Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Blessed Trinity

I can't remember when exactly my deep love for God as Trinity began. Most of us go through different stages as to how we relate to God. Mine from passed God as Father to God as Jesus to God as Holy Spirit. But several years ago, an idea of how wonderful it would be to relate to a God who is a Trinity of Love--all three persons--took root in me. Thinking of God as Trinity meant that I could never think of God as being alone. God is a relationship of three who love each other and communicate that love everywhere, so much so that creation continues and is never ending, just like love itself! I am so caught up in this relationship with Trinity as is all of creation!!!

About the time that I had this idea, I read the novel, The Shack, which further piqued my interest. Then, the movie was released and I made it a priority to see it. I was not disappointed! Most recently, I have read (and am already re-reading) The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell. Fittingly enough, William Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote the forward to the Divine Dance. Since seeing and reading The Divine Dance, I now think of my relationship with God as being a relationship of movement, a relationship of giving and receiving love. It is a dance that pulls me in and sends me out to continue the relational connection with all those I meet.

One of the ways of trying to live out the relation of the Trinity to everyday life is what is called the law of threes. This law, as described by Father Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault (episcopal minister and writer), is built on being open to seeing a third option in situations of polarized opinions: my way, their way, and a third way which is likely different from either of the other two views. By being open to the possibility of a third way, prejudgements, adversarial feelings, and discussions may take on a more creative and relationship-building opportunity.

In my daily life, I want to move from an either/or mentality to one of reconciling opposites, a way of bringing love and compassion into situations that could be confrontational. This, of course, is an aspiration and not as close to a lived reality as I would like. But, my love for God as Trinity inspires me to keep trying to bring this movement of a dance rather than a stand-off in tense situations.

Written by Sister Sharon Richardt, D.C.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Creative Explosions of Pentecost

"The first Pentecost was anything but a tame event. The winds howled, the walls rattled, the earth shook. What's more, 'tongues of fire' descended upon everyone huddled in that upper room. Clearly the Holy Spirit came, not as a gentle breeze, but more as a hurricane or earthquake.

"The disciples too seemed filled with this 'untamed power' of God. They didn't leisurely saunter out of the upper room that day. No, they were almost catapulted out the doors and into the streets. Once outside, they began speaking with such joy and enthusiasm that some of the bystanders thought they were drunk. The effect of their preaching was also wildly amazing: 3,000 individuals converted to the gospel in a single day!"

I am borrowing these words from Sister Melannie Svoboda, SND, because they speak well to us about the meaning of Pentecost for us as Daughters of Charity and as members of the Vincentian Family. They also speak to us about St. Louis de Marillac's event at Pentecost and the profound effect it had on her and the "Little Company."

Here is a brief description of her Pentecost experience: "On the Feast of Pentecost, June 4, 1623, Louise, while at prayer, had a vision in which she saw herself serving the poor and living the evangelical counsels in community. She wrote this 'Lumiere,' or a Pentecost experience, on parchment and carried it with her as a reminder that, despite her difficulties, God was guiding her life. In that vision, a priest appeared to her whom she later identified as Vincent de Paul, her future confidante and collaborator in ministry, " (Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac: Correspondence and Thoughts, p. 1-2).

And listen to what St. Vincent's creativity featured.

When sending forth his first missionaries, St. Vincent de Paul said, "Our vocation is to go, not just to one parish, not just to one diocese, but to all over the world and to do what? To set people's hearts on fire, to do what the Son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with his love."

Is there any wonder about the Spirit being so alive in the lives of our founders and the first disciples?!

Their "flames" are still burning...what about yours and mine? Let's challenge each other to be alive in the Spirit and spread those creative explosions of Pentecost to all those we serve and meet each day of our lives!!!

Written by Sister Regina Hlavac, D.C.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mother's Day Reflection

Our good and loving God, we thank you today for mothers, for grandmothers, for great-grandmothers, for aunts, for neighbors, and for every wise and kind woman you have put into our lives. We are grateful for the many ways they have nurtured us.

In this reflection, I would like to share with you my own dear Irish Mother, Mary Dolores Conway. She has nurtured me on my life journey of living and loving. My mom was in her early 20s when I was born, the youngest of her first four children, on December 8. My mom had a steadfast devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus and, since I was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I was named Mary Catherine, dedicated to Mary. Throughout my life, she reminded me that I was a "Mary's Girl."

Growing up in Baltimore City, we did not have much money but we always had a lot of love. My mom did not experience much love as a child but, as an adult, always had a heart for those who were in need. The spirit was nurtured by her high school days at Seton with the Daughters of Charity as well as her part-time job ministering alongside Daughters at St. Vincent's Infant Home.

My mom valued Catholic education. When I went to first grade, she went to work in a department store in order to pay our tuition. The Daughters had a home for children in the neighborhood and, each morning, the children would arrive at school packed in a station wagon, fit right into our school community, and then head back to the orphanage at the end of the day. I told my mom about these children who had no parents and no home. I told her that I was going to be a Sister when I grew up so that I could take care of orphans like them. When my friends were playing school with their dolls, I was lining mine up and playing "orphanage."

In our day, if you were Catholic, you went to a Catholic school and you had sisters as teachers. Catholic families were honored to have one of their children become a priest, brother, or sister. In fourth grade, I had a Sister of Mercy as a teacher. This teacher wrote a letter to my mom (which I found in her things after she passed) saying that she believed I had a vocation to be a religious sister and it was my mom's responsibility as a Catholic mother to encourage me.

When I was in high school, sowing my wild oats, my mom believed becoming a sister was no longer on my radar. (You made big life decisions young in those days.) However, my three siblings married and I went off to the Daughters of Charity. It was very hard on my mom and my dad to let me go. The day they took me to Emmitsburg, Maryland, my mom told me that the sisters would "test me" and that I would have to live the life of Mother Seton. She gave me a dime and told me: "Put this in your shoe. If you do not feel this vocation is right for you, just give me a call and we will come get you." (Pay phones were just a dime back then.)

But here I am, 56 years later and still a Daughter of Charity. There were ups and downs, just like in any vocation. But I think they were just all tests, remembering this too shall pass. God kept me and I am grateful, as were my mom, dad, and family, who have encouraged me all through the years.

To this day, I will say the hardest thing for me to give up to become a Daughter of Charity was to marry and have a family of my own. However, God has still blessed me with a very large family. After myself and my older siblings had left home, my parents gave birth to three more children. My siblings are continuing to bring even more beautiful children into this world and into my life.

As the Mother of Jesus, Mary's vocation was to receive Jesus in her heart and give Him to the world. As a "Mary's Girl," my vocation is to have Jesus in my heart, to give Him in love to all I encounter, and to receive back His love to refill my heart and to continue the giving.

Written by Sister Mary Catherine Conway, D.C.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

St. Louise de Marillac

Shall I start with disclaimers first?

Who am I to write about, much less introduce, our Foundress?
At first thought there are so many other historians, musicians, sculptors, writers, poets and biographers among us that have portrayed her so very well in sundry ways. (I still hold on to that thought of “Who am I?”!) It is only after entering the Daughters of Charity that I grew to love this Louse de Marillac of a mysterious family of origin, of early formative years, of an unknown extended family and of yearnings to follow her heart’s deepest desires. I could say “…late have I loved thee” for want of recognizing her during my own early days in the Daughters of Charity. But then the days and the months and the years exposed me to these wise women who model Louse de Marillac so very well…. these Daughters of Charity as formators, as Spiritual Directors, as wise women figures who teach more by example than any words could convey: as Louise probably did. Given these living examples of Louise, I’ve probably learned even more about her from Grant Writing, Advancement initiatives,  Case Studies, Project research, Proposal preparations and anything else to further efforts to support those whom we serve…….. Our Poorest!

I’ve learned that Louise could never ignore her innate unyielding call to give herself totally to God…...the whispers of her heart could not be ignored nor submerged. Given her own 16th century of birth this mystical little girl could have grown up uneducated, dependent upon her family’s situation, marry, have children and die. For Louise this could have been her life, but for her “Father’s” claiming her as his natural daughter but not his legal heir. His status allowed for her elite schooling among the nobility as she continued to listen to her heart’s yearnings.

Fast forward to 1635 and Louise is a widow! She meets Vincent de Paul (the rest is history!). So here’s where the Advancement initiatives come into play (what would Louise say?). Overwhelmed with orphans to feed, legend has it that Louise made and sold jam to cover the costs. As needs surfaced, Louise collaborated with others (Friend Raising and Fund Raising!). Legend also tells of Louise making wine out of untended grape fields (pretty creative!) as a new sources of income for growing expenses. Louise’s innate organizational skills with a keen sense of one’s talents were the catalyst in addressing her day’s challenges…so catalyzing that these skills continue for our today! And in the midst of all of this, Louise continued to be urged by the Charity of Christ Crucified in serving: our motto, our tag line for today’s Daughters of Charity.

So!  Lessons for us from Louise de Marillac for today………. Can you

1.    Listen to your heart?

2.    Seek out good advice?

3.    Use your God given talents?

4.    Follow those you serve as they show you what they need?

5.    Use your God given talents to make it happen?
6.    Listen to your heart?

Written by Sister Marge Clifford, D.C.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Who is St. Joseph?

Just who is this St. Joseph about whom we hear so much but read so little in the Gospels? In Gospels, all we really learn about him is:
  • He and Mary were engaged to be married.
  • He was a dreamer.
  • He was a carpenter.
  • He was of the House of David.
From these four facts, we may be able to draw more information. Let's take what we know, imagine them as paintbrushes, and create a fuller picture of Joseph--the man, the saint, and the foster father of Jesus.

Joseph and Mary were promised to one another. They were engaged but not married when Mary learned that she was pregnant. Joseph knew he was not the father of this child, but he did deeply love and respect Mary. In that day, Mary could have been cast out and/or stoned to death for having a child outside of marriage. Joseph did not want that to happen. In the midst of his turmoil, Joseph had a powerful dream in which an angel appeared to him, telling him that he should have no fears about taking Mary as his wife. The angel told him that the child she carried had been conceived by the Holy Spirit and would save his people from their sins. Joseph--proving to be a man of deep faith, strong character, and great integrity--took Mary into his home as his wife and cared for her.

Joseph continues the trend of watching over and caring for Mary on their long journey to Bethlehem. It was here that Mary's child, Jesus, was born and that Joseph receives another important message in his dreams. This time, from God, telling him that King Herod wanted to kill his child because he feared the child would take away his power as king. Without questioning this message, Joseph immediately responded by moving with Mary and Jesus all the way to Egypt. The little family settled in this foreign land, trusting that God, who had led them all along, would continue to give them the signs and inspiration needed to do His will.

From these instances, we learn that Joseph always kept his heart open to hear what God was asking of him. He see this again when God speaks to him again through a dream. This time, God tells Joseph that Herod is now dead and it is time to take the family back to their home country. Again without hesitation, Joseph does so and they settle in the little town of Nazareth. Here, Joseph continued to support, protect, and care for his family through his carpentry trade--which he shared with Jesus as he grew up.

It is this fuller picture of St. Joseph that allows us to understand why he has become a model for us in so many ways. He is a model of:
  • Willingly listening to God's call.
  • Hearing God's call and having the courage to follow it.
  • Loving, caring for, and protecting those who are vulnerable.
  • Using his God-given skills and talents to help others.
  • Having the faith, courage, strength of character, and integrity to go against the norms of the world in order to do what God is calling us to do.
So, just who is this St. Joseph? He was a man chosen by God to be the husband, best friend, protector, support, and confidant of the woman chosen to carry and give birth to Jesus Christ. He was chosen to be the earthly father figure of the Son of God and the Savior of the World.

St. Joseph has always been a strong patron of the Daughters of Charity and the entire Vincentian family. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton named her "beloved valley" St. Joseph's Valley and her very first sisters were called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. He is the patron of vocations to our "little company." St. Joseph, pray for us.

Written by Sister Mary Louise Zellers, D.C.