A Grammatical Perspective on Life Right Now

This past weekend was a great one full of love, laughter
and sharing life in the best sense of the term! 

On Saturday I was at an event and my brothers and sisters in the United Church of Christ had on these matching shirts with a huge punctuation on the front. I was not sure which one it was or why they were wearing it on the front of their shirts. Finally, I went up and asked someone what the meaning of their shirts were. The lady I asked looked at me with all seriousness and said it is a comma, because we want to let you know that God is not finished with you yet. It symbolizes the unfinished piece of artwork each of us are. I immediately knew that was the perfect message for me and it was Providential to be hearing it at that moment.

On Sunday, I renewed my vows of temporary profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience for two years. And when I heard the message from the U.C.C congregation I thought it was congruent to what it means to renew vows for me. In practical terms it means formation is not over yet. In a heartfelt manner it means I want to keep learning, growing, and living into being my most authentic self and being a Sister of St. Joseph. The unfinished business is in my life right now is pulling me forward as I evaluate and work through those things I need to change in my life. My comma which is now right after my renewal of vows is pulling me forward to that exclamation point of making final vows! If you take it a little further and think about it perhaps life is a little fuller of commas and semicolons then end punctuation marks. The end punctuation marks would then only signify those moments that you consider the most major turns or changes in your life and you want to signify the end of them.

No matter what punctuation mark you use to symbolize your time in life, the message as long as we’re living I think is the same: God’s not finished with us yet! Let your life stay dynamic! We can each do this by staying aware and alert of what my true motivations are in life. If we lose focus then life gets out of control and can become stagnant. Staying in touch with God, our source of love, is a factor in being able to stay focused and mindful.

Blessings on your journey fellow pilgrim, Sister Clare

The Celebration of Our Unity

By Mary Flick, CSJ

The Sundays which follow the close of the Easter season invite us to linger in the unity experienced on that first Pentecost. Two weeks ago, we heard, “They all were together in one place” when the Spirit descended, and the large, diverse crowd of visitors to Jerusalem “each heard them speaking in his own language.” Unity defines our origin as Church. On Trinity Sunday, we reflected on the unity of the Godhead – the oneness of relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit. Today, we see the Eucharist as a celebration of our unity with God and with one another.

In today’s first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses demands of the people, “Do not forget the Lord your God” who guided and delivered them from Egypt, who gave them drink and fed them with manna in the desert. Manna, a previously unknown food, became their food for the journey. The people, together sustained by what God had provided, moved forward together, supporting each other, discovering their identity as God’s chosen people.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes of the cup and bread shared at Eucharist, not as sustenance, but as the source of oneness. We are one body, Paul tells us – the Body of Christ. It requires eyes of faith to recognize Christ in the Eucharist. So, too, we must look with the eyes of faith to recognize Christ in our neighbors. Yes, our oneness, our unity, is what defines us as Church. In the Creed we profess our belief in “one, holy catholic, apostolic church.” We are meant to be one.

The source of this oneness is Jesus’ very self. In today’s gospel. Jesus does not give those who believe in him a perishable manna in the desert, but himself, a “living bread” from heaven. That “living bread” must be received with living faith to have its effect. That “living bread” is the source of eternal life, the source of a unity that is timeless. It is, quite intimately, Christ in me, and I in Christ. The cup and bread we share is our gateway to this intimacy of oneness: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” The body and blood of Christ is true communion – union with God. And Jesus’ gift of his very flesh and blood offers us a solidarity greater than our differences. It is the food and drink that nourishes us again and again, on The Way.

Vow of Poverty – explained to wealth managers

I was recently asked to discuss the vow of poverty with a journalist working for a wealth management magazine. “Are you sure you want to talk to me?” I asked. Yes, we’re looking for different attitudes and perspectives. Well, yes, mine is different…

Here’s the article – some of the details aren’t quite right, but I think she did a good job of pulling parts of it together:

A Nun Tells Us What It’s Like to Live With a Vow of Poverty

As a Sister of St. Joseph, Amy Hereford lives a financial life that’s a lot different from most of us. But she thinks the lessons from it apply to us all.  Read more…

Emotions and Humanity

So often in life we are told it is the mature or professional or right thing to do to control our emotions.  And too often some emotions are given a negative connotation, or are seen or felt as “bad.”  Emotions are simply information.  They tell me how I feel about a situation or person.  And I know that to act out of an emotion without control can have consequences.  However, I wonder if we are denying others the opportunity to see us and thus treat us as fully human if we never express the anger, sadness, excitement, or joy that we sometimes struggle to contain.

I serve as the principal at an all-girls middle school.  Most days I love what I do.  And some days it is difficult.  This past week I was angry when a parent did something at minimum inconsiderate.  I didn’t say anything in the moment because I was responsible for the safety of too many students to be distracted and because I wasn’t sure I would respond in the super-professional way that might be expected.  I will probably follow up with this parent later on in what will be a very measured conversation.  But, does that measured conversation get across the hurt and fear and disappointment and anger that categorized the moment?  I can explain how I feel and felt, but it’s not the same.  I wonder if people feel it’s okay to treat “the principal” differently than they might treat “Sarah”, treat someone they see first as a role differently than they would treat a person?

Our brains are wired to be wary of those who are different.  Years and years and years ago when humans wandered in tribes, someone who looked different was very likely a threat.  Our brains still react accordingly.  Could we/would we recognize each other as the same through emotions to which we can relate?

It probably wouldn’t have been good to share with that parent all of the things running through my mind in that moment.  But, if I had it to do over again, I think I would have shared some of the emotion that she might have recognized in hopes that we could see and treat each other as people.  I’m sure there will be a next time.

–S. Sarah

Celebrating Sisters

–by Sr Amy

Celebrating Sisters was an online panel of the newer generations of sisters, sharing their best memories of religious life, their enthusiasm for religious life today and their hopes for religious life going forward. The recording will also be available after the live event.

What a joy to have the opportunity to reflect together about religious life! My life as a religious sister has given me incredible opportunities to grow in spirituality and in my relationship with God. I have had the opportunity to serve in various ministries and to receive so much from those that I serve. They really call me to a deeper and more authentic living of the Gospel. And finally, I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful sisters with whom I have shared prayer, community and ministry. They have inspired me, challenged me and supported me in so many ways.

I thank God that I have been called to sell all, give to the poor and to follow. And I thank God that I have received the promised hundred-fold in return.

 

On the Way

By Mary Flick, CSJ

Today’s readings are full of encouragement for us on our own journey of faith, of life. In the first reading, Peter gives his first major address after the disciples have received the Spirit. He looks back in their Jewish faith history and finds in the writings of David a foretelling of the resurrection of Christ. Peter continues his instruction in the second reading, to all of us, “during the time of your sojourning,” reminding all that “your faith and hope are in God.”

We Easter wanderers find ourselves “on the way” as we listen to the Gospel today. The journey to Emmaus is the story of Every Christian’s sojourn. The road is full of conversations and debates, questions and disappointments and disbelief. Even though God walks among us, we often are unable to recognize God in the ordinariness of our lives. And when confronted by suffering and loss, we, like Cleopas, leave the place but not the experience of pain. We, too, give up hope. Astounded by what seems impossible – that Jesus “was alive” – we, like these disciples, do not always remain in community to find out for ourselves. Overcome by grief, we, with the two, have headed for home.

But Jesus keeps their stride, though they do not recognize him. Despite their pace on the road, the disciples are “slow of heart” to believe what their faith has always taught. The Stranger is familiar with their collective story and, beginning with Moses, unpacks their story of faith. The Teacher is going farther than the two were ready to go – both in their understanding and on the road. But there is something warm and attractive in his teaching; the two insist that their Companion “stay with us.”

Gathered at table, the Invited Guest repeats a ritual they have seen before: on the hillside when the 5,000 were fed. It is the same ritual that Jesus had used at the Passover meal just days earlier. He took the bread, blessed, broke and gave it to them. In the brokenness of the bread and of life, they know the fullness of Christ. They who were slow of heart now find their “hearts burning within.” Having experienced His presence, they return to the community, who confirms what they now know: “The Lord has truly been raised.”

“On the way” – on the Christian way of life – Jesus, who is The Way, is made known in the breaking of bread. Of this we are all witnesses. It is our Easter sureity.

Ser Religiosa

Yoli, csj

Hoy en día vivimos en un tiempo con muchos cambios, con un tinte volátil, de compromisos cortos y de opciones más individuales, pero no solo eso, sino también en una sociedad con muchas propuestas interesantes de vida, de oportunidades, de alcanzar metas y conquistar otras; Por ello, vale la pena reflexionar en este contexto mi opción por la vida religiosa.

Considero que mi vida es una vida CONSAGRADA, una experiencia de fe. Es el milagro de haber descubierto el don de la VOCACIÒN como un regalo; es decir, encontrar el “tesoro escondido” y dar una respuesta de gratitud y alegría.

Y, en este proceso de respuesta es darme cuenta que no estoy sola, sino que Jesús, el gran Maestro, va conmigo, acompaña mi peregrinaje, ilumina mis caminos y me bendice con la confianza y alegría para ser una mujer fecunda desde lo más pequeño y sencillo.

Siento que vivir el regalo de la vocación como hermana de San José es vivir la experiencia de la transformación a una vida más plena, más humana en relación con todos mis hermanos/as y con todo lo que nos rodea porque vivimos nuestro carisma y misión en una dinámica de unidad y reconciliación con Dios y con el querido prójimo de quien no nos separamos. Esta es la alegría de hacer visible el Reino de Dios en el lugar donde me encuentro.

También, el regalo de mi vocación a la vida religiosa es un regalo compartido, por ello, vivo compartiendo la vida con otras hermanas quienes me ayudan, me acompañan, me sostienen y son la fortaleza y mi alegría de cada día para hacer el camino más pleno y vivificante porque juntas danzamos el don de la VOCACION como la llamada a la VIDA y a una vida en plenitud.

 

Easter Changes Everything

Easter Changes Everything

Christ is Risen! The Chapel at Nazareth Living Center on Easter Sunday 2017.

Today as I celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ I am thinking about how it changed the world for the better. A major change in understanding occurred on the role of Jesus and why he came. He was no longer just seen as another major prophet, but for believers became the Savior they had been waiting on. It gave us a new outlook on death too, as 1 Corinthians 15:55 states “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

As I look at the state of affairs around the world today it is easy to be discouraged and even worse if I only focused on all of the bad happening it could lead to becoming so desperate that I lose hope. However the Resurrection changed everything. Jesus gave us that eternal hope that can only come from God. Jesus was and is with us in our suffering. He did not ever say there will be no more suffering on earth. If we believe in the Resurrection, which I do, and if we have a personal relationship with God, which I also personally do, then I place my trust in the fact that God is with me through it all. God is with me when I feel defeated or too when I feel ecstatic and am experiencing that ‘winning at life’ feeling. Jesus knows what we are going through because he went through all of it when he was alive for some thirty-three years. What he also knows is a little beyond our complete understanding, which is what it is like after life on Earth. He also knew what it is to be completely one with God. Even if we do not fully understand it we can still learn a lot from Jesus about how to live. His life lessons are paramount to all believers.

How does Easter affect my discernment and finding my vocation? First off it lets me know that I am a beloved of God and Jesus. God does not want me or any of us to be miserable in our life callings.  The Resurrection lets me know that I am worthy of love and mercy and that I am forgiven. This understanding leads to self-confidence and helps me realize who I am and whose I am. Jesus modeled how to live life to the fullest and how to have a strong relationship with God. In my personal relationship with God I seek and am able to listen to where I am being called. I trust God with all of my heart. I listen deeply. I eventually am able to let go of what I need to. I am able to recognize that each vocation lifestyle has a profound value.  I am then able to move forward in discernment and let my heart be moved in love. There is an inner peace and knowing that comes about and you just know the next step you need to make.  Listen to God and your heart and everything else will fall into place.

May the Joy and Love of Easter fill your heart! Blessings on the journey fellow Pilgrim!

~Sister Clare Bass

Maintaining a Prayer Life Amidst a Busy World

“Maintaining a Prayer Life Amidst a Busy World”–this was the theme for a retreat I co-lead this past weekend for alumnae of Fontbonne University (my alma mater, founded and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph).  When one of the sisters first asked me, I had to laugh, as taking time to plan and lead the retreat would indeed make maintaining a prayer life amidst the busyness of my already busy world even that much more difficult.  But, I said yes, which I am too oft apt to do, and, I think the retreat went well.

Here are a few takeaways from the content of the retreat:

1.)  Prayer is conversation with God.  Sometimes that conversation uses words, and sometimes not.

2.)  Prayer can happen anywhere.  As Ignatius says, “Find God in all things.”  St. Francis said, “Pray all ways.”

When I look at points one and two, I am a little easier on myself when my formal, sit down, sit still prayer isn’t quite what I would want it to be.

3.)  One of the best prayers I say is the setting of the day’s intention when I first wake up.  As a sister, this entails renewing my vows.  When I commit to a way of being from the minute my feet hit the floor, it is almost always a pretty good day.

4.)  Tools such as  websites/apps “Pray as You Go, “Bible Gateway, and “Insight Timer,” (just to name a few), can help prayer happen anywhere when you might have just a few minutes to spare.

5.)  An examination of consciousness, a.k.a. the Examen, is a great tool for the end of the day and maybe even the middle.

Regardless of how busy life gets, the running, on-going conversation with God is a must for me.  Without it, ministry becomes work, I lose compassion and focus, and what I need to be my best me disappears.