Friday, March 30, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Fifth Sorrow, Mary Stands beneath the Cross—Mary sees and hears the exchange between the two criminals. One of them is making fun of Jesus. Dismis confronts his fellow criminal, saying to him: “Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Dismis stands up for Jesus, admits his sinfulness and begs mercy. Mary hears Jesus’ response: “In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Imagine Mary hearing those words: Jesus will soon be in paradise, as will Dismis. Imagine, too, if you were watching a loved one close to death and that person said to you: “Honey, I will soon be in Paradise. Jesus is calling me.”  Would not your heart be deeply, deeply touched and, as much as you would not want to lose that person or let him/her go, you would not withhold that gift from him/her.

Imagine, too, being the parent or family member of a criminal and you witnessed  your son/daughter/loved one, while facing death, stand up for Jesus, admit his/her wrongdoing and ask God for mercy.  It happens every day because our God is a merciful, compassionate, loving God who extends the grace of redemption to everyone.  No exceptions!  The opportunity to witness to Jesus, to acknowledge our sinfulness, to ask for mercy will be given to each one of us, as it was given to Dismis and his fellow criminal.  Mary will be there as our witness, praying that we will accept the invitation to repent. Like Mary, we, too, however, are called upon to pray for others in similar situations. Who, in your life, needs your intercessory prayer and your mercy?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Fifth Sorrow, Mary Standing beneath the Cross of Jesus—In her sorrow, Mary hears Jesus says: “Woman, behold your Son” and to John  “Son, behold your mother.”  It was as if Jesus had said: “Woman, you are now to be the mother of all humankind.  Your role in carrying out my Father’s will  is changing. Now, your mission is to all people.  You are to do for them what you have done for Me: taught  me to say “yes” to my Father’s will just as you had done, challenged me at Cana to step up to the plate and reveal my true identity: my power to make a difference; to  proclaim the presence of the Kingdom of my Father by healing the deaf, the blind and the crippled; to forgive sins, raise the dead to life, confront sin and proclaim salvation, though doing these things would bring me into conflict with the powers that be and would ultimately lead to my death.  You taught me to do my Father’s work no matter what the consequences might be.  You need to teach every man and woman to do the same: to work to build up the Kingdom even when it brings them into conflict with human authority, even though standing up for Truth will lead to ridicule, suspicion, rejection and  death--death to the ego, death to fear, death to deceitfulness, death to pride—and ‘yes’ even, in some cases, physical death.”

 To what do I need to die in order to embrace the brotherhood/sisterhood of all humankind and, together, make this world what God intends it to be: a place where all are respected, all are made whole, and peace and justice reign; in short, where sin has no more power to destroy?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Fifth Sorrow—Standing beneath the cross of Jesus:  Mary hears Jesus cry out: “I thirst” and realizes that a centurion offers Him vinegar to drink.  What good is that—a drink that would burn His parched lips and cause Him to cough, thus aggravating the pierced extremities.  Mary, who relieved Jesus’ thirst so many times as a little boy, cannot, this moment, hold a cup of cold water to his parched lips.  His thirst and hers become one. His agony is hers.

Jesus’ thirst is not just a physical thirst. It is also a thirst for justice, for truth. An innocent man is being put to death. Truth is being scorned, rejected, denied by the Scribes, Pharisees, and the authorities of Jesus’ day.  Over and over again, Mary and Jesus witness truth being mocked by justice systems throughout the world, by corrupt law enforcement personnel and unjust judges, by criminals, by ordinary men and women refusing to acknowledge their sinful ways.  Every time truth is rejected, the death of Jesus and Mary’s witness to that death is reenacted in our lives.

To whose truth am I witness today? Is that truth—my own or another’s--being upheld or denied? Are Jesus and Mary standing by thirsting for us to become our true selves, to become one with them in the integrity of our beings, in walking the way of love and justice?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Fifth Sorrow, Standing beneath the Cross--As Jesus undergoes the agonizing pain of crucifixion, Mary hears her Son cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” She is unable to say anything that would comfort Him. His experience of abandonment pierces His soul and hers as painfully as the nails have piercingly been driven through His wrist and feet and Mary’s heart! 

Mary witnesses her Son speak His truth even on the cross, expressing His feeling of being deserted, left utterly alone  and asking His Father “why?”  “Where are you, Father, when I need you so desperately?   There is no way Mary can give an answer to that “why?” or bring relief in any way. Here her intercessory power seems to be silenced.

Her pain is a parents’ pain when nothing they do makes a difference in their child’s life. Every child must endure consequences to their actions that parents cannot mediate. The consequences of Jesus’ actions—being true to His Father’s mission of showing all of humankind mercy, of loving us to death literally, proclaiming a Kingdom of justice—led to Calvary. The consequences of a child’s  actions, when their choices are not in accord with God’s will and, in fact, are in violation of the law of the land, can lead to an arrest, prison time and, sometimes, death.  A parent stands as helpless as Mary did beneath the cross. She knows the pain of powerlessness and, with every parent, she stands by their side as well.  She stands at the side of every person who is helpless to change the outcome of choices that lead to devastating consequences and to an agony that words cannot express.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Fifth Sorrow, Mary Standing beneath the Cross—Mary stands beneath the cross of her dying Son. He is in excruciating pain as he lifts Himself up in order to breathe.  Blood is pouring out from His nailed wrists and feet. Executioners and those crucified with Him are taunting Him: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself.”   Unsympathetic onlookers are scoffing at Him, convinced now, perhaps, that He got what He deserved, that He was, in truth, not the Messiah, the Anointed One, but an imposter.   And when Jesus stays on the cross in obedience to the Father, out of love for us and for our salvation, their disgust toward Him intensifies.  Mary hears the scathing insults.  She sees the hatred in the eyes of those who are mocking Him and hears the anger in their voices.  She then hears Jesus say: “Father, forgive them for they know now what they are doing.”  With her Son, Mary asks God to forgive us when we say and do things that bring harm to others.  

What do we do when we witness others being insulted? What do we do when we ourselves experience the disdain of those who resent us? How do we react when what we stand for as Christians is met with scornful remarks or when our truth is rejected, as Jesus’ was?  With Jesus and Mary, do we pray: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing?”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Eucharistic celebration:

Today Christians throughout the world are worshipping in community and and receiving the Eucharist.  I am in a foreign country today. After Mass, the Sisters I am visiting greeted many of the parishioners. I watched or "hid" behind one of them I knew and who, at the time, was not mingling.  I could have continued to withdraw, like a small child hiding behind and clinging to the back of its mother's leg.  I could have continued to use the excuse "I don't know anyone" or "I am shy," and not, following the Eucharistic celebration, "broken bread" with anyone.  Finally, either moved by my discomfort or by the Spirit, I reached out and began to greet some of the parishioners.  It was only then that, like Jesus, I shared myself with others, as Jesus shared Himself with me in the sacrament.  Is it possible that the only way a sacrament is "consummated" is when I interact with another human being and not stay locked up in my own security or fears?  And is it possible that the Word of God that I had just heard and which I reflected upon earlier in meditative prayer only bears fruit when I share with others and that, without interaction with those with whom I live and work, the "seed" of the Word within me remains dormant.  Does my faith, then, not grow?

What's your experience of how you "consummate" your faith?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, I believes weeps with us today as we ponder the recent murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who, in a gated community in Florida, recently who had gone out to purchase skittles and a tea and was killed a short distance from the family he was visiting.  There is an outrage throughout the U.S. and beyond, an outrage as deep as when Casey Anthony was acquitted of the death of her two-year-old-child Kaylee.  Rightly so, in both cases, according to my opinion.  Thousands of innocent people, everyday, throughout the world are victims of violence, as was Mary's Son Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God.  Are we coming to a point in our society and the world of seeing the power of Justice meet injustice, God meeting man in the darkest moments of our existence through those of us willing to stand up to evil in our own lives and in the lives around us.  Are we approaching a point where we will no longer stand by and allow a Trayvon Martin or a Kaylee Anthony's death be in vain, anymore than Jesus' death was in vain.  Is God creating a new earth and a new heaven right before our eyes, raising us up to new heights of confronting the evils of this world, bringing the darkness into the Light for all to see?  Is each of us moving toward a place where we will no longer tolerate injustices without standing up for the Truth, confronting wrongdoing, as Jesus did in His day and in His society?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

The Fourth Sorrow--Meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary.  At the wedding feast in Cana, Mary noticed the embarrassment of the wedding party. They had run out of wine.  It was she who would bring this reality to her Son's attention. His response was: "What is that to me. My hour has not yet come."  She then tells the servants to do whatever Jesus directs them to do. They fill the jugs with water. Jesus turns the water into choicest wine.

Mary meets Jesus and walks with Him to Calvary where He will fulfill the hour for which He was sent into the world. On the cross, as He is dying, water and blood pour out of His body, as He is surrendering Himself to the will of the Father, our salvation. From that moment on and never again would our "jugs" be empty but would be filled with the choicest of wines, divine grace that leads us into eternal life to sit at the eternal banquet, a banquet which all of us anticipate every day we participate in the Eucharistic liturgy of the Mass.

Faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love: God's love, Mary's love and ours as we continue to accompany others in their sorrows and reveal God's love to the world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary, the Fourth Sorrow: Jesus is being led away to Calvary because the leaders of His day were threatened by His presence, His power, His popularity. They were jealous of Him and afraid that they themselves were losing the power and popularity that they wanted to secure for themselves and which they once possessed. As we listen to the politicians of today in the U.S. and their venomous attacks on one another, we realize that what is happening is not much different from the lies told about Jesus that led to His demise by the authorities of His day.

Mary knows and experiences the pain that led to Jesus' arrest. She walks with Him as He is humiliated on the way to Calvary. She knows the humiliating position many persons are subjected to by those who will arrive at or stay at the top at all costs. As the saying goes, "I will get what I want no matter what." Many children are taught to live this way. We see our politicians, our popular entertainment stars, our corporate CEOs, Wall Street professionals, athletes and so many others glamoring for the top position at other's expense. That is what happened to Jesus tragically from a human standpoint. Are we willing to stop playing this one-up-man-ship game, this "I will win at all costs" strategizing and meet the challenge Isaiah puts before us when he says: All God asks of us is to live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God. Jesus and Mary shows us the way. My own mother lived this way and probably yours as well. What about me? What about you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows—Meeting Jesus on the Road to Calvary.  Mary meeting of Jesus on His way to death is an encounter and a suffering with her Son. It is not a dropping-by-kind-of meeting.  It is the kind of encounter that a loved one endures every day when he/she sits at the death bed of another: a parent at the death bed of a child, a child at the death of a parent and/or sibling, a friend powerlessly gazing on a friend on his/her way to confront death with a heart full of faith, trust and love for the One who showed us the way to a new life.  O Mary, continue to be with us as you were with Jesus!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: Meeting Jesus on the Road to Calvary

Mary, Mother of Sorrows--Meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary:  Each of us is on the way to a dying and a rising to new life in Christ Jesus.  Mary meets us on that road each day.  She is there to give us support when we need strengthening; when our faith, trust, and love are waning.  She knows that saying “not my will but Yours be done, O Lord,” is sometimes uttered amidst agonizing pain and impenetrable darkness.  In those periods of utmost misery and inexhaustible heartache, may each of us know that Mary stands by us, interceding with Her Son, changing the “water” of our human capabilities into the choice “wine” of grace.  And so, in retrospect, pondering what we endured, we say:  “I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know where I found the strength to do what I did. I thought I’d never see light again.” Faith tells us that Mary and Jesus were there walking beside us!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

The Fourth Sorrow of Mary, Meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary—Imagine meeting your son/daughter or a close relative carrying the instrument on which he/she will be crucified.  The agony of such a scene. The  helplessness! The outrage!  Every day Mary, our Mother, and someone here on earth is experiencing just that: a child sold to the sex trade or the victim of abuse of any kind, a child used as a pawn in an ugly divorce, an unborn infant tortured and murdered in the womb, a person, young or old, bullied on our streets, in our homes, in other places considered safe; an  employee being harrassed by an employer or a co-worker; citizens oppressed by their leaders; men, women, children in harm's way in wartorn parts of this world.

Mary could not stop the execution of Jesus but each of us can stop ways in which we perpetuate misunderstandings and heartbreaks that could lead to violence. Each one of us can recognize jealousies that could erupt in ways that bring harm to others, as those jealous of Jesus found ways to destroy Him--jealousies that also pierced Mary’s heart.  Nations can choose other ways of confronting differences without resorting to war. Governing bodies have choices that bring life versus death to others.

What is brewing in my heart today, in the hearts of the leaders of our country and of the world,  that could lead to a painful or treacherous end for each one of us and our neighbors in Christ? And which, thereby, pierces the heart of Mary, the  Mother of us all. Mary did not retaliate on those who hated her Son. She did not seek revenge or use violence to "save" her son.  Like her may each of us, our leaders in governmental positions, each nation find a way to respond to conflicts that does not add fuel to a situation that is already on the road to “Calvary”!  Is it possible to discover how to walk side by side with those  society condemns unjustly and thus restore right relationships and know resurrections to new ways of living.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Third Sorrow, the loss of Jesus in the Temple

When Mary finds Jesus, she says to Him in effect:  “Don’t you realize that your father and I have been painstakingly searching for you?”  And Jesus retorts: “Didn’t you know that I have to be about my Father’s business.”  Whew! That stung! Tensions must have soared.  What was it like the rest of the way home, I wonder?  What was it like once they arrived back in Nazareth?  Mary’s question:  Why have you done this to us?” certainly resonates with the irritation any parent would have felt if a son or a daughter would have stayed behind on an outing without telling his/her parents their intention. The anger, guilt and frustration would have lingered after the event  (cf Joyce Rupp, My Sorrows is Your Sorrow, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York,  1999, p. 78-79).

Mary, we know, pondered the happenings of her life.  Pondering, though, would not  really have cleared the air or released the feelings.  Talking to Elizabeth and/or to her husband Joseph would have relieved some of the pain but not totally.  Only forgiveness does not. She had to forgive Jesus. After the act of forgiveness, she would have been left with the mystery of it all. Soren Kierkegaard, ( 1813-1855), a Danish philosopher,  theologian and religious writer, tells us, life  is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.  Henry Miller (1891-1980), an American writer, believed  that “until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we have learned nothing.” 

All of us, following a tragic or traumatizing event, are left with the mystery of life. We need to surrender to life’s unfathomability and our vulnerability. We also need to ask God to teach us what we need to learn from events that are beyond our finite abilities to understand and/or  ask for the grace of stop trying to figure something out that is shrouded in mystery. That is difficult to do, as each of us has a little bit of Adam and Eve in us, that is, we want to eat the fruit of the tree “in the middle of the garden” so we will “be like gods” on this earth (cf Gen. 3:6).

What helps you handle life’s ambiguities?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

 The Third Sorrow of Mary, the loss of Jesus in the Temple, is a reality in all of our lives.  Each of us is a temple in which the Living God dwells.  How, when and where do we lose sight of Jesus, live as though Jesus were not the center of, the reason for, and the source of who we are and what we  o? And when is the opposite true?

 I believe that I lose Jesus whenever I fail to choose that which is best for me and, if best for me, then best for others, that is, I am, then, in right relationship with God, self and others and my living the Gospel message is strong.   Simply put, I lose sight of Jesus when, for instance, I follow distractions and/or temptations that lure me away from doing that to which the Spirit is calling me: avoiding a challenge, walking away from difficulties that need to be addressed and/or worked through to a satisfactory solution. I also lose Jesus, I believe, when I fail to choose actions that strengthen my awareness of the Kingdom of God in my midst and help others also be Kingdom-of-God builders as well.  I believe I have lost Jesus when I engage in sinful behaviors and entertain negative thoughts that focus on my weaknesses and faults and on the weaknesses and faults of others, when my interactions are not life-giving or life-enhancing.

When is the opposite true, that is, when have I found Jesus?  I encounter find Jesus and Jesus encounters me, I believe, when I engage in those actions and promote those thought processes that bring me peace; when I acknowledge, express and follow truth; when I seek to understand myself and others, when I act kindly toward myself and others, when I forgive myself and others, when I am responsible and faithful in carrying out my ministerial, communal and personal  duties, in my case, as a vowed religious and a caring, intelligent, faith-filled and God-centered person.

What is your truth concerning the issue of losing and finding Jesus in your lives?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows.  We are reflecting on the third sorrow, the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.   On the cross, Jesus said to Mary: “Woman, behold your Son” (Jn 19: 26-27).  From that moment onward, Mary became each person’s mother.  Imagine the most wonderful, caring, compassionate mother you can imagine. That is the kind of mother Mary is to each one of us. Let’s put Mary in today’s world.  Every single day, Mary loses a son or a daughter to human trafficking.  According to UN-Gift, Global Initiatives to Fighting Human Trafficking, a United Nations agency, 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Many of those children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and others into forced labor or into becoming child soldiers.  Those trafficked into the sex slave are sold to pay off family debts or forcibly recruited on the streets to work in brothels, where they may be required to have sex with 30 men each day. Some prostituted children are just 5 years of age.  The estimated global annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labor are US $31.6 billion.  Forty-nine percent of those profits occur in industrialized economies.    42% of those recruiting victims are men, 42% are women and 6% are both men and women. In  54% of cases the recruiter was a stranger to the victim, 46% of cases the recruiter was known to the victim.

Mary, I believe, weeps over the loss of those children, the injustices heaped upon them, the sin of the traffickers, the social sin of our countries, the muteness on the part of government, church, societal leaders and, perhaps, our own indifference to this plague that is destroying the moral economy of our world.

In the Magnificat, Mary prophesizes:  “[God] has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love—according to the promise he made to our ancestors –of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Lk 1: 51-55).

May this prophesy become a reality in our day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

The Third Sorrow: the Loss of Jesus in the Temple.  All of us, at one time or another, have lost someone or something we valued. A frantic search ensues until we have found that which we have lost.  The more valuable the lost item the more frantic the search.  At other times what we have lost is our integrity, our good name, a sense of personal security, inner peace, and/or a self-confidence in our abilities.  We wonder whether or not we will ever regain the self we seem to have lost.  Feelings that plague us over such losses may be fear, a dread, that plunges us into despair, self-doubt, a second guessing of our ability to survive.  Will we ever again find that priceless pearl of the self that we lost.

I will never forget the year, in my early twenties, when, out of the blue, so it seemed,   I plunged into a severe depression.  For an entire year, I felt like I was living in a black hole with no light at the end of the tunnel.  I feared insanity as I peered into the mirror and reflecting back at me were pitiable, glossed-over eyes.   I got through each day singing, over and over again, “Deep in my heart, I do believe, Lord, we shall overcome someday.”  I never gave up but I truly feared never seeing the light again. Would this state of mind consume me and lead to permanent emotional paralysis, I wondered? I accepted personal responsibility to ask for a change of ministry.  I surfaced stronger than ever, as did Mary, Mother of Sorrows. Was it, that she was at my side all of that time, knowing I was reliving this third sorrow of unbearable loss of my true self, a self at that point in my life that I had not yet really found.

How have you experienced this third sorrow of Mary?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows:  This week we will reflect on the fourth sorrow of Mary, the loss of Jesus in the Temple.  For three days, Mary and Joseph did not know where their Son was.  Did the worst happen to Him?  Was He kidnapped and put to death?  Did the authorities who searched to kill Him at His birth discover who He was and were they plotting to find Him on this particular occasion?  Mary and Joseph must have suffered sheer agony at the loss of Jesus. For three days, they had no idea where their Son was.  Every day of Mary’s life she must have worried that something horrible would happen to Him, as she pondered the prophesy of Simeon, “…your child is destined…to be a sign that will be opposed…and a sword will pierce your own soul….(Lk 2:34).  Was this the loss about which Simeon was talking?

Mary knows the agony of parents who lose a child, no matter how that loss occurs: snatched by a sexual predator, kidnapped by an ex-spouse, in danger of being abused/murdered by an ex seeking revenge.  Mary knows the emotional devastation imHim Hia parent experiences when she “loses” a child to drugs and alcohol or to any other addiction that consumes a child’s life and blocks any hope of a significant connection.  She knows the agony of “losing” a child to a mental illness.  She even knows the pain parents experience when their child is old enough to go out on his/her own, get married and leaves home for good. 

Do you seek Mary’s help when you are going through a loss?  You may be surprised by her ability to empathize, to offer support, to give you the strength you need.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

"Remain there [in Egypt] until I tell thee" is a command given to Joseph by the messenger of God.  Waiting is very difficult in our culture.  We want things instanteously, at the push of a button. Some of us may at times become very impatient when, unconsciously or consciously, we operate from  "I have it coming to me; I shouldn't have to wait for anyone." We may function from that position by virtue of the position we hold in the company, in our Church, in our religious community, by virture of our educational background, or for reasons we are unable to pinpoint.  We simbly are very demanding.
Wait upon the Lord.  Mary, Mother of Sorrows certainly teaches us to wait. There is a passage in Is. 30:15 that reminds us that "by waiting and by calm, you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your stgrength lies." That is certainly what Mary teaches us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Spiritual Practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Today, I want to share with you Sister M. Sylvia Benetton’s response to the question “How has your life been affected by the spiritual practices and the Franciscan spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother?”  Sister M. Sylvia is from our Italian region and spent seven of her nine years as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother in Assisi. She states that her individual and communal journey has been deeply affected in her:

·         Seeking God’s will in my choices
·         Accepting and living the great challenge of uniting action and contemplation
·         Living the Paschal Mystery
·         Focusing on daily Eucharist, rendering thanks to God for everything
·         Living joyfully and simply in the community by following God
·         Living the vow of obedience to Him through my superiors
·         Fullness of motherhood welcoming in her heart all the sons and daughters who
were entrusted to her by her dying Son”

Her striving to seek God’s will in all of her choices is what our Foundress, Venerable Mother Frances Streitel, modeled for us as Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.  This is a daily challenge for all of us but one that truly fills our lives with peace and joy as well as bringing us to our knees when we realize that it was not the will of God, but our own, that we were seeking.  That brings us to living the paschal mystery, dying and rising to new life in Christ Jesus, by humbly acknowledging our shortcomings and being transformed by grace as we start anew each day to live out this part of the charism. Both the Eucharist and the living of our vow of obedience through communal and personal discernment that includes openness to the Spirit’s lead within ourselves, others and our superiors, gives us the strength to follow Jesus, who says to us in Jn 4: 34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me…”

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

The second sorrow of Mary:   “Take the child and his mother and flee!”  It’s like God’s messenger said: “Don’t waste any time! Get going before it’s too late.  Trust not those who are out to get the child.”

 Mary and Joseph obeyed immediately and do not get sucked into self-pity.  Grief does not overwhelm them into inaction. Nor do they allow fear to detain them up from embarking on a very challenging journey.  They listen to and act upon what they have heard in their heart. They do not panic.

Bearing her sorrow in her heart, Mary trusts Joseph. She does what she needs to do to protect her son. In this morning’s news, we heard about a little 10-year-old girl who does what she needs to do to protect her younger siblings, as a burglar is breaking a window to get into their house.  She locks herself and her siblings in a bedroom and calls 911.  As police arrive the burglar dashes off. The children are saved because a little girl trusted her inner urgings to take action.
The Spirit guides each one of us as we journey through the perils of life and meet life’s challenges.  Evil is all around us, not just physical evil but evils that threaten our souls, that lure us away from carrying out God’s will for us. What precautions are we taking? To whom are we listening? Who are the “Josephs” in our lives? Who are the “Marys”?  Who are the “big sisters” who protect us? And when are we “the big sisters,” the “Josephs” and the “Marys”  who protect others who are as vulnerable as we are to the deceptive ploys of Satan? God knows our vulnerabilities and does not ever hold back sending us persons to see us through the maze of life’s pathways or to give us the strength to be the ones who help ourselves and others maneuver difficult terrains.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Spiritual Practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

In today’s reflections on the spiritual practices and the Franciscan spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, I present to you the answer given by Sister Daniela Maria Alborghetti, again of our Italian region, when she was asked how, as a new member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, she’s been affected by this rich heritage. Her answer is as follows: 

                I have been attracted by the person of Francis since childhood; his ability to rejoice
                at everything, the joy of seeing God in the most humble of creatures; being trustful
                in his heart like a child who expects everything from his parents and knows that all
                his needs will be satisfied.  All these aspects of the Franciscan Spirituality have
                accompanied me as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother.  In the last few years, Francis’
                unceasing reference to the Mercy of God supported me very much.  God does not
                disdain any of us and it is through our poverty that His grace and power shine.  My
                continuous experience of God’s Mercy helps my heart to be more merciful to our
                sisters and those close to me.  All of this makes me think of Mary, and, in a particular
                way, of standing under the cross.  In her moment of utter poverty and untold
                suffering she became a mother in the fullness of motherhood, welcoming in her
                heart all the sons and daughters who were entrusted to her by her dying Son. 

What a witness to our charism as Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. We are called to be merciful, first of all, to ourselves and then to others. Why firstly to ourselves? Because, unless each of us shows mercy to him/herself, we are unable to show mercy to others.   As followers of Francis, we are also made mothers in the fullness of motherhood that Jesus asks of His mother. We, too, are called to be “mothers” to one another and to all those God puts into our lives, not in the sense of treating others as children and we as parents but in the sense of providing all that is needed for the other and ourselves to grow into one’s best self: nurturance, understanding, love, forgiveness, encouragement, challenge, invitations to develop one’s potential and collaboration in reaching out to the poor and oppressed of this world and the support to bear our own crosses and to stand with others under their crosses, as Mary stood beneath the cross of her Son.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows:  This week we are reflecting on the second sorrow of Mary, the flight into Egypt to protect her infant Son from harm.  Mary listened to Joseph when he told her that they needed to leave the placed they called home and flee into Egypt, a foreign country, unknown territory, separate from friends and family and that which felt familiar to her.  Her heart must have been heavy with grief. Displacement, under any circumstances, is discombobulating, painful and difficult.

Mary, like Jesus, knows and understands our pain when we are displaced, feel abandoned, misunderstood, isolated and left alone to fend for ourselves with no tangible support. She is an advocate for refugees, persons dislocated because of civil unrest, war, violence of any kind, natural disasters, transfers to new locations by virtue of marriage, job promotions, or, as a member of a religious community, transferred to a new mission, a new ministry, a new local community, a foreign mission. Mary goes with us! Mary knows the way through this maze of unknowing, of reaching out to strangers, of making our way in unfamiliar territory, “swimming” in uncharted waters (uncharted for us, that is). Let us tap her as a resource, as someone who can help us when we are unsure, scared, and anxious.

With her, may we have the faith to believe in others whom God provides as protectors, as persons who will lead “our donkeys through the wilderness,” will find us a place to take root and help us tap into our inner strength and creative energies to, not only survive, but thrive and discover opportunities we never would have had if we had refused to “relocate” physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Spiritual Practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Today I would like to share the witness of Sister M. Rosa Toccolini from our Italian Region. In her life as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother, she believe and experiences “the Franciscan Spirituality…present in the aspects of simplicity and fraternal sharing that [she tries] to carry out in [her] relationships, both with the sisters and with other people that God allows [her] to meet.”  As she became acquainted with the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, she “was touched by their simple and spontaneous sharing of God’s gifts during meals, prayer, meetings, daily work in the community and with the laity and also by the mutual listening among each other, without creating distinctions between roles or life conditions.” In 2009, when she was a member of the community and still is, of course, she believes “that it is essential to continue this simple lifestyle [as it] doesn’t place obstacles in the way of meeting other people. It teaches us how to welcome and make other people feel loved in the name of Jesus Christ, as Francis did with his friars and all the people.”

Wow! Imagine striving to live in such a way so as not to  “place obstacles in the way of meeting other people”—that was St. Francis of Assisi. Picture yourself interacting with persons who do not have to flaunt their role in life or the “superior” conditions in their life as being above yours—that is St. Francis of Assisi.  Envision living in such a way that one-up-man-ship, competing to outdo the other, relating from the mindset of being better than, more educated than, wealthier than, more important than the other—that was St. Francis of Assisi.   St. Francis of Assisi lived the Gospel in such a way that he did empower those  he encountered.  Once anyone met St. Francis of Assisi, they knew that they were in the presence of a God-fearing, holy man, a lover of Christ, a child of the Most High and that they, in turn, were also special in God’s eyes. Without any of the pride-driven shenanigans of the ego that reveal a person’s insecurities, low self-esteem and vulnerabilities, St. Francis of Assisi was truly transformed into an alter Christus, another Christ. There was no greater follower of Jesus than St. Francis of Assisi.

If St. Francis touches your heart, as he touched the heart of Sister M. Rosa Toccolini and you feel called to become a Franciscan Sister of the Sorrowful Mother, don’t hesitate to fill out the self-quiz on this website.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows:  The second sorrow of Mary is her flight into Egypt, her escape from destruction.  She is fleeing  with her son and her husband to protect Jesus  from being harmed physically.  She is cooperating with her husband Joseph, whom God has commanded

Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there
until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him”
(Mt 2:13).

Many parents today face situations that are harmful to the welfare of their children. In our baptismal vows, each of us has covenanted with God, and God with us, to protect our children from being destroyed by a culture that is anti-God, turned away from the Sacred, resistant to grace and promotes the false self.  We live in a world, the values of which are opposite the Gospel and are in defiance of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  We live in a culture that promotes winning  and being No. 1 at all costs;  exploiting the poor, the oppressed, and  the vulnerable to get what we want, when we want it and how we want it.  The body, for instance, is used as a sex object to make billions in profits (the sex trade is more lucrative than the drug industry.  Advertisements objectify sex, as industries  use the body  to seduce people into buying their product.   We live in a culture that promotes violence, that seeks domination and control of other people’s lives, especially control of children, women and youth (both male and female) for the purpose of growing rich.

Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to [a place that protects them from the
             evils of a  consumeristic, narcissistic , pragmatic society] and remain there until I tell
             you; for [the Herods of this world are searching]  for the child, to destroy  [his/her
             innocence, his/her integrity, his/her sacredness, his/her morality and  sense of justice
            toward self and others].

What do you and I need to do to remain true to our baptismal commitment to build a Kingdom that lasts, to do so  in cooperation with others and in surrendering our will to the Will of our Creator?  From what do we need to flee ? To what do we need to turn? With whom do we need to cooperate?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Spiritual Practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Today’s reflections on the spiritual practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother flow from Sister M. Marcella de Marco from our region in Italy who made first vows in 2005.  She writes:

                The Franciscan Spirituality affected the beginning of my individual faith journey.
                The person of Francis enabled me to meet God in a personal and more informal
                way.  I started to live faith in a completely new way. I was very touched by the
                radical nature of this saint and his passionate way to live his faith.  Francis’
                spirituality helps me to return to the power of God’s mercy and not to be afraid of
                my littleness; it helps me to welcome everyone as sisters and brothers and many
                times his directions are helpful in overcoming various situations.  The Franciscan
                aspect of praise and restitution to God has helped to cultivate a grateful attitude
                to God and keep that same spirit in my heart.

Sister Marcella de Marco raises many questions that we might ask ourselves in our journey of faith:

1)      What affected the beginning of the individual faith journey for each of us?
2)      What, of St. Francis, touches us deeply?
3)      What helps us not be afraid of who we are in the sight of God?
4)      What helps us be more welcoming to every person as our brother and sister?
5)      What helps us in overcoming/coping with various situations in our lives?
6)      What helps us cultivate a grateful attitude to God and keep that spirit of gratitude in our hearts?

 Share your response with me on Facebook and/or email me at

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

This week we have been meditating on the prophesy of Simeon, when Mary, unexpectantly, learned that her son would face a great deal of opposition in his life and that her own heart would bear much sorrow.  She’s gazing on this beautiful child and being told that his life would cause much pain, for himself and for her.  At that moment Anna drops by. Anna is an elderly woman, who, following the death of her husband of seven years, spends her time in the Temple. She is 84 years of age when she meets Mary.  She is a woman who has suffered much.  She is a faith-filled and hope-filled and compassionate person capable of understanding Mary’s pain, comforting her and offering her hope. 
All of us have “Annas” in our lives: men and women, young and old, infants, children and adolescents who enter into our lives at just the right time, as Anna did for Mary.  They are persons who generate hope and faith in our ability to find our way through the “darkness,” to discover our inner strength to endure the emotional, spiritual, psychological or physical pain suddenly thrust upon us. The “Annas” in our lives are God-sent, beacons of light in our darkness, towers of strength in our weakness, pillars of faith in our doubt.  Many times, as for Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, husbands and wives fill this role for one another. Close friends and/or siblings may also do this for each other. From history, we know that St. Francis and St. Clare, Saint Benedict and St. Scholastica (twins), were beacons of light for each other. Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta have been a source of strength for many.  Sometimes the “Annas” that come by at just the right moment are a phone call, an email or text message, a Scripture passage, a passage from a much-loved author, a song that moves us deeply, or a favorite movie.  God uses many ways to comfort, strengthen, uplift and hearten us when bad news is delivered to our doorstep.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Spiritual Practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Today’s message on the spiritual practices and the Franciscan spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother is acclaimed by two of our newest members, Sister M. Nair Alves da Silva from Brazil and Sister Laura Maria Caddeo from Italy.

                Franciscan Spirituality, Sister M. Nair believes,   is a very important aspect of my life.

The simplicity of it and God’s love communicated by St. Francis attracted many.

Prayer and contemplation are important points for me to follow the Triune God

as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother.

Sister Laura Maria states that she

entered the SSM Congregation because I knew the Franciscan community

both in my town of origin and in Assisi.  At the beginning, I was struck by the

spontaneity or relationships, so friendly and simple, without formalities, and

the atmosphere of a “big family” where everyone could find a place and feel

at home…After sometime, I also discovered the centrality of God’s Word and

the Eucharist, as well as a continued fervent commitment to evangelization.

the Franciscan charism helped me and strengthened my sense of obedience

to my story and my sense of belonging to the Church.

Both Sisters highlight the reasons why continuing my commitment as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother delights me. It is all about centering my life on the Word of God and the Eucharist, sharing my faith with others through evangelization, and developing a deeply personal relationship with the Lord through contemplation and prayer and striving to create a place where everyone feels at home. As one of the commercials advertising furniture proclaims: “It doesn’t get any better than this” for those called to the Franciscan way of living the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

“…turn our sorrow into wholeness,” is Esther’s prayer in the first reading of today’s liturgy (Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25 as given in the New American Bible).  Mary, Mother of Sorrows, also journeyed in a world lacking wholeness, marred by incomprehensible events, and dominated by disunity, deception and corruption of morals.  She endured a flight into Egypt to save her son, the loss of her son in the Temple when she and Joseph must have feared the worst, the rumors that her son was “crazy”, her neighbors attempting to kill him by throwing him over a cliff, her son barred from entering certain areas of the country, her son’s clashes with the authorities of her day and knowing the dire consequences of such facts.  She must have, with Esther, cried out: “…help me, who am alone, and have no one but You, O Lord, my God,” (Esther C: 25). Mary, I believe, continues to weep when people are barred from certain experiences because of the color of their skin, their gender, their nationality, the country from which they come. She weeps, I believe, when parents lose their children under any circumstances, when young women surrender their virginity as a sign of maturity and freedom and wisdom, rationalizing that “everyone does it” and backtalk their parents with “you’re old fashioned,”  when children are aborted for whatever reason and so, so many other indications of a world that is broken. Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.