Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Labor Day of Gratitude!

I apologize to you - for some reason my blog posting of reflections on Labor Day disappeared.  So I am attempting to recreate some other thoughts for you.  Blessings, sj

“Every human being enjoys a basic right to be respected, not because of any title, position, prestige, or accomplishment but first of all because we are created in the image and likeness of God. From an ethical and moral perspective we embrace the exhortation of St. Paul "to anticipate one another in showing honor" (Rom 12:10). 

Litany of Labor:
Leader: Let us pray to the God of all creation, from whom comes life, work and purpose.
Almighty God, when you lovingly formed us out of the dust of the earth, you breathed into us the breath of life and gave us work and purpose for living.
 We give you thanks, O God.
For those who plow the field; for farmers and farm workers, for those who work with their hands and those who move the earth, for all who provide food for others.
For those who tend the sick and those who seek new cures; for doctors and nurses, for scientists and technicians; for all who work to care for the sick.
For those who design and create; for inventors and explorers, for artists and musicians; for those who write books and those who entertain; for all who open windows on their world through art and music.
For those who work in offices and those who work in warehouses; for secretaries and receptionists, for stockers and bookkeepers; for those who market products and for those who move them; for all who serve others through administration.
For those who inspire our minds and those who motivate us; for teachers and preachers, for public servants and religious servants; those who help the poor and those who work with our children; for all who encourage us to learn.
For those whose labor is tidiness and cleanliness; for janitors and sanitary workers, for drycleaners and maids; for those who produce cleaning products and those who use them; for all those who add beauty and cleanliness to your world.
For those who sail the waves and those who fly the skies; for captains and attendants, for astronauts and deep sea divers; for those who chart and those who navigate.
For those who serve in the armed forces; for soldiers and airmen; sailors and marines; for all those who put themselves in harms way to protect others.
You bless us all with skills and gifts for labor. You provide us opportunities to use them, for the benefit of others as well as ourselves and the growth of your Kingdom on earth. Guard and protect those who labor in the world. 
Send your special favor on the unemployed, the under-employed and the disabled, that they may find work that enriches their lives and provides for their families.
Give health to the sick, hope to the bereaved.
Keep us from laboring for ourselves alone.
Make us loving and responsible in all that we do. (Adapted from: Author: Carolyn Moomaw Chilton)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Call to be Founder - CSA Founders Day (September 3)

Scripture reference: Luke 5:1-11

In today’s Gospel, Luke is presenting us with a picture of what God looks like and how God acts. He is doing it through the medium of story and through the textures and colors of the unique characters of Peter and his fishing companions. Jesus climbs into Simon’s boat to catch  Peter’s attention and spirit. This is a clue as to how God acts! God moves into our lives, our comfort zones, if you will, very subtly and mysteriously, and then invites us  to let go of our familiar ways, our predictable patterns, our safe places, our long held beliefs, attitudes, and points of view that are not “of God” so that we are available to God’s on-going invitation to “Go deeper”!

Jesus has cast the net of call – this net is always about letting the Word “catch us” as we are, “just minding our own business.” Peter was doing his usual thing, going out into the dark of    night to fill his nets with fish for his family and village. However, once he encountered Jesus, he would no longer be the same. Jesus, the carpenter, tells Peter the fisherman to throw his nets over on the other side of his boat and to go deeper at a time when the water is warm, the sun is high in the sky, the fish have gone into the cool mud of the bottom waters, and the guys are just plain tired. 

By letting himself be “caught” by Jesus, Peter instantly (through grace) lets go of his control and trusts in the invitation to go deeper, certainly a metaphor indicating that something in his  own inner deepness will be transformed. Within moments of the nets being lowered, they are filled to capacity, nearly causing the boats to capsize. These men now stand in awe, for they have experienced scarcity transformed into abundance, control transformed into trust, confidence transformed into vulnerability, routine transformed into risk, and the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary. We are told by Luke that they left everything they used to do and completely committed themselves to a new angling adventure!

Today, we gather to remember and celebrate three people who were “caught” by the net of call as well, and who manifested God’s love, mercy, generosity, and forgiveness: namely, Fr. Caspar Rehrl, Anne Marie Hazotte (Mother Agnes), and Fr. Francis Haas.

In the opening paragraph of Sr. Margaret Lorimer’s book, Ordinary Sisters, she writes: “The Sisters of St. Agnes count as their founders one woman and two men, but at no one time did the three plan or work together to form a religious community.” Perhaps we could say today, that this one woman and two men are our own trinity of founders, who revealed what God is like by their response to the call, along with their gifts of faith, hope, creativity, courage, tenacity, inspiration, and their capacity to endure prolonged suffering and hardship.

If we review the writings that tell of the lives of these three unique individuals, we find that they  all had an inner passion, purpose, and desire to make a difference with their own lives and to   give purpose to the lives of the peoples settled in the Wisconsin territory and beyond during the mid-19th century. 

Fr. Caspar Rehrl:

In her book, Fieldstones ’76, Sister Imogene Palen, describes Caspar Rehrl as “priest, missionary, trail blazer, builder of churches and schools, publisher, organizer of parishes, a holy man of God who was chosen to found the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes.”  Although Fr. Rehrl (according to Sr. Margaret’s writings) did not intend to found a traditional sisterhood, he did want the community to be recognized by the universal church.

Thus, in 1858, he composed a rule of which he submitted to Bishop Henni of Milwaukee.  (Sr. M. writes) “The first rule Fr. Rehrl wrote visualized the sisters primarily as teachers in rural areas and as servants of the priests.  Their motherhouse should be located in the country, or at least on the outskirts of the village.  They should have the usual farm animals and gardens, but in addition, they should plant grapes and have honey bees, raise and manufacture flax, spin their own wool, and make their own dresses.  They should make candles and church vestments, clean the church, and wash the vestments and linen.  If the priest in a parish had no cook, the sisters should cook for him.”  

7.    Recreation
The Agnesians abhor mundane recreations or dancing but they can recreate by walking in the garden and fields, by singing, and by everything which pleases God.  They may have no musical instruments but such as can be used for divine services, as the organ or melodeon.  They may have sheep so that the Agnesians may be able watch the lambs.

In summary, Sr. Margaret writes, Bishop Henni did not find this rule satisfactory.

We also recall a story that speaks of how Fr. Rehrl’s vocation discernment techniques left much to be desired.  It is told that when he would visit his friends in the Barton farmlands, they would often ask if he needed anything.  One time when he was visiting Caspar Blum, Caspar asked him, “Father, what is it you need today, how much wheat and how much barely?”  The farmer was startled when Fr. Rehrl responded, “I need her,” pointing to the farmer’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Anna, who eventually did enter the community.

Fr. Rehrl died Sept. 3, 1881, and two days later was his funeral Mass, of which newspaper accounts estimated that 5,000 people had paid tribute to this Apostle to the Shores of Lake Winnebago.   Among the prayers that were expressed, it was often said that “he was holy.”

Fr. Francis Haas:

On reviewing the letters of Fr. Francis Haas to Mother Agnes, our Sr. Mary Monica Kutch writes:  “What do these letters tell us about Fr. Francis Haas?”  She summarizes her findings with the following list:

•    His whole life was spiritually oriented in answer to his vocation to mission;
•    He was dedicated to the establishment of the Congregation of St. Agnes as a papal institute, firmly, authentically Roman Catholic as he understood it in his day;
•    He was “Franciscan” in ideals and practices, appreciative of the finer things of life, valuing cleanliness, healthful foods and the environment (including nature, education, and art), and he lived a life of simplicity;
•    He was a man of regularity in habits, dependable, of great strength of character, appreciative, dedicated to the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Sacrament, and St. Agnes;
•    His attitude toward the women whom he shepherded was typical of that of men of his day: 1) he was “Father” to his “children” the sisters, 2) he was protector and disciplinarian, and 3) he found women hard to understand;
•    His sense of humor was evident to friends who enjoyed his company, and although circum- stances brought a changed attitude toward Mother Agnes, his deep sense of friendship as co-founder of the Congregation never faltered.

In the history of the Capuchins of the Province of St. Joseph, Fr. Campion Baer writes of Francis:  “The suffering and trial of his final years had mellowed Francis. When he began the religious community (the Capuchins), his desire to introduce the order in all its purity and perfection had an influence on his conduct.  He was harsh at times even severe as a matter of principle and sense of duty.”  … However, he adds later: “As Francis came in contact with other provinces and saw how they observed religious life, he came to realize that governing with strict authority and law was not always the most fruitful way of maintaining religious observance.  Although strict, almost severe, Francis also was as tender as a mother.”

Mother Agnes:
Finally, in this deep story of call, we reflect upon Mother Agnes, who in 1863 came from Detroit to Barton at the age of 16.  Upon her arrival, Fr. Rehrl called her his “child of destiny,” and in July of 1864, after renewal of vows, she was elected Superior General, and was faithful to that leadership role until her death in 1905.  In Sr. Margaret’s book, she quotes Sr. Luisa Wolsiffer, who paints a picture for us of how God looked and was revealed through the life of Mother Agnes.

“Mother Agnes possessed a strength and nobility of character which commanded the love and esteem of the sisters.  In the government of the congregation, she manifested great wisdom and prudence, and met difficulties fearlessly and with courage.  She accomplished much by means of prayer; her devotion to the Holy Eucharist, our Blessed Mother and to St. Joseph was remarkable. . . Mother Agnes was charitable not only to members of her household, but also extended her charity beyond the precincts of the convent. She cared for orphans, assisted poor students for the priesthood, and cared for the destitute parents of the sisters.” 

So what is the Good News for us today?  Let us ponder that . . .

•    Call is the impulse to move ahead in a meaningful way – it is passion, purpose, desire, and choice all rolled into one.
•    Call creates the urge to do something significant; it provides the inner drive that informs us that it is time to get on with it!
•    Call takes us beyond the confines of what we thought we knew to regions of high risk and the unknown.
•    Call lingers in the realm of the mysterious where God whispers to us again and again . . . “There is nothing to fear.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monica - Saint!

Recently I read an obituary of a woman religious in the Archdiocesan paper. What was provided about her 81 years of life was: her name, dates of birth and death, religious community in which she was a member, dates of first profession and final profession, and States in which she ministered.  I was fortunate to have directed her on a retreat. Her story of faithfulness was not mentioned. I felt a little twinge of emptiness inside. However I’m sure her story of faithfulness probably will be shared again and again at her wake service and funeral.

I felt the same sort of empty twinge when I first began to reflect on the readings about the life of St. Monica (331-387).  As I came upon the feast of St. Monica in the Calendar of Saints,  I was somewhat stunned to read the following in the listing with her name, she is described as simply, WIDOW. Here, too, her story of faithfulness is not mentioned unless you “Bing,” “Google” or “Yahoo” search for her.

As I considered this description, I soon asked myself, “Isn't there more?” Monica lived into her late 50’s – quite uncommon for those days. As I continued to read about her life, I discovered that she had a very full life.  I was sure that if she had lived today, she certainly would have more descriptors than just - Widow.

We celebrate Monica on August 27th – a Christian, a woman, a daughter-in-law, a woman of authentic voice, a woman of fortitude, a visionary and dreamer, a woman of integrity, a woman of long suffering, a patient and prayerful wife, a faithful mother, and widow.

She was born of Christian parents in North Africa, yet they arranged her marriage to a non-Christian. Patricius was a pagan man with a violent temper and unfaithful to her as a husband. It is written that he never beat her, but we know psychological abuse can leave “scars” as well. Her mother-in-law also lived with them and she was verbally abusive to Monica. However, Monica was patient with them and prayed for their openness to be received into the Christian faith. Through her prayers and her kindness, eventually her husband and his mother became Christians.  And it is written that they remained very respectful of Monica’s generosity to the poor, her deep faith, and constant prayer life. When she was at the age of 40, her husband died, leaving her a widow.  

They had three children, of whom the eldest was Augustine.  He was brilliant, likeable, a talented scholar, and also a source of constant worry for her. At age 17, he left home for the wild life, and lived recklessly taking on the truth and ideals of the heresies of his day. He was particularly troubled by the mystery of evil. Eventually, after 18 years of prayers and fasting for her son’s conversion, he was baptized. Shortly thereafter, Monica died.  

As Joan Chittister once remarked, “The good news is that great women have always walked the earth; that their footprints are still clear; that their presence has changed things both in the Church and society.” 

And so today, Monica – your life made a difference in the faith of your husband, mother-in-law, children, and especially in the life of your son, Augustine.  Your life has made a difference in the lives of so many people throughout the centuries – for you are considered patroness of troubled parents, battered wives, despondent mothers, widows, and alcoholics. May the words from Thessalonians honor you today: “The news of your faith in God is celebrated everywhere – We call to mind how you proved your faith by your actions, laboring in love, and showing constancy of hope in Christ Jesus.”
We thank you, Monica, woman, Christian, wife, mother, faith-filled pray-er, widow, and Saint.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jesus ~ The Narrow Gate!!

One can often sense that the season of fall is subtly seeping into the cracks and crevices of the complexion of late summer. At night the crickets are creating a cacophony of chirping while accompanied by the light from the full moon. During the day, one can notice the bright red color of the smooth Sumac near the road sides, and garden shops are displaying dried flower arrangements alongside an assortment of chrysanthemum plants.  

However, another clue that there is a shift in the season here in the northern hemisphere is that on my travels to work, I pass a plethora of yard signs.  No, they do not exhibit campaign slogans for political candidates. These are signs notifying passers-by that a de-cluttering has occurred. The signs read: Garage $ale, Rummage $ale, or Yard $ale.  Do not take these signs literally – the garages and yards of these residences are not for sale. What has happened is that within these domestic confines, there has been a “shift” and a cleaning up and out of the attics, closets, basements, storage spaces, and the garages has occurred. Sort of a household “intervention”!

This de-cluttering happens for all sorts of reasons:
There is no longer a need for certain items
A move to another house, apartment, or condo
A desire to down-size
Individuals have died; or individuals have grown up and moved out of the house, or there has been a change in a relationship
  A  Sale like this is a quick way to obtain some extra cash to buy school supplies for the kiddies
Or a desire to change the theme, color, or environment of certain rooms and everything has to go!

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about entering the narrow gate. Some of his followers think they are BFF’s. However, just eating, drinking, and walking with Jesus is not enough to pass through the narrow gate. Discipleship calls for a “de-cluttering” of certain pious practices, attitudes, and behaviors that may keep one spiritually proud and thinking you are “first” in line when Jesus says – get thee to the end of the line! Yikes!! 

When I think of a “narrow gate,” I often think of those turnstiles that one can encounter at museums, stadiums, sub-way stations, cafeterias, amusement parks, or certain lobbies. This type of “gate” allows for one person to pass at a time with a trusty coin, token, ticket, or pass in hand for entrance. One cannot approach these “narrow gates” with a lot of items in hand, or on your back, or even with a U-haul, so as to pass through with as little hassle as possible. One only passes through with ease when there is nothing encumbering one’s movement.  

So, too, Jesus states: “Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires your total attention.”  That is, attention on God and not on power, prestige, or possessions. I would think that hearing Jesus speak of the narrow gate calls for us all to assess the clutter within ourselves and that we consider the practice to “strive” to live more simply – by being unencumbered by desires and regrets, by jealousy and grudges, comparisons and the need of validation from others. This invitation from Jesus calls us to deliberately, consciously, and creatively choose to live simply and not to bother about striving to be first in line.

Therefore, simply letting go, letting come, and letting be. Then we will begin to choose to live more simply—“we simply are who we simply are. . . the simplicity that enables us to hold lightly the things of this world, and to take ourselves lightly as well, is the fruit of having discovered and surrendered to the Essence of us. . . If, as we seek God, we grow in wisdom, we learn that the clutter of things can distract us from the awareness of God’s indwelling, that true simplicity is more about being detached that it is about being without possessions, and that self-acceptance is key to overcoming the preoccupation that blinds us to the simple truth that we share a common Essence with all creation.” (The God Instinct by Tom Stella)

A prayer of “de-cluttering” by John of the Cross - He must have had a Heart $ale and performed a major clearing with profound grace!  

Prayer of Detachment
Deliver me, O Jesus 
from the desire of being loved, from the desire of being extolled, from the desire of being praised, from the desire of being preferred, from the desire of being consulted, from the desire of being approved, from the desire of being popular.

Deliver me, O Jesus
from the fear of being humiliated, from the fear of being despised, from the fear of suffering rebukes, from the fear of being forgotten, from the fear of being wronged, from the fear of being ridiculed, from the fear that others may be loved more than I.

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire
that others may be esteemed more than I, that in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I set aside, that others may be praised and I unnoticed, that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. (- John of the cross (1542-1591)

John, move to the front of the line!!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The "Not-So-Nice" Jesus!

One time while I was attending a parish liturgy the priest finished reading the Gospel, much like the one we have today, where Jesus the “Prince of Peace” proclaims: "I have come to set the earth on fire” and "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No I tell you, but rather division, " . . . he said: “Welcome to the ‘not-so-nice Jesus!’

We probably are wondering – why would Jesus speak about establishing division?  I would think that if we would all ponder the issues that face our world today, we could identify those “fires” that burn across our planet that cause division in the minds, hearts, and souls of human kind.

I simply “Googled” issues facing our planet and found this website 
Then I clicked on Loss of Biodiversity. Wow! “Fire” all around the habitats and environments of the voiceless species of this small insignificant planet of this galaxy!  Would the “not-so-nice” Jesus speak out today on these ‘fires” as well?

While listening to NPR today, a spokesperson for young adults shared this website  to bring to our awareness of the division that is happening because of the misinformation or “government-speak” that drowns out the issues regarding fracking and the controversial ($7.6 billion) oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas.

I recall the writings of John Dear, SJ, who reminds us of living the Beatitudes. I believe that as we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary and read her Magnificat Song in the Scriptures, we know she taught Jesus to find his song and sing it throughout his life. I believe his song was that of the Beatitudes which caused great division between him and the political and religious leaders that were stalking him.  He truly was a “presence that disturbed.” Although this writing is not recent, its power to disturb our minds, hearts, and souls still is full of energy. Here’s the link.

I don’t desire to present “my view” on any of these issues, but just that there are so many “fires” that divide us and I ask that we all take responsibility to become more informed about all sides of the issues and speak out, and make choices with integrity and courage that will be the best for the Common Good – for we all share this one small planet.  The song of Jesus continues today in the hearts, minds, and voices that call us all to remember that we are “just visiting” here and we are to be stewards of the gifts we have be given.

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.                                                                                                        -Teresa of Avila

Show me the suffering of the most miserable; So I will know my people’s plight.

Free me to pray for others; For you are present in every person. Help me to take responsibility for my own life; So that I can be free at last. Give me honesty and patience; So that I can work with other workers. Bring forth song and celebration; So that the Spirit will be alive among us. Let the Spirit flourish and grow; So that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice; For they have given us life. Help us love even those who hate us; So we can change the world. Amen.
                                                                                          ~César Chávez

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mary ~ Wise Woman!

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without any hesitation. 
The traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a full lifetime. But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. “I've been thinking,” he said. “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”

On August 15th, we gather to celebrate, to remember and to affirm our belief once again in the passing of Mary into God’s embrace – body and soul. We gather to celebrate all that she had within her that enabled her to trust in Mystery, to walk in the holy darkness of questions and  to ponder her experiences in the light of faith, to hope in God’s love amidst her joys and sorrows, losses and finding and the deaths and risings she encountered, and to live with courage as she responded moment by moment to the challenges and surprises that resulted from her “Yes, let it be done.”

The Assumption of Mary into heaven is one of the oldest feasts of Mary. It is easily traced back to at least the 5th century and some historians say it was even celebrated as far back as the 3rd century. The event is not found in Scripture, and there were no witnesses – the feast came before its definition– it came from the belief of the people, the heart of the people. It is written, that in 1946 Pope Pius XII sent an encyclical letter to all the bishops of the world and asked them to confer with their people about the mystery of the Assumption becoming a dogma of the Church.  On the strength of their response and the testimony of history he declared the Assumption dogma in 1950.  (What a great process – “confer with their people.”  Maybe this should be considered once again.)

Most of what we know about Mary in Scripture comes from the Gospels of Luke and John. As a young Jewish girl, she grew into womanhood with an extraordinary faith. Oftentimes she did not understand what God was asking of her, but she believed with all her heart that it could and would be done, and she acted accordingly. It was enough for her to be called to move within holy mystery and gently hold the tension of all that was being asked of her. She did not seek answers, clarity or quick results – we are told that “she held all these things in her heart” and treasured them until their meaning was revealed a grace at a time!

In our Gospel today, Mary, a young pregnant woman went with haste to the hills of Judea to visit her older pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, who has lived the past six months no longer barren and with a quieted husband. Mary remains there for at least 3 months to be of help and to share the joy of expectation that most mothers-to-be experience.

In response to Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary proclaims a song of liberation for all people; one in which ideals are reversed and the household of God will be peopled  by the poor, the hungry, and the ones with no power. These women, who stand pregnant in an embrace of joy, laughter, and praise for God’s marvels, will give birth to children of the Magnificat. These children in turn will one day stand together and sing a new song that will be revolutionary. John will sing his song of repentance and ring out the Good News that the Messiah is here. Jesus will sing his song of Beatitude that breaks through to the hearts of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized and beyond the laws of purification.

No doubt that after the Ascension, Mary grew in age, grace and wisdom as well. She, too, was filled with the Pentecost fire of the Spirit and would have received the same energy and power of the Spirit as the disciples. So how can this feast speak to us? 

Mary not only witnesses to the action of God in her life, but she is a woman who was fully human, gifted with grace, truth, mercy, compassion, and faithfulness, on fire with the Spirit, generous in ministry, and centered in God. These are a few of the treasures that she had deep within her that enabled her to be a woman, wife, mother, sister, cousin, friend, disciple, prophet, and witness.

So let us ask boldly for all that she had within her that enabled her to be authentic, faithful, and trusting, so that we, too, will sing out our prophetic song of faithfulness and hope.

Let us ask boldly for all that she had within her to walk in Mystery, for we, too, have journeyed over these years, committed to the transformation of the world, the Church and ourselves promoting mutuality, inclusivity, and collaboration.

And let us ask boldly for all that she had within her to live with courage and to hold tensions creatively, always receptive to God’s grace and to stand tall in this time of liminality, living with paradox and contradictions, not running from mystery, while holding the precious stones of our stories as we proclaim, “God has done great things for us!”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Feast of the Assumption of Mary - Reflection

Seven Wonders of the World

A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present "Seven Wonders of the World." Though there were some disagreements, the following received the most votes:
   1. Egypt's Great Pyramids
   2. Taj Mahal
   3. Grand Canyon
   4. Panama Canal
   5. Empire State Building
   6. St. Peter's Basilica
   7. China's Great Wall

While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not yet finished her paper. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, "Yes, a little. I couldn't quite make up my mind because there were so many."

The teacher said, "Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help." The girl hesitated, then read, "I think the 'Seven Wonders of the World' are:
   1. to see
   2. to hear
   3. to touch
   4. to taste
   5. to feel
   6. to laugh
   7. and to love."

The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
   Submitted by: Joy Garrison Wasson (Teacher/Muncie, IN)

I believe we could consider this celebration to be one of the seven wonders of our faith, along with the feasts of the Incarnation, Transfiguration, Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost,  and the Immaculate Conception. The Assumption of Mary into heaven is one of the oldest celebrations of Mary. It is easily traced back to the 5th century.  It became an official feast of the church in 1950.

The author, Wayne Dyer, once wrote a book entitled, “10 Secrets to Inner Peace.”  One of the secrets he presents is this: “don’t die with your music still inside you.”

He explains that there is within each of us that place of inner knowing that holds our purpose; that which we are passionate about – and he says that it takes risk to sing our song.  My reflections today, are shaped into a litany form to praise and give gratitude to Mary who was willing to risk singing her song – for she was a woman of purpose, a woman of prayer, and a woman with passion.

Mary – woman of courage; Mary – woman of trust, Mary – woman of risk – guide us.

  • Mary, you journeyed to Elizabeth to share the astonishing things that God had done for you.
  • Mary, you sought out Elizabeth to rejoice with her because God blessed her with new life growing within her.
  • Mary, you sought out Elizabeth to embrace you with her unconditional love; to breathe upon you her words of understanding and to be held close to her heart of compassionate presence so your hearts could beat as one. 
  • You sought out Elizabeth because in her barrenness she knew the experience of shame, rejection, and ridicule.  You needed her wisdom to help you remain faithful to God’s dream for you and God’s people.
Mary – unwed Mother; Mary – marginalized woman; Mary – oppressed woman – pray for us.
  • Mary, you sang your Magnificat song and caused the child in Elizabeth’s womb to dance
  • Mary, your visitation awakened John to the music within himself to be herald of your son, Jesus.
  • Mary, your presence moved Elizabeth to sing her song of praise, purpose and passion. 
Mary – liberator of the oppressed; Mary – political refugee; Mary – sign of contradiction – strengthen us.  
  • Mary, your song is a song of liberation.  Your song praises God for having singled out the lowly and blessing Israel. 
  • Mary, your song praises God’s liberating actions on behalf of the marginalized and exploited peoples. 
  • Mary, your words are words of prophetic challenge to unjust systems where peoples are oppressed and held hostage by political rulers, the arrogant rich, and those who hold onto the illusions of power and deception.
Mary – Mother of the Liberator; Mary – Mother of the non-violent;  Mary – Mother of a political prisoner; Mary – first disciple – empower us.

Let us pray: Mary, we desire not die with our music still inside us.

We entrust our lives to you.  Teach us to risk singing our song.

Encourage us to seek out support on this earthly journey when we are overwhelmed with what is being asked of us. Mary, inspire us to live justly, to be in right relationship with all of life and to love goodness. Woman of faith, woman of vision, woman of wisdom, woman of song – empower us to be peacemakers.  Dare us to live centered in God and dare us to live our song.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thoughts Betwixt 'n Between!

In the introduction to her book, Words Made Flesh, author Fran Ferder reflects on the creation story in Genesis. She ponders what is translated as that on the seventh day God rested. But in her scholarship, she writes that the more accurate translation is - God listened. For all of creation is breathing, speaking, and the Spirit is hovering!  Why not sit back and listen to this symphony of new life!

I think this is a time for us in the northern hemisphere to do the same.  It is time to “listen” to what nature is speaking to us as the Spirit hovers over us in our busyness.  Here are a few of the “listenings” that I have recently experienced.
I am listening to the trees as some of the sugar maples’ leaves are beginning to turn red.
I am listening to the farmers on their tractors in the fields gathering their crops and turning over the soil.
I am listening to the people who sell produce from their farms who have decided not to sell anymore produce.  They have had a wet spring and a cold summer- and their supplies are dwindling.
I am listening to the ads on TV and have experienced pounds of printed ads falling out of the daily paper notifying us that school is soon to begin.
I am listening to the meteorologists speak of floods, fog, and frost circulating through the upper Midwest.
I am listening to my own body as it deals with the last of the ragweed and as I anticipate the first frost!
I am listening to the Scriptures as they are gathered up in Ordinary Time, soon to be crossing the Advent threshold.
I am listening to the whimpering of my sandals as they sense me pondering wearing “real shoes” as the fall rains and cool winds come.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that she was riding the rapid transit system in Chicago.  In her car section there were at least 15 people gathered on their way to their next destination. She said that everyone, except her, was “plugged in” to a digital device.  No one was speaking. All were being spoken to - for each one was “listening” to the info moving through their ear buds keeping them individually-isolatingly-connected to the social network of spinning, pulsing, and  multi-attending.

Why do I write this?  Recently, I read the following excerpt from Fox News:

While dementia is a disease that typically plagues the elderly, a new type of cognitive condition is affecting younger individuals in their early 20s and teens – a disorder known as “digital dementia.”

Digital dementia is characterized as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology, such as computers, smart phones and Internet use in general, Medical Daily reported.  This excess use of technology leads to unbalanced brain development, as heavy users are more likely to overdevelop their left brains, leaving their right brains underdeveloped. The left side of the brain is generally associated with rational thought, numerical computation and fact finding, while the right side of the brain is responsible for more creative skills and emotional thoughts.  If the right brain remains under developed in the long term, it can lead to the early onset of dementia.

So I am placing a few prayers to help develop one’s right brain and gift of inner listening!

Saint Theresa's Prayer

May today there be peace within. 
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.  It is there for each and every one of us.

A Japanese Garden
By Charmiane Aserappa and Akiko Naomura

Be the still pool.  Let your face reflect the glory, the wonder.
Be the dragonfly.  Silent but joyful. Be the bud.  Prepare to blossom.  Be the tree.  Grant shelter. Be the butterfly.  Accept the riches of the moment. Be the moth.  Seek the light. Be the lantern. Guide the lost. Be the path.  Open the way for another. Be the wind chime. Let the breeze blow through you.    
Be the rain.  Wash away, cleanse, forgive. Be the grass.  Grow back when you are trod upon.
Be the bridge.  Reach in peace toward the other side. Be the moss.  Temper your strength with softness, mercy. Be the soil.  Bear fruit. Be the gardener.  Create order.
Be the temple. Let the Spirit dwell in you. Be the seasons.  Welcome change.
Be the moon.  Shine through the darkness. Be the pebble.  Let time shape and smooth you.
Be the leaf.  Fall gracefully when your time comes to let go. Trust the circle. To end is to begin.  

++So let us practice this week listening deeply to the life around us and within us as it speaks to us – warding off effects of early spiritual dementia!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thoughts Between ‘n Betwixt!

Author Thomas Greene described discernment as that process by which the experiences of our lives are interpreted in faith.  He goes on to say that “it is the art of recognizing what God is asking of us, what God would like us to do with our lives . . .”  This awareness happens through the daily practice of personal prayer, self- reflection, and self-awareness.  It’s that capacity to “lean back” into our experiences and notice where God was inviting us to become the “more” of who we are and can be!  

Discernment Prayer: God of My Life
I give You thanks and praise that I have life, and trust that my life is filled with touch of Your love. You have given me a heart that want to be happy, and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit, to hear Your gentle invitation. Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy. Help me to discover my identity. Let me understand how best to use the gifts You have so lovingly lavished upon me in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You as You have chosen me.  God of my life; God of the journey, let me know myself and let me know You . In this happiness.  Amen.
(Paraphrased from the Augustinians of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova)

A Prayer by Richard Rohr
Loving God, we love how you love us.  We love how you free us.  We love what you have given and created to surround us.  Help us to recognize, and to rejoice in, what has been given, even in the midst of what is not given. Help us not to doubt all that you have given us, even when we feel our very real shortcomings. We thank you for the promise and sign of your love in the Eternally Risen Christ, pervading all things in the universe, unbound by any of our categories of logic or theology.

We offer you ourselves back in return.  We offer you our bodies, our little lives, our racing minds and restless hearts into this one wondrous circle of Love that is You.  My life is no longer just about me, but is all about you.
(Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 155, day 165)

Monday, August 5, 2013

The "Origin" of the Cloud Server~The Transfiguration!

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain.  His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes.  His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them.  Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus.  Peter interrupted, “Rabbi, this is a great moment.  Let’s build three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking, stunned as they all were by what they were seeing.  Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and from deep in the cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love.  Listen to him.” The next minute the disciples were looking around, rubbing their eyes, seeing nothing but Jesus, only Jesus.  Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy.  “Don’t tell a soul what you saw.  After the Son of Man rises from the dead, you’re free to talk.” (Adaptation)  click on Daily Reflections - Video 
2013-08-06 Reflection (1-614)

August 6 marks the Feast of the Transfiguration – a major turning point in the life of Jesus and his trusty companions.  Smack dab in the middle of the Gospel, it presents this event which follows upon Jesus’ first foretelling of his passion and death.  What a story of high drama and super special effects!  Former prophets showing up in hologram form, a talking cloud, and Jesus’ clothes turning dazzling white.  However, this turning point is a result of an instant “Feasibility Study.”  God is saying: “Look folks, from here on in it's all downhill.  My Beloved will be rejected, suffer, and die at the hands of the elders and chief priests.”  This is certainly not good news for the disciples.  Sorry, no chance of setting up house at the top of this mountain.  “Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus to encourage him to fulfill this mission of nonviolence, and he turns into bright white light, the biblical sign of martyrdom, and becomes the risen Christ.” His future is now foretold . . . believe it or not.

A turning point is described as an event marking a unique or important historical change of course, or the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment. This is a decisive moment in the life of Jesus – his support group is going to need to be his “backup singers” and not question why all will unfold in a most terrifying manner. For this moment truly calls for “deep listening” and no one will be the same after this mountain top moment. Turning points do that to all of us.  How many turning points can we name in our lives?  A birth of a child, a death of a child, the loss of a dream-job, or the acquiring of a dream-job, an experience of rejection, a sudden health crisis, financial crisis, an uprising in which a power system is toppled, or a series of natural disasters in which homes, resources, and the lives of many people are destroyed, or a proposal of marriage, or a decision to enter a religious lifestyle!!

So our practice for the week is to ponder the turning points in our own lives. Then I invite you to journal about that one significant event for you and reflect and respond to the questions: What?, When?, Where?, Who? And write out your significant scenario. After that writing, read it aloud, and then list any learnings you took away from that turning point. Then read the entry again, along with your list of learnings, and pray to name the new wisdoms that you hold.  

For example.  When I was just about 8, I almost drowned. See my past posting of April 12, 2012.  I can say that one of my learnings in that turning point is that it is best to know how to swim when you’re going to be in deep water. But a wisdom that I now hold is that when life seems overwhelming, or I feel like I’m “drowning” in tasks or expectations, then it is best that I just “turn over and float.”  That is, I need to take time for quieting, stillness, and contemplation to do deep listening of the challenge and gift that God is offering me.  This then becomes a turning point on my journey of my own transfiguration of love, faith, joy, forgiveness, and hope.

Turning Points
Taking us
Where we would not choose to go
We pass a point
We will never pass again.
Turning points interrupt us . . .
There must be some mistake!
Looking back we see them 
For what they are:
Bittersweet raw reality
Breakthrough to beatitude
Bedrock that gives us courage 
To give ourselves away.
The less we struggle with turning points
The greater the strength
To return and turn again
(Author unknown)