Yesterday we entered the holy season of Lent. I was traveling on Ash Wednesday and it was interesting to observe who at the airport had ashes and who didn't. A woman sat next to me on the plane and said, "I see your ashes. My son is a first grader at St. Paul's in Westerville and he is so excited today because his whole class is going to church for ashes." A man then took a seat near us, and a gentleman who seemed to know him said, "Well, I see you've been to Mass!" "Yes, I went with the kids this morning. They said, 'Dad, you've GOT to go!'"
This past Saturday, I was at in Wooster, OH, preaching a retreat for the women of St. Mary Parish. We were dialoguing on our call to being the daughter of God that each of is created to be. One of the women, an RN, offered the following: "In medicine, health is simply defined as being and becoming. Good health is to be the best we are able to be yet daily aiming to becoming more. Day to day it is being and becoming, being and becoming.” Can we not apply that to spiritual health as well? Being each moment as God's image through the personality God gave me yet always open to becoming more than the moment before. Openness to the God who is always present for "in God we live and move and have our being" moment by moment. Every moment we are offered a choice, in the words of Shakespeare's Hamlet, "to be or not to be" God’s daughter, God's son.
"One does not help only one's own generation. Generation after generation, David pours enthusiasm into somber souls. Generation after generation, Samson arms weak souls with the strength of heroes." - The Hasidic Masters
As we begin National Catholic Sisters Week, this quote from the Hasidic Masters came to mind. For every student taught, patient comforted, homeless person helped, directee guided or senator visited, a sister has left a compassionate memory for years to follow. Recently, at a meeting in Chicago, a Viatorian brother, who serves on his community's council, informed me that he decided to pursue a social work career after serving as a volunteer in my social service program at Catholic Charities. That gives me energy on days that are challenging!
"Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are." – Hafsat Abiola
Religious women have always been on the cutting edge of anticipating and answering the needs of society. Many religious have also embraced the challenge in Pope Francis that we should be "women and men who are able to wake up the world." And so the question becomes, "How do we nurture and engage the next generation of young women to "wake up the world" as vowed religious spreading the joy of the gospel?" On February 18-19, 2014, over 25 congregations gathered in Chicago, IL to brainstorm and share ideas around continuing the hope filled process of promoting religious life in the 21st century. The event was sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) which is an important partner in the ongoing work of supporting vocations in the Church.
As many of you know, I am an Adjunct Professor of Homiletics at St. Mary Seminary in Cleveland, OH. I know that they learn much from me; however, in turn, I learn much from them. Last week, my students had their first preaching practicum; their homilies were drawn from the scriptures of the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time. One student, Robert McWilliams, began with the following question: "Does being a Christian, a temple of God, one belonging to Christ, color and highlight every facet of our lives in a way that the world knows that we believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are made for more, that we are made for love?" Wow! that sat us up straight! He went on to develop that what we do is important but it is not the defining characteristic of being Christian. What defines us and makes all the difference is the lens through which we view the world, our lives, each other.
Sacred Space. What image comes to mind when you think of a sacred space?
For many, the image would be of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Special moments such as Baptisms, First Communions, and marriages are images that easily appear as sacred moments in a sacred space.
It was to such a sacred space that a young woman came on a Saturday in August a few years ago in Owensboro, Kentucky. The doors to this Catholic Church were open as usual, reflecting the desire of the parish to be open and accepting of all people. This young woman came to pray the Stations of the Cross as she frequently did in the past. She was alone with her thoughts and her God. What she did not know at the time was that she really was not alone.
Have you noticed, we are in the midst of a pre-event publicity campaign? Take a look at the homepage of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, there is a new tab: Catholic Sisters Week. Google the same things and a growing list of web pages is appearing. There is a February 7 article in National Catholic Reporter detailing the three year event. Check out the Hilton Foundation’s website, they are the sponsoring organization. In each of these you have an invitation to be a part of this year's event.
The recent "Come and See Retreat" became for a few days, the "WAIT and SEE Retreat" as we wondered, "Would those who signed up to attend be able to make it to the Martin de Porres Center with such bad weather criss-crossing the nation?" Planes and busses were expected from Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and central Ohio, but in the end, with only one cancellation, we put on our Ruby Slippers and went forward.
"Follow your dreams and give yourself to your passion! Give yourself to something greater than yourself, the Gospel, and ask yourself, "Can I be myself without excessive anxiety, and can I be myself in the company of the Dominican Sisters of Peace?"" These were just a few of the challenges Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, shared as she led all more deeply into the theme, "Discovering Home: The Wizard of Oz and Discernment."
Watching the Olympics always affects me in two ways: a sense of awe at the feats performed and an uneasy, almost guilty, feeling engendered by the athletes' focused and terrible dedication to their sport. I say terrible because the athlete is not to be dissuaded from his/her intent on becoming the best, no matter the price. In that awareness, I am forced to ask myself: Do I have that same terrible dedication to living the Gospel? to being at all times a living preaching of the Gospel? The Olympics always serve as an examination of conscience for me.