Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Painting by Antonio Ciseri.
Magnificat of Terror (Luke 23: 20-25)

The Romans dragged him here and lashed him brutally.
We, a few women friends and I, we waited silent in the courtyard of the Antonia Fortress, as waited other families of the prisoners.

They pushed him out onto the judgment floor elevated above us and then pulled another beaten man to the other side of the trial platform.
His name is evidently Bar Abbas, as his family cries out, a family great in number: friends, parents, wife, sisters, brothers, and his children weeping to see him suffering so. “No, my abba,” cries out a small child’s voice.

Now, the Legionnaire’s game begins. They strut before the crowd. “You choose,” they mock, “you choose which one dies.”
“This one or this one,” grunts the leader, slapping his staff on their bleeding backs. There is only silence from those gathered there.
“Come now. Choose or both die.” Once more.
“This one or this one.” Again, silence.
“Once more,” the Roman shouts. “Last time. Decide or both die.” 
“This one or this one.” Again, a silence until at last one of Bar Abbas’ family murmurs and then screams as the staff is held over my son’s head. “That one. Crucify him.”

Others of Bar Abbas’ family join in to save their loved one. “Crucify him,” pointing to my only son.
So the “vote” is cast and Bar Abbas is shoved off the judgment platform into the waiting arms.
They cradle him because he cannot walk so weak and damaged is he from the beatings.  Carrying him out from the hated Fortress, one woman turns to look at me with agonizing eyes.

We all know of crucifixion. The road to Jerusalem’s gates is lined with crosses bearing suffering men, families gathered at the foot of them, Roman soldiers gaming nearby. The surrounding hills too are so decorated.
And all of those people who followed him, their precious teacher, all of those people who sang joyfully as he entered Jerusalem, and the Twelve he so loved: Where are they?

I must not ask, I know. They are where they belong with their families. For these are holy days for us. The Passover meal just passed last evening and the Sabbath preparation today.

They are where they belong, with their families. Others perhaps are in fearful hiding. But had they been here and we could have outshouted Bar Abbas’ family, we might have been able to scream “Crucify him. Crucify Bar Abbas.” To cry out even louder than the others. To win our dear one’s life at the cost of another.

But would my son have wanted such a thing?

(From: Miryam of Nazareth by Ann Johnson)

Jesus Before Pilate by Hieronymus Bosch

Ecce Homo (Caravaggio)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Servant Freed!

I stand in the darkened fissure of the stable,
lit only by the glowing face of
the boy-child.   
Parent eyes glistening with holy wonder,
while heavened stars point to
mangered Messiah.                                                                                 
I listen, I wonder, I breathe, for I am only servant.

I stand in the darkened temple portico
observing those of the Law encircling
the teacher-child.                                                                    
His face radiates with purpose and passion about God’s call!
I listen, I wonder, I breathe, for I am only servant.

I stand in the Cana garden among the six stoneware water jars.                      
His mother moving his mission,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Waters of purification touched                                                 
with words of transformation
become intoxicating wedding wine.               
Speak these words over me . . .
fill me to the brim with courage
as I listen, as I wonder,
as I breathe, for I am only servant.

I stand along the steep grassy edges
of the partial rocky hillside,                                                               
His face emits energy with each spoken,
“Blessed are you!”                                   
I listen, I wonder, I breathe, for I am only servant.

I stand in the upper room, corner-concealed,
yet his eyes beckon me to move    
within his touch.
His carpentered hands accept each foot
as with the artistry
of fitting roughhewn wood.
With tender, soothing, healing - intimate knowing,
he bends to wash my feet.

Upon this embrace -
God-light, God-love streams
into my very soul-                     
I listen and hear
within me:                                                                                                                                               
Untie her.                                                                 
What do you want me to do for you?                                            
Pick up your mat.                                                                 
I do not condemn you.                                                             
You are worth more than many sparrows.                          
You are no longer servant – you are friend.

I wonder, I breathe . . .


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From March Gladness to Madness!

Mark 14:1-15, 47
Here in the USA, NCAA March Madness has been set in motion. It is all about college basketball tournaments in men’s and women’s respective divisions. Sports related sites state: it is “a feverish month of college basketball filled with more than 60 games across the country,” and “three weeks of legendary performances, fantastic finishes — and the alternating agony and ecstasy of predictions gone right or wrong.” Well this is the extent of my sports expertise. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference between brackets and braces or sort out the groupings of The Final Four or The Magnificent Seven!  However, I think this March Madness term can be a clue as to what will happen in the Scriptures as we attend to the readings of the Passion during Holy Week.

In March of 2013, we all with some form of technology or in person gathered around a little chimney to watch it produce white smoke to signal the election of a new pope.  Eventually, Francis appeared on the draped balcony amidst red robed cardinals and “priests in waiting.” The days kept building with March Gladness in preparation for the pope’s inauguration when he would be presented with the Pallium, the Ring, and the Book of the Gospels signifying the beginning of his pontificate.

His election became even more of a reality when throngs of people in the square outside St. Peter’s Basilica appeared including marching bands, Swiss Guards in their finest, clergy in their finest as well, with trumpets blaring, and with Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, heads of the official delegations from various countries, accompanied with vested cardinals in attendance. Again, this is the extent of my hierarchy expertise.  However, I believe this March Gladness was to be a clue as to what we would hear happen in the Scriptures during Holy Week.

Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, presents us with the reading of the Passion after processing with palms. Then we listen to the reading of the Gospel of Mark. He does not have the parade of peoples as Luke, but we celebrate this threshold as we enter deeper into the Paschal Mystery.  Here begins the March Gladness which will eventually be turned into March Madness on Good Friday . . . These readings are filled with much symbolism. I suggest you consider reading a biblical commentary, i.e., Preaching the New Lectionary by Dianne Bergant, Year B. 

Jesus enters Jerusalem riding upon a colt, no Popemobile for him. He will meet throngs of people cheering Hosannas now and later hurling shouts of “crucify him.” Religious and political leaders presently puzzled now, already plotting in their hearts how to get rid of this “presence that disturbs.” No banners, no bands, no ring, no Pallium of lamb’s wool. For you see, he is the “sacrificial lamb.” No Book of the Gospels - for he is Word;  he is the Good News that now comes in gladness only to enter into the Good Friday madness of darkness, anger, and hate. He will stare evil in the face – this, too, will be a legendary performance with a fantastic finish - alternating with the agony and ecstasy of predictions gone right - gone Mysteriously right!
Caravaggio 1573 – 1610

The Betrayal of Christ

Monday, March 23, 2015

Does 'Call' Have an Expiration Date?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, an expiration date is the date past which a product, such as food or medicine, must be sold or removed from availability because it is no longer expected to be fresh or effective. In my musings, I was wondering if each of us in relationship to our call has an expiration date, and do we ever lose our freshness and effectiveness?

God's nature has always been about sharing, including and being all embracing, thinking personally, intimately, and acting galactically, cosmically and beyond! God has always invited human beings to share in the divine mission in the world. God's call "comes long before we hear it. It lingers until we name it, and it never completely goes away." God's call to us is continuous, particular, and it takes a lifetime to truly grasp it, for it "grows and changes as we come into a fuller realization of our adult journey of faith."

Call is not a onetime deal. There is no "drive-thru" for call. It is a lifelong conversation with God to explore and discover our direction and purpose. This is God's design for us: to find and follow our mysterious path of hope, joy and service.

I definitely know that when I was in third grade, I sensed a call and considered being a sister. Then, when I got a few years older and noticed that life offered lots of fun, boys, jobs, travel and boys - I tucked away the echoes of the call until late in high school. Again I heard it and could no longer ignore it or resist it and took the dare. "One distinctive, unforgettable moment comes when you answer the call. But there will be other moments that will come again and again, marking your way and giving you the assurance that the God who called still calls."

Authors have reflected that God's call begins with an idea in our mind, and then it is often triggered by some significant event. It can be clear and focused or blurry-clear. Whatever the clarity, it gets our attention. It weaves its way in and through our consciousness, and it is in our quieting, reflecting and noticing that the call is heard in the depths of our souls and the vibrations of its urgency move us to decide, to respond and to risk.

So how do we keep our call fresh?

We need to live daily with gratitude so as to keep our call fresh, clear and strong. That way, no matter how much we resist, procrastinate, hesitate or reject God's call, it will always be there. God truly cares about us deeply; we are invited to be open to the form of the call, which will evolve again and again. For then we will eventually discover that there is no expiration date to our call. God will continue to seek us out, for call "lingers until we name it, and it never completely goes away."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A first day of spring reflection . . .

On the day of Judgment God will only ask one question: “Did you enjoy my world?” (Traditional Jewish Saying)

She stands sentineled near the waters edge, surrounded by birch, ash, and maple companions with vines entwined between her exposed ground roots. This white oak remains upright and almost motionless as the whispers of the lake breezes float through her branches. Gentle winds seem to tease her leaves as if prompting them to stir with laughter. Her sapwood continues to produce leaves that encircle her like a crown, while her center’s heartwood is now completely spent. This is the prized wood sought after for special wood artistry. Yet she thrives. She becomes our teacher and speaks these wisdoms to us: 

♦ Live life by giving your heart-center away.
♦ Always provide shade and shelter for those who seek refuge from this world’s storms.
♦ Be sure to have friends stand by you when struggles find you.
♦ Seek nourishment from the waters of laughter, prayer, love, and solitude.
♦ Enjoy the beauty of creation and let butterflies teach you about transformation.
♦ Dream often and reach beyond the possible.
♦ Practice speaking words of comfort, mercy, and forgiveness.
♦ Don’t be afraid to bend and risk a new perspective.
♦ Always be a learner and trust in your talents.
♦ Be curious and chance walking to the edge.
♦ Be content when your growth is steady and slow, for that is what makes you of value.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Blessings for all . . .


May you be blest
with the strength of heaven,
the light of the sun,
the radiance of the moon,
the splendor of fire,
the speed of lightning,
the swiftness of wind,
the depth of the sea,
the stability of earth,
and the firmness of rock.

May the strength of God guide us.
May the power of God preserve us.
May the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us.
May the way of God direct us.
May the shield of God defend us.
May the angels of God guard us,
Against the snares of the evil one.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us, Christ be over all!
May your grace, Lord, always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Good-bye Winter ~ Hello Spring!

Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished 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 waking 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 plenitude of color emerges.

The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival.

Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it. 

(Thresholds/To Bless the Space Between Us by
John O’Donohue)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Melting into Spring!

Springtime Prayer
by Joyce Rupp 

Ever-renewing and energizing Creator,
Come, stir in my dormant spiritual limbs.

Wake up my tired prayer.
Revive my weary efforts of care.
Sing hope into my discouragement.

Wash my dusty, drab attitude
with the cleansing rains of your vision.

Go deep to my roots and penetrate my faith
with the vibrancy of your grace.

Shake loose the old leftover oak leaves
of my tenacious ego-centeredness.

Coax joy to sprout from my difficulties.

Warm the buds of my relationships
so they bloom with healthy love.

Clear out my wintered debris
with the wild breeze of your liberating presence.

Nudge me, woo me, entice me, draw me to you.

I give you my trust and my gratitude as you
grace my slowly thawing spirit.

Light-filled Being, my Joy and my Hope,
let the greening in me begin.

(From: Out of the Ordinary)

Image by Terry Hershey

Friday, March 6, 2015

National Catholic Sisters Week March 8-14

We the Sisters of St. Agnes participate in the mission of Christ always aware that we, too, are numbered among the needy and are enriched by those we serve.

We serve in both rural and urban settings ~ throughout the USA and Latin America . . .

We are "women of spirit", dedicated to promoting justice and building community throughout various areas of the U.S. and Latin America. Our hands-on ministries include nursing, leadership training, spiritual direction, hospice care, teaching, advocacy, holistic healthcare, and more. We are actively involved with U.S. legislative, U.N. and global partnerships regarding issues at the heart of our ministries: justice, poverty, health care initiatives, and empowering and educating women and children around the world.
We are committed to the transformation of the world, the Church and ourselves through promoting:
• systemic change for the quality of life
• justice for the economically poor
• furtherance of the role of women in church and society
• mutuality, inclusivity and collaboration

We invite you to join us today - in prayer, in financial partnership, in vocation. By sharing our lives and our faith in community, we support one another to live with singleness of purpose: that among us and in our world the Risen Christ be discovered and revealed.
Present CSA motherhouse in Fond du Lac,WI
Window in motherhouse chapel

First CSA convent in Barton, WI

CSA Associates . . .
 Called by the Spirit to be Associates, we are women and men who welcome a vibrant, mutual relationship with the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Agnes.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chapters of Our Life!

Autobiography in Five Chapters by Portia Nelson

1. I walk down the street.
 There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
 I fall in.
 I am lost — I am helpless.
 It isn't my fault.
 It takes forever to find a way out.

2. I walk down the same street.
 There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
 I pretend I don't see it.
 I fall in again.
 I can't believe I'm in the same place.
 But it isn't my fault.
 It still takes a long time to get out.

3. I walk down the same street.
 There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
 I see it is there.
 I still fall in — it's a habit.
 My eyes are open.
 I know where I am.
 It is MY fault.
 I get out immediately.

4. I walk down the same street.
 There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
 I walk around it.

5. I walk down a DIFFERENT street.

Did you ever find yourself minding your own business when something shifted in your life? Did you sense an invitation to change your way of living or thinking? Did you ever encounter a challenge to reach beyond your “comfort zone” which surprised you on your routine route? Have you ever found yourself ignoring or denying the need to let go of frustrations, anxiety, anger, or unhealthy attachments? After experiencing a number of realities that were challenging, did you wake up to the fact that maybe it’s time to notice patterns of behaviors, thoughts, desires, or attitudes which no longer serve you as life-giving choices?

Have you ever discovered old patterns that kept you falling into holes of psychological or spiritual emptiness? Did you notice your growth in awareness that you can change and make personal choices to avoid places, people, and experiences that keep you from being your best self? Choosing to take on a different route can be monumental, but all of these challenges call for grit, grace, and guts. This is all part of the discernment process as well. It is so essential to develop a realistic sense of who you are as you walk down the sidewalk of life.

Possibly the shift you sense within is calling you to consider living a religious lifestyle. What will it mean to step into this search and adventure? Are you willing to go down another street to seek out new questions, new answers, new dreams, and new possibilities? The best thing to do when you find yourself at the corner of “walk and don’t walk” is to contact a  spiritual director who will offer you a “Trip Tik” that will assist you in this blurry-clear journey!
Reflection on poem by Jean Hinderer,CSA