Tag Archives: spirituality

Hope is like breathing

Hope is like breathing.
Hope  in, hope out.

In between it mixes with
all my worries
and cares and doubts.

How will this all work out?
What about x, y, z?
Why me, why now?

Indeed were it all up to me
Hope would not be enough.
But God is in the mix.
Breath of the Spirit.
Breathe of God.
Breath of life.
Love.

“Cast the anchor of hope
into the Heart of love,
and all things shall work together…”
-Mother Clare

Breathing in
Breathing out
Hope.

Finding God (I AM) where I am

Last week I had a tremendous opportunity to join 800 or so other women who are in elected leadership of their religious congregations at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly. It was an amazing experience on so many levels, but if I had to share just one take away, it is this line from the keynote by Sister Janet Mock, CSJ

“Notice that God does not say I WAS nor I WILL BE. God is I AM. What a profound consolation that is for us today, in these times. I AM here, I AM with you. I AM light. I AM within Mercy, Charity, Providence. I AM Divine Compassion. I AM in the many faces of Mary, Joseph and Jesus; of Benedict, Scholastica, Catherine, Dominic, Clare, Francis. I AM with you until the end of time. Allow yourselves to sink into that truth: I AM with you.”

I have indeed been letting myself sink into that truth. God’s very name, spoken and recorded in our sacred texts, means that our God is a God of the present moment. God is there in every moment, with me, with you, with us. Loving us, present to the mix of confusion and joy and frustration and grief and satisfaction and generalized grumpiness and inexplicable peace that is life as a human being who is paying attention, or not paying attention as the case may be.

Perhaps that is why the movie Inside Out touched me so much. I recognized my own mix of emotions which drive me, and the ones that I push to the outskirts or send on wild goose chases so they stop bothering me. My main driver of course is anxiety. 

But what Janet said adds a whole new dimension to the equation, and one that is so obvious when I stop and think about it.  God says I am there no matter who is in the drivers seat. 

I remember when my mom was very sick, and later after she’d died when my Dad was in ICU after emergency surgery and I was there on my own until my siblings could get there.  In those days which felt like a lifetime I had some of the most intense experiences of God I have ever had. My defenses were down and my need was outsized, and so I suppose I was able to notice the I AMness of God in the moment. It was pure grace, and in that moment my relationship with God began to be more mature and real.

Other times when I am at the ocean or I’m among the trees  I am so awestruck at the incredible beauty of God’s creation that I catch my breath and have a fairly intense burst of gratitude and a definite God moment. At those moments when I cannot help but see the God who is and who created every good thing, it is easier then to be present to God and God’s love.

But God is I AM even when I am not paying attention. When I am distracted by many things to do or anxious about this or that. When that person does that thing, again, and pushes all of my buttons. Or when I push hers. When I am just tired out or confused or busy just making it through the day. When I am too busy to notice that God, I AM, is with me, nevertheless so it is, even then. 

Of course, if little old me is honest, these moments are the majority of my life.  I can get stuck too in the past, in what I should have done or what I missed out on, just as my anxious planning self can miss out on the present moment by having my head too much in the future.
But the invitation of Janet’s words is to let it sink in that God is present, with me,  even then. I AM with you, God says, when you are too distracted or anxious or annoyed or tired or confused or busy to notice.

The spiritual life is just that, life, and the invitation to growth and transformation and compassion and love and peace and justice is to let God be God … Always.

Magnificent book of God’s creation

I am back from my annual retreat, renewed and refreshed after days of blessings with the Holy One.  I never made a silent retreat until I was in formation with my religious community, and now I truly cannot imagine what my life would be like without this regular gift of time and space and quiet to just be with my loving God.

Every retreat is different, with its own graces and challenges too. One grace of this year was letting this time spend itself, allowing myself to be open to God’s presence all around me in every moment.  I can’t really explain the movement of God in my life these days, other than to say that God is very good.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’, taken from the opening line of the Canticle of the Sun, Pope Francis invites us to spend time with God’s magnificent book of creation:

“.. Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20).” (Laudato Si, no. 12).

If I had to sum up this past week, it would be accepting invitation upon invitation to get a glimpse of God’s beauty and goodness.  And that, my friends, is gift upon gift upon gift!  Here’s just a sampling.

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On Retreat

Time away you need ... hmmm. Retreat you must go on.
Time away you need … hmmm. Retreat you must go on.

The summer months are a good time for rest, relaxation, and renewal.  Growing up on the East Coast, my family always spent time each summer at the beach. Our preferred beach in question (Ocean City, Maryland) was somewhat busy and offered many opportunities for fun, from skeeball to movies to miniature golf.  Given that I have a late July birthday, I spent many birthdays at the beach.

In addition to the regular summer beach fun, I also learned the value and beauty of the contemplative opportunities the ocean provides from my mother.  While we kids were out and about doing who knows what, my mother was generally settled in on the balcony. Sometimes she’d be reading a book, but most often she would just sit there, gaze out at the ocean, and bask in the freedom to simply be.

As I’ve gotten older, and especially since I’ve entered religious life, the contemplative opportunities of the ocean have become a greater draw for me.

This afternoon I will be heading to the ocean for just such a purpose.  You see, it is time for my annual retreat.  In our CSJP Constitutions we say:

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

Retreat is a special time to reconnect with my loving God.  No email or Facebook. No meetings or to-do lists. IT is simply a time to pray and reflect on God’s daily invitation to seek justice, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace.

As it happens, I will also be on retreat on Monday when I turn 43 years old.  I look forward to waking up early to watch the sun rise on this next year of life.

Pure gift.

Margaret Anna Fridays – On Love

Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)
Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)

Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day.  She wrote lives of the saints, spiritual works, histories, and social reform. I find great inspiration in her life’s word and work. Here’s a little tidbit from her 1877 book, Good Reading for Girls: Sundays and Festivals.

Oh, my children, let us remember our love must be a love of deeds, not of words. That if we would be the faithful disciples, the cherished little ones of the Heart of God, we must imitate that Heart–we must confide in that Heart, we must prove our love to the Heart in time, and so shall It be our refuge here in every sorrow, and our Home in the land where sorrow can never come.