Songs for Prayer and Discernment

Recently, on our Giving Voice Facebook page someone asked for friends to share songs from any genre that speak to God, discernment, and vocations.  (For those of you who aren’t familiar, Giving Voice is an organization within which sisters under the age of 50 come together for networking, prayer, support, action, and fun.)  I thought I’d share some current favorites of my own and some songs from the list for your own prayer and listening pleasure.

  • God Help Me, Plumb
  • How Sweet It Is, James Taylor
  • You’re the Inspiration, Chicago
  • Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls
  • Braver Still, JJ Heller
  • Abide, Carrie Newcomer and Parker J. Palmer
  • Dwell Among Us, Salt of the Sound
  • It’s Going to Be Alright; Sara Groves
  • Home, Philip Phillips
  • Find Love, Clem Snide
  • Top of the World, the Carpenters
  • The Call, Regina Spektor
  • Joyful, Joyful, Sister Act 2
  • Lift My Life Up, Unspoken
  • Crash and Burn, Savage Garden
  • Help Me Find It, Sidewalk Prophets
  • Caught in Love, Belle and Sebastian
  • You Get What You Give, New Radicals
  • Good Riddance, Green Day
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper
  • One Foot, Building 429
  • Shake It Off, Taylor Swift
  • This Is Home, Switchfoot
  • A Place in the Sun, Stevie Wonder
  • I Bet My Life, Imagine Dragons
  • We Are Here, Alicia Keys
  • Don’t Stop Believing, Journey
  • Beautiful Things, Gungor
  • Ordinary Miracle, Sarah McLaughlin
  • All of Me, John Legend

With what songs are you praying these days?  Leave them in our comments.

–Sarah

Gentleness and Strength

My ministry brings me into contact with many religious men and women from many different communities. It is a real privilege to get to know so many committed people. They do amazing works. Their hearts are so expansive. They have been ministers of Loving-Kindness for so long that they become echoes of the Heart of God.

Recently, I began working with a community that describes their charism as working in Gentleness and Strength. That is so lovely. I believe that their charism is a message for me at this time in my life. I am dealing with my aging parents. They are lovely people, and at the same time, they are dealing with their own diminishment and one with dementia. This community, with their charism of Gentleness and Strength is for me a reservoir that I can tap into as I help my parents and my family address the challenges of aging.

This is an example of one of the key lessons I have learned: we are evangelized by those we serve. This community has asked for my assistance. At the same time, getting to know them I receive from them the gifts I need in another aspect of my life. And I’m sure that in working with my aging parents, I’m deepening the gentleness and strength that will help me to grow and to serve another in the circle of life, the circle of grace.

–Amy

What Gives Me Hope?

We begin our  MORE weekend – our annual summer discernment retreat. We focus on Community, Spirituality and Justice. Each element of our weekend will focus on one of these components. We will pray together. we will share life and stories and laughter in community, we will do justice by rolling up our sleeves for a painting project. I invite everyone to pray with and for us this weekend.

‘I Am with You Always…’

After celebrating 50 days of Easter and the explosion of the Spirit at Pentecost, we return to Ordinary Time. But today’s feast – Trinity Sunday – is anything but ordinary. It is more than just a mystery. As Fr. John Kavanaugh, SJ, writes, “The Trinity is central to our faith. If we lose it, we lose all we are.” Who is this Trinitarian God? And who are we in this God?

Father, Son and Spirit are the familiar names we use for the Trinity. But the descriptions of God in today’s readings offer us much more. In today’s first reading, Moses describes an all-mighty God who creates a wondrous world. But that is not enough. God is also a personal God who speaks to his chosen people, acts on their behalf, and desires their prosperity forever.

In the second reading, Paul goes even further. He speaks of an intimacy with God, made possible by the Spirit, who gives us voice to speak the beloved name, “Abba.” Finding ourselves in this intimate relationship, we realize we are children of God, siblings of Jesus – heirs of our Father, if we accept and share in our Brother’s fullness of life.

If this seems too much to believe, the Gospel brings us back to reality. We find ourselves with the disciples – worshipping, yet doubting this Jesus who has died, yet is risen. Amid our doubts and disbelief, he calls us to “make disciples of all nations,” in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. In the name of this relationship of wonder, love and sustenance.

If Trinity’s names for God are too traditional for us, the 14th-century mystic, Julian of Norwich offers us three other names for God. She writes that God has revealed Godself as Maker, Lover and Keeper. God, the Maker and Origin of the universe and of us, calls us to be people of wonder and of gratitude, who take nothing for granted. God the Lover, who is known to us in the divine humanity of Jesus, invites us to love in return. God the Keeper will never abandon us. With such assurance, how can we be anything but people of hope!

Yes, it is a mystery why God would invite us imperfect creatures into relationship. It is a mystery why God should care for us so. It is a mystery why God should offer such personal, unconditional, eternal presence to us. But this is who God is. And if we believe, if we enter into this relationship with God, we are promised an inheritance beyond price: We will never be alone. “I am with you always,” Jesus assures us, “until the end of the age.”

–Mary Flick, CSJ

GENTLENESS AND STRENGTH

My ministry brings me into contact with many religious men and women from many different communities. It is a real privilege to get to know so many committed people. They do amazing works. Their hearts are so expansive. They have been ministers of Loving-Kindness for so long that they become echoes of the Heart of God.

Recently, I began working with a community that describes their charism as working in Gentleness and Strength. That is so lovely. I believe that their charism is a message for me at this time in my life. I am dealing with my aging parents. They are lovely people, and at the same time, they are dealing with their own diminishment and one with dementia. This community, with their charism of Gentleness and Strength is for me a reservoir that I can tap into as I help my parents and my family address the challenges of aging.
This is an example of one of the key lessons I have learned: we are evangelized by those we serve. This community has asked for my assistance. At the same time, getting to know them I receive from them the gifts I need in another aspect of my life. And I’m sure that in working with my aging parents, I’m deepening the gentleness and strength that will help me to grow and to serve another in the circle of life, the circle of grace.
–Amy Hereford

Fourth Sunday of Easter: ‘I Know Mine and Mine Know Me’

There’s an old cliche that says, “To know me is to love me.” Most of us believe if other people really knew us, they couldn’t help but love us. In today’s gospel on this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus makes the same connection – and helps us find both. His shepherd imagery may be lost on us 21st-century Christians, but the truth remains. Pope Francis used the image five years ago when he counseled his priests to “be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.”

The shepherd Jesus models himself after was common in first century Palestine. Born to his task, a shepherd grew into his calling by being a shepherd. It was a 24/7 vocation, providing protection and care for his flock as it wandered the Judean landscape, searching for grass and water, and avoiding the attack of wolves and thieves. The sheep became the shepherd’s friends and he, literally, knew them by the name he gave each. The shepherd became the symbol of constant vigilance, fearless courage and patient love.

This “knowledge” between shepherd and sheep – and knowledge for the first-century Israelites – was not the head knowledge of Greek philosophers. It was a heart knowledge. For the Judeans, to know was to experience. To know was to feel for and with the other. To know was to accept the other. And so we hear Jesus cite not only the mutual knowing of he and his sheep. He also speaks of that same mutual relationship with his Father. Knowing and love grow together; they mutually enrich each other. This knowing-loving relationship elicits a total surrender of life to and for the one he loves. This Good Shepherd will lay down his very life to protect his sheep from those who wish to steal them or do them harm. And he will call other sheep who will hear in his voice an attractiveness, a goodness worthy of following. Then this Good Shepherd will know the fulfillment of his only desire, and the Father’s, too: there will be one flock.

This heart knowledge is what Peter, in the first reading, desires for all of Israel, when they see the healing done “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean.” It is this heart knowledge – this mutual knowing-loving – that John confirms for his readers in today’s second reading. We are God’s children now; the more we know God, the more we will be like the One we love.

We belong to our Good Shepherd who knows us by heart, and loves us. Dare we say the same of Him?

— Mary Flick, CSJ

SUMMER SISTERS 2018

Once again this year, I would like to extend the invitation for Sisters to join in building community with me here in St. Louis, for a period of time during the summer. It can be the experience you seek: Retreat. Sabbath Time. Vacation. R&R. Embodied Commitment to Sustainability. Emersion in an Urban Ecovillage. Nurturing body, spirit, the future of religious life.
We’ll have to work around the house schedule which is a little crazy this year – but then when is life not crazy. Let’s do what we can.
Here’s a link to a prior invitation. If you’re interested, drop me a line and we’ll talk more.
ALSO – if any women discerning religious life would like to spend several weeks in a live-in experience, let me know and we will see what we can arrange for that too. We have several houses where you might be able to join us.
Amy
http://www.ahereford.org

Intent and Impact

In the book club/conversation group to which I belong–Witnessing Whiteness through the YWCA here in St. Louis–we spent some time talking about intent and impact in the work of racial justice.  As a white person, I can have the best intent result in a hurtful impact.  I have been sitting with that difficult truth for some weeks, recognizing over and over places where I didn’t intend to do harm, but where harm was done.  Sometimes, in working with students at school, the same concept comes up.  “But, I didn’t mean to hurt her,” a student might say as we are working towards restoration after a conflict.  “True, but she is still hurt.”

While intent and impact have been most alive in my thoughts regarding racial reconciliation, it has also jumped into my community experience.  As a young sister, I can’t fully understand the experience of religious life of my sisters who lived before and through Vatican II and who have large numbers of sister peers.  And those sisters can’t understand what this life is like for me.  As much as we explain, as much as we listen, as much as we love one another, as much as we want the best for one another we’ll never quite get it.  And, regardless of our intent, we’ll sometimes hurt each other in what we say and do.

It would be easy for me as a white woman with good intentions to check out and give up knowing that I’ll never be able to understand the experiences of people of color and that I’ll always be working to mitigate the impact of my actions.  And it would be easy for me as a young sister to check out knowing that my dear sisters will never understand my experiences and that I’ll never understand theirs; and that, even though we love each other, we will hurt each other.

If that hurt is inevitable–if we can’t control our impact–what do we do?  We keep at it.  We listen with patience and curiosity.  We trust and give even when we don’t understand.  Ideally we have conversations before decisions are made, not after.  We check in along the way.  And we apologize, a lot.  We keep loving and we keep trying.  I know that a loving intent does not negate the impact of an action.  But maybe it allows for a little more compassion, a little more willingness to forgive, to not give up on ourselves, to not give up on each other.

I’ll keep trying if you will.  We can only do it together.

–S. Sarah

 

 

MORE Weekend – Vocation Discernment Retreat

— by Sr. Amy Hereford

Come and See!
Come and Pray!

Come and Serve!

MORE Weekend – vocation discernment retreat.
June 8-10, 2018,
St. Louis, MO
The Sisters of St Joseph Vocation Team is inviting women interested in religious life to join us for a weekend event June 9-11, 2017 in St. Louis Missouri.
The weekend is to have an opportunity for sisters and interested women to share some time in community, prayer and volunteer ministry for a short period of time.We will have a time for Ministry at volunteer sites where sisters are active.We will explore the core value of the Sisters of St. Joseph: being One with God and Neighbor. Our congregation is oriented to the unifying love of God and to bringing about our oneness with God and oneness with neighbor.There will be time for reflection and prayer with the sisters. We will focus on discernment and the call to unifying love.

And finally, there will be time to Engage with the sisters in community, meals and celebration.

With all these components, we are calling it our MORE weekend:

Ministry
One with God and Neighbor
Reflection and Prayer
Engagement

If you, or someone you know is interested in religious life, click here for more specifics. We would love to have you with us.

Contact Sr Clare Bass: cbass@csjlife.org  314-371-4667

How do you know you’re called?

Since I have been working in vocation ministry, people have asked on occasion: how do you know you are called? How do you know what you’re called to? How do you know it is right for you? Really, how can anyone possibly know what God has in store for them?
It is an important question, but there is no easy answer. I would probably answer it differently every time. How do I know? How did I know when I was in my twenties and I entered religious life? How do I know it is still right for me?
I guess that the answer I would give today is that it’s about

  • God,
  • Community and
  • Mission.
Or, as we have come to say in our “CSJ world” i.e. our Sister of St. Joseph world, it’s about
  • Community
  • Spirituality
  • Justice
So first off, it’s about God or Spirituality. Do I have a relationship with God? Is God tugging at my heart for a deeper relationship? Do I find joy and peace when I am with my God in prayer? as well as when I am living out of that God-relationship in community and in mission? God is the center of our lives, and in religious life, we live out of that centrality. We are privileged to have a lifetime of spiritual growth and development. And this is a gift that grounds the rest of our life, and enables us to share spirituality with all those we meet.
Second, it’s about Community. Do I feel called to share my journey of spirituality and mission with other sisters or brothers who are committing to the same life journey? Do I have the skills to live in community? Can I share? trust? respect? love? Can I build community with all those God calls me to live with? Am I ready to do the work of community? – for a lifetime? There’s no walking away when the times get touch, or someone gets on my nerves. We learn to love one another in our brokenness, and we love one another into wholeness. This wholeness does not mean that we never get on one another’s nerves, it means that we have learned to reverence each other as gifts of God. We love and support each other in our differences, in our trials and in our joys.
Finally it’s about Mission or Justice. We come together to see the world with God’s eyes. To bring God’s love in very concrete ways into our world. We do not bend the bruised reed or crush the smoldering wick. Instead we bring light into the dark places, hope to the despairing, joy to the sorrowful. We do this in concrete ways: by embracing the weak and the poor, by lifting up those that are bowed down, by bringing the healing, creative power of God to each person we meet and each place we inhabit.
I see my lay brothers and sisters doing the same, in their particular vocation. In religious life, we do this in community, shaped by our spirituality and the vows. I thank God for this gift.
Peace,
Amy