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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sharing How I Pray

One of the questions I usually ask anyone who comes for spiritual direction is "how do you pray.?"
I do not remember most of my superiors asking me that same question; they were always there to help me if I did have a problem, but I probably did not know how to talk about positive experiences in prayer. When I went to the Motherhouse in Rome to prepare for final profession, I was sent with another American to ask Reverend Mother Benziger, the assistant General in charge of the English speaking Houses in the Society of the Sacred Heart, if she wanted to see all the Americans as we were free . She said yes but to let the French Moher who watched over the entire international group know that the Americans would be with her now. As we both started to leave, she said, " Well, don't both of you go" and she motioned for me to stay as she did not know me. I went over and said that her sister, who was also a Sacred Heart nun, had sent her a big hug. I proceeded to deliver it. She hugged me back and told me that her sister always sent her a hug with every group on their way to Rome but I was the first to deliver one to her. Then she looked me in the eye and said "Come, tell me about your prayer" and so I did. When I told her I just entered the Heart of Jesus she said, "Yes, I understand" and I knew she did. It was the beginning of a deep and valued friendship for me. I wish now that I had kept the notes she wrote me.
Now, I still pray in the Heart of Jesus but would admit that my prayer is something of a "hodge-podge " (strange expression) : I like to look at the readings of the day and often stay with a line from the Gospel. I just sit with it or talk to Jesus about it. It leads me into my own way of Centering Prayer where I rest in the Heart of Jesus.

Here are three things the Pope said yesterday : The Pope spoke of three conditions at the core of the search for Christian unity – firstly, there’s no unity without conversion of heart, which includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness.

Secondly he said there is no unity without prayer and therefore men and women religious who pray for unity are like ‘an invisible monastery’ bringing together Christians of different denominations from different countries around the world.

Thirdly, the Pope said, there is no unity without holiness of daily life. so the more we put our search for unity into practise in our relations with others, the more we will be modelling our lives on the message of the Gospel.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jesus intercedes for us.

Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” The Pope is quoting from Hebrews and saying the most important thing is to know that Jesus is always able to save us.

I am reading a recent life of Pope Francis and was struck by the way he would sit down with his priests in Argentina and ask them how they prayed. It is not an easy question to answer but one that opens our interior life to another and helps us to be known more deeply.  I had an experience that led to this kind of knowing in depth when I was in Rome. I will try sharing it tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

There are situations . . .

In #115 of our Constitutions we read

"There are situations, whatever our age, when a special call of God may come to us through the experience of certain deprivations such as illness, decline of physical energy or the lessening of responsibilities. Our response to such situations cannot be improvised, but is prepared throughout our whole life; in prayer we discover that the fidelity of God dwells at the very core of our weakness."

I think a special call from God has come to me during this frustrating illness. It is a call to live united to Jesus , trusting His Heart and forgetting self so that I may choose only what pleases Jesus.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Amazing the people Jesus chooses

Jesus prayed and then chose twelve to be formed by Him to work for the reign of God. He did not choose the wealthy or the learned; he did not choose those in authority, those with power, or fame. Jesus chose humble, human men to be his Apostles. They were to be with Him - He formed them by being with them. These poor, simple men are chosen by name. Luke tells us that Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing he twelve.
We, too, have been chosen; Jesus still calls us by name to be with Him. He knows our weaknesses, but He loves us and exchanges our weakness for His strength, our misery for His mercy. He is the Good Shepherd who calls us by name, who is with us, who seeks the sheep who strays...

I think I am now loving my solitude with the Presence of Jesus permeating the entire day. It is an amazing experience that this extrovert usually has only in retreat.

Friday, January 23, 2015

We are a unique manifestation of the Divine.

In Philip Newell's "The Rebirthing of God", he tells us that ,Gerry Hughes, a Scottish Jesuit, liked to introduce himself by saying, " Hello. I'm Gerry, a unique manifestation of the Divine."
Each of us is a  unique manifestation of the Divine. Do I really believe this? How do I discover the Divine in others? Even more important, how do I realize that I am a unique manifestation of God?

God lives in me.     What a mystery!

I have been praying over our Constitutions. Number 21, which falls under the section on prayer, says:
"The Spirit dwelling within us gradually transforms us through His power to remove whatever hinders His action.
The spirit unites and conforms us to Jesus and makes us sensitive to His presence within ourselves, in
others and in all that happens. Thu we learn to contemplate reality and to experience it with His
Heart, to commit ourselves to the service of the Kingdom and to grow in love."
Come, Holy Spirit...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Exercise Does give Energy

When I was in high school I played on both the basketball and hockey varsity, rode my bike everywhere and then made the hockey varsity as a freshman in college. As a second year novice I coached all the sports for the high school and junior high. I loved coaching. However, I think the sixty-four years since my vows have not included exercise. When I retired, at age 80, I joined a gym and took a silver sneakers class. I was the only non-Hispanic in the class. Then I found Paradise Gym with a very active class where I actually managed to get down and (even more of a miracle) up from the mat. The gym became Club X but I stayed even though the class was now $40 a month but so much fun and convenient. I also made the 12:05 Mass everyday going straight from the gym. I found the exercise gave me more energy, at least until after lunch. Then, on sunny days, I spend a half hour in our pool.
Now, I am again allowed to exercise. Since I am still in isolation, I cannot go to the "armchair exercise" video at 2:30 each day, but I am allowed to go use the two machines that help strengthen my legs and arms. I try to do an hour of exercise each morning and I am finding it renews me in many ways. It is contemplative as I am alone. I watch the squirrels; we seem to have an entire colony of young ones who play tag and hide-and-go-seek and never seem to tire. I return to my room feeling at peace and content. After lunch I take a walk. Actually, I try for two 20 minute walks a day now that I am stronger. I am not a walker and would prefer to be swimming in our pool in Miami, but one adapts and the grounds are beautiful. I just am so grateful that I am able to walk.
This was not a spiritual blog but I guess one of the things I have learned in these months of isolation is the importance of exercise for mental health as well as physical. When I entered religious life at nineteen, one of my Jesuit cousins told me: "Eat well, sleep well, and play well and you will pray well."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Remain in silence . . .

In prayer we come to Him 
with everything that touches our life, 
with the sufferings and hopes of humanity. 
We learn to remain in silence
and poverty of heart before Him. 
In the free gift of ourselves 
we learn to adore and to abide in His love.
“Prayer,” #20, RSCJ 1982 Constitutions

I have been praying over the above passage from our Constitutions. I think I do take to prayer all that touches our life. Learning to remain in silence and poverty of heart before the Lord is something that He is still teaching me. These days of solitude are helping me. It is such a grace to adore, to abide in His Love by going deep into His Heart. His solitude is a crushing reality!

Several readers of my blog have given me positive feedback on the personal sharing I have been doing, especially on the topic of isolation. I think there are times in our lives when we all experience some sort of isolation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jesus is Lord so relax ...

When we realize that Jesus is Lord, we can relax. He loves each of us. He can do anything. We need only to trust His Heart.

Pope Francis said in his visit toTacloban in his homily:
"I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father, you might say to me, I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life."

How wonderful to know that Jesus is Lord and He loves us!

Monday, January 19, 2015

What are you looking for?

Praying over the Sunday Gospel often takes several days. The first question Jesus asks in John's Gospel is directed to the two disciples of John who are following him: "What are you looking for?"
I seem to hear Jesus asking me the same question. He wants to have me articulate the answer now. Now, in this moment, what am I seeking? He waits for my answer and then invites me into His Heart!

I also continued reflecting on what I am learning in isolation. Here are the first seven things:
1. I am never alone because God is with me and leads me.
2. I do not really mind the solitude but perhaps it is the idea of not having chosen the isolation but had it imposed.
3. I can still follow an order of day and be productive.
4. I can still be joyful and grateful.
5. I want to be in control and do everything by myself; I want my medicine & meals on time!
6 I can procrastinate in isolation, too.
7. I miss people and spiritual conversations.

I know that I am learning to just slow down, appreciate the little things, the cards with words of encouragement, those who play Words with Friends with me, the letters, e-mails, that are so full of love. I read less and pray more.
Now the question Jesus asks is the same one found at the end of John's Gospel: "Whom are you seeking?
The holy religious living across the hall from me died peacefully early this morning. I am sure she went straight to heaven.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pray As You Can

I have often told others that the best way to pray is the way you pray best. One needs to pray as one can, not as one can't! Mother Stuart said, "our prayer should invade the whole day. The great thing is to find what suits us, not what suits another."
That quote is on the calendar for the month of January; a dear friend in England sends me their lovely calendar with a quote from Mother Stuart and a picture that inspires me each month. Since I am in isolation, my prayer has changed. Prayer is the expression of my relationship with God- with each of Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our Lady is always present.
I have noticed that I am really talking more to Jesus about everything. At the same time, I also see how "coming back to life and regaining strength" has impacted me. There is a sense of awe, and gratitude, and joy even while feeling weak.
One other favorite thought to share with you about prayer comes from Thomas Merton. "How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun."


Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Real Work

What is my real work? I am enjoying this reflection by Wendell Berry which I am copying from "friends of Silence" January 2015 issue.

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed"

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Learning to love silence

God has been leading me into silence all of my Religious life. I see that as I look back, but when I entered our strict rule of silence was very difficult for me. We also had what was called "greater silence" which meant no talking from night prayers until breakfast and breakfast was also in silence except for special occasions. When I told my Dad about greater silence he thought that was a marvelous practice!
When I was spending six transforming months at the Trinita Dei Monti in Rome, everyone who spoke French actually disappeared that summer; I was surrounded by Italian and so spent much of the summer in silence. Then, after five months at the Mother House, I made my final profession and was sent straight to Chile without knowing any Spanish. God was teaching me to talk to Him and so I began to love and value silence. Now He is giving me the opportunity again in isolation!
Some of the most treasured times in my life have been the 30-day retreats I have been priviliged to make and give. I have made the Ignatian 30-day retreat three times and at least twice a 30-day prayer experience so those have been special times of silence to just be with Jesus. Every year I look forward to at least a week or eight days of silent retreat. However, the silence of isolation due to illness is very different so I am having to reflect on the gift of this time while wishing it would end.