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.
(picture of a nesting dove – our sheltering in place is itself an act of solidarity during these times)
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
I’d be ever so grateful if you’d consider donating to my online fundraiser to raise $5,000 to build a safe and simple house for a family in need in Haiti. My family already donated, so now its up to friends and strangers to get us to the goal. (Thanks in advance!)
I only had room for a few photos in the article. So here are a few more postcards from my Christmas in Haiti.
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.
My novice classmate, sister, and friend Chero reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of our first profession of vows.
So much had happened since then: four years of social justice ministry, two and a half years of graduate school, and now four and a half years of community ministry on the leadership team. Many moves. And so much in between!
This morning, as I walked down the stairs in my pajamas to get my morning coffee, I remembered that today is the 3rd anniversary of the fire at St. Michael Villa, our regional center where I happen to live. While we are back in our corner of the house that received less smoke damage, we are anxiously anticipating the reopening of the main house soon. Lots of losses and discoveries and moves to temporary housing since waking up to a very real fire alarm.
Both memories lead me to give thanks for the gifts of community and belonging.
The past eleven years have been filled with so much love in action.
Prayers, hopes, and dreams shared.
Challenges and disasters navigated together.
Waiting in joyful hope, and maybe a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure.
Invitations and opportunities.
Roadblocks and detours.
Growing together as community for mission.
Finding my voice as a writer and discovering bit by bit my role as a leader.
It is the big moments and the little ones that make up this adventure called life, and God is always in the mix if we care to look.