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?

 

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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.

Carol

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

Sacrifice

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.

Carol

Mary’s month

09 May
May 9, 2013

 

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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!

Carol

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!

Carol

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!

Carol

Happy Easter

01 Apr
April 1, 2013

I’ve been reading a lot about the importance of narrative and how narrative shapes our identity as individuals and as cultures.  Narratives may be based on real events or they may be completely fictional — what matters is how we interact with them.

We are in the midst of the Easter season and for me as a Christian the meaning of the Easter narrative is clear — God’s love and abundance will overcome all evil, suffering, and pain.  I believe that God became one with us, that God became a particular human person at a particular moment in human history — we know this person as Jesus.  His world was difficult, especially for Jews, and because of his authenticity and willingness to speak truth to power, he was put to death. Yet, the narrative does not end here – if it did, nobody would even remember Jesus’ name. No, instead, Jesus rose from the dead, not to die again, but to live forever. The Easter story is a story of hope born of suffering; of hope born of powerlessness; of hope overcoming oppression.

I pray during this season that all people — Christians, non-Christians, atheists, spiritual seekers, those who don’t know and those who don’t care — can find in this narrative a message of hope. Even if you don’t believe that Jesus was God, even if you don’t believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, I pray this narrative will invite you to ponder the meaning of hope.  I pray that you will find the tender sprouts of hope in your life, in your relationships, and in your work.

Blessings,

Carol

 

What’s in a Name

15 Mar
March 15, 2013

On Wednesday, we learned that we have a new pope, Francis.

The media discussed a bit about the significance of the name Francis, but I think it needs more unpacking. So, with apologies to my Franciscan friends let me share with you why I think it is a sign of great hope that our new pope chose the name Francis.

Francis was a 13th century Italian. He came from a family of wealth and privilege. As a young man he lived life to the fullest without much care or concern for his neighbors. Francis spoke of his moment of conversion–it came to him not in a religious ceremony, not while in a great cathedral, and not while studying scripture–it came to him when he saw the face of Christ in a leper.

Francis dedicated his life in service to the poor, to living as a poor man, and to rebuilding the church. The church of Francis’ time was in need of reform and through his simple life of service, a life lived in the footprints of Christ, Francis did impact change in the church and in his home town of Assisi.

Francis is often connected to animals. Yes, it is true he cared deeply for animals, he cared deeply for all of God’s creation. Francis believed in the Incarnation of Christ – a moment in time when God’s abundant love for creation overflowed; God became human and dwelt among us. For Francis Jesus’ mission was love. Francis was devoted to the nativity of Jesus — who is this God that chose to enter into the world in poverty? The cross had meaning for him as well — who is this God who freely enters into human suffering? Francis helps us see a compassionate, suffering, and human face in Christ.

One last thought on Francis, he was a man of deep joy. In the midst of suffering, his own and that of the people he served, Francis never stopped being a man of joy.

Let us pray that Francis will call all of us to the faith of his namesake.

Carol

Photo: Friar’s Balsam via Flickr

Blessing for Our Work

01 Mar
March 1, 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

MacDonald Center

12 Feb
February 12, 2013

As you can see from our home page we’ve spent the last few weeks sharing our abundance with those in need.

Currently we are talking to the MacDonald Center about how best to engage our students, faculty, staff, and alumni with their programs.  The MacDonald Center is a drop in center located in downtown Portland. Its mission is to help the invisible people who live in the apartments in Old Town create community and to honor each individual persona and his/her life story.  The center also provides spiritual services for people – including memorial services when someone in the community dies.

One of the opportunities for volunteers is to visit neighbors in their homes.  Visitors go out in pairs and they only visit people who are connected to the MacDonald Center and who wish to be visited by a volunteer.  The first few times a pair goes out they are shadowed by a staff member.  When volunteers return to the center they have an opportunity to share their experience and to consider how they have been transformed by their time of visiting.

 

For more information about the center see:  www.macdcenter.org