Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Novena

As I was watching the news on October 25, I was shocked to see a Christmas shopping commercial. "It's not even Halloween yet!" I said aloud. And I was grateful to recall that as Daughters of Charity, we sing the Christmas Novena each year during the nine days preceding the feast. I sighed and wished that everyone could approach Christmas Eve humming, "The Lord, the King who is to come! Come let us adore Him!"

The Christmas Novena has been a tradition within the Vincentian and Daughters of Charity communities since 1720 when an Italian priest, Carlo Antonio Vachetta, arranged the music for it based on a novena that had been prayed in Italy for many centuries. Originally sung in Latin, the novena was translated to English in the United States around 1964.

I personally love the Christmas Novena and the opportunity to reflect on the ancient prophecies pointing to God's promised Savior. Singing/praying helps to keep the meaning of Advent and Christmas in perspective. Some of its magic is pensive, highlighting the waiting and the longing for the Savior. Other pieces are joyful, giving expression to the hope, the love, the expectation of the season. The Christmas Novena is just one of the blessings of being a Daughter of Charity. There is so much about living in commit that helps keep the distractions of the secular culture in perspective.

Please understand that I am not a Grinch. I do not want to steal the toys, gifts, and external trimmings of Christmas that bring such joy to children of all ages. I just want to remind myself and help other to remember and appreciate the most important joy of Christmas: Jesus, our Lord and King!

This year, we invite you to join us in the Christmas Novena! You can prepare for Day 1 here.

Written by Sister Mary Frate, D.C. and Sister Elizabeth Riddell, D.C.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"Am I not here, I who am your Mother?"

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I find the story of these apparitions the most humble and down to earth. The narration says that, on December 9, 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to a native Mexican peasant called Juan Diego on the mountain of Tepeyac while he was on his way to church. She appeared to him four times and once to his sick uncle. These apparitions took place in a time of oppression for the Indians. They were being rejected by the conquerors of that time. All of their beliefs of the ancient gods had been destroyed and Christianity was imposed.

Mary appeared very simply and with the traits of a native Mexican of the time. She even spoke to him in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec empire. It presents Mary in her true identity, a servant and close to those suffering and in need. The way she spoke to him was sweet, kind, and consoling. She would say, "Little Juan, the smallest of my sons...." Juan also replied to her with the same confidence. She identified herself as the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the true God. She gave Juan Diego a mission to tell the bishop to build a church where she can show her love, compassion, assistance, and protection to the people of that country and to all that would invoke and trust in her.

Juan Diego had a sick uncle who was close to death. He was on his way to get a priest when the Virgin Mary stopped him again and reminded Juan Diego of his mission. She said, "Don't worry about your uncle. Am I not here, I who am your Mother?" At that time, she also appeared to his uncle and healed him. Juan Diego asked the Virgin Mary for a sign to take to the bishop. She told him to cut roses from the Tepeyac and take them to him. It was not the season for roses but Juan Diego obeyed and found roses as she had said. When he went to the bishop and opened his cloak, the image of Our Lady had been miraculously engraved on it.

The apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe are prophetic, mystical, and missionary. Prophetic because they announce a new culture, the culture of encounter. A poor Indian who is sent out to the hierarchy of the church, a bishop, to tell him that he saw the Virgin Mary. It is not about what divides us, but of what brings us together. Mystical because it reveals to us a God that is clearly with and for the poor and the oppressed. We can be blind and not see him where he truly wants to manifest himself. Missionary because it took Juan Diego and it takes us out of ourselves to carry out a mission in the way God wants it. Mary teaches us to trust in her and, ultimately, in God.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us and those who are poor and oppressed.

Written by Sister Migdalia Flores, D.C.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

My Vocation Story: A Story of Twists and Turns

In celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It has been almost 22 years since I became a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. However, it took 14 years before I responded to this call.

Here is a short version of my vocation story:

In the early 1980s, I was living in Vietnam. The Communist government was very strict with the Catholic Church and restricted young people from joining any religious order.

However, when I was in seventh grade, I followed one of my friends to a period of vocation discernment with the Salesian Sisters. I lived "underground" with them for one summer break and didn't come back after that year. I was too young at the time and wasn't ready for it.

Three years later, I discerned with the Franciscan Sisters and, after two years of discernment, decided to join them. However, it didn't work out as my immigration application to the United States was in process. Sisters recommended that I join the Franciscan order when I came to the U.S. At the time, I didn't know it would be seven years before I could come to America!

After three years of living in my new country, my life was mostly settled with work and study. However, the call of a consecrated life had constantly stirred up in my heart. I felt an urge to respond to it. I bargained with God that this was the LAST CHANCE. Whether He called me or not, this would be my last response to a religious vocation.

I found the Daughters of Charity address on a free Catholic calendar. I didn't know anything about the Daughters of Charity, but the name attracted me to them. I wrote a letter asking for more information. After three years of discernment, I became a Daughter of Charity. That will have been 22 years ago next month.

When I reflect on my faith journey, I realize that God is always faithful and patient in waiting for my response. My vocation's path was not straight and clear as others' may be. It took a few twists and turns to get here. With God's grace, I responded and the same grace has carried me on to this day. I'm grateful for my vocation to the Daughters of Charity and have no doubt that God knows what to do with my life. My part is to be faithful with my YES each and every day. Like Mary, I offer my YES, my FIAT, and pray to be the best Daughter I can be...all with God's grace, love, and continued support!

Written by Sister Maria Hoa Nguyen, D.C.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Season of Advent

Two years ago, during the Advent season, I showed the story A Small Miracle by Peter Collington to preschoolers. Peter Collington is a master at painting rich, narrative tales without a single word. I told the children that we would read the story with our own eyes and our own hearts. The children were attentively looking at the pictures and excitedly telling the story when I asked, "What do you see?" or "What do you feel?"

The story was about an elderly woman who asked for alms on a winter day but no one paid attention to her. She sold her musical instrument but a thief stole her money. The thief also tried to steal the money from the poor box at a church. She fought him and saved the money for the poor. She returned the money to the church and rebuilt the nativity scene which had been knocked down by the thief. We stopped the story at the scene of the elderly woman asleep in the snow on her way home and I asked the children to draw a picture of what they would like to give to Jesus and to the woman for Christmas. Some drew houses, blankets, food, stoves, bathtubs, etc. However, Andrew shared his picture and said, "This is a tiger. And he is a nice tiger for Jesus." This reminded of me Isaiah 65:25: "The wolf and the lamb shall pasture together."

Advent is the special season when we often ponder the Incarnation, the mystery of Emmanuel, God among us. Two thousand years ago, He came to us because He loves us and wants to be with us. His love and presence is ever the same. But what about our love and our presence to Him in us, in our families, in our workplaces, in our world, in "social justice," and in the Eucharist?

Advent is about immersing ourselves in God's boundless love. It is about renewing our identity and our call, "Emmanuel, God among us."

God is already here! He is knocking at the door of our heart. He waits patiently for our love and our response, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

Let us respond to God's love in our daily lives with faith, love, and courage as Mary and Joseph did. And let us imitate a child's spirit of simplicity, eagerness, and enthusiasm to welcome our Lord Jesus!

May you have a spiritual Advent preparation!

Written by Sister Truc Nguyen, D.C.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Foundation of the Little Company

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Soren Kierkegaard

We sometimes harbor the illusion that the saints "had everything figured out" in their lives as though they possessed some kind of heavenly GPS plotting their journey of life from its beginning to its final destination. Actually, the saints were often as unsure as the rest of us. Many of them needed to pray for God's guidance each day and waited for Him to reveal His will one step at a time. This was certainly the case for St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, who founded the Daughters of Charity on November 29, 1633.

After St. Vincent delivered an inspiring sermon about the desperate need of a poor family in his parish at Clichy in 1617, parishioners flocked to the home to see how they could help. This experience led St. Vincent to the then-revolutionary idea of organizing charitable efforts for the poor. He gathered influential women together in groups which he called Confraternities of Charity (now known as Ladies of Charity) and asked St. Louise to visit, mentor, and oversee their efforts.

As time passed, the women, who were unaccustomed to menial tasks, began sending their servants instead of going themselves into the homes of the poor. St. Vincent and St. Louise recognized that another approach was needed. The solution came with the appearance of a simple peasant girl, Marguerite Nasseau. She, with her companions, was very willing to carry out the necessary, humble tasks. St. Louise realized that these young women needed support and training. In 1633, she welcomed them into her home. This was a shocking departure from the social norms of the day.

Through their faithful following of the Lord's guidance step-by-step, St. Vincent and St. Louise became the founders of a new type of religious community for women where the sisters were free to venture outside of the walls of a convent to minister directly to those in need.

Ten years later, St. Vincent would say to the Daughters gathered for his conference: "Who would ever have thought that there would be Daughters of Charity? ... I did not think of it ... God thought of it for you," (Conferences to the Daughters of Charity, June 14, 1643). In 1654, he elaborated further: "Now, dear Sisters, the fact is that no one on earth can say, 'I did that.' Mademoiselle [Louise] can't say it, neither can M. Portail, no anyone else. No, Sisters, no one can say, 'I'm the one who did this work,'" (Conferences to the Daughters of Charity, May 25, 1654).

Both St. Vincent and St. Louise recognized the presence of God in the events and circumstances with which they were faced and counted on Him to guide them step-by-step along the right path to accomplish His will. He continues to guide us in the same way, one step at a time.

Are you wondering about God's plans for your future? Trust Him to show you the path He wants for you, one step at a time.

Written by Sister Chris Maggi, D.C.