Tag Archives: constitutions

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

Restoring Ourselves

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:

PEIWorkLeisure

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!

Praying with Joseph – Video Prayer Reflection

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph! Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare) chose St. Joseph as the patron of my religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, because he was a model of peace.  In the words of our original 1884 Constitutions:

Joseph1884

A few years ago I made this video prayer reflection for St. Joseph’s Day (complete with a rather funny typo).  I invite you to spend some time today with Joseph, model of peace.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

Goodbyes and New Beginnings

Me standing in front of the "Bean" sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park
Me standing in front of the “Bean” sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park

Two and a half years ago I packed up my room at Grace House (the CSJP community house in Seattle where I lived with two other Sisters) and moved to Chicago to study at Catholic Theological Union.  While it was hard to move to a city without any other CSJP Sisters, I was excited about the opportunity to study theology full time. I was also excited that my big sister Monica lived in Chicago with her family, and that I had a ready made group of “young nun” friends in town.

About a year later my Dad moved to Chicago as well, so I’ve had the unexpected opportunity to see him every week since then.  I will miss those regular father/daughter bonding moments, as well as the regular kid time with my 4 1/2 year old nephew and the opportunity to get to know my sister better as an adult (we’ve never really lived in the same city before).

I’ve also made some great friends at school, mostly younger than me, who have made this time special. I know we will stay in touch thanks to the wonders of social media, and I’ve offered guest rooms for any who find themselves in the New Jersey/New York City area, but it’s never the same after you say that initial goodbye.

Of course, new adventures await! I am in the final stages of sorting, purging, and packing. Tuesday morning my friend and housemate Sarah will drive me and my many bags to the airport. When I get to New Jersey, I will be met by one of the Sisters with whom I will have the pleasure of serving on community leadership for the next six years.  I’m actually moving back into a familiar space. Believe it or not, the house that was my novitiate house is now where I will be living with two other members of the leadership team. God has a funny sense of humor in my experience.

God is also faithful.  I find myself praying with these words from our CSJP Constitutions during this time of transition:

“Confident of God’s faithful love and collaborating with others who work for justice and peace, we face the future with gratitude and hope.”

Mary’s Yes, Her Magnificat, and Us

Simone_Martini_078The Gospel readings for yesterday and today are really quite powerful stories of the transformative power of God’s love, as evidenced in the life of Mary. Yet they are also so familiar that we are apt to miss the importance of the message for us today.

The essence of yesterday’s Gospel reading (Luke 1: 26-38) is actually well described in our CSJP Constitutions:

Mary is our model of faith
because she listened, pondered,
and contemplated the word of God in her life,
and witnessed to it in action (Constitution 35)

Faced with the surprising news, from an angel no less, that she who has had no relations with a man will nevertheless bear a son, and this son will be be a ruler whose kingdom will have no end, she sensibly asks: “How can this be?” I love this painting of the Annunciation by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi because Mary’s body language so perfectly captures her, “What???”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more than a little bit of “how can this be” in my own life.  While our own surprising moments might not quite compare with the drama of Mary’s yes, the wonder of the incarnation is that each of us is called to bear God’s love and witness to it in action in our own lives and spheres of influence … again and again. Like Mary, we are called to live as if we believe in the power of that love, that truly nothing is impossible for God.  After all, in the words of Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare), founder of my religious community: “There is nothing Jesus desires from us so much as love.”

Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 1: 46-56) has Mary’s response, her Magnificat, which I like to think of as her proclamation of the promise and challenge of that love.  I also find it fitting that she is called to proclaim this message in the company of her cousin Elizabeth, who of course has faced a “how can this be” moment with her own unexpected pregnancy. Together, in community, these two women face the future with hope despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Mary’s Magnificat shifts the focus from “how can this be” to “what does this mean.” In the words of Pope Francis: “We need the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history.” It is a song for all those who “believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love.”

Because we believe in God’s love, we are called to mercy.

Because we believe in God’s love, we are called to use our strength for those without power, to be in solidarity with those on the margins, and to share our gifts with those in need.

Because we believe in God’s love, made incarnate … indeed, God with us! … we are called to act in love, to be love, to incarnate God’s love in our own lives.

We identify with Mary’s acceptance
of the word of God in her life
and aspire to her spirit of openness
and wholehearted response. (CSJP Constitution 42)

During these last days of Advent as we anticipate the joy of the celebration of the Incarnation, how are we being called to respond in hope to the “how can this be” moments in our own lives?  Where are we called to show mercy? Who are the lowly and powerless we are called to lift up? Where and how might we say, with all our heart: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

No Longer Strangers … a Scripture reflection

ephesiansI was invited to give a reflection on Ephesians 2:12-22 today at an all school mid-day prayer service held in our chapel at Catholic Theological Union.  It was a wonderful opportunity to ponder the word of God in the context of our community. Here’s what I shared:

As a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, I was delighted when I was invited to offer a short reflection on this reading from Ephesians, in which the theme of peace is so strong.

“For he is our peace … He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”

I can’t help but hear echoes of my religious community’s Constitutions, where we say:

“Christ is our peace, the source of our power. United with him we engage in the struggle against the reality of evil and continue the work of establishing God’s reign of justice and peace.”

Christ is our peace, calling us to unity. But if we look around, so much divides us. Dividing walls abound, some of them quite literal like the ones we build on our borders.

Christ is our peace, but WE must make that peace known in our world. In the words of Paul VI who was beatified in Rome just this past weekend: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

As I have been sitting with this reading these past few days, I have been struck by another line from Ephesians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners…”

In 2003, the Bishops of the United States and Mexico crossed the dividing wall between our nations, united as one Church, to reflect on the reality of immigration and the need for immigration justice.

They called their joint pastoral letter: “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”

In the letter, the Bishops reflect on themes of migration and hospitality in Scripture:

  • From Abraham and Sarah offering hospitality to three strangers, who were actually a manifestation of God
  • To the edict to welcome the stranger, remembering Israel’s own exile in Egypt
  • To the Holy Family’s own flight into Egypt
  • To the reading we have today, of which the Bishops say:
    “The triumph of grace in the Resurrection of Christ plants hope in the hearts of all believers and the Spirit works in the Church to unite all peoples of all races and cultures into the one family of God.”

Just look around our community here at CTU. Our students come from places that are far and places that are near.  We come from places of relative peace and prosperity and places that have experienced deep division and heart wrenching violence.

We come to learn to be unifiers, reconcilers, bearers of mercy and builders of peace.

CTU is now even a place of hospitality, welcoming immigrant women and families in the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality across the street.

We have also been invited to participate in a practical work of mercy this week through a winter clothing drive for our immigrant brothers and sisters.

As the CTU community, we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.

May we be reconcilers in our families and communities.

May we welcome the stranger and work for justice.

May we seek, build, live, and bring peace.

Amen.