek a quiet place within oneself to listen to God.  Frantic activity—going here and there and everywhere, doing this and that and everything, being busy 24/7—also needs to stop if one is truly going to be able to be interiorly free and open and generous with God and thus take time to prayerfully reflect upon one’s experience, set one’s priorities straight and not confuse the ends with the means. I invite you to consider coming apart for a brief period.  Spiritual directors and/or retreat directors at a retreat center, a convent, a monastery, a spirituality center would certainly welcome you to the silence where God waits to have a heart to heart talk with you, to show you the depth of His love for you and to guide you in the ways that lead to deeper peace and true joy! 

Mother Frances Streitel: Finding a way to deal with life's pain redemptively

None of us appreciates being manipulated or of having accusations leveled at us that are untrue.  None of us, however, escape life without going through this kind of pain—it’s part of human nature rubbing against human nature.  Not even Christ escaped being persecuted by persons falsely accusing Him. And He says to us:  “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too….They hated me without reason” (John 15: 20, 25). Sister Angela, and you and I, will repeatedly go through death and resurrection experiences, the death that comes with opposition and misunderstanding and the rising that comes with how we handle our suffering, namely, in a way that leads to deeper faith and stronger trust or in a way that leads to further dying and greater suffering for ourselves and others. May we, like Sister Angela, learn to approach life’s sorrows through a faith perspective, uniting our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ and make a firm resolve not to allow bitterness to lodge in our hearts.

Choosing that which sanctifies us

In today's first reading (Romans 6: 19-23), St. Paul reminds us that "...the end of those things [which lead us away from God and the things of God] are death." The end of choosing that which sanctifies us "is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Obviously, sin leads us away from God, away from Love, Justice, and Humility.  In choosing that which is not of God--selfishness, greed, lust, covetousness, envy, jealousy, slothfulness, deceit, murder, idolatry--we experience a death in the here and now.  When our wills are not in harmony with God's will--and deep within we know when that happens--our energies dissipate. Something dies within us. Our true selves or God-selves are disappointed.  On the other hand, when our choices are in harmony with God's plan for us--our sanctification--we sense a Power within us, a joy and a peace of the Holy Spirit, a taste of the fullness of life that Jesus promises; in short, a foretaste of heaven!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prepared for God's visitations

Today’s Gospel (Lk 12: 39-48) asked us to be prepared for Christ’s coming, as we would for a thief scouring to break into our houses.  Many times when we read this passage, we translate it to mean our death. And, of course, it is that. However, Christ prepares me for that final “yes” by many visitations prior to that.  God, surprisingly most times, appears unannounced in the events of each day. For example, my computer does not cooperate with a command as quickly as I’d like and God invites me to let go and be patient. I rant and rave instead, losing the opportunity to radiate peace and experience God, who isn’t in my whirlwind reaction to that or any event. God is in the “gentle breeze.”  A fellow Sister compliments me on a job well done—God’s affirmation in human form.  Resources have exactly the information for which I am looking. A friend calls right at the exact moment I needed someone to comfort me or, vice versa, I am inspired to call a friend right at the moment she needed someone with whom to talk.  “Yeses” to God’s daily visitations prepare me for that final visitation at the hour of my death. If I look for God throughout my lifetime, in every moment of every day,  I will be looking for Him at the hour of my death and I will be ready when the thief we call death breaks in.

Discernment: The 7th quality or attitude of a serious inquirer of God's will

The seventh attitude or quality of one who is determined to discover God’s will, that is of a serious discerner of being one with God in the way we live, is the ability to not confuse the ends with the means.  It is easy to forget the end—the goal of my entire existence-- when I am entangled in the means to get there. For instance, how many people when going off to college are set on choosing that major by which they will make a lot of money and be marketable and not that major by which they will best serve God, grow in God’s love and give glory to their Creator.  Serving God is not, many times, even within one’s consciousness.   Or,  how often might we be striving for success, wanting to be recognized, heard, appreciated—not bad thing things in itself, but part of being human—and slaving to accomplish those goals  without ever thinking that what our first goal, in any given task, is to be about serving God, loving God and giving praise to God by our efforts, whether we succeed or, human speaking, fail.

Mother Frances Streitel: Faced with life's bitter moments

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Yesterday we looked more deeply at the situation prior to the reversal of the decision to hire another person rather than Sister Angela to the administrative position at the Marian Institute in Wuerzburg.  She was suspected of being “used as a plaything” and of “loving to gossip,” neither of which are complementary to say the least. She tells us that she learnt what it meant to stand “beneath the cross with a bleeding heart” (Walk in Love, p. 29). She says that “her whole endeavor was bent on banishing from my heart every trace of bitterness that sought to lodge there, on praying very zealously and drawing closer than ever to the Tabernacle….” Walk in Love,  p. 29). What do you do when you are crushed by false accusations, are misunderstood, mistreated, abused and abandoned to stand “beneath the cross with a bleeding heart”?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Discernment: Serving God--the ultimate goal of one's life

More about having one’s priorities straight in order to reach the ultimate goal in life: serving God. Any vocation—religious life, priesthood, marriage, the single life—has the same purpose, namely, to serve the Lord using our talents and gifts, our strengths and challenges, our educational background and all that has contributed to making us the persons we are before God.  Any choice within our vocation, as well, must be directed toward that end, giving glory to God by our obedience to His will. All in life is a means to that end! One vocation is not better than another, it is simply a different path to which God call us. He calls us to a particular vocation because that is best suited to who we are and are to become.  God wants the best of us and wants us to be where we will thrive and find our greatest peace, joy and love. For some that is in serving the Lord as women  or men religious or as priests.  For others that is going through life with a particular partner in marriage and raising children. For still others it is serving the Lord as single women or men, giving one’s all to careers of service to humankind. Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.


Mother Frances Streitel: Standing up for her truth

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela. Yesterday we left you with the fact that Sister Angela’s transfer, at the request of the Board of Directors of the Marian Institute, to be administrator of that institution was foiled, initially that is. The priest who gave the position to another person quickly regretted his decision and reversed it, begging Sister Angela to take the position. The details of the transaction are not perfectly clear but, in some way, seems to have leveled accusations at Sister Angela that cut to the bone. She writes to the Superior General: “…this half year has taught me to withdraw interiorly and be silent. Fortunately,…I am innocent if accused of loving to gossip….I would certainly ask pardon if I had had an evil motive or had let myself be used as a plaything [she seems to have taken initiatives concerning the new position and actively prepared herself for the transfer—those actions could have been misinterpreted, perhaps, as hankering for the position  or being manipulated by the persons involved in the request. Some people seeking the position could have perceived Sister Angela in a negative light and believed she was pursuing selfish ambitions]. However, whatever really happened that she was accused of being “used as a plaything,” and “loving to gossip,”   is  not obvious but the  pain caused is (Walk in Love, p. 26).  Sister Angela, again, emerges a stronger person whose heart is purified and strengthened in the suffering. When you are falsely accused, does the way you handle it lead to deeper faith, deeper trust or to greater suffering? How do you surface freer than before the conflict? What do you do to stand up for yourself?

Call to evangelization

Today's Scripture speaks poignantly to me as Vocation Director. Paul needs men and women committed to evangelization, willing to give all to Jesus, to proclaim the Kingdom, to pass on the faith, to follow Jesus unreservedly and courageously without turning back when things get rough or something that seems more glamorous catches one's attention.  Demas, Paul says, deserted him, "enamored of the present world" (2 Tim 4:10).  Two others also left him. Only Luke stays.  Paul, in his wisdom, however, continues to look for persons of substance: Get me Mark "and bring him with you, for he is helpful  to me in my ministry [proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ].  Some of the most courageous, hope-filled women and men with whom I have the privilege to work are vocation directors and members of my religious community who, like Paul, keep[ looking for persons of strong faith, committed love, and deep, lasting trust in the One who, as we learn in today's Gospel (Luke 10: 1-9), sends all disciples, not just priests and nuns, "ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit [my emphasis]....Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves....Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.'"  Are you up to spreading the faith as married or single women or men? Are some of you being called to do so as women religious, priests, deacons?  Think about the challenge to be evangelists, that is, persons willing to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world that can be hostile and indifferent. "I am sending you out like lambs among wolves....," says Jesus.  But remember God goes with you. And may you go with God.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Full conviction that what God promises God is capable of doing

Today’s Scriptures:  What a message!  We are told in Romans 4: 20-25 that Abraham was fully convinced that what God promised he was able to do!”  That immediately jolted me with a question: Are you fully convinced that what God promises you He is able to do?  I obviously could not say an unequivocal  “yes,” as many times my actions belie that belief. Paul goes on to tell us that Abraham was empowered  by his faith.  That left me with another question: Dorothy Ann, when you are swamped with your weaknesses and sunk, so it seems, into your limitations, is it possible that you are not acting out of faith because, if you were, would you not be empowered? When I am acting out of faith, am I not, then, also seeking  God’s way of doing things and wanting God to make His will known to me and His power operational in me?  Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.   As for Abraham so for us:  we will be credited for our belief “in the one who raised Jesus from the death, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4: 25). The good thief is an example of the credits given to those who believe. That experience of death/resurrection occurs  also when, in faith, we are empowered to rise out of our weaknesses and limitations into the power of God bringing to life our abilities in which we have lost faith.

Discernment: 6th important quality or attitude of a serious discerner

The sixth attitude or quality essential to discerning God’s will is having one’s priorities in order. We need to ask ourselves the question:  What’s important in my life or what is important to me?  Without knowing the answer to that question, a person is likely to shift here or there, from this or that according to how the “wind” blows.   

Ignatius believes strongly, and agree with him, that , if giving service to God is one’s ultimate goal, then every choice is made, or not made, in order to reach that goal. We will sacrifice anything to remain free in our resolve to respond to what God wants of us.  What is your ultimate goal?  When faced with a disturbing issue and responding to it out of jealousy, anger, hurt, do I ask myself the question:  How much will this matter to me in light of eternity?  That mode of pondering is another way to stay focused on one’s ultimate goal, doing what God wants of us in any given situation and not just in choosing one’s state in life.   Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: Her faith tested

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.Let’s return to the assignments given to Sister Angela as a Maria Stern Franciscan. On the October 10 blog I spoke about her 1871 assignment to St. Elizabeth’s Home for Orphans in Wuerzburg.  She was there not even a year when the Board of Directors of the Marian Institute, also in Wuerzburg, requested of her superior general to transfer her to this institution, as Sister Angela’s administrative abilities were exceptional and outsiders recognized this.  The Marian Institute was in complete disarray economically and otherwise. Sister Angela became very active in preparing herself for the transfer. Very close to the transaction being completed, however, one of the priests involved in the request accepted another person for the position, causing significant pain to Sister Angela. What do you think Sister Angela’s reaction was? Have you ever had a Board of Directors or a future employer seek you out, ask you to prepare to take a position and all of a sudden everything mysteriously changed—someone else was hired less qualified, less experienced, and far less competent than you?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The gift of righteousness and blessedness

In today’s first Scripture reading, Romans 4: 1-8, Paul raises the question about Abraham’s righteousness.  Like Abraham, what you and I have found is not of the flesh.  We are not justified by the work we do or ever did or will do. If our work saves us, we would have reason to boast, as would Abraham.  In God’s sight, however, as Paul reminds us, we have no reason to boast of any good we have done nor even of our faith in God.  We might say to God in prayer: “Lord, You gave me the gift of faith. My righteousness is in You, Your gift to me in Christ Jesus.  I am not the one doing the work that leads to righteousness or sanctity. That is the Spirit working in me, a gift poured out upon humankind when Your Son, Christ Jesus, after His death and resurrection, returned to heaven.  Our blessedness, as in King David, (Romans 4: 6-8)  is a reality because You, God, have forgiven our sins.”  And Jesus says to me through the Spirit within me:  “Dorothy Ann, blessed are you because God wipes away your sins, does not keep a record of them. Your righteousness is God’s righteousness, a gift from God, whose love for you  is shown in the sacrifice of His Son’s life and His triumph over Satan on that first Good Friday.” My response: “Praise You, Lord! Thank You, Lord! Glorify You, Lord!”   What does the Spirit say to you in today’s first reading? And what is your response?            

Discernment: Importance of prayer

We continue to discuss the seven attitudes that carry importance in a serious discerner, the first four of which, addressed in recent discernment blogs, are openness, generosity, courage, and interior freedom.   The fifth attitude is prayerfulness, that is, assuming the discipline of reflection in prayer on one’s experiences. A serious discerner needs to be listening to the Spirit within. God speaks softly, gently in the depths of our hearts.  God’s call will not be heard if one is not listening.  Cell phones, iPods, Droids, TVs, the Internet need to be shut off and one needs to recede into solitude. A prayerful decision, obviously, assumes one is in prayer for a minimum of twenty minutes or more on a daily basis.  Twenty minutes, even, may not be enough to quiet an active mind, to put oneself in God’s presence and listen to God speaking within one’s depth.   Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: Growing strong through life's difficulties

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela. Yesterday we reflected on Sister Angela’s progress following a very difficult time in her life.  She surfaces a stronger woman, a woman of deeper faith and a woman whose reliance upon the Lord has been strengthened. In her prayer Sister Angela notices what is going on within her: she is honest with the Lord, sharing her feelings, her disappointments, her concerns.  Like so many persons who came to Jesus for healing, He first wanted to know what that person was looking for from Him. He did not just cure them.  Honest presenting of their need was important. Sister Angela’s prayed her experiences, keeping nothing back from the Lord with the rationalization: “God already knows what I need. I don’t have to tell Him.”  This attitude in prayer is also very childlike! Children do not leave adults guessing what they want from them. How do I pray? Is my prayer childlike or do I rationalize that God’s know everything; I don’t have to tell Him.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Discernment: qualities that effect our discerning of God's will

The last two blogs on Discernment dealt with the types of persons and how they approach doing God’s will: the first being one who, in a sense, says ‘yes’ but then does nothing; the second being one who is busy doing a myriad of good things but not the one thing necessary, namely doing that to which God is calling. St. Ignatius speaks of a third type of person, namely, one who is truly interiorly free.  These kinds of persons are passionate about doing God’s will—that is their only desire.  No conditions are attached.  Authentic searching for and finding the will of God begins with this attitude. Which of these three approaches is my approach:  “the one who is all talk but no action” or the one who avoids the real issue and stays busy doing everything else under the sun or the one whose only desire is to be finding and doing the will of God, no matter what the cost?  Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: "I have learned to pray again like a child"

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  In 1879, two years after that near death experience and probably after that experience of being accused of abusing her authority, Sister Angela confides in her superior that she is at peace with herself and that she has learned again to pray as would a child.  A child’s prayer reflects the characteristics of children: simplicity, purity, straightforwardness, honesty, faith, hope, humility (totally dependent upon parents and thus on God as well). There is no conceit  or pride in a small child.  Imagine God gazing upon Sister Angela in prayer and she gazing upon God in joyous expectation of experiencing God’s love, generosity and abundance of what the goodness of God dictates--that is what a small child expects from its parents. Truly, Sister Angela teaches us how to pray!

The gift of redemption

In today's first Scriptural reading, Romans 3: 21-30, Paul reminds us that every human being is a sinner deprived of the glory of God until Jesus, the righteousness of God, reconciled us through the blood of the cross.  Paul is talking about you and me. We are sinners who, until Jesus reconciled us to God, were deprived of God's glory, shut out of God's good graces.  On Calvary, grace in abundance flows out  of the Incarnate God into our bodies that are now redeemed by our faith in Christ Jesus, whom God the Father "set forth as expiation" (Romans 3:25).  Our sins are fully forgiven by a loving God, who, in His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord, pardons our disobedience by Christ's obedience to the will of His Father. That will, from all eternity, is that we are saved moment by moment throughout our time here on earth.  It is not our works, our eloquence, our goodness, our education, our talents, our nationalities or personalities or our accomplishments that redeem us. No, redemption is a pure gift from God the Father through God the Son and the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Jesus and the One who sent Him.  The good we do is done through the Spirit working through us to accomplish the good God sent us here to do in His name.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Discerning God's will: "The what ifs" as a response

Yesterday we shared with you the first of three types of persons and their approach to doing God’s will, namely, the one who has good intentions to truly discover God’s will and when nudged to do what God is asking, does nothing. The second type of person, according to St. Ignatian Loyola, is the one who “does everything but the one thing necessary, namely, that to which  God is calling them. Religious life? But, oh, my, what if this and what if that and what if the other thing. The pile of “ifs” gets in the way.   This type of person will do good things for the Lord as long as what God is asking does not demand too much of them. The leap of faith  is never taken.   What if Mary had not taken that leap and what if Jesus had approached His Father with a list of ifs?
Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: "God is preparing me for something"

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  When Sister Angela returned to serving the Lord according to strict religious principles and got permission from her superiors to request the same from the sisters over whom she was superior, some of the Sisters followed her example and held her in high esteem while others felt disdain for her and denounced her to her superiors as going too far and abusing her authority (See Walk in Love, p. 21). We may be scandalized that fellow sisters would behave in this way. However, human nature--with its tendencies toward jealousy and envy, resistance to change, and rejecting someone who confronts their behavior and/or excels them in living the ideals of one’s state in life-- does not cherish correction. In any state of life, in any job (ministry as we in religious life refer to our jobs), in any relationship, we humans will encounter the best and the worst in human nature, our own and that of others. No one goes through life without these experiences. It is what we do with them that matters. Sister Angela went to the Lord, stood beneath the cross of Jesus pouring out her anguish, complaining to the Lord when she realizes that God uses all of the circumstances of our lives to make us stronger, to open our hearts to grace, and to transform us into a vessel wherein His will is accomplished. She says: “….I could make reparation for my sins and was firmly convinced thereby that God wanted to prepare me for a task that was as yet undisclosed to me” (Walk in Love,  p. 22).  The question for all of us is: what do I do when I encounter the worst in another and in myself?

God's abundant patience, goodness, and toleration

The first reading of today’s Scriptures begins with “…no matter who you are, if you pass judgment you have no excuse.  In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behavior impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realizing that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2: 1-4)?  I encourage each of us to reread that passage inserting our names, for example, for me it would read: “…no matter who you are, Dorothy Ann, if you pass judgment you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge.” In another part of the Scripture, I am reminded that by judging the law I am not  a doer of the law but its judge; and when I stand in judgment over others,  I am acting against the law. Those are powerful admonitions and is why Jesus confronted the Pharisees and scholars of the law (and the Pharisees and scholar in me) in today’s Gospel. The beauty is that we have a God who understands human nature—not excusing us but forgiving us, being patient with us, reconciling us and giving us the grace, over and over again,  to put on the person of Christ, to die to sin and rise with Christ to holiness and new life. Christ does not give up on us and never will stop working to bring about our redemption from fallen human nature.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Faith--a lifegiving reality!

In the first reading of today’s Scriptures (Rom. 1: 16-25) we are reminded that “the upright person finds life through faith.”  How true this is for me and I am sure for you as well.  I take everything to the Lord in prayer. Many times I am absolutely amazed at the results of that faith practice.  My prayer hour can, at times, be anything but exciting as I unload my burdens, complain sometimes, as did Jeremiah and Job and David and so many other Old Testament personalities.  Whatever the source of my pain, I share my feelings, both positive and negative.  I may then sit in silence, waiting for God’s response, or I solicit God’s counsel. I ask for the Holy Spirit’s advice.  At other times I simply gaze upon God and let God gaze upon me in love.  One day last week in a very, very desert-like prayer experience, I left the hour as I came into it: dry, dull, depressed, frustrated, thinking that maybe I should resign from this position. However, I did not do that but resolved to put my mind to the day’s challenges and do the best I could. It was the most productive day of the week!  And, yes, God provided a real live person who is being called to religious life! Faith in action!  How have your experienced the truth that “the upright person finds life through faith”?

Mother Frances Streitel: Giving herself wholeheartedly

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Yesterday we spoke of Sister Angela encountering opposition when, in her zeal, she wanted the Sisters with whom she lived to be as committed to religious disciplines as she was. Earlier, we spoke of the fact that Sister Angela let up on herself, becoming lukewarm in the practice of the religious disciplines.  She believed that the near fatal illness she experienced at that time was God’s way of waking her up. Following her recovery she again gave herself wholeheartedly to what she believed God was asking of her.  One of her deepest desires was to practice poverty as did St. Francis of Assisi. She longed to see the original austerity of St. Francis of Assisi lived in her congregation and would have welcomed a deep spiritual renewal of religious life of her day. In a sense she hung on the cross with Christ, uttering the words: “I thirst.”  This kind of spiritual thirst is not uncommon. We thirst for justice and honesty. We thirst for an end to the moral decline we see all around us, an end to war, abortions, the death penalty, human trafficking and corruptions in “high places.”  We thirst for the cessation of the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, and so much more. Yes, we long for an “austerity” of a different nature that will right the wrongs of this world. And no doubt, both St. Francis and Mother Frances would have been thirsting for this same kind of austerity in our day.

Discernment: Talking about doing God's will but not doing it

The fourth quality essential to authentically searching for God’s will concerning one’s state in life is interior freedom.  St. Ignatius describes three types of people and their different approaches to making a decision. I will share the first type in this blog and that is, a person who talks about doing God’s will but does nothing.  This person scores an A+ for good intentions but is seriously distracted by things that would be considered insignificant compared to doing God’s will. “Not to decide ends up being the decision” (Sazama, Warren, S.J., Discernment of Spirits, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL).  The people that come to mind, for me as Vocation Director, are those single women who, at age 50, 60, 70, 80, inquire about religious life and say “I kept putting this off and it is now time for me to act.”  Their resumes and accomplishments are astounding yet they put the call to religious life on the back burner, first pursuing it when they no longer meet the age requirement for entering most religious communities.  Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Discerning one's vocation

Discernment: Step 2  of the Ignatian method of discernment, in a nutshell, so to speak, was  to pray from a place of deep  inner calmness to know God’s will only and to set one’s own will aside completely.    Step 3 is a petitionary step: ask the Lord to move your will toward His will concerning the vocation to which God is calling you: that state in life in which you will give glory to God and procure your eternal salvation, a gift already purchased for you at great price.  This is another way of saying to the Lord: God, I want only what you want for me, not what I want for me. Do you want me to pursue marriage, the single life or religious life (men: priesthood)?  What is it, Lord? Show me!  Then wait! (“By waiting and by calm you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your strength lies”—Is. 30:15)
Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.
Discernment: Step 2  of the Ignatian method of discernment, in a nutshell, so to speak, was  to pray from a place of deep  inner calmness to know God’s will only and to set one’s own will aside completely.    Step 3 is a petitionary step: ask the Lord to move your will toward His will concerning the vocation to which God is calling you: that state in life in which you will give glory to God and procure your eternal salvation, a gift already purchased for you at great price.  This is another way of saying to the Lord: God, I want only what you want for me, not what I want for me. Do you want me to pursue marriage, the single life or religious life (men: priesthood)?  What is it, Lord? Show me!  Then wait! (“By waiting and by calm you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your strength lies”—Is. 30:15)
Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Courage in the pursuit of God's will

The third quality essential to authentically search for God’s will concerning one’s life is courage.  In surrendering to God’s will and putting one’s own aside in this process is difficult, to say the least. What if God asks something that is difficult and challenging like marriage or the single life or religious life or priesthood or that of a missionary in a foreign land. What if God asks me to consecrate my life to Him in a religious community that serves lepers, criminals, the sick and dying, the mentally ill, ill-literate and unruly children, youth apathetic to His Word?  “I can’t let my state of life up to God! What if I’m not up to the challenges? What if I fail? What if….”   “Courage! It is I,” Jesus tells the apostles who see someone on the water walking toward them in the boat.  Jesus says the same to those at the threshold of choosing a vocation in life: “Courage.  It is I calling you to this state in life. Be not afraid.”
Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.



Mother Frances Streitel: Zealousness not appreciated

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela. As administrator and local superior of the girls’ school of languages and needlework in Altomuenster, Sister Angela also gave music lessons, thus sharing her talent as a musician with some of the girls. Less than a year after this 1871 assignment, she was reassigned to a more demanding mission, St. Elizabeth’s Home for Orphans in Wuerzburg. Sister Angela had hardly four year’s experience in the missions at this point and less experience in administration and as local superior.  She is only 28 year of age and still very zealous in her practice of the disciplines of religious life.  She is passionate about serving the Lord wholeheartedly and wanted the Sisters and the orphans to be as zealous as she was.  However, her zeal and her ideals were not always appreciated by others and clashes occurred. Relationships became strained.  Think of a time when you, too, were not well received by others and your desire for perfection and high ideals were not shared by others—whether you are married, single or aspiring to religious life. In short, people just do not seem to understand you. What helps you weather this kind of storm?


A future full of hope

The Sunday Scriptures are quite awesome. In Isaiah, the prophet speaks about the mountain of the Lord, to which every human being on the face of the earth is invited to celebrate the gift of redemption. We are told that this is the Lord’s mountain, where, at His second coming,  the tears of all humankind will be wiped  away, the veil stripped away—blindness removed--the web enslaving every nation and all peoples  shattered.  The reproach leveled at any nation, any country, any culture, any religion, any person on the face of this earth will be removed.  The Lord comes with power to save  all of humanity from that which binds us, destroys us, deprives us of the peace, the joy, the love, the forgiveness, the fullness of life Jesus promises in the Gospels: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.”  God wants nothing less for us and Christ will not rest until He knows He’s accomplished the Father’s will, our freedom from Satan’s snares.  The robe of salvation, the wedding garment, purchased by the blood of Christ, is offered to each of us every day, every moment, in all of the circumstances of our lives. Will we accept this garment of grace? Will we wear it? Will this wedding garment become brighter and brighter, more beautiful and beautifying as each of us lives the Gospel of Christ? Or will we kill the messenger, reject the Message, and walk  back into the darkness, back into the web woven by pride and jealousy, by lust and covetousness, by hatred and fear, by deceit and envy? Will we allow ourselves to remain caught in Satan’s snares or accept the freedom Christ offers?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Quality needed in a genuine search for God's will

 The second quality necessary in an authentic search for the will of God is generosity. A person who approaches a decision which she wants to be in accord with God’s will and, as a pre-requisite, sets aside all biases, the leanings of her own will, prejudices, fears and anxieties, to listen to the Lord is a very generous and humble person.  Using the example Father Warren Sazama, S.J., uses, she comes to God with a blank check and lets God fill in the amount. Only a generous person would do this.  When we are generous, God’s generosity will not be outdone. Recall Jesus’ statement  in  Lk 11: 5-13: if you who are prone to selfishness and sin, can give your children what they ask for (you wouldn’t give them a snake if they asked for a fish or a scorpion if they asked for an egg), how much more will your God not give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. In the case of seeking God’s will, will not the Lord be sure that you find that Divine Will, not that this find would happen magically or instantaneously, but we can be confident that the Lord will reveal His will to us in due time. Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: Developing the talents God gave her

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and, as a Maria Stern Franciscan, known as Sister Angela.  Sister Angela’s leadership abilities were quickly recognized by her superiors. Her first assignment as a teacher in a local school in  Noerdlingen lasted only three years, at which time she was assigned as superior and administrator of a girl’s school for languages and needlework.  She not only proved herself very competent in leadership skills but also proficient in languages and talented in the art of needlework. How did God use Mother Frances’ ability to lead to achieve His purposes for her?  What are your strengths and how might God use them to achieve the purpose for which He created you? Do you know what that purpose is?  Why do you believe that leadership skills are very important in any walk in life and especially for women religious?

The Kingdom of God is in your midst: evil will be wiped out by a just God

Both of today’s readings (Joel  1: 13-15; 2: 1-2 and the Gospel of Luke 11: 15-26) speak about the presence of evil in the world and how God will/is dealing with it.   The prophet Joel prophesies that the day of the Lord is near and that it comes as ruin (to satanic forces and injustices, to that which destroys life: human traffickers, abortionists, murderers, adulterers, thieves, abusers, terrorists, perpetrators of war and all forms of evil in the world of our day).  Evil within every nation, every country, every household, every person will be confronted by an all-holy, just, compassionate,  forgiving God.  Everyone will have the opportunity to repent and believe in the Good News, who is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and be transformed by grace.  In the Gospel, Jesus’ critics and stalkers accuse Him of casting out demons/evil by the power of Beelzebub, by evil itself, as though Satan would be working to throw himself out of human life when his goal is that we rebel against God as he did. Jesus’ response to his discreditors is: “If  I’m casting out Satan through Satan, by whom do your people cast them out; a house divided against itself will not prevail.” He then proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst as evidenced by demons being overcome and other signs of “Emmanual-with-us.”  Both readings are heralds of hope. Salvation is here.  Wickedness and evil will not triumph over grace.  The myriad faces of evil will be destroyed, as God, the just judge, comes to judge the world with justice. Those caught in Satan’s snares will be offered the chance to be free through a loving, redeeming, caring and generous God. Those who refuse the gift of salvation will be judged justly.  Justice will be served!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Openness to hearing God's direction in our lives

In the next seven entries on discernment,  I will address  the qualities necessary in an authentic search for the will of God.  The first quality is openness.  Whatever decision we are making, we must approach that decision with openness of mind and of heart.  All pre-conceptions, all biases, all prejudices, the inclinations of our self-will need to be set aside if we truly want  to know what God wants of us.  If we want God to “write” down His will for us, we need a blank slate, not a journal filled with our ideas.  As my retreat director said to me after my first day of retreat this summer:  “If you need another day to empty yourself, I will give you that. God cannot fill up a space that is already occupied with an agenda.”  If we come to God wanting to know His will and yet we limit Him with what we want to happen, we then  put limits on the decision and on our freedom. It is no longer an open decision.  Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Mother Frances Streitel: Struggle to remain faithful and give generously

Amalia Frances Rose Streitel aka Mother Frances Streitel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.  In the early years of religious life as a Maria Stern Franciscan, Sister Angela held nothing back in her following of Christ.  We’d probably call it “the honeymoon phase” of her consecration to the Lord—a honeymoon phase possibly similar to the honeymoon phase in a marriage, in a newly acquired job, at the beginning of the academic year.  We jump in with two feet, as the saying goes! At the beginning, nothing is too much for us.  Whatever it takes, we give it. No discipline is beyond us. No task shunned. As time passes, we lose heart—cut here, cut there, let up here, let up there,  especially if our colleagues or those older than ourselves are not as serious about the demands or responsibilities as they once were. We lose sight of the ideals, perhaps. Or we no longer feel the support of others. Perhaps we are ridiculed, made fun of, questioned. This is what happened to Sister Angela. However,in 1877, nine years after making her profession of vows, she becomes seriously ill—an illness that was nearly fatal.  She says that she begged God to spare her life and that her eyes were opened to the fact that she had abandoned the disciplines, the asceticism, she believed God was asking of her. She repented and again gave herself wholeheartedly to the Lord, being obedient to His will and not comparing her life to that of others. It was God’s inner direction to which she needed to pay attention. Has there been a time in your life that what God was asking of you was not necessarily what God was asking of another but you took the easier path: doing what everyone else is doing and then realized you were in trouble?