Category Archives: reflections

Memories & Gratitude

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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.

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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

 

My Reading Vacation


This year, I decided to do something I have always dreamed of … I took a reading vacation. Days of rest and renewal, moving around a bit (first the ocean, then the lake) but solitary for the most part. Except of course for those friends who jump off the page and into my imagination.

It has been a wonderful adventure, and has also helped me rediscover reading. Don’t get me wrong, I read some, but not like I used to. But after years of grad school when my brain could not absorb much beyond assigned reading, I turned to easy reads like mysteries on my kindle app. And of course, we are in the era of streaming television services! You know what they say about habits.

But I miss reading real books, and now remember why.

My vacation reading list? I am so out of practice in literary efforts that I am also out of the loop on newish fiction. So I did some research. I looked at recommendations online from Nancy Pearl and the bookstore, and picked up a great audio book at the thrift store for the car as I travelled around.

  • Siracusa by Delia Ephron
  • The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
  • Turner House by Angela Flournoy
  • Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maude Montgomery

I will admit to liking some more than others, but they all held my attention and brought me into their worlds. I only managed half of The Turner House, because I think I left it at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. (By the way if you love books and the ocean google this marvellous place!). But will find another copy!

Island of the Sea was an audiobook read by by S. Epatha Merkerson. Her talent plus Isabel Allende’s words kept me captivated. It paints a picture of slavery in the colonial era in the North of Haiti, close to where our Sisters now minister. Plus it is just a human story, beautifully told.

I was surprised by The Last Days of Night, a historical novel about the fight around the light bulb patent. I know, sounds thrilling. It is by the same author as the Imitation Game and kept me up late at night and woke me up early in the morning, anxious to read.

As for Lucy Maude Montgomery, I am rereading the Anne Series this summer. It is in the public domain and you can download it for free. I am now part way through Anne of the Island, and it is a joy as an adult to rediscover the real Anne as described by Lucy Maude.

I have a few new books I have picked up at thrift stores along the way, but do not anticipate large chunks of time to read in the near future. But I may trade netflx for real books, at least some nights.

Books are such a gift. Saying a special prayer tonight for authors of all kinds!

How vast and wide

I am spending a couple of days at the Oregon Coast for some rest and renewal.

This morning, armed with my coffee and perched in a comfy chair looking out at the ocean, I cracked open my morning prayer book and prayed these words from Psalm 104:

How many are your works, O God!

In wisdom you have made them all.

The earth is full of your creatures.

Vast and wide is the span of the sea,

with its creeping things past counting,

living things great and small.

The ships are moving there,

and Leviathan you made to play with.

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

You give it, they gather it up.

You open wide your hand, they are well filled.

Vast and wide is God’s love, like the sea. So big it is hard to imagine. There are storms in our lives. The horizon may be hidden in fog. But the sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day. God is present, source of everything that is good, wanting us to soak up and spread that goodness that comes wave upon wave, if only we are open to receive it. God’s goodness strengthens us, helps us to weather the storms of our lives, and to welcome the wonder and majesty of the gift of creation. And then my friends we can share the gift of that goodness, becoming the waves ourselves.

At least, that’s where my prayer led me this morning. Guess I have been a bit renewed!

Believe in Goodness

I have not posted in this space for quite some time. Life has been busy and the world has been crazy, you know how it goes.

But tonight, with the President choosing climate denial over truth, short term profit for a few over long term sustainability for this little planet we call earth and its inhabitants, isolationism over true leadership … I feel compelled to write.

The past few weeks have been a tough run. Terrorism and hatred in many forms grips the headlines, from Manchester to Portland. Terrorism in other parts of the world, places like Kabul and Bagdahd which have been ravaged by war, we try to ignore.

Then there is the ridiculousness from covfefe to the very probable meddling of a hostile foreign power in our democracy and hints of possible collusion by government officials.

It can all be too much, but in the midst of the swirly nature of life right now, I feel I must proclaim these words.

I believe in goodness.

The goodness of people to stand up to hateful speech in my adopted hometown of Portland, risking all for goodness.

The goodness of folks who stand up for what is right, on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, Earth our common home, healthcare, justice and peace.

Yesterday I had the privelege of being with lay leaders from our csjp sponsored ministries in New Jersey. Day in and day out they provide compassionate care in health care, education and social service to people who are poor and vulnerable. We had the chance to hear stories of how the mission is alive today. In the midst of the challenge and strain of this crazy time, goodness abounds.

There is much we cannot control, but we can believe in goodness and act that way. We can choose to bring goodness into this world, little by little, relationship by relationship.

Pope Francis recently called for a revolution of tenderness.

Let’s be good and tender. Let’s follow that sage advice from Micah. Let’s act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.

I have to believe it will make a difference.

Good Friday in a wounded world

Somehow it is already Good Friday, with the promise of Easter just days away.

 Today we remember the power of love.

Love as modeled by Jesus is not rational, it is not self serving, it is not romantic, it is not saccharine or weak or pointless.

Because love is the point of it all. Love is the way to wholeness and healing and harmony and peace.

These of course are things our wounded world needs so deeply and dearly, even as in our name, some of our elected leaders threaten lifelines, tear open holes in our social safety net, drop death dealing super weapons and exploit our common home for short term profit.

And so this Good Friday I pray for wholeness and healing, for harmony and peace. For me and you and the entire human community.

Jesus, one with us, you who humbled yourself and suffered death on a cross, be with us in our cross carrying moments today. Inspire us to journey with one another, to remain at the foot of the cross, to bear witness and to create openings for hope even in the darkest of days. Teach us to love one another, always.