Written by Sister Jan Kilian, this blog will give an understanding of what it’s like to be Franciscan. Living out the spirit of Saint Francis, we see all God’s creation as brother and sister. We, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, are committed to building relationships and community, ministering wherever there is greatest need, promoting justice and healing Mother Earth’s wounds. My writings will give a glimpse of the compassion, spirituality, interconnectedness and goodness of living Franciscan.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Garden

by Sister Jan Kilian

This is the Christmas of snow storms in Minnesota. Guests can’t leave or come until the French Lake township crew plows our road. Sister Carol is out on the tractor blowing a path through our driveway. Sister Paula is sledding down a hill. The view outside is exceptionally lovely with the snow. Mother Nature has extravagantly arranged tall grasses and the remains of our summer’s garden to please anyone’s artistic eye.

This storm gives me extra sit-still time and I used some of it to wonder about our array of decorations-- why do we decorate at Christmas and who are the decorations for? We put up:

• outdoor lights for neighbors who pass by;
• bows and greens on the fence for family and friends who stop in;
• big red bows on sunflower canes in the garden for the fun of it;

• a fireside crèche of homemade angels, stable, and holy family for us to remember why we celebrate Christmas.

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

Leisure, a gift for today…

by Sister Cordy Korkowski

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

All good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above

by Sister Carolyn Law

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:
All good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above.
Then thank the Lord, then thank the Lord for all his Love.
Then there is still that question of Afghanistan. Our president Obama prepares to announce his plan for nation building in this distant land. (I write this on November 29.) He who campaigned for peace and dialogue among nations is put to the test for also promising to be tough on terrorism. The parallels with Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam are striking. Robert McNamara’s Johnson’s Secretary of Defense is featured in the captivating movie The Fog of War. This movie is a must see for those who haven’t seen it and a must re-see for those who have. It is available for viewing on line at www.freedocumentaries.org .

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:
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
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!