Tag Archives: Margaret Anna Cusack

Love shall overcome

Who does not have half their attention elsewhere these days.

The horror facing civilians in Ukraine. The dawning reality of the climate crisis. Political polarization even in families and churches. Racial and economic disparity that seems entrenched and at the same time dismissed.

These are the signs of the times that led my religious Congregation, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, to commit in our Chapter Act this week To Be Who We Say We Are.

“Urged by a burning desire to speak and act boldly with open, loving and adventurous hearts, and in collaboration with others, we now commit to:

  • Cultivating and practicing peace through justice by the intentional living of interculturality, anti-racism, and inclusion
  • Addressing, healing, and being present to the wounds and broken relationships among ourselves and all of God‚Äôs Creation
  • Resisting every form of war and violence
  • Making a place for everyone at the table where all are welcomed and gifts are honored

It is time to be who we have always said we are. It is time to live our words.  We embrace these promptings of the Spirit with courage, humility, hope and trust.”

As I have prayed with the Chapter experience and these words, the words of the song Free by the Good Shepherd Collective and Liz Vice keep playing in my head and heart. So I did what I do and made a video prayer.

ūüéĶ So let the light in, keep it shining, let it break into the darkness … Love shall overcome ūüéĶ

Margaret Anna Cusack, our founder, said: “The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, inspire a love and desire for it.”

Bishop Bagshawe, who we claim as a co-founder, told the first Sisters at their profession in 1884: “To secure this divine peace for ourselves and procure its blessing for others in the midst of the sin, turmoil, and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.

So on the one hand the task can seem huge and overwhelming. Impossible even. And yet … Love shall overcome. Peace is possible. Peace is God‚Äôs gift. A gift to love and desire and work for and share. For then, indeed, we will all be free.

LENT: Wearing Love

One word keeps coming to me in my prayer these first days of Lent in 2022: Love.

In our first reading today from Leviticus we hear the great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I have long wondered if the greatest crisis in our world today isn’t that we don’t realize how much we are, each of us, worthy of love. We are all God’s own beloved. God loved us into being. God calls us to love one another as God has loved us.

This morning I prayed with a booklet created several years ago by a group in my religious Congregation focused on growing in nonviolence. Each week the booklet explores Lent with the Principles of Nonviolence. The principle for the first week of Lent is: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Our founder Margaret Anna Cusack wrote in 1874: “Force was no longer to be the rule, except, indeed, the force of love.”

In 2020 Philadelphia singer songwriter Joy Ike released a song called “Wearing Love.” It is a song I return to again and again to reground myself on this journey. (It is also good to dance to.)

Slow your breathing
No more scheming
Quit competing
Just love 

And everyone will wonder
You did not go under
You were undercover
Wearing love 

 Keep your words
They won’t fix anything
All that works is the love that you bring

This Lent, and beyond, may I find my ground and center in God’s unconditional love. May I bring the force of that love into my actions and relationships. May I wear love always. Just love.

In Memory: Sister Joan

I have just returned to the States after a visit to our CSJP community in the UK. One of the sisters I was pleased to have the opportunity to spend time with during my visit with was Sister Joan Ward. This morning, I heard that Sister Joan passed away in the early hours today.

IMG_2408I first met Joan when I was a novice spending four months with our community in England. Sister Alexine, who I lived with in London, arranged for the two of us to spend several weekends travelling about with Joan who was an expert in our Congregation’s founding story. ¬†In fact, here is a picture that Alexine took of Joan and myself at the grave side of our founder Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare) in Leamington Spa on one of those weekend pilgrimages. (I wrote about this particular 2007 pilgrimage trip on my old blog –you can still read that post.)

Joan was a dedicated researcher who cherished the story of our founders and early community. I myself will always cherish those special weekends. Joan, Alexine and I went to Grimsby on the east cost of England where our first sisters ministered with the poor. I will never forget going to the Grimsby library with Joan and looking at original census records that listed our early sisters. (In fact, thanks to the way back machine which is my old blog, I have also recorded that experience for posterity!)

In addition to being a community historian, Joan was a dedicated community member. In her younger days she was novice mistress. She was dearly loved across the congregation and so committed to our mission. We had our community assembly in the UK this past Saturday, and Joan was there, attentive and present to our conversations about the vitality of religious life.

I had dinner with Joan this past Sunday. We talked about religious life and our congregation and vocations. ¬†“I don’t worry about vocations,” Joan said. “I never really have. It is all in God’s hands.” ¬†Given that one of my roles these days is as congregation vocation director, and given that my thoughts are often preoccupied with vocations, I took Joan’s hand and said to her: ¬†“Joan, I need you to do something for me. Please pray for me, in my role as vocation director, that I don’t worry about vocations.” She promised me that she would indeed pray for me, and I have absolutely no doubt that she will.

Rest in peace Joan. I am so grateful that I had the chance to get to know you. You have been such a tremendous gift to our congregation! Please pray for us and for those who God will send our way as future Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

Hope is like breathing

Hope is like breathing.
Hope  in, hope out.

In between it mixes with
all my worries
and cares and doubts.

How will this all work out?
What about x, y, z?
Why me, why now?

Indeed were it all up to me
Hope would not be enough.
But God is in the mix.
Breath of the Spirit.
Breathe of God.
Breath of life.
Love.

“Cast the anchor of hope
into the Heart of love,
and all things shall work together…”
-Mother Clare

Breathing in
Breathing out
Hope.

Global Sisters Column: Easter People

My latest column on Global Sisters Report has been posted- Help Wanted: Easter People. It is a reflection on being Easter people in a mixed up world, in conversation with Pope Francis, Gustavo Gutierrez,  and the founder of my religious community, Margaret Anna Cusack.

In the face of such suffering, against the backdrop of fear-mongering and terrorism, and with the soundtrack of an oftentimes toxic political debate, we celebrate Easter.

Christ is risen. Alleluia!

If Easter and the Resurrection are to mean anything, then we must be Easter people in such a world. …

As Easter people, we are called to find joy, to create hope, and to build peace.

Through us, the Easter story continues.

Click here to read the whole column.

image
Me, Sister Camillus, and the Easter Bunny

Decking my heart

Wow, it is already Christmas Eve. Advent has been very full, as has the past year. Full of good things, full of hard work, full of light and laughter and love and loss, because all of those things come together in this package we call life.

This Advent I’ve been spending some time with words written almost 150 years ago by Margaret Anna Cusack, who later as Mother Francis Clare founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in 1884. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, her little 1866 book¬†Meditations for Advent and Easter¬†is freely available under public domain. ¬†Her words are steeped in theological worldview of her day. That is a given. But there are also kernels of wisdom, insight and challenge sprinkled throughout that are every bit as relevant today as they would have been to a 19th Century audience.

In her reflection for Christmas Eve, she writes this:

Tomorrow sweet Jesus will come. Oh, how blessedly near is His advent! Today we are decking our houses for His divine visit; let us not forget to deck our hearts.  Let us sweep out every imperfection, every imperfect disposition, every wandering thought, with the besom of penance and adorn ourselves with the fair bright flowers of contrition and love.  Tomorrow our Infant King will come. Are we prepared to receive Him? Have we all the love ready for Him we should like to offer Him?

This is my prayer this day, that I may deck my heart to be ready to welcome the one who is love incarnate.

ChristmasEveMeme

 

Margaret Anna Fridays – Founder’s Day Edition

Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)
Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)

Today is one of our CSJP Community Feast Days РFounders Day. On this day in 1899 our founder, Margaret Anna Cuasck (known in religion as Mother Francis Clare) went home to God.  Periodically on Fridays I share some words of wisdom from her here on the blog.  She was a prolific writer in her day, writing lives of the saints, spiritual works, histories, and social reform.  Under the inspiration of the Spirit, she also founded our Congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, to promote peace in family life, in the church, and in society.

On this Founders Day, I share an excerpt from The Nun of Kenmare, her autobiography, in which she recounts her audience with Pope Leo XIII on the founding of the new order, St. Joseph’s Sisters of Peace:

My audience [with Pope Leo XIII] was entirely private, as I did not require an interpreter. Mgr. Macchi brought in the whole set of my books to his holiness, who looked at them, I think somewhat surprised at the number. Some of them were duplicated, having been translated into German, French, and Italian. …

His holiness specially commended the plan of my new order, and encouraged me in every way to continue writing. He gave his blessing to all the sisters present and to come, and to all those who would contribute to my work. I cannot forget his paternal and affectionate kindness, and the sympathy he expressed for the troubles I had gone through. My last audience was a public one, and at this the Holy Father noticed me specially, and spoke to those who were standing around, explaining to them in a few words that we were Sisters of Peace, and the object of our work.
~M. F. Cusack, The Nun of Kenmare, 1889

If you’d like to learn more about Mother Fracnis Clare, here are a few places to start:

Margaret Anna Fridays – On Love

Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)
Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)

Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day.  She wrote lives of the saints, spiritual works, histories, and social reform. I find great inspiration in her life’s word and work. Here’s a little tidbit from her 1877 book, Good Reading for Girls: Sundays and Festivals.

Oh, my children, let us remember our love must be a love of deeds, not of words. That if we would be the faithful disciples, the cherished little ones of the Heart of God, we must imitate that Heart–we must confide in that Heart, we must prove our love to the Heart in time, and so shall It be our refuge here in every sorrow, and our Home in the land where sorrow can never come.

Margaret Anna Fridays – Example of Humility

Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)
Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)

Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day. ¬†She wrote lives of the saints, spiritual works, histories, and social reform. I find great inspiration in her life‚Äôs word and work. Here’s a little tidbit from her 1876 book, Advice to Irish Girls in America.

The world gives us the example of pride; our dear Saviour Jesus Christ gives us the example of humility.  My children, we must take our choice, we must follow the example which the world gives us of pride, or the example which Jesus gives us of humility.