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From "Christmas, bah, humbug" to the beauty of the Nativity, each of us chooses how we will participate in Advent. For many it means the beauty of the "real" Christmas with personal value and meaning, with a time for traditions and stories and singing, because of God's love at this season and our love for the Child, and for "the child" in each of us. Where are you today on the spectrum of feelings? How are you participating in the birthing of the Christmas spirit? Are you a light in the darkness or a squelcher of any ray of sunshine?
"What do we do while we’re waiting?” my four-year-old nephew asked as we arrived just minutes before opening time at the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh on a snowy December day more than a decade ago. No concept of time, and the mere fact of a locked door between him and hours of unbridled play was enough to launch a panicked meltdown. I think of my nephew’s question each year when Advent rolls around. What do we do while we’re waiting? And more than that, what are we waiting for?
This third week of Advent begins with “Gaudete” (from the Latin word for “rejoice”) Sunday, and we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. In Sunday’s readings, the prophet Zephaniah proclaims, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” and Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”
Sometimes during the weeks leading up to Christmas, we can get bogged down in the worry and anxiety of finding the right gifts for everyone, and making sure that we have everything done in time for the holidays with family and friends. In the midst of these times, it is easy to lose sight of the joy that the Christmas season brings. Take some time to stop and en”joy” the things of the season – the lights, the carols, the excitement and wonder of children, the days getting shorter, the weather getting colder… Remember that Christ is the light that shines in the darkness and brings great joy to all of us. Rejoice in the Lord always!
"Prayer in winter," writes Patricia Cooney Hathaway, "at this time is a quiet abiding with God in gratitude for all of life's blessings. It is also a good time to take stock of our lives; we seek God's forgiveness for the hurt we caused others along the way." In some moment today, why not make a deep, quieting "winter" prayer of gratitude for life, warm winter weather, loved ones to share the moments of Christmas with, good health, etc.
A pilgrim is one who takes a journey to sacred place. As we observe the Advent season and our annual journey toward the Christmas manger, we remember those who shed light on our pilgrimage and give thanks.
Today is the feast of St. Juan Diego. He was a pilgrim who was enlightened and shared and continues to share that light with so many others. During Advent may we be enlightened by those who cross our path, showering us with blessings of enlightenment or throwing challenges to strengthen us.
Today we celebrate Mary, the woman who "was conceived without sin"and who said "yes" when God called her to be the mother of His son. I imagine that Mary must have been fearful when she was told that she would bear the son of God, and she even asked, "How can this be?" Despite her worries and fear, she jumped in with both feet and wholeheartedly said "YES!" How is God calling us this Advent? Are we willing to say "yes" to God the way Mary did? Are we tempted to say "no" because of fear or anxiety, or are we willing to put that aside and trust in God's ultimate plan? In Mary, we have an example of perfect trust, mercy, openness, and willingness to participate in the divine, and to bring Jesus to the world that so needs it. How can we bring the promise of Jesus to our broken world? How can we be examples of trust, openness, and willingness with our family and friends? As the Year of Mercy begins, God, may our hearts be open to you, that we may say "yes" to bringing Jesus and his mercy to the world. Amen.
Here we are already in the second week of Advent. Christmas is getting nearer. The thing about Christmas is that in the birth of Jesus, God is made tangible, present in our very midst. I think we can kind of lose sight of how profound that is. God spoke to Moses through fire, to the prophet Elijah he spoke in whispers and to us he speaks in flesh and bone. In the time of Francis, many people continued to think of God as far away, as a disembodied voice or a judge sitting in the clouds. St. Francis, however, understood that by virtue of creation and still more God's act of taking on human flesh--the incarnation--the whole created world speaks to us of God. In 1223, Francis gathered some barn animals and a young couple in a cave on the mountainside outside of the town of Greccio to form the first nativity scene. The people of Greccio came to the cave and there saw the same ordinary things they saw every day--a cow, a donkey, a mom, dad and baby--but on that night, the ordinariness was transformed. In that crèche, the people of Greccio were able to recognize that what was ordinary is transformed by Christ's coming into the world. Lord, help me to see.
This week we began our journey through Advent. The season of Advent is often referred to as the time where we prepare for the birth of Christ. When I think about Advent, I often think about the song from the musical "Godspell" (dating myself) "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." It is as if we are waiting for the Christ to come to us. Yet the word Advent comes from the Latin "advenio", which literally means to "come to." We seem to spend a great deal of our time waiting for Christ to come to us. Perhaps this Advent season we should consider "coming to" Christ instead waiting for Christ to come to us. What does this mean, "to come to Christ?" In last Sunday's reading we are told: "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts." The only way to come to Christ is to "abound in love... for all."
Hmmm what can I do to abound in love...for all?
Advent provides the key for unlocking the bondage of hopelessness in our world. It is the message of Jesus Christ, that the Word becomes flesh. THE GOODNESS OF GOD IS AMONG US! When we let that goodness invade our lives we will find light, meaning, and hope.
Think about this: it is only against the darkness that we can see LIGHT!
“The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” As we reflect on God’s promise, let us also reflect on the promises we have made. Being people of integrity means following through on the promises we make to ourselves, to each other, and to God. What promises have you made? Are there obstacles that are preventing you from keeping them? How can we use this Advent season to strengthen our commitment to each other and to God and work to fulfill the promises we have made?
Did you notice that as the trees strip to bare and vulnerable, that the nests become visible? I am reminded in Francis' words that the Lord God wishes to make a dwelling place and home in our hearts. I think I need to do a bit of decluttering to make room in my thoughts, my hectic scheduling, my desk... and my heart to make room for the miracle of the Christmas birth to be able to happen. How about you?
Beginnings... A new week, a new month, a new season -- all in the darkest time of year. But then, isn't that where life begins? This is the beginning of the sacred season of Advent during which we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We recall that Mary and Joseph departed for Bethlehem to participate in the great census of Caesar Augustus. This is a time of journey, of expectation when we will be gifted with a hidden treasure and/or patience, (both of which would be gift for the holiday season).
What light are you seeking this dark day that will not be found in any of the shopping mall's flashing lights?
Our dear Sister Mary Jane Sola has gone home to her God. In her lifetime we cannot count the number of prayers that people requested her to pray for the powerful intercession of St. Therese, Little Flower. Please continue to pray for us, Sr. Mary Jane, with St. Therese by your side!
Sr. Francelina, you will be missed by so many both in Brazil and here in America! God has taken you home, but you remain in our hearts and in the good works we will do in your memory!
I never tire of Hickory Creek's beauty, especially in the fall!
My St. Francis Day held two 'bold' actions. The first was going to a transitus in a church where I had never been, knowing no one and seeking the place in the dark. Due to other commitments, I was unable to attend the transitus service at the Woods, so on Saturday night I ventured to St. John's church in Joliet to attend their service. I had never been to St. John's, but thanks to my guardian angel and GPS, I found it. I walked into a church of strangers, or so I thought, and found two of our associates present and several Joliet Franciscan women that I knew. The service was lovely with a reflection from a sister, a friar, and a secular Franciscan. I left very happy I had gotten out of my comfort zone and experienced an inspirational moment of prayer.
The second thing I decided to do was to challenge my brain a bit with a careful reading and study of an article in The Cord that I was tempted to skip over entitled Continuing the Journey: Reading the Itinerarium Today by Anne Foerst. Again, it was something my lesser self needed courage to take on and yet I found it very enlightening and challenging.
Being bold isn't so difficult! Just need to move beyond myself and explore all that is out there is God's magnificent world.
Sr. Joyce Shanabarger, OSF
The Sisters were so glad to see Sister's good friend Ramblin' Ray at Sr. Mary Shawn's wake. http://ramblinraystevens.blogspot.com/ She will be watching over you, Ray, and prayers for you continue here at the Motherhouse as well. Come anytime to share stories, pray, laugh and cry with us. We have seen your heart, and you have touched ours. God bless you!
Click on Write your own comment below to add your condolences or share your memories of Sr. Mary Shawn.
Grieving and mourning have an important difference: Grieving is feeling the loss, while mourning is an outward expression of grief that helps the person to process those overwhelming feelings and pour them out in love. Mourning helps us to move toward wholeness.
We all grieve. But if you are “stuck”— feeling your loss years later as intensely as ever—have you yet found ways to mourn—ways to pour out your grief in healthy, healing ways? What one person finds comforting another person may find morbid or strange, yet there is no room for judgment in loving another person through the grieving process.
In what ways have you mourned that have brought you a measure of comfort or some sense of hope?
What resources (books, movies, music, prayers, mantras, devotions, other spiritual practices) do you think are particularly helpful for grieving, suffering and/or for spiritually trying times? If you like, tell us in two or three sentences why or how this resource helped you or a loved one.
It seems counterintuitive in a consumer culture: simplify your life to live more fully. Yet, websites, magazines and books dedicated to this concept attempt to feed the nagging hunger of secular and spiritual seekers alike. Better than any magazine or website and more enduring is the wealth of advice found in the Bible. It is all there, waiting for us to discover (or re-discover) and to practice more faithfully so that we, too, can live better. It was in the Gospels that St. Francis of Assisi found his inspiration in Jesus. Once living a life of wealth and privilege, St. Francis later modeled simplicity for us, giving up his wealth to serve the poor. The examples we find in Jesus and St. Francis about how to live a better life are invaluable and timeless no matter one’s faith—or lack of it.
Achieving simplicity is not just about having fewer material possessions. It also encompasses the use of one of our most precious assets: time. Sometimes even those of us who consider ourselves spiritual can get so busy checking things off lists of things to do, we forget to check in daily with God first to hear where He might help us prioritize and free some valuable time. Even if the only words you speak are, “Help me, please,” talk to God. Ask Him and begin to see that there is enough time and energy for what is most important—for what is ours to do. Amid the chaos, we really can find an inner calm. Reflect on Luke 12:29-31: “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
If we go to His Word, God can shape who we are by aligning our will with His… and He will help us fill our list of things to do ─ and cross off a lot more that either waste our time and energy or are less urgent than we imagine. We only need to recall the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10 to be reminded that we can busy ourselves with many practical things, define ourselves by what we do and thereby feel needed, important ─ even holy; yet we can, at the same time, keep passing Jesus by and missing the benefit of His wisdom. Sit beside Him. Be still long enough to listen.
Simplifying life is soul work that begins with seeing your life through the lens of the Bible and seeking God’s wisdom. God is with us each day as we renew our efforts to simplify our lives and live more fully His dream for us.
Have you tried "unplugging"-- putting away your phone(s), laptop, tablets, etc. for a few hours? How about for a few days? How did it feel? Did it produce any feelings of anxiety? Freedom? Loneliness? Did unplugging make time and space for God to speak to you in the silence, or do you feel His presence even when immersed in electronic media?
What online spiritual resources do you think make it worth plugging in? Are there things you are looking for that you still have not found yet? We are all searching, online and otherwise, for ways to connect to God and each other!
Sunset. A simple pleasure. A few moments of beauty on an otherwise dull, gray road. Even a dirty windshield can't obscure the brilliance. As a passenger, I could have just taken a nap, read a book, or checked the messages on my phone; but they were a few fleeting moments, and I realized just how long it had been since I had the deliberate intention not to miss it. It's an image that has stayed with me even without a photograph to remind me.
When I reflect on how the joy of the Resurrected Christ expresses itself in my own life, the words of a priest at Confession on Divine Mercy Sunday come to mind: "Go and bring joy to others by your smile." I had just finished pouring out my sins and many imperfections. Yet, he only mentioned my smile in parting. He gave me absolution just like Jesus pardoned sinners by telling them to go in peace and sin no more. I pondered this moment afterwards in my heart. I thought, like Jesus, He sees the good in me - in spite of all that I have done to disappoint Him. Joy flooded my soul! This experience also confirmed my belief that God's mercy is one of His greatest attributes. God loves me, and I can share that love with others in many "little ways." If big and challenging demands are placed on me, I know Jesus will be there to help carry the load. I am never alone. Isn't it an awesome time for rejoicing in the gift of God's mercy and sharing that joy with all we encounter?
When asked what quality of St. Francis she most admired, one Sister said, "His ability to begin again. Our mistakes should help us to desire to continue forward, and not discourage us."
When we fear failure, do we stop trying in order to "save face"-- to avoid the dreaded "I told you so!" or save ourselves and others from disappointment? What if, today -- right now -- you chose to begin again? What if you blocked out every nay-saying voice and listened only to what God is telling you? What if you chose to make God's will the most important consideration in your decision? What if, the next time you try, you succeed?
Your life could change. Radically. Are you ready?
The Easter season is upon us. It is a time of new life. Begin again!
Lenten practice has always been a part of my life; yes, it has evolved throughout the years. From giving up candy to spending extra time in prayer, to taking advantage of evening reflections hosted by the parish community, Throughout the years I've take advantage of many opportunities to grow spiritually during the 40+ days of Lent, (that's including Sundays).
At this moment, four days before Ash Wednesday, I don't have a set plan for Lent 2015.There are so many resources/tools to guide the sojourner during these 40 days. Perhaps, I need to really pause, to give in... to slow down and enter more meaningfully into this season of Lent. My prayer: "Okay God, what are you asking of me these 40 days? May I be ever responsive to your grace in the present moments of these 40+ days."
Share your thoughts on how your own Lenten practices have evolved over the years. Learning from each other, we can all journey through Lent with new enthusiasm for spiritual growth. Thank you, in advance, for sharing!
Sr. Norma JanssenDirector of Associates
At the present time, our Associates are submitting their annual renewals. This year, each onewas asked to prayerfully discern her/his commitment as an Associate of the Franciscan Sistersof the Sacred Heart. In the process, our Associate Marilyn Terhaar wrote the followingreflection and has graciously granted permission for us to reprint it here:
This is a day, my day, of recommitment to the challenging ways of the little medieval friar who helped theChurch embrace poverty by peaceful means. In a world so torn with wars, violence and hatred, peace is sohard to find. But with Francis it started with one step at a time. He wanted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.The Gospel calls us to find God in every level of our existence. He invited everyone he met to the Gospels.
St. Francis was a free spirit, very humble, always in touch with God and God’s creation. This is trueauthentic relationship. He definitely was a person who wasn’t afraid to follow Christ at all costs. Can we saythe same? Can I say the same?
He had a way of approaching people that brought peace. Do we? Do I?
He challenged people to care, to fall in love with poverty, to fall in love with Christ, because poverty is notjust lack of material goods or giving financially to the poor. The spirit of poverty is knowing who we arebefore God. This is what matters. This was Francis.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “You may never know what results come of your actions but if you do nothing, therewill be no results.”
Associate Marilyn Terhaar
October marks the time of year when we renew our FSSH Sister/Associate commitment. As I discerned how do I live out the FSSH Charism, I frequently turn to one of my favorite parables in the Gospel of Luke, the Good Samaritan [10:25-37].
This parable seems so pertinent for the renewal of my FSSH Sister/Associate commitment. The invitation, "Who is my neighbor?" suggests countless ways to live the FSSH charism - sisters [and brothers] of mercy, joyous and poor, doing the works of neighborly love.
The parable is a reminder that Jesus invites me to be neighbor by greeting neighbors who I encounter walking the streets, or turning off the car radio and praying for people as I drive to school. Each day, I'm becoming so mindful of the many opportunities in the school environment to show mercy especially to students who struggle with managing their emotions and social anxieties. Showing mercy frequently occurs in the mundane, especially during those times when I am using the copy machine and its stops abruptly and the panel reads.."out of paper." What?? I need to add another ream of paper, I just did it the last time I used it. I do have those moments when I am less inclined to be the hospitable neighbor, and in my own poverty I call out for mercy. In those moments, I become so aware of God's merciful love knowing how blessed I am to walk with others who are joyous and poor, doing works of neighborly love.