Today, as I was driving to Heathrow airport to return my rental car before my departure,I drove by a street called “Makepeace Road.” What a name!
I wonder how often the residents of Makepeace Road think about the name. Is it something so familiar that it does not give them pause. Or do they see the name as they drive onto their street or write their return address on an envelope and think … yes, I should make peace with … [fill in blank].
As we finish the third week of Advent and begin what this year is an actual full fourth week of the Advent season, it is a good time to ponder how I am called to make peace
In my own heart.
With those I love, but where there may be some strained relationships or hurts.
With those who drive me a little crazy.
With those with whom I disagree or just don’t understand.
Peace is possible, but it begins at home and it takes effort and intention.
May we all strive to make peace in our lives, community, and world, no matter what street we happen to live on.
Today I had the opportunity to talk about St. Joseph with some Year 4 students at a Catholic School in Bradford, England. One of our CSJP sisters lives in the parish and is a regular visitor to the school. Sister Catherine arranged for me to visit and talk about St Joseph.
As it happens, the students (many of whom in this multicultural Yorkshire town are Muslim) happened to already know a lot about Joseph! St. Joseph is the patron saint of their class in fact.
When I asked what they could tell me about him, they answered one after the other, raising their hands. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus. He helped Mary take care of Jesus. He was the step father of God. He was a good man. They knew that he worked as a carpenter. He is a Saint. He was there with Mary when Jesus was born. He took his family to find safety .
I told them that the founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace chose Joseph as the patron of my religious community because he is a model of peace. When I asked why we needed peace today, again their hands quickly went in the air. Peace for Ukraine. Peace for people who are arguing. Peace for everyone.
I really enjoyed the chance to visit with these 8 and 9 year olds. They seemed amazed that I had actually written a book and asked me lots of questions about how long it took, how I researched it, and how I put it together.
The nun thing was of course also one of the questions. How did I become a Sister? And finally, the best question, if I am a Sister of St Joseph, am I actually related to him? We are all children of God, I said, so we’re all related. I am related to Joseph and so are you!
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’s 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.
🎵 So let the light in, keep it shining, let it break into the darkness … Love shall overcome 🎵
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’s gift. A gift to love and desire and work for and share. For then, indeed, we will all be free.
I celebrated Pentecost Sunday this morning with my sisters at liturgy in our community chapel. On my way out, I picked a card from a basket at the exit. Each card was labeled with one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I got Fortitude.
My sister housemate gave me a knowing look. The perfect gift at this time.
I realized this morning that I have not written on this blog since March! So much has happened in these months.
We held our Chapter of Elections in April where I was elected to the new Leadership Team of my community. My current term in leadership ends June 30. I start this community ministry with a whole new group of sisters the next day on July 1. A new chapter in my adventure at the corner of Susan and St. Joseph. I need strength and courage for these next adventures.
Most of my loved ones have been vaccinated and life is slowly moving to a new normal here in the US, even as the virus rages in other parts of the globe. Here at home some are still denying the reality of the virus and need for vaccines. Vaccine equity is an issue, particularly in less affluent communities and nations. We need strength for the journey and courage for what lies ahead.
The guilty verdict in the trial of George Floyd’s killer allowed many to finally breathe (I wrote about this last month on Global Sisters Report). And yet there is so much work ahead for all of us to address the sin of racism and our own complicity. We need strength and courage for the long haul.
The crisis in the fraught relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian people has once again been brought to the attention of the world. It is a complex and multi layered reality affecting human lives and livelihoods. We need strength and courage as an international community to commit our attention, resources and creativity to help find a path forward to peace through justice.
In the northern hemisphere, as spring bursts into summer we are tired. We are ready for a break. We have all been through so much this past year, even longer. Change and challenge seem to be the constants.
I for one am grateful and ready to draw upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the journey ahead: especially wisdom, understanding, counsel, and FORTITUDE. A little knowledge, piety, and fear of the lord wouldn’t hurt either.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Today is our CSJP Community Day of Thanksgiving – marking our 137th anniverary. It is also the day after the shameful insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. I shared the following reflection on today’s liturgical readings during our word and communion service today.
During the many tumultuous moments of 2020–the coronavirus pandemic, political upheaval, the beginning of our belated recokoning with white supremacy, and so much more — I found myself wondering what things would be like if people truly understood themselves, and everyone else, as beloved children of God.
In today’s first reading, John tell us it is so. “Beloved, we love God because God first loved us.”
Morover, John says, “we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey God’s commandments.”
Is it really that simple?
God loves us. We love God. God loves everyone. We love everyone. God loves all of creation. We love all of creation.
It really is that simple, and yet, we humans make it so much more complicated. Just look to what happened yesterday in our Nation’s capital.
The Gospel gives us a clear roadmap for our response in times like these as we follow Jesus. Jesus calls us to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free. Jesus calls us to love as we seek peace.
Even amidst the chaos of political events, even in the difficult moments of our own lives, we, God’s beloved, are called to love one another and hold fast to the path to peace.
137 years ago today, in Nottingham, England, Bishop Edward Gilpin Bagshawe presided in Our Lady Chapel, St. Barnabas Cathedral, as the first Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace professed their vows. This is a day for which we give thanks for the gift of community and God’s blessings for our community.
Listen to the words that Bishop Bagshawe shared with our first Sisters:
“Our Divine Lord is called the Prince of Peace, and He gave peace to his disciples as his special gift, saying, ‘Peace be with you.’ … To secure this divine peace for ourselves, to procure its blessings for others in the midst of the sin and strife and turmoil and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.”
He said those words on January 7, 1884.
Just imagine what Bishop Bagshawe would have thought of the turmoil that unfolded yesterday in Washington, D.C., or the restless anxiety so many felt as they watched our democracy be threatened like never before in our lifetimes.
We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, are called to procure the blessings of peace in the midst of times such as these.
The psalmist apparently knew about the type of turmoil that happened at the Capitol Building yesterday.
“From fraud and violence he shall redeem them and precious shall their blood be in their sight. May they be prayed for continually; Day by Day shall they bless them.”
We are blessed with our charism of peace, not in spite of the restless anxiety and turmoil of our modern world, but because of it, for it.
And we believe that peace is possible, that peace points beyond itself in time.
Let us join our hearts and prayers for our community, church, nation, world, and Earth. That we may spread the blessings of peace, in faith, hope and love. That peace may come. That we may truly understand ourselves, and help others to understand themselves and everyone else, as beloved of God.
On this first day of 2021, I shared the following reflection on today’s Gospel during our prayer service for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the World Day of Peace.
In today’s Gospel reading, the Christmas story continues with the arrival of the shepherds who told their amazing story of how they had learned about the birth of Jesus and how to find the Holy Family.
All who heard the story were amazed, but Luke tells us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
A mother’s heart.
No doubt your own mother may have told you stories about you. Stories of love, care, concern, wonder, amazement, worry.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
In our amazing Christmas story, Mary, a woman, is the Mother of God. We hold this as a foundational truth today, in our own hearts. But it was hotly debated in the early church until eventually, she was given the title which had always been etched in her heart. Mother of God.
Her cousin Elizabeth of course knew this in her heart when she welcomed Mary at the Visitation, calling her “Mother of my Lord.”
“There can be no peace without a culture of care,” he says.
In other words, we need to nurture peace in our hearts, our words, and our actions. Mary, Mother of God is also known as Queen of Peace. She mothered peace, the Prince of Peace.
Pope Francis ends his Peace Day Message calling on another title of Mary we know well, Star of the Sea, Stella Maris. And Mother of Hope.
During these times of the pandemic, and these times of endless war and fractures, when we find ourselves “tossed by the storm” and seeking “a calmer and more serene horizon” we need a compass to guide us to peace.
In his message, Pope Francois points to the compass of the fundamental Catholic principles of Care—Care of the dignity and rights of each person, Care for the Common Good, and Care for Creation—as universal principles that might guide all people of Good Will on the path to peace.
“As Christians,” he writes, “we should always look to Our Lady, Star of the Sea and Mother of Hope.”
“May we work together,” he continues, “to advance towards a new horizon of love and peace, of fraternity and solidarity, of mutual support and acceptance. May we never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way; instead may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”
And so, we pray …
Hail Mary, full of grace ….
[I created a summary document of the Message of Pope Francis for this 54th Day of Peace. You can download a copy here:
This month I have the incredible privilege to be a short term scholar at the Collegeville Institute at St. John’s University in Minnesota. It is an unstructured time to read, write and reflect. I am working on a couple of projects: reflections on St. Joseph and exploring how we cultivate peace in chaotic times.
One way I am cultivating peace within myself while chaos abounds in our political situation is by taking long walks each day. Incredible autumn beauty is just outside my door here in Collegeville.
On this afternoon’s walk, the trees were calling and shining in the light. I was reminded of this poem by Mary Oliver. Really a prayer and a way to engage the chaos from a space of peace.
When I am Among the Trees
By Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”
We nurture our life of prayer by reflective reading, particularly scripture, by periods of solitude and silence,and by an annual retreat. (CSJP Constitution 30)
It has been my privilege and joy to spend the last week on my annual retreat. My planned directed retreat at a retreat house was of course cancelled, this being 2020 when everything has been disrupted. So instead I met with my spiritual director virtually and retreated within driving distance to a quiet spot to make a private retreat.
It has been a week of gentle surprises, holding the intentions of our mixed up world close to my heart, and experiencing the presence and deep love of God. In addition to spending quiet time with God and reflective reading, I took some contemplative photos on my walks with God in the beauty of creation. Prayer in action all around us!
God of love, source of all that is good, thank you.
Your creation reminds us of beauty, goodness, wonder and awe.
You are our creator, our companion, our center.
You desire us to ground ourselves in your goodness and gift one another with love, justice, and peace.
Help us to see goodness when it is hidden, even in ourselves.
Inspire us to spread goodness.
Guide us to read the signs of the times and respond by building right relationship between and among all peoples and creation.
Today was a wonderful day, as I led my first virtual retreat live on Zoom, hosted by the Peace and Spirituality Center. More than 60 folks attended and the conversations were truly wonderful. I am very grateful to the staff at the Peace and Spirituality Center for being willing to work with me to adapt my planned in person Peace Day to an online retreat.
I have gone ahead and made a 1 hour video version of the online retreat, for anyone to use with a small group or on their own. Just visit the Online Retreat page of the blog to download the reflection guide and watch the video.
(picture of a nesting dove – our sheltering in place is itself an act of solidarity during these times)