The Joy of Our Hope*
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM
We have perhaps read inspiring, mood-lifting, even life-encouraging reflections about hope in times of struggle, agony, and anguish. It is Easter that gives us profound hope in the mystery of Christ’s resurrection. Now we are called to move into the Easter season’s joy.
What is the relationship of joy and hope?
What is the relationship of joy and hope and the month of May?
There are many feasts in the May liturgical calendar that can be an occasion of transporting us to joy.
On May 1, we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, model of fidelity. Each of us treasures the fidelity of a friend or spouse or generous relative or inspiring teacher or dedicated religious. What a great gift: to be able to count on someone through thick and thin. And what a call: to be a person of fidelity, faithfulness, and joyful witness to the good news of the gospel.
On May 16 this year, we celebrate the Ascension. How can Jesus leaving earthly existence be an occasion of joy? In the Easter season of 40 days there are scripture readings about Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, all startling good news: in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, at the seashore. Even if we are doubters, like Thomas, there is a most encouraging experience of Christ to contemplate: Christ with his “glorified” wounds, at once the reminder of the reality of the outpouring of love through the agony on the Cross AND the confirmation of resurrection to new life. We see Christ advising where to cast nets, cooking fish on the shore, ministering, serving, counseling for the spiritual, vocational, and ministerial growth of faithful disciples—and us, too.
We can imagine Mary in these 40 days moved in her entire being with resurrection joy as she draws water at the well—Jesus is with me, as she bakes bread—Jesus is with me, as she gathers in the upper room* for prayer and the breaking of the bread with the other disciples, the early Christians—Jesus is with us.
Perhaps make that a mantra throughout your day, throughout this month: Jesus, you are with me in all moments, in all experiences, in all challenges, in all encounters.
On May 23, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost fulfilling Christ’s promise never to leave us: I will not leave you orphans. How encouraging to receive the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage, prayerfulness, awe and wonder. Commune with Spirit-Sophia who will teach you all things.
On May 30, we celebrate the unfathomable mystery of the Triune God. A Doctor of the Church has expressed this Trinitarian concept in searing images:
A Brightness—A Flaring Forth—Fire
The mystical insight of St. Hildegard of Bingen.
Knowing the Trinity happens deep inside our hearts in our prayerful openness to God’s revelations from within us. After all, Jesus did not leave this life until he imparted the Spirit who would teach us ALL THINGS!
We encounter the Trinity in all that has flowed forth from Trinitarian actions: the creation of ALL THAT IS. We learn of the Trinity in the wonders of the natural world burgeoning in the springtime of May. If the Creator speaks in the Language of Trees, then contemplating trees and any other created reality should be a source of joy.
Read the pages, God is speaking
Creator speaks in languages of trees
Hear the singing of divinity
The flowers sing of beauty.***
“The world IS charged with the grandeur of God.”****
And we surely learn of the Trinitarian life through encounters with other people, other Christs, women and men icons of Christ.
HOPE: our trust in Jesus who has promised never to leave us
JOY: our communing with the Trinitarian life deep within us
Ultimately, God is our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
God is the Source of Our Joy.
*Title of one of the choral pieces in Linda Chase’s Oratorio on Laudato Sí
**Pope St. John Paul II’s Encyclical “Dominum and Vivificantem” reflects on four scenes in the Upper Room: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dominum-et-vivificantem
***Linda J. Chase https://soundcloud.com/lchase-1/creator-speaks-in-languages-of-trees
**** Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ. Emphasis added.
- April 2021, Tending to the Wounds We Bear
- March 2021 - Sacred Stories for Our Lenten Journey
- February 2021 - The Gifts of Ordinary and Extra-Ordinary Times
- December 2020 - Burdens Seen
- November 2020 - Saints and Stories
- October 2020, Love Must Manifest
- September 2020, We Belong to Each Other
- August 2020, Come, Holy Spirit
- July 2020, The Feast of the Humility of Mary
- June 2020, A Time Like No Other
- May 2020, Have Faith
- April 2020, When the Ground Is Hard
- March 2020, Thoughts and Words for Lent and Spring
- February 2020, How Can We Keep From Singing?
- December 2019, Who is Coming?
- November 2019, Faith, Good News, and Belonging
- October 2019, Caring for Creation: Forgetfulness and Remembering
- August 2019, Loving the Word
- June 2019, Seeing Beneath the Surface
- May 2019, I Wish I Had More Time
- April 2019, Unless the Grain of Wheat
- March 2019, "Thoughtful Responses to Annunciations"
- February 2019, "Apocalyptic Thinking and Prophetic Acting: The Immeasurable Value of Prayer"
- January 2019, "Can We Put Away Christmas?"
- December 2018, "Live Gladly"
- November 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- FEBRUARY 2018
- January 2018
- DECEMBER 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- Summer 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
Tending to the Wounds We Bear
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
As we enter into the Paschal Triduum this Holy Thursday, we may find ourselves overly eager to rush into the joy and hope-filled celebration of Easter Resurrection. Having endured what feels like a yearlong season of Lent, we may be tempted to pass quickly or even superficially by the suffering and death of Jesus commemorated in these holy days. But in order to ready ourselves for the promise of Easter, we are called to enter fully into this sacred mystery with renewed attentiveness to the wounds of Christ that we bear—the wounds of Christ in the world and within ourselves.
Thinking back over the past year, we can call our attention to the wounds of Christ in our world that have been exposed or deepened at the hands of the pandemic. We are called to be mindful of the wounds we’ve witnessed or experienced to the human dignity of our human family and to our sense of collective solidarity like poverty, racism, natural disasters, violence, and social injustices. We are called to attend, too, to the ongoing wounds to Creation.
Consider for a moment the past year. What wounds of Christ in our world most touch your heart? Where have you witnessed or experienced the suffering of Christ in our human family and in God’s creation?
Reflecting on the past year, we can also call our attention to the wounds of Christ in the suffering of those we know and love. The events of the year, intertwined with the pandemic, have brought great personal hardships to many, taxing their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Each of us also bears our own sorrows and wounds, and we may feel bruised and even broken as we have made our Lenten journeys.
Consider for a moment the wounds of Christ you have encountered in those you know and love. What wounds do they bear? What wounds do you bear as you enter into the Paschal Triduum?
As we acknowledge and attend to the wounds we bear communally and individually, we are invited to encounter the wounded Christ in our midst. In the book, Your Sorrow Is My Sorrow, spiritual author Joyce Rupp explores the Seven Sorrows of Mary in connection to our own sufferings and offers reflections on God’s compassion and healing revealed through the experiences of Mary.
Like Mary, we are called to meet and embrace the woundedness of Christ. Reflecting on the traditional fourth Sorrow of Mary meeting Jesus as he carried his cross, Joyce Rupp observes, “When Mary met Jesus on the road to Golgotha, she “came together” with him. It was an intimate entwining of pain...Mary felt his suffering in her own body and spirit. She went toward him, to meet this pain and to enter into it with him.”1 No distance, physical or emotional, separates Mary from Jesus’ suffering. Imagine her meeting Jesus’ pain face-to-face, choosing to walk alongside him in his pain and courageously bear witness to his suffering. Imagine the outpouring of love and compassion she would have embodied as she accompanies him to his death.
By her example, Mary invites us to encounter the wounds of Christ with proximity and the gift of loving, compassionate presence. As we meet the pain and suffering of others in our human family and those we know personally, we are called to enter into their suffering with them. “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length,” cautions Pope Francis. “Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others.”2 Following the examples of both Jesus and Mary, remaining close to the suffering thus becomes a Christian imperative.
In humility and vulnerability, we also recognize our own woundedness and need for God’s healing and wholeness. Just as Mary met Jesus’ suffering with compassion and abounding love, we can trust in God’s promise to meet us in our pain with eyes of compassion and loving arms outstretched. With courage, we can acknowledge and tend to the wounds we bear.
As we face and embrace the wounds of Christ in our world and in ourselves during and beyond the Easter Triduum, we lean upon God’s presence and trust in God’s transformative power to bring new life out of suffering and death. The promise of Easter reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering and that our suffering is not the final word. The God who accompanied Jesus and Mary accompanies us in our woundedness and assures us of the life-giving power of love and mercy to bind up our wounds, to heal that which is broken, to make the impossible possible.
1Joyce Rupp, Your Sorrow Is My Sorrow: Hope and Strength in Times of Suffering, pgs. 94-95.
2Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 270.
Sacred Stories for Our Lenten Journey
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
As we make our way through the beginning days of Lent, our liturgical calendar crisscrosses with the societal celebrations of Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. This intersection gifts us with an opportunity to look toward the often untold stories of two Black Catholic sisters as models of courageous, persevering, and faith-filled discipleship for our Lenten journey who might encourage, inspire, and challenge us.
Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, F.S.M. (1924-2017): A childhood convert to Catholicism, Mary Antona was called to religious life and was one of three Black women accepted into the Sisters of St. Mary, an all-white order in 1946. Within her religious order, she experienced the pain and trauma of segregation and “unholy discrimination,”1 but choose to stay in faithfulness to God’s call for her life. She spoke out against the racism she encountered and worked to transform the injustices she and others experienced. In the words of historian Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, Sister Mary Antona “refused to abandon God’s call on her life or accept white supremacy as normal in the church.”2 Sister Mary Antona continued to break barriers throughout her life. Trained as a nurse and later as a chaplain, Sister Mary Antona went on to serve as the first Black woman to administer a US hospital.
A vocal advocate for racial justice outside her community as well, Sister Mary Antona was the first Black Catholic sister to march alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma in 1965. Having witnessed the violent crackdown of peaceful protesters on “Bloody Sunday,” she initially hesitated to go to Selma when invited by her religious order to be a part of the St. Louis delegation, In her words, “I didn’t want to be a martyr, but it was either put up or shut up.” Throughout her faith-filled life, Sister Mary Antona worked tirelessly to confront racism within and outside the Church.
Anne Marie Becraft (1805-1833): She was born in 1805 to a family of free Black Catholics in Washington D.C., and is likely the granddaughter of Charles Carroll, Archbishop John Carroll’s cousin and the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his housekeeper, a free Black woman whose name has been lost to history.3 Her education was interrupted in 1820, when the white-operated school she attended was closed “because white involvement in the education of black people was discouraged.”4 The same year, at the age of 15, she began her own school for Black children. In 1827, with the support of a Jesuit priest, Becraft opened a new school for free girls, which became the nation’s first black Catholic school, in close proximity to Georgetown University. Drawn to religious life, Becraft was barred from entering the all-white religious orders in D.C. and decided to move to Baltimore to enter the historically black Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1831 where she took the name Sr. Mary Aloysius. She died two years later at the age of 28. In her relatively short lifetime, she is remembered as “a devout Catholic and deeply committed to educating young girls of color in the nation’s capital. Though she experienced both anti-Catholic and anti-black intimidation, she nevertheless responded to her calling to teach and to serve God.”5
As we continue to make our way through Lent, the telling and retelling of sacred stories like these has transformative power for our own lives and for our world. With the help of the Holy Spirit, our remembering and retelling brings “the subversive, encouraging, and liberating power of their love and witness into the present generation.6 With companions in faith like Sr. Mary Antona Ebo and Anne Marie Becraft (Sr. Mary Aloysius), we are encouraged to answer God’s call for our lives, holding true to our identity as God’s beloved no matter the obstacle. We are inspired to be courageous in responding to the needs of our sisters and brothers, especially those marginalized. And we are challenged to name and confront the injustices in our midst like racism which demean the God-given dignity of our fellow human beings.
With Sr. Mary Antona, Sr. Mary Aloysius, and so many other friends of God and prophets, we are “summoned to go forth as companions bringing the face of divine compassion into everyday life and the great struggles of history, wrestling with evil, and delighting even now when fragments of justice, peace, and healing gain however small a foothold.”7 This Lent, may we answer this summons and be heartened by the stories of those who have journeyed before us and continue to journey with us now.
What fragment of healing might you contribute today, this week, this month?
What fragment of peace might you bring about through some effort at reconciliation?
What fragment of justice might you forward in connection with someone else or some parish endeavor or organization?
For Further Learning
To learn more about the life of Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, I invite you to read, “Sister Antona Ebo’s lifelong struggle against white supremacy, inside and outside the Catholic Church.”
To learn more about the life of Anne Marie Becraft (Sr. Mary Aloysius), I invite you to read, “The black Catholic nun every American should know.”
1Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, “Sister Antona Ebo’s lifelong struggle against white supremacy, inside and outside the Catholic Church” America Magazine, January 8, 2018. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/11/22/sister-antona-ebos-lifelong-struggle-against-white-supremacy-inside-and-outside
3Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, “The black Catholic Nun Every American Should Know,” America Magazine, March 3, 2020. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/03/black-catholic-nun-every-american-should-know
4“Building to Be Renamed for Pioneer Black Educator Anne Marie Becraft” Georgetown University News, April 13, 2017. https://www.georgetown.edu/news/building-to-be-renamed-for-pioneer-black-educator-anne-marie-becraft/
6Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ. “Circle of Friends: A Closer Look at the Communion of Saints,” U.S. Catholic, January 27, 2011. https://uscatholic.org/articles/201101/circle-of-friends-a-closer-look-at-the-communion-of-saints/
The Gifts of Ordinary and Extra-Ordinary Times
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
In January, the Catholic Church entered into the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time. The phrase seems at odds with the extra-ordinary1 times in which we continue to live. This past January marked the deadliest month of the COVID pandemic, and our country witnessed the violent upheaval at the Capitol while still feeling its aftershocks. We continue to navigate our lives and our work in ways that are likely very different from one year ago. What gifts then might God wish to grace us with in this season?
Pope Francis offers us one possible gift in his Angelus message from the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the first Sunday in Ordinary Time, in describing the giftedness of ordinary life. Reflecting on Jesus’ life, Francis noted:
It is striking that the Lord spent most of his time on Earth in this way: living an ordinary life, without standing out. We think that, according to the Gospels, there were three years of preaching, of miracles and many things. Three. And the others, all the others, were of a hidden life with his family. It is a fine message for us: it reveals the greatness of daily life, the importance in God’s eyes of every gesture and moment of life, even the simplest, even the most hidden.2
For many, the disruptions of COVID have afforded the opportunity to see the greatness of ordinary life with new eyes and to appreciate the many things that we may have taken for granted. Catholic spiritual writer, Laura Kelly Fanucci, captures these well in her poem when she writes:
When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theater
Friday night out...3
For what gifts of ordinary life before COVID do you now give thanks? For what gifts of ordinary life during COVID might you give thanks?
In addition, Pope Francis’ words remind us that ordinary life, even in the disruption we continue to experience, gifts us the opportunity to practice love. In God’s eyes, our ordinary gestures of kindness, of compassion, of solidarity matter. How we treat one another, how we speak to one another, how we care for one another all matters.
These everyday actions and choices are like the mustard seeds of God’s Reign.4 But in the disruptions of these not-so-ordinary days, it may be difficult to trust in this. Francis reminds us of “the importance in God’s eyes of every gesture and moment of life, even the simplest, even the most hidden.” We are encouraged to take heart, confident that God’s eyes are smiling on us and blessing us as we endeavor to love one another in the concrete and difficult realities of our times.
The final gift of this ordinary time is the potential and promise of bringing forth a “new normal,” which is more reflective of God’s hopes for humanity and the world—a normal in which the lives and dignity of every human person are respected and the Earth, our common home, is protected. Fanucci closes her poem, writing:
When this ends
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay
for each other
because of the worst.
May this ordinary time awaken us to the everyday opportunities to bring forth more love, compassion, justice, and kinship in our communities, in our workplaces, in our homes, and in our families. May it shape us into the people God is calling us to be. May it attune us to God’s presence with us every ordinary and extra-ordinary day.
1 from extra ordinem ‘outside the normal course of events’
4 It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches (Mt 13: 32).
Burdens Seen and Unseen
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
Outside my office window normally stand three large Arborvitae trees. When I arrived at my office last Wednesday morning in the wake of Tuesday’s snowfall, I was startled to see that the trees were bent low to the ground, weighed down by the heavy snow.
I imagine that many of us have entered this season of Advent feeling a bit bent low, like the trees. For some of us, we may feel weighed down by personal and familial struggles and suffering. For others, we may feel weighed down by the ongoing upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and the magnitude of human loss. We may feel bent low by the injustices of the world—by the persistence of racism, by the enormity of the climate crisis, by the suffering of so many of God’s children at the hands of God’s children. Individually and collectively, we enter this Advent season with burdens seen and unseen.
As we wait in hope for Christ’s coming this Christmas, Jesus’ words echo down to us across the millennia. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.”1 Jesus invites us to come to him: in our brokenness, with our burdens, bent low as we are. He invites us to surrender all that we are carrying, promising as our accompanying God to help shoulder the weight, bring us much-needed rest, and walk with us all our days.
In a recent address, Pope Francis describes Advent as a season of hope because in Jesus, “God walks beside us to support us. The Lord does not abandon us; he accompanies us through the events of our lives to help us discover the meaning of the journey, the meaning of everyday life, to give us courage when we are under duress or when we suffer. In the midst of life’s storms, God always extends His hand to us...”2
This Advent, may we trust that Christ is walking beside us, beckoning us to come and open our hearts to him. May we surrender unto him all that is weighing us down. May we be confident that God’s grace and strength is more than sufficient to carry us and our weary world into Christmas days of joy and love incarnate.
1 Matthew 11:29
2 Pope Francis, Angelus, 29 November 2020
Saints and Stories
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
My young daughters crave stories. “Tell me a story,” they often implore. They enjoy hearing a range of stories from their birth stories and stories from their early years, to stories from our childhoods paralleling experiences they’re navigating, and, of course, make-believe stories of animal friends and magical adventures. They adore stories and their re-telling not just for entertainment value, but because these stories help give shape to their lives. They help them to discover and understand who they are as individuals and as members of our family; they help them to make meaning out of their experiences and to navigate that which is unfamiliar or difficult; they help them to consider choices and their impacts as well as to dream and imagine. Ultimately, stories help them to see themselves as part of something bigger than themselves.
This month, I was privileged to visit the 9th grade Theology classes in the virtual company of Sister Helen Jean Novy, HM as she shared stories of the history and heritage of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. Listening to the stories of Mother Madelaine, Mother Anna, and Fr. Begel (the HM Founders) and the HM Sisters down through the generations to the present, I was struck again by the power of stories. As Sister brought to life the faith-filled lives of these holy people, these stories helped shape us as we listened.
In 1854 in the small village of Dommartin-sous-Amance, France, Mother Madelaine Potier chose to open her home as an orphanage and school for girls because there was no school for them. In collaboration with Father John Joseph Begel, they worked to care for and educate children in a time when rural people in post-revolutionary France were suffering from poverty and neglect. Invited by Bishop Amadeus Rappe of Cleveland to serve French immigrants in the Diocese, they agreed to emigrate to the United States.
In 1864, following the heartbreaking death of Mother Madelaine from tuberculosis, Mother Anna Tabourat willingly accepted the call to lead the sisters just two months before their departure for America. Under her leadership, the entire community of Sisters journeyed to the United States and persisted in the face of great hardship. On a property that two other religious communities had given up on, the Sisters and Fr. Begel resiliently transformed swampland into a working farm, built an infirmary to care for the sick and injured, and continued to educate and care for orphans.*
Hearing the stories of the HM Founders like this brought to life their courage, compassion, creativity, resilience, and great faith. Their lives are living witness to the courage to let go and leave behind the known for the unknown; of the compassion to see in another human being the imago Dei, the image of God; of the creativity to recognize a need and innovate a response; of the resiliency to steadfastly persevere in the face of hardship or heartbreak; of the great faith at the heart of all of the above to trust in and love God wholeheartedly.
Faithfully trying to respond to God’s call for their lives in light of the needs of the times, these holy women and men, and all in the Communion of Saints whom we remember this month, are our companions in faith. These saints, including those we have been graced to know and love in our lifetimes, walk with us as we try to respond to God’s call in our lives. By telling and re-telling their stories, we can bring to life their goodness and holiness, remembering them as our not-so-distant sisters and brothers who can help us to better understand who we are as individuals and as members of God’s family. As we consider the choices they made, we can likewise examine the choices we make and dream and imagine new possibilities that God has for us and our lives. Their stories can inspire us to remember that we are not alone in our journeys of faith. In the company of all the faithful, we are part of God’s story.
- Is there a saint whose story has shaped who you are? How?
Whose or what story would you like to share this month with a family member or friend?
Consider exploring the story of a new saint or holy person. What do you find inspiring and/or challenging about their life? How might their story impact your own?
*”Remembering Our Roots,” Sr. Helen Jean Novy.
Love Must Manifest
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM, Vice President of Mission Emerita
Faith, Hope, and Love have been promised to remain with us through all time—indeed, in this very time—with love characterized as the greatest of these
Love manifests in simple ways.
Our loving has found new ways as well as familiar ways to express itself these days, perhaps remotely through Skyping grandchildren or calling a daughter at college or sending a card to a quarantining relative.
A teacher was explaining to fourth grade students where the cross is in the room and where the flag is for morning prayer and pledge. “A few girls in my class noticed my shrine to Mary in the ‘prayer corner’ in the back of my classroom and asked if they could direct their ‘Hail Mary’ to her. They all turn a whole 180 degrees from the cross to Mary’s corner and it makes me smile every morning: I have quite the group of little 4th grade Marian women!”* Such simple love channeling the faith of the students; such responsive love flowing from the teacher.
Love manifests in other-centeredness.
A friend, hours after a recent surgery, inquired: How are you? Though unexpected, this spoken word is certainly love moving through pain and uncertainty to give a blessing of care to another. Try more to understand than to be understood, to love than to be loved. (St. Francis)
Naturalist Terry Tempest Williams uncannily expressed years ago that staying home might be ‘the most radical act [of love] we can commit’:
- It doesn't mean it's easy, but it does mean you can live with patience,
because you're not going to go away. It also means commitment
to bear witness, and engaging in 'casserole diplomacy'
by sharing food among neighbors, by playing with the children
and mending feuds and caring for the sick.
These kinds of commitments are real. They are tangible.
They are not esoteric or idealistic, but rooted in the bedrock of existence
of where we choose to maintain our lives.
Love manifests in creative expression.
That said, try new forms of expressing your love or your hope or your faith.
Try a poetic expression of something seen or felt or experienced comparing it to something else. Experiment with haiku which depends on image and insight with a succinct image in the first line, an apparently unrelated image in the next, and an insightful connection or revelation in the third.
Consider molding your fondness of something into a clay sculpture or painting it in realistic or abstract form on paper or canvas or even chalking it on a sidewalk.
Love manifests in acts of attention.
Attend to God’s creation. To contemplate any aspect of creation is a potential form of expressing love for the Creator. Made of stardust, we have cosmic connections as the cosmologist Carl Sagan expressed it. Because of the common origins in the first flaring forth, aka The Big Bang, we are inescapably united in origin.
One way of manifesting love might be to contemplate images from space. Consider the rotating image of Earth at night on nasa.gov. There is an awesomeness that prompts humility. There is also an awakening to the vast differences of light use and light availability throughout the continents and geographic areas, a humble realization.
Take a walk and absorb the scene, its colors, textures, designs, shades, shapes...Consider singing with each step a mellow line, e.g., The world is telling the glory of God or This is Holy Ground or Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Love manifests in forms of prayer and reflection.
“Reading is a radical act of empathy.”*** So consider reading about an admired person as an act of love or honoring. Go to Scripture and read a Gospel, perhaps Luke’s starting today or on his feast, October 18th.
Love manifests in sacrifice.
When called to prosaic sacrifices perhaps by persevering through the drudgery of Zoomed meetings, perhaps in distancing oneself from familiar gatherings, perhaps in translating familiar church services into faith-renewing home rituals, perhaps in acquiescing to another’s directives in surrendering choices. Sign up for a webinar that stretches your perspective. Work to learn cognitive, historical, societal, religious, human, communal motives to work for racial justice. Involve yourself in effective care for others.****
Indeed, enter the paschal mystery.
Love manifests with penetrating vision.
We are searching more earnestly for genuine hope in these times. The book of Hebrews indicates that we have the ground for our hope already and always with us: Jesus.
We might be experiencing a curtain separating us from a clear glimpse of the source of our hope: current heaviness; an opaque future; seeming endlessness of trials. Love is the vision that pierces the curtain — from both sides.
We have this hope
A sure and steadfast hope
An anchor of the soul
A hope that enters the inner shrine
Behind the curtain
Where Jesus is.
Our hope is not about a perspective but a person, and to be in relationship with any person is to walk a path of love.
*Contributed by Casey Kunkle '16
****Cf. Bishop Seitz letter in America Media, https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2020/09/28/bishop-seitz-el-paso-catholics-single-issue-voting-election-2020-biden-trump?utm_source=piano&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=5695&pnespid=iet.86RfW1KN50Q1i36tQY2TuIi.RCV7OzqeZGIl
We Belong to Each Other
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
This week marks the beginning of a school year unlike any other in Magnificat’s history. As students return to school, I wonder what they will remember from these unusual days. There is much that is new and different, and likely memorable, about this year: wearing masks, learning in socially distanced classrooms and online spaces, cleaning surfaces with personal spray bottles of disinfectant, the checking of temperatures and clicking of boxes on health assessments, eating lunch behind plastic barriers. Over and above these things—or perhaps in the midst of them—I hope that our students will also remember the notion that we belong to each other.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other—that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister.” Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching affirm our belonging to one another -- our interconnectedness as a human family and our responsibility to that family. As St. Paul writes, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ” (1 Cor 12:12). Because we are interconnected, individual experiences of both suffering and joy impact the whole (1 Cor 12: 26). As human beings created by God in relationship and called to relationship, the Catholic Social Teaching principle of solidarity asserts that we are responsible for one another; that we are called to care for and love one another as God has and continues to love and care for us. As Saint John Paul II notes, “It [solidarity] is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” (1)
Such solidarity is demanding. It is more than a passing thought of concern for another. It requires attentiveness to the needs of others as named by them. It involves a feeling with others in experiences of suffering and joy and everything in between. It necessitates a willingness to sacrifice personally and communally for the common good. It translates into loving action, humbly recognizing that everything we do ripples out to the whole because we do belong to each other.
The newest members of the Magnificat community, the Class of 2024, reflected on the notion of belonging to one another in their orientation this August. They put this notion into their own words in affirming messages written for each other, such as:
“I’m here for you and will treat you with kindness.”
“Never ever give up.”
“We aren’t as different as we may seem.”
“Speak up for each other.”
“You aren’t alone.”
“Encourage each other. Don’t bring people down.”
“Give time to others and always include.”
“Stand up for each other and pray together.”
“Be strong! Pick others up! Be confident!”
“Believe in God.”
“Be there for each other.”
“We are all in this together.”
Their messages speak to this deep truth of our faith that we are learning and relearning in these uncertain times. We are not islands unto ourselves; we are tied together as God’s people. And because we are tied together, we are called to overcome our temptations toward the narrowness of indifference, individualism, and self-centeredness. We are called to widen the field of our vision, to widen the circle of our compassion (2), to widen our sense of who we are as individuals and as a community and who we are called to be.
And so with masks donned, spray bottles in hand, and standing arms’ length apart, we begin the year trusting that God walks with us in all that we are learning and doing. Grounded in our belief that we belong to each other, may these uncertain times transform our praying, thinking, speaking, being, and acting in ways that reflect this truth of our identity and our calling.
1) On Social Concern [Sollicitudo rei Socialis], no. 38.
2) Fr. Greg Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, pg. 212.
Come, Holy Spirit
by Katie Higgins '99, Vice President of Mission
As a college student at the University of Notre Dame, I had the privilege of participating in Masses celebrated with Fr. Ted Hesburgh, CSC, President Emeritus, who would make the rounds to each of the twenty-some dorm Chapels each year to celebrate Mass with students in these smaller settings. Twenty years later, I can still recall one such Mass where he shared one of his personal favorite prayers. “It’s only three words,” he told us, as he explained how he had summoned these three simple yet powerful words in prayer on countless occasions to guide and inspire, to comfort and console, to embolden and empower. “Come, Holy Spirit,” he prayed. “Come, Holy Spirit.”
Normally at the beginning of a new school year, the entire Magnificat student body, faculty, and staff gather to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit. A tradition dating back to the 1500s in Catholic universities, this Mass officially begins the school year by invoking the Holy Spirit’s presence for wisdom and guidance, and praying that we might be filled with the gifts of the Spirit. As we prepare to begin this school year, we know that many such traditions and norms, many of our usual ways of being, will not be possible as they have been in the past. While we navigate this new reality filled with many uncertainties and unknowns, and while we endeavor to find new and creative ways to learn, to work, and to live in relationship, we can turn to this simple prayer like a mantra.
“Come, Holy Spirit,” we pray,
asking for the Spirit’s gifts most needed in our lives and world.
“Come, Holy Spirit,” we pray,
reminding us that God’s ever-present love is nearer to us than we can possibly imagine.
“Come, Holy Spirit,” we pray,
trusting that God’s Spirit is actively at work in the world and in our lives.
As we trust in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we can prayerfully reflect upon the Spirit’s gifts and how, with God’s grace, they might bear fruit in our lives in these challenging times. Consider the following descriptions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit authored by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM. As you read, I invite you to reflect upon which gift is most needed in your life? Which gift is most needed in our world?
Understanding: Understanding enables us to see deeply into things. For example, to go beyond the surface look on a person’s face or a person’s words; or to go more deeply into a text from scripture or a belief and realize their applications in personal life right here, right now. Understanding also helps us to accept whatever is unfamiliar or different.
Counsel: Counsel enables us to seek advice and to learn from one another; counsel helps us to recognize mentors who are wise and who guide us for our good. Jesus tells us that wherever two or three are gathered together, Jesus is in their midst. Jesus tells the disciples to lean on each other and to help each other and to pray for and serve one another in need. It is as a community that we are strong and wise.
Fortitude: Fortitude enables us to persevere when things are harder than we expected; fortitude enables us to stick with difficult situations and resist fleeing, to consent to being tried like gold in the furnace. Difficulties are opportunities for grace and transformation.
Prayerfulness: Prayerfulness acknowledges God as present to us. Prayerfulness is a way of being, an attitude or posture. Prayerfulness can manifest itself in all forms of prayer: thanksgiving; petition; praise; sorrow or regret when we hurt someone or don’t live up to our ideals. But prayerfulness also manifests itself simply in the way we do things and in the attention we bring to people.
Knowledge: Knowledge enables us to learn from scripture, to learn from nature, to learn from experiences and to learn from one another; knowledge also enables us to imagine the connections of things and how everything affects everything else.
Awe and Wonder: Awe and Wonder is a spirit of letting our hearts be touched by beauty in nature, in others, in God; it is a sense of the awesomeness of God’s actions in us and in the world; it’s a reverence that causes our hearts to bow.
Wisdom: Wisdom helps us to put on the mind and heart of Christ, to see everything the way Christ would, Who is the Word of God and the Wisdom of God. Wisdom leads to com-passion—feeling with, suffering with, hoping with another person. Wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom involves insight. Wisdom enables us to choose things that last, e.g., friendship and faith; spiritual values, such as prayer and scripture.*
As we enter into the month of August, we affirm our belief in the presence of the Holy Spirit, ever-present and eager to shower us with the gifts needed to respond to the challenges and opportunities of each day. As Elizabeth Johnson reminds us, “Through the Spirit, the risen Christ is universally present in the world everywhere and in every moment, as pervasive as the air we breathe, as the sun or the rain that comes down on us, as the wind that blows around us, as the life that flows with our every breath.”** Everywhere and in every moment, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.”
As we begin a school year unlike any other, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
As we face our fears and worries and hold fast to our hopes and dreams, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
As we strive to care effectively for all who are sick and suffering
from the COVID-19 pandemic, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
As we practice solidarity with those on the margins of society
and affirm the dignity of every human person, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
As we mourn the lives lost to COVID and systemic racism, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
As we wrestle with the pandemic of racism woven
into our institutions, policies, and systems, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
As we strive to live Mary’s Magnificat in the world, we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
*All descriptions from Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM.
**Elizabeth Johnson, Abounding in Kindness, 235.
On July 17, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, the founding and sponsoring religious community of Magnificat High School, celebrate the feast of the Humility of Mary. On this day, we give heartfelt thanks for the HM Sisters and for their faith-filled lives and ministries in bringing more abundant life to God's people. May their witness of humility be a daily inspiration to us.
Reflection from Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M.
The Feast of the Humility of Mary has always been a joyful occasion to celebrate our HM Community's devotion to Mary and our gratitude for our community heritage and one another. When I reflect on humility, I think of the simplicity, faithfulness, initiative, and prayerfulness of the sisters who inspire my fidelity, including sisters now retired at the Villa, and the stories they tell of their ministry and the spiritual inspirations they share.
Humility's root is humus, reminding us that we are fully human, as is Jesus in the Incarnation, and totally of the earth which we must efficaciously care for as God's creation.
I always think of "humility" in terms of the humility of Mary expressed in her Magnificat of Praise; Gratitude; Joy; Prophetic Courage, and I hope I live up to that daily.
One of the foundational meanings of humility is truth, the reality of who we are before God: weak, imperfect, incomplete, yet lavished with God's love as unique, irreplaceable, and beloved. Humility is a call for our times: to witness the invaluable preciousness of each and every person God has created.
Thus humility is openness to learn from others.
Reflections from the Sisters of the Humility of Mary
A number of years ago, our sisters reflected on their experiences of and practices in humility. In a sense of realism or holy humor, one sister said: "Humility is using a walker." Another reflected: "I learned humility by living in Community." Here are more of their thoughts.
- Waiting in mystery, listening, confusion, acceptance, trust, readiness to serve, being oneself, earthy; openness and simplicity.
- The Magnificat is a strong sense of charism: act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with our God.
- Looking to Mary to show me "annunciations" in my life.
- Mary is a strong woman speaking prophetically in the Magnificat.
- Mary is a faithful disciple throughout her life including guiding the early church after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Mary's openness to go where she would not otherwise go.
- Humility is the humus in which we have been transformed so that we can bring forth abundant life to the Anawim, the faithful ones, the faithful remnant, God's people, especially people who are poor.
- What a strong woman, courageous in her own time and way.
- Like Mary, we ponder the Word (HM Constitutions); union of contemplation and action.
A Time Like No Other
Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M.
Walking into the studios, it felt like time had stood still. Paintbrushes scattered, artwork waiting to be finished, students' supplies randomly scattered about the room. It looked just a little lonely. (Art Teacher upon first returning after school closure, D.B. March 12, 2020)
Her sentiments about the sudden school-closing experience and our loss of moorings capture the sense of “a time like no other.” But let us reflect on some other moments in the early church that might be characterized as times like no other.
Imagine humanity’s first experience of resurrection: the disciples who had grown to know and love Jesus and relish his life-filled words over three years shocked by his loss, terrified for themselves. He appears before them! He shows his wounds; he walks along the road with them explaining the prophetic scriptures about what would happen to the Messiah; he cooks breakfast for them.
We might also reflect on the Easter season's Gospel passages depicting the disciples after Christ’s resurrection receiving the Holy Spirit as a time like no other. This was a unique experience of being personally and communally empowered by Spirit-Sophia. She —female metaphors are used in the Bible and the mystical tradition—gives life (vivificantem!), inspires prophets, upholds the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, consecrates people through baptism and the forgiveness of sins, and ensures the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”* Culling scripture images, a theologian characterizes the Spirit:
like a mother knitting new life together in her womb;
like a midwife working to bring a child to birth;
like a laundrywoman washing out stains and renewing the earth;
like a motherbird sheltering her chicks under her outstretched wings;
like the power of the wind, the warmth of fire, the refreshment of cool water,
the Spirit is not far from any of us, being, as Paul said to the Greeks in Athens,
the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).**
Imagine the disciples leaving the upper room where they had sequestered themselves and which had been a locus of terror and breaking forth to preach confidently and passionately to hundreds about the Good News: CHRIST LIVES! Christ truly lives among us.
Imagine with the first experience of the inundation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that enabled the fearless preaching and impassioned imparting of the Gospel message by the Spirit-inundated disciples. Acts reminds us of the zeal of Lydia, Priscilla, Thecla, who balanced practical skills and a business sense with hospitality and witnessing.
In this time like no other, give time for new forms of prayer. Begin all prayer times sitting peacefully and asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit for an attentive ear of the heart.
Pray this time: Pray through the shocks, the losses, the insecurities.
Pray this time: Pray with the encouragement of friends, the expressions of faith of the community of faith, the graces of the Spirit who gives life,
Pray this time: Pray in places of peace, a special area of home, a nature setting, a scene of beauty.
Pray this time: Pray toward a renewed and strengthening hope reading passages in scripture including psalms of rejoicing and Gospel scenes of Jesus’ healing actions, the promises of the Accompanying God to be with us always.
Pray this time: Pray by reading a scripture passage slowly and thoughtfully. Pause, then read it a second time. Give attention to any line that attracts you. Consider the world before the text, our world, and ask the Holy Spirit the application for today.
Pray this time: Pray by repeating a mantra in the depths of your heart until the Holy Spirit is repeating it for you, perhaps,
My God and My All
My rock, my refuge
My life, my sweetness, my hope
Jesus, meek and humble of heart
The Way, the Truth and the Light
Word of God
Wisdom of God
You Are the Compassionate, the Merciful
Mercy upon Mercy
In you I live and move and have my being.
Might you have other times for you like no other?***
soothe all that is wounded
by comforting all affected by the pandemic
and all ministering to them.
Water what is dried out
by renewing the fervor of our ministering.
Warm what is cold
by transforming our limited thinking.
Cool what is hot
by expanding our tolerance.
Bend what is inflexible
by melting our hearts with genuine humility.
Deepen our understanding of the Gospels
so that our only concern
is to follow Jesus who has called us Friends
and commissioned us to be prophetic
on behalf of justice and peace.
We can do all things in you
who strengthens us.
*”The Banquet of Faith,” Elizabeth Johnson, Keynote Address, LCWR, 2008, p. 1.
**”The Banquet of Faith,” p.6.
***Other Times like No Other
Mary, too, at the Annunciation, discerning on behalf of all humankind, dwelt in a time like no other which lead to her saying YES to a journey whose path was un-revealed. As the poet suggested, she had no compass for the journey ahead . . . To Jesus’ prophetic reception in the temple, to his years away preaching, to his last Passover supper, to his tortures and death — to his resurrection and then her receiving of the Holy Spirit.
The Sisters of the Humility of Mary leaving France in 1864, a decade after their founding in Dommartin, for a land they could not even imagine, without benefit of TV, movies, the internet, cell phones, and setting sail on an ocean voyage for America was a launch into a time like no other. They, too, might have felt that they lost their moorings but faith and hope and love propelled them.*
Personal Reflection In another sense, my 43 years at Magnificat (though not consecutive) accumulate as a time like no other. The kindness of so many associates and friends, inspired leaders, talented colleagues, supporting parents, faithful alumnae, generous donors, and uniquely marvelous students. I’ll always be able to reflect on a time when people supported me, when people rejoiced with me, when people prayed for me, when people prayed with me, when I felt so at home, when I recognized God’s action on behalf of a great need, when the Spirit’s inspiration touched others, when the Daily Prayer moved so many. All I have encountered have enabled my soul to magnify the Lord and rejoice in the good things God has done and will do making all times like no other.
Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M.
Colloquially, we might have said to someone by way of encouragement: Have faith. Can someone “have” faith? What is faith and how does it come into play in these trying times and challenging circumstances.
Faith is needed when something is not apparent. Faith has been described as hope for something unseen, even unknowable, that is, faith concerns mystery. The doctrinal articulation of our faith attempts to express in finite language Infinite Mystery. Nonetheless, these articulations, distilled in Council debates, ponderings of inspired theologians, and reflections of the believing community, make use of the layered language of metaphor and symbol. They are rich in meaning.
Faith indicates a free response inspired by the Holy Spirit to core teachings of the Church. The Nicene Creed is an expression of key doctrines or teachings. But even the Creed is not so much about what but whom. I know whom I have believed.
Faith, in the biblical view, is always
a gift from God that enables us
to trust the One who has promised to be faithful.
Faith is leaning your heart on God,
who is the one on whom
your heart depends, inclines, relies, rests.*
Theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson invites us into a deeper exploration of our faith in our Triune God in the Nicene Creed. “The creed’s opening words, ‘We believe,’ signal that we are engaged in an act of faith. This does not mean primarily that we are giving intellectual assent to a series of truths. Rather, saying ‘we believe’ means that we are also daring to base our lives on this story.”*
“At its core, what does the creed make clear? That the indescribable mystery of the living God is unimaginably near, pouring out merciful love in the midst of our darkness, injustice, sin, and death. Faith means trusting that this is true, leaning one’s heart on this Rock. In saying ‘We believe,’ we are reaching out to this Love with our whole being, risking a relationship that has the power to transform our lives and ministry. And we are doing so together, as a community.”*
No wonder Faith is considered a theological virtue along with Hope and Love.
It is not surprising that having faith in these extremely hard and nearly inexplicable times is a new call. Perhaps the world before the pandemic was also challenging our faith with its inverted values and materialistic focus, but the lack of “total control” is a humbling nadir of human experience through which our faith is tested. We rightly seek the essence of faith. Faith helps us see beyond the surface of things. It intuits the spiritual dimensions of human persons. It distinguishes things of lasting value.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear in referencing the experiences of the New Testament Christians: “Now, however, ‘we walk by faith, not by sight’; we perceive God as ‘in a mirror, dimly’ and only ‘in part’ though enlightened by the one in whom we believe. Faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it” (CCC 164).
Clearly faith lived in darkness calls for the complement of hope. Hope counts on the Word of God, the irrevocable promises of God about the meaning and destiny of our graced life. We have been baptized into Christ. We are living into our destiny already because we live in Christ.
So the fullness of faith and understanding of its implications have a future dimension. “Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God ‘face to face’ as he is. So faith is already the beginning of eternal life: when we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy” (CCC 163).
Faith necessarily leads to hope and love. If you want to strengthen your faith, practice love. Because God has created and is evolving the created world, treasure God’s Earth. Because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, be comforted in knowing our compassionate and accompanying God has entered into all that we might be called to endure. Because the Pentecostal Spirit renews Christ’s Presence and ignites the fire of love in our hearts, reach out to any and all to share the incomparable love of Christ.
Keep the faith!
You have told us,
that you are a hidden God
but that, if we seek you,
we shall find you.
Grant me deeper understanding
of core beliefs of my faith
which will enlighten my life,
even on the darkest days.
Increase my hope
and motivate my love.
Above all, Triune God,
deepen our relationship.
All things have their deepest meaning
only in you.
*See p. 1 of “The Banquet of Faith,” or the complete address for a full exploration of the Triune God in the Creed here.
When the Ground Is Hard
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM
An African proverb declares that “When the ground is hard, the women dance.”* In our faith-journey, our life journey at this critical time, we are certainly walking hard ground. The image of hard ground connotes parched and cracked earth that yields no growth, that promises no new greening. There is no sign of any sprouting. Life is stalled. It is a situation of inactivity, of fruitlessness of any labor. It is a situation of stupefying inaction. It is our Lenten desert.
But the proverb suggests that, because the people cannot cultivate the soil, they do not have to be idle. In fact, they can dance! What a bold thought: turning of a monumental problem, the hard earth not being able to be cultivated for planting, into an energetic and jubilant activity. How can this be? What is driving the human spirit?
It has been said that the psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures capture every emotional response to human experience, even to the point of scandalous exclamations. The psalms designated as laments echo the miseries of human existence that drag us down to desert places. That is why the Gospel writer quotes Christ from the Cross reciting a psalm (22) of abject despair:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
However, the mystic, Thomas Merton, called the psalms “bread in the wilderness” in his book of the same name. He describes them as sacramental nourishment in our trek through the desert experiences of our lives. In a magnanimous thought, he suggests that the psalms expand our charity by inviting us, when our burdens are overwhelming us, to embrace in our prayer others likewise suffering or even others rejoicing. We are called to encircle in our prayer anyone suffering pain, loss, sickness, abandonment, anxiety or despair.
As we ponder these psalms of lament we recognize the universality of experience and sentiment. A psalm of disorientation, 88, expresses human feelings of hopelessness: you overwhelm me. In a psalm of communal lament, psalm 137, the psalmist presumes we all share the human condition to its nadir. The people explicitly surrender to passive despair: there is no possibilty for musical instruments, for singing or dancing. However, it also calls for the ground of hope, sacred memory, which refuses to forget all that God has done for us to this critical moment. Psalm 30 indicates that there is weeping in the night, but with the dawn rejoicing. Psalm 86 petitions God to turn, take pity, and save us because God is gracious and merciful.
Although wrung from the lips of Christ crucified, Psalm 22 culminates in a promise of resurrection: I will live and give praise because the Lord did not forget my afflictions. And now turn the page of this moment of the world’s confusion and desolation to Psalm 23 which promises we will be lead to green pastures and to a banquet served by God. We might say, a eucharistic banquet set before us personally prepared and served by the Good Shepherd even in the quiet of our own homes.
In accepting the new paradigm of our universal suffering but not without the spiritual bonding through our daily prayer for ourselves and one another across the earth, we have cause to hope. Our faith nurtures us through expanding our love for those near and far. Our hearts, at least, can dance.
*Malla Nunn in When the Ground Is Hard.
Thoughts and Words for Lent and Spring
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM, Vice President of Mission
The Romantic poets including Wordsworth authored many nature-focused poems including Wordsworth’s reflection on the flowering of spring:
I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils…dancing and fluttering in the breeze.
Emily Dickenson observed that “a light exists in spring…a sacrament.”
None stir abroad without a cordial interview with God.
e.e. cummings’ take on spring sports the playfulness of children after rain:
It’s spring and the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.
In commenting on one of Mary Oliver poems entitle “Spring,” the educator/philosopher Parker Palmer says that he is haunted by the line about what to make of this world.
Spring has a special power over our psyche. It inclines us to long for new life. Spring is early on in Lent this year, March 19, reminding us that Lent—suffering, sorrow, pain, tragedy, death—is not the last word. The Psalms, too, make us mindful of the pulsating world.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters,
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord, over the mighty waters…
The voice of the Lord cracks the cedars,
The voice of the Lord strikes with fiery flame
The voice of the Lord rocks the desert.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
And strips the forests bare
So all in God’s earthly palace say: Glory! (Ps. 29)
When I see the heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and stars that you set in place.
The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds,
The world and those who live there.
For God founded it on the seas,
Established it over the rivers. (Ps. 24)
Praise God, sun and moon,
Give praise, all shining stars.
Praise God, highest heavens,
You waters above the heavens…
Praise the Lord from the earth,
You sea monsters and all deep waters;
You lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
Storm winds that fulfill his command;
You mountains and all hills,
Fruit trees and all cedars;
You animals wild and tame,
You creatures that crawl and fly. (Ps. 148)
The heavens declare the glory of God,
The sky proclaims its builder’s craft…
God has pitched a tent for the sun,
It comes forth like a bridegroom
Like an athlete it runs its course.
Nothing escapes its heat. (Ps. 19)
The Lord sends a command to earth;
God’s word runs swiftly!
Hail is dispersed like crumbs;
Before such cold the waters freeze.
Again he sends his word and they melt;
The wind is unleashed and the waters flow. (Ps. 147)
Just as there are psalms celebrating creation inclining us to praise our Creator, there are psalms of lament for individual and communal loss and tragedy. Thomas Merton, considering the psalms our “bread in the wilderness,” assures us that “there is not a night of the soul that has not been experienced before us by the psalmists, who, in their turn, were simply prefiguring the agony of Christ in the garden.” (Praying the Psalms, Liturgical Press, p. 35) Consider:
O God, you art my God:
Earnestly I seek you,
My soul thirsts for you,
my flesh longs for you,
Like a dry and thirsty land, without water.
Remove thy scourge from me…
I am consumed by the blow of your hand. (Ps. 62)
Unto you, I cry, O Lord;
My rock, be not deaf to me.
Lest, if you hear me not,
I become like those
That go down into the pit. (Ps. 27)
Walter Brueggemann. Examines the psalms from three perspectives: Psalms of Orientation; Psalms of Disorientation; Psalms of New Orientation.* One such psalm of personal lament is full of pleading: incline, answer, preserve, save, take pity, save. (Ps. 86) Consider praying personal laments with Christ: Psalms 13; 35, 88 (concerned with the absence and silence of God), as well as communal laments: Psalms 74; 79; 137. Some psalms combine disorientation and the hopefulness of renewed orientation, renewed confidence in God because of God’s faithfulness. (Ps. 143) Psalm 51 combines the seriousness of the disorder with the possibility for new life. So, read on. Pray these psalms for yourself and the world.
Thus the poets of spring and the poets of the psalms offer us words for human experience in this time of nature’s year and the faith journey of this part of the liturgical year. If winter comes, can spring be far behind in our Christian perspective of theological hope as Easter people? God’s steadfast-love and loving-kindness abound in the psalms and our own experience.
God, of Accompaniment,
You are with us
In sorrow and grief,
In failure and disappointment,
In tragedy, death, and loss.
Be with us now.
Jesus, Incarnate Word,
May I accompany You
Through Your agony in the garden,
Your brutal treatment by the soldiers,
Your painful journey to Calvary,
Your Crucifixion and Death.
Then, no matter what,
I will find You in Resurrection.
*See The Message of the Psalms, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1954, passim.
^^See also,The Psalms: Songs of Tragedy, Hope, and Justice, J. David Pleins, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1993, and Bringing the Psalms to Life: How to Understand and Use the Book of Psalms, Daniel F. Polish, Woodstock: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2000.
How Can We Keep From Singing?
by Katie Higgins, Assistant Vice President of Mission
As a parent to two young children, there’s a lot of singing that goes on in our home. Still ringing in my ears is “Laudato si' O mi' Signore,” my daughters’ most oft requested song this week: an upbeat tune echoing the song of St. Francis in praise of all creation (and from which Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is named). I first heard it at the close of a conference this past summer about climate change and the Catholic Church. As the conference drew to a close, my heart felt heavy and my mind was saturated with the sobering realities and challenges facing humankind and our common home. We ended in prayer by singing, “Laudato si' O mi' Signore.”
With voices joined, the song united and uplifted the hearts of all gathered. It strengthened us to move forward in a spirit not of despair, but of hope. It beckoned us to answer the urgent call to action.
But I shall sing of your strength,
extol your mercy at dawn,
For you are my fortress,
my refuge in time of trouble.
My strength, your praise I will sing;
you, God, are my fortress, my loving God.
(Psalm 59: 17-18)
In 1989, Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman addressed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, preaching, teaching, and singing about her experience as a black Catholic. She delivered a powerful message to this majority-white audience that honored the rich cultural heritage, history, and experience of being black and Catholic. She asserted the dignity of black Catholics and argued for their full inclusion in the American Catholic Church.
Calling on the Church to be a family that journeys together to overcome racism and the suffering and injustices facing God’s people, Sr. Thea led the bishops in singing, “We Shall Overcome.” With arms crossed over one another and hands joined as in the days of the Civil Rights Movement, Sr. Thea and the bishops sang out together with hope and conviction:
We shall live in love
We shall live in love
We shall live in love today
Oh, deep in my heart,
Deep in my heart I know,
I do believe,
We shall live in love today.
(Watch the video here.)
Consider the many ways the Spirit of God can move in and through you powerfully through song. How might Mary’s own song of praise, the Magnificat, unite and uplift your heart? How might it fill you with a spirit of hope and conviction? How might it embolden you to answer God’s call for your life and the life of the world? In the face of suffering and fear, whether personal or communal, how can we keep from singing?
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for you have looked with favor
on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call
me blessed: The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you
in every generation.
You have shown the strength of your arm,
you have scattered the proud in their conceit.
You have cast down the mighty from their thrones, and have lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich you have sent away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel for you have remembered
your promise of mercy, the promise you
made to our ancestors, to Abraham and Sarah and their children forever. Amen.
Who Is Coming?
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, HM, Vice President of Mission
Who is this Jesus whose birth we await? Because we know that Christ has already come, we have such richness for our reflection.
Hebrews gives us some clues:
CHRIST is the REFLECTION of GOD’S GLORY!
That is a call for pause: Christ is the shining wonder-full God among us. Christ glows with divinity. Christ communicates unfathomable mystery.
CHRIST is the EXACT IMPRINT of GOD’S VERY BEING!
Imagine Jesus of the Gospels as the imprint of God’s reality on the earth in human flesh.
CHRIST SUSTAINS ALL THINGS by HIS POWERFUL WORD!
Consider the infant whom shepherds adore and kings mount a long journey to adore. The babe in the manger in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-20) is the Divine Word Who has made a dwelling among us. (John 1:1-17) We have seen this unfathomable God in Jesus Christ. The Word of God and the Wisdom of God, who played in the world as it was being created, has an affinity for Earth.
As a creature of earth, Jesus was a complex living unit of minerals and fluids,
...in the carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen cycles.
The items comprising his body (as ours) were once part of other creatures.
The genetic structure of the cells in his body were kin to the flowers, fish, frogs,
finches, foxes, the whole community of life that descended from common ancestors
in the ancient seas.*
So our incarnate God is like us in all things save sin. What a source of consolation. We can rest in the meek, humble heart of Jesus. We can confidently bring all our imperfections, sorrows, doubts, fears to the Son of the Living God, because ”in solitude with the human race, Jesus crucified and risen abides in intimate contact with all people who walk through the valley of death His presence in the Spirit can comfort, strengthen and bring hope to everyone in their suffering and dying,”** God-With-Us will wipe away all tears from our eyes.
As the gospels unfold, we learn many things about who Jesus is: teacher; healer; merciful imparter of forgiveness; compassionate responder to human needs, liberator from the weight of the past and from the oppressions of the present, deeply understanding of the human condition, bold prophet;, mystically aware of the Divine in nature and human experience. Contemplate the revelation of God in Jesus this Advent.
You are beyond
all my thoughts or imaginings.
You are closer than close
to my inmost spirit.
You are my all in all.
Permeate my being and my life;
Be my all in all.
*Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 185.
**Creation and the Cross, p. 187.
Faith, Good News, and Belonging
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
Recent research has indicated that survey responses from self-identified non-affiliated-with-a- religion participants nonetheless desire Community, Spiritual Practices, and Service. Members of religious communities have recognized affinities with these ideals. In fact, some religious sisters have invited young adults to join their community-living in some form for some limited period of time and to participate in their prayer life and to join them in outreach to the poor.* Ironically, young adults have admitted they are searching for what religions and religious communities have advocated and lived.*
What are advantages to the human person of belonging formally to a religion, specifically Catholics of any age, to the Catholic religion?
What a heritage! Two thousand years of faith and cultural heritage including one hundred years of Catholic social teaching which essentially addresses inequities in all realms, at least ideally, if not always in practice.
Our faith is good news, extraordinary, nearly unbelievable GOOD news. Such good news is a matter of faith, intuitions in grace about realities beyond the apparent or sensible. What about the glorious heritage of The Nicene Creed? This gift of faith has such resonances for the world of today. It has been called “The Banquet of Faith.”* In three Trinitarian parts, it offers Good News for today’s world interpreted in light of the signs of the times.
Part I of the Creed
I believe/We believe in God, Creator of our Earth, our Solar System, our Galaxy, our Universe AND we believe that God has set the evolving universe in motion out of love. We could spend hours praising our Imaginative Creator for each of the micro and macro marvels which we have encountered. Reflect on all of creation as interdependent, hence our concern for all interacting systems as “integral ecology,” calling for interdisciplinary comprehension and problem-solving, effective caring for all of creation as Gift.
Imagine this: we also believe that our Divine Creator is in personal relation to us, knows us through and through, created us and each human person who has ever lived! This loving God in relation to us in Loving-Kindness and Steadfast-Love, calls us to be in relationship.
Reflect on God the Author of all that is. Reflect on multiple names of the Divine, each imperfectly capturing some dimension of infinite, Divine Mystery in human, finite language: Cloud of Shade by day and Pillar of Fire by night; Rock; Abba, Dear Father; Mother giving birth and nursing her child; Wisdom (See Wisdom 7); Shepherd seeking the lost sheep; Woman householder searching for something precious.
Probing this creative outpouring from the first flaring forth on, we come to realize God’s creative energy still pouring forth the impetus for the evolving universe. We humbly recognize, too, the intrinsic worth of each being. Pope Francis suggests in his Encyclical On Our Common Home (Laudato Si) that there is a mystical meaning of all that is: contemplate the mystical meaning of a tomato (a lake, a tree, a river, the sun, a whale, a turtle, cat, a Gerber daisy, a sunflower, a raindrop, etc.) All has sacramental overtones.
Part II of the Creed
Then the utterly unbelievable creative wonder: the Maker of heaven and Earth becomes personally a child of Earth. Our transcendent God draws radically near in incarnation into human flesh, into earthly matter formed of stardust.” Jesus’ immersion in the earth earthly reveals the character of God, for example, a solidarity with the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the vulnerable, the suffering, the oppressed in body, mind, or spirit or in a social or political or economic realm, the weak, the homeless, the country-less, anyone left out, left alone, left behind, struggling for life.
How shall we explain the Cross and death of Jesus, the price he paid for his ministry? “Not a s death required by God in repayment for sin, but as an event of divine love whereby the Creator of the world entered into most intimate union with human suffering, sinfulness, and death in order to heal, redeem, and liberate from within. Henceforth even the most godforsaken person is not separated from the loving-kindness and fidelity of God (even if/when they experience it as absent)**.
Part III of the Creed
We believe in the Holy Spirit, Who is the Giver of Life, making Christ vibrantly present in our time as really as He was present in Gospel times. This belief is so powerful that it is dangerous, as dangerous as spiritual fire capable of enflaming the whole earth with the fire of Divine Love, with the zeal of enthusiasm for the Gospel, with the conviction and urgency of the preferential option for the poor.
This is the Spirit Who makes all things new. This is the Spirit gifting us with extraordinary Wisdom, phenomenal Knowledge, precious Understanding, discerning Counsel.
The Holy Spirit inspires prophets, upholds the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, consecrates people through baptism and the forgiveness of sins, and ensures the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come
like a mother knitting new life together in her womb;
like a midwife working to bring a child to birth;
like a laundry-woman washing out stains and renewing the earth;
like a mother-bird sheltering her chicks under her outstretched wings;
like the power of the wind, the warmth of fire, the refreshment of cool water,
The Spirit is not far from any of us...as the One in whom
‘we live and move and have our being.' (Acts 17:28)***
These beliefs are mind-expanding, even “mind-blowing,” because they are matters of faith, intuitions about mysteries nearly beyond our imagining. The Good News seems too good to be true but it is the gift of grace to grab onto this good news, to celebrate it personally and communally, and to live it dynamically. We are basing our lives on the meanings of the Creed and that is nothing to keep private.
Why not celebrate our faith with others? Why not celebrate our faith liturgically, with hymns and rituals and ceremony? Why not involve oneself in public witness of mutual support about living the very challenging demands of the Gospel...the transformation of the world into the kindom God envisions?
Precious Presence of Christ among us
be power of the wind,
be warming fire,
be cool refreshment
to our spirits.
Call us to faith.
Bind us in a community of believers.
Inspire us to be witnesses
to what we believe
by the extraordinariness of our lived faith
that ardently reaches out with Christ’s hands and feet.
*“We millennials have so much hunger for spaces of community, belonging, meaning, depth, and we aren’t finding that in our social media.“ Religion News Service (online), July 11, 2019.
**The Banquet of Faith, Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ, 8/2/2008, p.6. (LCWR Assembly, Denver)
Caring for Creation: Forgetfulness and Remembering
by Katie Higgins, Assistant Vice President of Mission
This past month, Pope Francis began the Season of Creation with his Message for the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation. In this address, he meditates on God’s loving concern for creation, writing, “From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share our common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God.” This great gift of creation, entrusted to women and men “as a precious gift to be preserved,” has been marred by sin and exploitation. At heart, “we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27) and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home.” Our forgetfulness and dis-ordered relationship with creation have resulted in a climate emergency. As Pope Francis concludes, “We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.
So how might we, as a people of faith, respond effectively and compassionately? How might we overcome our forgetfulness and remember who we are? How might we remember our vocation to live in communion with the rest of creation? Pope Francis offers us three interconnected pathways.
Draw near to nature in prayer. As Pope Francis writes, “This is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew by closeness to nature, which spontaneously leads us to give thanks to God the Creator.”
When we spend time in nature, we begin the act of remembering. In proximity to nature, we see more clearly our interconnection with the rest of creation, with the “network of life of which we are part.” In remembering our kinship with creation, we also remember to give praise and thanks to God, our loving Creator who daily sustains all in the web of life.
Evaluate our lifestyles and their impact on our planet. As Pope Francis notes, “It is also a season to reflect on our lifestyles, and how our daily decisions about food, consumption, transportation, use of water, energy and many other material goods, can often be thoughtless and harmful. Too many of us act like tyrants with regard to creation.”
Our prayer must translate to action on behalf of the earth. As we remember our true identity and our vocation as sisters and brothers called to live in communion with creation, we come to see how our actions ripple outward and affect the health of the planet. Inspired by the wisdom of indigenous peoples, Pope Francis calls us act in right relationship with the earth. He challenges us “to change and to adopt more simple and respectful lifestyles,” and “to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy.” Such actions will require nothing less than conversion. In prayer, we can ask for the hope and courage, the sacrifice and commitment needed to inspire this individual and collective change of hearts.
Raise our voices to call for global action. As Pope Francis argues, “This too is a season for undertaking prophetic actions. Many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions.”
Just last week, millions of young people worldwide participated in the Global Climate Strike calling for action on climate change. Hundreds of Magnificat students joined in solidarity with their global counterparts in a school walkout, calling for action on climate change on behalf of the earth and the poor who are disproportionately affected. Magnificat students also gathered with area high school students at the Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice climate strike “Friday for our Common Home” event, including a prayer service and public witness to urge our leaders to support just climate policies that will lower carbon emissions and prioritize climate change immediately.
How might we listen to their prophetic voices shared below? How might we call upon our leaders to enact the prophetic measures demanded of us? In the present moment, how might we remember the impact of our actions on future generations?
“My faith motivates my concern for climate change because it is part of my duty as a Catholic to care for God's creation and speak out when it is not being protected.” Emma Pierce ’20
“Climate justice means respecting the inherent value in nature to exist and thrive, while also recognizing that climate change disproportionately affects people in poverty---an injustice that Catholic Social Teaching explicitly calls us to address.” Chloe Becker ’20
“Everywhere we look we can see, or choose to ignore, the effects of climate change. So choosing to show up for something so important [the climate strike event] did not feel so much like a choice, but more of an obligation to my home: earth.” Clare Matthews ’20
“As a young person, I would like to tell adults that climate change affects everyone, and it’ll have an especially profound impact on my generation, as we will eventually be dealing with the results of it and be the ones searching for a solution. I would urge everyone to be mindful of their carbon footprint, and reflect on ways in which we as individuals can do our part in taking care of the planet.” Fiona Evans ’20
“Pope Francis says “The human family has received from the Creator one common gift; nature” (#9, World Day of Peace, 2014). As a global family, it is time we join together to protect the inherent right to life and do what we can to preserve the earth for future generations.” Lilly Des Rosiers ’20
How can I make time this month to immerse myself in the gift of creation?
How might I embrace my identity as being created in the image of God?
How can I embrace my vocation to live simply and to act prophetically?
How can I respond effectively on behalf of this network of relationships to which we all belong?
Loving the Word
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
Recently, the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center hosted two presentations on the St. John’s Bible as a feature of their annual Nostra Aetate lecture program. The St. John’s Bible is a collaborative undertaking of the monks of St. John Abbey, Collegeville, MN, and noted artists and calligraphers. This phenomenal 15-year collaboration involved copying every word of the 73 books of the bible. It engaged gifted individuals who illuminated all 73 books of the bible in English*, brilliantly blending classical, global, and contemporary images and symbols. The inspired artistic conceptions interweave text and image in sometimes startling ways, but always in insightful and revelatory ways.
The vision involved “igniting imagination, glorifying God’s Word, as well as fostering the arts.”** This was a vision of faith. This was a labor of love. This was a work of the Spirit’s inspiration. The visualizations are interpretations of the sacred text open to interpretation by the person reading the words “illuminated” by the images. A practice of Visio Divina calls the viewer to contemplate the artistically interpreted word for new insights. The person gazing at the image seeks to let God speak to her/his soul through the image.
Our reverence for sacred scripture as Divine Revelation calls us to honor the Word by our focused attention. We revere the Gospels as keys to the mind and heart of Christ and elucidation of the Way for us to follow. Thus our love for the Word of God impels us to seek ever new discoveries. Such “illuminations” spread glowing light on the text as a living Word, invaluable for all generations, an extraordinary gift for our contemporary and complex world and universe as well as the depths of our hearts.
Consider obtaining a library copy of The Gospels and Acts, one of the seven volumes of the reproductions from the St. John Bible edition and let the illuminated manuscript be a channel for the Word of God to you today. This exercise will be a way to love the Word, to treasure the Word.
Word of God,
Wisdom of God,
help us ever to discover You anew.
Let Spirit-inspired images
draw us to You,
who are creator of the universe,
the cosmic Christ
now risen and extending
throughout all time and space.
teach us the secrets of Your Divine Mind and Heart
through the words and images of Scripture.
*The New Revised Standard
**Click here to see Fact Sheet on the St. John Bible.
See also works providing background to this holy project by Susan Sink and/or Jonathan Homrighausen.
Also consider viewing YouTube videos on the St. John Bible project.
Seeing Beneath the Surface
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
Seeing Beneath the Surface
Considering a word, such as “blue,” we are not surprised that there is more than just the surface meaning of the word, a word with so many denotations and connotations. Besides describing an object of a color on the spectrum of colors between green and indigo, “blue” also describes a mood. It is used as a technical science term in describing not a moon’s color but a full moon’s re-appearance more than three times in a season. Some people searching for meaning in a passage of Shakespeare might be said to be working until they are blue in the face. The beautiful changing can “valley our minds in fabulous blue Lucernes.”* The Blue Streak symbol is actually a white lightning bolt.+
. . . I hope you see
the dark sky as oceanic, boundless, limitless-like all
the shades of blue revealed in a glacier . . .#
Let us consider looking at the surface of a placid blue lake. We might see water lilies and algae floating on the surface but the surface does not tell the whole story. There are fish, snails, frogs, turtles and microscopic entities among other things. We can imagine or even recall from experience that there is much life lurking below the surface.
Pope Francis reminds us to see through things to their mystical meanings, e.g., life-giving water. How will we be enabled to take note of all the blues and greens . . . and brownings^ around us; how will we be enable to see beneath the surface of things? The Lord and Giver of Life Who stirs the living waters. The Holy Spirit of wind, of fire, of light helps us see below the surface of things and of people. The Spirit of Understanding . . .The Spirit of Knowledge. . . The Spirit of Wisdom. The Spirit coming at Pentecost.
We need images, similes, metaphors, and analogies to garner insights about Who this Divine Spirit is.
Wisdom, Sophia. is more beautiful than the sun,
and radiates through every constellation of the stars and galaxies.
Compared with the light, she is found to be superior. (Wis 7:29-30)
“Wisdom pervades the entire cosmos and seeks a dwelling place among us.”
“At every turn, Wisdom promises the divine gift of life, signifying shalom: whoever finds me finds life.” She
enlightens, teaches, guides feet into the way of peace (Prov. 8:35). She nourishes her children and guests at her
table and invites all to come to eat of her bread and drink of her wine. (Prov. 9:5).
Symbolized by the symbol of Divine Presence in the Shekinah, the shading cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, lighting the way even in the desert, “She goes with people into exile and loneliness, weeps and mourns their grief, suffers with their pain, feels the grief of loss.
At creation, wisdom is depicted as playing everywhere in the new world and finding delight among human beings. She is called fashioner and artisan. She is, and continues to be, Our Imaginative Creator. She is called the mother of all good things, responsible for their existence and therefore knowing their inmost secrets (Wis. 7).
Her spirit is holy, intelligent, subtle, mobile, benevolent, steadfast, all powerful” (Wis 7:22-23).%
This is a Spirit is mystery tremendum et fascinans—drawing us in and filling us with awe. It is this Holy Spirit Who will come again on Pentecost, who will help us explore the resonating meanings of scripture, the implications of deep incarnation, and the consequences of layers of reality.
Try this: meet with a friend or few to crack open scripture and share insights. Where two or more are gathered bringing all their learnings and insights of their faith-filled life, there will this Wisdom Spirit be moving over the text, moving through hearts and minds.
Let us look up and deeply down and all around, always with awe and wonder and humility and gratitude, so that all that is can praise the Lord through us.
Spirit of Life,
Lead us into the mystical meanings of Your Creation.
Guide us in the perceptive reading of Your Word.
Counsel us as we seek to understand one another.
Be our inspiration
in recognizing the effects of the fire
of Your Divine Love in us, in all.
* Adapted from Richard Wilbur’s “The Beautiful Changes.”
+ So humbly we must all admit that articulation in human, finite, evolving language of religious meanings of scripture or of doctrine, so multi-contextually encased, can never be definitive or absolute.
# Aimee Nezhukumatathil in The Best American Poetry, 2018, Dana Gioia, Guest Editor; David Lehmann, Series Editor.
^ No water, no life, no blue, no green,” Oceanographer Sylvia Earle
% Commentary on images of Spirit Sophia are based on Women and the Word, Sandra Schneiders and Creation and the Cross, Elizabeth Johnson.
I Wish I Had More Time
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
If you are waiting for some future time to do something you would really like to do, go to it right now. All good inclinations may well be promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The season of Easter provides 40 days, not just one day, for contemplating the profound message of Jesus’ resurrection and its implications—and calls—for us. It clearly calls us to enter into the mysteries of Christ’s life and to live them out in ours. Pope Francis calls this our “mission,” our call to holiness. “Each Saint is a mission, planned by God to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.”* It is time to give fuller attention to that call. We don’t want to miss a moment.
Holiness is not something far above us. Pope Francis suggests we consider “the saints next door” or in our own families, in our work environment, and in our circle of friends. He suggests some pathways including the Beatitudes, as the identity card for Christians. (See Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel.) He also gives some qualities manifested by people seeking holiness: patience; perseverance; passion; boldness; joy; a sense of humor; valuing sharing faith in community, especially our community of believers. We cannot forget, either, the criteria concluding Matthew’s Gospel for the final discriminating of the saints in the criteria for the final judgement, the cup of cold water challenge, the hand reaching from the Christ-identified derelict: the spiritual and corporal works of mercy at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.
He suggests one way of becoming like Christ is to notice details as Jesus did in these Gospel examples:
Effects of wine running out
How many loaves were in the crowd
A fire burning and fish cooking for the disciples at daybreak
On which side of the boat the disciples might catch fish
And details in the parables:
A widow searching for one lost coin
A widow offering two coins
A sheep missing
Wise wedding attendees having spare oil for lamps
Can you think of more?
Holiness is not so much about moral perfection but participating in the Divine, communal participation in the gracious holiness of God. We share in God’s holiness through the grace of Christ in the Spirit. We are baptized into a sharing in the life of God.
Consider those who have gone before us as models. “In the first reading of the All Saints’ Day liturgy “an awesome vision is evoked: ‘a huge heavenly crowd, which no one could count from every nation and race and people and tongue.’
These are people who suffered, who knew sin and forgiveness and something of the laughter and tears of love, who gave a cup of cold water, who sought the face of God. Now they have died, passing beyond the veil to the place where "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”**
If you are looking for global or historical models, they are multitudinous. “Their circle is as wide as the earth, including women from our own family trees and women of different races, classes, and ethnic cultures; women from the recent past and women long distant in time; struggling, poor, artistic, prophetic, quiet, shouting, funny, loving, suffering, self-defining, seeking, defiant, scared, subtle, sexy, gutsy women of all ages.”** Consider Joan of Arc and Dorothy Day.
How to become holy?
Do little things with love. (St. Therese, the Little Flower)
Do what is right in front of you. (St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
Live the Beatitudes. (Pope Francis I)
Consider Centering Prayer. (since all is up to the Holy Spirit)
Meditate on a mantra, your word or phrase for God in relation to you.
Pray always. Give thanks always. Rejoice always.
Again I say rejoice because we are Easter People and our song is ALLELUIA!"
So the question is: Can we say Yes to Jesus’ invitation?
To choose to love to the utmost?
To engage humbly with one person at a time?
To be more focused on the one thing necessary?
To offer refreshment and tenderness to the weary soul?
To look with extraordinary love into the eyes of the person in front of us,
(or alongside of us) and convey that each is of infinite value?
To be more fully alive, more fully human?
We address you:
Holy Mighty One
Holy Immortal One.
Yet You walked the earth
Like one of us.
May I mold my life to Yours
searching out the Gospel,
to imitate You more closely,
to become You on earth
and thus to become holy
as You are holy.
*Ideas from Pope Francis on holiness were culled from Gaudete et Exultate
**Ideas related to the past and present members of the communion of saints are from Elizabeth Johnson’s book on the saints, Friends of God and Prophets and her article in US Catholic. Cf Link: https://www.uscatholic.org/2011/01/circle-friends-closer-look-communion-saints
Unless the Grain of Wheat
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
Unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it shall not live.
This was Jesus’ understanding of the inevitability of his call and his vision of our call to full discipleship in imitation of his life and death. Unless the kernel—bran, germ, endosperm—be buried in the cold earth, it will not sprout and there will be no bread.
Lying under the snow-covered earth waiting to be called forth to sun and rain and a new form, various seeds--from mustard to sunflower to acorns--are buried in order to arise to new forms. What marvelous potential unleashed only after virtual dying.
And so this Lent moving toward Easter, we humbly embrace perhaps a new cross. We walk the way of the cross paralleling our lives with Christ’s and our times with his. We endeavor to participate in prayer, in fasting, in almsgiving, our personal calls in Lent. We also consider searching out the social, and even global, dimensions of these practices. Thus, as we believe in Christian hope, our lives will bear fruit.
Christ’s Cross and our cross are not the end of the story, are not the whole story. There is a particular resurrection story ahead for each of us, even in this life, just as there are annual cycles of new birth. Fear not dying, letting go, opening to new and unimagined directions, deeper living and comprehensive rising. Become a form of bread for the world. Look for your resurrection signs. Enter into your renewed living. Embrace the flowering cross.
May I enter the desert with You.
May I pray with You in the garden.
May I surrender with You on the Cross.
May I even accompany You to the tomb.
Then join me to Your Resurrection
and I will become a form of the bread
shared with the world
in faith, hope, and love.
Thoughtful Responses to Annunciations
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
In the article, “A Pregnant Pause: Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation,” (America) the author quotes a passage from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, vibrating with an urgent appeal for Mary to say YES and to say it ASAP! In this passage of poetic and dramatic intensity, with direct address to Mary, the speaker begs in utter earnestness on behalf of himself and the world for the response that will set a new course for history.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word. Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.
Bernard’s earnestness is compelling considering what is at stake. But the fact that Mary does pause, does weigh options, does evaluate realities should give us pause. Here is a model for our own discernment regarding the annunciations in our lives, the calls along our journey that have implications for ourselves and necessarily others.
Answer quickly, O Virgin.
DO PAUSE, MARY, FOR DISCERNMENT
GIVEN THIS MOMENTOUS QUESTION.
Reply in haste to the angel,
TAKE TIME TO CONSIDER.
or rather through the angel to the Lord.
ASK WISDOM TO INSPIRE YOU WITH CIRCUMSPECTION AND COURAGE.
Answer with a word,
ANSWER WITH CONSIDERED WORDS OUT OF A PRAYERFUL CONTEXT.
Receive the Word of God.
SPEAK YOUR OWN WORD FROM YOUR INTEGRITY.
Why are you afraid?
DO WEIGH ALL THAT IS AT STAKE HUMBLY KNOWING YOU DO NOT KNOW ALL.
Conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive.
Let humility be bold,
HUMILITY IS TRUTH.
Let modesty be confident.
This is no time for virginal simplicity.
YES, THIS IS NO TIME FOR NAIVETÉ!
This is no time to forget prudence.
ALL IS NOW UNFOLDING IN GOD’S TIME,
SO TAKE YOUR TIME TO HEAR THE VOICE
OF THE GOD WITHIN YOU.
In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous.
Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.
We, too, are eager for our salvation. Yet we know the already and the not yet must be worked out in the daily, must be lived out in fidelity. Mary’s YES was an openness to the unknown ahead. Even though we might be impatient to know how grace will work, we must, nevertheless, reflect on next steps, bringing faith and hope and love to bear on each major decision.
Mary, strong woman,
throughout your life,
ever reflecting on the mysteries
revealed in scripture,
the world around you,
and your life unfolding,
inspire us to ponder God’s Word
Revealed in scripture
and the world around us,
and to know that,
filled with the Holy Spirit,
we can call on extraordinary grace
for each ordinary day.
(Based on A Bouquet of Mary Prayers, p. 10)
*Vanessa R. Corcoran, “A Pregnant Pause: Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation,” America, November 30, 2018. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/11/30/pregnant-pause-mary-and-annunciation
Apocalyptic Thinking and Prophetic Acting: The Immeasurable Value of Prayer
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
We easily recognize the immense importance of the prayer of adoration and praise, not only in liturgy, but at every faith gathering or acknowledgement from our hearts. Similarly, lifting our hearts in thanksgiving is appropriate for any moment of the day or night. Obviously, acknowledging our imperfection calls for expression of sorrow. Genuine love does mean saying you are sorry. These forms of prayer are sent from us to the Divine. What about Intercessory prayer, the prayer of petition, which asks that something from the Divine be sent to us.
The psalms are filled with entreaties to God for assistance including the laments which often assume that God will act on behalf of the praying person or community because God’s name will be honored in the successful accomplishment of the petition.
Hear the sound of my pleading . . .
Blessed be the Lord,
Who has heard the sound of my pleading. (Ps. 28)
Be my rock and refuge . . .
On you I depend since birth . . .
My hope in you never wavers . . .
Turn and comfort me . . .
That I may praise your faithfulness. (Ps. 71)
Let us allow God’s world to evolve and God's work to bear fruit that might save us in ways we might not predict. As Isaiah announces: Behold, I am doing something NEW!
"Entering God's imagination requires inner conversion," explains Michael Simone, S.J. Prayer assists us in this conversion, this turning, toward God intentionally.
Praying in many forms may expand our imaginations. Imagination is necessary for envisioning the kingdom of God: Thy kingdom come! The Book of Revelations startles us with images of this new creation where water flows freely and there is no darkness, where every tear will be wiped away. Consider a meditation of God tenderly wiping away the tears of someone you know who is suffering and then stretch your imagination to see God wiping away the tears of someone else in the world whose child is suffering starvation, whose house has been demolished, whose family life has been disrupted.
Contemplative life is based in part on the intuition that the personal and communal prayer is effective, that is, it brings about transformation. Holding someone in prayer is a deep act of love.
Will thoughts help a problem close to home or a problem on a national level or even of international import? As Mahatma Gandhi put it: [You] be the change you want to see in the world or in your workplace or even in your neighbor’s or your own family. "The structures of empire can give way to the imagination of God.” (Cf. "Swept Away,” America, December 10, 2018.) Prayer is powerful.
"The wholeness we hunger to see in our country [or our world] we must first welcome into ourselves." Reflecting on Fr. Thomas Keating, Tim Shriver affirms: "The sacred place of transformation is where you are." We need the calm and presence and silence of prayer to place ourselves in Christ and to be moved to give over all to Christ asking only for the graces to do God’s will.
(See "A Call to Prayer," America. p. 46, January 7, 2019.)
So prayer changes the world because it changes the pray-er. Prayer fosters greater faith, hope, and love. Hope IS a way of life and love DOES bring about justice and peace.
The transformation that prayer can bring about can change our world of living and relating and loving and serving. Prayer can lead to apocalyptic thinking and even prophetic acting. It is prayer, meditation, and contemplation that will give us courage to speak the truth with love, to take up the cross in following Jesus, to act on behalf of justice and the transformation of the world.
I open my heart
to meeting You in prayer.
into a deeper image and likeness of You.
Can We Put Away Christmas?
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
One of Magnificat’s teachers said that her son would wave to the Christmas tree . . . but only when the lights were on. In our moving on from the Christmas season, we might keep in mind symbolic meanings of waving to the light that we must continue to let the light of Christmas promise shine. The promises of Christmas are seemingly too good to be true: The Light of the World has come! The light shines in the darkness and cannot be quenched. God has pitched a tent among us to live like us. Fear not, God is with us. Christ has come that we may have life and have it more abundantly. We are students of Divine Mystery. So rejoice always and preach the word in season and beyond.
But can we move on from Christmas or how should we carry Christmas into the new year, into ordinary time, into all that is ahead? The Christmas feast of the Epiphany gives clues. Our posture of believing calls for an attitude of reverence for Christ present among us.
The Word became flesh, entered personally into the natural sphere of what is natural, vulnerable, perishable . . . in order to shed light on all from within.*
We are never alone. We can never be abandoned. We are meant to flourish. We are called to announce the good news that no matter what seems overwhelming in our own lives or in our world or in anywhere in the whole world we have an advocate. We cannot shrink from any task of which we could be a part, large or small, that might deliver anyone or any group from anything or anyone or any situation or structure or policy or political situation oppressing them to greater flourishing.
St. Paul gave us a model of rejoicing in hope no matter the circumstances. He focused his thoughts and feelings on God’s promise of an abundant life. Because he rooted "his wellbeing in his eternal and invaluable relationship with God, no worldly circumstances could ever affect the internal joy experienced by living each day with God.”**
God spoke and there was light, indeed uncountable lights in the sky, including the star seen by the Magi and in the recent Geminid astronomical display. If the simple goldsmith in the rabbinic tale was so transported when he realized God spoke and that meant that he could become like the Divine and thus could not contain his wild enthusiasm—he had to dance—how much moreso should we be overcome with knowing God spoke and the Word was made flesh.
The Epiphany indicates that we will not be putting Christmas away but will proclaiming the truth manifested in the incarnation of the Word and Wisdom of God. Nothing is impossible with God.
A rabbinical tale is told about a simple goldsmith hearing that “God spoke,” Let there be light and there was light! Astounded by the transformative power of dabar, God’s Word, he became ecstatic, jumping around and shouting: God speaks! God speaks!*
May we, too, be so astounded at the thought that God speaks
and we can hear the very Word of God
in the scriptures
and can contemplate the very Word of God,
Silence . . . and then exuberance!
*Elizabeth Johnson, Creation and the Cross, 2018, 194.
**Elyse Galloway in preaching for the Third Sunday in Advent, 2018.
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
Advent is the quiet time to absorb images from the Gospel. The greatest honor we can give God, claims Julian, the Mystic, is to live gladly because of the knowledge of God’s love. How do we gain that knowledge? By reflecting on Jesus’ actions in the Gospels which convey love in multiple forms: healing love; empowering love; spiritual-understanding love.
Quietly meditate on scenes of Jesus’ love being poured out upon:
The man paralyzed with no one to help whom Jesus liberates, telling him to rise up and walk (John 5)
A woman caught in adultery to whom Jesus pledged No one condemns you, nor do I (John 8)
The man born blind to whom Jesus desires to give light (John 9)
The widow whom Jesus, moved with compassion, tells not to weep (Luke 7)
The woman afflicted for 12 years who was healed by touching Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8)
The slave of the pagan centurion who built a synagogue whom Jesus heals at a distance (Luke 7)
The woman pouring perfumed oil on his feet whom he defends as a model disciple (Luke 7)
The Syrophoenician woman ‘converting’ Jesus to realizing his mission was also to members of other religious groups (Mark 8)
So ease quietly into Advent in anticipation of the midnight solemnity for a child is born. Even angels bow down but they also sing gloriously across the heavens where the stars shine and a comet travels.
The psalms direct us to make a glad sound, make a great noise, make a thunderous clamor! We are celebrating a new reality, giving newness a new name. We are celebrating a reality beyond imagining. The Infinite, Mysterious, Transcendent God become human; the Universe-Creating Wisdom-Word become flesh; the Trinitarian God, the God-with-us. Well, this is mind-boggling, spell-binding unfathomable Good News. No wonder trumpets should be played, choirs of all ages should sing, every nation on earth should shout. WONDERFUL! COUNSELOR! ALMIGHTY GOD! PRINCE OF PEACE!
Live gladly each day because of the Christmas’ feast of
Incarnation: God’s Love poured out upon us;
Incarnation: God’s Presence permeating our world and the cosmos;
Incarnation: The Mystery of the Word made flesh dwelling among us;
Incarnation: The Wisdom of God ordering all things mightily, teaching and guiding us in the way of peace.
Jesus, Word of God,
Wisdom of God,
fill our hearts with joy
so that we witness
to Your Loving Presence
in words and actions
and by our very being.
Love One Another
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
“Love one another as I have loved you!” Can we love by being meek and humble of heart? Can we love by forgiving 70 times 70? Can we love by laying down our lives for one another?
Can you be meek and humble?
Think of a situation that might call for meekness . . . or humility . . . . humility as truth, acknowledging talents and accomplishments as gifts from God; admitting imperfections and the need for grace to grow into greater and deeper patience, tolerance, peace, charity.
Can you love by forgiving?
Imagine yourself forgiving yourself for some omission or failure.
Imagine yourself forgiving someone else, perhaps for the seemingly nth time.
Imagine yourself forgiving some someone that offended you or treated you less than ideally.
Imagine yourself listening closely and openly to someone with seeming counter opinions or perspectives.
Imagine yourself side-by-side with Jesus in all of these merciful attitudes and actions.
Can you love others as Jesus did by laying down your life?
You may well be doing this already in many forms:
by speaking the truth with love;
by being faithful in a challenging situation;
by attending to someone;
by washing feet or tending physically to anyone;
by giving up your time to comfort another;
by protesting experiences of injustice courageously;
by nursing someone back to health
physically, mentally or spiritually;
by giving witness with integrity and being met with critique or indifference;
by putting yourself in a position to protect another from harm;
by living in day-to-day fidelity, no matter the temptation for the easier way;
by suffering psychological or physical disabilities united to Christ.
help me to love
others as you have loved.
Let me bring
mercy upon mercy
and not count the cost.
Let me follow You
even along the way to the Cross
because You are the Way,
and the Life.
Finding Inspiration with St. Francis
by Katie Higgins, Theology Teacher
I’ve long been drawn to St. Francis of Assisi. I grew fond of the patron saint of animals as an animal lover from a tender age. As a young person, I took my Confirmation name after his as a model of faith and simplicity. As I grew older, I was struck by his story of conversion, of leaving behind his life of wealth and privilege to devote himself wholeheartedly to living the Gospel in radical solidarity with the poor. And now as an adult and faculty member at Magnificat, I’ve grown to appreciate St. Francis for his solidarity with all of creation and his profound impact on the Church’s understanding of our responsibility to care for God’s creation.
October 4th marks the feast of St. Francis and occasions us with the opportunity this month to reflect upon his witness of faith and what it might mean for us today. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis offers us one suggestion, writing, “Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness” (12).
Assisting me in this effort are my two daughters, ages 2 and 5, who invite me to see the world anew each day through their eyes. To notice the magnificent (although perhaps alarmingly) large spider web spun outside the kitchen window. To watch in wonder as a small ant makes its way across the driveway carrying an impossibly heavy load. To gently lift a washed out worm from the pavement in an effort to return it to safer ground. These and other examples echo in my mind as I think about glimpsing the infinite beauty and goodness of God in the magnificent book that is the natural world.
My daughters also offer me practices to help read and appreciate this book God has given us. Practices like slowing down, moving in closer, paying attention, and sharing your delight. When my two year old spots something of interest, she drops whatever she is doing and squats down low with the practiced ease of a toddler. She stares in fascination with focused attention, a form of quiet reverence for that which is new and wondrous to her. And often, she calls excitedly for her big sister and me, inviting us to share in her discovery. Such delight is impossible to keep to herself.
As we enter into this month of October, I invite you to consider how you might try, like St. Francis, to see nature as a book through which God speaks to us. What glimpses of beauty and goodness is God gifting you with this month? What practices might help you to be more attuned to and appreciative of this gift? Consider ways that you might practice slowing down, moving in closer, paying attention or sharing your delight with others.
I believe that any good book leaves us changed in some way. And so I also invite you to consider how are you changed by encountering God’s presence in the book of creation. In the words of the Catechism, “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other” (340). In fidelity to the spirit of St. Francis, let us joyfully contemplate God’s creation and may our contemplation leave us changed, so that we better recognize our interdependence with our brothers and sisters in all of God’s creation. May it inspire actions that demonstrate our care and service for the sacred lives with whom we share this planet.
"Mary of Magnificat”
This is an invitation to reflect on Mary as depicted in Brother Mickey McGrath’s painting of "Mary of Magnificat," now displayed in Chapel.
Perhaps list a few words/responses that first come to you.
Consider the vivid colors. What might they symbolize?
Joy . . . Fullness of Life . . . Hope . . .
Consider the rhythmical curvilinear lines. What might they convey? Energy . . . Unity . . .
Consider how at home Mary is with the Holy Spirit symbolized by the Dove.
Consider Mary’s confident gaze, leaning us forward to a “future full of hope.”
Consider the cosmic background indicating God’s action for our salvation from the beginning of creation
Mary of Magnificat,
fill us with hope fill us with hope
as you were filled with grace.
Lead us into a future
full of hope.
Help us to seek the guidance
of the Holy Spirit
so that our hearts will be open
to Jesus' message
of mercy and love.
There Are Wisdom Figures in the Neighborhood
A master teacher, Mr. Rogers called on the wisdom of other great teachers including mystical thoughts of St. Exupery, “What is essential is invisible to the eye!” and deeply encouraging words of Yo Yo Ma coaching a young performer experiencing frustration in his rendering of a piece, “Nobody else can produce the sound you can.”
Mr. Rogers drew further implications by challenging his listeners to look into their own lives for the invisible essential. Go ahead and explore your deepest self and consider what the unique sound only you can make in some artistic or home or social domain.
On our faculty/staff mission day all one hundred twenty of us took time to consider all who have wanted the best for us, supported us in such a way that it brought us to this day, encouraged us to come close to what is essential. “It’s a miracle when we finally discover whom we’re best equipped to serve, when we can best appreciate the unique life that we’ve been given.”*
“What marvelous mysteries we’re privileged to be a part of “* . . . in our faith-filled lives at Magnificat . . . in our parishes . . . in our homes . . . in whatever our vocation or avocation.
“We are here to do for each other what God would do.”*
Let us get on with that call very thought-fully, very committedly, very prayerfully, very lovingly while God’s grace works miracles in our souls and thus in our world.
may I revisit Your Words
in the Gospels
and ponder them
in my mind and heart
and let them shape me
into Your Work of Art
and Your Work of Mercy.
*Cf. Fred Rogers’ Commencement Address at Marquette University.
May and June bring multiple occasions to celebrate, among them, First Communions and Graduations, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Celebrations are at the core of family life and faith communities. It is the call of the Christian life to give thanks and praise. The last day of May honors the feast of the Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary and the occasion of the composing of the Magnificat prayer. This year, the month of May includes major Liturgical celebrations of Pentecost and The Holy Trinity, and the month of June, Corpus Christi and The Sacred Heart, ultimately feasts about the expansiveness of love, the unfathomable nature of God’s love.
Pentecost recalls the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the Christian Community. That outpouring on the disciples changes their fear into courage, their hesitation into passion, their doubt into deep conviction, their lack of understanding into full knowing through faith that imparts power. But Pentecost is not only a remembering; it is a promise full of hope. We, too, have received the Spirit’s gifts in sufficient abundance to have our fears and lack of awareness transformed into a commitment to live as believers in the Resurrection who are eager to share the implications of that belief. We have the call and capability to comfort the suffering; to enlighten the doubting; to clarify for the confused; to motivate the luke-warm with renewed zeal.
The feast recalling the profound mystery of the Trinitarian relationships is cause for humility and joy. The One God is characterized by relationship. The Persons of the Trinity are in relation to us as Holy Wisdom expressing God’s threefold creative, saving, and sanctifying action in the world.
The feasts of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) and the Sacred Heart focus on the nearness of God in mercy and love.* Ponder God’s unfathomable love. Ask God to use you as a vehicle for sharing God’s all-inclusive, fully-embracing love for others.
renew, sanctify and transform me.
Giver of life,
Fill me with creativity and joy.
Enable me to be an instrument
of Your healing love,
Connect me to the sufferings and joys of others
through compassionate understanding.
source and goal
of all that is,
direct my life to You
every day in all ways.
*A group of Magnificat staff and alumnae plan to visit the church in France that honors St. Margaret Mary Alaquoque, a Visitation Sister, who spoke of visions of the loving heart of Jesus and inspired devotion to the Sacred Heart whose feast this year is June 9th. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Mary_Alacoq...
Being About the Important Things
Do you know anyone who lifts others' spirits with a good sense of humor? When you think of a joyful spirit, does someone come immediately to mind? Can you think of someone who prays daily, who is even conscious of God throughout the day? When you hear the words "passion for a cause" or committed, bold and enterprising, are you able to name someone? Could each of these people be holy? Could any be you?
In Pope Francis’ recent statement aptly titled, Rejoice and Be Glad (Gaudete et Exsultate), he identifies these characteristics as signs that could indicate or witness to holiness.
Could you be holy? Go ahead, seek holiness. Be holy.
After all, baptism and the sacraments give grace, a sharing in the life of God. After all, when God created the world, God saw all as good and human beings as very good. We are called to live out that goodness. Holiness shines. Holiness, like love, spirals out from the soul to others near and far, in kindness to any “neighbor” in need, in contribution of personal abilities for the sake of God’s kingdom, in advocacy for the oppressed.
Holiness is wholeness. Do give comparable attention to all facets of your life, the spiritual, physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and cultural. Even listening to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto could contribute to your growing in holiness. Take time for doing some art or some gardening and certainly some praying.
Study Jesus of the Gospels. Meditate on Jesus' words and actions in the Gospels. Follow Jesus. Pray with Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit pray through you.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
make my heart like Yours.
Let me be attentive to the outcasts
at the side of the road.
Let me be assisting to those
who do not have
the proper garments or talents for occasions.
Let me respond to
the over-eager as well as the disinterested.
Let me embrace the off-putting as well as the holy.
Let me focus my attention on signs of Your glory
in Your natural world.
You are there in all of the above
and it is You I seek.
Live Easter Time
Christ has risen! And that has made all the difference! So why not live in the Easter Time by living Easter.
Why not go to the empty tomb to contemplate the mystery of Jesus not being there, with the signs of death, the linen wrap and face cloth, removed, and see only light and its promise remaining. . .
Why not hear Jesus’ voice calling your name in the garden of your soul . . .
Why not expand your courage to tell others the Good News and implications of the good news in their lives . . .
Why not live with unutterable joy deep in your heart even in the midst of trials and suffering . . .
Why not walk and talk with Jesus about the scriptures related to his death . . . and to his life . . .
Why not contemplate Jesus’ wounds and expect to find Him in others wounded in some form . . .
Why not recognize Jesus present in the breaking of bread . . .
Why not assume his presence when you eat any meal with another . . .
Why not meditate on moments of Jesus’ presence in your life and respond to their beauty and marvel . . .
Why not expect lavishness of graces and opportunities symbolized in the overflowing catch of fish and the prepared meal at the seaside . . .
Because Christ has risen and that has made all the difference! Christ lives now in the world through the believing community. Christ now intends to transform the world through us.
Small acts of kindness and tenderness,
done with humility and confidence,
will bring unity to all
and eliminate violence from the world.
in our hearts
and in our world.
Let me be in touch with You
Let me live
this Easter Time
with courageous faith,
with transforming hope,
with self-surrendering love.
Let me live in Your Resurrection.
Let me live Your Resurrection.
Getting to Know Jesus from the Prayers He Said
The Psalms As Jesus Might Have Prayed Them
As faithful members of the Jewish religion, Jesus and Mary prayed the psalms. Mary’s Canticle, the Magnificat, is psalm-like in its themes and poetic format with sets of echoing lines reinforcing praise and thanksgiving. Jesus often quoted the psalms including from the Cross. It has been said that the psalms express virtually all human emotions. Let us look at psalms that hold sentiments that correspond with some of Jesus’ human experiences.
A Psalm of Giving Praise through Nature (Ps. 65)
Jesus was observant of the environment surrounding him in his daily life. He was attuned to nature. He used natural images galore about the earth, the plants, the animals, e.g.,“Notice the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin” or punch a timeclock, but see how our loving Creator provides all that is needed for them.
As March approaches, we can imagine Jesus saying or singing this psalm in praise of creation, even personifying the terrain and the plants and animals calling on all to give praise to God at this cusp of spring.
You visit the earth and water it.
You greatly enrich it.
Your rocky rivers are full of water;
You provide the hungry with grain
You have prepared the earth to receive the seed.
You water its furrow abundantly,
smoothing out its ridges.
softening the clods with showers
and giving abundant blessings to its growth.
The pastures of the wilderness will overflow;
The hills will dress themselves with flowers of joy.
The meadows will clothe themselves with flocks of sheep.
The valleys will deck themselves with corn and wheat.
They will shout for joy and we will sing together with them!
Praying with the Utter Confidence of Jesus (Ps. 57)
Jesus was fascinated with the care mother birds give to their young and chose that image for His own fond care of the weak, even the religiously weak, and those suffering in any way. Jesus resonated with the steadfast-love and loving-kindness of God and revealed it through His person.
Be merciful to me, dear God,
for in You my soul can take refuge.
Under the protection of Your wings
I will hide safely
until the destroying storms pass by.
I cry to God most high
to God who fulfills His purposes for me
and keeps His promises.
I am confident that You will send forth
your steadfast love and all-embracing kindness.
My heart is faithful; my heart is steadfast.
I will sing new and old melodies.
I will give thanks to You before others
Your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
Your faithfulness extends as far as the clouds.
Let me see Your Glory shining over all the world.
A Psalm of Lament (Ps. 55)
Thomas Merton suggested that we pray the psalms of the Prayer of the Hours daily to expand our charity by saying psalms of joy and thanksgiving even when we are down in the dumps or saying psalms of lamentation when all is fairly well with us because we are invited to take on the situations of others. For whom would Jesus say this desperate lament today? In whose voice would you make this appeal?
Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am so troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught by the noise of enemies
and the clamor of the godless.
For they bring trouble upon me
and in anger they perpetuate hatred against me.
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death surround me.
Fear and trembling have come upon me.
Yet, You say: cast your burden upon the Lord
and God will sustain you.
From the Cross, Psalm 23:
The church has recognized the prophetic nature of the psalm Jesus prayed from the Cross by uttering its first words, the way of referring to the whole psalm, the first lines as title. The psalm begins in utter despair, a black night of the soul: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?. . . Wasted are my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. Imagine that spiritual despair, that feeling of abandonment, as the psalm continues with dramatic scenes we have associated with the crucifixion with mocking people hurling insults, with indifferent callous others throwing dice for the victim’s garments. Yet, by alluding to this seeming desolate psalm from the Cross, Jesus claims the whole psalm in the most profound trust in seemingly absent God and hopeful promise of resurrection when no clues are evident. Do you have this much hope? This much faith? This much love?
Then I will proclaim Your name in the assembly
and give You praise in the Community.
For You did not spurn nor disdain
the misery of this poor wretch.
You did not turn away from me,
but You heard me when I cried out.
The poor will eat their fill;
those who seek the Lord will offer praise;
their hearts will enjoy life forever.
All who have gone down in the dust
will be lifted up to praise You.
I will live forever
proclaiming the news to generation after generation.
Pray Psalm 67 for a Miracle of Peace Across the Whole World.
This psalm, in a way, prays that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. It also links the environment with religious concerns for peace, a hint of integral ecology.
May God be gracious to us and bless us.
May God’s face shine upon us.
May Your rule be known upon the whole earth,
Your saving power among all nations.
May the people praise You, God;
may all the peoples praise You.
May all the nations be glad and shout for joy;
for You govern the peoples justly;
You guide the nations upon the earth.
May all peoples praise You, God.
May all on earth praise You.
The earth has yielded its harvest.
so that the ends of the earth may revere the Lord.
Lord Jesus, please give us the peace that only You can give us. Give us fidelity to prayer which can change hearts as nothing else can and motivate actions. Help us to offer mercy and forgive again and again as a threshold to reconciliation. Give us the wisdom that comes from seeking your will. Amen.
Psalm of the Mystical Longing of the Soul (Ps. 63)
Perhaps Jesus prayed this psalm whenever He went aside to pray. Imagine Him praying this psalm in the desert or in the mountain or even from the boat, which took Him away from the crowds pressing upon Him. Jesus went aside for solitude so that He could renew the source and motivation for His call to heal, to serve and to save others.
O God, you are my God; I seek You.
My soul thirsts for You;
my flesh faints for You,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary,
beholding Your power and glory;
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise You
I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises You with joyful lips
when I think of You at the end of day
and mediate on You in the watches of the night.
For You have been my help,
and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
while Your right hand holds me up.
Through every moment of Your life and every moment of Your passion,
You knew God’s steadfast-love was holding You up.
Help me feel that I am loved with such steadfast and unfailing love.
Help me never to fear but to experience confidence from Your loving kindness.
Let me know that God’s loving kindness supports me in joys and in sorrows.
Let me remember You in the morning, commune with You throughout the day,
and return to You in the evening handing over to You all the day’s happenings.
Coincidence of Timings
“Coincidence? Maybe . . . . “ This colloquial expression is sometimes uttered by people who feel they see beyond the surface of parallel happenings. What about the coincidence of holy happenings and their secular counterparts, namely, the coincidence of Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day and Easter on April Fool’s Day?
We can say that there is not so much of a dichotomy between the religious and the secular. After all, we live our religious practices in the thick of our daily lives. As Christians, we have a sacramental worldview. God’s creation is good! Matter mediates grace, for example, the water of baptism and the other symbolic objects of the sacraments. Signs and symbols abound in the world around us.
We certainly can claim “love,” agape, as ultimately the end-point of Lent. So starting Lent with consideration of various “loves” reminds us to expand our hearts during Lent. As each day lengthens in daylight, may our outreach in loving concern extend even further.
But what to make of Easter in association with fools? The secret to success in fooling someone is the element of surprise. Jesus’ Resurrection was a total surprise to the Apostles. After all, they are depicted in their abject dejection, for example, the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Johns’ Gospel or the whole group of disciples shutting themselves up in a locked room. Who would have ever thought . . . He is risen! He is alive! He is among us! A marvelous fulfillment worth immersing ourselves in Lenten practices for.
There is a level at which we are asked to be a fool for Christ, to forego the logic of the world and to take a leap into the Mysteries of Faith.
Jesus, You who walked the hills of Galilee
and the shores of the Jordan,
Who prayed in deserts and on mountains,
take me with You
through all Your gospel journeys.
You who spoke with the simple
and confounded the wise,
lead me as I endeavor to walk with You
through all my Lenten moments
and deepening spiritual practices.
May I find You in all.
May You become all in all to me.
A Good Way to Start the New Year
Why not begin the year with praise? Consider praising God by exploring psalms of praise. Mary and Jesus were familiar with these psalms as part of their daily religious prayers. Make them yours.
Begin with Psalm 34 in which the psalmist invites us to join in praising the Lord and to make that a continuing practice. One translation suggests that, because of our faith in God’s action in our lives, we can be “bright with joy.”
Continue by praising the very nature of God with psalms emphasizing God’s steadfast love and loving kindness: 25; 30; 31; 32; 33; 36: vv. 6-13; 138.* God’s steadfast love touches everyone who trusts. It gives us limitless hope in Yahweh’s limitless love. This concept could remind us of the Cosmic Christ who extends through time and space, whose love is all-inclusive, embracing everyone.
Praise God through psalms acknowledging God as savior from a variety of troubles: Psalms 40; 104; 124; 30; 116; 131. When we are brought low, God will deliver us. God will act so bountifully that a new song will be called for. Another set praising God’s graciousness and saving acts includes: 47; 48; 63; 70; 76; 78; 84.**
Celebration psalms 65 and 66 are noisy psalms with 65 giving a voice to earth and 66 calling for shouting. (Better go outside to say this one.) Consider drawing the images of Psalm 65. Psalm 29 gives voice to God; indeed, God’s voice thunders!
Psalm 98 is an exuberant psalm in a seven-fold form including seven actions of the Divine, seven attributes, and seven verbs of praise. Conclude its recitation by clapping your hands.
Praise with these psalms of praise: 100; 103; 117; 135; 136; 146; 147; 148; 149. Jesus prayed Psalm 136, the great Hallel, at the Last Supper. Each line is an Alleluia!
Do conclude with Psalm 150, recited more authentically, accompanied by a tambourine or timpani. . . . Go ahead . . . strike up your personal band or instrument or create a tune.
When have you experienced God’s steadfast love or loving kindness?
What does your steadfast love look like?
How has God saved you from or for something?
For what additionally would you like to praise God?
Sun and moon,
stars and rain,
frost and snow,
all praise the Lord!
thunder and lightning,
sunrises and sunsets,
praise the Lord!
My heart, my mind,
my gifts, my talents,
family, friends, and faith community,
praise and glorify God
Who is ever creating, saving, and making holy.
*N.B. Depending on the translation, psalm numbering may vary by one from 17 on, so simply read the one before or after the number if theme does not seem to match.
**For a brief thematic comment on psalms in order from 1 to 60, consider the section of prayers inspired by the psalms (1-30; 31-60) from Prayers and Reflections for the Magnificat Community.
The Christmas Story Unfolding
There’s a swan in there somewhere . . . or a horse or a kite. . . . Origami, Japanese paper-folding, starts with a square piece of paper and evolves step by step, fold upon fold, into a figure such as a swan, a cat, a butterfly, a rose. One might say hidden in a simple square of paper are artifacts of the universe.*
The Incarnation is a Mystery that enfolds uncountable realities. It invites our meditating again and again. The Incarnation is the unfolding of God’s will.
In Jesus, the transcendent God draws radically near
in incarnation into human flesh,
into earthly matter formed of stardust.
A genuine member of the human race,
Jesus lived a real historical life from start to finish,
“one in being” with the Father . . .
God’s mercy in person.
(“The Banquet of Faith”)
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son . . . who was incarnate. . . .
How would you express what you believe about the Incarnation of the Son of God?
How does the reality of Incarnation impinge on your life?
How is Christ present on earth today?
The paradox begins. The story unfolds. Each of these moments is a fold in the life of the Incarnate Word: “Jesus’ life begins in distress born into a poor family, laid in a manger, and soon becoming a refugee. Jesus sets in His mission in terms of Isaiah. The good news is concrete as misery is met and transformed. Surrounded by women and men disciples, the Messiah heals, exorcizes, forgives, gives assurances of God’s care to those whose lives are a heavy burden and practices table companionship so inclusive as to give scandal.” Cf. “The Banquet of Faith.”
unfathomably living among us,
may I be
here and now.
*Click here to view the referenced Ted Talk about Origami.
You Have Revealed These Things
A four-year-old has a favorite planet. He received a Saturn tree bulb for Christmas. A three-year-old told his mother he has pledged allegiance to the earth and wants to plant apple trees: “We have to be kind to the earth.” These two youngsters are embodying the message of the Pope’s encyclical on Our Common Home. Furthermore, they are modeling awe and wonder, the beginning of practices of praise for God and the things of God. No wonder Jesus said: “I thank You, Father, for revealing these things to the little ones.” (Cf. Matthew 11:25) May we be humble—little enough, childlike enough—to receive revelations from God in multi-fold forms.
We might ask ourselves, do we have a favorite planet . . . or tree or mountain or “entangled bank”*? Are we open to awe and wonder at eclipses and night skies and sunrises and changing leaves? Do we let any part of the created world be cause for pause? Do we practice not only respect for all that God has created and loves, but also a deep reverence for self, others, earth, God?
God’s revelations are occurring constantly. God’s beauty, “ever ancient, ever new,” arrests our attention in each changing leaf, a unique revelation of some part of the Divine Mystery. By giving mindful attention to a leaf or tree or moment of sky, may I uniquely praise God for this moment of revelation, a unique gift to me.
As winds of November whirl around us physically or metaphorically, may we go deeper into our inner selves where the Spirit of God resides. May we find there our true selves and our call to listen inwardly. May we also search for glimpses of God in one another and all others we encounter.
I seek You.
Let me find You
in expected and unexpected
places and persons.
May I discover You
deep within me
by attending to You
in prayer and reflection.
May I learn more about You
by reading a Gospel
May I recognize You
family, friends, co-workers.
Reveal Yourself to me
in my littleness.
*Cf. Ask the Beasts.
Doctors and Learners in the Church
What does it mean to be a Doctor of the Church? St. Albert the Great and his student St. Thomas Aquinas, extraordinary thinkers, synthesized knowledge from various disciplines. They also theologized from a stance of faith. The famous anecdote about St. Thomas is that he considered all his great systematic presentation of theology in a logical structure to be worthless compared to his faith in Christ.
Consider St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux. St. Teresa authored mystical writings while also reforming monastic practices demanding that women and men religious live up to their ideals. St. Therese is recognized for the “little way,” which gave a simple formula for becoming holy: simply do little things with love.
St. Hildegard of Bingen, proclaimed a Saint in May 2012 and a Doctor of the Church in Oct. 2012, had a wide range of interests from healing herbs to mystical paintings. Considered a polymath, she wrote music as well as experienced visions. She even sent letters of advice to queens. Nothing thwarted her strong moral character.*
All of these “doctors” strove to learn more about God. Their learning processes, though quite diverse, were forms of “theologizing,” thinking about and articulating understandings about God and God’s work on earth and in souls.
Recently, the freshman class was “commissioned to learn” at a Freshman Family Mass. This official call to study, to stretch their minds, to activate their imaginations, to investigate new things was contexted in a liturgy, a Divine work. They were blessed for this undertaking to study, to learn. Just “knowing” new things was not the goal but a particular kind of learning, a learning bearing fruit in the spirit of Mary’s Magnificat.
That kind of engagement with learning involves values of commitment, investment in hard work, collaboration with other learners and teachers, acquiring of skills for life-long learning and honing motivation for ongoing learning, all in a context of a faith-filled life. The learning is for transformation of the learner’s mind and heart for the sake of a transformation of the world through greater knowledge, yes, but also through faith, hope and love. Through this learning, the learner realizes that all learning about any facet of the world or reality is about the Creator. The learner realizes that all learning is about a deeper understanding of themselves and the God within. The learner realizes that all learning is a path toward a fuller grasp of the mind and heart of God.
Go ahead and accept the commission to learn that is inherent in the calls of baptism and confirmation. Committed to ongoing learning, read in any and all areas. Dialog with other appreciators of a broad range of interests. Context study in prayer. Light a candle when you begin to read the writings of a saint or theologian. Ask God for knowledge about the nature of God. Pray not just to obtain new knowledge but humbly to integrate it with your faith. Pray to have the insight and wisdom to use the new knowledge to transform yourself and the daring courage to work to transform the world. Doctor Therese, Doctor Hildegard, pray for us. (Cf. Hildegard and Timeline.)
knowable through grace,
grace me with learning about You
through any learning I achieve.
May I discover You
when I study Your creation.
may I catch glimpses of Who You really are.
Let humility enlighten my mind;
let faith enlighten my heart.
Let all my learning begin
and end in love
resulting in some meaningful,
transformation of the world.
Today Is the Day
The Irish have an expression: Today is our day! Yes, today is our day.
Lo cotidiano, the daily: where life is lived – in the daily.
Scripture scholars tell us that New Testament authors coined the term “daily” for the Eucharist as our “daily bread.” Spiritually, our daily bread is an essential for deepening our faith.
There is a Latin hymn that declares: Haec Dies quam fecit Dominus. This is the day the Lord has made! Each and every day is gift. This day is THE day.
So let us attend to this day. Let it be a day for the five attitudes of prayer: of praise, of adoration, of thanksgiving, of petition, and/or examination of consciousness and expression of sorrow.
How do we live the daily? Let us SEE more May we LISTEN for all sounds, for any music, in any dialog with fuller focus. Let us FEEL more feelingly, literally aware of textures, metaphorically, with empathy and compassion. Let us TASTE more concentratedly each drop of liquid, each morsel of food, enjoying the refreshment that it is. Let us pause before choices and discern decisions so that our own and others’ lives are enriched and God’s kingdom is furthered. May we LOVE more comprehensively grounded in mercy and forgiveness. That way we can gain time, not lose it, by not spending our thoughts on “tomorrow” or some future preoccupation.
So we pray the line from the Our Father even more earnestly: Give us today our daily bread. We need to pray each day. It is good to worship each day. It is a gift par excellence to receive the Eucharist weekly and even daily to the extent possible.
God of my life,
Lord of my days,
You have given me
the gift of this day.
May I give it my full attention
as my way of saying thanks.
May I immerse myself in it
as my gift back to You.
May I share its delights with others.
May I bring its sorrows to prayer.
May it bring me new forms of hope.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a June for which you’ve pondered what gift to give a graduate fitting for the future. Here we are in a June that promises gifts galore for our future, the outpouring of the Spirit’s Gifts on Pentecost. Might we pray for gifts fitting our future, a future full of hope for our personal plans and our complex world?
What gifts would befit
A country imagining locomotion atop a drone?
A country a mere 13 years away from a driver-less car phenomenon?
A country experiencing the devolution of some cities?
A world searching for alternative food sources from foraging to fisheries?
A world in the midst of an alarming refugee crisis?
A war-torn world?
Let us ask the Creator of All Gifts, to give us gifts to contour our personal future and our world’s future as the response to the petition in the Our Father: “Your Kingdom come on earth.”
Awe and Wonder – the deep awareness of Your creation of each and every person out of love in Your image with an irreplaceable destiny
Prayerfulness – a sine qua non for choices that enrich, fulfill, gift others, save a soul bereft of a sense of value
Fortitude – courage and integrity to speak truth to power in family, organizations, church or world (no little gift) with the accompanying virtues of prudence and justice and balance and restraint..
Knowledge – awareness of the connections of all subjects and all systems on earth and in the universe; appreciation of the relation of faith and reason and the sacramental principle of all things to be signs of the Divine and to be sources of grace
Understanding – commitment to delve deeply into Your Scriptures and inspired commentaries and spiritual resources; sense of the integration of all knowledge and experience
Counsel – insights from wise counselors; the fruit of individual and communal discernment: “Not my will but Yours.”
Wisdom – vision to see beneath the surface to the heart of the matter
fill us with Your Gifts
so that our lives will be
bursting with faith
offering unconditional love.
Continue transforming us
into Your Likeness
So that we can be
Fire . . . Light . . .
Warmth . . . Coolness
Wind that shakes up . . .
Breeze that calms . . .
re-shaping hearts and the world
with You for You.
Mary (and Us) in May
As the hymn so rightly describes: We walk by FAITH and not always by light. Perhaps that is the reason in “From a Woman’s Life,” the poet Maura Eichner, SSND, says of Mary at the Annunciation and of all of us each day: we do not have a compass; we have to make the way ourselves: She created a road to travel by.
In an article in America recently, the radio voice of “On Being,” Krista Tippett, reported a response to the question What is the opposite of faith? Read on for the “answer.”* She muses about the spiritual and mystical dimensions of our being in the world:
I am strangely comforted when I hear from cosmologists that human beings are the most complex creatures we know of in the universe.
Black holes are in their way explicable, human beings are not!
I love that word perplexing.
In this sense, the spiritual life is a reasonable, reality-based pursuit.
It can have mystical entry points and destinations, to be sure.
But in the end, it is about befriending reality, the common human experience of mystery included.
It acknowledges the full drama of the human condition.
It attends to beauty and pleasure; it attends to grief and pain and the enigma of our capacity to resist the very things that we long for and need.
Einstein saw a capacity for wonder, a reverence for mystery, at the heart of the best of science, religion and the arts. Einstein kept asking himself questions going deeper into reality. There are multiple meanings of aspects of the real world, our realities, so to speak.
Reality and virtual reality and faith realities
Outer space and cyber space and inner space
Intelligence and artificial intelligence and wisdom.
Clearly, we are called to probe the deepest realities, the mysteries of our faith.
Mary as model confronts us, startlingly, with contemporary situations that headline the news or our neighborhoods:
Babies being born in strange cities and strange lands;
Families having to flee persecution for ethnic, religious, nationality, or perceived differences;
Loved ones detained or imprisoned unjustly;
Single parents assuming multiple roles in raising and providing for children;
Children moving beyond the homebase and matters familiar;
Young adults challenging the status quo in a variety of domains;
Spouses carrying on after unspeakable loss.
So he opposite of faith is *Not doubt, but certainty! Therefore, as we make our way through May and life, in hope contoured by our faith, in faith spilling over into love, let us walk with Mary creating our own road to travel by.
Mary, if Jesus is fully human,
Like us in all things save sin
You are truly our sister,
The myriad experiences
That give rise to our joys
And our burdens,
And our sorrows.
In celebrations, in rituals,
In prayers for miracles,
and in prayers bursting
With joy and thanksgiving.