Tag Archives: photos

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.

 

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):

20170719_100003

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

 

To lead in fog, we must be led

I am spending this week steeped in the wisdom, presence, inspiration and challenge of my sisters in leadership at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious annual assembly. This is my fourth assembly, the second I have attended in my role as an elected leader of my own congregation (the first two I was here representing Giving Voice).  As one sister shared yesterday, this experience of contemplative listening and dialogue with 800 other sisters has been balm for my soul.

Yesterday, Sister Pat Farrell, OSF gave one of the keynote presentations, “Leading from the Allure of Holy Mystery: Contemplation and Transformation.” Pat was of course the president of LCWR during the kerfuffle with Rome. Her integrity and contemplative leadership helped us shift the narrative and reality of our relationship with the hierarchical church from one of conflict to one of faithful dialogue. I was particularly moved by this passage of her talk:

“This is our moment. The world around us teeters on the edge of both peril and promise. Breakdown and breakthrough tussle with each other. The path forward is hidden in fog. It is your time to lead. To do so you must learn to be led and to listen deeply. Together we will discover personal and communal processes for deep prayer and dialogue. We will be given what we need to tend the soul of our communities by nurturing contemplative spaciousness.”

In other words, to lead in fog, we must be led.

Yesterday, another sister shared an image that came out of her small group contemplative dialogue experience.

“When the redwood sits in the fog (rooted in contemplation) it absorbs the moisture within the fog and nourishes the entire tree and allows the moisture to reach the earth which nourishes other creatures. We (LCWR and our congregations) are a forest of redwoods focused on contemplation that the world may thrive.”

A northwesterner at heart, I immediately imagined this picture in my heart, which I took this summer on retreat in Oregon not of redwoods but evergreens in fog.

Fog

Truth be told, I have been feeling a bit lost in the fog of late. The fog of fear, hatred, and isolationism which seems to be taking hold among much of our body politic. The fog of grief and loss that is such a part of religious life these days, as our elders transition to the next phase of their journey with God.  The fog of uncertainty about exactly what the future holds for our communities which are in the midst of yet another period of transition and transformation.  Lots of fog.

This week in Atlanta has given me companions in the fog and given me a clarity in the mist. Contemplation is the way.  And so, once again, I recommit to my own regular contemplative practice, in my own life and in my life in community. As another group shared during our contemplative dialogue process, contemplation is essential to leadership.

I remember many years ago when I was discerning religious life, I felt like I was driving down a mountainous road in the dark, where my headlights only showed the way a few feet ahead. I felt an invitation to trust that when I turned the bend, I would see the next steps, and so it has been. At this particular moment, to be honest, I feel like the high beams would only reflect back to blind me. I cannot see the way forward. And yet, I feel called to stay on the path by my loving God.  Jesus is the way, even in the fog, and it is in the still quiet moments that the Spirit speaks. We need only to listen, to listen often, and to listen deeply.

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.