Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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

Yesterday, I posted Sister Monica’s witness to the value of the spiritual practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Today, I would like to share with you reflections from another one of our newest members. She also hails from Italy as well, having made her first vows in 2008. Her name is Sister Stefania Sangalli. She writes:

My vocation arose in Assisi, a place marked by Franciscan

 Spirituality whichconnected my experience with St. Francis.

Growing in the charism of the Sistersof the Sorrowful Mother,

 I experienced some important aspects of Franciscan Spirituality.

The constant reference to conversion by St. Francis, the journey

 to be humble of heart,and to ever more welcome God’s love

 arises from a special relationship with the Father.My journey to

 truth is guided by listening to the Word and receiving the

Sacraments,daily Eucharist and Adoration. In this my first year

 of temporary vows [2008] I am ministering to the youth in

St. Maria degli Angeli. One of the most important aspects

that I have experienced in this ministry is the loving and simple

welcome, sharing of meals and prayer. The youth are willing

and helpful, doing whatever is needed in the house.The simple

 lifestyle and the Providential support of friends and benefactors\

 is concrete testimony for the youth. Living in this place full of

Franciscan Spirituality allows me to live it more intensely,

 for example, by participating in important celebrations and

 being a guide for youth when they visit the holy shrines.

Though you and I do not live in Assisi, we certainly are called, whether in religious life or outside of religious life, to ongoing conversion. That is what Lent is all about. May that conversion into the person of Christ be something that you are excited about every day, as you grow into becoming the best you can be, as a married or single woman. And if God is calling you to consider religious life, may Sister Stefanie’s witness inspire you to take that step.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Like Mary, Mother of Sorrows, we all have “Simeons” in our lives, persons who are bearers of “bad” news, scary announcements, and challenging alerts that leave us with such  questions as “What now?” “ How can I possibly handle this?” “ Why, God?”  We may react as Jonah did in today’s first reading (Jonah 3: 1-10) and run the opposite direction or scream “No way, not me?”  Anything but what Mary said at the Annunciation, and throughout her life lived in accord with God’s will for her: “How will this happen, Lord?” 

Challenging, baffling, unexpected announcements can be opportunities of tremendous graces not yet realized. However that is never, I don’t believe, our first response, not even of nuns!  We all know from Scripture that Mary pondered all things in her heart.  So that is one clue of how to get a handle on baffling news—even when the baffling news is good news, like “you’re going to have triplets!”  When confronted with the possibility of coping with tragedy or dealing with overwhelming issues or facing bad times, what we probably do not immediately tap into is that “the Lord is with you,”  or that “the Holy  Spirit will over shadow you,” as Elizabeth and  the angel told Mary.  Yet our faith tells us that both messages are true.  Do I take the time to ponder as Mary freely chose to do or, as in the story of Jonah, do I need God to arrange “a whale of an experience” for me to go into solitude and think things through with God.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

God's Word at Work Achieving God's Will

In the first reading of today’s liturgy, Is 55: 10-11, Yahweh tells us, through Isaiah, that any word from God—that is, any Scripture passage—“shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”  As I meditated upon that passage the following thoughts came to me, the Lord telling me that He sends His Word for the following reasons:

                “I sent it to bring about your redemption.
                I sent it to transform your being
  from the inside out.
                I sent it to bear fruit
  that will last into eternity.
                I sent it to open your eyes to injustices
               and to correct the unjust systems.
                I sent it to change hatred into love.
                I sent it to reconcile differences.
                I sent it to mend brokenness.
                I sent it to fill emptiness.
                I sent it to reveal Truth.
                I sent it to change your heart,
  to remove your blindness
 and unstop your deafness
 to My Voice, My Truth, My Love,
 to the gifts of My Spirit
at work in you and in all others.
I sent it so that you would know
that  I am always at work
in the most dire of circumstances.
I am God. There is no other!”

 My heart was humbled. What about yours?

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows:  Sister Joyce Rupp in “Your Sorrow is my Sorrow,” imagines Mary telling her what it was like when, at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Simeon spoke the words of the prophesy:

“His voice trembled,” she imagined, “and his words were engulfed with sadness as
He said to me, ‘ This child will face great opposition. He will not be accepted by those
who have power to destroy him. This child will pay a heavy price for his goodness.
 And you, Mary, your hurt will be so profound, you will feel as though your heart
 was sliced through with a sharp sword.’”

 Yesterday we had a repeat of Columbine. A student opened fire on fellow students in the cafeteria of his high school in Chardon, OH.  Five students were hit with bullets, two have died and three others are seriously hurt. Doublas Stanglin, in USA Today, Feb. 28, 2012, gives the following update on those who were shot: “Among the remaining victims, one teen in critical condition, another, a 17-year-old boy, is in serious condition and the third, an 18-year-old girl, is listed as stable, WKYC reports. The suspect was captured nearby after he fled the school. The first victim, Daniel Parmertor, 16, died on Monday within hours of the shooting. The Permertor family released the following statement: “We are shocked by this senseless tragedy. Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright future ahead of him. The family is torn by this loss….”

 The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus repeated in Chardon, OH. Mary stands beneath the crosses of each of the persons affected by this tragedy, including the shooter and his parents.  The hurt of the parents of those children killed and those clinging to life, as well as of the parents of the bullied student who opened fire, is “so profound, [they] feel as though [their hearts were] sliced through with a sharp sword.” Mary says to them and to us: “Your pain is my pain.”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows:  When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, Simeon prophesized that Mary’s heart would be pierced with sorrow, as her Son would be the cause of the rise and fall of many in Israel.  He’d be a sign of contradiction. Imagine Mary hearing these words.  They certainly do not contain a message you’d want to hear at the baptism of your infant son/daughter.  But what if the priest uttered such a prophesy about your child on that occasion.  Would you not return home heartsick, worried, confused.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows!
As a mother, she knows the pain every parent, both mother and father, goes through when devastating news is delivered to them about their child: a terminal illness, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, retardation, a mental illness, poor school performance, and, much worse, a kidnapping, sexual abuse by a relative or a stranger, a disappearance, and even murder.  Mary says to you: your pain is my pain.  She stands beneath the cross with you, as she stood beneath the cross of her Son.

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


In being asked the question how the spiritual practices and the Franciscan spirituality affected her life as a new member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Sister Yvette Fernander, who made first vows in 2008, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in theology, responded as follows:
As a new member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother,
my spiritual life  continues to be the focal point
and the engine that guides my daily life.
 I attribute my vocation to my mother
because of her witness, her examples of service and prayer
that helped form me into the person I am today.
Since  entering the congregation,
 my experiences of prayer, study and reflection
 on the Scriptures, Our Way of Life
 [the Constitution or Rule that guides us]
 and our Franciscan Spirituality
 have give me a greater understanding and appreciation for life
and the call to be light for others.
Studying and living the Franciscan Spirituality
have made me realize that I can live with less
and still be content
and has given me a greater appreciation for
and awareness of the less fortunate.
Franciscan Spirituality has reinforced
my belief in welcoming others,
while respecting, caring and honoring the earth,
animals and all of God’s creation.
If God is calling you to become a Franciscan, may you have the courage to say “yes.” Sister Yvette and many others who have entered our community or other Franciscan communities, have said that “yes” and, as you can see from Sister Yvette’s testimony, have been truly blessed.   

                                           Sister Yvette




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Journey through Lent with Mary, Mother of Sorrows

One of the earliest sorrows of Mary had to be the fact that she and Joseph, at the very end of her pregnancy, had to make that long, treacherous journey to Bethlehem.  They’re travelling along on a donkey, close to Bethlehem, no doubt, when Mary’s contractions begin. Joseph frantically searches for an appropriate place for Mary to give birth and is turned away. Only one option is open: a shelter for animals.  Bringing Jesus into the world in the cold of a manger, not even fit for humans,   and in the dark of night, had to carry  a sadness within it, as happy as both Mary and Joseph were to be having this special child.

As our Mother, Mary shares the sorrows of women who are exposed to harsh realities during
their pregnancies, harsher, in fact, than traveling close to 100 miles on a donkey: women in war-torn areas of the world, women disowned by their parents for whatever reason, women giving birth in prisons, women whose pregnancies are “darkened” by HIV/AIDS’ contaminations, by the effects of alcohol and drug addictions,  the abandonment of their fathers or threatening divorces and/or unsafe living conditions in which the animal nature of humanity  seems to prevail. Yes, Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, weeps with those who weep when that birth occurs in less than ideal circumstances and places.   She is there, as any  mother would be there, standing beneath “the cross” with her daughters whom she loves unconditionally.  “Your pain,” Mary says, “is my pain.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

TheSpiritual Practices and the Franciscan Spirituality of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

 Our newest members were asked how the spiritual practices and the Franciscan Spirituality has affected their lives as a new member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Here is the answer given by  Sister Gillian Marie Jerome, who made first vows in March 2009 and now serves as Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of St. Georges in Grenada, West Indies:

Many different parts of our Franciscan heritage inspire me, but the one that speaks to me the most, is the simple Prayer of St. Francis… “Lord, make me an instrument….”  In the past I simply mouthed those words; now I pray the prayer more consciously. I realize that in that prayer lies the fullness of the ‘Kingdom of God’ to which I am called to contribute to make a present realty.  Hence, to the measure that I am at peace is the same measure that I give to the world….A Franciscan way of living, therefore, calls me into right relationship with God, self, creation and others, and I cannot think of a better way to do this, than to be in right relationship with myself. It is a challenge, yet it is possible.  My prayer is that as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother I will continue to strive to live simply and consciously, with a deeper love and respect for others, so that my example may speak for itself.


Mary, Mother of Sorrows

We  might think that Mary, the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, would have been free of suffering, an exemption from the sorrows that humankind experiences as the result of original sin.  That simply was not the case. Already at the conception of Jesus, when the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, entered her womb Mary faced the possibility of death—any young women caught pregnant outside of marriage was stoned to death.  Even to this day in the Middle East, a woman who engages in sexual behavior outside of marriage or is raped faces “honor killing.”  Considered a disgrace to the family, the women or young girl’s death is perceived as restoring honor to the family.  Imagine Mary, a young teenage Jewish girl pregnant outside of marriage, imprenated by the power of the Holy Spirit, facing that possibility. 
                Mary knows the agony of rape victims, the pain of bearing the consequences of unjust laws and prejudices that exists against women. “Your pain,” Mary says, “is my pain.”  She stands beneath our crosses, as she stood beneath the cross of her Son.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Is it possible that Mary, both as Mother and disciple of Jesus, heard her Son tell his disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Lk 9: 22-25), as we read in today’s Gospel?  And even if Mary was not among this group of disciples when Jesus shared this first prophesy of His passion, death and resurrection, would not someone have carried this message to her.  We might imagine a conversation like this:

“Mary, your son is prophesying that he will be put to death and rise again.”

“From the prophesy of Simeon, I know that he is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel and that he is ‘destined to be a sign that is opposed’” (Lk 2: 34-35).

“Yeah, many strongly objected when he said he would destroy the temple and in three days raise it up again’ (Jn 3:19).   Some Pharisees accused Him of blasphemy when he said to the paralytic: ‘Your sins are forgiven you’ (Mt 9:5).  And many disciples stopped following him when he said: ‘I tell you the truth unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you’ (Jn  6: 53).

“We probably need to prepare ourselves for a final confrontation that will lead to His death and resurrection. It seems to be approaching quickly.

“What should we do, Mary?”

“Do whatever He tells [us].”

Mary’s “yes” to God at the Annunciation was not a once and for all “yes.” It was a “yes” repeated every day of her life. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel  that “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9: 23).  Mary certainly denied herself in the Annunciation  and every moment thereafter,  taking up her cross daily and following the will of the Lord all the way to Calvary, where she stood beneath the cross of her dying Son.  To what, today, is God asking you and me to say “yes”?  What, in your and me, needs to die so that, we, rise to new life with Christ?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lenten journey with Mary, Mother of Sorrows

                Mary, Mother of Sorrows: Let us journey through this Lent with Mary, the Mother of Sorrows interacting, dialoguing with us as we reflect on the Lenten readings.  In today’s second reading, Cor 5: 20-6:2, we read that Jesus was made “to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

                How many women/men/adolescents/children have endured the agony of seeing their
son/daughter/spouse/sibling accused of a crime they did not commit, found guilty by false evidence and condemned to death or sent to prison for life.  Mary knows the pain and suffering that anyone endures under those circumstances. She knows the agony of individuals who, in court, come face to face with the murderer of their child/spouse/parent/sibling/friend.  She stands beneath those crosses with us, comforting us, supporting us in our pain.

                What might be going through Mary’s mind when she ponders the truth that her Son was “made…to be sin [for us]…so that we might become the righteousness of God” in Him? Being our mother, I believe that she is delighted. Being her Son’s mother, I believe she suffered deeply for our sakes, as did her Son, surrendering to God’s plan for our salvation.  What are your thoughts/feelings?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Belonging to God

Today, I would like to continue to share with you a quote from Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, OP, concerning the call we received in our baptism into Christ. Our baptism was not just into Christ. It was also for Christ. As Mary presented Jesus to the Lord at the Presentation, our parents, knowingly or unknowingly, presented us to the Lord at our baptism.  We belong first and foremost to the Lord and not to anyone else.  Whether we like it or not, Archbishop Brugues says, we are his. In the Archbishop’s own words of what the Lord says to us about our baptism:  You belong to me, completely to me. You belong to me forever, and never will I turn my face away from you.  I have marked you with an indelible sign; I have forged an eternal alliance with you. You can pretend that you have heard nothing, you can turn away from me, you can behave as if this baptism never existed, for I love those who are free.  But you can also risk this adventure with me, you can respond to my love by a love for me. However, know that I have given you a name and that this name marks you for eternity” (Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, OP, "Vocation as a Lifelong, Personal Adventure for Every Christian, Horizon, Winter 2012, p. 6-7). 

Wow! Think of the fact that we, you and I, belong to God. Don’t we, you and I, then, believe that God will take good care of us!  The person caring for us is God Himself. The Almighty, the Perfect One, the all-loving, all-caring, the totally compassionate and understanding, the infinitely merciful and forgiving One is our caregiver and protector.  Fear no evil. God is our bodyguard and the guardian of our salvation.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Discernment:  Discerning one’s call does not just refer to discerning one’s vocation in life, although it is that as well. At baptism, each of us is called to serve the Lord. Every day, God  re-initiates that call to serve Him: to believe in Him, to give birth to Him in the events of our lives, to love Him by loving and serving others,  to become  one with His plan of salvation  that is being worked out within us in the days challenges.  As each day unfolds, each of us needs to be alert to God’s call to live as Jesus lived.  In terms of one’s vocation in life, we  have a prototype of that call in the book of Samuel. First of all, the call can come at a very early age, as it did for Samuel. Second of all, the call is personal. Samuel heard someone call his name several times.  No one else heard God calling Samuel personally.  And, thirdly, the call needs to be authenticated by another person. In Samuel’s case, it was Eli who authenticated Samuel’s life’s call and advised him that next time he heard his name called to say: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”  (Source:  Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, OP, "Vocation as a Lifelong, Personal Adventure for Every Christian, Horizon, Winter 2012, p. 6)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Child, your sins are forgiven"

In today’s Gospel, Mark 2: 1-12, four men will do whatever it takes to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  Nothing will deter them. Jesus says to the paralyzed man: “Child, your sins are forgiven.”  Yesterday we here in NJ and throughout the country witnessed the faith of Whitney Houston’s friends who gave her a faith-filled, four-hour send off, believing that she’d come before Jesus, who would welcome home a young woman who, in her paralyzed emotional self, did not believe that she was good enough, did not ever do well enough, to please her fans. Her friends, and Whitney, I believe, were confident in God’s infinite mercy and knew that Whitney would hear what the physically paralyzed man heard: “Child, your sins are forgiven.”  Do I believe that my sins are forgiven and forgotten, as Isaiah proclaims to us in today’s first reading: “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more” (Is. 43:25).  What a gift redemption is!  “I have come, Jesus says, that you may have life and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10).   Eternal life is that ultimate fullness for all who believe in Him.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Losing" one's life for Jesus' sake and the sake of the Gospel

In today’s Gospel, Mk 8: 34-9:1,  is that challenging saying: “…whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” We have the example of Jesus and Mary who were obedient to the will of the Father for the salvation of the world, giving their very lives to that purpose.  Jesus is inviting us to lose our lives for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel, that is, that the Kingdom of God be realized here on earth.  We have the examples of Mother Teresa, of St. Francis of Assisi, of the Foundress of my own community,  of all the saints; of men and women religious, of priests  who  spend their lives for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the Gospel  and who, in the view of a secularistic, materialistic, consumeristic world seem foolish.  In fact, many young women and men considering religious life or priesthood are asked: “Why do you want to throw your life away?” When a parent stands by his/her wayward child or does not abort a mongoloid child, or an adult child invites his/her elderly parent to live with them, they could be perceived, in the eyes of the worldly, to be throwing their lives away.  When a young woman or man chooses a college career in order to make a difference in the lives of others versus choosing a career which guarantees “big bucks”, that person could be challenged with a statement such as: “What’ll want do that for? You’re wasting your life. You’ll never make money that way.” Do I have the courage to lose my life for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, or do I give in to those who taunt me for “throwing my life away?”  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fashioned by God's Grace

The following phrase from this morning’s opening prayer to the liturgy touched me deeply: “…grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace as to become a dwelling pleasing to you” (Today’s Missal, November 27- 2011- March 31, 2012, p. 208).   What a prayer.  May my heart be fashioned by you, O Lord, not by my ego! What a difference that will make, as I am asking that I be fashioned  today, and every day, by my God-self, my Spirit-self, that I be fashioned by obedience to the will of God, not by obedience to  my ego’s desires.  In the Gospel, Peter is acting from his ego when he takes Jesus aside and rebukes him for teaching that the “Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mk 8: 27-33). Peter, along with many others, was still looking for a Messiah who would rise to the heights of an earthly king and restore Israel back to the people and free them from Roman occupation.    How many times in our lives do we not interpret a situation only from the human perspective and not see it as God sees it or not see the Spirit at work in us inviting us to realize an inherent grace.  Take for example, an experience of being treated disrespectfully, putdown, treated as a child. Good can come from such an evil.  The pain of the situation can lead to a transformative experience, if I use it to stand up for my truth calmly without resorting to passive aggressive behaviors, equal putdowns, stuffing my feelings and turning against myself.  Every situation has an inherent grace that empowers us to accomplish God’s will in our lives, that is, our transformation into Christ and into the ways of Christ in all of our interactions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Choosing freedom

Today’s first reading, James  1: 19-27, is filled with wisdom!  St. James reminds us that, if we want to accomplish God’s righteousness and justice, we need to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger” (James 1: 19).  Unless I hear what another is saying, not what I want them to be saying or what I think they are saying but what, in fact, they  actually are saying, there is no way that I will do them justice or treat them or myself with respectability. Only when being respectful of both my truth and the truth of others (which may juxtapose my perception) will I reach the righteousness of God. The ego wants domination and control. It wants to remain on its throne, a place of superiority.  Thus it will, without grace and alienated from one’s truer self—the Spirit Self or the God self—not be respectful either of its own position, when it honestly is different from another’s, nor will it respect the position of the other,  when that stance is the antithesis of its own.  Egos will play ping pong with each other. That is an ego’s inherent characteristic.

St. James gives us a recipe of freedom—the freedom of God.  He suggests that we step back and not fuel the ego’s need to defend its throne.  “Be quick to hear” is an endorsement of reflective listening, that is, reflecting back to the other person what you heard them say and allowing that person to clarify what he/she said, if you did not hear accurately.  It is also a reiteration of St. Francis’ peace prayer: “Seek not so much to be understood as to understand.”  The ego wants to be understood, no matter what, and will play “ping-pong” hoping its shot will land  “a knock-out” so it can remain on its throne.  Instead of going for “a knock out,” can I accept that the other felt understood by me (that person will say “yeah, that’s what I meant”) before I calmly state my truth or share my perception without demanding to be understood or that the other change his/her stance.  The goal, in other words,  is  a calm exchange  of each other’s position—that is more likely to happen if the other feels understood first.

  By seeking to understand first, we are choosing freedom, a freedom that gives us the energy to “care for orphans and widows [for anyone in need] and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1: 27) that proposes domination, control  and superiority over others.  May we learn this wisdom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012



Have a heart focused on God.
Always seek God and His truth.
Play before the Lord joyfully.
Play with all your skill.
Yield not to temptation.

Verify your choices with Christ.
Always trust in the Spirit directing you.
Leave your worries at the foot of the Cross.
Elevate your thoughts by prayer.
Never forget that God walks beside you.
Inspire others by your faith in God.
Never forget that God does not abandon those who love Him.
Envy not those who put their trust in material things.
Seek that which gives you life and hope.

Deliver on your promises to do your best.
Abandon yourself to gratitude.
Yearn for eternal life and the things of God.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"I do will it; be made clean"

Yesterday’s Gospel was about Jesus’ healing of a leper.  Lepers were forbidden from coming near anyone and, if they did, risks being put to death.  Furthermore, anyone who touched a leper was subject to the same restrictions as a leper.   When the leper said to Jesus “If you will, you can make me clean,” Jesus responds “I will it; be made clean.”  Jesus does not hesitate to reach out, touch the leper and restore him to health, knowing that by touching him, he himself would need to confine himself to a deserted place for a time.

Wow! What a compassionate, loving, caring God. Without hesitation, seeing the leprosy of sin that infects every human being, every country, every nation, the universe itself, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, in obedience to the Father,  leaves heaven, comes down to this deserted place to restore us to friendship with God.  Jesus not only risks His very life, He surrenders it to His father in obedience, obedience even to death on the cross so as to ransom us, heal us from our leprosy and make us whole.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jesus does all things well

God gazed upon “all he had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1: 31).God continues His creative actions every day through each one of us. “Formless barren lands” are transformed. Chaos—anarchy, bedlam, turmoil, unruliness—is quieted and ordered into something good. Out of the “muddiness” and clay of human existence, God transforms humankind into co-partners with Him in bringing about that which is new, beautiful and reflective of God’s power, presence, and Spirit at work in the world. See, He does “all things well,” (Mk. 7:37), we read in today’s Gospel.  Onlookers and witnesses to Jesus’ miracle in restoring hearing to a deaf mute were amazed at how Jesus transformed those who came to Him in faith, knowing that here was Someone who “did all things well”: the deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised to life, the sick are healed and demons cast out. Are we  aware that Jesus continues to “do all things well” in our lives, as well: our “hearing” is restored, our “blindness” removed, our sicknesses healed, demons cast out, and that which is dead in us raised to new life? Do we truly realize that, not only when God brought each of us into existence,but also now, all that He made and is making is indeed very good. Are we aware, with the eyes of faith,that God’s ongoing creation of us out of “the dust” of our lives continues to reveal the goodness, the power, the love of God at work in and through us. Yes, indeed, God, the Blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit--does all things well. May our awareness of this ongoing gift of God’s love operative in each one of us deepen!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Determined to make the good happen

In Morning Praise today we sang the hymn “Take my hands, Lord , make them as Your own.” 
That sparked in me the following prayer:

Take my intelligence, Lord! Use it to further Your Kingdom here on earth and may I fully
cooperate with you in doing so, being as determined as was the Greek, a Syro-
phoenician woman in today’s Gospel, (Mk 7:24-30).

Take my intuitiveness, O Lord! Use it to respond to another person’s need for love,
affirmation, understanding and hope and may I take the initiative to  actively be involved
with You in making this happen.

Take my heart, O Lord! Use it to transform ugliness into beauty, hatred into love, fear
into courage, sorrow into joy and may I not hold back in this work of love. 
Take my natural and learned skills, O Lord!  Use them to make a difference in the world
and may I have the determination of the Syrophoenician woman to  do what needs to be
done to make this difference come to be.  

Take my leadership skills, developed, underdeveloped and yet-to-be developed! Use these
skills, O Lord,  to transform  light into darkness, order into chaos, hope into despair,
confusion into clarity. May I not use shyness, self-effacement or false humility to block the
good You want to accomplish through me.

Take my will, O Lord, and make it Your own to bring about Your Father’s will on earth as
in heaven.

Lord, I want to be firm in my commitment to allow You, and to cooperate with You, in the
use of my gifts:  my intelligence, my intuitiveness, my efficiency, my leadership capabilities--
all my skills, known and unknown to me-- for Your honor and glory, to build Your Kingdom,
to make the Gospel live, to empower others and myself to live life fully in Your grace and
through Your Spirit.

What is your prayer to the Lord? And what do you need from God to be as determined as
was the Syrophoenician woman who courageously approached Jesus to ask that her daughter
be healed and did not back off when Jesus was reluctant to respond to her request.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Commit your ways to the Lord

Today’s responsorial psalm begins with the following invitation: “Commit your ways to the Lord, trust in God and God will act; God will make justice dawn upon you like light and bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.”  No one goes through life without being wronged in some way and knowing that our best defense is to wait upon the Lord to vindicate us.  Waiting to be exonerated is very difficult.  Without realizing it, the “demons” in our unconscious sneak into our minds. We may put ourselves down, stop believing in ourselves, withdraw from the confidence we need to continue to allow the Lord to use the intelligence, the goodness, the skills, the giftedness He has given us.  Though it is true, as said in today’s Gospel, that what comes out of us can be evil. It is also true that we can block the good from coming out of us as well. Others do not get inside of our heads and do that. We do that to ourselves. We can block God from using our creative energies, our creative intelligence, our giftedness in service of the Gospels. We can fail to “commit our ways to the Lord.”  We can stop believing that God will vindicate us from whatever we need to be vindicated that obstructs God’s power from working through us. Many times what prevents us  is our own harsh criticisms that what we do is not good enough, that we are not worthy of God, that we do not have the capabilities to make a difference. So we say or do nothing at all.  We need God to vindicate us over and over again especially from our own unjust critiques of ourselves. Only then will we allow God to work through our giftedness, our intelligence, our talents  to build His Kingdom here on earth. Only then will be commit to the good we are called to do by partnering with God. May each of us know this truth in his/her life this day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Awed by the very thought of God's indwelling presence

Solomon’s prayer in today’s first reading (1 Kings 8: 22-23, 27-30) is brilliant in its intuitive sense of the incomprehensibility of the presence of our God and the depth and breadth of God’s mercy.   “Lord,” he says, “there is no God like you anywhere, neither in heaven above nor on earth below.  You keep your covenant of mercy with men and women who are faithful servants. Is it true,”  he asks, “that You, God, truly dwell on this earth, in this temple which I built, when not even the heavens can contain You? If heaven cannot contain You, how can earth? How can this temple?”  Solomon  is overwhelmed by the thought of who Yahweh is.  Could Almighty God actually abide in a temple made by human hands?  Could an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent God dwell on this earth and in the heavens above?  Who is this the I AM who keep His covenant of mercy forever toward those who give of themselves enthusiastically, wholeheartedly, to act with justice, to walk in humility and to love tenderly (Mic 6:8)?  Solomon could not get his arms around the truth of God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s omnipresence in the lives of those who hold nothing back in living a life of holiness. He closes His prayer by begging the Lord to hear his pleas for pardon? Is he recognizing how much humankind falls short of wholehearted service and chagrinned by realizing that we are known for eternally breaking promises, not eternally keeping them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Giving witness to the faith

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Dorothy who died a martyr’s death in 303 at the hands of Governor Sapricius. She lived in Caesarea. Her parents were put to death by Diocletian, one of the greatest persecutors of early Christians. Following their death, Dorothy was invited to Governor Sabricius’s home where they were waiting for her. They stretched her out on a rack of sacrifice and offered marriage if she consented or would be put to death if she refused to sacrifice to pagan gods.  When she refused, she was given over to two pagan women who had given up the faith. The hope was that these women would convince her to give in to the governor's demands.  God used Dorothy to set the hearts of these women on fire with love for Christ.  She was again tortured. Like St. Steven when he was being stoned to death, Dorothy’s face was radiant with a divine aura, as she endured the sufferings to which she was subjected. Her torturers asked her why she was so filled with joy.  She was, in fact, anticipating the joy of heaven and inwardly praising God, as she was sentenced to be beheaded. Her words: “Blessed be Thou, O Thou Lover of souls! Who does call me to Paradise, and invitest me to Thy nuptial chamber.

On the way to being beheaded, a young lawyer by the name of Theophilus taunted her to send him apples and roses from the garden of her Spouse.  Shortly after she died, St. Dorothy granted his wish. A small child stood by his side while he was still chuckling about his challenge to Dorothy and presented him with three apples and three roses from the heavenly nuptial chamber. He realized that the child was an angel in disguise and that the fruit and the flowers were not of earthly origin.  Theophilus was converted and he, too, was martyred for his faith.

The faith is real! Heaven is real!  The testimony of current day “martyrs” continues to proclaim that a nuptial chamber awaits each of us who continue to proclaim the faith and witness to Jesus in a pagan, secularistic world that is bent on destroying the evidence of the God presence in our midst.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A cherished tradition

Today is renewal Sunday, a day of prayer and reflection, in many of our local communities. This practice is one of the cherished traditions of my religious community.  It is a time to focus on Our Way of Life, its challenges, its invitation to grow in community, to engage in communal discernment, and to deepen our relationship with the Lord and with one another. It is a call to solitude, to that place where we are open to the Spirit speaking within us and within the Sisters with whom I reflect.  Today, my local house community is doing part of the preparation for our 21st General Assembly which will be held in Rome, Italy in October 2012.  We are specifically looking at how we have grown in implementing the directives of the 20th General Assembly and what challenges we have faced over the past five years.  One of the things that excites me about the past five years is the efforts we have put into a deeper appreciation of our Foundress, Mother Frances Streitel, in studying how she practiced the virtues of  faith, hope,  love of God, love of neighbor, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, humility, poverty, obedience, and chastity. Obviously that study led to looking at how we, in turn, are growing in these virtues individually and as a community.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Create a clean heart in me, O Lord

Many times each day I pray Ps. 51: 10-11 that asks the Lord  to “create a clean heart in me, put within me a new and steadfast spirit, banish me not from your presence, and deprive me not of your Holy Spirit.”  This morning I stopped with “Create a clean heart in me” and expanded this prayer as follows:

                Create a clean heart in me, O God:
                                A pure heart,
                                                A single-purposed heart,
                                A heart purified in Your blood,
                                                A heart filled with genuine love,
                                A contrite heart,
                                                A believing heart,
                                A heart of flesh,
                                                A compassionate heart,
                                A faith-filled heart,
                                                A trusting heart,
                                A heart made strong by your death and resurrection
                                            lived out in my life
                             A heart sensitive to others in pain,
                                                A heart ready to respond to unmet need,
                                A heart focused on God,
                                                A heart filled with and fueled by grace,
                                A transformed heart,
                                                A heart bent on eternity,
                                                                 In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Lord, my heart burns within Me, longing for the day when my choices and my attitudes
truly are transformed into the attitudes and the ways of Christ.  What about you?


Friday, February 3, 2012

The challenge of reversing a promise gone sour

As I read today’s Scripture readings, Sirach 47: 2-11 and Mk 6: 14-29, I was touched by the contrast. Sirach praises David for what he accomplished in his trusting walk with the Lord and his humble repentance of his sin.  Mark tells the story of Salome`, the 12-year-old daughter of Herod (Source: The Word Among Us, Daily Meditations for February 1-21, 2012,  p. 23). Her exotic dancing  at a banquet he hosted for his courtiers, his military officers and the leading men of Galilee delighted him so much that he promised her anything she asked of him, even half his kingdom. To his dismay, she asked for “the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”  Herod, who regrets his promise but does not have the courage to withdraw it, gives in to  his daughter's demands.  The glamorous voices outside of himself drown out the voice of the Spirit within.  He closes his ears to his conscience.

How sad, disgusting, ghastly is what happened at this banquet, not unnlike what we see repeated throughout history until this very day while leaders  and ordinary citizens, like ourselves, able to rise up against unjust "laws" and promises tend to sit back and seemingly do nothing:  the stoning  of women to death in the Middle East when they are victims of rape and considered a disgrace to their families,  the rejoicing of Hitler in the torture and death of millions in the holocaust and continued hate crimes, the abusing of thousands of persons  in prisons throughout the world when injustices are challenged, the publishing  of beatings and severe abuse on Facebook or YouTube to entertain vast audiences, millions of infants killed in the womb  every year while immoral legislature goes unchallenged,  and on and on!  Also, some of the movies produced by today’s entertainment industry and many advertisements on our TV’s glamorize violence as ghastly as bringing in the head of John the Baptist on a platter. 

Through God’s mercy may we turn this trend around and rise up to give glory to God, not to humanity’s abuse of humanity, not to the ugliness of sin and death. Like David may we “slew the giant,” (humanity’s enchantment with  the dark side of human nature), “defeat the skilled warrior” (those who war against that which is holy, that which is of God, that which is just and right in God’s sight), and raise up the might of his people who rely upon the Lord, respect the Lord, cherish the things of God and His holy ones, the saints.  What am I willing to do? What can I do? are questions I need to ask myself every day when "the Herods," the Herodias'es" and the "Salome`s" of this world ignore God's commandments and take delight in evil.