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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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Nothing Gold Can Stay
AUTHOR
Steph  »

 

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

                                                   Robert Frost, October 1923

 

This is one of my favorite poems, so simple, yet so profound. Brilliant poems leave interpretation up to the reader. Since the publication of Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, the essence of these eight lines has been studied extensively. Academics, students, and poets alike, have noted the deference to metaphors, allegories and biblical undertones all essential to understanding the subtleties in each verse.

Frost famously stated that his poems were not about nature. Scholars have connected the verses of this poem to everything, from the fleeting nature of beauty to the inevitability of loss, the fall of man, politics, and war.

When I read this poem, I think about life’s precious moments. And regardless of what is happening, I make sure to pause and appreciate the simple moments; listening to my children talk about their day, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, sharing an inside joke with an old friend…

What does this poem say to you?

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Baby Steps
AUTHOR
Jill  »

I recently became an aunt. How exciting, I know! As long as I can remember it has always been a desire of mine to have that role in a child’s life. You know, creating memories, sharing embarrassing stories, wiping away tears and then sending them home to their parents. (I’m kidding’.) So a year ago when I heard my brother and sister in law were expecting their first child, my heart was overjoyed with anticipation of the birth of their beautiful baby.  Well, you can imagine since then, my conversations and camera roll on my phone have become consumed with all things baby. And so, the time has come where he is crawling, standing and even taking those first few steps.  Pressing his two little feet into the floor with such determination and a smile, it’s an impressive sight to see. Watching him grow and develop has begun to spark a since of deliberate bravery in my own personal growth. Babies everyday meet their challenges head on, they fall down and are right back at it again. If only that fearless tenacity carried over into our adulthood. 

Babies don’t have much hesitation taking those first steps; maybe because they have faith their parents are somewhere nearby to gather them up when they fall. We easily we forget our heavenly father is always there to do the same. When life’s challenges come our way, remember one foot in front of the other, our God is with us. Oh, how wonderful would it be a life without adversity and heartache. Just kitten kisses and sugar coated giggles, truly heaven on earth, but we would never authentically understand the peace of God. God meeting you in the midst of your circumstance, that’s when heaven truly touches earth. Psalm 30: 5 says “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”, one foot in front of the other, we must rejoice because through a trial we may crawl, but with faith we will walk again.

 

When was the last time your faith in God helped you persevere through a trail?

 

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Grace
AUTHOR
Joan  »

As I move along in life I find my perspective on many things, naturally, has evolved.  One wonderful realization has been that grace is everywhere and available at all times.  It has been rather amazing to see would had been viewed as coincidences evolve into grace and grace carry me through, over or around the daily challenges of life.  As a believer in coincidence I didn't really question the serendipitous nature of life but grace seemed too complicated and fraught with theological baggage.  Yet I find my heart and mind opening to the amazing freedom and serenity of God's gift of grace.  Often  I find it is simply of matter of asking for help, guidance, or some indication as to how I am to move through the day.  The challenge of pausing to ask is still there BUT even that realization is a grace to me  - the little voice, the seemingly random person or sign that reminds me I am not "doing life" on my own.  I have a powerful companion on the road and I need only pause and allow God's grace to enter my mind, heart and body.  Is the openess to grace something we humans are born with and then often dismiss as we rationalize our lives?  If so, how can we expand our openness to this free gift of infinite love?

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Species of Genius

I know an old Trappist monk who sometimes uses an odd phrase in talking about people.  In conversation, he’ll refer to someone or other as “a species of genius.”  At first, I was amused and a little confused by the expression.  Eventually, I came to understand that he wasn’t necessarily talking about the person’s intelligence, but rather about the unique giftedness that the particular individual possessed.  If you or I were sitting with him, he would see each of us as a species of genius.

My monk friend recognizes that in every person there is a convergence of genetics, history, experience and temperament that make up the personal genius of that person.  It’s one reason that every life is so precious and irreplaceable.  Maybe this awareness is a Trappist thing – the fruit of their contemplation.  Thomas Merton once felt overwhelmed by the luminosity of everyone passing by him on a busy street corner in downtown Louisville.  Of the experience, he wrote, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

We don’t need to be monastic, though, to get occasional epiphanies of how wondrous the people sharing the “L” car with us or sitting across the table from us are.  Maybe those moments are glimpses of heaven.  They say spirituality is matter of waking up to reality.  How would it change my relationships if I were to see others as the species of genius that they are?

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