Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Father's Day Story . . .

A Box Full of Kisses!
Author Unknown

The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper.  Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.”

The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside?” The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They’re all for you, Daddy.”

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness.

Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept the gold wrapped box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

(Author’s comment):
In a very real sense, each one of us, as human beings, has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses . . . from our children, family members, friends, and God.  There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than this.         

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Threshold of Vulnerability . . .

To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering or loss.

Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly.

Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced. Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection. You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before, and it suddenly seems so far away.

Think for a moment how, across the world, someone’s life has just changed – irrevocably, permanently, and not necessarily for the better – and everything that was once so steady, so reliable, must now find a new way of unfolding.
(Author Unknown)

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ordinary Time Ponderings . . .

In 2007, the film, The Inconvenient Truth,  aired and starred former United States VP Al Gore which told the “unbelievable” facts about climate change and specifically global warming.  In the film, Gore reviews the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future. In one particular scenario, he presents the film footage of his presentation on this subject to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and he also brought in climate scientists to authenticate his findings. He thought that once legislators heard the compelling evidence, they would be driven to action.  Not so.  Some listened, some became skeptical and others shirked it off.  It was simply viewed as an inconvenient truth.

In the Gospels, we are presented with numerous episodes of Jesus’ power over disease, demons, blindness, fevers, the sea and sin itself.  As we read between the lines, we discover Jesus, too, was an Inconvenient Truth  for both the religious and political leaders of his time. Their economic and religious interests were threatened by him, and they were often rebuked for their hypocrisy. He moved to the “margins of society” and hung out with those who were “outsiders.”  He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; he healed women, touched them, raised them up, and freed them from demons and patterns of life which restricted them. He challenged everyone to become light and salt; to forgive and love their enemies, to ask, to seek, and to knock on the door of God’s heart; to walk through the narrow gate; and that when they fasted or gave alms that it would not be done for show; that they would give away their extra cloak, go the extra mile, and bend and wash each other’s feet.Truly, he was an Inconvenient Truth.

At this time as I write, we, as caretakers of planet Earth, are experiencing fires, along with other climate issues, such as, floods, drought, and extreme heat. Seems that global warming, which in the recent past skeptics made efforts to discredit, now scientists’ truths about our climate are being heard; a noticing is happening and countries the world over are taking steps to slowly remedy these large-scale planet issues. 

So what is the Good News?
We are all called to listen to the falling leaves, to the melting glaciers, to the gasping of earth from our greedy clutching, and to the sacred voices of nature crying out their lamentations. We are all called to listen to our souls, to the souls of one another, and to our Mother Earth.

So - May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity, and peace. Let us do as much as we can to take up the challenge to be prophetic voices in our church, our government, and the world, and to speak for the least, the last and the lost so that all that is scattered may be gathered, healed and treated justly. And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done.   Finally, may we ask for the graces we need throughout this week to create a climate change of hope and peace in our world as we entrust our lives to the One who is the Way, the Life and the Inconvenient Truth.
(Previously posted)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ablaze with the Spirit . . .

Image by: Doris Klein, CSA
(previously posted)

It is said that at one time Rabbi Lot went to see Rabbi Joseph and said, “Rabbi, as much as I am able, I practice a small rule of life, all the little fasts, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible, I keep my thoughts clean.  What else should I do?”  Then the old Rabbi Joseph stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like the torches of flame.  And he said, “Why not be turned into fire?”   (From the Desert Fathers and Mothers)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Spirit and God’s unrelenting, never-ending, eternal invitation to us, much like that to the early disciples, to become People of the Flame!  For they became on fire with the mission of Jesus and set the world ablaze with their message of God’s love by their bold witness of life! These followers of Jesus were given the power promised by Jesus to further the reign of God.

We have today in the first reading, the story of God’s astonishing revelation of the Spirit in which Luke gets our attention through the images of a sudden, cosmic, divine event abounding with a strong driving wind and flames of fire that rest upon all those gathered in the upper room.  For Luke, Pentecost happens sometime after the Easter appearances of Jesus and his ascension.  It is on the Jewish feast of Pentecost that the Spirit descends upon the disciples in a dramatic, mysterious, and powerful way. They experience a strong wind blowing through the house, are touched by flames of fire, and begin to speak in other languages. There is a radical transformation in the disciples . . . from fearful, unbelieving people, to courageous and bold women and men with a mission. 
Throughout the rest of the Chapters in Acts, we will hear stories of their conversion of heart again and again. They will preach about God's love, uniting them in mind and heart to other Jews, Arabs, Cretans, Gentiles, and those beyond the borders and boundaries of their limitations; and all will understand. This is the mission of God’s Spirit . . . to unite and bring together people of every nation and language.  Now the Spirit's language unites the hearts and minds of the believing community.  It is not bound by any limitations. The fringes of faith are flung open, unrestricted by language, culture, or ethnicity. Every cultural expression is able to find the divine. No one who loves God can be excluded; for the gifts of the Spirit are diverse, and we share in the mystery of Pentecost when we celebrate each contribution with gladness and gratitude.
John, in our Gospel, brings us back to Easter night, when the frightened disciples are huddled in the upper room; the risen Jesus comes to them through locked doors and speaks the language of the Spirit to them.  He greets them . . . breathes the breath of God upon them and blesses them with peace, comfort, and forgiveness. He does not hold them captive with such words as, “Where were you when I needed you most”?  Instead, Jesus offers them healing and peace in the midst of their fear and turmoil from the post-traumatic stress of the past days in Jerusalem.

Jesus, knowing their doubts and insecurity, reveals to them the wounds in his hands and side.  There can be no doubt: it is the crucified Jesus himself, risen from the dead.  As their fear changes to an unspeakable joy, Jesus again wishes them peace and the life of his Spirit, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

He goes on to say, “Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven…”  This is no mere authority of the law in which people are declared free of guilt.  It is much more than that.  The disciples are being given the power to bring people back to God, to reconcile those who have become separated from their God, and to discern which people are not yet ready for reconciliation. And, then he declares their mission, the same as his own: continue doing what he did – the celebration and expansion of God’s reign.

So what is the good news for us today?
Pentecost is the feast that calls us to be willing and courageous to become people of the flame.  We all are people of the Spirit filled with gifts that the “world needs so desperately . . .wisdom for a world searching for meaning,  knowledge, and understanding for a world seeking truth and insight, healing for a world torn apart by violence, and the gift of discernment for a world in need of direction and inspiration.”
So, let us ponder these closing thoughts, as we reflect on our call to become people of the flame:

“To live a life of the Spirit takes all the life we have. To live a life of the Spirit takes the heart of a hermit, the soul of a mountain climber, the eyes of a lover, the hands of a healer, and the mind of a rabbi. It requires total immersion in the life of Christ Jesus and complete concentration on the meaning of the Gospel today.” (Adapted/Joan Chittister – Fire in These Ashes)

So what else should we do?   Why not be turned into fire?

A "Spirited" Prayer . . .

Come, Holy Spirit
Replace the tension within me with a holy relaxation,
Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm,
Replace the anxiety within me with a quiet confidence,

Replace the fear within me with a strong faith,
Replace the bitterness within me with the sweetness of grace,
Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light,

Replace the coldness within me with a loving warmth,
Replace the night within me with Your day,
Replace the winter within me with Your spring,

Straighten my crookedness, fill my emptiness,
Dull the edge of my pride, sharpen the edge of my humility,
Light the fires of my love, quench within me the flames of envy,
Let me see myself as You see me,
that I may see You as You have promised
And be fortunate according to Your word,
 “Blessed are the pure of heart,
                    for they shall see God.”                          

Image by: Doris Klein, CSA

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ascension Day - an "Uplifting Feast"!

The story is told that in Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. 

Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth.  Thus their motto was ‘Ne Plus Ultra,’ which means, ‘No More Beyond.’  The word being torn away by the lion is ‘Ne’ or ‘No’ thus it reads ‘Plus Ultra.’ Columbus had proven that there was indeed ‘more beyond.’ 

In the same way, our readings today, proclaim that there is ‘more beyond.’  The Ascension is part of what we call the Pascal Mystery.  There are 4 interrelated parts: suffering and death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. 

These sacred events are closely interlocked as one reality.  As the resurrection proclaims that Jesus is alive, the Ascension asserts that Jesus has entered into glory.  In this celebration of the Ascension, we are invited to let go of our linear thinking and stand in the space of accepting and embracing Mystery. 

Jesus did not ride up into the sky in Shepherd 1.  For we know that heaven is not a place but a relationship with God – Jesus is totally and forever reunited with God.  Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Spirit form a ‘seamless garment’ so to speak, one single movement - the passing of Jesus through death to life!

Today, on the feast of the Ascension, we remember, we celebrate, and we believe - the more beyond.  The more beyond pain and suffering; the more beyond doubt and death; the more beyond grieving and loss. 

We are invited into embracing the mystery which Jesus reveals is an intimate forever, eternal, everlasting, never ending, timeless, priceless, unconditional love relationship with our God in which Jesus will be with us until the end of the age.

Jesus promised that we would never be left alone.  The Ascension of Jesus was not the end of his presence with us, but a new way of being intimately present.  As St. Augustine writes, “You ascended before our eyes, and we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts.”

The four gospels do not end with Jesus’ absence, but with his continuing presence.  Mark writes that Jesus was taken up into heaven and then adds “the disciples went forth and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message with signs.” In John, Jesus is saying to Peter and to us, “Follow me.”  In Matthew, he does not mention the Ascension.  His Gospel ends with Jesus saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And in today’s Gospel, Luke ends with Jesus ascending into heaven in order to send the promise of the Spirit. 

And Jesus continues his presence with us in Eucharist, in the Scriptures, in our assembly here, and in our hearts.  Through us and in all believers of this Mystery, Jesus continues to heal and to comfort, to forgive and to include.

It is in all hearts of believers of this Mystery, that beyond this space of bread and wine, Word and ritual that his love and compassion continues to be found. We are not to stand and stare up at the clouds but to risk entering into the uncertainties of life, and to truly see God’s presence in each other, in the eyes of the poor, the marginalized, and in the needs and hearts of the "last, the least and the lost."
Ascension tells us that if we’re looking for Jesus, we need a new way of seeing, a new way of following, for the Paschal Mystery belongs to each of us. "Its footsteps are traced in our lives as we negotiate the physical, psychological, and spiritual challenges inherent in our human journey."

So today, let us pray in this liturgy that we will be open to the graces of these powerful readings as we seek to find Jesus in all hearts, especially in this time when we find ourselves living in a Good Friday world with great chaos, fear, and violence.
And so we pray:
  • May we have the courage to be witnesses of Jesus’ message for we have been given a Spirit of wisdom and knowledge;
  • May we embrace the mystery of this feast so that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened and know the surpassing greatness of God’s power for all who believe. 
  • And finally, may we truly and intimately know the hope that belongs to God’s call now and into the more beyond!   

The Presence of the Presence!

The Auction

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art.  They had everything in their collection from Picasso to Raphael. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart, and he died instantly.  He often talked about you, and your love for art.” The young man held out his package. “I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.”

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.”

The father died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?” There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings.  Skip this one.”

But the auctioneer persisted. “Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?” Another voice shouted angrily, “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!” But still the auctioneer continued, “The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?”

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. “I’ll give $10 for the painting.” Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. “We have $10, who will bid $20?” “Give it to him for $10.  Let’s see the masters.” “$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?” The crowd was becoming angry. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. “Going once, twice, SOLD FOR $10!”

A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now, let’s get on with the collection!”  The auctioneer laid down his gavel. “I’m sorry, the auction is over.” “What about the paintings?” “I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!”
(Author Unknown)

Be ready for the God of surprises . . .

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gretchen Crowder Preaches for the Solemnity of the Ascension

Women of the Song!

The Wise Woman’s Stone

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

We gather to celebrate all that Mary had within her that enabled her to trust in Mystery, to walk in the holy darkness of questions, to ponder her experiences in the light of faith, to hope in God’s love amidst the joys and sorrows, losses and findings and the deaths and risings she encountered, and to live with courage as she responded moment by moment to the challenges and surprises that resulted from her “Yes, let it be done” –
Most of what we know about Mary in Scripture comes from the Gospels of Luke and John. As a young Jewish girl, she grew into womanhood with an extraordinary faith.  Oftentimes she did not understand what God was asking of her, but she believed with all her heart that it could and would be done, and she acted accordingly.

It was enough for her to be called to move within holy mystery and gently hold the tension of all that was being asked of her.  She did not seek answers, clarity or quick results- we are told that “she held all these things in her heart” and treasured them until their meaning was revealed a grace at a time!

In our Gospel (Luke l: 39-56), Mary, a young pregnant woman went with haste about 70 miles south to the hills of Judea to visit her older pregnant cousin, Elizabeth who has lived the past six months no longer barren and with a quieted husband.  Mary remains there for at least 3 months to be of help and to share the joy of expectation that most mothers-to-be experience.  They embody God’s mercy while sharing their fears, finding courage through one another, expressing their hopes, and learning practical wisdom of body, mind and spirit together.

The mystery of the Incarnation is set in a familiar context – the friendship between pregnant women who await the birth of their children.  Luke summarizes for us the deep relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and is the first person to recognize Mary’s child, Jesus, as the long-awaited one.

Elizabeth’s loud cry is translated with the same words used to describe the loud cry of the Hebrews before the Ark of God’s presence when it was brought into their midst.  Mary is now the living Ark of God and the promise to God’s people has begun to be fulfilled in her. 

In response to Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary proclaims a song of liberation for all people; one in which ideals are reversed and the household of God will be peopled by the poor, the hungry, and the ones with no power.  Hers is the first proclamation of justice in the New Testament.  Her song is revolutionary – She speaks of a political revolution in which God has shown strength and brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. 

“She speaks of a social revolution in which God has filled the hungry with good things; and she sings of an economic revolution, in which God has sent the rich away empty, and the poor are filled with good things.” Her message is so subversive that even in our time, it is written that “for a period during the 1980’s the Government of Guatemala banned its public recitation.”  Her song of courage invites us to identify the poor, the oppressed and marginalized of our day, to be in solidarity with them, and to dare to engage with God in the liberation of these people, believing, like Mary that this can be done so that we too can build up the kingdom with love and justice.

These women, who stand pregnant in an embrace of joy, laughter, and praise for God’s marvels, will give birth to children of the Magnificat. These children in turn will one day stand together and sing a new song that would be revolutionary as well.  John will sing his song of repentance and ring out the Good News that the Messiah is here.  Jesus, will sing his song of Beatitude that breaks through to the hearts of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized and beyond the strict laws of purification.

Winds of Change . . . Winds of Trauma . . .Winds of Loss . . .

Author, Edwina Gately, once wrote a book entitled, “There Was No Path, So I Trod One.”  This touched me as I pondered how to pray today after seeing and hearing the reports of the destructive tornadoes throughout the Midwest.  I couldn't find an online prayer that would name what was in my heart, so I wrote one. I share it with you and encourage you to write your own as well.

God of Creation, here we are again as a nation devastated by the winds of storms. The east coast braces for severe storms and the west coast continues to recover from fires and floods - I'm sure you remember - Now I place all the peoples who have survived these recent tornadoes before you - and those who are now named as victims. Even though sirens and warnings echoed through the cities and small towns -  and the surrounding areas farm areas,  the tornado stepped down all too suddenly from the clouds, and caused a deep gouge in the earth and in the lives of these people. So how do we pray at a time like this? How do they recover? How do they cope, adjust, and manage?

 I recall how Jesus spoke to the winds and the sea while he was with his friends in the boat during the storm on Lake Galilee – yet, there are no “magic words” that can take away the pain, anxiety, fear, trauma, and damage done in the wake of these tornadic episodes. It is through the hands, hearts, voices, and skills of responders that your presence is felt.

We now hand you the lives of those lost as victims; we send blessings and strength to families, friends, and citizens of these cities and towns; we send the support of courage and compassion to those who are responders, health care workers, rescue workers, and all who assist in any way to rebuild homes and hearts of these people. 

God, it is written, that in the beginning you created out of chaos, bring your Spirit of comfort to all who walk these paths, streets, and neighborhoods of destruction and chaos. Place your words of “Peace, be still” in their hearts as they work, walk, and wander among the wreckage of these terrifying storms. We trust in your loving care with all who now are moved in any way to respond to these disasters.  We place all these needs and concerns in your loving embrace. Amen.

God, the Divine Gardener!

Story:  A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.”  “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself.

She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.”  God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry.  I sell only seeds.” (John Shea)

In the northern hemisphere, spring has arrived and is struggling to consistently entertain the warm winds of the south.  With only the slightest caress of a lukewarm breeze upon the face of wannabe gardeners, the garden centers are experiencing “flash mobs” of “earth-mid-wives.” People buy flower or vegetable plants and then invite the challenge of nurturing the plants with just the right amount of water, sunlight, or fertilizer so that one day they will rejoice in their accomplishment of growing their own vegetables and beautiful flowers.  Gardens can be seen in flower boxes outside windows, on rooftops among skyscrapers, and even in large fields shared by a community.

However, God offers us only seeds – this process takes longer, more tending, patience, and the gift of surprise.  I’d like to think that God was the first organic gardener who did not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.  Organic gardeners think of the whole system – the soil, water supply, the people, wildlife, and even the insects.  Organic gardeners are concerned about building healthy soil and nurturing the connectedness of all things.  And so it is with the Divine Gardener – offering us seeds of hope, integrity, risk, resiliency, dreams, purpose, passion, and call.  It is up to all of us to offer these seeds just the right or best environment for germination so we will carry on the creativity and love of the Divine Gardener – and we need not be perfect at this – just willing!

So what is the Good News for us today?  Let us ponder these quotes:
·         The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?  Jack Kornfield

·         Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.  May Sarton

·         An ordinary favor we do for someone or any compassionate reaching out may seem to be going nowhere at first, but may be planting a seed we can't see right now. Sometimes we need to just do the best we can and then trust in an unfolding we can't design or ordain.
Sharon Salzberg

·         Love is the seed of all hope. It is the enticement to trust, to risk, to try, to go on. 
 Gloria Gaither

·         Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. Henry David Thoreau

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Vision for the Future of Religious Life, Sr. Teresa Maya, CCVI

Living reflectively, living wisely!

I often ponder the message on the side mirror of the passenger side of my car. The safety warning at the bottom of the mirror reads: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. The science of this is: “Convex mirrors (ones that curve outward in the center) make objects appear smaller than they are, and by doing so show a larger field of view than the other types. They are often used in side view mirrors of cars to give the driver a better view of all the other cars in the vicinity.”

I think this is a great metaphor for encouraging the practice of the art of reflection in our lives. We often think that just because the past is history, and what may have touched us in a good or not so good way, emotionally, spiritually, physically, or psychologically is over and done.  Sometimes we even quip, Out of sight, out of mind!  However, we can still hold onto some of these past events in our memories, dreams, imagination, and even down deep in our cells. So then when we meet some person or event that triggers a memory or feeling, we find that things are truly closer than they appear.  I find that the practice of daily reflection will help to heal, bless, and move us on to “whole-ing” any and all of these life learnings.

The practice of reflection is basic to discernment.  Here is what Margaret Silf writes about living reflectively from her book, Wise Choices.

“Life is a bit like that beach. It is full of hidden hazards, quicksand that sucks us down into the depths of despair. But it also has areas of solid rock, where we know we are on firm ground and we can walk with confidence. The key to discovering the natrue of the terrain begins with our feelings.  It can be very helpful to cultivate the habit of reflecting back over the evenings of the passing days.  It helps us to begin to live reflectively."

Living reflectively helps us to grow into honoring our feelings and letting them be our teachers so that we too, will be able to gain a larger field of view and notice that the challenges in life can also be gifts. Although they are a part of our past journey, their power, energy, and wisdom  is closer than it appears.  “Reflection like this only needs to take a few minutes, but it can make a big difference to your ability to make wise choices.”
(previously posted)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Let God "easter" in us!

The Magdalene’s Blessing
(For Easter Day)
From: Circle of Grace, Wanton Gospeller Press, Orlando, FL, 2015

You hardly imagined
standing here,
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.

And now
you do not know
how to abide this hole
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
slams shut
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.

I tell you,
this is not banishment
from the garden
this is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate.

This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed,
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.

So let the tears come
as anointing,
as consecration,
and then
let them go.

Let this blessing
gather itself around you.

Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.
You will not remember the words –
they do not matter.

All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Colleen Gibson, SSJ Preaches for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Shepherding 101!

A shepherd was tending his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a dust cloud approached at high speed, out of which emerged a shiny silver BMW. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Ferragamo shoes, the latest Polarized sunglasses and a tightly knotted power tie, poked his head out the window and asked the shepherd, "Hey! If I can tell you how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?" The shepherd looked at the man, then glanced at his peacefully grazing flock and answered, "Sure."
The driver parked his car, plugged his microscopic cell phone into a laptop and briskly surfed to a GPS satellite navigation system on the Internet and initiated a remote body-heat scan of the area. While the computer was occupied, he sent some e-mail via his Smartphone and, after a few minutes, nodded solemnly at the responses. Finally, he printed a 150 page report on the little laser printer in his glove compartment, turned to the shepherd, waving the sheaves of paper, and pronounced “You have exactly 1,586 sheep."  "Impressive. One of my sheep is yours." said the shepherd.
He watched the young man select an animal and bundle it into his car. Then the shepherd said: "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?" Pleased to meet a fellow sportsman, the young man replied “You’re on.”  "You are a consultant." said the shepherd without hesitation.  "That's correct," said the young man, impressed. "How ever did you guess?" "It wasn’t a guess," replied the shepherd. "You drive into my field uninvited. You ask me to pay you for information I already know, answer questions I haven’t asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog." (Author Unknown)
Sheep definitely have not changed, but the shepherds have changed quite a bit.  At the time of Jesus, shepherds were not considered good.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  They were known to be dirty, thieves, and were forbidden by Jewish law from being witnesses in any trial because they were flagrant liars.  So why would Jesus call himself a “Shepherd” and a “Good” one at that? 
Well, isn’t this Jesus’ usual style of inviting the listener to go beyond “the box”?  For with Jesus, there was no box.  He turned the world upside down and inside out; he crossed boundaries and borders, and challenged traditions that bound the spirits of the eager of heart.  He was “a presence that disturbed the religious and political worlds.”  He lived on the edge and the margins of society and ministered to those who would be found there.  He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; challenged people to become light and salt, and told them to forgive their enemies.  He also could speak to the wind and the waves; he cast out demons, and gave sight to the blind. 
So who are the Good Shepherds of today?   We are all called to be shepherds of our world today – to care for creation, to be voices for the poor, the marginalized. – These shepherds need to be willing to confront the systems that keep humanity and creation defenseless and vulnerable. 
NCR/Oct. 2013
“The priest who seldom goes out of himself … misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. … This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, lose heart and become in a sense collectors of antiquities or novelties — instead of being shepherds living with ‘the smell of the sheep.’ This is what I am asking you — be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”


Knowing the Shepherd . . .

The banquet hall was filled. To speak for the occasion, a renowned orator had been brought in. After a wonderful meal, he mesmerized the crowd with his voice as he recited poetry and famous selections of speeches.

Near the end of the program, he asked if anyone had a favorite selection that they would like for him to recite. From the back of the room, an old man stood up and kindly asked if he would mind reciting the 23rd Psalm. The speaker said that he would be glad to do it if, when he was finished, the old man would recite it as well. The old gentleman nodded his head and sat back down.

In a beautifully trained voice that resonated throughout the great room, the speaker began, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…” When he was finished, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

He then looked at the old man and said, “Alright sir, it is your turn now.”

In a trembling voice that was cracked by time, the old man began to recite, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” It is said that when he was finished, there was no applause, but neither was there a dry eye in the building.

After the event, someone asked the famous speaker what he thought produced the different responses in the crowd. The speaker paused, thought for a moment and said, “I know the 23rd Psalm, but that man knows the shepherd. That makes all the difference.” (Source/Author Unknown)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Emmaus ~ "Aha"-lleluia!


 In the account of the disciples walking to Emmaus, after the experience of the crucifixion of Jesus, they headed out of town ASAP!  They were disappointed, disillusioned, disoriented, and disbelieving of the women’s message of Jesus’ resurrection. They expected Jesus to do great things and overtake the political and religious leaders – their hopes in Jesus were sealed away in the tomb with a two ton rock positioned at its entrance.  

As they were walking, they were extroverting, debating, and probably taking part in “global-whining” as to what they had recently experienced with shock and terror in Jerusalem. Along the road, Jesus meets them and they are described as having eyes cast down and hearts slow to believe. In other words, these disciples were probably experiencing their own unique form of post traumatic stress. But it is Jesus who gets them to attend to what they experienced, to recall and remember what was written in the Scriptures, and to stir up their juices of empowerment once again.  The rock was slowly being moved from their hearts, and their eyes were gently opening to the Mystery that was walking with them.  Then, noticing that it was nearly evening, they asked Jesus to stay with them, and they would chip in for the supper at the near-by inn.  

It was then at table, in the blessing of the bread, and it’s being broken and shared once again, that they recognized him.  And what’s more, they noticed that their hearts were on fire!! I am told that someplace it is written that the Jews at that time believed that there was a “connection” between one’s eyes and one’s heart – So eyes cast down leads to sad and slow to believing hearts. Yet, in the presence of the blessing and bread breaking – their eyes were opened and their hearts were set on fire! Jesus – “aha” “aha-lleluia” – He is alive – just as the women said! So they set out at once to return to Jerusalem, and “the rest is history” as the saying goes.  

So what is the Good News for us?  “There are times when we too have our hopes and expectations disappointed. We may feel that God has not treated us fairly or has abandoned us, and we are left in a state of bewilderment and confusion. Our challenge then is to accept, perhaps with difficulty, that God has not abandoned us, but is leading us to a new understanding of what our life is about. To a greater or less extent an experience of disorientation is inevitable until we get our bearings again.” (Source unknown)

Sister Helen ~ bread baker sharing her bread!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thomas, the Believer!

This Sunday, in some places, is called, “Thomas Sunday.” Our Gospel for our liturgies includes John 20:19-31. It is the story of a week after the Resurrection event, when the disciples are crowded together again in the upper room - this time with Thomas present. He was absent from their first experience of Jesus’ appearance to them in the upper room.  So here they are again for another time of gathering to process what they have experienced and how to move forward beyond Jerusalem!

So often Thomas is associated with doubting, especially in relation to faith.  Although we hear in the other resurrection Gospels that other disciples doubted as well.  Let us not forget Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas who skipped town after the crucifixion and were “found out” on the road to Emmaus when the "Stranger" caught up with them.  However, the finger is often pointed at Thomas and we might hear the expression, “Doubting Thomas” in some gatherings.

As I reflected on this Gospel, I thought that Thomas is like many of us who sometimes just need to take leave of all the tensions, trauma, and “too muching” of highly intense events. We then struggle to get back to balance and our inner center. He just witnessed the betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, whom he loyally followed for three years. Don’t we all have our own individual and unique ways of holding our pain and the ache of our grief?

Perhaps the disciples searched for Thomas, and upon finding him invited Thomas to gather with them once again as they shared their experience of the Risen Jesus. He may have felt hurt, or jealous, or  still be in pain upon hearing that Jesus appeared in the flesh to them and he was absent.  He knew what he saw and experienced as the Roman soldiers pierced the side of Jesus and nailed him to the cross. It was too much for his person to hold!  He needed space far away to let the pain of it all weave through his weary spirit.

But this time, he was in need of some facts – pie charts, bar graphs, graphics, and possibly a spread sheet with more data!  So often in our own journey of faith, have we not murmured  . . . “OK, God, show me a sign and then I’ll believe it . . .” Thomas is all of us who in our faithing have to be invited by our God again and again to trust and to risk being loved unconditionally. 

Jesus came in the way that Thomas most needed.  He instructed Thomas to put his hand in his side and fingers in the place of the nails if that is what Thomas needed.  We don’t know if he did.  But he did as with laser speed move to a deeper place of belief and exclaimed, “MY LORD and MY GOD!!"  This was Thomas’ own moment of inner rising!

So let us pray this day that the hand of God touch into the wounds of our world.  Are we not weary with the violence, wars, injustices, and deaths that humanity has inflicted upon itself and creation? 

Let us also pray that we let God’s fingers probe our minds, hearts, and spirits to release us from anything that keeps us in doubt or resistant to receiving God’s grace, mercy, and unconditional love. Peace be to all of us!!

Previously posted

In the breaking of the bread . . .

EMMAUS JOURNEY (Luke 24: 13-35)
All was chaos when he died.
We fled our separate ways at first,
then gathered again in the upper room
to chatter blue-lipped prayers
around the table where he’d talked
of love and oneness.

On the third day Cleopas and I
left for the home we’d abandoned
in order to follow him.

We wanted no part of the babble
the women had brought from the tomb.
We vowed to get on with our grieving.

On the road we met a Stranger
whose voice grew vaguely familiar
as he spoke of signs and suffering.

By the time we reached our village,
every tree and bush was blazing,
and we pressed him to stay the night.

Yet not till we sat at the table
and watched the bread being broken
did we see the light.

Irene Zimmerman, osf
From: Woman Un-Bent
(Previously posted)

Friday, April 19, 2019

Easter's First Responders!

On June 22, 2018, 12 members of the Thailand Wild Boar soccer team (ages 11-16) and their coach (age 25, a former Buddhist monk) entered one of the many cave networks in Thailand for a quick, relaxing excursion.  Then unexpectedly, the torrential rains began falling while they were underground, and water filled the caverns cutting them off from their exit and blocking their escape.

After nine days of being trapped one-half mile below the surface and two miles from the mouth of the cave, they were found by two British divers who were among the first responders. According to reports, they were not “panicking, crying, yelling, or depleting their resources.” Instead, they were found sitting in the darkness meditating.  “Their coach had taught them to meditate to keep them calm and preserve their energy.”

During the nearly three-week ordeal with no food or water, they drank sparingly from the fresh water that trickled from the ceiling. They were tough, resilient athletes who believed in one another as members of the Wild Boar soccer team.

Parents, friends, and people from surrounding villages set up prayer shrines and food centers for the workers, and prayed that the lost would be found – alive!

The first responders were a mix of a thousand volunteers from across the world including:
• 60 Thai Navy Seal divers
• Chinese, British and Australian cave experts
• U. S. military teams
• Other teams included translators, oxygen refueling teams, mountain climbing teams,  electricity and water management teams, kitchen teams, and spiritual support teams.
• Their equipment consisted of pumps, ropes, oxygen tanks, helicopters, medics, and  so much more.

Finally, on July 10, the 18th day, and after three previous days of rescue efforts to remove all the boys, their coach, medics and divers, all were safe and escorted off to a nearby hospital; after which, all water pumps broke and rushing waters filled the caves once again.  It was thus written:
“The rescue of Thailand’s Wild Boars’ soccer team and its coach from a flooded cave will be remembered as one of the greatest rescues of all time.”(Ottawa Citizen)

Tonight all our vigil readings speak to us that our God has always been our eternal, divine first responder, finder, and redeemer!  In our Gospel this evening, we meet our Easter women who are first responders as well.
As they begin their own early morning “excursion” to the garden cave-like tomb fully expecting to find the dead body of Jesus, they are still walking “ankle deep” in grief and sorrow, reeling from having witnessed the arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, their friend, leader, and teacher. 

They witness to us a determination, a courage, and resilience, much like the Thailand responders, as they carry their simple equipment of fragrant substances – spices, perfumes, and oil to anoint the body of Jesus. 

In every Gospel narrative of the Resurrection, it is always women who are the first responders to the tomb. No special teams journey with them to the tomb; no heavy-duty equipment is available to move the rock. These women, with the power of their love, magnanimous faith, trust, and bold spirits are all that is needed to respond.

Upon approaching the tomb, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, and the cohort of guards was no longer present. Moving from the dimness of the early morning light into the darkness of the cave, they soon realized that it was empty and Jesus’ body was gone! (Now we know that Jesus is truly an early riser!) 

Confused and somewhat terrified upon discovering that the body of Jesus was gone, they immediately encountered two messengers dressed in dazzling white garments. The blinding blaze from the garments flooded the entire tomb and swiftly flashed outward into the entire cosmos, dispelling Good Friday darkness and kissing all of creation with Easter energy!

The messengers ask the women why they seek the living one in a cemetery, then tell them that Jesus is risen, he is alive; he is loose among them once again!  He refuses to stay put. "He is free again to create earthquakes among the religious and political leaders, to once again empower his disciples."              
For no cross can keep him from loving us!
No sealed tomb can keep him from loving us!
No experience of death can keep him from loving us . . .

Called by God to be the first witnesses of the Resurrection, the first disciples of the Easter Good News, and first responders walking into new Easter faith, these women came to grieve, but "left with a message that would change the world."

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ rising and ours as well . . .  for we are invited to take up where Jesus left off.   Let us recall that we moved from the darkness of the room below this chapel to blazing lights in procession, with our Easter candle illuminating our journey. This Easter light now radiates through the pathways of this house and throughout the surrounding land, dispelling the darkness of our world and blessing it with the brilliance of Resurrection joy!

• Therefore, as we experience life by embracing its joyful and sorrowful mysteries, let us move forward with Easter energy, and respond with Resurrection joy.
• As we speak the Good News of truth and spread hope as joyful witnesses – let us respond with Resurrection joy.
• As we stand up with resiliency for justice, goodness, and non-violence – let us respond with Resurrection joy.
• Finally, let us accept and embrace our God’s desire to Easter in us and remove all stones of fear or resistance from our hearts, minds, and spirits, so that we, like the women in our Scriptures, may be responders to the power of God’s love raising us up with a resilient Easter faith and bold spirits that cannot be confined.

Jean Hinderer, CSA
MH - Easter Vigil 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

"This is my body, broken for you."


Stripped of godliness,
hands hammered open,,
arms yanked wide,
the crossbeamed Christ
pours himself out
till rivers run red with
wine enough to satisfy
century-cries of thirst.

Irene Zimmerman, OSF
Woman Un-Bent
Crucifix in chapel of Jesuit Retreat Center, Oshkosh, WI

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

And It Was Night . . .

You stumble unseeing from the upper room
and no number of lanterns and torches can dim
your darkness now, Judas. When did you let
the light go out? When did you begin
to guard the hoard and spend starry evenings
behind drawn tent flaps, running the coins
through acquisitive fingers while the company sat
in a circle outside, breaking bread
and talking of light in the crackling campfire?
When did you fine-tune your ears to the clink
of copper and silver and gold, letting
the words of the Master fade out unheeded?
When did you start to begrudge begging hands
and when did you welcome disciples more
for the treasures they gave than the treasures they were?
Now, in the dark of Gethsemane’s garden,
you touch greedy lips to the Master’s cheek –
a cheap giveaway to your cohorts of night.
Irene Zimmerman, OSF
Woman Un-Bent

Do this in my memory . . .

Painting by Fr. Bob Gilroy
used with permission
Dec. October 29, 2017
Once upon a time when I was attending a Holy Thursday service at a nearby parish,  there were chairs set up in the aisles along with pitchers of water, basins, and towels.  So it was that when it came to the ritual of foot washing, everyone participated. I found myself entering into the movements and happenings with such emotion, I could feel it deep in my soul space.
During this time, I watched husbands and wives washing each other’s feet, their children washing the feet of their parents. I saw sons and daughters washing the feet of their elderly parents. Children washing the feet of their siblings.  It was oh so moving that I cried throughout the whole experience, and especially as my feet were washed. What a powerful act of intimacy - an act of sacred touching, healing, welcoming, and forgiving.

A 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.”