Tag Archives: love

St. Edith Stein, pray for us … a Saint for these times

I have long been haunted by a quote by Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite nun, Jewish daughter and sister, philosopher, one time atheist, convert, contemplative, martyr of Auschwitz .

“Nowadays I always feel transported into Napoleonic times, and I can imagine in what tension people lived then everywhere in Europe. I wonder: will we live to see the events of our days become ‘history’? I have a great desire to see all this sometime in the light of eternity. For one realizes ever more clearly how blind we are toward everything. One marvels at how mistakenly one viewed a lot of things before, and yet the very next moment one commits the blunder again of forming an opinion without having the necessary basis for it.” Edith Stein: A Self-Portrait in Letters, quoted in the People’s Companion to the Breviary.

This quote is included in the office book published by the Carmelites of Indianapolis. It is the reading for Week IV, Friday, evening prayer. The first time I heard this read during community prayer when I was a candidate back in 2005, my heart stopped. I didn’t know much about Edith Stein, except that she had been killed in a concentration camp. But it led me to learn more about her, which only made the quote that much more powerful.

When she was a professor of philosophy she studied the problem of empathy. Writing in 1925–the same year that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published–she proposed that the capacity for empathy ensures “openness among human beings” rather than separation or alienation. She engaged in her philosophical study of this capacity for empathy because she believed it “to be descriptive of human reality and the foundation needed for productive action” for life in the human community.

Now, on this sad day almost 100 years later, a day which our nation’s present leader has chosen to round up children, women and men–largely of one ethnic group–transporting them to camps, separating families and causing terror to thousands of people, I cannot help but ask for her intercession.

Nowadays, I sometimes feel transported to her times. And it is a scary time to be, one that rocks one’s faith in humanity and causes one to cry out to the heavens. What tension we live in today. Are we complicit? Are we bystanders? Or do we stand on the right side of history, crying out “Not in My Name,” and acting on behalf of human dignity?

And then of course there is today’s Gospel reading, the Good Samaritan, which makes it crystal clear what we are to do. What sad twisted irony that the raids against our immigrant brothers and sisters are set to begin today when this Gospel is proclaimed in churches across our nation. Of course, no doubt, many families are staying away from church today, afraid that they might be swept up, no matter what their legal status. And others listen with deaf ears.

Today, the Carmelite Nuns of Great Britain shared a quote from Edith Stein on their Twitter account in which she reflects on today’s Gospel reading.

“‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This commandment is valid unconditionally and without qualification. The neighbour is not the one whom I ‘like’ but any and every human being with whom I come into contact, without exception.”

Without exception. Unconditional. Without qualification.

When Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 in the chapel of her monastery in the Netherlands and taken to a transit camp for deportation, eventually to Auschwitz, she commented: “I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. … I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress.” 

When she arrived at Auschwitz, she ministered to God’s people in distress, even as she was one among them.

“It was Edith Stein’s complete calm and self-possession that marked her out from the rest of the prisoners. There was a spirit of indescribable misery in the camp; the new prisoners, especially suffered from extreme anxiety. Edith Stein went among the women like an angel, comforting, helping, and consoling them. Many of the mothers were on the brink of insanity and had sat moaning for days, without giving any thought to their children. She immediately set about taking care of these little ones. She washed them, combed their hair, and tried to make sure they were fed and cared for.” –Edith Stein,  A Biography, quoted on Carmelites of Boston website.

And so I pray.

St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, you who studied empathy, lived a life of compassionate love, pray for us. Inspire empathy, respect for human dignity, and action for justice. Lead those of us who might become bystanders instead to solidarity and compassionate love. Help us to pray for conversion of heart in those who wield their power without enough apparent capacity for empathy or neighborliness. Most of all, be with those who suffer. Comfort the mothers, fathers and children facing inhumanity in these dark times. Pray for us all, that our hearts may become wider, wide enough to encompass all our neighbors, unconditionally and without exception. Amen.

Grumpy antidote

I don’t know about you, but from time to time I turn into a Grumpy McGrumpypants.

What they say about waking up on the wrong side of the bed has some truth to it.

As does the reality that sometimes life is just hard, or at least seems that way.

Listening to the news exposes us to violence and toxic conversations on a daily basis. We are steeped in a social and political soup that I experience as increasingly divisive, polarizing, and awfulizing. This cannot help but seep into our daily lives and interactions.

And so we may be forgiven for waking up on the wrong side of the bed from time to time.

This morning I am not quite sure which side I woke up on. I sat with my coffee and pondered the tasks ahead for me this day, and reflected on the challenges of this past week. I read the news and prayed with the grumpy inducing happenings near and far.

And I listened…

… to the bird song outside my window …

… to the call of God within to act justly, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace…

… to my own inmost desire, etched into the silver ring I received at my first profession of vows, to live with an open heart.

I soaked it all in and remembered what a good friend of mine likes to say …We’ve got this.

So I breathe into this day, ready to love, ready to live into all it holds.

Breathe. Live. Love.

God is with us through it all.

(Even when we’re grumpy. )

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.

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.

These days

These days are not easy.
Not easy to be
peaceful
joyful
grateful.

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,
and hopeful,
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.
Amen

before sunrise

What  if …

What if we all lived as if are already part of the beloved community?

I have been asking myself that question  lately.  When I am frustrated  or disappointed, angry or just plaim grumpy,  can I nevertheless respond with love?

I have been experimenting with this through my daily tweets to the president. It has not been easy, but it has helped me stay sane amd engaged over the past year. 

What if I could apply this desire to my daily interactions? Annoyed  by a neverending customer service loop? What if I attend to the business  and seek  resolution of the problem, but could do so as if the person on the other end of the phone were also part of the beloved  community?

What if I approached the challenging daily intersections of life this way? Friend, family, stranger, community … all beloved by God and doing their best. Can I be gentle with them,  and gentle with myself? Can I try again and again when I find it too  hard to respond with agape love, so that in the end I am helping to create the beloved community?

What if my response were first and foremost love?

We are almost a week into the New Year,  but I think I have stumbled upon my resolution.

Incarnating Love

On the 25th of December, Christians around the world celebrate the feast of the incarnation of God’s infinite love in our midst  … the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us … a mystery for the ages to be sure.

It is an awesome thought, to paraphrase a popsong from the 90s, not what if, but that God DID become one of us. That reality brings both comfort and challenge if one manages to screen out the commercialization of the holiday to the real fundamental message, which is love.

All powerful love … and the love of a vulnerable poor child born in a stable far from his parents’ home.

Universal love … and the particular love of a family, unconventional as it may be.

Love that is meant to transform and expand exponentially to break the binds of oppression, free captives, and build beloved community.

Love incarnate, now and then and always and forever.

It’s incredible on a theological level amd mind boggling on a practical human level.

It is stretching on a heart level, and that my friends is where my Christmas reflections take me this evening. How are we, how am I, called to incarnate love? 

We incarnate love through our touch, a kind word, our presence. We can incarnate love through our dedication and faithfulness. Sometimes we are called to incarnate love through our questions and struggles, in the messiness of our lives and in the systems of oppression we resist.

Through it all, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, is our model, our wonder counselor, our friend.

Jesus, be with me as I seek to be an incarnator of love in my own life.

Amen.

A Fiesty Faithful Friend

KieranI am remembering my dear friend Sister Kieran this morning who went home to God over the weekend.

Kieran was herself fond of the early morning hours.  She lived for many years at St. Mary-on-the-Lake, our main west coast community on the shores of Lake Washington.  When she was more able, she’d be the one to fetch the morning papers from up the hill, to make the proper Irish oatmeal, and keep you company in the dining room.  I remember when she was in the hospital a few years ago, there was a long list of all the tasks she normally took care of that needed to be done by a whole host of others while she recovered.

Sister Kieran brought life just by her presence.  She was one of the first sisters to welcome me to community.  I mean that in more than one way. She was a constant presence at St. Mary’s whenever I visited. She had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face.  She also made you feel accepted just as you were.  She made me feel at home and wanted and part of the CSJP family from the very beginning.

Sister Kieran was also, as the title says, a fiesty and faithful friend.  She’d be the first to tell you if your homily reflection was a bit on the long side.  She loved to tell stories, and my favorite was when she’d preference a story about me by saying, “Remember when you were a young sister and you …”.  As I was remembering Kieran this morning, I thought of this picture, which was taken at a recent assembly.  This is Kieran, alive and engaged and in action.  No doubt she is alive and engaged and in action in heaven, catching up with loved ones and keeping a keen eye on all the goings on in this world as we prepare to celebrate her life.

Thank you Kieran for being my friend, for your faithful witness and your fiesty spirit.  I will miss you but am better for having known and loved you, even if just for a time.

Retreat Prayer – Love is the Way

I found myself in the company of the disciples on this retreat, sometimes caught by their bumbling attempts to get the message of Jesus, as told in the scripture.  For example, Thomas in the Gospel of John when he does not know where Jesus is going, so how can they know the way?

This retreat in many ways was simple, in the gentle ways that God was present to me and the movement of the heart.  Yes I bring my anxieties and worries and wonderings and vulnerabilities and insecurities and challenges and realities and unknowns to the mix. Yes I often do not get it. Yet my loving and persistent and patient God is there. And the answer is simple … Love. Love is the way.

Words again don’t do the movement of the heart justice, hence this video prayer set to “Perpetual Self” by Sufjan Stevens.

Retreat Notes – Love > Fear (reprised)

A while back I wrote about how Love > Fear. This equation was in my heart and mind during some of my prayer time this week on retreat. It was more of a movement within than something I can capture with words. Hence, this video prayer reflection set to “No Fear in Love” by Steffany Gretzinger. This video prayer is inspired by Ezekiel 36:26, and starring some objects I found on the beach.