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!