Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Story of Mother Seton

A young mother died unexpectedly. Her death left her precious toddler scarred emotionally. A year later, the child's younger sister, barely a toddler, also died. As an adult, Eliza still recalled herself, at four years of age, sitting on the doorstep gazing at the clouds, hoping to see her deceased loved ones in the sky.

Numbed by pain from early childhood issues, Eliza felt her father's absence keenly when he was abroad for professional study. At times, she wondered if he loved her. As emotional waves surged, confusion mixed with sadness, troubled her adolescent heart. Feeling alienated and alone, Eliza considered taking a drug overdose but she decided not to take laudanum, an opiate derivative. Later, she rejoiced in her choice--not to do the "horrid deed." Hope soon dissipated her melancholy and restored her lively spirit.

Beguiling once again, Eliza met and fell in love with William Magee Seton. They married and had five children but the mature Eliza lost her beloved husband to tuberculosis. Catholic friends introduced the young widow to the Catholic faith, its liturgical worship, and personal devotions. Catholic beliefs, particularly the Eucharist and Blessed Mother, attracted Eliza. She longed for interior peace and the gift of true faith, which she discerned through reading, study, consolation, and conversations on religious matters. Friends and family argued against her considering Catholicism. The more they dissuaded, the more she felt called to religious conversation as "the earnest desire of my Soul."

Should she or shouldn't she become Catholic? Her discernment left her in a whirlwind of emotional turmoil. Hers was a heart-wrenching struggle to discover God's plan. Eliza longed for God: "If I am right, O teach my heart still in the right to stay; if I am wrong, thy grace impart to find the better way."

She sought divine truth: "I seek but God and his church and expect to find my peace in them." When the Church retold the story of the Magi following a star to find the Promised Savior, Elizabeth wrote plaintively: "Alas, where is my star?" In making her profession of faith, Eliza found her inner peace as a Roman Catholic. As foundress of the Sisters of Charity, she encouraged her sisters to: "Meditate on peace before Jesus, the sweet King and Prince of peace--let us desire it, make it a great part of our perfection, a capital point of our vocation of love."

Points to ponder:

  • What is the earnest desire of my soul?
  • What helps me discern God's will when faced with significant choices?
  • Where is my star? How does its brilliance touch my heart?
  • How shall I live my vocation of love?
Written by Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent Week 4: Love, The Guest is on the Way!

"The Incarnation is now an event of the past...Christ wants to be active among us. He still pursues His work of salvation of healing. He comes to us in the Eucharist, in order to build up, in order to edify, and in order to bring to completion our salvation." (From Vincentian Spirituality: A Correspondence Course with Sister Elizabeth Charpy, D.C.)

St. Louise Marillac's spirituality is focused on the Incarnation, the grandeur of God, the respect of the poor, and the splendor of the Eucharist.

Because God was all--her beginning and her end--in her Trinitarian prayer, she had a great devotion to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus, the Incarnate Word. Louise embraced the Incarnation as the most wonderful work of God in salvation history. Louise admired the humility of God-made-flesh. Christ came "humbly as can be imagined so that we might be more free to approach Him." (SW p.700)

Louise’s reflections on the poor, all her initiatives to serve the rejected of the society, emanate from her contemplation of the mystery of Incarnation which is the heart of her spirituality. In front of the crib, she liked to unite her offering to that of the Infant God.

The child of Bethlehem shows us the path to follow, and St. Louise makes this teaching her own when she writes her retreat resolutions around 1633.

"I shall honor the serenity of the crib. I shall calmly adore the divinity in the infant Jesus and imitate, to the best of my ability, His holy humanity, especially His simplicity and charity which led Him to us as a child so as to be more accessible to His creatures." (SW p.718)

Mary was the Center of this adorable mystery of Incarnation. (SW a.14B)

With Louise, we search our depths, praying for all that is waiting to be born in us, through us, and for us.

Christmas blessings to one and all!

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Week 3: Traditions and Practices

Every year I make special preparations for the weeks of Advent. Generally, it is investing in an Advent reflection book, purchasing the holiday paper and writing the Christmas family letter, resolving on a daily Advent practice like cleaning a drawer, and of course assembling a creche scene in my prayer corner. All of these have become traditions and rituals which help me to be very present and engaged in the season of Advent.

This year, as I was preparing to write this reflection, I found myself looking for just the right word that brings the Advent experience together for me. It is the word CONNECTION. Yes, Advent for me is CONNECTING in a special way to some of the wisdom of those who write about Advent and the spiritual message of the season through their reflections. Advent is CONNECTING with my family and friends and sharing with them the highlights of the past year through the Christmas letter. Advent is CONNECTING with my own personal need to empty out and feel once again the need, desire, and awareness of being refilled with God's unending love for me which seems to tangible at Christmas time. Having a daily discipline and practice helps me to feel that "emptying out." And last but not least, Advent is CONNECTING me to the historical event of Christ's assuming our human nature out of love memorialized through the reassembly of the creche scene.

And so, on this third week of Advent, this Gradete or Rejoice week, I rejoice that I have been able to share these few thoughts and practices with you. In doing so, I feel more CONNECTED to you. And it seems to me, THAT is the message Advent invites us to embody. As Christ has CONNECTED with us, let us CONNECT and stay CONNECTED with each other.

Rejoice, we are all connected to our God who loves us so much, and each other!

Written by Sister Sharon Richardt, D.C.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent Week 2: A Woman Wrapped in Silence

As we journey through this second week of Advent, we are nourished by scripture, especially in the words of the Prophet Isaiah and in the Gospel of Matthew. We read from Isaiah: "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated. Indeed she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins" (Isaiah 40:1-2). These words fulfill the promise God made after the sin of Adam and Eve that He would send His Son to cleanse their original sin and bring all of His creation redemption. So it is that as we journey through these days of Advent we experience the fulfillment of God’s promise as we see in the words of Isaiah and as we wait in great expectation for the coming of His Son, the infant born on Christmas Day.

Essential to God’s plan for this redemption was the Nativity of His Son, Jesus, and his plan included a young woman who God would invite to be the mother. We know that an Angel appeared to Mary and presented God’s plan to her, stunning her and having her say to the Angel "but how can this be?" We learn from the Prophet Isaiah the answer to this question when we read "The virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel" (Matthew 2:23) meaning God with us. We know that Mary pondered the message of the Angel in her heart and then gave God her YES to His vocational call to her. We understand in this Advent teaching that, for Mary, pondering is what we now understand as discernment. Whether it is to the single life, the married life, or the consecrated life, God invites each of us to be a part of his plan for people of faith. When each of us hear God speaking to us, calling us to a particular way of life we, like Mary, pause and ponder--we pray and discern--and we sometimes use Mary’s words "how can this be?" And like our Blessed Mother, we give our "Yes" to God’s vocational call. We may not be as quick as Mary was. We may need to ponder much longer than did Mary. But at some point, we have to respond in faith to the invitation God gives to each of us as we fulfill the plan that He has in store for those He loves.

As we journey through these holy days of Advent, let us be, like Mary, people wrapped in silence as we ponder, pray, and listen to the will of God in our lives. Let us sooner or later respond as Mary did with our honest and heartfelt response to God’s invitation.

Written by Sister Catherine Kelly, D.C.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent Week 1: Watchful Waiting

Advent has always been associated with a time of waiting. A time of waiting in the silence and the stillness of winter. A time of waiting in expectation for birthing to occur. A time of waiting for Jesus the Child to come into the world.

For the Jewish community of Mary's day (and the Jewish community of today), they lived in a continual Advent period, waiting for the Messiah to come. Was their waiting similar to our waiting for the Second Coming? Was it a waiting they believed in because their religion told them it would happen, but a lazy waiting because they had been waiting for so long? Was it a waiting of "Yes, it will happen someday, but not in my day?"

Yet, we hear Jesus call us to another kind of waiting--a watchful waiting.

In Mark 13:33, 36-37, Jesus said to his disciples "Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time will come. He may come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."

Mary must have lived in this watchful waiting stance. A waiting that encompassed a certain awareness of all around her. A waiting that was open, not only to the usual, but to the unusual. Thus, she was open to discovering God through her religious traditions--the daily prayers said in common, the special Jewish traditions, the manifestation of God in nature--the usual. But Mary's waiting must have also included being open to God in other ways--the mysterious, almost touchable, presence of God when all seemed untouchable and the little whispers of God that others found inaudible--the unusual.

If Mary had not had experiences of God in this way, would she have been perceptive enough to hear God's voice at the Annunciation? Would she have been comfortable enough to voice her concerns and still say "Yes?" Would she have been open enough to recognize God in all subtle events to come--God speaking through Anna and Simeon, God's presence when Jesus is left at the temple, God's nudging when he prompts her to push Jesus into public ministry? Yes, Mary not only waited for the coming of the Messiah, but waiting in an alert, watchful stance.

Ask yourself: How alert and watchful is my stance? How watchful will my waiting be during this Advent? What is one time when I anticipated a special event in a watchful, alert way? What lessons can I take from this event to enhance my waiting during this Advent? How do I carry the watchful waiting purposefulness of Advent into my daily life throughout the year?

Pray: Lord, you call us to watchful waiting. We do not always appreciate our need to be in this stance. But we have been able to discover you in a small way during Advent times to know this watchful waiting has a beauty that is beyond our comprehension. Help us to continue to grow in our watchful waiting so we may always be aware of your comings in the most subtle of ways. As we look towards Mary as our example in this waiting, we give praise to your through our Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

Written by Sister Kathleen Shannon, D.C.