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At the Door
AUTHOR
Jill  »

The turkey is still roasting; every potato, string bean and dinner roll has been precisely buttered. The table linen and silverware is elegantly set and the center piece’s vivid colors are cascading from the light of the chandelier. Still robbed you swiftly dash to your bedroom throwing on the ensemble you laid out hours before.  A glance in the mirror and then a swift turn toward the clock; and panic takes hold because its 10 minutes til dinner time. Ding dong! Guest are already arriving, “I am not ready” you anxiously begin to repeat to yourself as you pace the floor of the kitchen. Turkey isn’t done! Ding dong! I forgot to get ice! Ding dong! OMG, where’s the cranberry sauce! Ding dong!

 In our lives we sometimes are concerned and panicked by the undone. The list of intangible order we wrestle with day to day. Reflecting and dissecting past conversations and those regrettable big mistakes; the “If’s” breach the space where sanity and faith reside. Ding dong! Christ is at your door. He is waiting for you to invite Him in, so He can relieve you of those patterned pressures you pledge your silent hours to. Perfection and order isn’t needed before He can be welcomed in our lives. I used to believe I must have it all in place to have a “real” relationship with Christ. I was ashamed of the list of things that I religiously muddled through that kept me away from God. Christ desires us as we are; He who is our freedom is standing at the door of our hearts.

 Ding Dong!  Will you let him in? Or keep Him waiting at the door?

 

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Inner Hospitality
AUTHOR
Joan  »

There is a lovely portion of 1 Peter 4 where he states:

"....keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."

Other translations of this verse use the word complaint or grudging.  I prefer grumbling because it strikes me as such a visceral word.  It sounds like the sound I do make when I am grumbling inside my head.  I was raised with very proper manners so I rarely, if ever, externally grumble or complain when called to be hospitable.  But I must admit to times that I am glad I don't have a microphone in side my head proclaiming my grumbling about it to the world.  

This time of year there are many opportunities to welcome, feed, house and entertain family and friends.  I will pray for the grace to not only welcome all who enter my home with external joy and love but to deeply feel the presence of Christ in all who enter.  When I do that all inner "grumbling" is dispelled and replaced by "earnest love" and hospitality.  Perhaps if I embrace all opportunities for hospitality as God's gift to me to BE love, patience, joy and graciousness I'll truly grow in my relationship with all of God's creation.     

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Share A Cup of Hospitality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Being hospitable can be a most challenging trait. At the Cenacle we borrow the line from the Benedictines: when a guest comes, Christ comes. The idea being that we must be welcoming and hospitable to all. It is easy to have a very narrow gate, to allow just a few worthy souls to enter and receive your hospitality, at the appointed hour; it is quite another, to have an expansive sense of hospitality, which includes the unscheduled and unexpected.

“Do not neglect hospitality,” Sacred Scripture reminds us, “for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Again, it can be easy to prepare for the times we expect to be hospitable, when holidays approach or planned gatherings happen. This we know and thus prepare to be hospitable perhaps by cleaning up, making arrangements, by preparing gifts or food especially things our planned guests may like. It’s the unexpected, the welcoming, the hospitality at the many unexpected guests and instances where we didn’t plan to have a comfortable cup of tea ready, or our time expended in listening to another. Try as we might, being hospitable is not dependent on being proactive (though it helps to be prepared). Being hospitable is a mindset, and a choice: a choice to welcome, a choice to share, a choice to lay previous plans aside to honor, help, and welcome another whether or not they are expected. Having a hard time with hospitality? I’ve found that gratefulness is a regular companion with hospitality. Perhaps there are other ways to engender a spirit of hospitality, to encourage us to say yes, and to understand that, whether angels, persons, or Christ himself, when someone approaches us we can choose to be hospitable.

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The Son Remains
AUTHOR
Jill  »
It’s the constant rotation around the sun that offers us a delightful optimism each year. This steady orbit grants us the seasonal evolution to shape and form our most fundamental occasions. Whether it is sharing a laugh with a friend or holding the hand of someone we love-each obtained second flows into the next. The minute into the hour, into the day, and so on we find ourselves growing and maturing spinning around the sun. As the golden rays turn the leaves into various hues of chestnut and auburn; our lives also lead their very own seasons. Some seasons are transformative and some are just formative, but in due time we will be propelled into another portion of life.

 

 There is an unwavering grace in each season the Son reveals. In every unwelcome circumstance mercy and hope resides there. During the transition between seasons we must have faith and sow seeds of thanksgiving. When the nights grow longer or there is a pain from a loss or disappointment, the Son will remain. And when the days are yielding the sunlight across all spaces overwhelming us with immense joy, the Son will remain. The sun is steady but never changes, as our world transitions season to season our God the creator of all things great and small will remain.

 

Are you looking toward the Son to help transition you through your greatest and most challenging seasons in your life?

 

  

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Ah... Autumn!
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Many people look to spring as the time of new life, renewal, and emergence.  Maybe it is a carryover from my school days of many decades ago but for me the cool nights and changing leaves bring to mind the anticipation of another school year and the possibility of a new (and smarter and more popular) me! Of course this came with the anxiety of what this transition from the old me to the new me might require of the current me.

But I must say with age and the wear and tear and resiliency which inherently come with age I am finding I can still tap into that excitement and anticipation which autumn stirs in me without the anxiety. I have come to recognize that the foundation of that anxiety free anticipation is my ever growing awareness that "God has this." God is with me as I feel the pull of some new activity, person or way of looking at my life and the world.  I can enter the transitions needed to grow, adapt and prepare for the next season of my life with a hope of and faith in God's love and presence. 

Where is transition happening in your life, and how are you growing from it? For me the mystery which I can only call Grace continues to transform me from day to day.

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Heart Transformation

Whether you were watching television, listening to the radio or reading the newspaper, the question of immigration was at the forefront of our conversations for some weeks over the summer months. Since then other topics have engaged our attention and the main focus has changed but unfortunately life on our southern borders continues unchanged.

 When we reflect on it we realize that immigration has become a catalyst for surfacing the bias and/or racism that colors our attitude towards others and is present in all of us to a lesser or greater degree. It is not easy to stop ourselves from judging, putting people in boxes, attributing all kinds of motivations to them, and thinking of ourselves as far superior to anyone else.

 My fear is that now that immigration isn't the headline of the day we will have lost a golden opportunity...that of asking for the grace to move beyond our own prejudices, allowing God to give us new hearts and remove our hearts of stone. God and God alone can transform. The question is do I want to be transformed? Do I have the courage to be open to a new awareness of my own shortcomings (ouch!) and trusting enough to acknowledge that God will be at my side when I deal with my pettiness and smallness and reach out to others with a new attitude?

 I am sure that you have all experienced moments of being singled out, or witnessing injustice done either to yourself or others. I recall living in Rome and traveling with the Generalate team to visit our sisters throughout the world. Inevitably, two of our sisters, one from Madagascar and one from the Philippines, were stopped at passport control and delayed. They were always under suspicion; their passports were unduly scrutinized and they were subject to many questions before being allowed through. It was painful and it was embarrassing.

But speaking of passports let me end on a lighter note. Passport pictures are not known to be very flattering and when I myself was going through customs the agent looked at my photo and then looked at me. I returned his look and said: "Pathetic isn't it." He stared at the photo again and smilingly nodded yes. As I took my leave of him I thought he could have at least disagreed with me but then I smiled and hoped I had given him his laugh for the day.

It is never too late in life, your golden opportunity has not passed, do you want to be transformed? 

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Power of Yes
AUTHOR
Jill  »

On the first Saturday of September sisters, family and friends gathered at Chicago Cenacle to celebrate the ministry and presence of Sr. Jean Reardon’s Golden Jubilee. While preparing for her celebration, Sr. Jean opened up about the many paths she took that led her to this extraordinary moment. 

Her journey began in 1935 in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she was born. Her father who served in the National Guard in New Mexico was activated in spring of 1941 just months before Pearl Harbor.  That August, he was deployed to the Philippines and was later captured during WWII where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years. After his release and later military retirement he went on to become an educator and school principal in Albuquerque.

Jean followed in her father’s footsteps completing her studies in elementary education at the University of New Mexico. During a long layover in Chicago in her senior year of college, she thought it would be a wonderful idea to visit her priest cousin who lived in Oak Park, IL. While visiting they discussed her trip and her on campus volunteer work with UNM Newman Center. He asked if she had ever considered entering a convent, and her response was a resounding “you have got to be kidding me, NO!” After she returned to campus, she put the question out her mind but not far from her heart. While she was completing her teaching training, a friend who was a Naval Officer and member of her social sorority met her for coffee. Like most young adults their conversation was flooded with all their hopes, dreams and next big steps in life. While sharing her Naval Officer friend asked “would you consider joining the Navy?” In one breath Sr. Jean replied “No! I always swore I would never join the military or marry anyone in the military”. After being the child of a service man and having knowledge of what it entails, she decided early on it was not something she wanted for herself.

Now preparing to head into her career, young Jean soon met an officer who began teaching at the school where she was completing her teaching training.  She found herself impressed by the way the officer integrated her service experience into her teaching and brought the class lessons to life. As she taught the children how to read, the books became more than just a simplified lesson of “see dick run”, but small adventures in front of their eyes. Sr. Jean says “I knew if I wanted to be a good teacher I needed some experience, some adventure.” So, on July 1st, 1957 Sr. Jean reported to Officer Candidate School for Women.

During her 12 years of military service she remained devoted in her faith.  Jean made attending Trinity Sunday a priority, even if she was not able to make other services throughout the month. One Sunday two weeks before Trinity Sunday Jean made her way to chapel. She remembers dipping fingers into the pond of holy water, and she heard a voice say “go to confession and communion today”. “I only do confession and communion on Trinity Sunday” she said to herself. In that moment of reluctance, she knew she didn’t want to be disobedient to God’s clear direction and went on to confession and communion. That moment of hesitation gave way to spiritual conviction and she grew from it. Months later after visiting a local parish in Virginia she heard the voice again say “I want you Jean”. Overwhelmed with fear and much hesitation she started bargaining with God. “Anything but that, I will teach CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) but not that” she responded. So, she did just that! She began teaching CCD on her base, and as she rose through the ranks so did her faith.

 Jean followed her heart and in 1969 she entered the Cenacle. Sr. Jean has since worked and served in many capacities through the years from the kitchen, to treasure, to ministry coordinator. Her volunteer work allowed her to share her creativity from teaching wood shop at the YMCA summer camp, to being the sister’s in house photographer. Nowadays Sr. Jean spends her afternoons serving in the Cenacles Prayer Enrollment Office. On occasion she gifts bookmarks to the sisters and staff with images she has captured displaying the full beauty of God in this world. “When asked what has been the best part about being a part of the Cenacle for the past 50 years?” Sr. Jean replied “I enjoy the work I do, from walking alongside a retreatant to prayer enrollment, people trust us with their prayers. I believe when we hear others we hear God”. All those years ago in that Virginia parish she turned away from her call and said “no”. With an obedient “yes” later, we now celebrate her 50 years of faith. Sr. Jean continues to remain in awe of God’s grace and has learned to let go into the mystery and say yes to God’s call!

 What would "Yes" lead you to in your life?

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A VISION OF GOODNESS
AUTHOR
Sr. Rose  »

In 1866, Saint Therese Couderc (whose feast day is September 26) had a vision of the goodness of all creation. She saw the word Goodness “written on all creatures, animate and inanimate.” (Read more of how she described her experience here.

But what does it mean to have a vision of goodness? Indeed, what does it mean to be granted any kind of vision, assuming that the vision is true?

I believe that a vision is often not so much seeing something new and strange that is placed before us. Rather I think it implies the gift of perceiving more truly: that is, seeing with God’s eyes and knowing with God’s heart. And what is seen may well be something that has been with us all along, as it was with our Mother Therese. How often she had seen those ordinary “creatures, animate and inanimate”! How often she had looked at the simple chair she used for a kneeler! But now she was seeing them more nearly as God sees them. They were all good, and more, they were good because God had imparted to them something of the divine goodness.

So a vision, in this sense, does not imply seeing something that had not been there before—and even less does it suggest seeing something that is not there at all. Instead it means seeing people or things more truly—it means sharing in a small way the divine vision.

For more on vision: “Seeing with God’s Eyes

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The Joy of Hope
AUTHOR
Joan  »

I have grandchildren who, at this particular time, are full of a special sort of hope. The kind of hope that keeps them in a cloud of excitement as Christmas Day approaches.  The kind of hope that leads them to be able to tell you exactly how many days are left until December 25.  I have the impression no matter what is under the tree that day they will have their hopes fulfilled because their hearts will be open to the joy of the unexpected goodness of the people who love them. 

This is the sort of hope I try to embrace myself as the days have darkened and the world seems off kilter more than usual.  The hope that enables me to feel gratitude and joy for each day because I know God loves me and gifts me with what I need to be happy and free.  The things I put on my "list" are not always what I receive but I hold tight to the hope that the God who loves me as a parent loves a child will gift me the grace I need to grow and express God's presence in this world.

May you find and share such a hope in this season of giving and in the year to come.

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Listen Out Loud
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Being silent was a hard lesson for a middle child like me to learn; silence was the last thing on my mind. I was more like “hey, over here” and “listen to me”; it was a overwhelming outspoken itch I had to scratch. That fear of not being heard can breed hasty attention seeking behavior.  As I matured that deep desire for a voice quickly seem to snowball from precocious into self-centered.

Like most adults, I learned if I did not harness this awful impulsion life would do it for me. Smack! Just like that life comes along and you are at a loss. A loss of time, energy, or words; all you have is silence. In those undesirable moments of quiet God creates a space for us to hear Him. We find ourselves asking questions, like “why” and “how come?” Through prayer I found peace and courage in my silence.  God unveils our truest selves when we seek Him, not a voice of self-doubt and angst, but self-discipline and endurance.

Have you ever felt like you had more questions than answers? When was the last time you quieted yourself to listen to God?

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