It was unexpected when Pope Francis declared a year dedicated to Joseph last year. I had already spent significant time with my friend Joe, having just finished the manuscript of my book (My Friend Joe: Reflections on St. Joseph – available as a paperback or ebook) the month before.
Joseph is always there for us, with us. He doesn’t need a special year or day. He can be our friend every day.
He can also be a model for us as we navigate this thing called life.
In my religious Congregation we consider him to be a model of peace in times of struggle and uncertainty.
Check. That would be many times, but certainly now.
He can inspire us to dream. To take risks for those we love. To act justly. To serve God. To work creatively. To love always.
Advent is a season of waiting. We wait with Joseph and Mary for the coming of the Christ child. We wait for the inbreaking of God into the human family. We wait, radically, in a culture that prioritizes control and instant gratification.
In the words of Henri Nouwen:
“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”
(Excerpt from “Waiting for God” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing, 2001)
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
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.
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.