Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
and the Conversion
St. Paul of Tarsus
The Conversion of St. Paul, the Incarnation of the Word of God. What do these two faith events, these two realities have to do with one another? A lot!
The mystery of the Incarnation bridges the realms of eternity and time. The triune God, dwelling in light inaccessible, leaps down into our midst in the Person of the Word. Surely God’s presence infused all creation from the very beginning. But now God can be seen and touched and handled. The Word was made flesh and dwells amongst us. God’s love beats in a human heart.
St. Paul’s conversion took place totally in the realm of our earthly time. He was a passionate young man, deeply involved in and committed to his Hebrew faith. In the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus a radical transformation took place within Paul’s mind and heart—but a change wholly in this world of time and space. I wonder if we can ever comprehend what a struggle it was for Paul to come to faith in Jesus. It may well be that the three years he spent in the desert was what it required for his inner reorientation. I wonder if that may be why he saw himself as the apostle to the Gentiles? He knew too personally, too painfully, what it took for a good pious practicing Jew to come to the fullness of belief in WHO Jesus is, fully human, fully divine. Gerard Manley Hopkins, in one of his poems, speaks of the different ways of conversion comparing “once in a flash Paul” to that of Augustine: “God’s lingering out sweet skill”. I believe Paul kept running from and to God all of his life.
We are so blessed to have as part of our community charism this monthly celebration of the Incarnation. So that we can realize and experience it takes a lifetime of pondering for us to grow in our own faith and understanding of the Mystery, in our own whole-hearted conversion.
We are called to enter deeply into this mystery and to let it grab us totally, heart, mind and soul, and transform us as it did St. Paul. Why should we hold back anything?
In this spirit of total gift, of total surrender, let us renew our vows today.
While we are on the subject of good books about the person of Jesus, I would also mention Michael Casey's Fully Human Fully Divine - An Interactive Christology. Casey is a Trappist monk in Australia and author of other great books including Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer, Sacred Reading - The Art of Lectio Divina and another on the Rule of St. Benedict.
By the way, for those of you who may not know how to leave a comment - Just go to the bottom of any post, click on the word "comment" and then enter your comment in the space provided. You can remain anonymous. I see the comment in my e-mail and get to say whether I want to appear on the blog or not. If you don't care to leave a comment but see that other comments have been left and want to read them, just click on the word "comment" and they will appear. I look forward to hearing from more of you.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Our Archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York, sent a photographer to our 50th Anniversary celebration. These photographs were published in the December 20th issue. Unfortunately we just received that issue today! I guess my habit made it front and center in the first photo, much to my embarrassment. Starting with the first sister on the left those depicted are Sr. Maria Paz Suarez, Steven Katz (the architect for our monastery completed in 2001), Sr. Paula Schmidt, Prioress, myself and Sr. Moira Quinn, Sub-prioress.
The second photo is a great long shot of our chapel during the Mass. It is small chapel designed with a community of about 15 members along with 15-20 guests in mind. That day we managed to celebrate 75 strong! This was not the least of God's blessings for the occasion.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Given today's priest shortage it is amazing to find that upon completing his seminary training in Germany and although he had a exemplary record and a reputation as a linguist, he could not find bishop willing to ordain him since there were too many priests! Here is the link for his complete life story:
Undeterred, he came to the United States, was ordained by the bishop of New York and sent to minister to people at the very fringes of the Diocese in the area of Niagara Falls in the 1830s. He suffered from isolation in his diocesan assignment and upon discovering the communal style of missionary life promoted by the Redemptorists he applied for admission to the Congregation. He was a tireless missionary, traveling huge distances over arduous terrain and, at times, in fearsome weather conditions. His particular interest was that of the German immigrants, first in Baltimore and then Pittsburgh.
In 1852, at the age of 41, much to his dismay, he was named bishop of Philadelphia. As a foreigner, as man of physically small stature with a preference for simplicity, as an immigrant who spoke English with an accent (although he could by now speak six languages), he was not welcomed by the upper level of society. Yet in his 8 years as bishop he founded a model system of diocesan schools, began the Forty Hours practice of devotion to the Eucharist, founded a new religious institute: the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, and built 89 churches.
A worthy son of St. Alphonsus, like him, he made a vow never to lose a minute of time. As a bishop he was holy and indefatigable. Uninterruptedly he visited his vast diocese, on one occasion covering 40 kilometres of mountains by mule in order to confirm a young girl who was sick.
On January 5, 1860, at the age of 49, he died suddenly of a heart attack on a street in Philadelphia. He was beatified during the Second Vatican Council and canonized in 1977. In the homily on the occasion of his canonization Pope Paul VI summarized the activity of the new Saint in these words: "He was close to the sick; he loved to be with the poor; he was friend of sinners and now is the glory of all emigrants."
Friday, January 04, 2008
"Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Grant us Peace."
Give us the gentleness of lambs, give us the innocence of lambs, give us the meekness to be sacrificed. Lamb of God, receive the innocents who have been slain for You, or because of You, from the first-born sons slain by Herod to the little sons and daughters slain in our wars. Lamb of God, grant us peace; in the name of the children killed on the roads by carelessness, have mercy on us; in the names of the child-saints of the century, grant us peace. For the sake of the humble, the poor, the simple, the imprisoned, the shackled and bound, have mercy on us. For the sake of the patience of sick people, of cripples, of the old people sitting quietly in the workhouse. For the sake of poor relations, the dependents, those who are humiliated by being poor; for those uncomplaining poor who have nothing to give to their loved ones when they are sick and dying. For the love of the peasant people of little nations ruled by tyrants, have mercy on us, grant us peace.
"Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem."
Early in the day, at the first Office, each sister was asked by the Prioress to pick at random, from cards arranged upside down on a tray, a patron, practice, prayer intention and title of Mary for the coming year. Often the patrons are depicted on lovely holy cards. I like to paste the practice, intention and title on the reverse of the card and put it into my copy of the Liturgy of the Hours where I am sure to see it every day as a reminder.
This year I drew St. John the Evangelist as my patron. Practices are usually a line or two from our Constitution and Statutes (the Rule). This was my selection:Offering our will to God through love, we are all the more in communion with the Mystery of Christ, obedient even to the cross, and in this way we become more disposed to seek the Kingdom of God in all and above all. (C&S 31) My chosen prayer intention is Father General Joseph Tobin, CSsR, his Council and the OSsR Secretariat. Fr. Tobin is a wonderful man with an awesome responsibility for the Redemptorist mission to the poor and most abandoned all over the world. The OSsR Secretariat is a committee of Redemptorist priests who make themselves available to help us, the Redemptoristine Nuns, as necessary. The title of Mary chosen was Health of the Sick.
Receiving these early on a day of recollection invites some meditation on the particular meaning of these selections made for me in what could be described as a 'Holy Spirit lottery'. I ask myself: What could the meaning of these assignments be for me me? Why this patron or this intention for me right now, this year? Each year's new choices brings an invitation or a direction or an inspiration.
The holy card I received is an icon of John the Evangelist. He is holding a pen; his hand is poised as if he is waiting for God to tell him what to write. I have been sitting on a writing project for a couple of years Something about the emotional life of Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of Mark. How's that for daring! In a new book about Hildegard of Bingen, the author reports that her research and writing are for her a form of lectio divina. I understand that experience and think that St. John is destined to guide me back to this writing project.
Yesterday a kind reader of this BLOG sent in a comment to an Advent post concerning the realities of our bodiliness, especially for women. Her comment illustrates one kind of Cross that comes with living a full life, one that we do not necessarily anticipate. The practice I received speaks of obedience to life's realities appearing in all realms - community, aging, the world scene, personal responsibilities, etc. The practice also speaks of a transcendent reality that flies above it all.
The prayer intention is an important one given the challenges being experienced by all religious congregations and orders: how to live the charism; how to fulfill the mission with fewer members; how to teach the way of Jesus Christ, using words only if necessary. Our leadership at all levels and in all configurations need the support of our prayers.
Help of the Sick is the title of Mary chosen for me by divine serendipity. In meditation I realized how easy it is for me to pray to Mary, our Mother, for the needs and healing of others. I tend not to ask for myself. Is this rooted in denial of my own bodiliness, my own physical dimension? Is it a refusal to acknowledge my own neediness? Is it a refusal to respond to Jesus's words from the cross, "Behold, your mother." As a mother myself, I am much more likely to act on behalf of others than on behalf of my own needs, desires, pains and sufferings. The invitation is to unite my own personal reality with that of Mary.
Why not avoid the New Year resolution routine and think more in terms of the invitation some, patron, practice, intention or title of Mary may issue for your spiritual journey?