Retreat Schedule

I expect myself to retreat to the still

quiet, familiar space

within.

Silence. Reflection.

Maybe some spiritual reading and a contemplative walk, or two or three or four.

Unplanned, yet if I’m honest, planned, with just a little room for the unexpected.

(We are talking about spending time with the God of surprises after all).

A few days in, I take stock of the surprises (so far).

Egret upon egret upon egret. And heron after heron.

And one day, a certain Ms. Egret and Mr. Heron met their neighbor the alligator for a fresh fish lunch (byof). I have photographic evidence.

Busy lizzards, or are they geckos? Defying gravity by walking sideways on the wall. Like spiderman. Or spidergecko. Or geckoman?

So much life, all around, in relationship through the ups and downs.

And the clouds!

Sunshine breaking through or simple shades of white and grey, darkness and light dancing with the wind.

And perhaps most unexpected of all was finding myself,

in my room,

having a dance party with God, of all things.

Not once but twice. (So far).

There is no photographic evidence, thank the maker.

God finds us where we are. Scheduled or not.

If we but perceive and receive.

Goodness abounds

This prayer was on my heart this last morning of retreat:

I awoke this morning

to the rising sun

and the mist hovering over the waters, just so.

Goodness abounds.

Within me, around me, above me, beyond me.

Mercy upon mercy upon mercy,

grace piled upon grace.

Behold I am always doing something new, says the God of surprises.

Do you not perceive it?

Kiss of the wind

Sometimes you need to sit

with the trees and listen

to the whistle of the leaves,

so that when

you

turn your head

you feel

the kiss of the wind

on your cheek,

just so.

The sunlight shining through the bare branches of the winter trees,

yearning for spring,

ready in hope for the

fulfillment of the promise.

The birds sing,

and suddenly you know

once again you remember,

all of this is love.

God is love.

Love.

HP, Dementors, and Me

My latest Global Sisters Report column has been posted. Yes, it includes theological reflection on the current state of our world, using images from Harry Potter. The books we read, music we listen to, and movies we see influence our world view. Every culture has had its stories which help us make meaning of our lives.

The image of muggles perceiving London encased in a gloomy and dreary soup of fog (as the Dementors hover above) in HP3 has been a recurring one in my own reflections of late. So I finally wrote about it this week.

(By the way, a friend challenged me to take the patronus quiz online – mine – according to pottermore – is a White Mare apparently, hence the image on this post.)

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.

Contemplative Lessons

Today is my Mom’s 15th birthday in heaven. As often happens around anniversaries, she’s been on my heart and mind a bit of late.

I am grateful to her for so many things, not the least of which is the gift of life!  She taught me so much by her love and example.

My mom was a true contemplative in action.  She could stop and stare for hours … at the forest, at the ocean, at her own backyard.  She saw the love of God reflected in creation and knew instinctively how to soak it all in.

Mom

I used to love just watching her as she stared at the embodiment of God’s love all around us.  My Dad took this picture in West Virginia. It’s classic mom.  She’s probably a little older than I am now in this picture.  She’s got her book on her lap, but she’s contemplating the book of creation instead.

Nourished and fed by the love of God, be it at Sunday mass or all around her, my mom put it into action.  Dust did not settle under her feet.

Over the years in her work, helping prisoners at the local jail learn decision making skills or as a congressional aide helping citizens navigate our system, she found herself on the right side of justice and helped to build the kindom.

In our community, she was a leader in ways we never even knew until her wake, when person after person came up to us to tell us how she helped them with x, y and z.  So unassuming, she just did what needed to be done.

At home, journeying with her own parents through chronic illness and death, welcoming them into her own home, raising five kids, supporting her husband’s call to serve the wider world, she was most always grounded and exuding love.

Even when she herself was very ill, she would sit and ponder and teach us how to love and be loved.

I still miss you mom, and always will, but I will also always be grateful for your lessons in contemplation, action, and love.

This Must Stop

Stop Gun Violence Now.pngLast night I was perusing the CNN Exit Polls and discovered that 59% of midterm voters polled support stricter gun control measures.  I was sad to see that number so low, especially after all the amazing activism of young people after the Parkland Shooting and countless other senseless mass shootings.

Then today, just after reading about the latest shooting at a nightclub in California, I received a text from my sister.  It started out saying that my niece Eileen was dancing at the Borderline last night … the nightclub where the shooting I’d just been reading about happened.

my heart stopped.  what if?

I closed my eyes, said a prayer, and went back to reading the text.  She and the friends she was dancing with escaped with their lives after the first shots were fired. They have since discovered that at least one high school friend is among those killed.

Active shooter drills were not a thing when I was in school. I guess I should be grateful that my niece and her friends knew what to do in the moment.  Eileen told me that she’s not hurt, except for rug burns on her knees from crawling her way out to escape, close to the ground.  Of course her spirit is wounded.  As should ours be.  We allow this to continue to happen.

Yes, it’s a cliche that it’s different when something like this happens close to home.  And this certainly did.  My other niece lives down the hill from the club.  My sister is a professor up the hill from the club.  The shooter is from the town where they went to high school and where their little sister goes to middle school.

Given the lack of common sense gun laws, this will happen close to you one day too.

We must pray.  We must act.  We must join together.  We must make gun violence stop. Now. Seriously. Now.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, please read this column written by Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the students from Parkland, that appeared in the Washington Post the day before election day and a few days before my niece escaped the Borderline with her life.

Over eighteen months before the shooting at our school, 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Four months before Parkland, 58 people were killed at a concert in Las Vegas. And on Oct. 27, 11 people were killed at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In all that time, not a single federal law has been passed that addresses gun violence. Not a single law. Our nation’s leaders have failed to protect citizens where they live, where they learn and where they pray.

As they note in their last sentence:  not only must young people (and All people) vote, “the day after the election, the real work begins.”
  • Be the voice of reason.  If you have friends who are part of the 37% who do not think we need stricter more common sense gun laws, tell them about my niece and her friends.
  • Bother the you know what out of your representatives in Congress, no matter what their party.

    My niece lived in Alabama as a child, and her Godmother who still lives there just posted on Facebook that she tried to call her representatives to call them to support gun reform that would have protected her Goddaughter and was HUNG UP ON.

    Not ok.  But they hang up … we call back.

  • We write.  We text.  We march.  We become a broken record and a strong loud voice speaking for every man, woman, and child who can no longer speak for themselves.
Because silence is not an option.