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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Coming Home to the Motherhouse

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” - St. Augustine

When St. Augustine shared this timeless thought, he was talking about God. There’s a restlessness that exists in us until we come to rest in God. As Ron Rolheiser, OMI suggests in his book, The Restless Heart, until we “come home.”

For members of a community, we have another type of “homecoming” that is also very powerful. Many of us have the joy and privilege of visiting the places of our founders—their homes. We get to walk where they walked, touch their front doors, maybe even sit in a pew and pray where they prayed in their churches.

For the Daughters of Charity, one of our most significant homes is our Motherhouse. There are over 70 provinces of Daughters of Charity through-out the world. Each of these provinces has it’s own provincial house, but we all share one Motherhouse. With over 15,000 Daughters of Charity, you can see why we would need to take turns, over time, visiting this special home of ours. 

The Motherhouse chapel is small and simple. It’s easy to pass it by without knowing at all. From the street, there is only a simple building fa├žade with a very plain sign. I sometimes wonder if that’s why people often refer to it as “Rue du Bac,” the name of the street it’s on.

In addition to being our home, our Motherhouse is the site of the apparitions of Mary to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830, resulting in the Miraculous Medal. Over a million pil-grims visit our Motherhouse chapel each year. So in a way, we share our Motherhouse with the whole world. Still, it is our home. And there is no place like home.

There’s something overwhelming about praying with Sisters from all over the world. The Motherhouse is the residence and ministry to Daughters of Charity from all over, speaking many languages. They are serving the entire community and the many pilgrims who respond to Our Lady’s invitation to “Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be spread over all who ask for them with confi-dence and fervor.”

There’s also something beautiful about praying with the pilgrims who visit this special place. You see, it’s their home too.

If you’re ever in Paris, stop in at 140 Rue du Bac. Come over to our home. Our Lady is waiting for you there with her Son. A Daughter of Charity is holding the door open, inviting you in, and welcoming you home. Until then, you can visit the Motherhouse with us virtually here.

Written by Sister Lisa Laguna, D.C.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Rosary for Women

The rosary is a gift from Mary that invites us to reflect on the life of Jesus in a way that will draw us into the graces that are ours through His life, death, and resurrection.

As women, it is important for us to know that, in His life, Jesus noticed and cared for individual women. This helps to make it clear that Jesus will be and is now interested in us as woman and as women. There are many ways to focus our attention toward this knowledge.

As we pray the "traditional" mysteries of the rosary--joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous--we can find a woman in each scene and enter into the mystery with her. For example, when meditating on the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, stand with Anna, the Prophetess and see Jesus through her eyes. At the Resurrection, be with the women who go to the tomb or with Mary Magdalene when Jesus reveals His resurrection to her.

The Gospels do not record for us many encounters of Jesus with women and even fewer conversations with women, but there are some precious gems to be treasured! The meditations that follow suggest five encounters of Jesus with women that can be used when praying the five decades of the rosary.

This encounter begins with Jesus in need. He is tired and thirsty. He asks for water. The woman gives Him water and, already feeling respected by Jesus, she begins to "pick His brain" as it were about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. The conversation is a lengthy one in which Jesus eventually clarifies that "the day is coming and is here now when we will worship in one spirit and in truth." When the woman asks directly about the Messiah who is to come, Jesus reveals to her, a Samaritan woman, that He is the Messiah.

The conversation ends with the woman ready to change her life and reading to the village to share the good news. Jesus, too, has been nurtured by His contact with the woman. He is energized and alert and spends the rest of the day and the following two days teaching the people of Samaria.

We are each like the Samaritan woman in some way. What is Jesus asking from you? How does Jesus respect you? What does Jesus reveal to you? Can you allow your relationship with Jesus to change and energize you?

This cure comes in the middle of a very busy moment for Jesus. He has been teaching the crowds when He is approached by Jairus, an important man, to come heal his daughter. A woman who, for many years, has been resourceful, creative, and determined to find a cure for her hemorrhaging, dares to reach out to touch the hem of Jesus' cloak, believing this will cure her. And she is right! However, to her surprise, Jesus notices and turns to find her in the crowd. With some trepidation, she comes forward and tells her story. In a sort of "glad to meet you" gesture, Jesus commends her faith.

We too have faith and know that Jesus is God. We know He has redeemed us and can do all things. However, out faith is not intended as a distant gift, but as an invitation to a relationship with the God who loves us. Jesus looks for us in the crowd, wanting to bless us personally, wanting to hear our story.

This is another woman who Jesus notices in the crowd. Many people are entering the temple to hear Jesus teaching. Jesus notices this woman who is so stooped over that she cannot stand up straight or raise her eyes to notice people's faces or to see the sky. Jesus calls her over, tells her she will be free, and lays His hands on her. She stands erect and begins to praise God.

How are you like this woman? What prevents you from standing for what you believe in? What forms of prejudice or ignorance narrow your vision? From what does Jesus wish to set you free?

Jesus follows Jairus to his home to cure his daughter even though others think the little girl is already dead. To her father, He says, "Do not be afraid. Have faith." To the little girl, He says, "Talitha koum! Little girl, get up." And the little girl gets out of bed and begins to walk around.

What about your "little girl," that spontaneous, careless part of yourself? Do you sometimes think she is "dead?" Overwhelmed by grown-up concerns? To your, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. Have faith." And to the little girl, "Get up!" That little girl has much to give you and Jesus wants her alive and well.

Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name several times in the gospels, though no with a lot of detail. We are told that Jesus cured her of seven demons, though the actual cure is not described nor is the illness defined. From the cure, we know Mary Magdalene to be a woman of faith. From her other appearances in the gospels, we know her faith to be strong. She is recorded to be at all the major events of Jesus' life, including His crucifixion, His burial, and is the first person to whom the resurrection is revealed.

Like Mary Magdalene, the details of our spiritual life may not always be noted nor acclaimed. This does not diminish our faith of the reality of our relationship with Jesus. All that Jesus does for us and through us enriches the lives of those whose paths we cross.

Written by Sister Mary Frate, D.C.