Tag Archives: peace

Among the Trees

Walking among the trees near the Collegeville Institute

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.”

© 2006 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 4

Retreat Prayer

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!

Some contemplative surprises found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (June 2020)

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.

For you are our source, our light and our love.

Amen.

Update: Living Peace in Pandemic Times

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.

Peace

(picture of a nesting dove – our sheltering in place is itself an act of solidarity during these times)

Resurrection thoughts

20180328_140512.jpgOnce again it’s Easter Sunday. Christians throughout the earth are celebrating … Christ is Risen.

Easter is not just one day, however, to be celebrated and forgotten.

The Church in her wisdom gives us 50 days for the Easter season.  Maybe that’s because it’s not easy to wrap our heads (and hearts) around the Easter message.

The promise of Easter.

New life springs forth.

Death and sin do not have the last word.

Love is stronger.

Peace is possible.

The promise (and challenge) of Easter –

Live as Easter People.

Forgive. Love. Make peace. Spread Hope.

Memories & Gratitude

SrSusan_program1
Six years ago on this day… final vows!

Today is November 11th. A day to pause and remember during this month of memory and thanksgiving.

Since the first World War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, today has been known as Remembrance Day in many parts of the world. In the United States we mark this day as Veteran’s Day.  At breakfast this morning we sang Anchors Aweigh to Sister Mary Robert, a navy veteran of WW II.

In my family, today is the day we celebrate the birthday of my eldest brother Joe.

In my CSJP community life, November 11th has two very special meanings.  On this day last year, we said goodbye to Sister Kristin, a vibrant community member who I was privileged to get to know and love deeply during our two years together on the Leadership Team.

And six years ago, on November 11, 2011, I professed my final vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

Our lives together in communities, as families, nations, and part of our global community are filled with so many moments, big and small, that make us who we are and bring the best out of ourselves for the sake of the whole.  Sometimes we dwell on the problems, the challenges, the things that worry us or aren’t quite going right, not to mention the very real existence of evil and the darkness that exists along with the light.  We need to pay attention to those messy bits, but even more we are called I think to stop and smell the flowers, to celebrate the gift of life and the joy and laughter and hope and very breath we breathe.

Blessings upon blessings if you think about it, really.

And so I pause this November 11th to remember …
I pause this November 11th to give thanks …
I pause this November 11th to pray for peace, for love, and for joy for all of God’s creation.

Amen

Communionings – a prayer upon waking

Communionings

Eyes open in a strange room
rested (but not)
ready for what comes next
filled with a wondering
bubbling up
encompassing me in possibility, promise, a wee bit of trepidation.

What if?

What if God is inviting us?

What if God is inviting us, through it all, to return home to one another?

What if, through the movement towards smallness, God is inviting us to reach out to those we did not need in our exceptional BIG moments?

What if, through the roller coaster of our geopolitical sphere, not to mention the soap opera of our national whatever is the opposite of civil and reasonable discourse, God is inviting us to love each other out of the fear and division?

What if, through the reckless disregard of our very planet–our common home–and our disposable attitude toward people and things, God is inviting us to bless what is near and dear while we make all of God’s creation our own concern?

What if our Triune God–Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier–is beckoning us, cheering us, drawing us near one another despite ourselves so that we can be one in all our wonderful crazy-making diversity?

Just as the Abba is always that, and the Son is always that, and the Ruah is always that …
Just as together they are also more …
Just as together they transform …
Just as together they bless and permeate and dance the story of all that is and was and will be.

This is my prayer upon waking, that I … that we … live into the questions, wonder at the wondering, and embrace the invitation to dance.

Amen.

communionlcwr
Leaders of all 3 conferences of religious men and women in the United States bless those gathered at the 2017 Leadership Conference of Women Religious in a powerful moment of communion at the closing liturgy.

Securing Peace: Global Sisters Report

My latest Global Sisters Report column has been posted, in which I try to weave together my Congregation’s founding story, the violence and suffering of today, with some inspiration I received from Pope Francis and our Sisters in the UK, not to mention Gandhi’s 82 year old grandson.

In the 131 years since my congregation was founded, the human family has faced two world wars and the onset of the global war on terror. We have developed the capacity to destroy all of God’s creation countless times over with nuclear weapons. Human communities have suffered through more than250 armed conflicts across the globe since 1945, and civilians now make up the majority of the causalities of war, with some estimates as high as 90 percent. Then, of course, there is the ugly reality of gun violence in our own nation, a reality which only seems to seep into our collective consciousness briefly in the face of tragedies such as the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

Last week I found myself holding all of this in prayer as I sat in St. Barnabas Cathedral in Nottingham, England, where our first sisters professed their vows in 1884. I could not help but reflect anew on Bishop Bagshawe’s words then to our first sisters (“To secure this divine peace for ourselves and procure its blessings for others in the midst of the sin, turmoil and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.”) . I wondered: What would he make of the sin, turmoil and restless anxiety of our contemporary world which gives rise to such violence? One thing is certain — there continues to be an urgent need for faithful witnesses to peace, compassion and nonviolence today.

Visit Global Sisters Report to read the whole thing.

Peace vigil at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland with my CSJP Sisters, some new Catholic worker friends, and Arun Gandhi
Peace vigil at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland with my CSJP Sisters, some new Catholic worker friends, and Arun Gandhi

Seeking peace in this modern world

Margaret Anna Cusack, known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, founded the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace to promote peace in family life, in the church, and in society.  I often pray with what Bishop Bagshawe, who supported the new community, said at the profession of the first Sisters in 1884:

“To secure this divine peace for ourselves and procure its blessings for others in the midst of the sin, turmoil, and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.”

No small task, this mission of peace that Jesus speaks of in the Gospels.

And 131 years later, what would Bagshawe make of the sin, turmoil, and restless anxiety of our early 21st century. In some ways we are more familiar, too familiar with it, brought into our lives as it is each day through television screens and Facebook feeds. We look, we see, we are moved … And then what? To what end?

Fourteen years ago many of us woke up to sheer terror on our television screens, watching planes crash into towers of glass and steel, knowing that human beings were inside them.

Fourteen years ago in response to terror, we launched our wars on terror. Wars beget wars. Suffering builds on suffering. And our sisters and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan and now Syria are caught in the mess, striving to live lives of laughter and love in peace.

Fourteen years ago today I became a peace activist, reorienting my personal life and mission. It is good to be reminded of that as I go into this day. How can I be a peaceful presence with those I meet today? Where are my opportunities to influence policies and practices that promote peace? How am I called to conversion in my own heart, my own way of being in this world?

In the midst of sin, turmoil and restless anxiety, I am called to hold fast to the vision and mission of peace, in the company of other people of peace. I have to believe that even that makes a difference.

Peace is the word

peacescrabblePromoting peace has been central to the mission of my religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace from our very beginnings. Our original 1884 Constitutions tell us that we were founded “to promote the peace of the Church both by word and work. The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, inspire the desire of peace and a love for it.”

Promoting peace is also central to the mission of the Church. This has been true from the very beginnings of the Christian community. This morning as I was praying with the Scriptures in my morning prayer book, I ran across this quote from a homily by St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407), one of the early Church fathers and a Doctor of the Church:

So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one’s brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important is love.

Sometimes, when I tell people that I am a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, they ask if we are a new community. In conversation with these folks, this seems to be because we have a notion that concern for peace is something new.  Hence, a community founded to promote peace must have been formed recently. And yet, as these words from an early Christian leader tell us, and truly as the example and peaceful witness of Jesus constantly remind us, peace is central to our mission as Christians.

This morning as I was praying with this reflection and the Scriptures, I found myself remembering a song from my childhood – Grease from the movie of the same title with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  My sister Monica and I used to spend hours in our bedroom, hairbrush in hand, singing the lyrics along with our vinyl recording of the sound track (the G-rated version of course!).  In prayer today, I playfully changed the words of the song, simply replacing the word “grease” with the word “peace.”

They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, it’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying, only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel
Peace is the word
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Peace is the time, is the place, is the motion
Peace is the way we are feeling
Peace is the word my friends.  We are the motion. Go … be peace today!

And Jesus Wept … praying for peace

And Jesus Wept memorial, St. Joseph's Catholic Church across the street from Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
And Jesus Wept memorial, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church across the street from Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

Today’s Gospel from Luke is a poignant one:

“As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.'”

The headlines of course are filled with the recent killings in Jerusalem and  the continued bloodshed in Iraq and Syria, not to mention the political infighting in Congress. The headlines gloss over or ignore other situations of violence, such as poverty and oppression. There is violence in our streets, our homes, our very hearts.

But Jesus tells us, there is more. More is possible. Peace is possible.

Imagine Jesus standing in our midst today, seeing that we have everything within us which makes peace possible, should we choose to see and live it:

Our goodness. Our love. Our compassion. Our possibility. Our mercy. Our yearning for justice, equality, and reconciliation.

Can we open our eyes and our hearts to the reality that peace is possible?

Can we choose, live, and act for peace, in our our lives?

Can we start today?