Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Feast of the Annunciation & Vows as a Daughter of Charity

The Feast of the Annunciation celebrates the moment in which Jesus became human and entered the world as one of us. It was, at one time, known as the Feast of the Incarnation because it highlights the humanity which Jesus shares with us. In our Vincentian tradition, the incarnation is important as we see the face of God in others, especially people in need.

Of course, it is also a feast which celebrates Mary as the model of discipleship for us. In the parallel accounts of prophecy to Zechariah and Mary in the first chapter of Luke's gospel, we learn some important elements of what it means to be a good disciple. Zechariah hears the prophecy of the angel about the birth of John and is fearful and troubled. His first question is centered on himself and he asked, "How can I know this?" He has trouble truly hearing the words of the prophecy given to him and is, therefore, struck dumb--perhaps not as a punishment, but an opportunity given to him so that he must listen and take in the gift that God has given him.

Mary's response, in contrast, gives us a different view of how to be a disciple. When Mary encounters the angel, she is also troubled, but she listens to the words of the angel. She raises an objection which is really her searching for understanding. She doesn't receive an explanation, but is given an assurance that God will be with her. Her response, however, is her unqualified YES. She, a young woman in a society in which being either of those rendered one powerless, gives a YES which affirms her identity and trust in God. Mary gives this YES because she has been listening to the voice of God and has faith that God will be with her, no matter what happens.

For Daughters of Charity, this day is a special day because it is the day that we make our vows for another year. We make our life commitment as Daughters of Charity before we ever make vows, but the vows reflect that commitment. Each year, we are graced with the opportunity to reflect upon and renew our commitment to God and to the service of people living in poverty. I am grateful for this time each year to stop and consider how I am living the vows. Each year, it seems a different vow is my focus as I have yet another lesson to learn about how to live each vow better. I take great consolation from being in this long line of women who have been saying these words each year since the time of St. Louise.

Written by Sister Therese Haywood, D.C., Province of Australia

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Response of LOVE to a call of LOVE

Each year on the Feast of the Annunciation, the Daughters of Charity throughout the world renew their vows.

Mary the Mother of Jesus is our model. Mary was a Servant of Faith. Her YES brought to birth her son, the Son of God, the one who changed the world. This birth offers hope to our world.

Creating moments of rebirth enables us to see glimpses of God; the God who calls each os us to co-create, to leave our world better than we found it.

Mary was invited by the angel to be the Mother of God. Her first response was, "How can this be?"

Many times in our own lives, we are asked or invited to do something and our response might be similar.

Mary's "Fiat" was holy because it is through her act of submission--her willingness to accept God's plan--that the Son of God makes His entrance into human history. Mary pondered the angel's words in her heart and then responded with her Fiat.

I saw many glimpses of the willingness to accept God's plan in my own mother's life. Her daily response to the needs of her family and others always came before responding to her own needs.

I have also seen many glimpses of the willingness to accept God's plan in the Daughters of Charity that I have lived with. These women have been faithful to their call to serve their sisters and brothers in need. This doesn't surprise me as our motto as Daughters is, "The Charity of Jesus Christ urges us."

Pondering, discerning, and listening are the only ways God can speak to my heart.

Mary's openness--our openness--allows the movement of God in our hearts and so we can enter that intimate relationship with the one who calls us to love. An intimacy that invites the God deep within us to do the impossible.

Our YES opens us up to new possibilities of the movement of God.

Our YES enables us to reach out and respond to those living in poverty in our world.

Our YES and our Fiat--our willingness--enables us to be transformed so that God can create something new.

Written by Sister Teresa Tighe, D.C., Province of Great Britain

Friday, February 14, 2020

Prayer: A Pilgrimage of the Heart

Material for this blog post was adapted from similar reflections on prayer by Sister Kara Davis, D.C.: a Lenten video found here and a podcast reflection found here.

I recently had someone ask me about prayer. What is prayer and how are you supposed to pray? We know we are supposed to pray, but sometimes prayer is dry. We show up and make time for it, but then aren't really sure what to do. We can bust out some devotional prayers--the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet--or we can spend sometime contemplating scripture. We can kneel in the church and list off our many petitions, presenting our requests to God, maybe even falling into the temptation of bargaining with God, "Hey God, if you do this, I'll do this."

We give thanks when a prayer is answered, but do we still show up to prayer when God's response to our request isn't what we expected? We pray for peace, a peace that unites our hearts and minds with Christ. So how do we find that peace? How do we unite ourselves with Christ? Well, I say we need to take a pilgrimage to the heart of God.

Prayer is a pilgrimage of the heart. It is a journey that continues, deepens, and develops throughout our entire lives. The depths of God's love, God's heart, is described as a bottomless well or the depths of the ocean--a vast destination that we don't actually reach on this side of eternity, but are constantly plunging more deeply into this relationship of love. Our pilgrimage of the heart of Jesus is a journey of becoming our truest selves, living into our identity as God's beloved. The more we come to know God, the more we come to know ourselves.

I heard it said once that life is a journey from God, back to God. Our pilgrimage to the heart of God is life--how we live and how we love. As we make this pilgrimage to the heart of Jesus, we find our own.

My favorite definition of prayer is one that a spiritual director shared with me a while back. I found it helpful in entering into meditation and contemplative/centering prayer. It is: "Prayer is resting your head on God's heart and letting God love you." Prayer is the meeting of hearts.

I recall the image of the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John, leaning back on Jesus' chest during the Last Supper, seeking comfort and understanding in times of confusion. How often do I find myself in prayer seeking consolation in times of anxiety? Lean back against the heart of God. Rest in the heart of God. Be held in the mystery of God's love, which is nothing we can earn or meet, but simply receive. Let God love us and let go of anything that might be holding us back--any sense of unworthiness or the lie of not being good enough. God's mercy is abundant and overflowing, extending into the smallest areas and the hidden parts of ourselves that we carry deep within.

Rest your head. Be consumed by love. For when the two hears meet, they are filled with the same thoughts and desires. Keep walking that pilgrimage of the heart one day at a time, one step at a time; journeying more deeply into the heart of God.

Written by Sister Kara Davis, D.C.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Words Whispered in Our Ears at Baptism

Sometimes somebody important to us says something to us that we never forget: a parent or family member, a friend, a teacher. At various times and places, the words play back for us and give us insight, confidence, or pause when we are in a particular situation. Perhaps, especially, words that we have from our parents carry this special weight.

I was thinking of this in terms of Jesus and the experience of His baptism. This is the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He is just about to embark on the apostolate that will characterize His life. He has take His place on line with all the others who seek John's baptism. John does not want to baptize Him because he feels unworthy.

After the baptism, Jesus hears these words:
"You are my beloved Son;
with you, I am well pleased."

What wonderful words--words with any child would be thrilled to hear from a parent.

Now, this occurs before Jesus has done anything. He is about to start His life's work and He is affirmed in this powerful way. "You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you." Perhaps, this is the point: the Father's love for Jesus is not something that is earned, something that is won or lost, but something that is given freely and permanently and without qualification. Jesus knew that He is loved by the Father, but having it said so clearly and so boldly depends its truth on a human level. Jesus knew that He was loved. Nevertheless, it needed to be said aloud and heard distinctly.

When Jesus spoke of the Father, He spoke about Him in that deep way which reflected the Father's love for all His children. He is the welcoming parent who wants all His children to come home and be with Him forever.

What a wonderful and powerful gift it is that the Father gives Jesus on the day of His baptism: the assurance that the Father loved Him and stood by Him. At our baptism, God speaks those same words to each of us: "You are my beloved child. I am pleased with you." We need to hear those words and allow them to guide our lives, just as Jesus did. It makes an enormous amount of difference to know that the Father loves us unconditionally and forever. No matter what we do, God loves us. No matter how far we stray, God stays with us. We do not earn God's love and we can never lose it. It seems so simple to say, but it is the truth. We need to say it and hear it and believe it. It makes all the difference in the world for how we live.

When we get up in the morning and know that we are loved, the day starts out on the right foot; when we go to bed at night and realize that is was not a great day, we can tell ourselves that we are still loved by God, so how bad could it be?

The story of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us that truth in His life and what a difference it made. Let us grasp that truth for ourselves. Remember how God whispered to us on the day of our baptism: you are my beloved child, I am pleased with you. We may have forgotten that. Let us pray that our memory be jogged so that we live as and treat one another as God's beloved children. People on whom God's favor rests.

Written by Father Patrick Griffin. Originally published on FamVin.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

The month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, declared so by President Barack Obama in 2016. In addition to this, January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It is extremely important that attention be drawn to this terrible injustice. In order to "take down" this billion-dollar industry, we all must become educated to the ways in which human beings, in every corner of the world, are being exploited.

The broad term "human trafficking" is used to include forced labor, domestic servitude, organ harvesting, child soldiers, forced marriage, and sexual exploitation. Many times, the victims are "hidden in plain sight" and it takes another person who knows the signs of trafficking to report it.

Where can you start to make a difference?

  1. Educate yourself by visiting websites of organizations fighting this crime and pass that knowledge along to others! You can start at our Office of Migration and Modern Slavery website.
  2. Add the confidential, toll free human trafficking hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to your phone in the event that you suspect someone is being trafficked.
  3. Make your voice heard! Contact your government representatives. There are laws in place to protect victims, but we need stronger laws that are continually enforced. We need more programs to help those who have been victimized as healing from the trauma they have experienced takes years.
On January 11, you are urged to wear a blue ribbon to draw attention to this crime. Post a picture of yourself on social media wearing this ribbon and encourage others to do that same.

The only way to eradicate this terrible injustice is to make our voices heard! Won't you help today???

Written by Sister Mary Catherine Warehime, D.C.