Thursday, December 16, 2010

LOVE again!




I think LOVE might be my theme for this year.....  Today's first reading from Isaiah 54 really touched me, especially the parts about God being the ONE God, and the ending:

Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never leave you,
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

God has love bigger and more permanent than mountains and hills.  All I can do to respond is love in my little way, like a pebble by comparison.   God's love embraces me so completely, my little love is no longer small.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Faithfulness and Love

"When Jesus talks about faith, he means first of all to trust unreservedly that you are loved by God." --Henri Nouwen

I am loved by God.

God wants for me to be most fully who God created me to be, and God will help me to find and fulfill that longing - that's love.

Ah.  Humbling - joyful - immensely incomprehensible. 


May each of us, like Mary, offer a faithful "YES" response to the love that God offers.

Happy Feast!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent!



Advent is probably my favorite time of year.  In part, I love the Christmas carols and anticipation of the coming of Christ.  

Along with that, I love the readings from Isaiah, with their apocalyptic and hopeful expression of what Christians desire:  not just the coming of Christ, but the transformation of the whole world into the Kingdom God desires, of peace and plenty, of joy and fullness.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.....

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
(Isaiah 11:6,9)

So, Advent is the time of waiting, but not just waiting.  We wait for the Kingdom of God, but we wait with great longing and hope.  Waiting implies that we sit passively by; longing gets to the heart of our patient waiting, the anticipation, hope, and desire that accompanies our awaiting the coming of Christ.

It is also a time of preparation and transformation.  We long for God's reign, and our longing changes us.  We pray that our hearts are ready to receive the King, that we are ready to be active participants in the life for which we long.  We want to be better, holier ... to be ready for Jesus to take over our lives.

Advent, too, brings out our hopes for the future.  Like Isaiah, we picture a world of peace and freedom, where truly we can be the people God created us to be.  We imagine and desire the world to be freed of all that divides us from each other, all that limits our peace.  We want to know all that we can know about God, to experience the light that God brings to the world when the Son enters human history on Christmas day.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
(Isaiah 40:5)


Stay tuned for further thoughts on Advent and the life of a novice...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Woundedness



God's mercy and faithfulness
shine forth in a world
wounded by sin.
(Constitutions 2)

Our vocation arises from our wounds.

 

Do you ever have one of those weeks where one idea keeps coming to your attention, from a variety of sources?

This week, the idea of woundedness -- my woundedness, Jesus' woundedness, the wounds of our world -- finds its way into my daily life.  I thought I could share some thoughts and quotes.


Part One:
On Monday, I had a class, taught by a psychologist, that discussed how our family of origin and our experiences in childhood influence our reactions and behaviors throughout our lives.  This is in the context of religious life--how does what we learned as a child affect our interactions with our community members?  He talked about how all families are imperfect, and the "wounds" are not necessarily huge things.  But our experiences do shape our beings in very specific ways--they become part of our identity.  We look to our past to heal those wounds (though leaving the scars) so that we can live freely in the present and look openly to the future.

Think too of Jesus:  The wounds are part of his identity--it's how Thomas knows he is the risen Jesus.  Plus, we are saved by his wounds.  In his humanity he shared our sorrow and actual physical and emotional pain. 

Our wounds bring us to our vocation, help us to offer compassion to others in their woundedness.


Part Two: 
I'm also reading our Constitutions with my community.  They begin with "The End and Mission" of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (The quote above comes from this section.)

One of the things I love about the Society of the Sacred Heart is the deep sense of the sorrow that exists in the world.  It's not to dwell extensively in that sorrow, but to be aware of it, to know what's really happening, and to work toward something better and trust in God's presence and active love for all.  Religious of the Sacred Heart strive to be the love of God on earth.  To love everyone we meet, which means to share in their woundedness.  That love and participation in the pain of another is a beautiful mystery.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Link and Note

Greetings! 

I just wanted to share a link today, to the Society of the Sacred Heart website, where they've posted a notice about the opening of my noviceship year, and a brief video of my community members.  I hope you enjoy!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Not To Start a Religious Order


So, one of my tasks this year is to read a lot about the Society of the Sacred Heart and its history and spirituality.  I've just started reading Madeleine Sophie Barat: A Life by Phil Kilroy, and I'm up to the point where she meets Philippine Duchesne.

(Click here to get it from Amazon.com)


I'm struck by the significant difficulties that the Society faced at the very beginning.  First and foremost:  the French Revolution forced much of their work underground.  Even more than that, Sophie and Philippine both wanted to join religious orders that already existed (the Carmelites and the Visitandines) but could not because of the political climate. 

Perhaps, if life in France in the late 18th century had not been so tumultuous, the Society of the Sacred Heart would never have formed!

Other problems plagued the "little Society" from the beginning:  associations with priests and bishops who were under suspicion by the political and/or ecclesiastical authorities (one priest who was distantly connected to the fledgling community was found guilty of illicit sexual activity), leadership sometimes doubtful at best, and the general chaos of building something out of nothing with relatively little available expertise.  It's a miracle that the Society survived at all--doubtless the work of the Holy Spirit on overdrive.

The story is really fascinating from the start, and Kilroy's account is full of details and fun to read (at least for a historian like me).  I'll keep posting as I go through the book and the others that I will be reading as well.

The Society's beginnings are also a reminder to me that things worth doing are not necessarily easy.  I'm asked sometimes whether it is difficult to be the only novice right now.  The answer is yes, it is sometimes hard, but I'm also fully convinced that this is where I'm supposed to be, doing the work that God has called me to do.  Sophie knew that too--while she did not feel she was a fit leader, she knew that it was the right thing to do, the will of God.  My challenges are small compared to hers.  I look to her for guidance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Simplicity


Today's first reading is from Proverbs 30:5-9:
Every word of God is tested;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Add nothing to his words,
lest he reprove you, and you will be exposed as a deceiver.

Two things I ask of you,
deny them not to me before I die:
Put falsehood and lying far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches;
provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
saying, "Who is the LORD?"
Or, being in want, I steal,
and profane the name of my God.

I take this to be a reading about simple living, though other things come into it too.  The wisdom here seems to say that if we live simply and have just what we need without extra, it will be easier to recognize the presence of God in our lives.  Having just moved, I know my world is not as simple as I would like it to be--I have more things, more books, more food, more than I need.  Americans in general live less simply than others, and I am undoubtedly American.  Maybe I need to move every year or two in order to remind myself that I don't need so much stuff!
Simplicity is more than possessions, though.  Life can be so complicated.  Work schedules, play times, exercise routines, obligations that we take on ourselves:  all these things add up to a lifestyle that requires me to move from one thing to the next without really taking time to consider who I am and why I'm doing all these things.

My life in the last three (or more) weeks has felt very complicated and hectic. Finally, this week, it's beginning to feel more regular and less like I have to run from one activity to the next.  

I was told that the years of novitiate are about spending time with God, and that many of the things that have become an ordinary part of my daily life will be set aside for a time.  That made me nervous.  Now, I am grateful, and I hope that I can take full advantage of this year of prayer and discernment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Official Opening of the Noviceship Year


Yesterday, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we celebrated the opening of my year of being a novice!  All of the Religious of the Sacred Heart who live in this area, along with some from out of town, joined us for Mass, followed by supper.  Our provincial, Paula, gave a reflection and presented me with a pin carrying the symbol of the Society.

It might seem strange to celebrate such a happy occasion on the feast dedicated to sorrow.  But the Society's dedication to "being the heart of God in the world" forces us to see, feel, experience the sorrows of all people in our world, and even of our world itself.  Just as the Mother of Jesus felt his pain and experienced sorrow out of her love for him, so we are called to feel the pain of those around us, of those we love.  Right now, for me, it's a call to awareness of what is happening in our world and how I might help those who are suffering.

The celebration last night was accompanied by an outpouring of love for me from my religious sisters across the country.  I cannot begin to express how humbled and grateful I am for this powerful love and support!  I am being held up by the prayers of many, and by the generous grace of God.  Thank you all, and know of my love and prayer for each of you!

This little post is hardly sufficient.  Words cannot express the warmth that is in my heart.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm a Novice!

My new neighbor and friend


It's official!  I moved to the novitiate a week ago, and I am a novice!

Amid all the chaos of moving, packing, unpacking, finding my way around in a new city, it has taken a while to sink in (and I'm sure it will continue to sink in).

What does it mean to be a novice?  Well, I'm still learning that part, but I know that it means I am given more time to spend with God in prayer, and with my community.  It also means that I will be learning about religious life both at home (where we will talk about the Society of the Sacred Heart and how we live in it) and in a class with other novices.

In prayer today, I was reading the alternate first reading, from Paul's letter to the Romans:
Brothers and sisters:  We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to God's purpose.
I know in my heart that I am called by God, and that helps me through the challenges of a new city and a new way of life.

Blessings to all!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Faithfulness of God

This phrase -- the faithfulness of God -- has been in my heart and head.  We celebrated the 40th anniversary of final profession for three sisters yesterday afternoon, and this idea was part of the prayer and reflections.  

My life has been filled lately with leavetaking.  I'm preparing to move in a week, leaving behind a city that has been my home for most of the last 10 years, and a group of women, my religious sisters, whom I love deeply.  My heart has been heavy, even though I know that what awaits me on the other end is good and beautiful -- another group of amazing women who are my sisters, and entrance into the novitiate.

The prayer reminded me yesterday that no matter how heavy this leavetaking feels, I am supported by and grounded in God's faithfulness.  God will not abandon me, and remembering that brings me peace.  My fears, doubts, sadness are so small when compared to the profound faithfulness of God.  When I look over the last year, and even over the course of my lifetime, I can see that faithfulness at work in both big and small things in my life.  I'm glad for the reminder to see what has been there all along.

So, how has God been faithful in your life?

And a song...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Being Transfigured

Taken in June, Albany, NY

While the Transfiguration was a few days ago now, it's still in my thoughts...  I think my favorite reading is the second one of the day, 2 Peter 1:16-19:

Beloved:
We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
You will do well to be attentive to it,
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 
That second part is my favorite:  the reliability of the message and the apostles' attentiveness to it.

"You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."  The Transfiguration is about more than Jesus showing a piece of his true divine nature to his followers.  It's also about our own transfiguration through beginning to see that mystery that Jesus lovingly shares with us--that we let the morning star rise in our hearts.

Transformation and change require us to be open to God working in our hearts.  I've been thinking about the transfigurations that have happened in my own life, especially during the last year.  Life has a way of changing us, altering our perceptions, giving new meaning to what might seem old.  And at the same time, those changes do not alter the person who is at the core of our being.  In other words, though I know I have been changed by God in the last year, I am still the Juliet that I was before.  Perhaps I'm even more myself as I listen more closely to God in my heart and on my life's path.

How have you been transformed by the love of Jesus in the last year?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What If

A little story.

About five years ago, I interviewed for a job.  It was a good job, one that fit my skills, and I was well qualified (or they wouldn't have interviewed me, honestly).  Another woman was also interviewed, and she was offered and took the position.  I received a very kind rejection letter, explaining all the reasons why I was not chosen.  It was actually a good letter--the reasons given were very real, and spoke only of my lack of fit for the position.  In other words, I really felt that the decision was fair, and that the other candidate was clearly a better choice.  The letter also let me know that I, too, would have done well in the position.  It was really a positive affirmation.

Yesterday, I was talking with one of my former professors, who had been speaking with people from that same institution that interviewed me.  He discovered that the woman who was hired has been let go, not because of anything she did wrong, but because they are changing their priorities as an institution and no longer need a full time employee in that role.

My first thought was:  Wow.  Lucky me. I would be out of a job right now.

And then I kept thinking about it.  In a way, I am without a job now, though it's really by choice.  I'm in formation with a religious order that I love and feel called to.  Five years ago, I had not begun discerning religious life at all, and the job would have taken me to a place where the Society of the Sacred Heart has no presence.  I might not have met the Society.  I can't imagine that I would have avoided God's call to me personally, but I really have no idea how it would have worked out.

It is humbling to realize that things happen for a reason, even the disappointment of not getting a particular job.  I am so grateful that I didn't get that job, that I was in St Louis when I met the Society, that I met the Society at all, and that God has called me and led me to this moment.

Friday, July 30, 2010

RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five: Love the One You're With

In an attempt to keep up with this blog, I'm going to do the RGBP thing... From their website


This Friday Five will post while I'm at the beach which for me is more than a vacation destination, it is a trip home. I have found it quite easy to wax nostalgic about the places I used to live (well, except for one) and have begun to wonder what it is I like about the place I'm living now? For instance I sure do love the beach, but this picture was taken about 30 minutes away from my house - not too shabby!

And so I ask you to please name five things you like about where you are living now... and as your bonus - 1 thing you don't like.


This is an interesting friday five for me...I have 31 days left in my current home, and then I'm moving to become a novice in southern California!  So, with a bit of sadness at the coming move, I answer:  

Five things I like about where I live now:
  1. It is easy to get places.  I'm in St Louis, Missouri--not exactly a huge airport, but I can get to the east coast in a couple of hours, or I can get to the west coast in a few more than a couple of hours.  I think I notice this right now because moving to California means being a great deal farther away from my friends in the East.  Perhaps that is a good thing, but right now that mental picture is a bit challenging. 
  2. St Louis is full of free things to do.  There's the Saint Louis Art Museum (FREE!), the Saint Louis Zoo (FREE!  And a great zoo!), plus all of Forest Park.  
  3. And there are other good places to visit too, at a slightly greater distance....Pere Marquette State Park across the river (the river=the Mississippi, of course!) in Illinois, the little town of St Charles across the Missouri River (with its park dedicated to Lewis and Clark, celebrating their exploration of points west).... I could go on and on.  There are simply great fun things to do in St Louis. 
  4. The history of the Society of the Sacred Heart rests here as well.  St Rose Philippine Duchesne first brought a group of nuns to St Charles in 1818 and started a boarding school and a free school for girls.  As a historical theologian, I absolutely love that connection to the history of my religious order.  Philippine's Shrine is in St Charles, and her presence is an inspiration and support in my own journey. 
  5. I think I like St Louis most because it has become my home over the last 10 years.  I was not born here, did not grow up here, but I have been welcomed by this community and have come to be at home here.  


All the more reason why it's hard to be leaving soon.  But there is one negative thing I can say about this place:  it's too far from both the ocean and the mountains.  I guess that's one thing California can give me that Missouri cannot!



Thank you, RevGalBlogPals and Kathryn for bringing these thoughts to me!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Potter and the Lump of Clay

My friend Sister Susan has some great thoughts on lumps of clay over at her blog!

My reaction to the morning's reading was a little different from Susan's.  I've never taken a pottery class, though I think it would be fun--even if it is hard to make anything less earthy than a lump of clay!



Jeremiah says:

I went down to the potter's house and there he was,
working at the wheel.
Whenever the object of clay which he was making
turned out badly in his hand,
he tried again,
making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.

"He tried again."  My life over the past few years has been so full of changes, both external and internal.  I'm not a big fan of change, but I am very aware that the only way we become better people is by changing.  That God tries again calls me to patience with myself and with the changing world that is within and around me.

God has a particular purpose for each of us, but we sometimes live without attending to that purpose.  And so we are formed and reformed, allowed to grow in our unique and freely chosen ways.  If we actively seek to follow God, we must sometimes go back to our lumpy, earthy beginnings and try to find that right path anew. The only way that I can become more the woman God wants me to be is through changing, through trying again.

The image has its limits:  I don't think most of us every "turn out badly" and need to start completely from scratch.  Yet, it shows that God is persistent, working in and through our mistakes and foibles to create the human person God desires. 


There's another reading of the text that I've been thinking about as well.  In just about a month, I become a novice in the Society of the Sacred Heart.  I've been living the life for a year now, and the noviceship is the next step.  One of my wisdom figures said to me that being a novice is about discernment, asking the question "What am I supposed to do with my life?"  When I read about the potter forming and reforming the clay, it reminds me that this question, which I've obviously asked and answered several times already in my 31 years, is the question that I will be asking myself again and again for decades to come.  No doubt as a novice this is a very serious thing.  It's not just about what I want to do with my life, but what God wants me to do, and how willing I am to make a life-long commitment to this life.

I'm glad I don't have to think too hard about that for at least another month!

Time to jump back in

The summer has been a whirlwind, and so my blog has suffered...but I'm going to make the attempt once again to keep going!  I will be posting a reflection later today, on the potter and the clay, from today's first reading.  I hope someone is still out there who might want to read it!  Check back later!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A little story


(Image from animal.discovery.com)

I'm doing some work on medieval saints, and I came across this story recounted the Golden Legend by Jacques de Voraigne, about St. John the Evangelist and Apostle (medieval types were a little confused about this):

Someone gave a live partridge to the blessed John (as Cassian tells us in his Conferences), and he gently held and stroked the bird.  Seeing this, a boy laughed and called to his companions: "Come and watch this old man playing with a little bird like a child!" The saint, knowing by the spirit what was going on, called him and asked what it was the youngster held in his hand.  The boy said that it was a bow, and John asked what he did with it.  The answer was: "We shoot birds and animals!"  Then the lad stretched his bow and held it taut in his hand, but when the apostle said nothing, he loosened it.  John asked him why he loosened the bowstring, and he replied: "Because if you keep it stretched too long, it gets too weak to shoot the arrows."  So John told him: "That's how it is with human fragility: we would have less strength for contemplation if we never relaxed and refused to give in now and then to our own weakness.  So too the eagle, which flies higher than any other bird and looks straight into the sun, yet by its nature must come down again; and the human spirit, after it rests awhile from contemplation, is refreshed and returns more ardently to heavenly thoughts."


(From the translation by William Granger Ryan, volume 1, p. 54.)

I'm looking forward to sort of the opposite--my retreat is next week!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie!



Today is the feast of St Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  She was born in 1779 in France, and she founded this "little Society" in 1800.  I keep learning more and more about her, but I'm sure there are better biographies online than what I could provide.  

What I love about Sophie is her generous heart and her recognition of the Christ in each individual.  Her letters show how she knew the needs and hearts of each individual to whom she wrote--and she addressed them with loving care, seeking to comfort those who needed comfort and gently challenge those who were too comfortable.

The readings for her feast day include Colossians 3:12-17, which seems to sum up her ideals very well:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Happy Feast!  Pray for us, Saint Madeleine Sophie!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Truth

From today's Gospel (John 17:11b-19):  "Consecrate them in the truth."

Jesus is speaking to the Father about his followers.  I've been thinking about that phrase this morning, and I don't really know what it means to be consecrated in the truth.  Yet, "truth" has been on my mind a lot lately--finding my truth, my true self, and really speaking my truth.  

The last year or so, at least since entering the Society of the Sacred Heart, has been a time for me to discover who I am and what I value.  I don't think my values have really changed, though my eyes have been opened to new things in new ways--things like human trafficking and the concerns about the environment.  At the same time, I've been trying to really speak up for what I think, feel, believe.  That's not so easy for me, but the encouragement and respect of my sisters has helped me with that.

And I still have questions about truth, too.  There are some truths that are better kept in my heart than spoken out loud, sometimes because those things are private, and at other times because they would be hurtful to someone else.  How do you balance being truthful and caring for the feelings of the ones you love?  It seems to me like that's sometimes a very fine line.

The Gospel reading continues:

Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

So, being consecrated in truth means being consecrated in the word of God, which means being set aside for God's special purpose, in and for Jesus. Isn't that a powerful way to think about living as a Christian?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Commitment


I've been asked to reflect a bit about commitment, and so I share some of my thoughts here.

The following quotation from Pedro Arrupe, S.J. has been finding me lately:


"Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart, 
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything."


How does that relate to commitment?  Well, I've fallen in love, and my world changed.  I get out of bed in the morning to pray and go to mass before work.  I spend my evenings and weekends with community (though I also spend time with friends).  My Sister introduced me to my new favorite novelist (P.D. James!).  I know so many more people, and I am often amazed at the sorrows and blessings that people ask me to pray for.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quote from Dorothy Day

This is, admittedly, a very random post, but one of my students did a presentation on Dorothy Day today, and she cited this quotation:



Knitting is very conducive to thought. It is nice to knit a while, put down the needles, write a while, then take up the sock again.

Amen to that!  She was an amazing woman -- I didn't know she knitted too!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mystery


Ford Madox Brown. Jesus Washing Peter's Feet. 1852-56.

"What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later."

Poor Peter--always lacking in understanding.  Who can blame him?  His teacher has just said he wants to wash his feet, which is not such a pleasant task in a world of dust and sandals.

The sentence above is what sticks with me today.  I feel surrounded by mystery lately--the mystery of living in community, the mystery of Jesus' great love for me, and the mystery of God's calling me to a new way of living.  I don't know how to find the words to express the depth to which I feel that mystery in my life on a daily basis.  (That's part of the reason for silence on this blog.)

What I do know is that it's okay that I don't understand.  Theology is like that--studying God because you can always know more.  You can never fully understand God because God is so much bigger / greater / more than our human minds can comprehend. 

My thoughts have turned recently to the mystery of community.  I live with (and the whole Society of the Sacred Heart includes) such a variety of personalities, so many differences of opinion, of taste, of age, and yet we are drawn together in community in such a strong way.  We differ on so much, but we share a greater desire to make a difference in the world, to help those around us know that God loves them.  We are to be the love of God in our broken and suffering world.  That also means taking on suffering ourselves, not unlike Christ's suffering on the cross for Love.

I can feel that unity among us, all of us around the world, and it is a complete mystery to me.  I know that it can only come from God, who is Mystery. 

So, how to respond to mystery?  Sit and rest with it.  Like Peter, I do not need to understand yet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Feast of the Annunciation


Photo was taken at the Shrine of Our Lady of Snows in Belleville, IL.

So, it seems that this blog is now a monthly event for me...  for right now, that's just how it is.

Today is the feast of the Annunciation.  I'm planning the prayer for the evening, so I thought I would share the reading that I've chosen, from Mother Janet Erskine Stuart, on the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

    Serving God gratis means with no conditions at all, here or there, in this or that employment, in health or sickness, consolation, uncertainty, repugnances, [in] God’s will and God’s service.  I, His little servant, need nothing else.  That is Our Lady’s spirit, and the word that came out of the depths of her Immaculate Heart at the great moment of her life was, “ecce ancilla Domini.
    If she were now in our midst, what would she be like and what would be her “gratis service?”  Willing service of God and of others, untiring, constant and devoted. What entire absence of any claim for herself of praise, recognition, consideration.  How she would be at the service of any one without choice.  She would be happiest in the most hidden and subject work, but she would not let the love of silence and the hidden life interfere with the calls of service of others, or with personal devotedness or the real gift of self.
    “Take and receive O Lord,” means a complete gift, and Our Lord takes and receives through the hands of others, our Mothers and Sisters, and the children.
    Our Lady would say to us today: “freely you have received, freely give.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Janet Erskine Stuart



I'm sorry to have neglected the blog!  Life gets crazy sometimes, and you could say that about the last month.

Today, my community is doing a day of formation centered on the life and teachings of Mother Janet Erskine Stuart, the fifth Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart.  She's most known for her ideas about education, and in fact, you can find her work The Education of Young Girls in its entirety online here.  (Another work, The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, by Maud Monahan is also available as an ebook.)

One quotation to share, which I find fits with my understanding of a teacher's role:

"What do we want to bring up? Not good nonentities, who are only good because they are not bad. There are too many of them already, no trouble to anyone, only disappointing, so good that they ought to be so much better, if only they would. But who can make them be more?… Those who have to educate them to something higher must themselves have an idea of what they want; they must believe in the possibility of every mind and character to be lifted up to something better than it has already attained; they must themselves be striving for some higher excellence, and must believe and care deeply for the things they teach. For no one can be educated by maxim and precept; it is the life lived, and the things loved and the ideals believed in, by which we tell, one upon another.... If we want integrity of character, steadiness, reliability, courage, thoroughness, all the harder qualities that serve as backbone, we, at least, make others want them by the power of example that is not set as deliberate good example, for that is as tame as precept; but the example of the life that is lived, and the truths that are honestly believed in."

Thursday, January 14, 2010





Well, spring semester has officially begun.  Life here is pretty busy--first week of classes is always exhausting, even if I'm well prepared.  I have a total of 75 students in three classes, and I think it will be a good semester.  I'm thankful that the three classes are the same, and that I have a good head start on the preparations, since I've taught it before (though I will still update the class a bit).

Life otherwise is good, and also busy.  I leave this weekend to have some fun with other young nuns!  I'm excited to see everyone, and to have some relaxing times in a warmer climate!  Thank you, Giving Voice!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Love and Fear




From today's first reading, 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

My mind was already on the relationship between fear and love this morning, when the priest began to ask about it. He posed some questions, most of which I've forgotten.  One was, Do you think that you can be in love and still be fearful?  Do you think that fear and love are mutually exclusive?

He answered that he didn't think so, and I think he's right.  But on the other hand, both fear and love affect each other.  Fear is diminished when we love and when we know that we are loved.  How much easier is it to deal with challenging circumstances when we know that our loved ones are with us?

And also, it takes courage to love freely, to offer yourself to another without knowing what you will receive in return.  It's so easy to get to know another person only on a surface level, afraid that revealing too much of yourself might drive the other away, or that they might not reciprocate.  In fear, we hold ourselves back, trying not to open ourselves to being vulnerable, to being hurt when the relationship changes.  Relationships are changing all the time as things in our lives change--new jobs, moving to new places, getting married, commiting to religious life, having children...all these things change the way we relate to our friends, and sometimes the result is painful loss.

"To love is to suffer" says St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, for loving another means we are vulnerable to the pain of loss, and vulnerable to experiencing the pain that our loved one feels.  And yet, Sophie continues:  "To love is to suffer, but not to love is to die."  Our lives, our world, everything is given meaning through love.  Without love, without suffering, we do not really live.

I pray that all people in our world can find a way to live and act out of love, not out of fear.