Monday, December 28, 2009
For whatever reasons we decorate, I credit the experience of decorations for bringing up memories of Christmases past. Visions of decorations from my childhood continue to thread their way through the years and help to make a continuity of my life. As I muse over my many years of trimming trees with people I’ve lived with, I tend to remember the joy of it all. I feel a deepening gratitude for my life. The gift of years and the mystery of memory work together to highlight the best of experiences and to help me forget what wasn’t so great. Daniel Gilbert talks about this in his book, Stumbling on Happiness. Some things about decorating for holidays were really not much fun. But even a dead garden, looks good with a bow on it.
Monday, December 14, 2009
When I attended college at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul several decades ago, we were invited to read a classic book for our philosophy class, Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. Fifty years ago when this book was printed, it was considered a great philosophical masterpiece. Piefer states that leisure is the foundation of any culture and issues a warning in this book: “Unless we regain the art for silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture and ourselves.”
How am I practicing leisure? Just today, I was again challenged by a message I sometimes convey, non-verbally, of course. I received a call from a friend, and she said,” I really hesitated calling you, because you are always so BUSY.” After I hung up, I thought to myself, I really dislike that word…busy. Do I use that word to convey that I am so very needed, important and popular that my life is in a frantic spin, too frantic to give a few minutes to a friend?
The truth of the matter is that I have made many efforts for balance over the last number of years. With my ministry at the Franciscan Welcoming House and at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell, it is true, my plate runneth over on some days.
We all know people in our family and friend circles with a strong sense of leisure. We can take lessons from them. Francis of Assisi, our patron, took time to enjoy the little birds in flight and all of nature, to share a picnic, and to allow time to commune with God in solitude. Leisure helps us to tap into the more important dimensions of our hearts and souls. Now is the time to substitute that b-word busy, with a new b-word, balance. Now is the time to be persons growing in our appreciation of leisure.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Time to write the December blog. I am having a hard time deciding on a theme. There are many to choose from. Christmas is coming and before that is the observance of Advent. In between my community celebrates the Feast of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception on December 8th. In the northern hemisphere the day is short. Darkness stays late in the morning and comes quickly in the afternoon. Ere in Chicago, peak sun is gone by 2 p.m.
Shall I write about the opportunity for accepting winter’s invitation to tuning inward and reflect or comment on the end of the year distractions? Then there is the beautiful song sung on Thanksgiving Day, All Good Gifts, from the musical Godspel that continues to reverberate in my head and heart. Here is a selection of the words to this song of gratitude:
Then thank the Lord, then thank the Lord for all his Love.
I have written a couple of times about this difficult issue. I mentioned that my peace group has been reading and reflecting on Afghanistan. Here are a few more factoids I have gathered:
Afghanistan is about the size of Texas, 2/3 of it very mountainous. It borders Iran, Pakistan, China and several former USSR states on the north. On the crossroads between the east and the west, it is a buffer state.
The people are largely rural, tribal and Islamic. (The occupying force is largely “Christian”.) The population is approximately 25 million. In 1999, there were 500,000 widows from the Soviet’s war and the subsequent civil war. Afghanistan had the largest refugee population in the world. (I don’t know about now.) Since war destroyed (and destroys) their agricultural and industrial economy, poppies for heroin greatly contribute to the survival of many. Northeast Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Women suffer disproportionately from war. When women prosper, every one prospers. Of the 30 million land mines laid during the Soviet’s war in 2000, 10 million remained to be cleared. Osama Bin Laden got his start fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The central government of Afghanistan has never been strong, repeat: never been strong.
By the way, last week there was a short news item in the newspaper stating that the Obama administration has decided not to sign the international treaty to ban the use of landmines. After review it was decided to continue Bush’s stance on land mines. Curious, isn’t it? While more than 150 countries have agreed to the land mine ban treaty, other countries who have refused are China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia.
There is always much to reflect on and I hope that you have some time this December to do so holding the many mysteries and conundrums in your heart and mind. Here are the two verses from the Godspel hymn of praise:
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain...
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain...
We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love.
I really want to thank you Lord!
Monday, November 30, 2009
I had never heard of Chundra Lela until her story came up at one of our early morning prayers. Chundra lived a remarkable life searching for God in every holy shrine in India in the late 1800’s. After many years her hunger for God led her to the Christian Scriptures and she believed and was baptized. As much as possible she became what she now believed. She freely shared her faith with others and gave her material belongs to others who needed them.
Chundra’s life reminds me of another message which says, “What you know, you don’t know until you live it.” Isn’t that a powerful word to take to heart?
In his life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano has this to say about our patron: “He was no deaf hearer of the gospel; rather he committed everything he heard to his excellent memory and was careful to carry it out to the letter.”
I plan to keep this message before me in the weeks to come. I am involved in our Franciscan Sisterhood’s reflection on what it means to be a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls at this time in our history. I think I am learning all sorts of things from those Sisters who have gone before us. They were dependent on God in prayer, creative and committed to serving God and the poor, and lovingly faithful to one another. I think I “know” these things. I feel a big nudge to also live what I know. I think it is true, people can tell what we really hear and know by watching us live.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Did you ever notice that even though cooked spinach is such a good food, it doesn't really taste so good until butter is added to it? Spinach with butter tastes very good. St. Bonaventure wrote in his work "The Journey oo the Human Person into God" that all of our senses are means to know God. We see God. We see God's beauty in nature. We hear God's beauty in the songs of birds and children. We feel God's love in the caress of a loved one. We taste God's loveliness in butter.
I am tempted to say that since butter tastes better than spinach, then butter must be more beautiful and closer to God. However, I know that the imperfection lies in my taste buds and not in the spinach. If my taste buds were more Godlike, the spinach would be equally tasty to me and equally reveal God's closeness.
Rocks are close to God too. Here is a way that not so ordinary rocks will help us out of a pickle, the global warming pickle. In the September/October issue of the Audubon magazine, the following notice is given:
Peridotite, a rock found at or just below the earth's surface, could fight global warming, according to scientists at Columbia University's Lamot-Doherty Earth Observatory. In Oman, they found that exposed peridotite reacts with carbon dioxide, absorbing up to 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas each year and transforming it into a solid mineral. By their estimates, simple, relatively inexpensive drilling and injections of pressurized CO2 could speed up the process; the exposed peridotite in Oman alone could sequester four billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year - one-seventh of the 30 billion tons the world emits annually. Every continent except perhaps Antarctica contains substantial amounts of the rock."
Rocks and hills and scientists bless our Godd!! Algae bless our God!!
Algae is being cultivated to produce biofuel. The potential is enormous. Recently there was an environmental event in Chicago and a car arrived from the Southwest, driven on the first produced biofuel gasoline from algae. There is enough potential that a small percentage of desert land could be used to produce all the gasoline that the USA needs. I am sure there are a few kinks to work out, but the knowledge base is there. Imagine our Sister Algae is helping to solve global warming and also bring an end to oil wars.
Speaking of oil wars, there is oil to the north of Afghanistan. You can view on-line a really good documentary called "Rethink Afghanistan". Its at www.rethinkafghanistan.com. Did you know that during the 1800's the Russians and the British were fighting eachother in Afghanistan? The two expanding empires bumped up against each other. Neither empire won. From 1979 to 1988, the Soviet Union tried to control Afghanistan. That is called the Soviet's Vietnam, only it was worse because they ended up bankrupt and that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Now, 20 years later, and who is fighting in Afghanistan? And are we heading toward bankruptcy?
Anyway, time to sign off. Peacemakers bless our God!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
With confidence let them make known their needs to one another so that each can—The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters
find and offer to the other that which is necessary. Blessed are those who
love the others when they are sick and unable to serve, as much as when they are
healthy and of service to them. Whether in sickness or in health, they
should only want what God wishes for them. For all that happens to them
let them give thanks to our Creator.
of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, 23.
It’s been quite a summer! In the heat of late July I had an unexpected immersion into the unfamiliar. Several days into my visit with the Sisters in Mexico, I began coughing. Each day got worse, and I went to the doctor upon my return to Minnesota. To my surprise, I learned I had a serious case of no, not H1N1, but bronchitis!
Increasingly exhausted from the bronchospasms (a new word for me!) that seemed to consume me; I moved gingerly trying to minimize the consequent pain. Most surprising, however, was how distressing it was when I had coughing spells and couldn’t breathe, followed immediately by a struggle to get oxygen back into my lungs.
Suddenly it felt as if I were in another dimension of life…the range of what I could deal with was limited to getting from breath to breath and all else faded into the background. Generally I’ve been blessed with good health and lots of energy. After two rounds of antibiotics and two types of inhalers, the debilitating coughs had lessened, and a troubling side effect presented itself: I lost my voice! Anyone who knows me knows that this was significant…I love conversations!
What to do with the increasing disconnect? I was feeling better due to medication, rest and so many peoples’ kindnesses to me. While grateful for others concern and prayers, I also felt an increasing anxiety about the extended loss of my voice. My fear was: what if it was permanent? After three weeks of hoarseness, I was considering going back to a doctor when I woke up from sleep with a persistent question: what if the hoarseness was caused by the very medication I was on? The antibiotics were done, and I felt better; could it be the inhalers I was still using for the “left-over cough”? After consultation I discontinued the one that contained steroids and day by day my voice strengthened…May I never take the gift of voice for granted again!
Why do I share this story? After several ups and downs in the recovery process, I now have more energy and feel healthier than I have in two months. I have learned once again how easy it is to take the precious gift of life and health for granted. In my next post I’ll explore some of my reflections ranging from health care to the ever-changing landscape of what is good or not for us (discernment of right timing and placement). Stay tuned!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Did I know when I was a student at St. Andrew's School being taught by Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, that I would one day join them? No.
Did I know when I left college to be a lay volunteer in Maracay, Venezuela, when my restless heart was searching for more meaning than would come from a degree alone, that I would discover not only how I wanted to be in the world, but with whom I wanted to be in the world - inspiring, visionary dedicated and Faithful Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls? No
Do I know that my heart is grateful for the 25 years of being a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls? Yes.
St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi were young people in a world where war and greed were causing greater despair and unrest. To read the stories of their lives compels us as Christians and Franciscans 800 plus years later. When some wanted him to model his life after the more enclosed monastic form, Francis proclaimed, "the world is my cloister!" The Franciscan way is an itinerant way of life; the brothers were sent two by two into the world to give witness to the Gospel by serving others.
In the gospel today the rich man goes away sad when Jesus tells him he had to sell all to follow him. When I read the gospel I was drawn to the word "sad". It was the man's sadness that revealed how attached he was to his wealth. For Francis and his followers the act of relinquishing their wealth in order to be free to serve brought deep joy. It is not what we have that is the problem. It is when we are so attached to what we have, and place our wealth and comfort as our highest value, that we are no longer free to be generous with our lives and resources. The words of Jesus to the rich man were challenging in their clarity. You must let go of that to which you are most attached in order to attach yourself to God and neighbor.
The gift of Francis and Clare to our world is that their fervor to live the mandates of the Gospel - to bring good news to the poor, proclaim sight to the blind and free the oppressed; to love God with one's whole heart, mind and soul - ignited the hearts of people from all walks of life. For Francis religious men and women, priests and deacons were not the only ones called to live Gospel-centered lives. When those who were married or had commitments to family responsibilities became ignited by his spirit and challenged by his message, he encouraged them to be faithful and serve where they were, and wrote a rule of life for the Secular Franciscans. You have Secular Franciscans here at St. Andrew's, people whose desire is to make the Gospel their highest Rule of Life, and to do it with the support of a community of people, a fraternity of sisters and brothers. Francis and Clare longed for all of us, men, women, youth, children, sultans and kings, priests and religious, wealthy and poor, to discern every action with our hearts on fire with the Gospel. Francis would say, let your body be your tongue.
I have lived, served and traveled to many places in my 25 years, including the streets, soup kitchens and shelters in Minneapolis. I will be honest, most of the time the commitment to follow Jesus in the footprints of Francis and Clare wrenches the heart – being amidst people living in extreme impoverished conditions, living amidst gangs and drugs, addiction, greed and indifference, homelessness, attempted suicide and prison, hopelessness and hopefulness all intertwined in the streets and homes of our world. It wrenches the heart and that wrenching enlarges my heart and makes me even more passionate to invite others to walk with us as Franciscan Sisters, as Secular Franciscans, as Lay Associates and Franciscan Community Volunteers, as Priests and Deacons, as Christians in this world.
With all the passion I can muster I say to you, to the youth, children and adults, be generous with your lives and your resources 24 hours a day, with your family, with your parish, with your neighbor, with your co-workers, with your God.
When you come to church, know that this time of communion and worship is to nurture and inspire us so that we may all do what is ours to do, from the tiniest kind greeting and embrace of another, to major acts of necessity and kindness.
I truly am celebrating my 25 years as a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls and there is great meaning in being able to celebrate here in my home parish. It is where I was nurtured and formed in familial and communal love. You, my relatives, classmates, church community and Franciscan Sisters have supported me all my life, and most explicitly supported my ministries from the first huge step to Venezuela, to the churches, streets and homes of Chicago, Nicaragua and San Francisco. Your generosity has touched many lives and made many things possible together with the labor and commitment of the people who live and serve in those areas.
My Franciscan Sisters are here. The Secular Franciscans and Lay Associates with our community are here. Sr. Karen is here at St. Andrew's School, a teacher and a witness to God's creativity and love, most especially with the children. Your own parish ministers and leaders are here. In the words of St. Francis I say, "Desire one thing alone, the spirit of God at work within you." And to any women out there who have considered religious life, come join us. We are teachers, pastoral workers, foster moms, justice workers, missionaries all. We are alive with the spirit and our love and joy in God and one another is great.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Peace to Afghanistan!
My little peace group, a chapter of Pax Christi, decided to take a 3 month incubation period to study and reflect. We felt a need to regroup and refocus our efforts in raising consciousness about peace issues. For this we chose to read about Afghanistan in order to go beyond sound bite journalism and try to understand the larger context of the war in Afghanistan.
I find the subject of Afghanistan a difficult subject…a far away land, confusing terms, confusing characters, and confusing reports. We end up with more questions than answers. There are two things so far that I find disturbing. One is the reports of the terrible treatment of women by the Taliban.
Ah, but who are the Taliban? The Talibs are religious students that come out of the ultra-conservative Islamic religious schools called madrassas. When the Taliban came into power, they enforced a variety of rules including those that restrict the freedom of women. These restrictions include not working outside the home, being completely covered by the burqa when in public, never leaving the house without being chaperoned by a male relative. They are not allowed to attend school. Violation of any of these rules may result in a beating or even death.
In Kabul, the capital, 70 percent of the teachers were women. Forty percent of the doctors were women. Half of the university students were women. Afghan women held jobs as lawyers, judges, engineers and nurses.
The other thing that disturbs me is how the Taliban came to power in the early 1990’s. After 10 years of war that destroyed their country and its infrastructure, the war left a power vacuum. Those 10 years of war were in a significant way financed by our country. In fact, the financing and arms flow from our country helped the Taliban get established in the first place. This part of the history is often brushed over. We are complicit in the creation of this tragedy. Does this disturb you?
Continued militarization of our nation’s involvement in Afghanistan is not the answer. Time to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. Otherwise, bigger messes are created. Of course, the “how” leaves us with more questions than answers. I am drawn to prayer this prayer:
Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth,
From despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts.
Let peace fill our world,
Let peace fill our universe.
World Peace Prayer
Peace be to Afghanistan, to her people, to her women and children.
Monday, October 5, 2009
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
“Miracle: a divinely natural occurrence that must be learned humanly.”
I chose this definition of miracle because it speaks of learning, learning to notice (and perhaps comprehend) the extraordinary in what has become too familiar to be of interest. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know there are very many ‘miracles’ in what we call ordinary, every-day days.
What were the miracles?
There were no murders,
not even harsh words,
when we felt overwhelmed by extraordinary crops
in the midst of needing to provide hospitality
for extraordinary numbers of guests
while one or another of us was on retreat or vacation.
Isn’t it a miracle that neighbors and family
still come to help like they did when I was
a kid on the farm?
I am so glad I noticed these gifts:
overly-generous trees and gardens
sisters and friends who came
through sweat and aching backs.
Thank you for September miracles.
Monday, September 28, 2009
October is a special month for me, mainly because it ushers in the Feast of Francis of Assisi on October 4. We Franciscan cherish our great patron. When I was little, I saw Francis in private gardens and parks, usually with a bird on his shoulder or maybe taming the wolf of Gubbio, a story we all know from our Franciscan tradition.
When I walked the Umbrian valley in Assisi in 2007, I was again washed over with the spirit of this great 13th century saint. There are many visitors to Assisi, and all comment on the serenity and peacefulness of this area. Francis, the simple little man from Assisi, by his spirituality and life has touched the hearts of many. We who are Franciscan have no exclusive claim on this saint. He is for the entire church. Many have captured deeply the heart of Francis. Francis was above all a Gospel person, one who knew and lived the Beatitudes.
Francis has been named the Patron of Ecology. His deep sense of the interconnectedness of all creatures came to him not from books, but as he spent time in reflection and mediation of the goodness of God. He lovingly called each creature by the name of Brother or Sister. He spoke with tenderness of each insect and plant and all that adorned the earth
As we practice good ecological principles in our home, neighborhood or workplace, recycle our ‘stuff’, care for plants, the air, the earth and all creation, let’s turn to God in thanks for leading us on the path of good stewardship and gratitude for all good gifts. Let us be grateful to Jesus who blest the earth by His presence and made holy our created world.
Happy feast of Saint Francis to all of you!
Sister Cordy Korkowski, OSF
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I share with you an experience I had one morning when I lived in Nicaragua. As I left my bedroom and walked down our hall, I looked out toward our neighbors in the barrio, seeing the scrap wood houses and empty barrels because the water didn’t come that night, I heard a voice say within me, “I don’t ever want to be where I don’t wake-up and not see this reality and have to be in direct relationship with this irreconcilable disparity.”
It was also in Nicaragua that one day we were talking about this famous question of what it means to be Franciscan, and Sr. Joanne Klinnert said, “What Francis did was follow his spirit, and so, to be Franciscan is to follow your spirit!” The Spirit moving in Francis was larger than Francis. It moved in relationship with his experience of what was happening in the world and in the church in his day. I remember a slogan used by the National Vocation office a few years back which said, “May the unrest of Christ’s peace be with you.”
We know Francis didn’t set out to join one of the religious communities of his day. In his unrest he set out to be with and to serve the lepers. His heart was enflamed by humbleness of Christ. He made his whole body a tongue. The emphasis was given to becoming and living the gospel, not merely talking about it.
Leonardo Boff, in his book, ST. FRANCIS, challenges our use of phrases such as “preferential option for the poor”. According the Boff and his understanding of Francis, it wasn’t an "option" to be with the impoverished and marginalized, it was the foundation of Francis’ life. Let our own bodies and lives be our tongue, for in this we will find perfect joy.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
“It is already September and we have had no summer!”
I have heard this comment many times recently. The tone of voice is whiney. The cause is our having a relatively cool summer in Chicago. I used the fan only a couple of days. I politely agree with the speaker but inside I am asking “Where were you during June, July, and August?”
The sun rose and set each day this summer and we breathed every minute of each day. We have worn our short sleeves and shorts. We have donned our sunglasses. The birds migrated north, hatched their chicks, and now are migrating south once again.
Time flies fast under two circumstances: when we are having fun and when we are too busy. When we are having fun we are totally in the present moment and present to those we are with and to our experience. This is delightful. I think the complaint about “no summer” is a result of the second condition—too busy. When we are too busy we risk losing our sense of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a presence of awareness, a quality of self awareness and awareness of what and who surrounds us.
My brother-in-law, Bill , is an interesting and nice guy. He is a psychologist and teaches mindfulness classes. Bill and I recently did a mindfulness yoga exercise. The movements were slow and easy, while stretching and strengthening. Mindfulness yoga invites the practioner to slow down and be aware of one’s experience. Mindfulness invites us to be in the present moment, not second guessing the past, nor anticipating the future.
Another body-mind practice is Alexander Technique, a re-education of movement and posture. This technique calls living into the future “end gaining.” End gaining causes us to be ahead of ourselves. When we get ahead of ourselves, we lose contact with the present moment and ourselves. Then we get tense and lose fluidity of movement.
The Franciscan version of mindfulness is “living with a contemplative attitude”. Contemplation is stopping, being present to moment and seeing this moment as gift. A gift can never be possessed, analyzed or callously manipulated. A gift cannot be judged. A gift is cherished.
Have you had a summer? If not, slow down. It is never too late to start slowly down. Now is the moment. Take a deep breath. Be aware of the air flowing in and flowing out. Repeat. Smile at the gift of breathing, the gift of the sensation, the awareness of LIFE. This is a sure path to mind-full contemplation.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The monarch caterpillars’ going into their cocoons and coming out butterflies are familiar images of transformation. I had occasion to observe several this summer. Their stretching and flexing on the outside spoke to me of a wrenching process going on inside to accomplish the predictable conversion: worm - cocoon - monarch butterfly.
All of us creatures are designed to make transformational decisions from within our own selves. This was brought home to me during the Franciscan retreat I recently made at St. Francis Convent in Little Falls. Just as the monarch’s blueprint is written in the core of the caterpillar, so everything each of us needs for becoming Christ to the world is available in God’s design indelibly recorded -- you know where. Stop. Sit. Let the inner flexing, turning, stretching happen.
The gift (charism) of the Franciscan life is the life of conversion, a life of daily turning to hear and respond to God. This is not a logical, rational process. It is a work of our hearts, a work of love carried out in community. It involves surrender, letting go, sometimes darkness. It calls for shedding protective coverings, stripping ego, becoming Christ. Francis and Clare of Assisi encourage me with their example. I was happy to be able to retreat and ‘hang it up’ for at least a short while. I’m grateful to have let some important processes turn over in my spirit. I feel new. I think I’m finished eating milkweeds.
Monday, August 10, 2009
My mother won a Pillsbury Bread Baking Contest at one time. I was so proud of her.
From those early days of bread baking, when white bread was THE bread, we as a family enjoyed coming home from school and diving into a loaf or two of white bread. It was always well worth the wait.
I have moved out of the ‘white bread’ category to many other types of breads. Several years ago, I purchased the book, 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood. He states in his book, “Bread links all cultures together. It holds a social and gastronomic significance for everyone. In this most recent book, Paul Hollywood outlines the recipes for Basil and Olive Foccacia, Chocolate and Sour Cherry Bread, Brioche, Olive and Sundried Tomato Bread and many more. Having grown up in Liverpool, the oldest of three boys, and testing recipes in his father’s bakery, Paul Hollywood came to realize the variations and different types of bread were endless. His recipes attest to this.
Bread has been very much on my mind during the month of August as we celebrate the weekend Liturgies hearing the Gospel of John each weekend with the theme of bread. Jesus was very familiar with bread. Jesus tells us, “I am the living bread come down from heaven…and whoever eats this bread will live forever”. John 6:51 Bread truly is good for the body, and good for our spiritual connections with our faith.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Valandra,one of Clare’s Well recent guests, writes her music in the Key of V! She sat in our chapel to sing stories from her life experience and left us her CD, Rhythms of My Heart – Healing From Within. Proceeds from the sale of her album go to Childline, a registered charity committed to protecting children from violence and abuse in South Africa. I am strengthened by how Valandra shares her truth in music.
Mechthild of Magdeburg wrote in the 1200’s:
“Fish cannot drown in water,
Birds cannot sink in air,
Gold cannot perish
In the refiner’s fire.
This has God given to all creatures,
To foster and seek their own nature.
How then can I withstand mine?”
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Last month for the celebration of the 25th and 75th jubilees of our Sisters, the jubilarians requested that we use a new arrangement for the singing of the Mass parts. They had chosen a Mass called “Jesus: the Compassion of God”, written by David Haas. The opening call to worship is:
Lord it is good to be here,How wonderful to name God as beauty. St. Bonaventure, an early Franciscan theologian, wrote “In all things beautiful, we see Beauty itself.” Of course, he meant that in seeing Beauty we see God. Seeing the 4 jubilarians process in with such dignity was indeed beautiful and we made beautiful music to celebrate their milestone.
Your beauty to behold
We long to proclaim your vision
And call this place our home.
Meanwhile here in Chicago, July 4th has come and gone. July 4th was a cool and rainy day. Sunday July 5th was a perfect day, partly cloudy, a soft breeze and mild temperature. I took a bike ride down along the lake. There was much beauty there as well. There were families of all sizes and ethnicities. Dads and Moms were grilling with great aromas wafting in the air. The beach was full of volleyball teams. Other bicyclists were out. At one end of the beach is a dog park where dogs can run in beautiful blue water and chase each other playfully and the dog masters casually chat.
At the other end of the beach is the dunes restoration area and bird sanctuary. The gulls with a couple of Caspian terns sun at the shoreline and song sparrows sing with all their little hearts. Fishermen and a few women cast their lines out and never seem to catch much. But then we know that at Lake Michigan it is not about the fish but about being near the water under the sky with the skyline of downtown Chicago just a glance away.
There is indeed much beauty. One thing in which I find hard to find some beauty is the Good Humor Ice Cream truck. Oh, the truck is okay and so is the ice cream. But the truck plays over and over and over this obnoxious tune. One truck plays a mechanical sounding “Turkey in the Straw”. I wonder how can the driver stand it for a whole day. I have a hard time with it for just 10 minutes.
The Good Humor Truck does move on and I turn my attention to the firecrackers and bottle rockets being fired off. This smoke hangs in the air with the smoke from the charcoal grills and I wonder if the fireworks are carbon balanced.
Sarah Palin’s announcement about resigning as governor of Alaska upstaged the news about Michael Jackson’s death. Her upstage only lasted a day and then the news went back to Michael, especially since Michael was from Gary Indiana, Chicago’s neighbor to the south. Sarah and Michael are children of God as well and for this we say: Thank God for all your beautiful creation.
So on July 5th, this is all the news from Lake Michigan were all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are beauties to behold.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Above all things, desire to have the Spirit of God at work within you.
This was the theme of our jubilee celebration on June 21st. Srs. Mary Fabian Schneider and Corrine Millner celebrated their 75th Jubilees, and Sr. Nancy deMattos and I celebrated our 25th Jubilees. A celebration it was! A witness it was to the love and faith that binds us as Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN.
The week leading up to our celebration we as a Franciscan Community met together, some days with just Sisters and a day with Associates. It was a time of remembering and reflecting on our life; of telling stories of bold acts as individuals and a whole community that have brought us to this day and binds our hearts together. We prayed together with song and word as we challenged ourselves to live with openness, compassion and active commitment that incarnates the expansive mind of God inspired with the spirits of Francis and Clare. Creativity, difficult conversations, laughter and love wove its way through every moment. For me it was pure gift to move from this time together into the celebration of our life commitments.
During the homily at our Jubilee Mass Sister Paula Pohlmann asked each of us to articulate what the "Spirit of God at work within us" looks like in our lives. I share with you my response...
Most important, most directing in my life is whether my heart is alive, and whether I feel that aliveness deep in the belly. This is my ultimate authority. Leaving college to go to Venezuela as a Franciscan Lay Volunteer was not about discerning a religious vocation, it was about seeking a heart pulse that was rooted in love and meaning, and for me, Love is God! To extend that love, which was and still is rooted in my family, into the Franciscan Community, has allowed me to root it in the world. It is the foundation of my passion to help others become more fully alive, without discrimination, for the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Love does not discriminate. I know it is the Spirit at work because deep down beyond all struggle, endless work and times of anxiety, I can feel a full and flowing river of Joy.
In this Jubilee year, together with my Sister Jubilarians and whole Franciscan Community of Sisters and Associates, I renew my commitment to live desiring one thing alone, the Spirit of God at work within us. So be it!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Nicaragua is a significant place for all of us Franciscans at Clare’s Well. Sister Carol accompanies a mission group to the far-flung mountainous villages of this country every January. Sister Paula was a member of these January brigades for several years. I was privileged to spend two months living in a barrio on the edge of Managua several years ago. One of our Franciscan Associates and dear friend, Monica Rudawski has ministered in the Leon and Esteli area over the past ten years. Monica visited us this summer and we all relived some of our own privileged experiences in Nicaragua.
It seems Franciscans are attracted to Nicaragua because it is one place where we meet people, who in the dark of their deep poverty, still radiate light and compassion for one another. Monica shared a beautiful prayer that speaks of this. The prayer is from John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.
Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life. . . . .
I think this is what keeps Monica going back to Nicaragua all these years. In the dark of the poverty of the children for whom she helps to provide food, she is better able to “see inside things.” Sister Carol and the January missionaries, too, go to peoples in Nicaragua who lack much of what we consider necessary, such as electric light. They go year after year to walk in the dark, minding the interior.
Monica concluded our summer morning prayer, “Fill our darkness with the nurture of Your Light. Help us to burn with the fire of Your Love.”
Friday, June 26, 2009
Has anyone ever looked at you and said, “You are in transition”. Well, in my life I have heard this innumerable times. My first LARGE transition occurred when I registered as a freshmen at St. Francis High School in Little Falls at the age of 13 years. I was 80 miles from home. I lived in Little Falls at St. Francis High School, a boarding school. I left the comforts of my home and returned to Brandon for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and summers. Even though I made friends quite quickly, things weren’t the same. I was lonesome, day in and day out for weeks. I missed my family, our beautiful farm, favorite foods and my home in the country. Even though many things changed, my home in the country remained all these years.
Well, this summer things are going to change. We are selling our family farm. I am in transition again. When I went home for Easter, I found myself cherishing every little bush on the land, the streams, and the places where we raised our gardens, our skiing hills, my favorite tree, our baseball diamonds and skating ponds. It will all be a memory come fall.
Transitions are important to recognize and mark if possible. On August 29, 2009 the children of Al and Grace Korkowski are going to have our final HOE-DOWN when we will all re-gather to say good-bye to the farm. We will climb the big hill, tell stories, cry a little and bid farewell to the land that has nurtured us, provided for us, and been our haven through many decades. We are gathering favorite stories and will spend the weekend walking down memory lane. We will be in transition together as a family, each experiencing our time together in our own way.
Transitions are a normal part of our lives. In the parish, I observe this every week. There are deaths of beloved family and loved ones, the birth of a baby, graduations, job relocations, children leaving home or coming back home, changes in relationships, health or financial status. We could make a list a mile long. With each one, we enter a new realm of life.
As we gathered as a Franciscan Community of Sisters and Associates this June, 2009, I heard about many transitions in the lives of my Franciscan family. I know I will also hear many transition stories at the St. Francis High School Reunion in July, 2009. As we learn how to handle transitions now, I often think our final transition will be our entrance into our Eternal Home.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
In May, my Pax Christi Peace Group chose the movie “Rethink Afghanistan” for our monthly feature. This event was the first time we streamed a movie off the Internet. A friend of one our members brought his laptop computer, hooked it up to the LCD projector and downloaded the movie segments via a wireless connection.
As we all know Afghanistan is the new focus for war. Pax Christi is an International Catholic Peace movement and is firmly against war, the preparations for war, and are for peaceful means to resolve conflicts. While many would say, including President Obama, that this war against terrorism is necessary, this movie invites us to think again.
Here is some of what the movie, “Rethink Afghanistan”, has to teach us:
- There is no military solution to this conflict.
- The war costs will be $1 trillion. Due to the difficult location, mountainous and land locked, it costs $775,000 to send and maintain one soldier there. It cost $500,00 to send and maintain one soldier in Iraq.
- Afghans are the world’s best resisters when it comes to defending their country against foreign occupiers. They beat the British and the Russians.
- Pakistan is more unstable than Afghanistan, possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons, and 60% of their children suffer malnutrition—SIXTY PER CENT!
- India is a big player in the region, fights with Pakistan over Kashmir.
- Every civilian death creates more people who hate the U.S.
- These war monies could be better used to fund health care and other quality of life programs in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- This war has already cost $189 billion.
You can view the movie on line at www.rethinkafghanistan.com
Monday, June 1, 2009
What does it take to make us grateful? Carol, Paula, Richard and I worked quite hard to line up tools and tasks prior to our spring clean-up day. As the day approached, we hoped lots of volunteers would show up to bring our retreat out of unkeptitude to pulchritude. Well! A record number, 75 people came! In spite of cold, windy, unpleasant weather, the attitude of the women, men, and children bordered on beatitude. Their solicitude was matched with a wondrous aptitude for hard work. Smiles and enthusiasm reigned. We have photographs to prove it.
We three sisters sat that evening saying, “Can you believe what happened here today?!” Please, excuse the altitude of my silliness - when the latitude of generosity is extravagant, gratitude is spontaneous. Good care of Clare’s Well entails a lot of work, which we three ‘old ladies’ in various stages of decrepitude could never manage all by ourselves. We are in awe at the depth of the support we experience. We asked, “What if only 3 or 4 persons had shown up?”
Our response to the multitude gives us pause to remember that we are gifted as much by the love in one pair of helping hands as we are by the love in the hands of 75. There is no point at which we can say, “Okay, now we should be grateful.” We either are thankful people or we’re not. Gratitude is the way of our life. (And that’s no platitude . . . .)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Last night was a very difficult night for me. It was the wake/funeral service for Braelyn Osborne. Braelyn, 17 years of age and a junior at Hutchinson High School died in her sleep of complications from diabetes on May 9, 2009, a day before Mother’s Day. It was a disease that Braelyn struggled with for 10 years. Brandi called and asked if I would do the service at a Columbia Heights funeral home. I was honored to be asked, but wondered how I could do this, amidst so much family grief along with my own as well.
I first met Braelyn and her mother Brandi about three years ago when our family camped together at Two Inlets north of Park Rapids. My nephew Troy introduced our family to his new bride, Brandi and her two children, Braelyn and Morgan. I remember how delightful and happy they were with energy, lots of pep and personality. They all entered into the relaxation and festivity of the weekend with great enthusiasm. I also was aware that Braelyn could never lose awareness of her disease amidst all the food choices present for the weekend. I knew her story.
To hear the news of her death was shocking. How would I make the mental switch, that we are now entering into her farewelling into eternal life. I started to work on the prayer service and it all came together. I knew I would use Psalm 23, the Gospel of Mark where Jesus embraces the children, some storytelling, special prayers and a blessing for Braelyn. I also prepared a reflection on Braelyn’s life.
The funeral home was crowded with students, many of whom had brought pictures and messages of farewell and love. They came early to the funeral home to decorate the space and spend time with the family as did parents, grandparents, family members and friends of Braelyn. Throughout the three hours, there was a steady and strong stream of family and friends that filled the space with consolation. We prayed, laughed and cried, visited, spent time being together with family and friends.
The family was deeply appreciative of the service, and I was equally touched by their love and gratitude. As we returned to the home of Brandi’s mother for a large buffet meal, my heart was at peace. Braelyn is now home with God, and all of us learned again the fragility of life, and that Sister Death can appear at any moment and quietly take us home. What was so difficult to do, came together with the support of a multitude of people who were touched by the life of Braelyn Osborne.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
In April I completed training for certification in Brain Integration Technique. I asked Susan McCrossin, the developer and trainer for this healing method, how she was led to her teacher, applied physiologist Richard Utt. Susan related that in the mid-1980’s, while working for a computer software company, she took many personal growth courses and workshops. She decided that her life’s goal was to help raise the consciousness of the planet. Furthermore, she would do this by working on herself in order to be a good influence on others and, thirdly and practically, she wanted to work in alternative healing. Within months she was on the path and within a year she was working full time on her dream.
To raise the consciousness of the planet is a lofty goal. We might be more familiar and more comfortable with the phrase “To make the world a better place.” This is indeed what we as Franciscans do in our small ways throughout our ordinary days—step by step, stone by stone, through kind words and kind gestures. Hopefully, we are all working on our dream and on a dream that contributes to making the world a better place.
Bill Plotkin, in his book “Nature And The Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness And Community In A Fragmented World”, writes about his dream of raising the consciousness of the human community. He proposes that our society and culture is egocentric and “adolescent” and that what we need to do is move into an eco-soul-centric culture. By eco-soul-centric, he means living out of our true inner depths and in deep harmony with the Earth. The book is an unfolding of this theme.
While I have only begun to digest his ideas, I am sure that St. Francis and St. Clare lived out their true soul-calling in deep harmony with the Earth. They have inspired us for 8 centuries with their radical adherence to Gospel values and to the profound joy in the love of God for us, God’s human and non-human creatures.
May we each know our soul’s calling. I pray that each of us, step by step, stone by stone, kind deed by kind deed, is unfolding into our soul’s essence. The world community is better for the soul and spirit we bring to it.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Spring is the time of year when all of Creation seems to rise up and shout, "I’m alive!" The barrenness of Winter made us wonder if we would ever again see green. It seemed a stretch of the imagination to believe that anything could survive beneath the cold, cold ground. But then comes the thaw and the whole world around us begins to be charged with a new bolt of life. Out from the hard surface we’ve tromped over all winter little sprouts poke up their noses to remind us that life is stronger than death, that nothing can keep a really good thing down, not even ice and snow.
The cycles of Creation are marvelous. Each year they treat us to an unbelievable drama, an endless story book display that produces a new picture on each page. No matter how often we turn the page the scene is different each time causing us to wonder how the artist could possibly come up with such an awesome array of splendor. Give the truth that Creation’s artist is none other than God, we immediately know of the limitless ability of our Divine Creator.
Francis, the simple little man from Assisi knew all of this implicitly. He sensed the interconnectedness of all creatures without the aid of scientific research. He sensed the interdependence that drew all creatures together as members of an earthly family. He affectionately called each creature by the name of Brother or Sister. He recognized each as siblings of a gracious Mother whose home was the Earth. He spoke with tenderness to insects and plants. He encouraged the birds to sing out their prayers of praise to God and he acted as mediator in times of misunderstanding and stress between humans and animals.
It is no mystery as to why he has been chosen as the Patron of Ecology, why his intuitive grasp of the circle of life is what we need today. It has taken us centuries to uncover the beauty, the wisdom, the thoughtfulness that engineered this massivecathedral of intricate artistry and magnificent craftsmanship. Only a meditative reflection on Francis’ "Canticle of the Creatures" can begin to bring us to see what he saw, to feel what he felt in the presence of such grandeur. Should we ever be able to truly experience what he had come to know then all of creation might rightly be "reborn".
Monday, May 4, 2009
I’ve noticed a line in the post-Easter gospels this year that hadn’t struck me before: “. . . the doors being shut . . . , Jesus came to them.” Shut church doors have a particular significance in our house: Clare’s Well dining room table is made out of abandoned church doors rescued from a dumpster. I have attached a photo of this sturdy table crafted by Sister Aggie’s brother-in-law, Floyd Mader. I photographed a seemingly empty table, which is not empty at all but rather immersed in twenty-plus years of stories of guests who dine with us and pour their hearts out to others around this church-remnant table.
“The doors being shut” is still a painful reality for many diners who would like to participate in church services if only they were welcome in today’s churches. “Jesus took bread and gave it to them.” “They knew him in the breaking of the bread.” “Peace.” Our dining room table is an open church door where all are welcome and shared stories restore life. Jesus continues to come in, break bread, and restore peace.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Some day, after we have mastered the winds and the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
--Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
Reflecting on the beauty and challenge of nature’s rhythms, I recognize the same beauty and challenge present in human relationships as well. Chardin invites us to “harness for God the energies of love;” Jesus witnesses to this path as he lived faithfully unto death, laying down his life in love, followed by rising to new resurrected life. Those of us who follow his way as Christians continue to learn how to live on in God’s love.
Our community of Franciscan Sisters, too, has been moving through the passage of death to new life—we buried four of our Sisters last month. It was a Lenten letting go for us who had come to know, love, and share life with these wisdom women in their 90’s. Each one was ready to enter fullness of life with God, showing us the way with great grace.
Sister Loretto Schneider
Years later, Listening House continues to flourish, and I found my way to religious life within the Franciscan family as a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls. For all of this, I give thanks to God, mindful of what Margaret J. Wheatley says about the power of love:
What gives power its charge, positive or negative, is the quality of relationships. Those who relate through coercion, or from disregard for the other person, create negative energy. Those who relate to others and who see others in their fullness create positive energy. Love in organizations, then, is the most potent source of power we have available.
Cited in Bennett Sims, Servanthood: Leadership for the Third Millennium
As you and I learn to harness “the energies of love,” may we share this “potent source of power” bringing it to bear in our interpersonal relationships, in our organizations and in our world.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Oh, those precious seeds that are entering the cold ground of Minnesota. It takes faith to plant a seed. I did so about three weeks ago, in late March. I had several ‘containers’ placed on the Franciscan Welcoming House porch in St. Cloud and decided this year it would be spinach and green onions that would be early starters.
Each day I take a good look at the pots and water, pray and hope. Then lo, about three days ago, there they were, some little green shoots that looked so timid, weak and wobbly. How will they ever make it to our dining table? I know this is a concern for many anxious gardeners and those who can’t wait for that warmth to accelerate the growth.
I decided that our little neighbor girls would like to plant a few seeds too, and there was still room in the pots. I invited their mother Lynda Brandt to bring the girls over and I would have Grace, age 4 and Olivia, age one, to push a few seeds into the ground. Besides, they are moving away, and I already feel the pain of separation. Maybe, just maybe, when the seeds become plants, I can take another picture and send it to Blaine, Minnesota where they will resettle and we can enjoy our ‘crop’ together.
Jesus knew all about seeds and the conditions that are needed for maturation. Plant the seeds in good soil, water them, and tend them. What a great story this is in the Scriptures. The seeds work their little miracles, break through the soil with determination and bear much fruit.
We are like those seeds. So much is planted by the Spirit of God in our hearts. It takes time for some of the seeds to take root, sprout and come to maturation. Some lay dormant for a long time, and then, with God’s grace and our cooperation, they spring forth.
Springtime is a good time to ask this question - have you planted seeds lately or has someone planted a seed within you?
Friday, April 24, 2009
Writing monthly for a blog is challenging. At first the ideas come easily. After a few months I start scratching my head! The challenge keeps me on the alert for ideas!
Last week I saved an article from the Chicago Tribune with the headline: “Durbin says world needs clean water.” Senator Durbin (a good Senator from Illinois) had introduced legislation calling for the U.S. to expand access to clean drinking water for an additional 100 million people around the world.
The next day I heard on National Public Radio a report about the World Water Forum taking place in Turkey from March 16-22, 2009 and International Water Day celebrated every March 22. International Water Day was established in 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
Today (March 24, 2009) on my “to do” list was writing this blog for April--Earth Day month--and I was delighted to read today’s scripture reading about water: “Wherever the river flows, every sort of creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.” Ezekiel 47: 1,8,9.
Aahhhh, Water, Lovely Water, Water our Sister, pure and chaste is She. Lovely is her taste and her touch against my skin.
While the popular media worries about shortages of oil, others know that the shortage of water is a more serious threat to the health, safety and stability of the world and its people, especially people who are poor and marginated. Years ago I read about the issue of water between Israel and the Palestinians where Israel controls access to water and Palestinians live without it. Drought in Sudan fuels the war between ethnic groups in Darfur.
The web site on the 5th World Water Forum reflects that by 2025 two out of three people worldwide will live in water stressed areas. In the U.S. 36 of 50 states may face water shortages in the next 5 years. The U.S. person uses 262 liters of water daily while a Dane uses 150 liters.
The World Water forum, this year attending by 28,000 people, including delegations from the U.S., seeks to influence water policy at a global level and to promote:
- Efficient water use
- Rigorous and harmonious water sharing
- Efficient water management
- Protection of the poorest people
- Promotion of water security
Our President Barak Hussein Obama in his inaugural address stated:
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow, to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor
can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
SO BE IT! Happy Earth Day Month!
Monday, April 20, 2009
My candidacy in Little Falls was only 4 months long as they considered my living with our Sisters in Venezuela was like a candidacy. During my candidacy I was privileged to work with our elder Sisters in the infirmary and to help out in what was the Christian Development Center. Sr. Aggie Soenneker was my candidate director, and that was wonderful in that she too had ministered in Maracay, Venezuela. One of the churches I had worked in with Fr. Tony Kroll and the Sisters was the parish of Santa Inez (Saint Agnes) named after Aggie. She could understand when I shared of my experiences in Venezuela and my yearnings to work with the impoverished people in our world. It was Sr. Aggie who invited me to participate in my first act of Civil Disobedience as we protested Honeywell's making of cluster bombs that were killing and maiming our brothers and sisters in war-torn countries.
In August 1984 I entered the Novitiate and was part of the first group of novices to live in the Novitiate house in St. Paul and participate in the inter-novitiate program. Sr. Pat Forster together with the other Novice Directors from the various Religious Communities developed a very rich formation program. We studied theology, the vows and our Community Constitutions and Directives. We had desert prayer days every Friday, and volunteered in St. Stephen's Shelter in Minneapolis. Sr. Jean Schwieters and Sr. Caroline Torborg were the professed Sisters living with us and were anchors of wisdom for us "young sisters." We were members of Sacred Heart Parish and had a great relationship with the Franciscan Friars who lived and ministered in the parish. My most favorite memory of being in the Novitiate was spending time in a dark and damp little space with crumbling walls in the basement of the house. It was like a cave and we made it our chapel. It was a womb for me, a sacred place where I would sit in quiet. Sometimes I'd go there to wrestle with myself, wrestle with God, plunge into loneliness or celebrate being alive. I would sing often the prayer of Francis, "Most High and Glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope and perfect charity. God give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern your holy and true will."
I made final vows on August 9th, 1989, together with Sr. Nancy deMattos. I feel that my life as a Franciscan Sister is pure gift. I remember saying to Sr. Pat in the novitiate that at times I wanted to stand on the roof of the house and tell the world how wonderful it was to be a part of our community.
As a Temporary Professed I lived in Chicago for three years and shared community life with Srs. Bea Eichten, Mary Pat Burger, Mary Schmidt, Janice Weichman and Sharon Fitzpatrick. I ministered at Providence of God Church as a Pastoral Associate within a predominantly Hispanic Community. In 1990 I left Chicago and joined Srs. Carolyn Law and Joanne Klinnert in founding our mission in Nicaragua, a place that has become my second home. After seven years in Nicaragua where Srs. Ruth Lentner and Michelle L'Allier also came to minister, I found myself on the streets of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, CA, where I met Rev. Kay Jorgensen and together we founded Faithful Fools Street Ministry. Every place and every person has a story all its own, and each experience has been the preparation for the next. I never really have known where I am going but I always have known I am in the right place when I get there.
At this time my worlds are wonderfully woven together. From San Francisco the streets lead back and forth to Nicaragua, as well as to MN. I have the privilege to be "Mom" to Alejandra Brown from Nicaragua as she studies in the U.S. and grows beautifully into adulthood. I am grateful to share my experiences and gifts with the larger Franciscan community as I serve on the Formation Advisory Council, One World Mission Grant Fund Committee, and help facilitate the Associate relationship within Latin America.
I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my family that, as Alejandra says, "is really a family." I am grateful for all who have been my teachers. I am grateful for every experience, tough and beautiful, that has formed me. I am grateful to be a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls and for each Sister and Associate who is my Sister and Brother. I may have come into this world with barreling energy, but my prayer has always been to channel that energy creatively and with love and generosity into the world. May it always be so!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
We Franciscans say we belong to an Order of Penance. Doesn’t that make you want to back away? Simply put, that means we strive for continuous conversion in our lives. Now if the word penance didn’t scare you, what about conversion? Not just conversion, but continuous conversion. That can make just about anyone shutter. Conversion, however, isn’t all that unfamiliar. We hear about it almost everyday. In fact, during the last presidential campaign, conversion was the topic…only we called it CHANGE.
Conversion is about change. But why continuous change? It’s because we are humans on a journey. We know from experience that no two days are exactly alike. What went smoothly one day creates a real problem the next day. We are creatures of habit and we too easily get into ruts. We don’t stop long enough to fix the problem when it first begins to surface and over time it becomes intolerable. We tend to avoid what we don’t like to admit is a flaw in our own character. Our reaction is to blame others for whatever doesn’t go well in a relationship. Or we grin and bear it because we don’t want to face what is our responsibility in the bigger picture.
The question is, “Will we ever get it just right?” And the answer is “NO!” So why try? Why keep attempting to become what we know we will never achieve? If you are like me, my idea of what is just right keeps changing, so how can I ever get to that point. And that’s the point. As long as we keep listening, keep responding, keep opening ourselves to making things better for myself and others, we stay with what’s important. And that’s persevering LOVE.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
We have an additional pre-morning-prayer ritual since Sister Paula moved in with Carol and me at Clare’s Well. Our Staff always did have a spiritual practice of private prayer time before gathering for shared morning prayer. Paula has added a physical practice of daily morning stretches for our bodies in the living room before we move into chapel to stretch our spirits in shared prayer. This physical workout helps me to see even better what good there is in daily morning prayer: Fidelity to practice is key to growth.
Practice. What is its value? We practice music so we can sing or play with ease. In Lent we have spiritual practices, such as fasting, to grow in freedom from needing to satisfy wants and to open ourselves to God. What happens when we maintain a practice of praying together every day? Would it make a difference if we didn’t do it? Unequivocally, yes!
Just the thought of dropping communal morning prayer from our schedule makes my stomach queasy. I feel off balance and out of touch with something very essential in relating to the world. As the morning light replaces darkness, we sisters (and sometimes guests) join together with scripture, inspirational reading, psalms, song, shared silence, and reflections to open the gift of this new day. Our morning hour is rich with insights from saints of every stripe as we share the story of old or contemporary saints of the day. We experience the wide range of Grace as we share our deepest prayers.
I see practice as hungrily repeating routine, sometimes with difficulty, waiting for Light to break through. And when a breakthrough comes, I see us enjoying the paradox of a daily practice so fed with abundant Light that it hardly seems routine at all.
Morning prayer: to see my God-experience in another is to see God Incarnate. I can sit in my room and pray, “Your love is everlasting.” To hear others pray those same words from their hearts, opens doors: “Oh, you know that, too?!” This is the bonding that shared prayer produces. Pulsating from soul to soul, Light is refracted; the Word is amplified; Stillness is very dynamic. We say “Amen”, ready to minister from the Gift of this practice.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Ezekiel 11:19, 20b: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the stony heart from your bodies and replace it with a natural heart. Thus you shall be my people and I will be your God.
Last summer I picked up a book from our library entitled “The Heart’s Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of Our Heart Energy” by Paul Pearsall. The author writes about persons who have received a heart transplant. He found that 10% of heart transplant recipients experience a change in personality, vocabulary or tastes in food. He surmises that the heart has an intelligence and memory of its own.
Pearsall gives various examples. One is of a man who never liked spicy Mexican food, but now craves it. His donor was a young Mexican American. Another was a teenager who started to use the word copasetic, meaning all is well. His donor was a man who frequently used that word. Sometimes a recipient becomes more peaceful or more melancholy.
In the introduction to his book, Pearsall shares that he is from Hawaii and in his culture, at least in his home, his mother would invite the family to let their hearts pray. The prayer would be a simple sinking into silence, a silence of the heart to allow the heart to speak its prayer.
We have a lot to pray for. Our hearts long for greater peace in our strife torn world. Our hearts long for justice for those pushed to the edges of society. Our hearts long for healing for our brokenness. Our hearts long for equality in a racist, sexist, class-ist society. Our hearts long for reconciliation where there is estrangement. Our hearts long for understanding where there is rejection. Our heart long for….Please add your own longings.
Take a moment of silence and allow your heart to pray.