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October Saints

02 Oct
October 2, 2013

October is one of my favorite times of the year–as I said in my last post, I really do love Fall.

I  love Fall because it is a time of remembering some of my favorite people — Therese, Teresa, Francis, Mother Rose, Matthew… to name just a few of the Saints we celebrate this month.

I find that some people are confused by the word “saint” because they are under the false impression that we (the Catholic Church) have the ability to turn someone into a saint. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the Church does is identify people who through their lives lived the Gospel of Jesus in profound ways. The Church points these people out as models and inspiration for the rest of us on the journey of faith.

Take Therese for example. She lived at the turn of the 20th century in France. Her life was sheltered; she entered the Carmelite convent at an early age, and died in her early twenties. What makes a woman whose life is so different from mine a role model?  She bore suffering with grace and love. Therese suffered from TB and died a painful death. But, the suffering that I find more significant is her experience with one of the nuns in her convent. Apparently this woman took every opportunity to make life difficult for Therese. She scolded her, publically corrected her, watched her constantly—I think today we might say the woman was a bully.

How did Therese respond? With her “Little Way” which basically means she killed the woman with kindness.  Instead of becoming defensive, avoiding the woman, or appealing to her superiors for help she simple made the decision to always be kind to this nun.  If you have every been in a similar situation you know how difficult that can be; now consider the reality that you will spend the rest of your life living in community with someone who is out to get you. Therese understood that she would never change the woman’s behavior, but she also understood that she could change how she felt about the woman’s behavior by seeing the face of Christ in her. Imagine the discipline, the love, the strength it must have taken to consistently be kind to this nun, and the grace it must have taken for Therese to see in her the presence of Christ.

When I ponder the life of Therese I am always reminded that I can do better. I can learn to love the difficult people in my life. I can learn to be less difficult to the people in my life.



The Blessings of Fall

23 Sep
September 23, 2013



Okay, I confess, I’m a true Oregonian. That said I’m one of those people who gets cranky if we have too many sunny days in a row. For me, Fall is always a relief, a time to slow down, a time to look inward rather than outward. How can this be you ask? Doesn’t school start in the fall?

Fall is a bit of a paradox in that it is one of the busiest times of the year as well as the time of year when I feel called to slow down and embrace my prayer life more fully. It doesn’t matter how busy I am, this is the time of year when I feel drawn to prayer. 

When I make time for prayer, to be with God in an intentional way (as we are always with God) I find that I actually do have more time for all the business of Fall. I think maybe prayer grounds me, centers me, helps me to focus my energies so that when I am working at my desk I actually do get more done.

Fall, the beauty of the trees as they begin to turn, the comforting sound of rain on the roof, the wonderful soups and breads that we create with the bounty of the harvest…a time of sensory delight. Oh, and did I mention the light is softer than during the height of summer.

Fall is also the time for some of my favorite Saints:  Francis, Teresa, Theresa, Marie Rose Durocher, the Guardian angels, St. Matthew, to name just a few. So take some time to listen to their wisdom even as you find your days filling with many worthy tasks.



A Prayer for an August Monday

19 Aug
August 19, 2013

Creator of the universe, of all that is beautiful and good, help each of us to create deep within our being an inner space, a place:

Where the work we do will not overshadow why we do it

Where we can spend a few minutes in quiet each day, gaining the courage to continue

Where we can look at ourselves—who we are, what we are doing, how we are doing it

Where we can stop and evaluate what the world is asking of us, what we are asking of the world

Were we can re-affirm those values by which we live

Where we can remember that the love and warmth and compassion which are deep-rooted in each of us should reach the surface of our lives and spill over into the lives of those we touch each day.

Grant to each of us the honesty to do what is right and just, the courage to take a stand when necessary, the strength to face the problems of each day and the gentleness to handle them with care—so that it may be said of each of us as was said by the psalmist of old:

“Surely, goodness and kindness have followed them, all the days of their lives.”

Sister Joanne Glavin, SNJM, 1983

Walking and Talking with Holy Partners

05 Aug
August 5, 2013

This summer I’ve been working on a project for my Doctor of Ministry degree. The project is called, “Walking and Talking with Holy Partners”

The purpose of the project is to see how hearing and reflecting on the narratives of men and women who are perceived to be “holy” might impact our own spiritual narrative.  The process has been amazing as each time I present a session I find myself going deeper into the material. So far we’ve explored:  Desmund Tutu and Mother Teresa; Benedict and Scholastic; Francis and Clare; and Martin de Poress and Rose of Lima.

While I may not understand everything about these folks, I am noticing that as I consider their stories I am coming to see more clearly God’s action in my life. One of the temptations for me, as an educator, is to get into the head stuff – but the heart of my program is not about knowledge it is about story and practices.  So I invite the participants to engage some of the practices of the holy partners. I offer for your late summer consideration a few of the practices we’ve explored:

  • Reconciliation and forgivenss
  • Joy
  • Formal prayer such as:  Mass, the Divine Office, the Rosary
  • Spending time reading the “scripture” of nature
  • Fasting
  • Hospitality
  • Mindfulness
  • Journal writing
  • Use of the imagination
  • Service
  • Silent Meditation

Of course this list is not all inclusive, nor are the holy partners the “inventors” of any of the above practices. I do believe that every now and then we need to stretch our spiritual life a bit and try something new, something which may at first feel uncomfortable. If you’re interested in learning more about spiritual practices you might consider reading Soul Feast written by Marjorie Thompson. She provides a clear, simple, and solid overview of many of the above practices and a few others as well.




Community as a Spiritual Practice

18 Jul
July 18, 2013

I just finished five days of meetings with 350 of my closest friends — sisters and associates of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. I find myself reflecting on community — what is it? How do we recognize it? How can we make it stronger?



As Christians we speak of the Holy Trinity — God as three persons; yet one.  I’m not even going to try to explain the Trinity;  I think it is enough to say it is a mystery. The reason I even mention Trinity is because we do know that as a trinity of three persons God is relational. Have you ever reflected on the love that God has for God?  Many great teachers throughout our history have talked about this love and how it is so powerful it overflows from the heart of God into God’s creation — which includes us!

Now take a moment to remember that we, human persons, are made in the image and likeness of God. If this is true then we are in fact mirrors which reflect God. If God is all about relationship and love are we too not also about relationship and love?

What does this mean for community? Our very faith tells us that we need each other. To be Christian means we are called to engage in community with one another. So, ponder your communities – do you participate in a faith community? If not, do you have others who support you in your faith journey? If not, I encourage you to consider finding community to support and challenge you as you walk in the footprints of Jesus.


A Blessing for the Present Moment

01 Jul
July 1, 2013

May you treasure wisely this jeweled, gilded time

And cherish each day as an extra grace

Whose heedless loss would be a tragic crime

In today’s tasks may you find God’s tender face

May you know that to miss love’s smallest chance

Is a lost opportunity, a senseless waste

May you see need in every anxious glance

May you sort out of the dull and common place

An invitation to God’s merry, manic dance

And may the Lord of the Dance bless you

As he invites you to the dance of the hallowed present.

~Andrew M. Greely, A book of Irish American Blessings and Prayers


30 May
May 30, 2013

The end of May brings us to Memorial Day, a day we remember the men and women who sacrificed life for the sake of our freedom.

Sacrifice is not a popular word or concept these days, but sacrifice is what we do for those we love and for the ideals we love. I think all of us make sacrifices each and every day. The question is do our sacrifices have meaning? Some examples are obvious, the sacrifices parents make for the sake of their children or the sacrifices a student makes to earn his or her degree.  But what about those times when it is not clear to us that our sacrifice serves any greater purpose?

I think most religious traditions tell us that the small stuff does matter. I know in Christianity we have hope that in the end God will make all creation new. We also believe that we are called to be co-creators of this new creation. Each of us has a small part to play in bringing forth God’s justice and peace. The small choices, those little sacrifices, may not seem like much — but what if no one bothered to take the time for small acts of service and kindness?

It is my hope that we always remember the sacrifices made by all who have died for our freedom. It seems to me that one of the best ways for us to remember them is to follow in their footprints. I don’t mean we all need to join the military, but I think we do all need to become more aware of the little ways we can help others.  When we sacrifice we honor those who died and we offer our small contribution to the work of God.


Mary’s month

09 May
May 9, 2013




Our Lady of Marylhurst

May is traditionally the month in which Catholics honor Mary the mother of Jesus. Does this mean Catholics worship Mary? That we think of her as a goddess? No. Catholics honor Mary as an example of what a human person can be if he/she is completely open to the action of God working in his/her life.

Traditional images of Mary show her to be a passive, gentle, proper, quiet, handmaid of the Lord. Yet, there is so much more to Mary. She lived in a world of violence, oppression, and poverty. She lived at a time when women had no rights, not even the right to enter into agreements unless father, brother, husband, or son gave his consent.

It is in this context that Mary says “yes” to the angel of God. She is asked a question, she debates with Gabriel, and then she agrees to the request. She opens herself to becoming the mother of God Incarnate. In doing this she has broken away from sociality rules; she has entered into an agreement on her own.

She also took a huge risk, a risk that could have cost her life.  Joseph would have been well within his rights to stone Mary to death for being pregnant outside of their marriage. Mary’s family should have thrown her out, as her dishonor brought dishonor to the entire family.

These are just a couple examples from the New Testament that help us to see the courage of Mary. So as we remember her this month of May, let us not forget the tradition of “the lovely lady dressed in blue” as this image of Mary has meant much to many people. Instead, let us broaden our image of Mary; let us begin to spend time with the many images of Mary that have come to us through Scripture and tradition.

Happy Mary month!


Care of the Earth

22 Apr
April 22, 2013

“God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).

This week we celebrate our earth. We remind ourselves to be aware of future generations and to reflect on how our practices will impact the lives of those yet to be born. Our faith traditions call us to consider an even deeper awareness – do we graciously accept, honor, and care for the gift God has given us?

Every major religion calls its followers to hold the earth as a sacred gift from God. We haven’t always followed this mandate. Instead we have often seen creation as our property – it is ours to use as we wish. But this is a misreading of sacred texts. Genesis, for example, asks us to tend, to nurture, to treasure — not to exploit the gift of creation.

Most of us understand the earth is in crisis, but we seem unable to change our behaviors to more earth friendly practices. Religious leaders believe  our sacred traditions and texts have the ability to inspire us to positive action. If we begin to see the earth as a sacred gift maybe we will find the motivation to make the necessary changes in our behaviors.

True change will only occur when we realize that we must care for the earth simply because it is a gift from God.

Have a great Earth Day!


Tulip Gazing

12 Apr
April 12, 2013

Each year I am amazed by the beauty of spring in the Pacific Northwest. Even on the days when the sun hides behind clouds, even on days when the wind and rain practically blow me over, even on those days when I’m stuck inside — I look at nature and I am in awe.

Yet, the beauty of each flower, of the budding trees, of the rainbows that catch us by surprise, is fleeting. I want to hold on to that beauty. Should I take a picture? That might make me feel better for a moment, but the reality is I rarely look at the pictures I’ve taken.  It seems the only way to hold on to the beauty of spring is to let go of it. I can only really enjoy the tulip if I am with the tulip; if I’m worrying about how to preserve the moment I’m no longer with the tulip.

I was on a retreat once where the director had each of us study a tulip for an hour. Yes, for an hour. We were to take note of everything we saw. I was amazed at the intricate beauty before my eyes. Each part of the tulip enhanced every other part. Just remembering the experience brings back the awe I felt. Just remembering the experience helps to calm and center me in this present moment.

I don’t need to spend an hour with every tulip I see, but every now and then, as the saying goes, I need to “stop and smell the flowers.” I invite you to do the same.

Happy tulip gazing!