Teaching the Humble His Way

By Mary Flick, CSJ

Early in the liturgical year, we begin again with the life and teachings of Jesus. Since the Christmas season ended, Jesus has been baptized and has called his disciples. Today, his teaching and preaching begins in earnest. Up on the mountain, on a grand stage, Jesus shares his seminal teaching on what his students and followers are to seek and be. As we listen to these eight beatitudes – these “be-attitudes” – we find a description of Jesus’ own attitude of being, his life’s attitude, with all its blessings.

What is the attitude, the blessing which underlies this and all of Jesus’ teachings? It is the blessing of humility. “Humility” has as its root the word “humus,” of the earth. Lowliness is built into the word. To be humble is to know who I am, a creature of God’s. Imperfect, I accept my defects and have a modest assessment of my own worth. This virtue stands in contrast to pride and is unappealing in our “Look at Me” society. To know my identity as one dependent on God for all blessings, is a life certain to gain no attention. To be poor, meek, merciful and clean of heart, to hunger for justice and peace – these are clear ways to stand apart from what is acceptable in our political, business and entertainment circles, where wealth and power are the goals.

Yet, humility is the attitude and spirit Jesus models for us throughout his public life. Later, he will teach his disciples that those who humble themselves will be exalted, that he came not to be served, but to serve. And in his final hours, he will wash his disciples’ feet.

Humility is not simply a Christian ideal. It is an essential aspect of every major religion. The prophet Zephaniah states clearly our life task: to seek the Lord, to seek justice, to seek humility. And when you do, expect to be a “remnant,” small and insignificant. But also expect to live in freedom from fear and fullness of peace.

In the second reading, Paul assures us that we, the humble, who know who we are, also know that God has chosen us. Like the One we follow, we can expect to be seen as foolish, weak and despised. But our humility is our boast and our cause for rejoicing because we are ever more like Christ.

  • Ponder
    • Which beatitude do I find most appealing?
    • Which beatitude do I most need to grow into?
  • Do
    • Offer humble service to a stranger whose path you cross this week.

Open to the Possibilities

Open to the Possibilities:

Earlier this month we shared questions that help lead to interior freedom, which could be another way of saying “I’m free and open to all the real possibilities that exist in and for my life.” At first I thought discernment was just a stage that I would eventually pass through. However as I moved through formation and learned more about this lifestyle, I was surprised to know that ‘discernment’ is not just a stage but a way of life for religious women—that is to always live with a ‘discerning heart.”

What does that mean? How does that feel?

It begins with having a relationship with God. God wants what is best for each of us. I take everything to God in prayer. Along the way I’ve learned God’s timing is not my timing! As I have matured I have also learned to listen more, rather than talk all the time.

Stay open to the possibilities…

Eventually you do have to make a choice. After a choice is made some options are not on the table anymore, but new ones present themselves. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “when one door closes, many more open,” well it is kind of like that. Right now the focus is on the time leading up to making a choice. This time is called discernment. This time should be free from coercion and so it’s helpful to be aware of any pressure you feel and where it might be coming from. If there is a sense of urgency, notice and be aware of where it’s coming from too. Sometimes there is a real deadline to meet for a major decision and in other situations there is not.

Stay open to the possibilities…

It might or might not be plausible to plan every detail out in order to have a precisely calculated decision. Instead there is much time spent ‘in the middle space’ for a little while moving between the known and unknown. It feels uncomfortable at first. There are a million and one questions and few or no answers. This is the time of trust. Trust in God, yourself and others whom you are close to is paramount during this time. Be aware of how the Spirit is working and moving in your life. Notice what is most pulling at your heart and stirring you to action.

Stay open to the possibilities…

Newness and change will come. Do I want more of the same? Or do I welcome change and whatever the newness might bring?

Living with a ‘discerning heart’ means staying open to the possibilities. In my personal experience the times when I have been able to stay open and try something new my expectations more times than not have been exceeded. I for instance never thought I would ever work in a nursing home. It ended up being a life-changing experience and I am grateful that I was open to that possibility. At first, I also felt that I could not be a consecrated religious sister, that it  would not work. But as I prayed and trusted, and became open to the possibility being a Catholic Sister turned out to be my life vocation.

Actually looking back on my journey thus far, I remain ever grateful for all those times I stayed open because I would not be where I am today in all aspects of my life if I were closed to newness, to possibilities, etc. This does not mean I have not struggled or had hard times, because I have. Along with staying open to the possibilities, I have a willingness to follow through and make it work. But that’s another topic for another day!

Much peace and many blessings today and always fellow pilgrim on the journey!

~Sister Clare


Questions to Help Towards Interior Freedom

Discernment requires openness and freedom–what Ignatius called “holy indifference.”  Thankfully, discernment is typically between two good options; if one option were bad and one good, the choice would should be easy.

Almost ten years ago, S. Marian Cowan, who has since gone to God, directed a discernment retreat.  She gave these questions to help toward interior freedom.

1.)  Given my strong inclination toward one choice rather than the other, am I willing to accept the possibility that even the choice toward which I am less inclined might be the word of God for me/us at this moment?

2.)  Have I consciously or unconsciously dismissed any of the possible choices?

3.)  Do I fully intend to accept the outcome of this discernment, no matter what it is?

4.)  Do I believe that the others involved in this discernment are really willing to be led by God, and are sincerely trying to be open to God’s Spirit?

5.)  Am I indifferent to all except that to which God is calling me/us?

6.)  Am I willing to name, own, and examine my thoughts and feelings in order to assess even the possibility of self-deception in discerning God’s word to me/us?

7.)  Am I aware of my past lack of freedom and my ever-present need for conversion and purification?

8.)  Am I aware of my fears and ready to move beyond them?

9.)  Am I ready to counter, by intense prayer, any desire I might feel within myself that could impede or block the word of God?

10.)  Can I accept the fact that God may not choose to speak in the most humanly efficient process for making decisions?


Take, Lord and receive,

all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will

all that I have and possess.

You have given it all to me.

Now I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and grace.

That is enough for me.

-St. Ignatius


Blessings on your discernment.

–S. Sarah

Join us for a Convent Crawl

by Sr. Amy Hereford

We are joining several other communities of religious women in the St. Louis area for a Convent Crawl. A Convent Crawl is an opportunity for single women ages 18 – 40 to visit with Catholic sisters in their houses and convents in mid-February 2017.
• Discover firsthand how sisters’ communities and ministries are making a positive impact in the world today.
• Join sisters for prayer.
• Get to know sisters and ask them questions.
If you think you might be interested, head on over to the event website:
There, you will find more information about the event along with an itinerary, contact information and a registration page.

When a person is discerning religious life, he or she will take time for prayer and for exploring this call that they are experiencing. It is also important to connect with religious communities to discover more about how communities pray, live and work. A good spiritual director is also a great help for discernment.

This particular event can be helpful if someone would like to get to know several religious communities in a short space of time. If someone is going to enter a community, he or she will want to build a more in depth relationship. This is more like ‘speed dating’. A chance to meet some great communities and some other discerners. A chance to pray and spend time with others who are living the life you are considering.

So check it out! Pass this on to someone who may be discerning! And by all means pray for those leading and participating in this event.