Online retreat: Living Peace in Pandemic Times

Next month I was scheduled to lead a Peace Day at our community’s Peace and Spirituality Center in Bellevue, WA (https://csjp.org/ministries/peace-and-spirituality-center/).

Of course travel and in person gatherings are on hold, but in coordination with the great staff at the center I will now be holding the retreat day online. I have also adapted the topic to fit what I think we all need most right about now: Living Peace in Pandemic times. Details are on the flyer below. If you would like to join us, you can register at this link: https://conta.cc/34TTm5l

MAY 20 virtual retreat day flyer

Prayer during the pandemic

We’re all a bit off these days. Our prayer space, time and experience is probably off kilter a bit as well. For those of us used to a sacramental shared liturgical experience, we have the option of watching mass online, but it’s not the same. We all know there is SO much to pray for, but that’s just it. There’s so much.

For years now I have “prayed the news,” reading the newspaper in the morning as part of my morning prayer. I hold in my heart and mind some of the stories of human suffering, joy, and life within those written words and pray for the people and realities behind the story.

Last month, I was able to carve a little space into my oddly busy quarantine life for a mini personal retreat weekend. I walked the grounds of the convent where I live, which is perched on the palisades across the Hudson River from New York City.

New York City of course has been so hard hit by COVID-19, as has New Jersey where I live. I prayed for all of it and everyone, and later made this video prayer of photos from that day set to the song “Island” by Audrey Assad.

We are knit together
Together as one
Where you’re going I will go
Underneath the shelter of this love
We will walk each other home
You be home to me
I will be home to you
No one is an island
You be home to me
I will be home to you
No one is an island

If you are interested in more of my pandemic ponderings, you might want to read my reflection on Global Sisters Report.

Into the storm

I was reading the Urbi et Orbi message that Pope Francis gave today in an empty St. Peter’s square. He reflects on this time of Covid-19 in light of the story of the storm in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41).

“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. …

Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” -Pope Francis

Click here to read the entire message: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/27/read-pope-francis-urbi-et-orbi-address-coronavirus-and-jesus-calming-storm

More than once in my life I have echoed the disciples refrain… do you not care that we are perishing?

Imagine their consternation, frustration and fear that he is, of all things, asleep!

We are terrified … we think we are alone.

But Jesus is with us in the storm.

A few years ago I created this video prayer reflecting on this passage, set to “How to Sleep in A Stormy Boat” by singer songwriter Amy Speace. The Pope’s message reminded me of this video, and so I share it here in case it is a helpful reflection for others in this time.

Peace. Be not afraid. We will weather the storm together.

Locked in for the night

It’s becoming rapidly cliche to say this, but we are indeed living in strange times.

My coworkers are working remotely for social distancing, but since I live on campus I’m coming in each day to a very empty yet highly productive space. I live on campus, but I’m not going next door to where the retired sisters live for their protection. Separated togetherness.

Our sponsored hospital just down the road is treating patients at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis here in New Jersey. Holding all of the dedicated medical professionals and patients especially in my prayer.

Our sisters in the Seattle area are just down the road from the nursing home where it all started in Washington State. They’ve been in high gear for over two weeks now.

My Dad is in his own nursing home in Chicago where he receives excellent care. I was planning to visit him this past weekend, but that trip of course got cancelled. I just called and managed to get him on the phone to wish him a happy St. Patrick’s Day. “Are you all locked in for the night?,” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “The whole world is locked in for the night.” He then asked me how far reaching this was, so I told him. And I think he understood. He knows something is up.

As my Dad’s dementia has progressed, he has used more and more interesting phrases to get his point across. Sometimes they make no sense. This one was spot on. Locked in.

Praying for everyone on this Feast of St. Patrick, as we anticipate the Feast of St. Joseph later this week and the start of spring.

Stay safe and tucked in (locked in) wherever you are.

Remember social isolation only makes sense in solidarity. Even if you are alone, we are together.

Remember to breathe (just not on other people!).

Peace

La Otra Susana

For my friend Susan, who went home to God far too early in life.

When I showed up in nunland, you became my first friend.
You stayed close during my challenging novitiate, even
though you were 3,000 miles away. Your promise that you’d
read my emails and not tell anyone what I wrote (and perhaps
most importantly, not try to fix anything) may have saved me.

I returned to Seattle when you left for El Salvador, so
our friendship continued by email and yummy Thai or
Indian or Japanese or Chinese food when you were home.
Then you came home and I went to Chicago first, then New Jersey.
The tradition transferred, and it was when I was home that
we had our dinner dates.

When I think back to our friendship, it’s those meals that
stand out. Not the food, but our delicious conversations.
Your listening ear. Your laugh. The fact that you always called
me on my bullshit. That time when you listened to me vent,
ad nauseum, about whatever it was. And then, when we had
paid the check, politely reminded me that friendships were
mutual, and when was I going to ask about you.

Lesson learned.
An important one, that I am grateful for.

So much to be grateful for really.

Tonight at your vigil service, my memories were mirrored
in what others shared. Your friend from high school.
Another stranger who became a friend. Coworkers.
Your friend’s teenage daughter. (I was waiting for the
dog catcher or waste management professional to
go to the mic.) We all felt loved and known by you.

You were a light for others. One that shone brightly if but
only for a time in my own life. An important time.

Gracias, la otra Susana.

Paz

Anniversaries

My novice classmate, sister, and friend Chero reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of our first profession of vows.

So much had happened since then: four years of social justice ministry, two and a half years of graduate school, and now four and a half years of community ministry on the leadership team. Many moves. And so much in between!

This morning, as I walked down the stairs in my pajamas to get my morning coffee, I remembered that today is the 3rd anniversary of the fire at St. Michael Villa, our regional center where I happen to live. While we are back in our corner of the house that received less smoke damage, we are anxiously anticipating the reopening of the main house soon. Lots of losses and discoveries and moves to temporary housing since waking up to a very real fire alarm.

Both memories lead me to give thanks for the gifts of community and belonging.

The past eleven years have been filled with so much love in action.

Prayers, hopes, and dreams shared.

Challenges and disasters navigated together.

Waiting in joyful hope, and maybe a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure.

Invitations and opportunities.

Roadblocks and detours.

Growing together as community for mission.

Finding my voice as a writer and discovering bit by bit my role as a leader.

It is the big moments and the little ones that make up this adventure called life, and God is always in the mix if we care to look.

Perspective

Sometimes we see only what we want to see.

Or our vision is clouded …

by fear or worry or grumpiness or distrust or

[feel free to fill in your own blank].

Maybe we want to see through rose colored glasses,

and so what we see is not quite true.

But sometimes our vision is

recalibrated,

corrected,

refocused,

clear.

Maybe it was a friend challenging us,

or a listening ear,

a lifting of mood,

or simply waking up on the right side of the bed.

Whatever the reason, rejoice!

To see the horizon clearly.

To see bridges as opportunity not obstacles.

To see the tiny beautiful bird in the midst of the mess.

On days when my perspective is clearer I give thanks.

Whatever the cause.

Amen.

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