Tag Archives: Saints

Margaret Anna Fridays – Desire to live the life of a sister

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. For example, this simple desire which she articulated at some point in her life resonates with the simplest desire in my own heart as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

My desire to live the life of a sister, to give my life to God, and to work for his poor – this seemed to me the only object worth existing for.

The real meaning of Sisterhood – Love

4churchwmnI will never forget the day when I first learned about the four American church women who were killed in El Salvador 24 years ago today. It was 1988 and I was a junior at a Catholic girls high school. One of the Sisters from the community who sponsored my high school came to our religion class to speak about her work with the people of El Salvador, which was still embroiled in a brutal and bloody civil war. She brought pictures of the children and families she accompanied and shared the story of her ministry.  She also told us the story of Sister Dorothy Kazel, OSU, lay missioner Jean Donovan, Sister Maura Clarke, MM, and Sister Ita Ford, MM who had been beaten, raped, and murdered by five members of the National Guard of El Salvador just a few years before, because of their presence and ministry to the people of that country. Their bodies were left in a shallow grave along an isolated roadside. I remember being shocked by the story. I also remember being overpowered by the realization that this Sister who was talking to us and sharing her own story also put herself at risk of a similar fate. And it became clear to me that her reason was love. Love of God and love of the people of El Salvador.

Love … that’s the real meaning of Sisterhood. Love is worth living for. Love is worth taking risks for. Love is even worth dying for. What else does the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus teach us?

In the words of Sister Ita Ford in a letter to her goddaughter, written just a few months before her murder:

I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you…something worth living for, maybe even worth dying for…something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead. I can’t tell you what it might be — that’s for you to find, to choose, to love. I can just encourage you to start looking, and support you in the search. Maybe this sounds weird and off-the-wall, and maybe, no one else will talk to you like this, but then, too, I’m seeing and living things that others around you aren’t… I want to say to you: don’t waste the gifts and opportunities you have to make yourself and other people happy.

Chances are, most of the people who will tune in to the second episode of the ‘reality’ show The Sisterhood tonight do not know this real life story of the power of Sisterhood.  Hopefully, however, the message still comes across that vowed religious life isn’t about giving up make up, or hiding away from the world, or fleeing the drama that comes with being human. In my experience, it’s about finding something worth living for, something that energizes you and causes you to share your God given gifts in a particular way to help address the unmet needs of the world. It’s about responding to the transformative love of God in a way that challenges, supports and transforms you as you seek to transform the world in the company of your Sisters. It’s about love.

In the words of Pope Francis in his message for the Year of Consecrated Life: “You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.”

Margaret Anna Fridays – on the gift of writing

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. Happily, thanks to public domain and the many internet book projects, much of her writing is now available online. As someone who herself has been slowly growing into her own identity as a writer, I have a special affinity for that aspect of her story. I’m willing to bet that if she were alive today, she’d be using social media and blogs to spread the gospel of peace!

Since God has been pleased to give me a gift of writing,… I feel I would be ungrateful to God and undutiful to the Church if I did not use my poor efforts on the side of truth and peace.

Margaret Anna Fridays – Poverty

Mother Francis Clark (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. Happily, thanks to public domain and the many internet book projects, much of her writing is now available online.  She was a woman of her time and yet, ahead of her time in many ways.

“We are, then, put face to face with the great fact of Poverty, we are put face to face with the certain consequences of the continuance of such a condition of things, and if we have one spark of humanity we are put face to face with the question, What can we do personally and individually to lessen poverty, if we cannot abolish it?”

~The Question of Today: Anti-Poverty & Progress (1887) by M.F. Cusack

Margaret Anna Fridays – Feast of St. Francis

MargaretAnnaCusackI am bringing a tradition from my old blog to this new one … Margaret Anna Fridays. 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. Happily, thanks to public domain and the many internet book projects, much of her writing is now available online.

This quotation is from a little book of hers I just discovered of Novenas, Hymns, and Litanies in honor of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi (1863)

The love of St. Francis for his neighbour. Whoever could have penetrated into the heart of Francis of Assisi, would have found there a happy combination of charity and tenderness for his neighbour. … He could not even see a poor person without the tenderest pity. ….

And you, O great saint, whose compassionate bounty I implore, obtain for me a heart not with the prejudice of self-love, but with the sweet bond which unites me to him by the profession of Christianity, and by the life and doctrine of the Saviour.

Happy eve of the Feast of St. Francis!

Bernardin’s Consistent Ethic of Life applied to Human Trafficking

Cardinal Bernardin
Cardinal Bernardin

I have had the amazing opportunity these past 2+ years to study at Catholic Theological Union as a Bernardin Scholar. This has given me an opportunity–and responsibility–to learn more about Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and the great contributions he made to our church and Catholic social thought.  Perhaps his greatest and most far reaching contribution was his development of the Consistent Ethic of Life.

I am presently beginning work writing my masters thesis on human trafficking as social sin. One aspect of the trafficking experience is the commodification and dehumanization of the trafficked person. As I was writing the section on dehmanization, I thought I would look at what Cardinal Bernardin wrote about human dignity and see if I could weave it in. I vaguely remembered reading something he wrote which would apply, and happily just found it.

It’s an address he gave in 1984 to the National Consultation on Obscenity, Pornography, and Indecency. Here’s just a bit:

The theological foundation of our opposition to obscenity, pornography, and indecency is the dignity of the human person. …

It is clearly simply inadequate simply to say that human life is sacred and to explain why this is so. It is also necessary to examine and respond to the challenges to the unique dignity and sacredness of human life today. Human life has always been sacred, and there have always been threats to it. However, we live in a period of history when we have produced, sometimes with the best of intentions, a technology and a capacity to threaten and diminish human life which previous generations could not even imagine.

In the first instance, there are life-threatening issues such as genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare, and euthenasia. These assaults on life cannot be collapsed into one problem; they are all distinct, enormously complicated, and deserving of individual treatment. ….

That is why I have argued frequently during the past year for the need of developing a ‘consistent ethic of life’ that seeks to build a bridge of common interest and common insight on a range of social and moral questions. Successful resolution on any of these issues is dependent upon the broader attitude within society regarding overall respect for life. …

In the second instance, there are life-diminishing issues, such as prostitution, pornography, sexism, and racism. Again, each is a distinct problem, enormously complex, worthy of individual attention and action. Nonetheless, understanding that they all contribute in some way to a diminishment of human dignity provides a theological foundation for more specific reflection and concrete action.

Keep in mind, he wrote these words in 1984. Decades before human trafficking became a public policy issue on the national and international stage.  However, it is not really a stretch to expand his observations about the dehumanizing effects of prostitution and pornography—which can be considered trafficking when force, fraud, or coercion is involved—to other forms of human trafficking, such as forced labor, where the creative capacities of the human person are exploited for profit and ill-gotten gain.

Ultimately, Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life helps us focus our attention on the human part of human trafficking. When we realize that what is at stake is the inherent human dignity of persons deserving respect, hopefully we are spurred to “more specific reflection and concrete action.”

Pray for us, Cardinal Bernardin.