Tag 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

One Year Ago

One year ago today I woke up to a fire alarm indicating a real, actual, and very scary fire here at St. Michael Villa. No one was hurt, thank God, but life was and continues to be disrupted here on the campus.

Tomorrow we will be having a small mass of thanksgiving, with some of the first responders as our guests. I will never forget that in our shock that morning, huddled in the gym of the building next door, it was the Chief of Police who asked if we’d like to pray and led us in the Hail Mary.

I am also painfully aware of all those in California who are facing flames and the aftermath. Praying for their safety and for peace of mind and heart in the days and months ahead.

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

Birthday Musings

This morning I woke up another year older,

Wiser hopefully, as time goes by and experience + lessons learned make an impact. 

There is what I thought I knew, what I have learned, and that giant category of what is still mystery beckoning.

I am richer in relationships and connection to be sure. Pure gift.

This year my birthday coincides with the number attributed to the man presently in the white house.

My birthday wish upon waking was that he might focus on building common ground, promoting the common good and peace.

A girl can dream, especially on her birthday.

Most of all I am just grateful. For community, friends, and family near and far. For gifts given and received. For life.

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.

Waiting and Wondering

What do you do when life gets a bit topsy turvey 

or just filled with too much uncertainty 

or chaos 

or plain old messiness?

Do you ever find yourself wondering …

what next?

how do we get through this? or

why are things so complicated?

I know I do, from time to time.

I am sometimes tempted to wait,

for the solution, the savior, the end of the messy situations.

This is advent after all, a season of waiting.

But expectant, not passive waiting. 

It is a season of joy and hope, not gloom and doom.

How I wait, how I anticipate, how I participate and co-create makes a difference.

It paves the path, prepares the way,

for the in breaking of love,

for life-giving energy,

for the next steps in this journey.

We wait and we wonder, but we also live and risk and love.

Together. Broken and whole. Vulnerable and resilient. 

God is there, with us, emmanuel, through it all.

The Revoutionary Power of Yes

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

I like to think of it as a celebration of Mary’s YES.

Yes to love, life, and possibility.

Yes to uncertainty and confusion.

Yes to perhaps not always understanding or being understood.

Yes to life as a mix of joy and sadness, suffering and compassion.

This morning I ask myself, how am I living into my yes?

Mary shows us that our yes, freely given and lived into day by day, has the power to change the world.

Or as Pope Francis recently said in an interview about negativity in media: “Today there is a need for a revolution of tenderness in this world that suffers from ‘cardiosclerosis.”

Hardness of hard or tenderness?

You get to choose.

My October Lessons

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this virtual space. My life the past few months has been very full with unbloggable happenings and twists and turns which have kept me otherwise occupied, many of them good, some of them a bit more complicated.

October in particular was a doozy.  Lots of travel for nun meetings and conferences, and sprinkled in between more dramatic close to home happenings, such as accompanying a loved one with a serious illness and, oh yeah, my house caught fire, meaning that in between my scheduled travel I’ve been living here and there since we can’t get back home just yet.  Most recently, I ended up with a nasty cold that got a bit more serious given my asthmatic tendencies, but thanks to modern medicine all will be well.really-480
Nonetheless, to be quite honest my prayer of late has been simply one word …. “Really?”

And that is without watching much cable news or following the sad collapse of our democracy and civic sensibilities. Or watching from afar the destruction of the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, France, and the heart breaking situation of the 1,300 children left behind. Or my exacerbation that our apparently increasing obsession with hate and division and polarization keeps us from attending to the broken threads in the fabric of our society or focusing our creative energy on maybe, I don’t know, mending them rather than setting them on fire in the name of being right.

So essentially for the past three weeks, I’ve been an itinerant person without my own bed. I’ve returned to the days when I need to figure out where to do my laundry, and had the fun experience of trying to get the smoke smell out of my clothes, and the new experience of having to move my belongings around with me.  There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, and lots of hard work, and challenges, and difficult situations.

But there has also been much to give me perspective, and even, dare I say, to inspire me and give me hope.

For one thing, I am inspired by the amazing response of my displaced elderly and infirm Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace who showed such resilience in being uprooted at 7:15 am in the morning of October 12th by a serious house fire. I am filled with gratitude and awe at the incredible response of our caregivers and staff who got every sister and staff person to safety, managed to get their medication and medical charts, and find temporary homes for them the same day. Not to mention the emergency responders who not only contained the fire but acted with compassion and were present to our sisters. Then there is the wonderful outpouring of support, from our neighbors and sponsored ministries, from our sisters and associates across the congregation, from other religious congregations, the community at large. People are good. If you focus on the negative spin of our never ending electoral cycle, you might be forgiven for forgetting that simple truth, but people are good.

Even more than that, I have the marvelous gift of community which continues to surprise me and teach me in ways I would never imagine what it means to follow Jesus. I am safe, we are safe. We have the resources and support we need. We have access to medical care and ways to find temporary roofs under which to lay our heads. We can get the help we need to restore our home and come together as community in one place. But even in our current scattered reality, we are one. We are together. We are a community for mission.

So when my prayer starts out with that one simple word … “Really?” … the next set of breaths is a realization that life may be chaotic and hard to predict, but I have so much to be grateful for and such incredible support and love to nourish me as I navigate it all, as we navigate our shifting reality, together.

Not everyone is as lucky, not everyone who is homeless has the resources they need to see them through. Not everyone who is sick is able to just go to a doctor and get medication to make them feel better. Not everyone who is concerned for the common good has the right to vote.

I have all these things, and that gives me a responsibility to face the next day, to take the next step, and to keep hoping that, for one thing, November will be better than October has been!  It leads me to believe that things can and will get better, that our responsibility is to show up, to care for one another, and to face whatever comes together.

Which perhaps is why I loved this Facebook post by Kid President:

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Let’s give it a go … and see what we learn from November, hopefully a little less chaotically!

 

Hoping with St Martha

martha1Today is the Feast of St. Martha. My latest Global Sisters Report column, published today, includes my musings on St. Martha as a model of hope.

Martha was indeed real, living in a world where some things just needed to get done, even if her sister Mary was too busy to help. She also lived in a world where the people she loved were suffering. I suspect there may have been times when she too wanted to hide under the covers.

Martha certainly had her own doubts about what was possible in such a world. When Jesus asked her to roll away the stone from her brother’s tomb, she warned him that the smell would be overpowering given that her brother had been dead for four days.

Yet Martha — worried, anxious and doubting as any real woman would be in the face of such stark realities — also listened to the hope and promise of Jesus. She made a home for hope in her heart. She helped to roll away the stone, and her brother Lazarus came out, ready to be unbound and free. We have a lot to learn from Martha, who in the end engaged in hopeful action in the midst of her own anxiety, worry and grief.

Read the whole column here.

On Goodness

One word has been popping up persistently in my prayer of late  …

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Goodness.

I am not sure where it came from,  but it was a quieting word amidst the storm of worry and anxiety and worse case scenarios that I am prone to from time to time.

Goodness.

The goodness of God. The goodness of people far and near. The goodness of life itself and creation and the universe  and creativity  and community and love and laughter and … (fill in the blank).

What I have discovered  these weeks of praying with goodness is that it is everywhere, even within and among you and me.

What I have also discovered  is that swirling thoughts or worries or wonderings  are no match for focused attention on goodness.

Next time you find yourself spinning  to a not so good space, try this. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Think of goodness. Just the word. Or some representation or experience of goodness in your own life. Keep breathing in, breathing  out, focusing  on goodness.  Maybe, like me, you will feel yourself settle, slow down, at peace.

Goodness … it’s what’s happening if we but pay attention!