Tag Archives: reflections

Love is the way

Have you noticed that everyone (and everything) is weird these days.

And that no one is weird at the same time?

If you find yourself tired or anxious or frustrated or annoyed or even angry, of course you are. We are going on 2 months of this strange reality with no clear path forward that seems comfortable, sure or safe.

Yet here we are. Together. Alone. Safe in our homes or maybe on the newly redefined front lines, suddenly considered essential. Simple daily tasks seem daunting. We juggle home and work life all in one place. So many plans have suddenly disappeared. We might feel lost, dazed or confused.

In today’s Gospel (John 14), our friend Thomas follows his own doubts to help us find the way through. In my own simplified paraphrase of this passage, which I have often prayed with even before these pandemic days, we hear:

Thomas: How can we know the way?

Jesus: I am the way. Stay focused on me. Love a lot.

Yep. Love. A lot. Love is the way when people are weird. Love is the way when we are weird. Love is the way when your child/niece/student is sad that their graduation has been cancelled. Love is the way when you remind your grandmother/mother/sister/friend/yourself that all this isolation has a purpose. Love is the way when you reorganize your plans … again. Love is the way when [insert challenging situation here]. All the rest is distraction from what really matters.

A few years ago, in other life circumstances, my meditation on this Gospel led me to create a video prayer set to music by Sufjan Stevens. I find it is a fruitful prayer these days too, and so I offer it here in case it resonates with you.

Peace and love during these strange days.

Into the storm

I was reading the Urbi et Orbi message that Pope Francis gave today in an empty St. Peter’s square. He reflects on this time of Covid-19 in light of the story of the storm in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41).

“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. …

Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” -Pope Francis

Click here to read the entire message: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/27/read-pope-francis-urbi-et-orbi-address-coronavirus-and-jesus-calming-storm

More than once in my life I have echoed the disciples refrain… do you not care that we are perishing?

Imagine their consternation, frustration and fear that he is, of all things, asleep!

We are terrified … we think we are alone.

But Jesus is with us in the storm.

A few years ago I created this video prayer reflecting on this passage, set to “How to Sleep in A Stormy Boat” by singer songwriter Amy Speace. The Pope’s message reminded me of this video, and so I share it here in case it is a helpful reflection for others in this time.

Peace. Be not afraid. We will weather the storm together.

Laundromat Lessons

Life circumstances have meant that I have had to go to the laundromat from time to time in recent weeks. I don’t mind. For one thing I get it all done at once. For another, I remember my mom all those years when our washer and dryer were broken and visits to the laundrymat, as I called it, were part of the routine.

Memories flood back from some forgotten place, summoned by the sounds and smells.

Saturdays and weeknights at the laundromat. Plugging coins into the machines. Playing make believe. Helping Mom fold (I am sure she had to refold most of it). Making laundromat friends.

I found myself wondering about those boys and girls I knew as I watched kids bonding amidst the too clean smells and preoccupied adults.

Tag. Tossing a stuffed animal. Conspiratorial whispering. Jumping off the sorting tables until an adult looks up and intervenes. Dancing to the music.

In my memory I played.

But more often I was really more like the little girl across from me now. Self suffcient in her pink tennis shoes and practical ponytail, she observes it all, arms crossed.

What impresses me most of all is the working moms–and dads–filling the car with the laundry on a busy weeknight after a very full day. Then filling the car again with kids and heading to the laundromat to be about the business of life, one load at a time. Rinse. Repeat.

Just like my mom, doing what needed to be done. Day by day.

Retreat Schedule

I expect myself to retreat to the still

quiet, familiar space

within.

Silence. Reflection.

Maybe some spiritual reading and a contemplative walk, or two or three or four.

Unplanned, yet if I’m honest, planned, with just a little room for the unexpected.

(We are talking about spending time with the God of surprises after all).

A few days in, I take stock of the surprises (so far).

Egret upon egret upon egret. And heron after heron.

And one day, a certain Ms. Egret and Mr. Heron met their neighbor the alligator for a fresh fish lunch (byof). I have photographic evidence.

Busy lizzards, or are they geckos? Defying gravity by walking sideways on the wall. Like spiderman. Or spidergecko. Or geckoman?

So much life, all around, in relationship through the ups and downs.

And the clouds!

Sunshine breaking through or simple shades of white and grey, darkness and light dancing with the wind.

And perhaps most unexpected of all was finding myself,

in my room,

having a dance party with God, of all things.

Not once but twice. (So far).

There is no photographic evidence, thank the maker.

God finds us where we are. Scheduled or not.

If we but perceive and receive.

HP, Dementors, and Me

My latest Global Sisters Report column has been posted. Yes, it includes theological reflection on the current state of our world, using images from Harry Potter. The books we read, music we listen to, and movies we see influence our world view. Every culture has had its stories which help us make meaning of our lives.

The image of muggles perceiving London encased in a gloomy and dreary soup of fog (as the Dementors hover above) in HP3 has been a recurring one in my own reflections of late. So I finally wrote about it this week.

(By the way, a friend challenged me to take the patronus quiz online – mine – according to pottermore – is a White Mare apparently, hence the image on this post.)

Even when

Even when twilight approaches and the clouds pepper the sky

And the trees stand firm and tall as their leaves show off their new bright colors preparing for their downward fall

Even then …

the sun peeks through the tiny spaces to shimmer and make the leaves glow as if from within

while the wind blows through the all of it, adding a symphony of sound to the moment

Even then, I stop in wonder and awe and gratitude, adding my Amen to that of creation

Slowing down to keep up

Things can seem to be spinning out of control these days

From the news cycle to the general frenetic pace of life

(and from meeting upon meeting in my own life)

To the growing inequality, systemic racism, uncivil discourse and general status quo which seems to inch farther away from the benefit of ordinary folks, especially those on the margins who Jesus loved so much.

How do we/I stay centered in the midst of it all?

To do lists, crisis management and holding the powers that be (and each other) accountable, to be sure.

But also kindness?

And looking with eyes of hope for signs of joy?

And slowing down

Yes, slowing down.

Slowing down to keep up.

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

One Year Ago

One year ago today I woke up to a fire alarm indicating a real, actual, and very scary fire here at St. Michael Villa. No one was hurt, thank God, but life was and continues to be disrupted here on the campus.

Tomorrow we will be having a small mass of thanksgiving, with some of the first responders as our guests. I will never forget that in our shock that morning, huddled in the gym of the building next door, it was the Chief of Police who asked if we’d like to pray and led us in the Hail Mary.

I am also painfully aware of all those in California who are facing flames and the aftermath. Praying for their safety and for peace of mind and heart in the days and months ahead.

DISPLACEMENT LESSONS

Watching the news of massive flooding in Texas and South Asia, I cannot help but be touched by the humanness of the experience. After all, as the mass migration and refugee crisis show us every day, displacement is something millions of women, men and children experience each day as a result of poverty, violence, war, and environmental disasters.

I am touched deeply by the look on the face of a Bangladeshi mother as she carries her child through water waste deep … pure determination mixed with despair. I am heartened by a comment by two young men in Texas who were helping strangers evacuate, “We’re not heroes, we’re ordinary people doing what we can do.”

I also cannot help but reflect on my own time of displacement last fall. One October morning I woke up to a fire outside our motherhouse. Everyone was safe, but the main building is still not occupiable. I spent about four months living out of boxes away from home. I was safe, I had everything I needed, I was cared for … and yet I was discombobulated constantly. I kept losing things and was off kilter even as life settled into a new normal.

We have been back home since January, but I am still finding things and sorting them. Just today I found a favorite mug I thought had been lost and found some important papers that had been oddly mixed in with some trivial stuff in the packing and unpacking.

I hold in prayer all those who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their mementos. I pray for all those relying on the kindness of strangers, and those strangers who see a neighbor in need and respond even though they have never met them before.

I hope and pray that all will be safe, and just maybe hearts will be broken open enough to widen our circle of relationship. 

Maybe those sharing a shelter with an undocumented family will be able to see them as friend and neighbor rather than other to be feared or vilified. Perhaps stereotypes and bias towards racial or ethnic groups will be tested through a shared human experience. 

I pray that in our gratitude for safety and securury and prosperity we recognize the vulnerability we all share.

I pray that our common experience of compassion and care for those facing unimaginable suffering brings us closer, makes us stronger, and teaches us what really matters in life.

Connection not division.

Little acts of kindness and love that can break through even the worst suffering and despair.

Hope not fear.

AMEN