Category Archives: reflections

On Presence

I want to continue to believe in the presence of God, the one who strengthens, cheers, and encourages me at all times. – St. John XXIII

I have a little prayer booklet I use sometimes from Twenty Third Publications called Walking with St. John XXIII: 30 days with a good and beloved Pope. This morning I turned at random to a page, which happened to be the second to last page, and read this quote.

Interestingly enough, just a few minutes earlier, I had read this post on our current Pope’s Twitter feed:

In the midst of all those passing things in which we are so caught up, help us, Father, to seek what truly lasts; your presence and that of our brother or sister. – Pope Francis

And I was reminded, instantly, of this quote in our CSJP Constitutions:

We value the ministry of presence as an important dimension of the gospel of peace. In the hope of continuing our tradition of gracious hospitality, we welcome others to our communities and also try to be present to people in their own situations. – CSJP Constitution 18

We are so in danger of disconnection and tuning out all the noise and chaos and bad news and suffering, when truly the invitation is to see God present with us in and through and and beyond all that. Emmanuel, after all, means God with us. God created us, Jesus became one of us, and the Spirit is present among us. Ours is to grow in understanding what this means. Ours is to be open to the presence of God in our day to day moments, not only those precious aha spiritual moments, but in the messy bits too. And I don’t know about you but I have a lot more messy bits than spiritual highs. Our is to be the presence of God for others, and to experience (and accept) the presence of God in others.

At least that’s what my morning prayer time led me to ponder, and I join John XXII in praying and trusting in my loving God who strengthens, cheers, and encourages me/us at all times. If we but listen.

Amen

Rising

I pray with the rising sun

confident that a new day is on its way.

I rejoice with the birds in the air

and the symphony of creepy and crawly things,

knowing that all good things come from God.

I reflect on the swirly waters,

shifting this way and that

directed by the tides and the wind and

chance.

I step into this new day

in the company of the newly risen sun

ready to shine and to love and to live.

For God is good

All creation is good

We are good

And goodness flows like a river

even in murky waters.

St. Edith Stein, pray for us … a Saint for these times

I have long been haunted by a quote by Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite nun, Jewish daughter and sister, philosopher, one time atheist, convert, contemplative, martyr of Auschwitz .

“Nowadays I always feel transported into Napoleonic times, and I can imagine in what tension people lived then everywhere in Europe. I wonder: will we live to see the events of our days become ‘history’? I have a great desire to see all this sometime in the light of eternity. For one realizes ever more clearly how blind we are toward everything. One marvels at how mistakenly one viewed a lot of things before, and yet the very next moment one commits the blunder again of forming an opinion without having the necessary basis for it.” Edith Stein: A Self-Portrait in Letters, quoted in the People’s Companion to the Breviary.

This quote is included in the office book published by the Carmelites of Indianapolis. It is the reading for Week IV, Friday, evening prayer. The first time I heard this read during community prayer when I was a candidate back in 2005, my heart stopped. I didn’t know much about Edith Stein, except that she had been killed in a concentration camp. But it led me to learn more about her, which only made the quote that much more powerful.

When she was a professor of philosophy she studied the problem of empathy. Writing in 1925–the same year that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published–she proposed that the capacity for empathy ensures “openness among human beings” rather than separation or alienation. She engaged in her philosophical study of this capacity for empathy because she believed it “to be descriptive of human reality and the foundation needed for productive action” for life in the human community.

Now, on this sad day almost 100 years later, a day which our nation’s present leader has chosen to round up children, women and men–largely of one ethnic group–transporting them to camps, separating families and causing terror to thousands of people, I cannot help but ask for her intercession.

Nowadays, I sometimes feel transported to her times. And it is a scary time to be, one that rocks one’s faith in humanity and causes one to cry out to the heavens. What tension we live in today. Are we complicit? Are we bystanders? Or do we stand on the right side of history, crying out “Not in My Name,” and acting on behalf of human dignity?

And then of course there is today’s Gospel reading, the Good Samaritan, which makes it crystal clear what we are to do. What sad twisted irony that the raids against our immigrant brothers and sisters are set to begin today when this Gospel is proclaimed in churches across our nation. Of course, no doubt, many families are staying away from church today, afraid that they might be swept up, no matter what their legal status. And others listen with deaf ears.

Today, the Carmelite Nuns of Great Britain shared a quote from Edith Stein on their Twitter account in which she reflects on today’s Gospel reading.

“‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This commandment is valid unconditionally and without qualification. The neighbour is not the one whom I ‘like’ but any and every human being with whom I come into contact, without exception.”

Without exception. Unconditional. Without qualification.

When Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 in the chapel of her monastery in the Netherlands and taken to a transit camp for deportation, eventually to Auschwitz, she commented: “I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. … I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress.” 

When she arrived at Auschwitz, she ministered to God’s people in distress, even as she was one among them.

“It was Edith Stein’s complete calm and self-possession that marked her out from the rest of the prisoners. There was a spirit of indescribable misery in the camp; the new prisoners, especially suffered from extreme anxiety. Edith Stein went among the women like an angel, comforting, helping, and consoling them. Many of the mothers were on the brink of insanity and had sat moaning for days, without giving any thought to their children. She immediately set about taking care of these little ones. She washed them, combed their hair, and tried to make sure they were fed and cared for.” –Edith Stein,  A Biography, quoted on Carmelites of Boston website.

And so I pray.

St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, you who studied empathy, lived a life of compassionate love, pray for us. Inspire empathy, respect for human dignity, and action for justice. Lead those of us who might become bystanders instead to solidarity and compassionate love. Help us to pray for conversion of heart in those who wield their power without enough apparent capacity for empathy or neighborliness. Most of all, be with those who suffer. Comfort the mothers, fathers and children facing inhumanity in these dark times. Pray for us all, that our hearts may become wider, wide enough to encompass all our neighbors, unconditionally and without exception. Amen.

In between

We wait in the in between space

without rituals, or liturgy, or script

We know the reality of the cross

… the suffering of Christ is ours, our suffering is His, intertwined as one

Paradox and purpose, promise and possibility, perplexity and prose

Like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary we wait.

Like them we mix

our anxiety and fear and sadness

with hope

With holy women (and men) the world over

living the Holy Saturday moments of their lives, caught in between the already and not yet,

we love.

We wait. We hope. We love. We pray.

In between.

Grumpy antidote

I don’t know about you, but from time to time I turn into a Grumpy McGrumpypants.

What they say about waking up on the wrong side of the bed has some truth to it.

As does the reality that sometimes life is just hard, or at least seems that way.

Listening to the news exposes us to violence and toxic conversations on a daily basis. We are steeped in a social and political soup that I experience as increasingly divisive, polarizing, and awfulizing. This cannot help but seep into our daily lives and interactions.

And so we may be forgiven for waking up on the wrong side of the bed from time to time.

This morning I am not quite sure which side I woke up on. I sat with my coffee and pondered the tasks ahead for me this day, and reflected on the challenges of this past week. I read the news and prayed with the grumpy inducing happenings near and far.

And I listened…

… to the bird song outside my window …

… to the call of God within to act justly, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace…

… to my own inmost desire, etched into the silver ring I received at my first profession of vows, to live with an open heart.

I soaked it all in and remembered what a good friend of mine likes to say …We’ve got this.

So I breathe into this day, ready to love, ready to live into all it holds.

Breathe. Live. Love.

God is with us through it all.

(Even when we’re grumpy. )

First Friday of Lent

My reflection for today, the First Friday of this Lenten season has been posted on Global Sisters Report.

The invitation for me this Lent, it seems, is to focus on beauty, to add to and look for and create and celebrate beauty amidst all the goo of life. I’ve been invited to focus on beauty in my work, in loving community, in the challenges and in the blessings. I do believe in the power of redemption, in the awesome continuing work of our creator God, in and through us and yes, even in the most messy bits, when beauty can be harder to see.

My Lenten intention, given to me as sheer grace, is to remember all of this these days and to be an engaged participant in the beauty that surrounds us.

We’ll see where this Lenten journey leads.

May you and I be graced with a beautiful Lent

Click here to read the whole reflection

Flourishing in the new year

My prayer at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 plays in my head with “Flourishing (Psalm 119)” – a song by Sandra McCracken – as its soundtrack. So I did what I do and made a video prayer set to this beautiful song with some of my photos from 2018.

May we give thanks
for all the ways we lived and loved in 2018
from our best selves, for the best of everyone

May we remember
those times when we weren’t so able
to be good and kind for whatever reason
and resolve to try again

May we honor
those we love and all we hold dear
through our words and our actions
for the common good

May we recognize beauty,
Live gently, and flourish together
as we walk in the way of peace.

Amen

From Toxicity to Kindness

The 2018 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year was announced and it is, you guessed it, toxic.

Not a new word, but a word with a whole new embodiment of meaning. “The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance. Our data shows that, along with a 45% rise in the number of times it has been looked up on oxforddictionaries.com, over the last year the word toxic has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses.”

Among the top collocates to toxic in 2018 … toxic masculinity, toxic relationship, toxic culture. As I said in a recent interview, “We all know that toxicity is not good for us.” And yet it spreads, oozing out and choking our happiness like the fog of a group of looming dementors.

But we have a choice my friends. We can be kind, in our relationships, our words, our interactions, our ways of living. Every moment presents a choice. Let’s choose to be kind! Our very democracy and social fabric may depend upon our choices.

Sounds simple, but sometimes the most answers to the most complicated problems are the kind ones.

Christmas with Joseph during uncertain times

My Christmas card this year is a picture I took of a statue of St. Joseph “looking” at a Christmas tree lit up on the grounds of Bon Secours retreat center in Maryland that I took last year on retreat.

ChristmasCard2018

As I wrote in my Christmas Letter to family & friends:

I’ve been spending time talking to Joseph these days.  In our CSJP constitutions we say about Joseph:  “His courage to life a life of faith inspires us to trust in God’s abiding love, especially in times of struggle and uncertainty.”

Pope Francis writes about his own prayer practice with Joseph, and that he’s the one he goes to when he is “in a fix.”  He writes little notes of problems that need fixing and slips them under a statue of Joseph.  Joseph was a carpenter after all.  When we spend time with the Gospel readings about the birth of Jesus, Prince of Peace, during the time of empire, we can see that Joseph understands what it’s like to keep on keeping on during challenging times. 

We don’t often spend a lot of time with Joseph, but I think we all could use a little Joseph in our lives these days.

This Christmas Eve, I prayed with “As Joseph Was a Walking” recorded by Annie Lennox. If you want to spend some time with Joseph, here’s my video prayer reflection:

We wait

We wait in hope

for the day when no one goes hungry or feels unwelcome.

We wait in hope for courageous leaders who are also kind and just,

for peace to prevail, and

for the possibility of togetherness to overcome division.

We wait in hope with Mother Earth, our common home,

that human activity will not spell doom after all.

We wait in hope for the in-breaking of love, God among us, Emmanuel.

We wait, yes, but we also know that we

We must act

… choose goodness

… be kind

… move beyond impossibility

… promise to love, listen, live, laugh

no matter what

Because the in-breaking of love begins

has already begun

even as we wait.