Retreat Prayer

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

It has been my privilege and joy to spend the last week on my annual retreat. My planned directed retreat at a retreat house was of course cancelled, this being 2020 when everything has been disrupted. So instead I met with my spiritual director virtually and retreated within driving distance to a quiet spot to make a private retreat.

It has been a week of gentle surprises, holding the intentions of our mixed up world close to my heart, and experiencing the presence and deep love of God. In addition to spending quiet time with God and reflective reading, I took some contemplative photos on my walks with God in the beauty of creation. Prayer in action all around us!

Some contemplative surprises found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (June 2020)

God of love, source of all that is good, thank you.

Your creation reminds us of beauty, goodness, wonder and awe.

You are our creator, our companion, our center.

You desire us to ground ourselves in your goodness and gift one another with love, justice, and peace.

Help us to see goodness when it is hidden, even in ourselves.

Inspire us to spread goodness.

Guide us to read the signs of the times and respond by building right relationship between and among all peoples and creation.

For you are our source, our light and our love.

Amen.

Heart Bubbles

This post is dedicated to the people in my life who are most directly impacted by the sin of racism.

My prayer of late is percolating, filled with emotion and low on words. I am a very strong “T” on the Myers Briggs (those who know me will not be surprised), but my thought bubbles right now are being outpaced by my heart bubbles.

Love for the people in my life most directly impacted by racism. Frustration at the daily challenge they face just going through life, microagressions, burdens, barriers and other things I can intellectually try to understand but never really will. Care and concern for them, especially at this time when everything is, just, everything.

Anger at the lives lost and put in danger because of the lie of white supremacy. Kids with candy or toys killed. Young men running or walking killed. Young women in their own homes or cars killed. Enough says my heart. When will it stop cries my heart.

Suprise that many well meaning people with skin tones close to mine, who normally don’t see color, are now making the NYT nonfiction best seller list decidedly anti-racist themed. Grateful even if they are late to the party. Worried that a crash course or binge read may not be the best way to do systemic work.

Hope. This moment does feel different. Fervent hope that it truly is different.

Because of the LOVE I feel deep in my heart for the people I have been blessed to call friend and family and community who are most impacted, each moment, each day, each hour, each minute by the sin of racism.

Because of the LOVE that created us and knitted us together. In the beginning, now and forever.

Update: Living Peace in Pandemic Times

Today was a wonderful day, as I led my first virtual retreat live on Zoom, hosted by the Peace and Spirituality Center. More than 60 folks attended and the conversations were truly wonderful. I am very grateful to the staff at the Peace and Spirituality Center for being willing to work with me to adapt my planned in person Peace Day to an online retreat.

I have gone ahead and made a 1 hour video version of the online retreat, for anyone to use with a small group or on their own. Just visit the Online Retreat page of the blog to download the reflection guide and watch the video.

Peace

(picture of a nesting dove – our sheltering in place is itself an act of solidarity during these times)

Love is the way

Have you noticed that everyone (and everything) is weird these days.

And that no one is weird at the same time?

If you find yourself tired or anxious or frustrated or annoyed or even angry, of course you are. We are going on 2 months of this strange reality with no clear path forward that seems comfortable, sure or safe.

Yet here we are. Together. Alone. Safe in our homes or maybe on the newly redefined front lines, suddenly considered essential. Simple daily tasks seem daunting. We juggle home and work life all in one place. So many plans have suddenly disappeared. We might feel lost, dazed or confused.

In today’s Gospel (John 14), our friend Thomas follows his own doubts to help us find the way through. In my own simplified paraphrase of this passage, which I have often prayed with even before these pandemic days, we hear:

Thomas: How can we know the way?

Jesus: I am the way. Stay focused on me. Love a lot.

Yep. Love. A lot. Love is the way when people are weird. Love is the way when we are weird. Love is the way when your child/niece/student is sad that their graduation has been cancelled. Love is the way when you remind your grandmother/mother/sister/friend/yourself that all this isolation has a purpose. Love is the way when you reorganize your plans … again. Love is the way when [insert challenging situation here]. All the rest is distraction from what really matters.

A few years ago, in other life circumstances, my meditation on this Gospel led me to create a video prayer set to music by Sufjan Stevens. I find it is a fruitful prayer these days too, and so I offer it here in case it resonates with you.

Peace and love during these strange days.

Online retreat: Living Peace in Pandemic Times

Next month I was scheduled to lead a Peace Day at our community’s Peace and Spirituality Center in Bellevue, WA (https://csjp.org/ministries/peace-and-spirituality-center/).

Of course travel and in person gatherings are on hold, but in coordination with the great staff at the center I will now be holding the retreat day online. I have also adapted the topic to fit what I think we all need most right about now: Living Peace in Pandemic times. Details are on the flyer below. If you would like to join us, you can register at this link: https://conta.cc/34TTm5l

MAY 20 virtual retreat day flyer

Prayer during the pandemic

We’re all a bit off these days. Our prayer space, time and experience is probably off kilter a bit as well. For those of us used to a sacramental shared liturgical experience, we have the option of watching mass online, but it’s not the same. We all know there is SO much to pray for, but that’s just it. There’s so much.

For years now I have “prayed the news,” reading the newspaper in the morning as part of my morning prayer. I hold in my heart and mind some of the stories of human suffering, joy, and life within those written words and pray for the people and realities behind the story.

Last month, I was able to carve a little space into my oddly busy quarantine life for a mini personal retreat weekend. I walked the grounds of the convent where I live, which is perched on the palisades across the Hudson River from New York City.

New York City of course has been so hard hit by COVID-19, as has New Jersey where I live. I prayed for all of it and everyone, and later made this video prayer of photos from that day set to the song “Island” by Audrey Assad.

We are knit together
Together as one
Where you’re going I will go
Underneath the shelter of this love
We will walk each other home
You be home to me
I will be home to you
No one is an island
You be home to me
I will be home to you
No one is an island

If you are interested in more of my pandemic ponderings, you might want to read my reflection on Global Sisters Report.

Into the storm

I was reading the Urbi et Orbi message that Pope Francis gave today in an empty St. Peter’s square. He reflects on this time of Covid-19 in light of the story of the storm in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41).

“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. …

Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” -Pope Francis

Click here to read the entire message: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/27/read-pope-francis-urbi-et-orbi-address-coronavirus-and-jesus-calming-storm

More than once in my life I have echoed the disciples refrain… do you not care that we are perishing?

Imagine their consternation, frustration and fear that he is, of all things, asleep!

We are terrified … we think we are alone.

But Jesus is with us in the storm.

A few years ago I created this video prayer reflecting on this passage, set to “How to Sleep in A Stormy Boat” by singer songwriter Amy Speace. The Pope’s message reminded me of this video, and so I share it here in case it is a helpful reflection for others in this time.

Peace. Be not afraid. We will weather the storm together.

Locked in for the night

It’s becoming rapidly cliche to say this, but we are indeed living in strange times.

My coworkers are working remotely for social distancing, but since I live on campus I’m coming in each day to a very empty yet highly productive space. I live on campus, but I’m not going next door to where the retired sisters live for their protection. Separated togetherness.

Our sponsored hospital just down the road is treating patients at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis here in New Jersey. Holding all of the dedicated medical professionals and patients especially in my prayer.

Our sisters in the Seattle area are just down the road from the nursing home where it all started in Washington State. They’ve been in high gear for over two weeks now.

My Dad is in his own nursing home in Chicago where he receives excellent care. I was planning to visit him this past weekend, but that trip of course got cancelled. I just called and managed to get him on the phone to wish him a happy St. Patrick’s Day. “Are you all locked in for the night?,” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “The whole world is locked in for the night.” He then asked me how far reaching this was, so I told him. And I think he understood. He knows something is up.

As my Dad’s dementia has progressed, he has used more and more interesting phrases to get his point across. Sometimes they make no sense. This one was spot on. Locked in.

Praying for everyone on this Feast of St. Patrick, as we anticipate the Feast of St. Joseph later this week and the start of spring.

Stay safe and tucked in (locked in) wherever you are.

Remember social isolation only makes sense in solidarity. Even if you are alone, we are together.

Remember to breathe (just not on other people!).

Peace

La Otra Susana

For my friend Susan, who went home to God far too early in life.

When I showed up in nunland, you became my first friend.
You stayed close during my challenging novitiate, even
though you were 3,000 miles away. Your promise that you’d
read my emails and not tell anyone what I wrote (and perhaps
most importantly, not try to fix anything) may have saved me.

I returned to Seattle when you left for El Salvador, so
our friendship continued by email and yummy Thai or
Indian or Japanese or Chinese food when you were home.
Then you came home and I went to Chicago first, then New Jersey.
The tradition transferred, and it was when I was home that
we had our dinner dates.

When I think back to our friendship, it’s those meals that
stand out. Not the food, but our delicious conversations.
Your listening ear. Your laugh. The fact that you always called
me on my bullshit. That time when you listened to me vent,
ad nauseum, about whatever it was. And then, when we had
paid the check, politely reminded me that friendships were
mutual, and when was I going to ask about you.

Lesson learned.
An important one, that I am grateful for.

So much to be grateful for really.

Tonight at your vigil service, my memories were mirrored
in what others shared. Your friend from high school.
Another stranger who became a friend. Coworkers.
Your friend’s teenage daughter. (I was waiting for the
dog catcher or waste management professional to
go to the mic.) We all felt loved and known by you.

You were a light for others. One that shone brightly if but
only for a time in my own life. An important time.

Gracias, la otra Susana.

Paz