Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Assumption of Mary

Mary's Assumption! What does it mean? Why did it happen?

Let's go back to Mary as a young teen in Nazareth. It is believed that she led a very ordinary life with lots of hard work helping her mother with household chores. The family was an integral part of the local village, so Mary could be counted on to participate in the events.

Imagine, one day being totally taken aback by this stranger greeting her and telling her that she has found favor with God. So much so that she was asked to participate in God's plan to bear His son to the world. She questions and then accepts. "I am the servant of the Lord, I will do as God wills."

If that wasn't enough, she hears about her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant although late in life. She drops all and goes on foot to care for her during the last three months before her baby is born.

Her own delivery would not be easy. She and Joseph go on a long journey to Bethlehem, his family's origins, to register for the census. Scarcely arrived when the baby is due, but where to go? In an animal shed, she gives birth to the Son of God. Both she and Joseph are awed by the visits of shepherds and kings to see this baby boy.

Shortly after the circumcision, Joseph is warned in a dream to take Mary and the child and flee to Egypt. Once again, a long journey, this time with a newborn to unknown places and situations.

So it was throughout Jesus' life: teaching Him His duties as a young Jew, accompanying and supporting Him as He began His ministry. How could Jesus not know and love this beautiful, loving mother? Even in His horrible sufferings and death, Mary was present. She remained with the disciples in prayer as they received the Holy Spirit. John had taken her into his home as his own mother. Her life of giving, loving, and supporting continued until her death. What better gift could Jesus give her to show His love for her than to bring her to His side in heaven?

Remember her mantra from the very beginning with the angel, "Be it done to me according to your will." It followed Mary on earth and is with her in heaven as she does whatever God asks of her. May we follow in Mary's footsteps.

Happy Feast of the Assumption of Mary!

Written by Sister Marian Hamwey, D.C.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Transfiguration of the Lord: An Invitation to Deep Communion, Listening, and Discipleship

"This is my beloved Son, listen to Him." Mark 9:7

The Transfiguration of the Lord is Christ's personal invitation to prophetic witness to all of us--lay, single, married, or consecrated--to transformation and transfiguration. This prophetic call beckons us to cultivate the ability to hear God's voice through Scripture, the signs of the times, and to respond courageously to the needs of society. It summons us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and empty, to be drawn to a deeper communion with the Trinitarian God, and with the prophets and the saints who have gone before us in faith. It invites us to hone our senses to recognize the gentle consistent nudges or tugs in the depths of our heart and soul, and to respond to the call of love with daring discipleship.

Throughout His life, Jesus served as a model of taking time away to be in communion with His Heavenly Father, whom He loved and trusted with His whole being, and to seek His will. He consistently turned to God to find strength and courage to face excruciating moments of His life. Jesus revealed to us His complete adoration and love of God and for all humanity in His "yes" to love until His last breath on the cross. He urges all of us to take up our crosses and follow Him, to have complete trust in God, and to let go of all doubts, fears, pride, self-reliance, wounds, resentments, etc. so that God can heal us with the grace to become an instrument of healing and hope for humanity.

The meaning of this feast has deepened significantly for me over the last 25 years as a Daughter of Charity. It has challenged me to strive to live up to what I have claimed to embrace. In the Constitutions and Statutes of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, 8a, it states: "Christ is the Rule of the Daughters of Charity. They endeavor to follow His as Scripture reveals Him to them and as their Founders perceived Him: Adorer of the Father, Servant of His Loving Plan..." If Christ is truly "the Rule" of my life, how can I say "no" to an invitation to a new ministry that requires my complete trust and dependence on God's grace and guidance and stretches me to love and serve more boldly?

May our God, the source of all being, lead us from the high mountain to seek Christ in our brothers and sisters who are ignored by society. May the grace of today's feast bring us to a deeper relationship with Christ, to listen to Him more deeply, and to share generously all that we are have been given. May our humble and loving service transfigure and restore wholeness to all who are deprived of freedom, respect, and dignity.

Written by Sister Trang Truong, D.C.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Justin de Jacobis: "I Hand you the Key to My Heart"

On one occasion, Father Robert Maloney, CM, former Superior General of the Daughters of Charity and the Congregation of the Mission, said, "If I had to pick a single Daughter of Charity to present to the sisters as a model, it would be Rosalie Rendu (1786 - 1856). If I had to pick a single Priest of the Mission to present to the confreres, it would be Justin de Jacobis (1800 - 1860)."

His choice of Sister Rosalie is interesting, but not surprising. Whether she was praised or criticized, she always responded in the same way, "I am a Daughter of Charity and only that." And it is as a Daughter of Charity that she is known, loved, and imitated across the Vincentian Family.

The choice of Justin, however, is a bit puzzling. What does a nineteenth century Italian Vincentian who spent the last 20 years of his life in Ethiopia have to say to Vincentians today who are so far removed from Justin's life experiences? Another remark by Father Maloney sheds some light on his selection. He explains that an Ethiopian seminarian had told him that, for the first 15 years of his Vincentian formation, he had believed that Justin was Ethiopian. It was only at the university that he discovered that "our Saint" was Italian.

How had this happened? For this young man, it was simple. Justin had become "one of us." Before embarking for Ethiopia, Justin was determined not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors. For over a century, brave, dedicated European missionaries had gone to Ethiopia and other mission countries throughout Africa and Asia to bring the Gospel. Many of them had died for their efforts. But overall, they failed. Why? Experience showed that it was because they had brought with them, along with the truths of the Catholic faith, the language and culture of their country's origin.

After much prayer, Justin decided to take another approach to win the hearts of the Ethiopian people. A century prior to Vatican II, he adopted the tenets of enculturation and embraced the traditions and culture of the people. He dressed as an Ethiopian monk. He learned the three languages of the country. He ate Ethiopian food. He moved around the country on foot, staying with people, praying with them and transmitting to them his profound love and respect for them and their positive values. His simple dwelling was open to all who came: Coptic clergy, the sick, those in need. He succeeded in winning many followers. To ensure that the church that had blossomed on Ethiopian soil would continue to flourish, he worked for the formation and ordination of local clergy.

Justin is one of the lesser known Vincentian saints, but he deserves more. He is a challenge to the entire Vincentian family to so act that those we serve will be able to say of each of us he/she is "one of us" whoever and wherever they are.

Written by Sister Louise Sullivan, D.C.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Discernment & St. Catherine Laboure

Today is the anniversary of the day Saint Catherine Laboure had her first vision of Mary which led to the making of the Miraculous Medal. The blog on June 8 gives important details of the medal that Mary told Sister Catherine to have made. This is one of the favorite medals used in the Catholic Church.

Saint Catherine was a seminary sister in 1830 in Paris, France when he first vision of Mary occurred. There is an amazing parallel between he feelings regarding her visions and that of a person discerning her vocation in this day and age. Some of them, as I see and as I once experiences, are as follows:

1) Doubt. Catherine doubted if she actually saw Mary and a person can doubt if they are really being called by God to consecrated life.

2) Wonderment. Catherine probably wondered why God would choose an unimportant person as herself to see Mary. Similarly, a person can wonder how God can call someone like herself to consecrated life. God loves us deeply as individuals rather than as part of a human group so this isn't surprising. He calls many different personalities.

3) Patience. It may have been difficult for Catherine to learn from Mary what her mission in life would be. Mary revealed it later. Just as it was with Catherine, it may be difficult for a discerner at first to realize her mission in life. Waiting patiently and trusting in God's love is so important in the process.

4) Obstacles. Catherine had to overcome obstacles in her mission of having the Miraculous Medal made and distributed because, at first, the clergy didn't believe her story. A person discerning a vocation might force various obstacles to overcome in her discernment. This is all a part of the journey. Prayer and spiritual direction can make all the difference.

5) Peace. Catherine found peace when she finally did what God had asked for her through Mary. A person discerning a vocation to the consecrated life will receive much peace after a decision is reached with the help of God and the inspiration of the community of saints.

Saint Catherine Laboure is an amazing saint of the Church. We can learn a lot by reading her story. The inspirations we receive will be very valuable.

Saint Catherine, pray for us.

Written by Sister Carmeli Proano, D.C.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Little Way of Marguerite Naseau: Following Providence Step by Step

Somewhat interested in playing the guitar, one day I asked a sister how she learned to play. Did she have formal lessons in the Seminary? Was she in a band before coming to the Community and picked it up from a friend? Did she use a book and study music theory or learn it by ear? She replied, "I learned from the Marguerite Naseau School of Music."

I was puzzled. I knew Marguerite Naseau, that she was the first Daughter of Charity, and that she died before the Little Company officially existed. I was aware that St. Vincent referred to her as the "ideal Daughter of Charity," emphasizing her modest country upbringing as a "true village girl" and her genuine living of the virtues of humility, simplicity, and charity.

But a school of music? That didn't seem to fit. The sister went on to explain: "I learned to play the guitar like Marguerite learned to read. I asked different people how to play a chord here and there and, eventually, I could put the chords together to play a song." St. Vincent comments on this method of learning in his July 1643 conference on "The Virtues of Marguerite Naseau."

"Moved by a powerful inspiration from heaven, the idea came to [Marguerite Naseau] to teach young people, so she bought a primer and, since she was unable to go to a school for instruction, went and asked the pastor or the assistant to tell her the first four letters of the alphabet. On another occasion, she asked about the next four and so on for the rest. Afterward, while minding the cows, she would study her lesson. If she saw a passerby who looked like he knew how to read, she would ask, 'Monsieur, how is this word pronounced?' In this way, she gradually learned to read, then taught other girls in her village" (Coste Vol. IX, #12, pg. 65).

Marguerite gradually learned to read...Sister eventually could play a song. This village girl school of learning seems to take time and requires a lot of patience. It also demands trust that the right person will come along to pronounce a new word for you or to teach you a new chord. What strikes me the most about this method is the humility is takes to acknowledge your dependence on others and the simplicity it requires to invite someone to share their knowledge or experience with you.

Sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that we can figure out all of the answers if we spend enough time "Googling," or we can learn how to do anything by watching a few YouTube videos. Asking Siri is not the same as asking a living, breathing person standing right next to you. Perhaps we can gain some knowledge...but what about wisdom? St. Vincent wrote, "Wisdom consists in following Providence step by step" (Coste Vol. II, #720, pg. 521). Divine Providence is manifested through our daily encounters with the people, events, and circumstances of our lives. May we view the limits of our own knowledge not as limitations, but rather as opportunities to meet grace, following the Little Way of Marguerite letter at a time, one chord at a time, one step at a time.

Written by Sister Kara Davis, D.C.