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.
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 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.
Even when twilight approaches and the clouds pepper the sky
And the trees stand firm and tall as their leaves show off their new bright colors preparing for their downward fall
Even then …
the sun peeks through the tiny spaces to shimmer and make the leaves glow as if from within
while the wind blows through the all of it, adding a symphony of sound to the moment
Even then, I stop in wonder and awe and gratitude, adding my Amen to that of creation
Today I visited this blog and realized I’ve not written in a few months. My recent yesterdays have been filled with much travel, work, visits, etc… On the political and ecclesial sphere, it’s been a mess to say the least. And yet, we live today, knowing tomorrow will have its own challenges and blessings.
I’ve found myself pondering the wise words of Winnie the Pooh from the recent film, Christopher Robin. After an action filled adventure with its own ups and downs and share of uncertainty, Pooh and his friend Christopher (now an adult) are sitting together looking at the horizon.
Pooh asks Christopher what day it is, to which Christopher replies, “Today.”
Calmly Pooh responds, “My favorite day. Yesterday when it was tomorrow was too much day for me.”
These days are not easy.
Not easy to be
Easier to be confused or worried or angry or sad.
All of which are ok–don’t get me wrong.
Righteous anger, after all
led that Jesus guy to overturn the tables.
Speaking truth to power
and standing with those on the margins
also led to the cross.
Those days were not easy either,
to be peaceful, joyful, grateful.
We humans have a way of making life complicated.
And yet the sun will rise this morning, I am sure.
Babies will laugh and puppies will snuggle.
Mothers and fathers will struggle to feed their kids
and keep them safe in this world.
And I will do my best to stay engaged,
facing what’s what,
but also looking to what can be.
I open myself to God, who is Love.
In the words of Carrie Newcomer (Help in Hard Times, a great song by the way):
“And I believe in something better, and that love’s the final word,
and that there’s still something whole and sacred in this world.”
So my prayer this morning
before the sunrise
is that I may love
into these days and trust
that this is enough.
We need people with hearts wide open,
ready to take in the bad with the good.
We need brave and noble souls
who are able to discern where possibility lies,
who are willing to name the truth for what it is,
and who do the hard thing
with as much compassion as is possible.
The time is here and now.
We cannot wait
for the world to look the way we want it to,
we cannot wait for our vision to win out,
our party to be in power,
our narrative to dominate.
We simply face what is head on,
arms wide open,
living into what we know can be.
We have to face reality
we do the little
and big things
we can do to transform it.
To bring about a world …
Where justice and peace kiss
Where families are free to stay together
Where love prevails
Where honesty is honored
Where diversity flourishes
Where we believe ….
The future is possible.
Our task is to show up
with our hearts – and minds –
On vacation I am a morning person
especially if there is water to been seen
or tall green trees, or even better,
I awake early
no alarm clock save the birds
ready to discover what this day has in store.
Ready for red red local strawberries
Ready for adventure
Ready to be surprised by goodness
and all that the eye can see.
When I was a novice, we participated each week in an intercommunity program with novices from other religious communities–men’s and women’s communities across the entire spectrum. We gathered each week to learn about the various aspects of religious life. When it came time to learn about the vows, the presenter shared unique perspectives present in the Constitutions of each community. That is when I realized that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace “recognize the value of leisure as contributing to restorating and wholeness.”
Now, of course, this is both common sense and good self care. But we put it in our Constitutions! Not only that, we placed it in the section on the vow of poverty and in the context of work.
In solidarity with our sisters and brothers
we engage in human labor
as a means of service and sustencance.
We recognize the value of leisure
as contributing to restoration and wholeness.
In these ways we come to share
in the creative power of God.
(CSJP Constitution No. 54)
For Apostolic religious women, leisure is not the aim or the goal or the norm, but it is critical, so critical that it enables us to live our vow of poverty and be about the mission of peace with joy, and from a place of wholeness. I write these words a few days into my annual summer vacation, this year a solo adventure to a spot that’s been on my bucket list for years … Prince Edward Island.
Yesterday when I was driving around a part of the Island where one of our CSJP Sisters was born, this view caught my eye and so I pulled over to take this picture:
The perfect juxtaposition of the value of human labor, leisure, and the creative power of God.
Work is the norm, but sometimes we just need to stop and soak in the beauty to remind us that in the end it’s not up to us, but to the creative power of God. And besides, we all need to stop and take some time to just soak in the sheer beauty and wonder of the world God has created, including us!
Things can seem to be spinning out of control these days
From the news cycle to the general frenetic pace of life
(and from meeting upon meeting in my own life)
To the growing inequality, systemic racism, uncivil discourse and general status quo which seems to inch farther away from the benefit of ordinary folks, especially those on the margins who Jesus loved so much.
How do we/I stay centered in the midst of it all?
To do lists, crisis management and holding the powers that be (and each other) accountable, to be sure.
But also kindness?
And looking with eyes of hope for signs of joy?
And slowing down
Yes, slowing down.
Slowing down to keep up.
Morning sunshine beckons:
Sit here a while on the back steps.
Birds singing their hopeful song-
Spring is (maybe) here.?!
In other parts of the world near and far the hope seems farther away. Bombs dropping, visits to the oncologist or a family member in detention. Life.
The birdsong fades as police sirens sing in the distance.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Peace. Hope. Mercy. Love.
Pain and promise, mixed in this thing called life.
And the sun continues to shine.
The birds sing louder.
And I hope.