Friday, March 30, 2018

Holy Saturday . . .Holy Waiting Day . . .

Holy Saturday
I wrote this reflection over twenty-five years ago while I was attending a Holy Week retreat.  I wanted to imagine what it may have been like in this “amniotic darkness” of Mother Earth holding the body of Jesus for only a laser-like moment before the Resurrection.

The Mother-Tomb

She welcomed and embraced him within her earthen breast.
Holding him, enfolding him in her arms of caressing-clay.
A struggle of new birth.  A struggle of new life.

A struggle to rise beyond all time and space.

For in this mother-tomb of emptiness, she holds the Fullness of all Life;
she holds the Fullness of all Love. 
Nurturing him with gentle, warm love.  Whispering to him a lullaby of peace. 
Blessing him with a tender-touch.  Kissing his wounds to release the pain.

For here in this womb-tomb, he will pass over from this Mother's heart
to the Creator's arms.  

For here in this womb-tomb, he will pass over from death to Life!
For here in this womb-tomb, he will pass over to God-Glory ~ Alleluia!

O Mother Earth, Womb of Life, embrace us in our darkness. 
Hold us to your earthen breast.  Mid-wife us as we struggle with our humanness. 

Nurture us, bless us, and caress us.  Place your healing kiss upon our wounds. 
Teach us the lesson of passing over; teach us the lesson of letting go. 

Guide us as we search with eager-earth-eyes for the bright brilliance of Easter Light - and to look up and see only Jesus.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Another Sorrowful Mystery . . .

A poem posted by Fr. Stephen Verbest . . .
A poem by an unknown author, titled "Two Mothers", tells of their anonymous heavenly encounter as follows: 
A long time ago, so I have been told,
 Two mothers once met on streets paved with gold.
“By the stars in your crown,” said Mary to the other
“I see that on earth, you too, were a mother.

"And by, the violet-tinted halo you wear
 You, too, have known sorrow and deepest despair.”

“Ah yes,” she replied, “I once had a son.
 A sweet little lad, full of laughter and fun.

“But tell of your child.”
 “Oh, I knew I was blessed
 From the moment I first held him close to my breast,
 And my heart almost burst with the joy of that day.”

“Ah, yes,” said the other, “I felt the same way.”

The former continued: “The first steps he took-
So eager and breathless; the sweet startled look
 Which came over his face – he trusted me so.”

“Ah, yes,” said the other, “How well do I know."
“But soon he had grown to a tall handsome boy,
 So stalwart and kind – and it gave me such joy
 To have him just walk down the street by my side.”

“Ah yes," said the other mother, “I felt the same pride.”

“How often I shielded and spared him from pain.
 And when he for others was so cruelly slain.
 When they crucified him – and they spat in his face
 How gladly would I have hung there in his place!”

A moment of silence – “Oh, then you are indeed
 The mother of Christ!”
; and she fell on one knee.
 But the Blessed one raised her up, drawing her near.
 And kissed from the cheek of the mother, a tear.

“Tell me the name of the son you love so,
 That I may share with you in your grief and your woe.”

She lifted her eyes, looking straight at the other.
“He was Judas Iscariot: I am his mother.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Holy Wednesday . . .

“Spy Wednesday” 
This Wednesday is sometimes referred to as “Spy Wednesday” in Holy Week because the Gospel selection for the day tells of the secret negotiations Judas has with the religious authorities about betraying Jesus. Here we are in this liminal space – meaning an in-between space – a threshold, so to speak, moving us from darkness to light, from death to life, from close friendships to betrayals and back again. Last week in the Scriptures, we heard of Jesus turning the tables over of the money changers in the Temple. Today’s readings tell us of the night of the sharing of the Passover meal – a table of friendship that will be “turned over” with the betrayal of Judas.

I often reflect what that may have been like for him and the others who shared so much of their lives, hopes, feelings, fears, and gifts. We, too, are often challenged with choices of darkness and light, good and evil, fear and courage, doubt and faith. In her book, Radical Gratitude, Mary Jo Leddy writes that we are “set up” for challenge in our culture. The pull of consumerism for instance, she says: “This artificially induced dissatisfaction afflicts all types and classes of people. It is manifest in the unhappiness of the rich … in the anxious strivings of the middle class, and in the bitter resentments of the poor who sit and watch the young and the restless and the bold and the beautiful drive their cars.” Also this hum can find its way into our very psyches, for it whispers to us - “I don’t have enough which becomes I am not good enough, which becomes I am not enough.” Maybe this is what Judas heard within and got consumed by something that turned over his table of intimate relationship and unconditional love shared with Jesus. Let us all pray for the grace to be people of authenticity, integrity, and trust. 
Previously posted 2012

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Week of Processions . . .

++This is the brief reflection that I presented at the Palm Sunday Liturgy this weekend for our retired sisters...

We all are familiar with parades, marches, protests, demonstrations,
rituals, and rallies. However, through the Scriptures in this week
called Holy, we are invited to observe, ponder, and participate in
processions.  Today we have two Gospels; one recounting Jesus’
procession into Jerusalem, and the other with the profound  story of
his passion and death as he processed to Golgotha.

At the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, we processed to receive
ashes, visibly marking our willingness to enter once again into a
conversion of heart, and to hear the Good News deeper within and
around us. This week, on Holy Thursday, we will experience the procession
for foot washing and also the procession moving the Blessed Sacrament

to the Altar of Repose. 

On Good Friday, we process with the cross and remember Jesus’
procession to the hill outside the city of Jerusalem.  At the Easter
Vigil, we will process with the new Easter Fire from the Easter
Candle, and place it in our midst while we sing our Alleluias.

Let us also recall that every liturgy is filled with processions . . .
namely, the Entrance procession, the Gospel procession, Offertory
procession, our reception of Eucharist is a procession, and our own
entrance and leave-taking is also done in procession.  We frequently
experience a variety of processions throughout our lives . . .
and what do they signify?

Processions are not just a way to get people from here to there in an
orderly manner. They are ritual expressions of who we are and what
we are about. We are people of faith on a journey of life....
(And this is not a dress rehearsal!)

This week, let us ponder the processions in our own lives . . .
our Baptism and reception of the Sacraments, graduation, profession,
Jubilee processions, and consider our own funeral procession.

Then you may also want to reflect on the many individual processions
you make daily in this setting . . . from your room  to the chapel,
or to the dining room, to the beauty salon, or to the clinic or
hospital, or over to St. Francis home, and to the many other places you
journey throughout your day.

So therefore, let us ask the Spirit for the graces of insight, guidance, wisdom, forgiveness, and hope as we pray this week  . . .
• for an open mind to understand the depths of our journey of faith,
• for an open heart to embrace the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of our personal and collective faith journey,
• And for an open spirit to welcome, receive, and listen to the flow of life as we are invited to speak our “yes” to what is forever unfolding for us as we each process on our journey of faith.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Palms of Hosanna!

Blessings of Palms
By Jan Richardson

This blessing can be heard coming
from a long way off.
This blessing is making
its way up the road
toward you.
This blessing blooms in the throats
of women,
springs from the hearts
of men,
tumbles out of the mouths
of children.
This blessing is stitched into
the seams of the cloaks
that line the road,
etched in the branches
that trace the path,
echoes in the breathing
of the willing colt,
the click of the donkey’s hoof
against the stones.

Something is rising beneath this blessing.
Something will try to drown it out.

But this blessing cannot be turned back,
cannot be made to still its voice,
cannot cease to sing its praise
of the One who comes
along the way
it makes.

From: Circle of Grace, Wanton Gospeller Press, Orlando, FL, 2015 
©Jan Richardson.

Hope . . .

“To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.” (Erich Fromm)

Photo: Courtesy of SDE

Thursday, March 22, 2018

CSA Statement/Gun Control and Response to March for Our Lives . . .

The Sisters of St. Agnes are making the following public statement in response to the Parkland school shooting and the March for Our Lives taking place across the country this Saturday.

Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
Statement on Gun Control Legislation

The Sisters of St. Agnes join their voices with those of the surviving students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, those who participated in Saturday’s national and local March for Our Lives, and people of good will from all faiths across this country, who are demanding an end to the legislative paralysis that prevents common sense gun control from being enacted in this country.

Between the Sandy Hook shooting, and the Parkland shooting more than 500,000 Americans have been killed or injured by guns. There have been more than 1,500 mass shooting incidents in the United States during that time. The annual number of gun deaths increased to more than 38,000 in 2016. Of the 30 deadliest shootings in the United States, 19 have occurred in the last 10 years. As part of this litany of senseless gun deaths, we also acknowledge the deaths of our African American sisters and brothers that gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement.

We acknowledge and thank those corporations that have recently severed ties with the NRA, but the reality is little has been done to address the gun violence epidemic in our nation. Our legislators have not only refused to act to address gun violence in the United States, they – under increased pressure and funding from the NRA – have actively worked to weaken gun regulations.

The Sisters of St. Agnes call for an open and respectful dialogue in our communities, our states, and Congress about effective gun control legislation. We seek legislation that protects the common good and public safety as well as promotes respect for life.  We call our elected officials to develop legislation and enact laws that will: require universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods for all gun purchases; ban civilian ownership of high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; make gun trafficking a federal crime; and improve access to mental health services.

This tragic event calls communities and the nation to a deep conversion as individuals, communities, and as a nation. May we heed the challenge in the compelling words of Pope Francis, “Faith and violence are incompatible.”

Ruth Battaglia, CSA
Justice Coordinator
320 County Road K
Fond du Lac, WI

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

God be with us . . .

God Be With Us

May God be with us in strength, holding us in strong-fingered hands; and may we be the sacrament of God’s strength to those whose hands we hold.

May God be with us in gentleness, touching us with sunlight and rain and wind.

May God’s tenderness shine through us to warm all who are hurt and lonely.

May God be with us in wonder, delighting us with thunder and song, sunrise and daisy; enchanting our senses, filling our hearts, giving us wide-open eyes for seeing and splendor in the humble and majestic. And may we open the eyes and hearts of the blind and the insensitive.

May God be with us in love and friendship, listening to us, speaking to us, drawing us close as we tremble at the edge of self-gift.  May God’s love in us light fires of faith and hope, glow in our eyes and meet God’s love glowing in the eyes of our friends.

May God be with us in compassion, holding us close when we are weary and hurt and alone – when there is rain in our heart. And may we be the warm hands and the warm eyes of compassion for our friends when they reach out to us in need.

May God be with us in joy, thrilling us with nearness, filling our heart to fullness and filling our throat to ringing, singing exultation.

May God be with us in peace, stilling the heart that hammers with fear and doubt and confusion, and may our peace, the warm mantle of your peace, cover those who are troubled or anxious.

May God be with us in simplicity, opening us to a clearer vision of what is real and true, leading us deeply into the mystery of life and may our dealings with others be marked by honesty.

May God be with us today and every day. May God hold each of us, empowering us with understanding, love, and respect.

May God’s forgiveness touch our hearts, enabling us to forgive ourselves and each other.

And finally, may we experience God’s peace and the joy that results from unity and prayer, shared values, and common vision

Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

From March Gladness to March Madness!


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 this Holy Week.

Recently, (March 2013) we all in 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 can also be a clue as to what will happen in the Scriptures this Holy Week.

Holy Week presents us with the reading of the Passion after processing with palms. Then we listen to the reading of the Gospel of Luke telling again the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  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, CSA.  

Jesus enters riding upon a colt, no Popemobile. 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!
(Previously posted: March 2013)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Joseph's Day . . .

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)
Previously posted: 2017

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Coming of Holy Week . . .

A few years ago while attending a workshop on Ignatian Spirituality,
I composed this poem.  I believe it is fitting at this time as we prepare
for Holy Week.

Servant freed!
Used with permission ~ Image by: Fr. Bob Gilroy, SJ

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 rough hewn 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 . . .


A Prayer for the Week . . .

Loving Spirit of Wisdom,
guide my thoughts and my memories.
In the light of your love,
may I see
what is important for me to remember,
what is important for me to
hold to my heart,
and what I need simply to
let go of in peace,
for I trust you to be my guide
even when the path
seems unclear to me.
Through Jesus Christ,
Sister Rose Hoover, r.c.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mid-Lent Reflection

"One kind word can warm three winter months." -  Japanese proverb
Here are some kind words that may warm your heart during these
winter months in the northern hemisphere.

“There is no pain or sorrow which comes to us that has not first passed through the heart of God.” -Meister Eckhart

The river birch, with its salmon colored shaggy bark, is very hardy; able to withstand frost and wind, and thrives well in damp riverside soil.  About the only thing it cannot tolerate is shade. Shedding its bark is a natural developmental characteristic – the peeling of paper-thin layers makes room for new growth to happen.  If the peeling is premature, the tree will become “wounded” and fail to grow.  

Sometimes along our journey of life, we come to an awareness that we need to be healed from our inner wounding that resides deep in our soul space. This healing is always a challenge, a process, and a sacred adventure! Much like the river birch trees, we, too have layers of old wounds that need to be peeled away, each in their own time.     
To set out on this inner quest, we (unlike the river birch) learn to befriend the shade – our shadow self, who truly is our teacher - inviting us to name our fears, doubts, pains, and illusions. In so doing, we gently peel off  layers placing all into God’s loving embrace.  

With each inner “pilgrimage”, we gather courage and integrity to go ever deeper to enter our wounding with grace and faith.  We then let grief have its way with us, allowing our tears to bless us as they carry away our hurts.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Companions . . .

Puppies for Sale

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read “Puppies For Sale.” Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and sure enough, a little boy appeared by the store owner’s sign. “How much are you going to sell the puppies for?” he asked. The store owner replied, “Anywhere from $30-$50.”

The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change. “I have $2.37,” he said. “May I please look at them?” The store owner smiled and whistled, out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind.

Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, “What’s wrong with that little dog?” The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. “That is the little puppy that I want to buy.” The store owner said, “No, you don’t want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.”

The little boy got quite upset. He looked into the store owner’s eyes, pointing his finger, and said, “I don’t want you to give him to me. That dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I’ll pay full price. In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for.”

The store owner countered, “You really don’t want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies.”

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, “Well, I don’t run so good myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!”
– Author Unknown


A Story to be told . . .

A story is told that a young man who was raised into an atheistic family environment was training to be an Olympic diver. He had no religious influence except his outspoken Christian friend in school.

The young diver never paid much attention to his friend's sermons but he heard them often. One night he went to the indoor pool at his college. The lights were all off, but with big skylights under a bright moonlight, he had plenty of light to practice by.

The young man climbed up to the highest diving board. He turned his back to the pool as he prepared to make a somersault. As he went to the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall. The shape of his body was in the shape of a cross. Instead of diving at once, he knelt down for the first time and finally asked God to come into his life. As he stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on. The pool had been drained for repairs that night.

Author Unknown . . .

The Gift of Hope . . .

Rough Translations

Hope nonetheless.
Hope despite.
Hope regardless.
Hope still.

Hope where we had ceased to hope.
Hope amid what threatens hope.
Hope with those who feed our hope.
Hope beyond what we had hoped.

Hope that draws us past our limits.
Hope that defies expectations.
Hope that questions what we have known.
Hope that makes a way where there is none.

Hope that takes us past our fear.
Hope that calls us into life.
Hope that holds us beyond death.
Hope that blesses those to come.

From: Circle of Grace, Wanton Gospeller Press, Orlando, FL, 2015 
©Jan Richardson.

Photo by sjh-osu