Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love is Strong as Death

Today we celebrate the feast of our foundress--Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat!  Happy Feast!

I'm stuck on the first rite of the mass (the introductory verse that we usually skip):

"Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm, for love is strong as death."  (Cant. 8:6)

Love is strong as death.  Over the past several months, I've been pondering how love can conquer our fears, that my fears are eased when I remember the love of Jesus.  What do I have to be afraid of when I am filled with God's love--a love that is far stronger than all else!

And yet, I do have fears. We all do.  Fears of failure, of disappointment, of loss, and of death, to name a few.  One of the most beautiful things about the Society of the Sacred Heart for me is the element of love.  Sophie founded a community of women who are devoted to sharing God's love with all they meet.  Women who help every person they encounter to know that they are loved.  It sounds sort of lofty, that goal, but I think I entered the Society in part because I saw it in action:  I felt loved by the sisters I met.  I felt God's love in their love for me.

My fears are still there, but somehow the challenges of life seem less overwhelming when I know that I am not alone, that I am loved, that Jesus is with me through it all.

On another note, I share the picture above because I think it is so lovely!  This is a window in the Sacred Heart School in Chicago (Sheridan Road) in honor of Sophie.  Sophie grew up on her family's vineyards in Joigny, France. She loved to be with her father in the vineyards, and the image of the vine and branches became one of her favorites.  In fact, the gospel for the feast is John 15:1-12:  

"I am the vine and you are the branches. ... As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  ...  This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you."

May we grow ever more aware of God's love for us 
and the presence of Jesus in our hearts.
May we be able to share more fully the love of Jesus 

with those we meet, a love that casts out fear.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Sacrament of the Sick

The last two weeks have been challenging to say the least.  About two weeks ago, I had to have emergency surgery to remove my appendix.  Pretty common, I know, but still, surgery is scary!  I'm never really sick, and I'd never been to surgery or even admitted to the hospital before.

I was scared, to say the least.  But I was also in pain and sick, and so I could ignore the fear in order to just let the surgeon do his work.

Somehow the hospital didn't get a record that I was Roman Catholic, and so no chaplains visited me, until a few days later when they visited the other person in my room. Fr. Jim brought her communion, then asked me who I was and offered me the Sacrament of the Sick and Eucharist. He anointed me, said the words, and I burst into tears, my first since the surgery.  I was so immediately relieved, and also suddenly aware of how frightened I had been for days.  I felt God's presence with me, the warmth and love flooding over me with the prayer and the oil.  Remembering that feeling still brings tears to my eyes.

Sickness makes us feel helpless, vulnerable, dependent on those around us and on God.  Although I'm physically getting better, I know I need to think more about this experience, pray more with it and the lessons the vulnerability offers.  One of my friends told me that God loves me even when I feel like I can't do anything--what humility it takes to accept that love when I feel I have nothing to offer in return.