Monday, March 31, 2014

All Fool's Day ~ God invites us to be holy fools!!

Blessed Are You Our God Who Invites Us to Be Holy Fools
From: Prayers for the Domestic Church by Edward Hays

God of Fools, God of Clowns and Smiling Saints,    
we rejoice that You are a God of laughter and tears.
Blessed are You, for You have rooted within us the gifts of
humor, lightheartedness and mirth.
With jokes and comedy, You cause our hearts
to sing as laughter rolls out from us.

We are grateful that Jesus, the master of wit, daily invites us to be fools
for Your sake, to embrace the madness of Your prophets, holy people, and saints.
We delight in that holy madness which becomes medicine to heal the chaos
of the cosmos since it calls each of from the humdrumness of daily life
into joy, adventure, and most of all, into freedom.

We, who so easily barter our freedom for illusions of honor and power,
are filled with gratitude that Jesus, by his life, reminded us to seek only love,
the communion with each other and with You, our God, and to balance
honor with humor.

With circus bands and organ grinders, with fools, clowns, court jesters and
comedians, with high spirited angels and saints, we too join in the fun
and the foolishness of life, so that Your holy laughter
may ring out to the edges of the universe.
Blessed are You, our God, who invites us to be holy fools. Amen+

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Streams of Hope!

Help Us to Hope 

O loving God,
we thank you for bringing us the rivers and streams of this world.
May the rivers we know be an image of the stream
that you want to flow within each one of us.
Teach us now, take away all fear,
dare to let us believe that we could really be a small part
of a reconstructed society, that we could build again.
Take away our cynicism.
Take away our lack of hope.
Take away our own anger and judgments.
We thank you for the faith and the desire that is in our hearts.
You have planted it there. Now help us to preserve it,
protect it and increase it.
We long for vision, God.
We need vision and we know we will perish without it.
Help us open each new day to a new meaning,
to a new hope, to a deeper desiring.
Show us your face, loving God, and we will be satisfied.
We ask for all this in Jesus’ name.
AMEN. (Richard Rohr, ofm)

Photos courtesy of Sister Doris Klein,CSA

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 30 ~ Remembering Thea Bowman

“Maybe I’m not making big changes in the world, but if I have somehow helped or encouraged somebody along the journey then I’ve done what I’m called to do.”
(Thea Bowman)

“Rev. Bede Abram, celebrant of Thea Bowman’s funeral Mass, prayed in conclusion: ‘Oh God, as you did not lose her in her coming to us, we do not lose her in her going back to you.’  It appears that she will live on in the lives of all she touched.”
(Mary Queen Donnelly)

Sr. Thea Bowman, a Fransciscan sister of Perpetual Adoration died March 30, 1990, of bone cancer at the age of 52. For the last two years of her life she was confined to a bed or a wheelchair, but her spirit continued to soar, as it had throughout her career as an evangelist, artist, singer and educator. Three weeks before her death, the editor of the Jackson, MS, diocesan newspaper asked her to dictate a meditation on Holy Week. It was published April 6, 1990.

Here is the text, titled "Let us love one another during Holy Week":
Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ's redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating (on) Holy Scripture. So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the ''Hosannas" and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary's anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ. 

Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.

Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering church throughout the world -- in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington and Jackson.

Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable.

Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.

May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.

During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Madness ~ Sadness ~ Gladness!

March Madness: Here in the USA, there are the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) women’s and men’s basketball championships which are vying for our attention. March Madness refers to the excitement of the final few weeks of the college basketball tournament in the United States that features many major schools. It is called madness simply because there are so many games going on throughout the country, usually during the same time, in rapid succession during the month of March. 
In addition to the term March Madness, various rounds of the NCAA tournament also have distinctive names. The third round, in which there are 16 teams left, is called the Sweet 16. The next round is referred to as the Elite 8. Then, there is the Final 4. The Final 4 play two games over three days to determine the national champion and close out March Madness. Amen to all this madness!

However, I don’t believe I’m into sports that much, so I’m pretty pathetic trying to make a metaphor about all of this madness. The madness that I know of is that I’m really getting a little perturbed (no – a lot perturbed) that spring is having such a struggle to arrive. I have seen our snow finally melting, but consistent warm breezes disappear overnight. Then with the early morning dawn, two to three inches of snow have visited once again. Is this not madness?

March Sadness: Today it was announced by the Malaysian Airlines that flight MH370 is now considered lost at sea. "We have to assume beyond reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived," the message said. "We must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean.”  So let us hold all involved in this happening in prayer – family, friends, relatives, and the deceased, those who have made efforts to search for the plane . . . and those with any other association to this tragedy.  May we spend some time in quiet prayer to reflect on this happening, and ponder the fragility of life.  What are the questions that we ask ourselves at this time?  

March Gladness:  Tuesday, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation.  It is the feast in which Christians celebrate Mary's fiat—her willing acceptance of God's holy plan through the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
I’ve provided a few poetic pieces about this sacred moment.  Ponder what “annunciations of good news” you have experienced in your life?  “When the Holy Spirit speaks it can be terrifying because it evokes profound fear of the unknown, fear of life, fear of stepping into our own destiny. If, however, women and men can find their own virgin within, they can learn to BE, both alone and with each other. The mystery lives in the possibility of Being. Love chooses us.” (Marion Woodman)
Art by: Henry Ossawe Tanner
 Poem: Fiat by Robert Fr. Morneau 
(on viewing Henry O. Tanner's "The Annunciation"- 1988

On her bed of doubt,
in wrinkled night garment,
she sat, glancing with fear
at a golden shaft of streaming light,
pondering perhaps, "Was this
but a sequel to a dream?"
The light too brief for disbelief,
yet its silence eased not her trembling.
Somehow she murmured a "yes"
and with that the light's love and life
pierced her heart
and lodged in her womb.
The room remained the same
- rug still need smoothing
- jug and paten awaiting using.
Now all was different
in a maiden's soft but firm fiat. 

Poem: The Annunciation by Denise Levertov 

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.

Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent. 
God waited.

She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren't there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,

More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.

God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes..
She had been a child who played, ate, spelt
like any other child - but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked

a simple, "How can this be?"
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel's reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power -
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love -
but who was God. 
This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
Spirit, suspended, waiting.
She did not cry, "I cannot, I am not worth."
Nor, "I have not the strength."
She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

The Heart-in-waiting

Jesus walked through whispering wood:
'I am pale blossom, I am blood berry,
I am rough bark, I am sharp thorn.
This is the place where you will be born.'

Jesus went down to the skirl of the sea:
'I am long reach, I am fierce comber,
I am keen saltspray, I am spring tide.'
He pushed the cup of the sea aside

And heard the sky which breathed-and-blew:
'I am the firmament, I am shape-changer,
I cradle and carry and kiss and roar,
I am infinite roof and floor.'

All day he walked, he walked all night,
Then Jesus came to the heart at dawn.
'Here and now,' said the heart-in-waiting,
'This is the place where you must be born.'

By Kevin Crossley-Holland

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Memorial of Oscar Romero ~ "I will rise again in the people of El Salvador."

March 24, 2014 ~ 34th Anniversary of the Assassination 
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador 

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. 
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

Quotes from Oscar Romero:
Oscar Romero on Love:
Let us not tire of preaching love:  it is the force that will overcome the world.

If there were love of neighbour there would be no terrorism, no repression, no selfishness, none of such cruel inequalities in society, no abductions, no crimes.

Oscar Romero on Peace:
Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.

To the soldiers of El Salvador:
Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. it is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed yourconsciences rather than a sinful order. The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.

Oscar Romero on Death:
If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my death be for the freedom of my people.  A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish.

I do not believe in death without resurrection.  If they kill me I will rise again in the people of El Salvador.

His last words as he lay dying were:
May God have mercy on the assassins.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Winter ~ Spring . . .a power couple!!

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the term “power couple.”  According to Internet definitions, oftentimes a power couple seems to have a fairy tale romance. Also, “both parties involved in the power couple have tremendous influence over people around them because of their devastating good looks and seemingly perfect relationship with their significant other. This pair can be a popular or wealthy pairing that intrigues and fascinates the public in an intense or even obsessive fashion." Most often a common type of power couple is between a male athlete and an actress and/or singer. However, there are couples from soap operas, film, sports, and entertainment that can be a power couple.  So we may think of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or Bill and Linda Gates. In the fictional dimensions, we could consider Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, and Romeo and Juliet.

Today, I was thinking of Joseph (Mary’s husband, foster father of Jesus) and Mary as a unique “power couple.” They certainly have had a tremendous influence over our lives because of their way of being; living out of a center of courage, integrity, and deep faith.  Their world was turned upside down and inside out, all with a simple response of “Yes” and their listening to dreams which gave them new purpose and direction.  Truly they were people of beauty, holiness, and joy.

Another “power couple” is  – now I’m taking poetic license – Winter and Spring.  As I write this post, I am watching the fog encircle the barren field out my window, while large snowflakes dance across the landscape as well.  Winter’s push and pull - desiring to stay a little longer is not to easily wooed by the vernal equinox to let spring awaken.

Personally, I’m eager for the warmth and beauty of spring.  We here in the northern hemisphere are grateful for its quiet arrival. The vernal/spring equinox arrives at 11:57 a.m. Central Standard Time. We pray that our sisters and brothers in the southern hemisphere enjoy the season of autumn.  May we all be blessed.

About Spring 
Spring is the season between winter and summer. It's the time of year when life begins again in nature. In the Northern Hemisphere, spring begins on the day the center of the sun is directly over the equator. Usually, on March 20th, the sun crosses the equator and starts northward. As it travels north, its rays strike the northern countries more directly each day. Spring lasts until June 20 or 21. In the Southern Hemisphere, spring begins in September and ends in December. Spring begins a few hours earlier in Leap Year. 

Thresholds by John O’Donohue
“Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring.  The gray perish landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter a miraculous, breathing plentitude of color emerges.” (From: To Bless the Space Between Us)

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!" ~Robin Williams
Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. ~Doug Larson
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland
Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. ~Virgil A. Kraft
The day God created hope was probably the same day God created Spring.
          ~Bern Williams

Ready for Spring (by Annette L. Sherwood, 2013)
I stand here watching
waiting, listening
in early Spring
I see the tiny bud
shooting up from
the tip of the branch
in anticipation, I remain still
I take in the cold air,
watching a few snowflakes fall by,
even feeling some of them
melt on my cheek
I breathe in this Holy moment
I did not plant the seed,
nor spend effort to encourage
original years of growth
No, that was not my work
only yours, Dear
I stand here with you now,
holding your hand,
awaiting Spring

We've made it through
another harsh spell,
cold, windy, bare
facing together a New Season,
we stand in a patch of wet snow
as it melts at our feet

Here I am, to Rejoice with you
 as we experience New Growth
 little buds are formed,
 the flowering has already begun
 together or apart, we delight
 and share this moment
 knowing New Life,
 fresh perspective, and green leaves
 are arriving,
 even as the last storm is passing…

 Spring starts blossoming now

 The winter of our hearts will
 begin to fade into cold
 distant memories

 Joy begins sprouting
 with our eyes,
 in our smiles,
 as it softens our hearts,
 leading us to laughter

 Hope enters,
 which we know
 will bud,
 into the flower,
 and then the seed,
 gently dropping to feed the birds

 The passing order of this Season
 feels like it is rooting us on
 toward New Life

 Before long,
 these cold days will pass away
 into warm ones with
 mild breezes
 Easter Blessings
 carrying a new promise for Life

 In Gratitude,
 I bear witness
 to Your Beautiful Spring
 and Celebrate!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bread for the Journey!

Irish Soda Muffins

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder,
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons beaten egg
1/3 cup raisins

In small bowl, combine flour,1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the sour cream, oil and egg; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in raisins.

Fill six greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full.
Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 400
for 15-18 minutes. Cool for 5 min. before removing to 
a wire rack. Can be doubled.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

~ Celebrating St. Patrick ~

St. Patrick
May your troubles be less
And your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come though your door.

Places where people feel most strongly connected with God’s presence are referred to as “thin places.”

In John Shea’s Finding the Thin Place
is the following short story:
A woman returned from a trip to the
isle of Iona. When her gardener heard
where she was, he quietly said, “Iona
is a thin place.”
“A thin place?” she asked.
“There is very little between it and
God,” the gardener explained.

Shea questioned, “Are there thin places where
the usual thickness between the sacred and the
profane is only a fine membrane?”
Indeed, there are moments in life when we
experience that fine membrane—waiting for
medical test results, or receiving notification of
the death of a loved one, those times when we
feel vulnerable and we ask, “What if God were in
that ‘thin place’ all along?” Seeking the courage
to accept that grace and realizing that we are not
alone is finding that “thin place.”
Just as the child in the womb rests before moving into
the birth canal, we are each “pre-programmed” with an
inner knowledge of the need to rest while transitioning
from a place of comfort to one of new life and surprises.
This is that “thin place” where we find God.
The process of discernment is a similar transition,
when we rest before moving from darkness to light,
from cloudiness to clarity, from doubt to certainty.
It is in those places and at those times that we
learn deep within our beings that there is very little
between ourselves and God.

The Blessing of Light, Rain and Earth

May the blessing of Light be on you
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
And warm your heart till it glows
Like a great peat fire, so that the stranger
may come and warm himself at it
and also a friend
And may the light shine out of the two eyes of you
Like a candle set in the windows of a house
Bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the Rain be upon you, the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up
And shed their sweetness on the air
And may the blessing of the Great Rains be on you
May they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean
And leave there many a shining pool where the blue of heaven shines
And sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the Earth be upon you, the great round earth
May you ever have a kindly greeting for them you pass
As you're going along the roads
May the earth be soft under you when you rest upon it
Tire at the end of the day
And may it rest easy over you
When at the last you lay out under it
May it rest so lightly over you
That your soul may be out from under it quickly
And up, and off, and on its way to God.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reflection: First Sunday of Lent ~ Jesus in Transition!

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness ~ Artist James Tissot

Reflection: First Sunday of Lent ~ (Presented 3/9/14 at CSA motherhouse)

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the following theology statement in our Constitutions:
Transitions of every sort mark our lives. We try to recognize in each of them a graced moment in our ongoing formation, one in which we can live out the paschal mystery and build the kingdom of God. (#58)
Some transitions are inevitable in our human experience, some are probable, and others are possible but perhaps not likely.  Birth, adolescence, mid-life, senior life, death. .. are transitions that are natural to every human experience, given an average life span.  Even in our own community, we have had many transitions: Can we remember when we initiated de-centralized government?   We continue to encounter transitions in which we are invited to name our present reality as we evolve into the future.

Transitions always begin with endings that place us in an in-between space – or liminality that is uncomfortable, uncertain, disorienting; there may be a loss of a sense of identity, and oftentimes we can experience a change in our relationship with ourself and perhaps with God as well.

“When we face those times of uncertainty in our life, the scene is often blurry.  Things we were so sure of suddenly make little sense.  The answers we thought were clear now seem lost in a distant fog, and we wander aimlessly, unable to regain the focus we once believed we had. Our confusion is unsettling.  Doubt, like vertigo, distorts our balance as we fearfully wander in a vast and empty inner wilderness.  As we wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic washes into our hearts, our breath becomes shallow and, with each question, the judgments seem to escalate.” (S. Doris Klein)

Here in our gospel, we find Jesus smack dab in the midst of transition – and “knee deep” in liminal space. This could be considered his novitiate, or sabbatical time, a vision quest, or the Spirit’s idea of boot camp for prophets.

After Jesus heard God call him “My Beloved” at his baptism, we are told that the spirit drove him into the desert to discover what it would mean to be God’s Beloved.

It is here in this wilderness that his spiritual, psychological, and personal inner strength is challenged by the tempter who is the master of delusion, denial, and lies, and who is taunting him to choose the “dark side.”
Jesus’ desert drama is a struggle that will prepare him for all that awaits him in his public ministry and mission as the Anointed One.  He will carry no light saber or magic wand to ward off the stones of critics, opponents, or enemies that find him too much for them.
Here in the wilderness, he has fasted for forty days and forty nights.  It is here on the margins of the city that he will wrestle with the demons of hunger, power, prestige, possessions, and fame. In his physical emptiness, he is made vulnerable in his title as Beloved.  He is confronted by the tempter to turn stones into bread – a temptation that entices him to believe that if his hunger would be satisfied with earthly pleasures – it will be enough.    

It is here in the school of the desert that he chooses the emptiness of letting go of all that satisfied him in the past – his relationships of his village, his family, his simple life of carpentry, his privacy, his identity,  For Jesus all of the comfortable, familiar, and secure have ended.  He refuses to give in to the tempter of illusion and is nourished again by the voice and words of God - for his journey will be one of feeding the hungry in spirit, mind, and body with the bread of his words.

His second temptation is to doubt God’s abiding love. Jesus is challenged to test whether or not God is really trustworthy.  Jumping from the pinnacle of the temple would gain Jesus instant acclaim as a wonder worker, winning over the multitudes. But Jesus stands firm.  He refuses to give in to self-destruction and self-hatred and chooses to remain faithful to God, trusting God’s unconditional love.

Finally, the tempter shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and taunts that if he is God’s Beloved, why not be popular, famous, and have a chance to be a rock star?  This is a subtle temptation for domination and power, to become an owner of everything, having control of everyone, in charge of life itself.  The price demanded by the tempter for all the kingdoms of the world was to worship him. Jesus again says that being the Beloved is all that he needs and chooses faithfulness to God.

So what is the Good News for us?  
“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently.   It gives us a new sense of self.  It tests all the faith in the goodness of God that we have ever professed.  It requires an audacity we did not know we had.  It demands a commitment to the truth. It builds forbearance. It tests our purity of heart. 
It brings total metamorphosis of soul. If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, faith, courage, surrender, self-acceptance, endurance, and a kind of personal growth that takes us beyond pain to understanding.  Enduring struggle is the price to be paid for becoming everything we are meant to be in the world.” (S. Joan Chittister)

Let us ponder:
As individuals, as a community, a church, as people of this shared planet . . . how do we face struggles with the hungers, illusions, and powers of temptation that confront us every day?

What struggles do we face at this juncture of “in-betweenness” and liminality? Can we accept the challenges: to name them, realize their impact, and consequences?  Then, how will we choose to walk with trust, hope, and audacity into the now and not-yet?

What is the grace we desire at this time, at the beginning of Lent, as we prepare to move through the paschal mystery?

What gifts within our present transitions are we invited to claim?  Are we able to surrender to this time of conversion, allowing angels to minister to us and to nourish us with God’s Word and the faith of one another, and letting go of the needs and desires that separate us from God?

So let us pray:

Transitions of every sort mark our lives. We try to recognize in each of them a graced moment in our ongoing formation, one in which we can live out the paschal mystery and build the kingdom of God. (#58)

Jesus Ministered to by Angels ~ James Tissot

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

National Catholic Sisters Week

National Catholic Sisters Week March 8-14, 2014

National Catholic Sisters Week is launching the week of March 8-14, 2014 as part of National Women’s History Month.  The week will recognize past and present sisters, from the sisters pressing the front lines of social change to the faithful praying in cloistered chapels.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Taxi Driver, Heavenly Criteria, and Bran Muffins ~ Lenten Laughter!


A minister dies and is waiting in line at the Pearly Gates. Ahead of him is a guy who's dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans.
Saint Peter addresses this guy, 'Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?'
The guy replies, 'I'm Joe Cohen, taxi driver, of Noo Yawk City.'
St. Peter consults his list. He smiles and says to the taxi driver, 'Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.'
The taxi driver goes into Heaven with his robe and staff, and it's the minister's turn. He stands erect and booms out, 'I am Joseph Snow, pastor of Calvary Church for the last forty-three years.'
St Peter consults his list.
He says to the minister, 'Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.'
'Just a minute,' says the minister. 'That man was a taxi driver, and he gets a silken robe and golden staff. How can this be?'
'Up here, we work by results,' says Saint Peter. 'While you preached, people slept, while he drove, people prayed.

Getting Into Heaven

A fellow finds himself in front of the Pearly Gates. St. Peter explains that it's not easy to get into heaven.
There are some criteria that must be met before entry is allowed. For example, was the man a church-goer or religious? No?
St. Peter told him that's bad.
Was he generous, giving money to the poor or to charities? No?
St. Peter told him that that, too, was bad.
Did he do any good deeds, such as helping his neighbor? Anything? No?
St. Peter was becoming concerned.
Exasperated, the Saint says, ‘Look, everybody does something nice sometime. Work with me, here! I'm trying to help. Now think!'
The man thinks for a minute, then says, ‘Well, I did help this old lady once. I came out of a store and saw that a dozen Hell's Angels had taken her purse and were shoving her around. I threw my bags down and got her purse back, then I told the biggest biker there that he was cowardly and I spat in his face.'
'Wow,' said St. Peter, 'That's impressive! When did this happen?'
'Oh, about 15 minutes ago,' replied the man. 

Bran Muffins

This 85 year old couple, having been married almost 60 years, had died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to her interest in health food, and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite and Jacuzzi.

As they 'oohed and aahed' the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. 'It's free,' Peter replied, 'this is Heaven.’ Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges everyday and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth. The old man asked, 'what are the green fees?'. Peter's reply, 'This is heaven, you play for free.' Next they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisine's of the world laid out.

'How much to eat?' asked the old man. ‘Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven, it is free!' Peter replied with some exasperation. ‘Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?' the old man asked timidly. Peter lectured, 'That's the best can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.'

With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly. Peter and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, 'This is all your fault. If it weren't for your bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!' 

Remembering Mother Agnes ~ 1847-1905

Death Anniversary of Mother Agnes Hazotte ~ March 6

Mother Agnes – Leading through Courage, Initiative, and Inspiration

“Our sisters go out as mission sisters and we teach the poor and care for the orphans. We take such places where many other communities would not take.” ~Mother Agnes Hazotte

Anne Marie Hazotte was born in 1847 in Buffalo, New York, the youngest child of Christoph and Mary Ann Hazotte, who had emigrated from France just in time to escape the Revolution of 1848.

Before the age of 15, Anne Marie lost her mother, father, two sisters, and a brother – difficult trials that shaped the heart and spirit of this determined, future woman religious leader.

On a cold January day in 1862, 15-year-old Anne Marie became the “child of destiny,” as she was called by the congregation’s founder, Father Caspar Rehrl. Two years later, at the age of 17, she took her final vows and was elected as the first superior general on the same day. She served in that capacity for the next 40 years and came to be known as Mother Agnes.

Pioneers in the frontier territory of Wisconsin, the Sisters of St. Agnes were dedicated to the education and faith training of the children of German immigrants who had settled in the region. Father Rehrl sent his sisters to schools throughout the area, relying frequently on the hospitality and generosity of the area settlers for food, lodging, and other needs.

Moving the congregation in 1870 from Barton to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was the culmination of ongoing tensions between Mother Agnes and Father Rehrl, whose missionary zeal and frequent absences due to his demanding responsibilities often left his candidates and sisters ill prepared for the challenges of teaching. Recognizing the need for more spiritual, educational, and ministerial opportunities for the sisters, Mother Agnes and most of the sisters made the historic move and continued to thrive under the spiritual guidance of Father Francis Haas, a Capuchin.

As superior, Mother Agnes accepted the challenges of sustaining the congregation through prudent and innovative financial decisions. Throughout the course of her leadership, conscientious foresight and compassionate insight guided her decisions and led the congregation to become a foundational pillar of community development, both in Fond du Lac and in other communities around the nation, where the sisters were sent to teach and heal.

Responding to the needs of the community and the requests of the doctors in Fond du Lac, Mother Agnes took up the challenge of opening and staffing St. Agnes Hospital in 1896, and purchased Cold Springs Farm on the outskirts of the city to provide fresh food for the patients and the sisters in 1899. (The current convent and motherhouse are now located at this site.) In 1903, the Henry Boyle Catholic Home for the Aged was established as the first facility for seniors in the area.

After years of suffering from tuberculosis, diabetes, and a heart ailment, Mother Agnes Hazotte passed away on March 6, 1905, surrounded by the prayers of her sisters – leaving behind her a legacy of courage, determination, and faithful devotion to mission, and paving the way for generations of sisters who continue to inspire and transform lives.

Writings of Mother Agnes:

"Where there is union, there is strength.” (Letter to Sr. Angeline, August 20, 1902)

“Love your God, and give yourself entirely to Him.  He is the true friend.” (Letter to Sr. Seraphine)

“I shall never forget the evening when we knelt at the little altar, poor as it was, and offered our first vows to God. We were both young and inexperienced but god directed us wonderfully during these 25 years.”  (Letter to Sr. Bernardine, June 29, 1888)

St. Agnes Convent Barton, Wisconsin 1858-1870

A Time to be Dusted!!

A Time of Turning Round

Truly dust we are, and to dust we shall return; and truly yours we are, and to you we shall return.
Help this to be a time of turning round and beginning again.
Through the forty days of Lent, help us to follow you and to find you: in the discipline of praying and in the drudgery of caring – in whatever we deny ourselves,
and whatever we set ourselves to learn or do.
Help us to discover you in our loneliness and in community,
in our emptiness and our fulfillment, in our sadness and our laughter.
 Help us to find you when we ourselves are lost.
 Help us to follow you on the journey to Jerusalem - to the waving palms of the people’s hope,
 to their rejection, to the cross and empty tomb.
 Help us to perceive new growth amid the ashes of the old.
 Help us, carrying your cross, to be signs of your Kingdom. Amen.
 — written by Jan Sutch Pickard, in Traveling to Easter with Jesus as our Guide