Category Archives: reflections

Flourishing in the new year

My prayer at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 plays in my head with “Flourishing (Psalm 119)” – a song by Sandra McCracken – as its soundtrack. So I did what I do and made a video prayer set to this beautiful song with some of my photos from 2018.

May we give thanks
for all the ways we lived and loved in 2018
from our best selves, for the best of everyone

May we remember
those times when we weren’t so able
to be good and kind for whatever reason
and resolve to try again

May we honor
those we love and all we hold dear
through our words and our actions
for the common good

May we recognize beauty,
Live gently, and flourish together
as we walk in the way of peace.

Amen

From Toxicity to Kindness

The 2018 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year was announced and it is, you guessed it, toxic.

Not a new word, but a word with a whole new embodiment of meaning. “The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance. Our data shows that, along with a 45% rise in the number of times it has been looked up on oxforddictionaries.com, over the last year the word toxic has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses.”

Among the top collocates to toxic in 2018 … toxic masculinity, toxic relationship, toxic culture. As I said in a recent interview, “We all know that toxicity is not good for us.” And yet it spreads, oozing out and choking our happiness like the fog of a group of looming dementors.

But we have a choice my friends. We can be kind, in our relationships, our words, our interactions, our ways of living. Every moment presents a choice. Let’s choose to be kind! Our very democracy and social fabric may depend upon our choices.

Sounds simple, but sometimes the most answers to the most complicated problems are the kind ones.

Christmas with Joseph during uncertain times

My Christmas card this year is a picture I took of a statue of St. Joseph “looking” at a Christmas tree lit up on the grounds of Bon Secours retreat center in Maryland that I took last year on retreat.

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As I wrote in my Christmas Letter to family & friends:

I’ve been spending time talking to Joseph these days.  In our CSJP constitutions we say about Joseph:  “His courage to life a life of faith inspires us to trust in God’s abiding love, especially in times of struggle and uncertainty.”

Pope Francis writes about his own prayer practice with Joseph, and that he’s the one he goes to when he is “in a fix.”  He writes little notes of problems that need fixing and slips them under a statue of Joseph.  Joseph was a carpenter after all.  When we spend time with the Gospel readings about the birth of Jesus, Prince of Peace, during the time of empire, we can see that Joseph understands what it’s like to keep on keeping on during challenging times. 

We don’t often spend a lot of time with Joseph, but I think we all could use a little Joseph in our lives these days.

This Christmas Eve, I prayed with “As Joseph Was a Walking” recorded by Annie Lennox. If you want to spend some time with Joseph, here’s my video prayer reflection:

We wait

We wait in hope

for the day when no one goes hungry or feels unwelcome.

We wait in hope for courageous leaders who are also kind and just,

for peace to prevail, and

for the possibility of togetherness to overcome division.

We wait in hope with Mother Earth, our common home,

that human activity will not spell doom after all.

We wait in hope for the in-breaking of love, God among us, Emmanuel.

We wait, yes, but we also know that we

We must act

… choose goodness

… be kind

… move beyond impossibility

… promise to love, listen, live, laugh

no matter what

Because the in-breaking of love begins

has already begun

even as we wait.

Even when

Even when twilight approaches and the clouds pepper the sky

And the trees stand firm and tall as their leaves show off their new bright colors preparing for their downward fall

Even then …

the sun peeks through the tiny spaces to shimmer and make the leaves glow as if from within

while the wind blows through the all of it, adding a symphony of sound to the moment

Even then, I stop in wonder and awe and gratitude, adding my Amen to that of creation

Today

Today I visited this blog and realized I’ve not written in a few months.  My recent yesterdays have been filled with much travel, work, visits, etc…  On the political and ecclesial sphere, it’s been a mess to say the least.  And yet, we live today, knowing tomorrow will have its own challenges and blessings.

I’ve found myself pondering the wise words of Winnie the Pooh from the recent film, Christopher Robin.  After an action filled adventure with its own ups and downs and share of uncertainty, Pooh and his friend Christopher (now an adult) are sitting together looking at the horizon.

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Pooh asks Christopher what day it is, to which Christopher replies, “Today.”

Calmly Pooh responds, “My favorite day.  Yesterday when it was tomorrow was too much day for me.”

Indeed.

These days

These days are not easy.
Not easy to be
peaceful
joyful
grateful.

Easier to be confused or worried or angry or sad.
All of which are ok–don’t get me wrong.

Righteous anger, after all
led that Jesus guy to overturn the tables.

Speaking truth to power
and standing with those on the margins
also led to the cross.

Those days were not easy either,
to be peaceful, joyful, grateful.

We humans have a way of making life complicated.

And yet the sun will rise this morning, I am sure.
Babies will laugh and puppies will snuggle.
Mothers and fathers will struggle to feed their kids
and keep them safe in this world.

And I will do my best to stay engaged,
and hopeful,
facing what’s what,
but also looking to what can be.

I open myself to God, who is Love.

In the words of Carrie Newcomer (Help in Hard Times, a great song by the way):

“And I believe in something better, and that love’s the final word,
and that there’s still something whole and sacred in this world.”

So my prayer this morning
before the sunrise
is that I may love
into these days and trust
that this is enough.
Amen

before sunrise

Hearts Wide Open

We need people with hearts wide open,
ready to take in the bad with the good.

We need brave and noble souls
who are able to discern where possibility lies,
who are willing to name the truth for what it is,
and who do the hard thing
with as much compassion as is possible.

The time is here and now.

We cannot wait
for the world to look the way we want it to,
we cannot wait for our vision to win out,
our party to be in power,
our narrative to dominate.

We simply face what is head on,
arms wide open,
living into what we know can be.

We have to face reality
even as
we do the little
and big things
we can do to transform it.

To bring about a world …

Where justice and peace kiss
Where families are free to stay together
Where love prevails
Where honesty is honored
Where diversity flourishes
Where we believe ….

The future is possible.

Our task is to show up
with our hearts – and minds –
as open
as possible.

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Restoring Ourselves

When I was a novice, we participated each week in an intercommunity program with novices from other religious communities–men’s and women’s communities across the entire spectrum.  We gathered each week to learn about the various aspects of religious life.  When it came time to learn about the vows, the presenter shared unique perspectives present in the Constitutions of each community. That is when I realized that  the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace “recognize the value of leisure as contributing to restorating and wholeness.”

Now, of course, this is both common sense and good self care.  But we put it in our Constitutions! Not only that, we placed it in the section on the vow of poverty and in the context of work.

In solidarity with our sisters and brothers
we engage in human labor
as a means of service and sustencance.
We recognize the value of leisure
as contributing to restoration and wholeness.
In these ways we come to share
in the creative power of God.

(CSJP Constitution No. 54)

For Apostolic religious women, leisure is not the aim or the goal or the norm, but it is critical, so critical that it enables us to live our vow of poverty and be about the mission of peace with joy, and from a place of wholeness.  I write these words a few days into my annual summer vacation, this year a solo adventure to a spot that’s been on my bucket list for years … Prince Edward Island.

Yesterday when I was driving around a part of the Island where one of our CSJP Sisters was born, this view caught my eye and so I pulled over to take this picture:

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The perfect juxtaposition of the value of human labor, leisure, and the creative power of God.

Work is the norm, but sometimes we just need to stop and soak in the beauty to remind us that in the end it’s not up to us, but to the creative power of God.  And besides, we all need to stop and take some time to just soak in the sheer beauty and wonder of the world God has created, including us!