Category Archives: reflections

What  if …

What if we all lived as if are already part of the beloved community?

I have been asking myself that question  lately.  When I am frustrated  or disappointed, angry or just plaim grumpy,  can I nevertheless respond with love?

I have been experimenting with this through my daily tweets to the president. It has not been easy, but it has helped me stay sane amd engaged over the past year. 

What if I could apply this desire to my daily interactions? Annoyed  by a neverending customer service loop? What if I attend to the business  and seek  resolution of the problem, but could do so as if the person on the other end of the phone were also part of the beloved  community?

What if I approached the challenging daily intersections of life this way? Friend, family, stranger, community … all beloved by God and doing their best. Can I be gentle with them,  and gentle with myself? Can I try again and again when I find it too  hard to respond with agape love, so that in the end I am helping to create the beloved community?

What if my response were first and foremost love?

We are almost a week into the New Year,  but I think I have stumbled upon my resolution.

Incarnating Love

On the 25th of December, Christians around the world celebrate the feast of the incarnation of God’s infinite love in our midst  … the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us … a mystery for the ages to be sure.

It is an awesome thought, to paraphrase a popsong from the 90s, not what if, but that God DID become one of us. That reality brings both comfort and challenge if one manages to screen out the commercialization of the holiday to the real fundamental message, which is love.

All powerful love … and the love of a vulnerable poor child born in a stable far from his parents’ home.

Universal love … and the particular love of a family, unconventional as it may be.

Love that is meant to transform and expand exponentially to break the binds of oppression, free captives, and build beloved community.

Love incarnate, now and then and always and forever.

It’s incredible on a theological level amd mind boggling on a practical human level.

It is stretching on a heart level, and that my friends is where my Christmas reflections take me this evening. How are we, how am I, called to incarnate love? 

We incarnate love through our touch, a kind word, our presence. We can incarnate love through our dedication and faithfulness. Sometimes we are called to incarnate love through our questions and struggles, in the messiness of our lives and in the systems of oppression we resist.

Through it all, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, is our model, our wonder counselor, our friend.

Jesus, be with me as I seek to be an incarnator of love in my own life.

Amen.

Best Intentions & God’s Patience

I had the best of intentions at the start of this Advent season, hands down my favorite liturgical season.  And then …. life happened and I responded with my little human ways.  You know the drill, anxiety and busyness leads to stress and grumpiness and less patience and less compassionate responses to the folks in your own life because of course you are busy and stressed.  Maybe you don’t know, but it’s a familiar pattern for me unfortunately, and one I fell right back into the past couple of weeks.

Thankfully, this past summer when I was on my annual directed retreat I made a commitment to schedule some mini-retreat time this December.  I tend to take the most beautiful photos when I am on retreat, and so when I saw a listing for a Contemplative Photography retreat in Advent, I signed up right away.  For the months since, I have guarded this weekend on my calendar, knowing I suppose deep down that by now, I’d need it.   And I certainly did!

While the retreat itself was excellent, especially the experiences of guided visio divina and the opportunity to pray with the photos taken by the other retreatants, really it was an opportunity to reset my own best intentions.  Adapting today’s second reading from the 2nd Letter of Peter, I pray:

I can no longer ignore this one fact,
I am beloved, and so are those around me and all of creation,

and with God one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
God’s promise is not delayed, as some think of ‘delay,’
but God is patient with me,
not wishing me or you harm 
but that I would return & center myself on love.

Since everything is grounded in love,
what sort of person might I be
living with a spirit of gratitude and compassion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of love in our midst.

That is of course the kind of person I want to be, to see with God’s eyes the beauty and love and light and hope in the midst of the busyness and anxiety and sorrow and uncertainty.  My best intentions may not seem like enough, but they are because God is patient and there is always today to return to the center and prepare the way for the incarnation of love, reflecting God’s love for us to the world.

 

Advent Reflection

lady-in-waitingAdvent begins on Sunday, and with it the season of waiting.  This year, it feels like we are waiting at the edge. I reflected on this theme in my latest column on Global Sisters Report: Advent Waiting at the Edge.

Advent is not a time to despair or become overwhelmed by all the turmoil and woe, but rather, watchful and alert, to prepare God’s way joyfully. In the midst of it all, the surprising call we hear on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is to rejoice: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks … Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” We are invited to rejoice, even as we stand on the edge, recognizing that life itself is gift in all circumstances and that our actions, no matter how small, can make a difference.

On the one hand, this message is so simple, and yet life can seem so very complicated even on the best of days. We know the promise of the good news, yet like Mary, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves pondering, “How can this be?”

Mary’s question to the surprising news of the angel Gabriel always comforts me. I find myself with lots of questions; the biggest one these days is how to be the presence of love in such a mixed-up world.

Advent gives us the much-needed opportunity to pause, step back from the chaos, and wait on the edge during these in-between times.

Head over to Global Sisters Report to read the rest.

Blessings of Peace!

Memories & Gratitude

SrSusan_program1
Six years ago on this day… final vows!

Today is November 11th. A day to pause and remember during this month of memory and thanksgiving.

Since the first World War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, today has been known as Remembrance Day in many parts of the world. In the United States we mark this day as Veteran’s Day.  At breakfast this morning we sang Anchors Aweigh to Sister Mary Robert, a navy veteran of WW II.

In my family, today is the day we celebrate the birthday of my eldest brother Joe.

In my CSJP community life, November 11th has two very special meanings.  On this day last year, we said goodbye to Sister Kristin, a vibrant community member who I was privileged to get to know and love deeply during our two years together on the Leadership Team.

And six years ago, on November 11, 2011, I professed my final vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

Our lives together in communities, as families, nations, and part of our global community are filled with so many moments, big and small, that make us who we are and bring the best out of ourselves for the sake of the whole.  Sometimes we dwell on the problems, the challenges, the things that worry us or aren’t quite going right, not to mention the very real existence of evil and the darkness that exists along with the light.  We need to pay attention to those messy bits, but even more we are called I think to stop and smell the flowers, to celebrate the gift of life and the joy and laughter and hope and very breath we breathe.

Blessings upon blessings if you think about it, really.

And so I pause this November 11th to remember …
I pause this November 11th to give thanks …
I pause this November 11th to pray for peace, for love, and for joy for all of God’s creation.

Amen

DISPLACEMENT LESSONS

Watching the news of massive flooding in Texas and South Asia, I cannot help but be touched by the humanness of the experience. After all, as the mass migration and refugee crisis show us every day, displacement is something millions of women, men and children experience each day as a result of poverty, violence, war, and environmental disasters.

I am touched deeply by the look on the face of a Bangladeshi mother as she carries her child through water waste deep … pure determination mixed with despair. I am heartened by a comment by two young men in Texas who were helping strangers evacuate, “We’re not heroes, we’re ordinary people doing what we can do.”

I also cannot help but reflect on my own time of displacement last fall. One October morning I woke up to a fire outside our motherhouse. Everyone was safe, but the main building is still not occupiable. I spent about four months living out of boxes away from home. I was safe, I had everything I needed, I was cared for … and yet I was discombobulated constantly. I kept losing things and was off kilter even as life settled into a new normal.

We have been back home since January, but I am still finding things and sorting them. Just today I found a favorite mug I thought had been lost and found some important papers that had been oddly mixed in with some trivial stuff in the packing and unpacking.

I hold in prayer all those who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their mementos. I pray for all those relying on the kindness of strangers, and those strangers who see a neighbor in need and respond even though they have never met them before.

I hope and pray that all will be safe, and just maybe hearts will be broken open enough to widen our circle of relationship. 

Maybe those sharing a shelter with an undocumented family will be able to see them as friend and neighbor rather than other to be feared or vilified. Perhaps stereotypes and bias towards racial or ethnic groups will be tested through a shared human experience. 

I pray that in our gratitude for safety and securury and prosperity we recognize the vulnerability we all share.

I pray that our common experience of compassion and care for those facing unimaginable suffering brings us closer, makes us stronger, and teaches us what really matters in life.

Connection not division.

Little acts of kindness and love that can break through even the worst suffering and despair.

Hope not fear.

AMEN

Being the presence of love

This past week at the LCWR was awe and wonder filled as close to 700 elected leaders of women’s congregations explored what it means to be the presence of love in our weary world. I am still processing and finding words for the experience.

We used the practice of contemplative dialogue throughout our days. I was invited into the privilege of being one of the designated listeners who paid attention to the movement of the spirit and the wisdom emerging among us.

On Friday, we began our last day with a converation on the stage amkng four of my age peers in leadership. After their sharing, some of the listeners were invited to reflect. This is what I shared as a reflection on what I was hearing and noticing.
We are called to conspire together to disrupt the narrative of diminishment and witness to the emerging narrative of communion.

We are called to widen and overlap our circles, to be BIG together just as we become smaller diverse parts of the holy whole:

… living God’s dream, singing God’s song of love in our hearts, in OUR heart, for the sake of the world

… to be good news in a world longing to hear even the faintest whisper of inclusive love, extravagant love, fierce and diverse love, transformative love.

We are called to be present and accountable to love and each other.

Communionings – a prayer upon waking

Communionings

Eyes open in a strange room
rested (but not)
ready for what comes next
filled with a wondering
bubbling up
encompassing me in possibility, promise, a wee bit of trepidation.

What if?

What if God is inviting us?

What if God is inviting us, through it all, to return home to one another?

What if, through the movement towards smallness, God is inviting us to reach out to those we did not need in our exceptional BIG moments?

What if, through the roller coaster of our geopolitical sphere, not to mention the soap opera of our national whatever is the opposite of civil and reasonable discourse, God is inviting us to love each other out of the fear and division?

What if, through the reckless disregard of our very planet–our common home–and our disposable attitude toward people and things, God is inviting us to bless what is near and dear while we make all of God’s creation our own concern?

What if our Triune God–Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier–is beckoning us, cheering us, drawing us near one another despite ourselves so that we can be one in all our wonderful crazy-making diversity?

Just as the Abba is always that, and the Son is always that, and the Ruah is always that …
Just as together they are also more …
Just as together they transform …
Just as together they bless and permeate and dance the story of all that is and was and will be.

This is my prayer upon waking, that I … that we … live into the questions, wonder at the wondering, and embrace the invitation to dance.

Amen.

communionlcwr
Leaders of all 3 conferences of religious men and women in the United States bless those gathered at the 2017 Leadership Conference of Women Religious in a powerful moment of communion at the closing liturgy.

Morning Anticipation – Retreat Notes

It is an interesting fact of my life that most mornings it takes an alarm, or two, to get me out of bed in time for morning prayer with my local community.

Retreat time is a different time, and here I awake with the birds and the rising sun, anticipating the day. No other alarm needed.

On my last morning at Wisdom House, I awoke before the sun, with even greater anticipation. I get to watch the sunrise, I thought gleefully, as I pretty nearly leaped out of bed.

For countless generations God has put on this show for us. Day in and day out, over rolling hills or oceans or deserts or cities, peace or war, poverty or abundance, there is this show of color and light and shadow, no two ever quite the same.

Amazing.




Amen

All this miracle and light – Retreat Notes

One of the most life-giving parts of my year is the time I am lucky enough to spend on retreat.   Most years I get away for a week of sacred silence for a silent directed retreat.  I never cease to be amazed at the gifts God presents us each and every day, especially if we are able to pay attention.

Retreat is a luxury and a responsibility.  Luxury because there is nothing else to do but pay attention to the goodness that comes from God, all around you (except of course for the distractions and worries that hover in the shadows).  As I wake each day on retreat, I give thanks for this opportunity and promise to share the gifts I receive.

It’s also a responsibility because taking this time away from the many things I should be busy about is important.  I/we need to tend to the relationships that matter most, and what is more important than my/our relationship with God?  The regular time I spend each day in prayer with my sisters and on my own is key to this relationship, but so too is particular time away just to nurture that relationship and ourselves. 

 As we say in our CSJP Constitutions:

Personal prayer deepens our desire
to be united with God in faith,
enabling us to see God’s presence and action
in our lives and in the world.
We commit ourselves to daily prayer.

We nurture our life of prayer
by reflective reading, particularly Scripture,
by periods of solitude and silence,
and by an annual retreat. (CSJP Constitutions 29 & 30)

This year I returned to Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT, a retreat center sponsored by the Daughters of Wisdom. I was last here on retreat when I was a novice, and it was a joy to discover things that remain the same and things that have shifted and grown, both at the retreat center and within myself.  Natural beauty abounds here, and I spent some quality meditative time walking around the grounds and nearby sights with my camera.

The result is this video prayer, set to “Magic” by the duo/collective Gungor (the music is a new-to-me discovery and gift of the spirit to match the movement in my heart this week):

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Click the picture or this link to watch the video prayer on YouTube.

The words of the song say it all I think, and with a catchy tune:

All this miracle and light
All this magic
There is nothing left to hide
Bring your sadness
Bring your disbelief
Bring your tambourine
You can dance and sing
Here in the magic

Come breathe the air
Feel your skin
Come play your drum
Feel the beat within
Love everyone
Everything
La lala la la la

Come breathe it in the air
Feel it on your skin
Come play it on your drum
Feel the beat within
Love like a mystic drug
Filling everything
La lala la la la

Amen