Monday, March 27, 2017

Lazarus "heard the tears of Jesus."

The Raising of Lazarus by James Tissot
 
Anthony de Mello (Taking Flight) shares this story in reflecting on truth.
 
The judge called the prisoner to the bar.
“I find you guilty on twenty-three counts. 
I therefore sentence you to a total of one hundred and seventy-five years”

The prisoner was an old man.  He burst into tears.  The judge’s facial expression softened.
“I did not mean to be harsh,” he said.
“I know the sentence I have imposed is a very severe one.  You don’t really have to serve the whole of it.” 

The prisoner’s eyes brightened with hope.
“That’s right,” said the judge.  “Just do as much as you can!”
 
In a few weeks we are about to enter more deeply into our Lenten journey through remembering and listening to the sacred stories of the final days of Jesus’ life. Some say stories are medicine. They have power; they do not require that we be a certain way, or act anything – we need only listen, and do as much as we can to be aware, attentive, receptive.
 
Stories are crucial to our sense of well-being, to our identity, to our memory and to our future. There is a power to stories that can often be experienced as one listens. Stories are a means for speaking the truth, exhorting us to do justice and to make peace. Stories can disturb the status quo that accepts inhuman acts and situations. Stories can trouble us, disturb our false sense of security and self-righteousness and jolt us out of our complacency.
 
In every age, God sends prophets to remind us of the story of how our God is involved in our lives. One author remarks “Prophets stand in our midst and tell it like it is, speaking the disturbing words that people don’t like to hear. If you find that the Word of God has not placed a demand on you, or challenged your life, you have not heard it.  If it has not called you to death, to lay down your life, to forget about yourself, you have not heard it.  If it has not called you where you do not want to go, you have not heard the voice of the prophets nor the Word that speaks through them.”
 
Let us open ourselves to the Word this week
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040217.cfm  and do as much as we can to receive the graces that God so desires to bestow upon us.
 
In the first reading, we recall the prophet Ezekiel who experienced the destruction of Jerusalem and went with his people into captivity. Early in his prophetic ministry, like Jeremiah, he called his people to conversion. But after their repentance, he spoke in a new way to them, giving them a vision of hope. He heard God speaking through him and with prophetic insight he saw a New Jerusalem. He spoke the Word that came to him in terms of conversion and a new covenant.  He saw the restoration of Israel in the image of a new city from which God’s glory would shine over all the earth. 
 
This Sunday’s Gospel is the conclusion of John - Chapter 11; it picks up after the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus’ gift of life to Lazarus did not bring Jesus friends and followers but was the trigger point that brought his enemies to move against him. The unbelieving Jews do not accept the signs that Jesus had worked in their midst. They refuse to let themselves be drawn in to the life which Jesus wants to share with them and which he invites them to share with others. They refuse to hear the Good News. They choose to be alone rather than unite themselves with life. They prefer to do as much as they can to hold on to their land, their power, their greed, their fear, their resentment. This Jesus is too much for them.
 
This is the season of the unfolding story of the mystery of the God who spoke – “My dwelling will be with you, and I will be your God” - it is a truth so large that we can only touch one part of it at a time. We have to let ourselves encounter it piece by piece, grace by grace without expecting that we will comprehend the whole picture. “We can never grasp this mystery; we can only allow ourselves to be grasped by it.”  So let us pray throughout this coming week to be open to the graces of the readings, and do as much as we can to let “God love us tenderly, tenaciously, and totally.”


 

Carry an Umbrella of Hope!

The Umbrella Prayer . . .

As a drought continued for what seemed an eternity, a small community of farmers was in a quandary as to what to do. Rain was important to keep their crops healthy and sustain the way of life of the townspeople.

As the problem became more acute, a local pastor called a prayer meeting to ask for rain. Many people arrived. The pastor greeted most of them as they filed in. As he walked to the front of the church to officially begin the meeting he noticed most people were chatting across the aisles and socializing with friends.

When he reached the front his thoughts were on quieting the attendees and starting the meeting. His eyes scanned the crowd as he asked for quiet. He noticed an eleven year-old girl sitting quietly in the front row. Her face was beaming with excitement. Next to her, poised and ready for use, was a bright red umbrella. The little girl's beauty and innocence made the pastor smile as he realized how much faith she possessed. No one else in the congregation had brought an umbrella. All came to pray for rain, but the little girl had come expecting God to answer.

Litany of God's Names

Litany of God's Names
by Joseph Sobb, S.J.

O God of silence and quietness, you call us to be still and know you -
O God of steadfast love, your Spirit is poured into our hearts –
O God of compassion, your Word is our light and hope –
O God of faithfulness, you fill our hearts with joy –
O God of life and truth, from you we receive every gift –

O God of healing and peace, you open us to divine grace –
O God of all creation, our beginning and our end –
O God of salvation, you reconcile all things in Jesus, -
O God of Jesus, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit –
O God of Jesus, who invites us, “Come and see” –
O God of Jesus, who was tempted as we all are –
O God of Jesus, who is your pledge of saving love –
O God of Sarah and Abraham, from whom came  Jesus -
O God of Anna and Simeon, who recognized Jesus, your Son,
  as Messiah –

O God of Mary, who bore Jesus, -  
O God of Joseph, to whose fatherly care was entrusted Jesus, -
O God of all generations, of all times and seasons and peoples –
O God of our mothers and fathers, of all who have loved us –
O God of our past; O God of our future –
O God of our present, O God in our present -

Wintering into Springing!



Photo by: VG
 
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)
JH
 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Greening into Spring!

 
Springtime Prayer    
by Joyce Rupp
(Out of the Ordinary)

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.


A Spring Threshold . . .



“Like Spring secretly at work within the heart of Winter,
below the surface of our lives
huge changes are in fermentation.
We never suspect a thing.
Then when the grip of some
long-enduring winter mentality
begins to loosen,
we find ourselves vulnerable
to a flourish of possibility
and we are suddenly negotiating
the challenges
of a threshold…


At any time you can ask yourself:
At which threshold am I now standing?
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?


A threshold is not a simple boundary;
it is a frontier
that divides two different territories,
rhythms, and atmospheres.
Indeed, it is a lovely testimony
to the fullness and integrity
of an experience or a stage of life
that it intensifies toward the end
into a real frontier
that cannot be crossed
without the heart being passionately
engaged and
woken up.


At this threshold
a great complexity of emotion
comes alive:
confusion, fear,
excitement, sadness,
hope.


This is one of the reasons
such vital crossings
were always clothed in ritual.

It is wise in your own life
to be able to recognize and acknowledge
the key thresholds;
to take your time;
to feel all the varieties of presence
that accrue there;
to listen inward
with complete attention
until you hear
the inner voice
calling you
forward:


The time has come
to cross.”


John O’Donohue
From: To Bless the Space Between Us

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Remembering Romero . . .

 
Remembering
 
the Assassination of 
Archbishop Oscar Romero
March 24, 1980

Days before his murder Archbishop Romero told a reporter, "You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish."  http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/romero.html
 
ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMERO PRAYER: A STEP ALONG THE WAY
 
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.

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

*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.


Oscar Romero was buried at the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

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)



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Waiting for Spring - hurry up!

Image by Doris Klein, CSA



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
 and
 Easter Blessings
 carrying a new promise for Life


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

Feast of Joseph the Worker . . .




Joseph is the man on the outskirts, standing in the shadows, silently waiting, there when wanted and always ready to help. He is the man in whose life God is constantly intervening with warnings and visions. Without a complaint he allows his own plans to be set aside. His life is a succession of prophecies and dream-messages of packing up and moving on. He is the man who dreams of setting up a quiet household, simply leading a home life and going about his affairs, attending to his business and worshiping God and who, instead, is condemned to a life of wandering. 

Beset with doubts, heavy-hearted and uneasy in his mind, his whole life disrupted. He has to take to the open road, to make his way through an unfriendly country finding no shelter but a miserable stable for those he holds most dear. He is the man who sets aside all thought of self and shoulders his responsibilities bravely — and obeys. 

His message is willing obedience. He is the man who serves. It never enters his head to question God's commands. He makes all the necessary preparations and is ready when God's call comes. Willing, unquestioning service is the secret of his life. This is his message for us. 

Author Unknown

A Prayer for Work . . . 
Creator God, thank you for providing us with the gift to share our talents. Provide our community, our nation, our world the fortitude to provide work for all which is decent and fair. Make us faithful stewards of your creation to enhance the human dignity of our global family.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen. 
(From Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice, USCCB)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Patrick ~ Man of Courage, Man of Myth!

 
St. Patrick

http://www.biography.com/people/st-patrick-9434729#synopsis
 
May your troubles be less
And your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come though your door



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.
(Author Unknown)


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Woman, A Well, and the Word!



In 2004, the revolutionary work of the renowned Japanese scientist, Dr. Masaru Emoto, was published in a book entitled, The Hidden Messages in Water.  He discovered that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words and feelings. He showed in his research, that when ice forms under positive conditions, (that is, when water is exposed to positive and loving words) then the ice crystals form complex, colorful snowflake patterns.  Then again, he showed that when it is exposed to negative conditions, the crystals that form are incomplete and dull in color. Since humans and the earth are composed mostly of water, his message is one of personal health, global environmental renewal, and a practical plan for peace that starts with each one of us.  His findings imply that we can positively impact the earth. 

In Sunday’s reading from Exodus, God’s hidden message in the water from the rock was that God was present in their midst totally and tenderly. The story recounts the murmuring of the people in the wilderness and the miracle of life-giving water from the rock. Truly, the people thirsted, yet rebelled against Moses and lacked trust in God. 

Here for these desert people, the messages hidden in the water invited them into a deeper awareness that God is truly the one that quenches all thirsts, satisfies all hungers, and fills all emptiness. God was constantly calling them to the Promised Land, but just as constantly, they wanted to go in their own direction. 

In our Gospel, Jesus is in pagan territory, enemy territory, in Samaria where he is absolutely not supposed to be. But as usual, Jesus disregards the rules and breaks through boundaries and borders. He is tired and thirsty, sitting by the ancient well which belongs to Jacob. Then something extraordinary happens. Jesus is approached by a Samaritan woman, engages her in conversation about religion, and opens her mind and heart in ways that he has not done for anyone else. The result is that he completely changes her, transforms her, if you will. He accepts her as she is and asks for her help.He speaks to her about her life and tells her about herself, and she says, “I see you are a prophet.” Jesus invited her to raise her believing beyond the immediate reality of water of the well that satisfies physical thirst to what would satisfy her spiritual thirst. 

In this encounter, Jesus tells her who he is. He opens himself up and reveals himself to her, calling himself, ‘I Am,’ – the name Yahweh gave to Moses in the burning bush. Transformed in her hope, she then can share the joy of her discovery and bring her neighbors to Jesus.  Having fulfilled her task she then moves again into the background. The townspeople no longer need her.  She has brought them to Jesus. The encounter with Jesus had transformed her life, and she had received a gift that no one could take away from her. “For God’s hope does not disappoint, and God’s intimate love has been poured out into her very being."

Now with the grace of love, acceptance, faith, joy, truth, and freedom the hidden messages within her own life-giving well are generously and abundantly shared with all who are willing to encounter this woman.  For now she stands tall in her transformation. Jesus is the “Gift of God” who is Living Water. The secret message in Jesus, the Living Water is that he is the real well!

If we drink from Jesus we will never be thirsty again.  If we make Jesus the center of our lives, we will have a spring of water welling up from within us, giving us life, no matter what is happening around us!

So let us ask this woman of the well to walk with us during these Lenten days.  Let her guide us in our journey of faith, hope, and love, so that we, too, will be open to the “Hidden Messages” of the Life-Giving Water that our God so desires to pour into our hearts.

In closing, the following reflections are by Edwina Gately who places the following words upon the lips of our Samaritan woman.

“He tells me who he is -
The Christ- the one we all await,
The one who is to come, is here!
I am swelling with a joy and freedom I have never known!
There is a rush like cleansing water
Running through me, Leaving me light as air.
I have no need now - For my jar of clay.
I run - With the Living Water!
I run with the Good News entrusted to me –
To me – By the Christ - Who waited for me, received and filled me at the well
Where women gather.
Honored, blessed, Bearer of new life.
First witness of the Christ - Amongst us
Who broke the rules of exclusion,
Who dared to speak to a woman,
Who asked a favor from such as I,
Then chose me,
Chose me,
The woman
To run, oh, so filled up,
With such Good News."


P.S . According to Orthodox tradition, the Samaritan woman was renamed Photini, "Equal to the Apostles,” and went on to witness in Africa and Rome before being martyred for her faith.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Praying for the World . . .


Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.


Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.


Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.


Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.


And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.


Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.


And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Amen.


 (A Prayer for the World - Rabbi Harold Kushner – 2003)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Choose, Love, Create, Live . . .Lent!

 
Image from J.H.
 
Blessing
What we choose changes us.
Who we love transforms us.
How we create remakes us.
Where we live reshapes us.
So in all our choosing,
O God, make us wise;
in all our loving,
O Christ, make us bold;
in all our creating,
O Spirit, give us courage;
in all our living
may we become whole.
Author: Jan Richardson

People of the Cloud!


The Transfiguration

Reflections for the Second Sunday of Lent
Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Scott Peck

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. Pema Chodron 

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, and they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing we call human existence.                Anthony de Mello    

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus has taken his BFF’s  up the high mountain. It was believed that on mountains there one could go when seeking a special relationship with God.  Here on this mountain, Jesus stands with two prophets, Moses, “the liberator” and Elijah, “the troubler of Israel.”  On this holy mountain, Jesus bursts forth into a presence that overwhelmed the disciples.  Jesus turned into a radiant laser-like beam of energy!

The voice within the cloud directs the disciples to listen to God’s Beloved – “not just here on the mountain top – but on the plains of challenge and within the valleys where the people of God experience hunger, injustice, poverty and exploitation at the hands of the powers that be.”

The Transfiguration is a moment of glory commissioning us all and empowering us to live in the presence of God and to see the radiance of that presence in all the events of our lives: the people, the cosmos, and in ourselves.  Initially, the disciples were overcome by sleep, yet with this “explosion” of divine energy, they were awake . . . wide-eyed awake!

By our Baptism, we are all called to be “people of the cloud.”  We are invited to listen, and to be wide-eyed awake to express something of God through our lives. Through us, God wants to say something to this world.  Our task is to radiate the image of God and let it shine through us by our compassion, our healing, our understanding, and our willingness to be transformed.  It is said, that the purpose of life is not to be happy.  The purpose of life is to matter, to have it make a difference that you lived at all.  Our Baptism is the gift in which we choose to live out our purpose and it is the purpose of every human being to give God glory simply by being who we are with all our potential.

In an ancient story, it is told of an old pilgrim who was making his way to the Himalayan Mountains in the bitter cold of winter when it began to rain.  An innkeeper said to him, “How will you ever get there in this kind of weather, my good man?” The old man answered cheerfully, “My heart got there first, so it’s easy for the rest of me to follow.”

So let us be open to the graces of these readings:
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031217.cfm


• Let us take up the challenge to be prophetic voices, “people of the cloud” and to speak for the least, the last and the lost. 
• Let us take up the challenge to not stay in the comfort of the present, but with an urgency move with the mission of Jesus into a future full of mystery, paradox, ambiguity, wonder, and wisdom.
• Finally, let us get up, look up - and see only Jesus, and not be afraid to follow our heart’s purpose and may we allow the light of God to shine in us, through us and to transform us and our world.


(Previously posted 2/2013)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mother Agnes Day ~ March 6 . . .



Remembering Mother Agnes ~ 1847-1905
Death Anniversary of Mother Agnes Hazotte ~ March 6 ~ Foundress


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, WI 1858

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

First Sunday of Lent ~ Desert Transitions!

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness
J. Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)
 
First Sunday of Lent ~

In our CSA Constitutions, in the section on Formation and Membership, there is written this theology statement:
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.   All are transitions that are natural to every human experience, given an average life span. 


Even in our own community, we have had many transitions – I’d like to name just a few from the recent past-
• Can we remember when we initiated de-centralized government, along with establishing the offices of Sponsorship and Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation and Associate Relationships?
• Can we remember when the Motherhouse at 390 E. Division St., was raised so that St. Agnes hospital could expand?
• Can we recall the decisions and emotions involved in the process of raising Nazareth Heights and constructing a site with four hermitages for those seeking rest, renewal, and solitude?
• Can we remember how we felt when we knew that decisions had to be made regarding leaving missions in Honduras and Nicaragua?
• And here we are in our 6th motherhouse since 1858. .  .

Yes, transitions of every sort mark our lives.

We continue to encounter transitions in which we are invited to name our present reality as we evolve into the future,  and even more so today as we dialogue with contemplative hearts in preparing for our upcoming Chapter this summer.


Transitions always begin with endings that place us in an in-between space – or a 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 ourselves and perhaps with God as well. 


In her book, Journey of the Soul, Sister Doris Klein speaks of transitions with the following words:
“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.”


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 call 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 – namely,  his relationships of his village, his family, his simple life of carpentry, his privacy, his identity. Jesus, alone in the desolate wilderness where he is without food or water, and is stripped of all his securities, now remembers and embraces the words of love he heard upon rising from the waters of the Jordan. . . You are my Beloved . . . God alone becomes his sustenance.


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 he chooses faithfulness to God.


So what is the Good News for us? 
“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently.    . . .  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.” (Joan Chittister)


• 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, letting go of the needs and desires that may separate us from God?
• Finally, as we enter this desert time of transitions, let us ask for the graces we need to rekindle our love of God and God’s mission; for God is tenderly, lovingly, unceasingly speaking to our spirits: You are my beloved!

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 ~ J. Tissot