Saturday, December 27, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
...Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.
Dear brothers and sisters, today, "the grace of God our Saviour has appeared" (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son of the Virgin Mary: "God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven". Let us adore him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not be afraid, "I am God, and there is no other" (Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace.
Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!
Yesterday we had morning Mass of December 24 and the Mass at Midnight, moving it to 8pm in favor of our older sisters. That Mass began with the Vigil of Reading for Christmas and ended with a procession to the creche. This morning we will have the Mass of Christmas Day at 11am. All of these Masses celebrated by different priests and concelebrants. What a blessing!
After Mass today, we will have a great feast lovingly prepared by many hands. Some Redemptorist priests will join us as well as some of our lay associates. The phone keeps ringing and the door bell keeps sounding - well wishers and gifts galore. God is so very good.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
All through Advent, until this week, the liturgy of the hours and the Eucharistic first Readings have focused on the promises of God through the centuries of waiting and expectation—promises recorded in the history and scriptures of the Jewish people, and living in the longing of the people for their fulfillment.
This past week, especially in the Gospels, we come to the immediate preparations for the fulfillment of those promises. We are no longer in the realm of symbolism and mystery—although mystery abounds—but now we are in history, in the concrete.
· We hear of the promise to the priest Zachariah of the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the One to Come.
To return to the image I began with: we could say that the God’s promises coalesce in fullness as they pass through Mary and Fire is born: the fire that is God’s love incarnate, Jesus. These last days of Advent are as the last days of Mary’s pregnancy: we sense her expectation, her desire, the longing, and perhaps also the fear of any young mother.
Well, what can this special focus of the liturgy say to us? Is it only an event of the past that we remember and are grateful for and celebrate? Or is there the ongoing mystery of God’s coming to you and me, knocking at the door of our hearts and lives, wanting to be born in you and me?
God is ever active and seeks a home in the womb of each of our lives. The liturgy is alive with power if we open ourselves to it in trust and hope. “Behold, here I am. Let it be done to me as you have said, as You desire.” What is born at Christmas is not just Mary’s son, but God’s child in each of us. It is our birthday too.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Dear Sisters, and Brother Redemptorists,
Dear Family and Friends,
Once again we approach the rich liturgical season of Advent and Christmas. For those who live close to us we want to invite you to join us for Advent Evensong at 5:30 pm on the four Sundays of Advent: November 30, December 7, 14 and 21. You are most welcome to come and join your voices with ours. It is a lovely way to prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of God among us in Jesus our Savior.
The past year has been a difficult year for our world, our country, our families, our communities. We are very united by prayer with all those who have suffered from the failing economy, for all affected adversely by the various natural disasters, for those who have experienced illness and death in their families and communities. Three of our Sisters lost a loved one in the course of the year: Sr. Peg’s sister Diana, Sr. Lydia’s sister Alicia, and Sr. Maria Paz’s step-mom, Estrella died. May they all be rejoicing now in the presence of our loving Creator. We also rejoice with the life that continues to spring up among us, new families being formed, babies being born, and in our religious communities new members who have joined us.
For us it has been a year for connections with our Redemptoristine Sisters. In January Sr. Paula attended the 100th birthday of her cousin, Sr. Mary Margaret Miller, of our monastery in Liguori, MO. Sr. Mary Anne traveled to Liguori in March to visit Sr. Mary Gerard, her novice companion of 1948, who has been quite ill. In May Sr. Maria Paz spent two weeks with our Sisters in Fort Erie helping with their Confirmation Gown work. In early October Sr. Paula travelled to our Dublin monastery to confer with Sr. Gabrielle on ways of Vocation Recruitment that have added three new members to that community in three years. Her visit included five days of retreat, and a brief but precious visit with our Sisters in Gillmoss, England, across the Irish Sea. We prayed for the OSSR Secretariate meeting in Rome in October and rejoice to know that plans are beginning for a General Assembly of the Order in 2011.
With our Redemptorists too there have been some special times together. During Holy Week the CSSR students from Whitestone and their directors came for retreat at Mount St. Alphonsus and celebrated the Paschal Triduum in our chapel. What a treat that was! We had wonderful homilies, with the different celebrants, and beautiful music. Brother Benedict’s singing of the Exsultet was truly memorable. It is a joy to accompany these men on their journey to the priesthood and brotherhood in the Alphonsian family. A great sadness for us and for the Redemptorist family was the death of our rector at the Mount, Fr. George Keaveney on May 23rd. We trust that his great heart is still watching over us and all the Redemptorists at Esopus. Daily Mass and fine homilies continue to be generously provided for us by our new rector, Fr. Tom Travers, and the other priests stationed here: Frs. Brinkmann, Deeley, Grohe and Bonneau. We offer a prayer each morning for all our Redemptorists and for their various ministries.
The New York Archdiocese, to which we belong, celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. On March 2, Srs. Lydia, Hildegard and Moira attended the Bicentennial Mass for Religious at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in which Cardinal Edward Egan noted the valuable contribution religious communities have made to the history of the Archdiocese. Another memorable occasion was the visit of Our Holy Father Benedict XVI. Srs. Maria Paz and Paula attended the Eucharist at the Cathedral in New York, while the next day Srs. Lydia and Hildegard were present for the gathering in Yankee Stadium. We felt so blessed.
A few days later we began our community retreat with Father Matthew Flynn, OCSO, from Spenser Abbey. Providentially, all the themes for the retreat were drawn from the writings of Our Holy Father, and focused on Benedict XVI’s concept of ‘universal salvation’. We are grateful for those days of prayer and pondering together.
One evening a week in Lent Sr. Hildegard gave presentations on Contemplation for the people of the area, followed by sung Compline. These were much appreciated by those who attended. Four Sisters prepared reflections for this Advent which can be found at the website of Rev. Daniel Francis, CSSR, http://www.cssrmissions.com/inspiration.htm . On the 2nd Sunday of each month we also share with our lay Associates of the Most Holy Redeemer some aspect of our charism. Fr. Phil Dabney gave them a morning of retreat on September 14th, when fifteen Associates renewed their annual commitment.
Sr. Mary Jane used her research skills to find an excellent program for us to create our own website: www.RedemptoristineNunsofNewYork.org. Do visit it sometime. Sr. Hildegard learned the program and, using the work that Sr. Moira had done, brought it to completion. Each Sister wrote her own vocation story so we have all played a part.
This year, along with all Americans, we followed closely the long process for choosing a new President. As a community we made a novena during the nine days prior to voting, asking God to help us and all the electorate to choose the person most qualified to lead us during these difficult times. Now we accompany President-elect Obama with our prayers for the important decisions he has to make as he prepares to take office in January. May God’s wisdom be with him, and with all world leaders.
Our 50th anniversary concluded last December with the promise from a friend of a very special gift. The gift arrived on November 17-18 when Sr. Janet Ruffing, RSM, came to give us presentations on “Love Mysticism”. Sr. Janet focused on the life and writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Gertrude the Great and the Sufi mystics Rumi and Hafiz. It was the occasion for a very deep sharing in the community. Thank you, Sr. Janet!
In the same spirit of gratitude we thank all of you for your friendship, your prayers, your support through the years. We ask your prayers as we prepare for our community elections at the end of January 2009. Please also pray along with us for the gift of new vocations to carry our precious charism into the future. All your intentions will be remembered in our community Christmas Novena.
Blessed Christmas and a New Year of True Joy and Peace for you and all your loved ones!
Your Redemptoristine Sisters of Esopus
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Waiting in Hope
"Celebration of Evensong"
Sr. Hildegard Pleva, OSsR
Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Drivers who frequently navigate previously uncharted territory know well the experience of entering a complex traffic junction, seeing a myriad of route signs and directives and having a moment of indecision and sheer panic; then, in the face of information overload, making a decisive move based on gut intuition alone. The decision is entirely our own. We just tune out everything else, amazingly compute the evidence, and act.
The readings at Mass today told us of John the Baptist. The words of Isaiah anointed him to be proclaimer of the Good News of salvation. And the Gospel of John gives us the words of his proclamation, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’…There is one among you who you do not recognize.” The Baptizer acts like a GPS, a‘global positioning system’ helping us through a confusing intersection. And he begs his followers to listen up.
How can we listen up? How can we listen up in our current “confusing intersection?” This intersection is overloaded with anxiety about war, global warming, finances, and most touchingly, our ability and our desire to care for one another. Our media-filled, digitally dominated, television addicted age makes listening up as difficult as spotting the right sign at a confusing traffic circle. To assume the posture of listening requires the cultivation of silence. That is a lot to ask at any time but particularly so now – the most frantic days of our consumer-driven culture.
John’s directive today, his plea to pay attention and prepare, and the invitation of all the liturgies of the Advent season call us to enter the silence; a silence reminiscent of Robert Frost’s snowy woods – “lovely, dark and deep.” Here we are invited to sink into the darkness to dwell in the presence of mystery. These days call us to ‘listen up’ – to withdraw, at least for a few moments, from the crowded market place and the frenetic super highway. This season, like no other, begs for recollection and silence in the presence of the mystery of the Incarnation. Only then will the true light penetrate our darkness. How else can we hear and respond to the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Sunday, December 07, 2008
1 Peter 1:3
Years ago I remember seeing a photo in a magazine of a Christmas tableau: In the foreground is Mary, a young mother, serenely holding her baby Jesus. Behind her on a scrim was a picture of an older Mary, full of grief, at the foot of the cross.
But what about now? We are a people stuck in the middle time. During this season we recall Jesus first coming as a baby, the longed for Messiah, as we await his Second Coming as the King of Glory. Yet, being stuck in this middle time isn’t really bad because, in truth, not only has Jesus come and is coming, but Jesus, the Lord of all Hope, is here with us right now living among us.
Where? Where else, but in each and every heart!
Advent is a time to welcome Jesus more deeply, more dearly, into our hearts so to share Jesus’ love more clearly in all our words and actions thus making this middle time, this now, a visible witness of the kingdom of God active and alive in the present moment.
My friend, John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel invites us to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ Mk 1:3 That made me think of that Spanish proverb, ‘God writes straight with crooked lines,’ and Isaiah voice crying out about the rugged land being made smooth. Top this off with something I read recently of an old wise black woman who said, ‘If the mountain is smooth you cannot climb it.’ Straight paths, crooked lines, rugged land, smooth mountains. How can we prepare the way to the Lord with such differing instructions and observations?
Our foundress, Venerable Maria Celeste, had the answer: the fixed gaze. With our gaze fixed on Jesus we will make a straight path for Emmanuel to come into our hearts where ‘he will guide us in the way of faith that is alive in hope, and charity, that leads directly to heaven.’ (Florilegium 19) With our gaze fixed on Jesus we will see, usually in retrospect, how the crooked lines of our life are leading us straight to God according to God’s Divine Love. Then we will be able to climb the rugged mountain, not the smooth, because we know the surest path is not the slippery slope, but rather the one we can hold on to; the rocks and boulders of our life: the highs and lows of our work-a-day life, the joys and sorrows, the challenges and struggles. All are means to climbing the heights to see clearer God’s action in our lives.
So, as we climb the rugged mountain along our crooked paths this Advent with our eyes fixed straight ahead on Jesus, let us sing praises to our God who is present to us in the here and now by our acts of faith, hope and love, as we strive to be visible witnesses of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us, and in us, to one another.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Immersed in the Advent Moment
Monday, December 01, 2008
Reflection at Evensong
by Sister Margaret Banville, O.Ss.R
In the vigil Office last night [1st Sunday of Advent], we read a catechetical instruction of Saint Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem. He speaks of two comings of Christ: (Remember that the word “Advent” means “coming”).
At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.
Advent is a time of longing and hope. We know our Savior has come and will come again. This is our faith. We also know that even though we may not live until his final coming at the end of time, he will come for each of us when our lifespan is complete.
Let our Advent prayer be: Come, Lord Jesus!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
This is the last 25th we will celebrate before Advent. The next one will be the feast of the Nativity of the Lord, on December 25th.
This morning I was reflecting on Advent, and tried to make a list of all the images that came to me. Many years ago a Redemptorist priest linked Advent to the English word Adventure…and the feelings that are roused by that. A certain excitement, some risk, a sense of mystery, something new, unexplored…
Advent is also a time of Promise---the Incarnation has already taken place and the Child is growing in Mary’s womb. One day soon, she and the world will see God’s human face.
So it is a time of fecundity…and not just out there!
The child of Mary has come to each of us, lives within each of us, wishes to take ever more concrete flesh in our hearts, minds, actions.
Nature at this time, at least in our hemisphere, is barren; the trees lose their leaves, the roots sink deeper into the earth. There is life but it is life reaching deep down into its source through the roots.
Advent in us is the same. There is a quietness both outside and inside. The light is less, the darkness is increasing and will continue to increase until the shortest day of the year, Christmas. Then the light will begin to increase again; light conquers darkness; Christ rises triumphant over all the powers of evil. This is what we celebrate in Advent and Christmas…
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Advice Not Just for
My spiritual director recently recommended that I read a book now about twenty-five years old. It is a biographical work by John Howard Griffin, author of "Black Like Me", first published in 1961. It is the well-known record of his experiment living as a Black man in the United States in the 50s.
The book I am reading, Follow the Ecstasy - The Hermitage Years of Thomas Merton, was published in 1983. It is only one Thomas Merton & John Griffin part of an official full biography which Griffin was never able to complete. Merton's hermitage years began in 1963 when he was finally relieved of his position as Master of Novices and therefore able to live full-time in his small cinder block cabin on the grounds of Trappist Gethsemani Abbey outside of Louisville, Kentucky. For those who do not know Merton, he became famous when his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain was published in 1949 and became an immediate bestseller. He was only thirty-five years old and and a monk for just seven years.
Merton consistently sought the ambiance of solitude, believing it to be the most conducive to conversion, especially his own conversatio morem or the conversion of manners, one of the Trappist vows. This is a two-fold conversion; both a shift to charity in love for his brother monks in community and all humankind, as well as, the gradual achievement of total abandonment to the will of God. This conversion is marked by the lack of struggle in the face of what is, the realities of everyday life.
As I read Follow the Ecstasy, which covers the years 1963-66, I am also reading Merton's own journal of the period 1947 to 1952 entitled The Sign of Jonas. This record begins just before Merton's profession of solemn vows. I t is interesting to see how the desire for greater solitude grown from the believe that silence would be the greatest help in his spiritual growth was with him so early in his religious life. It took sixteen years for his desire to live alone in a hermitage to be fully realized, only five short years before his death.
In relation to myself, I am not living alone in a hermitage but in a contemplative monastic community which cultivates silence and reveres the solitude provided by ones cell, thus, it can be said, we live together alone. The way we live re-enforces the enclosure of the heart, the enclosure in which one gradually sheds so many things and very gradually acquires the abandonment to God's will which Merton experiences in the silence of his holy hermit residence. This is the self-abandonment, the shedding of ego gratification and determination in which can be born, by the grace of God, that incredible lightness of being which is the freedom of the children of God. As St. Romuald says in the first line of his simple rule for Camaldolese monks, "Sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything."
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
The nature of the day demands even my small comment. During the coverage last night, Judy Woodruff of PBS, reported from Grant Park in Chicago that there was something more than joyous elation in victory making its way through the huge crowd gathered to hear President Elect Obama's speech. Ms. Woodruff identified the something more as a sense of AWE. I would add that it was awe born of the tremendous import of what happened in our nation yesterday. It was the result of recognizing the poignant meaning of the election results. They were the fruit of the long, hard fought campaign for civil rights in our country and, at long last, the interior conversion of many a heart. The thoughtfulness, dignity, intelligence and perfect pitch of voice and demeanor seem to have been the instruments of conversion. Unfortunately, our current financial crisis was also, I believe, instrumental in Obama's victory. There is nothing like being brought to ones knees, nothing like hitting bottom to propel movement to a new way of thinking. Barack Obama may be the man for our time. Let us pray that the gifts of wisdom and compassion be given him in abundance and that he and his family be protected as they serve our nation.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Due to the combined talent of director, Robert Gaus, and an amazing collection of gifted musicians, singers, instrumentalists, young and old, a concert/prayer service for the feast of All Souls has become an annual event at St. Joseph's Church in Kingston, New York. This was my home parish for over twenty-five years. I have been asked to attend in this beautiful event many times, always refusing. But this time, I asked permission to take part, because my dearest friend died during the last year. Since she was buried from this parish, her name would be mentioned in the list of the recently departed. As it turned out, I was second narrator for the service along with a Deacon of the parish. He and I were asked to write a reflection to introduce one of the musical pieces.
It was made apparent by the number of people present that this has become a tradition for many. Everyone received a flower as they entered and could write the name/s of their beloved dead in a book provided. The flowers and the books were brought forward to the altar during as all the names were solemnly read out. The quality of the musicianship was outstanding - full age-range of voices, piano, cello, violin, flute, guitar and drums. The participation of a large well-prepared children's choir was really special and such wonderful exposure for these young people.
Here is my reflection/introduction for "Goin' Home."
Experts say that the memory of music is among the last to leave us. The melody you are about to hear may jog your memory to say, "I think I have heard that somewhere before." It is from the largo movement of Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony. The story is that during his long tour of the United States at the end of the 19th century, Dvorak who was a Czech, heard black men , former slaves, working in the fields and singing the tune, an expression of heir longing for a better place, their longing for home.
Most of us long for home all our lives; perhaps the idealized home of our childhood; perhaps the home of which were deprived by unfortunate circumstances; or our eternal home - our baptismal right - and the relief it brings from the trials of this temporary place. Some times we get stalled and need our internal GPS system to kick in and guide us in pursuit of our deepest longing; the Desire for our true home, union with God. Our beloved dead struggled with their longings and desires of every kind. Those longings have surely been satisfied for "eye has not seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined the things God had prepared for those who love Him."
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:17.
Jesus loved the Father, and the world so much that he gave us his very self, on Calvary, and in the Eucharist.
Recently I was sitting in the chapel, reflecting on the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. Yes, You are there Lord, but you are not limited or contained there, as I am, or any of us here are. We are here and nowhere else, even though our minds might be ranging around the world. The Jesus we adore is present here, and in our whole world, and in the whole universe. And in the Mystery of God.
And how is Jesus present? As love. As the Incarnation of God’s love. As God’s love in human form. This is the One who fills our chapel, and fills each of our hearts and lives.
I don’t know about you but I find that I can become so unaware of that mystery in which we live, unaware of the love that embraces and permeates us. That fact doesn’t seem to change things on God’s part. I don’t believe that Jesus asks us to understand, or comprehend his love. He does hope that we will believe and receive his love.
Jesus was on a Mission during his earthly life. And he is on a Mission still. Jesus set no bounds to what he would be willing to do during his earthly life to live and be God’s love among us. Now Jesus calls all his followers, each of us here, and everyone throughout the world, to live God’s love and be God’s love.
Each Eucharist we celebrate, each Communion we receive, links us with God’s love, and the mission of Jesus today. As individuals we may be very small, very frail, but we are invited into a community of people, and a universe networked in Love, God’s love made ours in Jesus.
Looking around us today we see a world that doesn’t seem to be a world infused with Love, founded on Love, created by Love. Yet our Christian faith, the Christian Story which we believe, assures us that a God of Love is in our midst.
We see a world filled with violence, greed, lust for power, selfishness. The world of Jesus’ time wasn’t much different. In the Incarnation God’s love was made so vulnerable to human indifference and callousness. All the evil in the world of Jesus did its best to destroy him. Ultimately it crucified him. But Jesus’ death wasn’t the end of the story. The Resurrection that followed is The Good News. Death is not the last word for any of us anymore.
Each of us here, as believers in Jesus, and even more as vowed religious, share the work of Jesus to transform our world through Love. We won’t be asked to literally die in the process, as Jesus was, but learning to love as God loves, as Jesus loves, will involve dying. Dying to selfishness, to prejudices, to convenience, to preferences, etc. etc. all in the service of promoting fuller life for all others, and ultimately for ourselves.
God has need of us. The work of Jesus has need of us. We each have a special place in the plan of God. Each 25th of the month, as we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, we are reminded of why we are here, and what we are called to do, by the God who came among us and pitched his tent among us, that we might all one day enter fully into the mystery of Love that God is.
In the words of William Blake: “And we are put on earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.” To bear the beams ourselves, and be bearers of those beams to others, if we let God use us.
Friday, October 24, 2008
New and Improved, I Hope!
My time was further blessed by the availability of daily morning Mass nearby celebrated in a small parish worshipping community. A visiting priest from Nigeria offered short but intensely meaningful homilies so in tune with Redemptoristine spirituality that he became my retreat director without knowing it. I was in awe.
Here are some snippets from my retreat pondering:
Friday, October 10, 2008
Our new website has found its parking place on the world wide Internet. Here is the link:
Please check it out and leave a comment.
Now, back to the financial crisis at hand.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Midst of Crisis