Category Archives: photography

Constant One – Video Prayer

I’m spending a few days of private retreat at the ocean.   Sometimes you just need to step away and renew your spirit, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to do so these days.

This morning as I was watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean (a favorite past time of my mother who I was communing with this morning through memory and action), I reflected on the amazing love of our creator. Sometimes it is easier to recognize God’s loving presence in the midst of it all than at other times, but looking back, God is there, one with us through it all. Later, as I was taking a long walk on the boardwalk while the sun continued to rise, the song “Constant One” by Steffany Gretzinger came into my heart and mind, step by step, which led me to make this video prayer, pairing her music and words with my photos and video of the sunrise this morning.

Constant One – Lyrics

In the moment I am hiding
Your love, it seeks me out
You hold me and You know me
From the inside out
From the inside out

Constant One
Endless is Your love
Like a river can’t be stopped
You’re faithful
Constant One
Who is like You, God?
Your mercy’s like the sun
Always rising
Over us

It’s amazing
How You take me just for who I am
In the valleys and in the mountains
I’m always in Your hands
I’m always in Your hands

Constant One
Endless is Your love
Like a river can’t be stopped
You’re faithful
Constant One
Who is like You, God?
Your mercy’s like the sun
Always rising Over us

There is no place that I could run
That You won’t chase me down
You won’t chase me down
There is no place that I could hide
That I will not be found
I will not be found

Constant One
Endless is Your love
Like a river can’t be stopped
You’re faithful
Constant One
Who is like You, God?
Your mercy’s like the sun
Always rising
Over us

(Bethel Music, Steffany Gretzinger, The Unfolding album, 2014)

Retreat Notes – Texture

I am back from retreat, slowly re-entering my day to day life, such as it is, where really every day is full of its own adventures, flavors and textures.

Speaking of textures, one invitation I experienced this week was to pay attention to the textures. Textures in the pictures I was taking of the beautiful landscape around the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oregon.

 

Textures in my life,  relationships, community. Textures in my deepening experiences of God’s love. Textures in my response to my ongoing call.

Some hard. Some soft.
Prickly or smooth.
Moisture on rock–sitting patiently
impervious, or maybe
not.
Some will sink into the deep.
It is in the textures of life
where we touch, feel, and know
We are together,
incarnating in our world
the love that has been given
Gift for all.

 

Magnificent book of God’s creation

I am back from my annual retreat, renewed and refreshed after days of blessings with the Holy One.  I never made a silent retreat until I was in formation with my religious community, and now I truly cannot imagine what my life would be like without this regular gift of time and space and quiet to just be with my loving God.

Every retreat is different, with its own graces and challenges too. One grace of this year was letting this time spend itself, allowing myself to be open to God’s presence all around me in every moment.  I can’t really explain the movement of God in my life these days, other than to say that God is very good.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’, taken from the opening line of the Canticle of the Sun, Pope Francis invites us to spend time with God’s magnificent book of creation:

“.. Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20).” (Laudato Si, no. 12).

If I had to sum up this past week, it would be accepting invitation upon invitation to get a glimpse of God’s beauty and goodness.  And that, my friends, is gift upon gift upon gift!  Here’s just a sampling.

20150724_155406

20150726_062933

20150729_060213

IMG_2682

I spy

On my morning walk today, I spied with my little eye …

Two rabbits
One literally running down the bunny trail
Only his cotton tail visible.

One coast guard ship
Patrolling the waters of the
Hudson.

An empty Heineken can
(Presumably empty … I did not check)

A myriad of birds
Which also serenaded my ears
Along with the oddly soothing sounds of traffic.

And in the distance
The city
People busy about many things
Starting a day
Full of promise.

image

Among the Trees

Looking up at the trees at St. Mary-on-the-Lake
Looking up at the trees at St. Mary-on-the-Lake

I will never forget the first time I drove on to the property at St. Mary-on-the-Lake, the west coast regional center of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. I had driven 3 hours from Portland to attend my first ever vocation retreat. While I had been in contact with the vocation director by email, I had not yet met any of the Sisters and was still a bit unsure about this whole becoming a Catholic Sister thing. Truth be told, I was more than a wee bit nervous.

And then I drove onto the property and was immediately calm and at peace. It was the trees. St. Mary’s is on a wooded property with beautiful tall cedars and evergreens.  When I say tall, I mean tall. They tower over our three story residence buildings. They are majestic and strong. They provide shade and endless green. They make for a cozy peaceful spot.  They speak to me of home.

This morning I arrived back at this sacred spot, flying to Seattle from New Jersey where I am living at our eastern regional center (also a beautiful spot to be sure – in its own way).  We have our Spring Assembly here on the weekend. It is always good to spend time with our CSJP Sisters and Associates, whether in the East, the West, or the UK. One benefit of my new gig is that it is now part of my job to spend time with them. How lucky am I?

I have moved around quite a bit in the past decade since I entered the community, and I will be spending the next six years or so living in New Jersey. But the Pacific Northwest is home. It is the place where my being is most at peace. Several of the Sisters greeted me in the dining room earlier today, welcoming me home, even if just for a short visit. I was lucky enough to live here at St. Mary-on-the-Lake the year after the Novitiate, and this community was my home base while I was studying in Chicago. They would always welcome me home for holidays and vacations or just for a visit. It is good to have a place like that, where people and landscape make you feel at home.

Some of you may realize that the title of this blog post is a nod to one of my favorite poems, by Mary Oliver. I’ll end this post with her words, inspired by a different landscape but entirely transferable:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
– Mary Oliver –

Paradox of Waiting

We wait
in joyful hope.
Sometime anxious
for what might come.
Sometimes not sure of
what will be.
Sometimes not sure
we can let go.
But we are ready for
hoping for
new life, renewed love, and …

We wait for what is to come
but we already have so much.
Our hearts yearn to grow.
Our hands reach out to touch.
Our feet stand on the same ground
upon which others have walked
the walk of hope.

We wait
we long
we stretch
towards the One
who is
hope.

waiting

Taking Flight

Today’s first reading starts with what is perhaps the best line ever. .. “O stupid Galatians.” Followed by a whole lot of, “Don’t you get it?” (Galatians 3:1-5).

Well, no, we don’t really get it, or sometimes it seems. I spent this morning reading and praying with the news of the day. War. Inaction in the face of economic disparity and rampant disease. With a dash of fascination with polite protestors.

Then, if I am honest, I have to ask myself, do I get it? Or should the scripture read, “O stupid Susan”? Sometime my friends, sometimes.

After praying with the news over my cup of tea, I decided to go for a walk to the new-to-me Japanese garden I discovered last week before heading to the library.

I found myself in the company of graceful geese, swimming in the water … and then … taking flight!

image

And that it seems is the call.  Clear as the call of the geese over head, honking. I remember reading years ago that one image of the Holy Spirit from Celtic spirituality is the honking goose. I usually think of that as the Spirit annoying me into action!

But this morning, I understood it in a different way. The geese I saw this morning,  gently swimming in the pond, knew when it was time to take flight, to be about their purpose. The Spirit is not about staying still in safe calm waters. It is about movement and taking flight.

So is the world a mess? Yes. Can we fix it? Not alone. But maybe, just maybe, inspired and nourished by the love of God we can move forward together, take flight, and see what happens.

Discoveries

I have lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood for over two years now. And yet, somehow, I never managed to discover the hidden gem of the Osaka Garden in Jackson Park until today!

Normally when I go for a walk, I walk to Lake Michigan. Today was a bit cooler, overcast, with a drizzle or two, so I decided to go walk among the trees in Jackson Park. That, my friends, is when I discovered this:

Osaka garden at Jackson Park

It’s not the biggest Japanese style garden in the world. It is certainly much smaller than the Portland or Seattle Japanese gardens, and not quite as technically classical in style (from my limited knowledge as a former member of the Portland gardens). Neverthless, it is a gem. Lovely, peaceful, and historic, given that the first Japanese garden was established in the park when it was the sight of the 1893 World’s Fair!

And it’s free to visit. So, after my discovery, I stayed for a while to meditate. After all, in my opinion that is the best thing to do in a Japanese garden. After a while, I got up to leave, and guess who I saw?

Look under the bridge
Look under the bridge

Do you see my feathered friend? Here is a closer shot:

The perfect spot! And photo!
The perfect spot! And photo!

Amazing, huh?  If I had asked my feathered friend to pose for a photo, it could not have been better. Wow.

All in all, it was a beautiful, prayerful morning walk. And guess what? It’s less than a mile from my house. Has been the whole time I’ve lived here, but now I know!

Museum of Science & Industry in the background, with my neighborhood behind that.
Museum of Science & Industry in the background, with my neighborhood behind that.

Who knows what you might discover in your neighborhood?

The photo

At the corner of Susan and St. Joseph
At the corner of Susan and St. Joseph

A few folks have asked about the photo that inspired the name for my new blog.  I’ve discussed this a bit in the “about” section, but given that most folks won’t spend a lot of time poking around my new blog, I thought I might as well make the photo the topic of today’s blog post.  The short answer is, yes it is an actual photo that I took a few years ago on a trip to the town of Wenatchee, Washington which is east of the Cascades in the central part of the state.

I had never been to Wenatchee before, a town with a rich history that includes the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. In 1916 the Sisters were invited by Bishop O’Dea of Seattle to take over the Wenatchee General Hospital, which they ran as St. Anthony’s Hospital until the 1970s. Many of my favorite CSJP Sisters ministered at the hospital, including my friend Sister Monica who started there as a young Sister in the 1950s as a bookkeeper before becoming and RN, a hospital administrator, and eventually CEO of our health system.

Given our rich history there, I took the opportunity of giving a presentation at a parish in Central Washington as an opportunity to make a sort of pilgrimage. I visited the site of the original hospital (now a home for disabled adults).  I also visited St. Joseph School, which was started by our Sisters in the 1950s. The last CSJP left the school in the 1980s, but my friend Sister Tonia stayed on in Wenatchee working with the diocese until a few years ago.

Now we get to the part of the story you have been waiting for … the discovery of the corner of Susan Place and St. Joseph Place. After parking near St. Joseph’s school and walking around, I returned to my car and discovered that this was where I had parked!  The synchronicity of the moment struck me then, and the picture I took that day has given me many opportunities to contemplate in deep gratitude this wonderful adventure God has invited me to participate in.

When I was thinking of a name for this new blog to mark the beginning of a new adventure, the picture naturally came to me as perfectly capturing this moment and the many blessings in my life as Sister Susan, a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

Really, I can’t think of a better place to be than at the corner of Susan and St. Joseph, pursuing social justice as a path to peace.