This vacation week I brought a pile of novels, literary fiction, and mysteries to read. Turns out all I read were the mysteries, from cozy to popular to the more literary variety.
Why? Certainly not because I am enamored of the violent acts that need to be laid out in order to be solved.
Rather, as I reflected on my selections this week, I settled on two reasons: humanity and resolution.
I’ll start with the last, resolution. So much in my ministry of leadership is unresolved. Just when you think you have a situation sorted, another curve ball comes. These days of uncertainty and disruption mean that the chaos only feels constant. When I begin a mystery, I know at the end it will be resolved. If it is a series, I get the satisfaction of knowing that the sleuth I am coming to know once again will sort it all out. I find comfort in that.
The other reason? Humanity. In mysteries the various aspects of life, good and bad, are considered. Grief, anger, love, guilt, forgiveness, even sometimes redemption. There are patterns to be put together and puzzles to solve, yes, but they are always human patterns and puzzles.
“I am,” a new-to-me song by Jill Phillips, speaks deeply to me of the invitation to let God be God. So I did what I do, and made a video prayer.
Lyrics by Jill Phillips:
Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest, And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest The tide can change so fast, but I will stay The same through past, the same in future, the same today
I am constant, I am near I am peace that shatters all your secret fears I am holy, I am wise I’m the only one who knows your hearts desires Your hearts desires
Oh weary, tired, and worn Let out your sighs And drop that heavy load you hold, ’cause mine is light I know you through and through There’s no need to hide I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide
Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
With all happening in our world this past week, from Afghanistan to extreme climate events to challenging events in the lives of some folks I know, this was an interesting time to be on retreat. I don’t think I fully understood, until I got to the spot of grace and beauty that is Mercy by the Sea, how very tired and weary I have been. I wasn’t entiretly surprised, given the past year and a half in the time of COVID. Plus the fact that I just finished a six and a half year term of leadership for my religious community and have started a second term. What was suprising was the depth of my need for rest. Lucky me … a whole week to rest with God. A privilege really. A luxury. The grace and beauty of this time, for me, has been God’s abundant presence. And my own presence to the wonder of God’s creation.
I usually have so many words rumbling around my head. It can make it harder for me listen for the voice of God. Sixteen years ago, on my first silent directed retreat, the invitation was to let go of the words and focus instead on images. Ever since, on retreat, I feel drawn to pay attention to the beauty of creation through a contemplative photography practice. Resting my eyes on signs of God’s creating presence, God’s love.
Last week I attended the LCWR Assembly. I am always enlivened by the opportunity to gather with other leaders and those who serve religious life, even when COVID means it has to be online. We need spaces to pray, dream, imagine, and join our hearts and minds with others on the journey.
The theme of the Assembly recognized that … The Realm of Transformation: Creating Space for the Future.
Much of what I heard and experienced has been rumbling through my heart and mind. So I wrote about it in a column on global sisters report: Freedom for the Emerging Future . I write about fangirling some religious life heros and ponder freedom and the future.
“We are called to create new spaces that nurture, support and serve life — in our hearts and in our communities—with our yes. … Can I make space for uncertainty? For imagination? For uncomfortable moments? For mistakes? For hope? For joy? I pray for this freedom to be hospitable to the emerging future already present among us. May it be so.”
I celebrated Pentecost Sunday this morning with my sisters at liturgy in our community chapel. On my way out, I picked a card from a basket at the exit. Each card was labeled with one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I got Fortitude.
My sister housemate gave me a knowing look. The perfect gift at this time.
I realized this morning that I have not written on this blog since March! So much has happened in these months.
We held our Chapter of Elections in April where I was elected to the new Leadership Team of my community. My current term in leadership ends June 30. I start this community ministry with a whole new group of sisters the next day on July 1. A new chapter in my adventure at the corner of Susan and St. Joseph. I need strength and courage for these next adventures.
Most of my loved ones have been vaccinated and life is slowly moving to a new normal here in the US, even as the virus rages in other parts of the globe. Here at home some are still denying the reality of the virus and need for vaccines. Vaccine equity is an issue, particularly in less affluent communities and nations. We need strength for the journey and courage for what lies ahead.
The guilty verdict in the trial of George Floyd’s killer allowed many to finally breathe (I wrote about this last month on Global Sisters Report). And yet there is so much work ahead for all of us to address the sin of racism and our own complicity. We need strength and courage for the long haul.
The crisis in the fraught relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian people has once again been brought to the attention of the world. It is a complex and multi layered reality affecting human lives and livelihoods. We need strength and courage as an international community to commit our attention, resources and creativity to help find a path forward to peace through justice.
In the northern hemisphere, as spring bursts into summer we are tired. We are ready for a break. We have all been through so much this past year, even longer. Change and challenge seem to be the constants.
I for one am grateful and ready to draw upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the journey ahead: especially wisdom, understanding, counsel, and FORTITUDE. A little knowledge, piety, and fear of the lord wouldn’t hurt either.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Today is the Feast of St. Joseph, during the Year of St. Joseph!
As a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, this is a feast day for our community. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with St. Joseph lately. In fact, I’ve recently finished a short book entitled My Friend Joe: Reflections on St. Josephwhich will be published this summer by Kenmare Press.
On Wednesday, yes St. Patrick’s Day, I led a Peace Day retreat on Prayer and Friendship with St. Joseph for our sponsored ministry, the Peace and Spirituality Center.
I am now happy to share this presentation as an online retreat video that can be used by individuals or groups during this Year of St. Joseph. I have also created a prayer resource which you can download below for free.
My hope is that this resource might help others grow closer to St. Joseph, who I affectionatly call “My Friend Joe. May you go to Joseph and go in peace.
On this day in 1902, my grandfather Ludwig Lincoln Schmelzer was born in Pennsylvania to German immigrants, Anton and Ida. They chose Lincoln as his middle name because he was born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. A lot to live up to for a baby!
My granddad Ludy had a kind heart, wise soul, and gentle spirit. He loved my Irish immigrant Gandmother Eileen to bits. Theirs was a love story for the ages–there are love letters to prove it, written by him, that would make your heart melt.
In their later years, my mom’s parents moved in with us. I was in third grade, and so I grew up helping my mom in her tender loving care of her parents. My grandmother passed away first in 1985. Granddad followed when I was in high school, in 1987. I’ve always said that he died of a broken heart, missing his love.
Journeying with my grandfather through those last lonely years was an honor and a privilege. He would watch his wife’s soap operas each day, shows he’d never cared for. He had a routine, and he stuck to it! I remember watching his independent self carefully, as he’d make his way with his cane from the study, which had become his bedroom, through the house to the family room each day. He’d eat, watch his wife’s shows, maybe some golf it was available, and then suffle back to his room. When he passed, he was more than ready to be reunited with my grandmother.
Earlier memories of Granddad are of his scratchy beard. His hugs. His delicious candy canes (he came from a long line of candy makers). And most of all his love. Today would have been his 119th birthday, and it is his 34th birthday in heaven. He has long been reunited with his wife Eileen, and his daughter Eileen (my mom) joined him 17 years ago.
Also on this day, 16 years ago, I wrote my letter to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace taking my first official step on my journey into religious life, requesting to become a Pre-Candidate. What a journey of love it has been! I know that all the love I received from my Granddad as a kid, watching his loving relationships lived out to the end, and my mom’s loving care for both her parents, had a lasting impact on my own life and nurtured own desire to be of loving service.
Happy Birthday Granddad! Celebrating the gift of you.
Yesterday’s Gospel reading (Mark 3: 20-21) was just a few lines. It spoke of the crowds that were following Jesus. The last words of the passage were that his family were worried that he was “out of his mind.” Yeah, this whole preaching the good news thing can seem a bit strange and counter cultural, apparently from the very beginning of the experiences that inspired the Gospel writers.
This morning, as I was praying with the Sunday Gospel story of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew to literally abandon their nets and follow him, to become fishers of people instead, (Mark 1: 14-20), I had a sinking suspicion that their loved ones were probably also pretty concerned.
In the song “Abide” by Liz Vice, she sings these words:
“Jesus we will throw away our lives to follow you Struggling in your strength, resting in your truth Jesus, you’re so beautiful, you give vision to the blind You in us, the hope of glory, in You we will abide”
The call to follow Jesus by our lives, whether that is by abandoning our nets, professing religious vows, forming a family, a particular calling, just to choosing to be kind and compassionate in response to the opposite, or working for justice in this mixed up world … it can be hard to explain.
To someone else, family or friends even, it may seem like throwing away. Simon and Andrew certainly threw away their livelihoods, their nets. I shifted the trajectroy of my own life when I discerned to enter religious life and left my career to follow Jesus in a new way (and what a journey of blessings it has been by the way).
When my heart sings along with Liz Vice, it feels more like throwing my life INTO something. Into SOMEONE. Into Jesus.
The struggle is real, and there is Jesus. The promise of rest is real too, and Jesus is there. The healing is real, and life changing, and calls me to bring the healing to others. The vision of a kindom where we are each beloved community to one another is real, and makes real and present the beauty and hope of Jesus, in whom we abide.
I can’t help but think of those persons who were literally touched by Jesus. The woman who dared against all societal convention to reach out and touch his cloak, seeking healing. The folks who brought their sick loved ones to Jesus, even going as far as to drop the person in need of healing down through the roof since the doorway was blocked. The woman at the well who encountered Jesus in her daily life. The list goes on through the Scriptures, throughout our shared history, and into our day. Pretty incredible.
So what if it might seem a bit worrisome. I am reminded of another figure, who probably worried his own loved ones – St. Francis. As the story goes, he was known as “God’s Fool.” Fools for Christ. We are in good company. We are not perfect. We will stumble and fall and get back up. And Jesus will be there.
In any case, this morning as part of my prayer I made a little video prayer reflection set to “Abide” by Liz Vice, and featuring artistic depictions of some of these lovely fools. I share it here in case it speaks to you.
From talking with friends and family, I know I’m not the only one who is a wee bit tired these days. Pandemic. Politics. Life in the midst of pandemic and politics. No elaboration is necessary. If this is where you are at these days, you might like this video prayer I just put together, set to “Show Up” by Jill Phillips.
I’ve been praying with her song this weekend. I’ve also been praying in gratitude for the book of creation. The seasons show up like clockwork, even if our human activities add stressors. The animals go about their business, sometimes letting us get close enough for inspiration. So I paired some of my recent photos I’ve taken on walks the past two months, some in Federal Way, WA and some in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. (Yes, I took my first plane trip in December, with built in quarantines on either end so that I could visit our sisters).
Back to the song. I find it both consoling and inspiring.
… Afraid that what we have to give is so small.
You don’t have to save the world. All that hero talk is only superficial stuff. If you want to change the world, What you gotta do is show up, show up, just show up.
We’re so used to an immediate response, So used to giving up when things don’t work. The road of long obedience is hard, No shortcuts will make it easier Because the journey so long But the difference is made By the million small steps along the way.
This song is a good soundtrack for my prayer right now. I share it in case it is helpful in your own prayer and discernment on how you might show up and make a difference through small things and small steps in great love.