Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Remember...You Are Dust

"Remember, man, you are dust and unto dust you shall return."

This is the traditional blessing as the priest distributes ashes to each Catholic on Ash Wednesday. In recent years, the Church has given the choice of another blessing to replace this one. Many use the newer blessing because it is more gender sensitive and, some feel, more uplifting.

This blessing speaks of the most basic of relationships that we, as humans, exist only because of Earth and will continue to exist only to the extent that Earth continues to live. We come from Earth, are a part of Earth, and eventually will return to Earth. Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship with Earth--the home we inhabit. The second creation story in Genesis tells us that God established this relationship between Earth and humans from the very beginning.

Reading: Gn. 2: 4b-7 "In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up--for the Lord God has not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground--then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

This story recalls the special triune relationship between God, Earth, and humans. God formed us each from Earth and breathed divine spirit into us--making us both Earth-beings and God-beings. There is an unbreakable connection among God, Earth, and humans. We carry both God and Earth within every strand of our being. We are dependent not only on God, but also on Earth. In a society that values self-sufficiency, it is easy to believe that we are strong if we do not depend on anyone or anything, but striving to be independent is going against our very nature. We have been dependent on God and Earth from the very beginning. To the extent that we humbly recognize this dependence and live in respectful and loving harmony with both parts of our essences, we become more fully human and will encounter holiness. So, spend some time this Lent not only becoming close to God, but also closer to Earth.

Reflection: What is my relationship with Earth at this moment? What would a right relationship with Earth look like for me? What are one or two simple actions I can take during this Lent to remind me that my health is dependent on Earth's health?

Prayer: Lord God, as Lent begins, I am reminded that I am dust to to dust I shall return. You are the One who created humans as both God-beings and Earth-beings, thus placing me in an unbreakable relationship with You and with Earth. During this Lent, help me to choose actions that will enhance this precious triune relationship. Amen.

Written by Sister Kathleen Shannon, D.C.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

From Slave to Saint

Each person forced into slavery has a personal story--a story of struggles, hopes, and dreams. The story of St. Josephine Bakhita is a story of a survivor of human trafficking.

St. Josephine Bakhita was born in southern Sudan in 1869. As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Sold and resold in the markets of El Obeid and Karthoum, she was subjected to brutal treatment from her captors. She did not remember the name given to her by her parents. Rather, Bakhita, meaning "fortunate one," is the name she was given by her captors.

In 1883, she was bought by an Italian diplomat who sent her to Italy to work as a maid for the daughter of a family friend who was studying with the Canossain Daughters of Charity. It was there that Bakhita came to know about God whom "she had experienced in her heart without knowing." In 1890, she was baptized and received the name Josephine.

Years later, the Italian family came to take their "property" back to Africa, but Josephine expressed her desire to stay. When the family insisted she go, she remained firm, later writing "I am sure the Lord gave me strength at that moment." With the support of the Superioress of the Canossian Sisters and the Cardinal of Venice, she won her freedom and, later, entered the novitiate. For the next 50 years, Josephine lived a life of prayer and service as a Canossian Sister before her death in 1947.

St. Josephine was canonized in 2000 and her feast day is now February 8. She is now the patron of Sudan.

St. Josephine Bakhita once said, "If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and religious today..."

St. Josephine, provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. Click here to learn more about modern day slavery.

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Rosalie Rendu: On Fire with Love for the Poor

She was born Jeanne-Marie Rendu on September 9, 1786 in Confort, France, not far from Geneva. The eldest of four girls, Jeanne-Marie came from a family of small property owners which brought along a certain affluence and respect throughout the area. She was baptized the day she was born in the parish church of Lancrans.

Jeanne-Marie was three years old when the French Revolution broke out. Starting in 1790, it was compulsory for the clergy to take an oath of support for the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Numerous priests, faithful to the Church, refused to take this oath. They were driven from their parishes, some being put to death while others hid to escape their pursuers. The Rendu family home became a refuge for these priests. The Bishop of Annecy found asylum there under the assumed name, Pierre. Jeanne-Marie was fascinated by this hired hand who was treated better than the others. One night, she discovered him celebrating Mass.

It was in this atmosphere of solid faith, always exposed to the dangers of denunciation, that Jeanne-Marie was educated. This exceptional environment forged her character. One night, in the basement of her home, lit by candlelight, Jeanne-Marie made her First Communion. 

Later, the deaths of her father and youngest sister just two months apart shook the entire family. Jeanne-Marie, aware of her responsibilities as the eldest, helped her mother, especially in caring for her sisters. Six years later, on May 25, 1802, 16-year-old Jeanne-Marie arrived at the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse in Paris. This was just 17 months after the reopening of the seminary, free from suppression by the Revolutionaries. Upon entering the community, she was given the name Rosalie.

Prodigious worker and organizer model of the 21st century for empowering the Vincentian legacy, Rosalie experienced incarnational mysticism. Rosalie lived her spirituality every day, much of which she received from the poor she served. She meditated on the words of St. Vincent de Paul and on the holy card she received and used for prayer and examination of conscience.

Like Vincent, Rosalie knew how to be a friend to the rich and the poor. The poor loved her deeply because they sensed that she lived out precisely what she asked of the sisters who accompanied her. She asked of them, in the words of one of the witnesses: "welcome everyone, speak to the poor with both kindness and dignity, do not make them wait. 'Treat them,' she said, 'as you would treat your father, brothers, and sisters.'"

Why is Rosalie significant for us today? She developed a network of charity. This tender woman was fearless although she lived in turbulent times. Rosalie lived her spirituality every day, much of which she received from the poor she served.

Elizabeth Johnson writes: "...paradigmatic figures who emerge in the course of history are like a Milky Way thrown down from heaven to earth ... a shining river of stars spiraling out from the center of the galaxy ... to light a path through the darkness. They are women and men who shine like the sun with the shimmer of divinity, showing the community the face of Christ in their own time and place. They distill the central values of the living tradition in a concrete and accessible form. The direct force of their example acts as a catalyst in the community, galvanizing recognition that yes, this is what we are called to be."

That is precisely what Rosalie Rendu says to us today.

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Story of Mother Seton

A young mother died unexpectedly. Her death left her precious toddler scarred emotionally. A year later, the child's younger sister, barely a toddler, also died. As an adult, Eliza still recalled herself, at four years of age, sitting on the doorstep gazing at the clouds, hoping to see her deceased loved ones in the sky.

Numbed by pain from early childhood issues, Eliza felt her father's absence keenly when he was abroad for professional study. At times, she wondered if he loved her. As emotional waves surged, confusion mixed with sadness, troubled her adolescent heart. Feeling alienated and alone, Eliza considered taking a drug overdose but she decided not to take laudanum, an opiate derivative. Later, she rejoiced in her choice--not to do the "horrid deed." Hope soon dissipated her melancholy and restored her lively spirit.

Beguiling once again, Eliza met and fell in love with William Magee Seton. They married and had five children but the mature Eliza lost her beloved husband to tuberculosis. Catholic friends introduced the young widow to the Catholic faith, its liturgical worship, and personal devotions. Catholic beliefs, particularly the Eucharist and Blessed Mother, attracted Eliza. She longed for interior peace and the gift of true faith, which she discerned through reading, study, consolation, and conversations on religious matters. Friends and family argued against her considering Catholicism. The more they dissuaded, the more she felt called to religious conversation as "the earnest desire of my Soul."

Should she or shouldn't she become Catholic? Her discernment left her in a whirlwind of emotional turmoil. Hers was a heart-wrenching struggle to discover God's plan. Eliza longed for God: "If I am right, O teach my heart still in the right to stay; if I am wrong, thy grace impart to find the better way."

She sought divine truth: "I seek but God and his church and expect to find my peace in them." When the Church retold the story of the Magi following a star to find the Promised Savior, Elizabeth wrote plaintively: "Alas, where is my star?" In making her profession of faith, Eliza found her inner peace as a Roman Catholic. As foundress of the Sisters of Charity, she encouraged her sisters to: "Meditate on peace before Jesus, the sweet King and Prince of peace--let us desire it, make it a great part of our perfection, a capital point of our vocation of love."

Points to ponder:

  • What is the earnest desire of my soul?
  • What helps me discern God's will when faced with significant choices?
  • Where is my star? How does its brilliance touch my heart?
  • How shall I live my vocation of love?
Written by Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent Week 4: Love, The Guest is on the Way!

"The Incarnation is now an event of the past...Christ wants to be active among us. He still pursues His work of salvation of healing. He comes to us in the Eucharist, in order to build up, in order to edify, and in order to bring to completion our salvation." (From Vincentian Spirituality: A Correspondence Course with Sister Elizabeth Charpy, D.C.)

St. Louise Marillac's spirituality is focused on the Incarnation, the grandeur of God, the respect of the poor, and the splendor of the Eucharist.

Because God was all--her beginning and her end--in her Trinitarian prayer, she had a great devotion to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus, the Incarnate Word. Louise embraced the Incarnation as the most wonderful work of God in salvation history. Louise admired the humility of God-made-flesh. Christ came "humbly as can be imagined so that we might be more free to approach Him." (SW p.700)

Louise’s reflections on the poor, all her initiatives to serve the rejected of the society, emanate from her contemplation of the mystery of Incarnation which is the heart of her spirituality. In front of the crib, she liked to unite her offering to that of the Infant God.

The child of Bethlehem shows us the path to follow, and St. Louise makes this teaching her own when she writes her retreat resolutions around 1633.

"I shall honor the serenity of the crib. I shall calmly adore the divinity in the infant Jesus and imitate, to the best of my ability, His holy humanity, especially His simplicity and charity which led Him to us as a child so as to be more accessible to His creatures." (SW p.718)

Mary was the Center of this adorable mystery of Incarnation. (SW a.14B)

With Louise, we search our depths, praying for all that is waiting to be born in us, through us, and for us.

Christmas blessings to one and all!

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.