I suspect that many of my readers spent Saturday glued to the television. First, there was the incredible ceremony at Our Lady of Perpetual Help; it was a funeral Mass that made us present to the family and able to hear the moving eulogies given by his sons and our President. I felt caught up in the prayer for Ted and for all who loved him; I also began to feel an admiration for those who really strive to help others in our political system. The evening coverage of the actual arrival and burial was long but moving. Then came the video where Ted spoke to us in scenes filmed through the years. It brought back so many memories of all the Kennedys and how much they have done. None of us are perfect, but the good we do can live on and Ted certainly worked hard to help many. I think Saturday was a special day in our history and may it inspire many politicians to strive for justice in all the ways Ted did.
The events of the past few days have marked this week. Ted Kennedy was a part of all of our lives. It is amazing what one man accomplished. I thought that the Opening Prayer for today's Liturgy might speak to you as it does to me so I am copying it here:
"Almighty God, every good thing comes from you. Fill our hearts with love for you. Increase our faith, and by your constant care protect the good you have given us."
The Alternate Opening Prayer is also good for reflection today: "Lord God of power and might, nothing is good which is against your will, and all is of value which comes from your hand. Place in our hearts a desire to please you and fill our minds with insight into love, so that every thought may grow in wisdom and all our efforts may be filled with your peace."
Those prayers have so much to say to me that I may be returning to them all week. I also love the short Communion Antiphon: "O Lord, how great is the depth of the kindness you have shown to those who love you." It makes a good prayer to say today in remembering Ted Kennedy!
On September 18, 1824, at the Solemn Distribution of Prizes, Mary Ann received the coveted First Medallion; this was given for excellence in conduct, academics, and leadership. It is not given often but Mary Ann was an outstanding student. As she left school, she knew she would soon be back. She was now considered a young lady, although not yet fifteen years old! She was to have a year at home where she delighted all - her parents, her family, the slaves, and her many friends. However, by the end of a year of gaiety, Mary Ann decided that she had a vocation. Her mother had guessed this, but her father did not believe it. Her friends planned a big party for September 28 and wanted Mary Ann to attend the dance. She went up to dress that night for the party and realized that the moment had come for her to choose between God and herself. She put her ball dress out of sight; sat down and wrote two notes. She called the slave who was to drive her to the party and told him to take the one that was her polite refusal. She slipped the other under the door of her father's room. She told him that she was leaving for Grand Coteau the next day. She spent the night packing but could hear her father pacing the floor. The next morning she waited until she thought no one would be in the dining room, but her father was waiting for her and merely remarked that he would be glad to drive her over to Grand Coteau. The sooner she went, the sooner she would come back. Mary Ann said good-bye to all and when she arrived she flew into the arms of Mother Aude and joyfully told her, "I've come to stay!" Mr. Hardey still thought she would be back in a week and told her so. He also asked if there was anything she wanted. Mary Ann thought and then with a distressed look said, "Yes, I forgot my mirror. Will you sent it over to me?" There were two novices who had taken the habit in May and had also taken the names of Sophie and Philippine in honor of Mother Barat and Mother Duchesne. Mary would be given the name of Aloysia.
Today is the Feast of St. Augustine and I need to mention this before continuing with the life of Mother Hardey. Augustine owed his conversion to the prayer of his mother, Monica; we celebrated her feast yesterday as she never gave up praying for him.
Augustine was born in North Africa in 354. He was a brilliant teacher and scholar, but followed Mani; later he would be able to defend the Christian faith against Manichaeism and other heresies. While teaching in Carthage, his mistress bore a son he named Adeotus. At the age of twenty-nine, Augustine relocated to Italy to teach in Rome and then in Milan. He heard St. Ambrose preach in Milan and finally was, through a special grace, converted and baptized in 387. His mother died later that year and his son just two years later. Augustine was ordained and became biship of Hippo. He founded the Augustinian Order because he wanted his priests to live together and support one another by their friendship. He tells his life story in his Confessions, one of the great spiritual classics.
Mother Duchesne's picture; she is now St. Philippine Duchesne and so loved by all. I thought you would like to hear how she met Mary Ann Hardey.
It was the last day of school at Grand Coteau before the two-week vacation between terms. To the great surprise and joy of all, Mother Duchesne arrives with two young nuns. One had just made her first vows and the other was still a novice. All three had been frightened by the Indians that had passed their canoe but were overjoyed to arrive at Grand Coteau after weeks of travel. Mother Aude (I hope my readers know that there should be an accent on Aude but my computer does not allow me to put it each time) wanted the children to make a good impression and hastily arranged a reception for Mother Duchesne. There were seventeen students now, but who would represent them best to read the address in French? Although only at the boarding school for three months and not in the highest class, Mary Ann was chosen. Mother Williams describes this so well: "A rustle, a murmur. Mother Duchesne was in her place. Mary Ann rose and stepped before her. She curtseyed and read the French address impeccably. At appropriate intervals her grey eyes rose to meet the steady, penetrating gaze that rested upon her. If the hands of the clock could have folded together at that hour and the significance of the past and future been revealed in the unity of the present, what would it have meant for Mother Duchesne to know what this child would be, to know what a large part of the harvest that she herself could not see while still in the toil of the planting, would be reaped by those young hands, reaped and scattered as fresh grain in fields lying the length of an ocean from Halifax to Cuba?" After the address, Mother Duchesne called the children to her. They would remember that evening even in the excitement of leaving the next morning for their vacation.
Mary Ann Hardey felt the call to be a Religious of the Sacred Heart soon after her arrival at Grand Coteau. At first, she was attracted to Mother Aude and saw her love for the Society of the Sacred Heart; when June came, Mary Ann found the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus resonated in her during the daily devotions. She began to contemplate the love of the Heart of Jesus for her and for each and inside her she felt the call to respond to that love and lead others to know the love of His Heart. Mother Anna Xavier Murphy had come to Grand Coteau just a few months before Mary Ann began to board there. Mother Murphy was an Irish woman who had entered the Society in 1820; Mother Barat recognized that she would be an excellent missionary to sail with Lucille Mathevon in 1822. Mary Ann found herself attracted to this young Irish nun. Mother Williams tells us that Mary Ann heard Mother Murphy say one day, "When I was a little girl.." and she cried out abruptly to the nun, "were you ever a little girl?" Then Mother Murphy explained that ordinary people are sometimes called by God to give themselves to a special kind of life all for Him. From that moment, Mother Hardey said later, "I date my conversion. Since nuns were once like me, why cannot I be like them. And for that end I began to correct my faults." Mary Ann Hardey found that she admired Mother Murphy because she radiated the presence of God. She said that she seemed to hear an interior voice telling her, "What others have done you can do." She knew without doubt that she would be a Religious of the Sacred Heart.
Today is the Feast of St. Louis and St. Louis, Missouri, is my hometown so I was remembering the huge statue of this French king on horseback that overlooks Art Hill in front of the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. He looks so courageous and very dignified. He was also a holy man. The picture is one taken of the convent cemetery in Grand Coteau. It has recently been "fixed up", if that is what one can say about a cemetery that has been restored - I have not yet seen it so do not know if it is anything like it was years ago when each black cross had a rosebush encircling it. Many of my friends are buried there so I always try to go there to pray when I am in Grand Coteau. To return to Mary Ann Hardey and her school days and I have two stories that she herself told later. On the first day visits were allowed, Mary Ann's mother arrived. To her consternation, Mary Ann burst into tears when her mother asked her if she was eating well. She told her mother that the nuns put worms into the soup! When this was translated into French so that Mother Aude could understand, this rather staid and formal superior began to laugh as she tried to explain that what Mary Ann thought were worms were noodles. In France, soups were often made with noodles but Mary Ann had never seen these wiggley things before and thought she was being made to eat worms! The other story Mother Aude did not think amusing. It seems that the Bishop was coming to visit and Mother Aude wanted to present the children at their best. They were made to practice the formal curtsy with which they were to greet him. Then the superior left to go greet the Bishop. The children were overcome with awe; led by Mary Ann, they all bolted and hid. The superior led the Bishop into the room and found it empty! Remember, Mary Ann was only twelve, but she was soon trying her best to be perfect and had quite a conversion.
Grand Coteau is still a small town; the Convent of the Sacred Heart has been there since 1822, the oldest Sacred Heart convent and school in continual existence. The Jesuits also are the other presence in Grand Coteau. The only stoplight is at one corner of their property. A Mr. Charles Smith and his wife had settled there and decided that Grand Coteau needed a church. The Church of St. Charles Borromeo was built by them. However, Mr. Smith died in 1819. When Bishop Dubourg visited in 1820, Mrs. Smith asked him about founding a school for girls. He had a quick answer for her and said that he had some Religious of the Sacred Heart who had arrived in America in 1818 and they would be the ones to found another school in the South for girls. Mother Duchesne agreed and sent Mother Aude and a young sister to start the school which opened in October of 1822. In the Spring of 1822, Mrs. Charles Smith visited the Hardey family. She was well-known to them as two of Mrs. Hardey's sisters had married two of Charles Smith's brothers! Ann Hardey had been sent the year before to the School of the Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg where many of her Smith cousins had also gone for their education. Mrs. Hardey was wondering if Mary Ann should go, too. Mrs. Smith proposed that Mary Ann should come to the new school at Grand Coteau. It had opened some months ago with five children including Mrs. Smith's own niece; now there were a dozen children and all were learning so much under the very competent Superior and teacher, Mother Eugenie Aude. Mary was now twelve years old and longing to go to Grand Coteau when her parents spoke to her about the new convent school. The obstacle was money for her tuition. Mr. Hardey was rich in land, but had very little cash. Mary Ann had an inspiration and asked if their slaves could not help by doing the convent washing as the nuns did not have slaves to do this. She thought this would help pay her tuition. Mr. Hardey gave his consent. The account books at the Convent record regularly $35 for Mademoiselle Hardey; the regular tuition was $45 a quarter so the labor of Mrs. Hardey's slaves gave Mary Ann the needed reduction. When Mary Ann arrived, she realized that Mother Aude's English was not yet fluent and so she made up her mind that she would practice her French at every opportunity. She did this and withing a few months was speaking the language so well that she told Mother Aude that now she could just speak to her in French. Although entering several months after the other students, Mary Ann applied herself and was soon seen to have an outstanding intellect and quick grasp of all that was being taught.
I am still with my thoughts in Louisiana with Mary Ann Hardey. This is a picture of a bayou and one remembers how frightened St. Philippine Duchesne and her companions were when they were overtaken by a canoe full of Indians. The Indians went past but Philippine feared that they were waiting for them further on and was so glad to at last arrive at Grand Coteau, but I am getting ahead of my story. Mary Ann Hardey will be one of the first pupils there. But the story of her life is only to be continued on Monday. Today we are going to visit one of our Sisters who moved to our retirement home at Oakwood last year. She is back and visiting her niece who lives in Central Florida so we will drive up, have lunch, and return home tomorrow. I saw her last summer and she loves being out at Oakwood, but misses family, I think, and California is a long way from Miami. When I was growing up we would always spend Sundays at my paternal grandmother's. She would have her six children all there every Sunday for dinner and then games. That lasted until I was in sixth grade and there was a shortage of gas plus my baby brothers came along and that made visiting more difficult. Instead, my maternal grandfather, great aunt, and great uncle, all began to come to our house on Sunday afternoons for a roast dinner. It just made Sunday a family day. Now, we are usually together on Sundays as a community and prayer together at six in the evening. When I was growing up, the stores were not open on Sunday and families stayed home! Here is a something you will like - I had read it before, but now it is sent to me with the source by my spiritual director:
We awaken in Christ's body as Christ awakens our bodies, and my poor hand is Christ, He enters my foot, and is infinitely me.
I move my hand, and wonderfully my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him (for God is indivisibly whole, seamless in His Godhood).
I move my foot, and at once He appears like a flash of lightning. Do my words seem blasphemous? -- Then open your heart to Him
and let yourself receive the one who is opening to you so deeply. For if we genuinely love Him, we wake up inside Christ's body
where all our body, all over, every most hidden part of it, is realized in joy as Him, and He makes us, utterly, real,
and everything that is hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in Him transformed
and recognized as whole, as lovely, and radiant in His light he awakens as the Beloved
St. Symeon -- from The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives, trans. John Anthony McGuckin. Boston: Shambala Publications, 2002.
Mary Ann's uncle was proud to show his home to his brother and to point out the site that would be for Frederick's family home. This was quickly built for them and they just had settled into this new home when the older brother, Charles Anthony, died. He left all his estate to Frederick. Sarah visited Saint Landry's and talked to Father Rossi. She learned that there was a school supervised by him and soon Ann and Mary Ann were enrolled. Ann was ten now and admitted to the First Communion class; Mary Ann was too young, but insisted on attending. One day, when the rest of the students could not answer Father Rossi's question, Mary Ann came forward and spoke with such clarity that Father Rossi took her aside afterwards and then decided that she should make her First Communion with her older sister. Soon the family circle was enlarged to five girls and three boys. Charles Anthony was born in 1819, George Raphael in 1820, and the other boy was Siebert but there is no record of his birth; we do not know the names of the other two girls. The plantation was a world in itself. Slave-quarters stretched in long rows behind the main house and every night all gathered for evening prayers led by Mary Ann's father. It was a happy family life and Mary Ann learned very early how to help her mother manage the large household.
I will continue later with more of Mother Hardey's life as she had so much influence on Catholic education in the United States. On Monday, we will look at her own education in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
Mary Ann Hardey was a "spoiled" and solitary pet of her grandmother's home until she was five. Now she found herself living with an "older" sister, Ann, and two other sisters who were younger, the baby was Matilda; the other sister's name is not known. Mary Ann slowly found her gaiety again surrounded by her mother's love and the other children.
Shortly after her arrival, her uncle Anthony who had moved to Louisiana, urged his relations to come, too. Sarah encouraged Frederick to accept and her parents gave them much to take with them, including more slaves. By the time they were ready to move, they had one hundred slaves to take with them and provide for on the journey. They had to cross the Alleghenies in covered wagons. When, at last they reached the Ohio river, they had to get flat-boats to transport them down to the Mississippi and then all the way down to New Orleans! Mary Ann is seven by this time and helped to mind the baby, but it was tiresome having to sit still so long for this active child. Her uncle met them in New Orleans and they had several days in that fascinating city. While supplies were being replenished, Mary Ann went with her mother and met her first "nun" at the Urseline convent. Soon they were off again in a long caravan; this time they road in ox-carts.
The little town of Opelousas was the nucleus for less than a hundred far-flung plantations. Some were owned by Crioles, some by newly arrived Americans, and some by Acadians.
Second Sowing is the title of a book by Margaret Williams that was published by Sheed and Ward in 1942. I read it during the high school retreat at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1946 and was very impressed with Mother Hardey. Last summer, in retreat, I again read another life of Mother Hardey written in 1925 by Mother Gavey. Both lives seem to be influencing me again so I thought it would be good to share some thoughts with you in my blog. Mother Margared Williams' "Second Sowing: The Life of Mary Aloysia Hardey" gives much background about the country, still so young, in which Mary Hardey lived from before the war of 1812 to after the Civil War. She shows how this tireless young Religious of the Sacred Heart was called to sow the seed first sown in this New World by St. Philippine Duchesne when she came from France in 1818 to establish the Society of the Sacred Heart in America. This year is the bicentennial of Mary Ann Hardey's birth and it is fitting that we look at her life and learn from it. Born December 8, 1809, in Piscataway, Maryland, her parents were Frederick and Sarah Spalding who had been married in 1806. The first daughter was named Ann; when the next daughter was born, she was named Mary Ann. Later, Mary Ann would change her name to Aloysia when she had been accepted into the Society of the Sacred Heart at a very young age. The spelling of their name to "Hardey" instead of Hardy was done earlier. When Mary was still a baby, Grandmother Spalding came from Baltimore and used the pretext of an epidemic of whooping cough to take Mary Ann back to Baltimore with her. Aunt Betty Edelin, the black "mammy" who cared for Mary Ann went with them. Grandmother Spalding kept Mary Ann until she was five. It was the danger from the British Redcoats during the War of 1812 that allowed Mary Ann to return home when she was five. She returned to a family she did not know! To be continued tomorrow!
Thoughts on Mother Aloysia Hardey These were found on the Greenwich Sacred Heart school website last May and seem a fitting introduction to the life of Mother Hardey. Since I am at present reading another life of this great religious, I thought I would share some thoughts about her with you, beginning with these copied from Greewich: Born in Prince George’s County, Maryland in December, 1809 and baptized as Mary Ann Hardey, Mother Hardey’s life and work spanned one of the most progressive and turbulent eras of American history, the mid-nineteenth century Her life’s journey, which lasted until her death in Paris in 1886, took her from Maryland to Louisiana, to New York, the mid-west, Canada, Cuba, London, Paris and Rome.
Her influence as an educator was profound, for as a woman ahead of her time, she worked untiringly on behalf of educational advancement for ALL women, rich and poor. With unflagging energy and courage, she established Sacred Heart schools in places as diverse as New York City, Detroit, Rochester, Halifax, Buffalo and Havana, Cuba, among others. Our own school(Greenwich) was founded directly by Mother Hardey; in fact, we have catalogs listing her name, many Annual Letters in which our school is featured, and even copies of letters she wrote to students’ parents, some of which have been on display on numerous occasions in our display case downstairs.
One author writes that Mother Hardey’s greatest talent as an educator lay in her ability to adapt the essential qualities of Sacred Heart education to the needs of the times. She truly laid the foundation for what we at Greenwich do so well today. She was a firm believer in advancement and progress in women’s education, and once stated that “education begins with the hearts; it molds the character and enlightens the mind. Understand well that your own education will never be finished.”
As the direct foundress of our school, founded downtown on Houston Street in 1848, Mother Hardey dedicated the school to St. Michael, the Archangel, believing that his greatness would always protect and influence those who study and work at our school. She imbued the students at Houston Street with a love for learning and a spirit of generosity. She told the students and religious that “Faith must find its expression in works…remember that only the prayer of the heart reaches heaven.”
In all endeavors, Mother Hardey progressed with courage and faith. Her vision of women’s education began with faith and continues until this day, not only here on the beautiful campus at Greenwich, but in every one of our sister schools around the country.
The Chilean flag brings back so many fond memories. Chile is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but it is the people I miss so much after many years away. I arrived without knowing a word of Spanish. It was Valentine's Day, 1960, and I had come straight from my final profession in Rome. I had learned only one phrase in Spanish: how to ask for my superior's blessing! I suppose I thought that would solve all my problems. The first days were spent in Santiago applying for permanent residence as at that time one went to the missions for life. I stayed in the century old convent of Maestranza, with the huge cedar tree shading the patio. That beautiful tree had been planted by Mother du Rosier who first brought the Society of the Sacred Heart to Chile in 1854. With only two Religious to begin the foundation she opened a normal school at the request of the government and then a boarding school to educate young girls. When other Religious arrived to help, a free school was opened and then came more foundations in Chile and then Peru. I knew very little of the history of the Society in Chile and still less of the history of Chile, but remember feeling a certain awe as I prayed at the tomb of this famous Mother who was buried in a small chapel in the garden. I must say that Maestranza had about 13 patios and I was just amazed at the size of the convent. More memories to follow.
It has been a truly wonderful vacation; I will be back at work today and planning the academic year. I still have many unfinished projects that I hope to get to before the end of August. It will help to realize that these months of vacation have been lovely and restful. Now it is time for work. I am also thinking of my own dreams for the new academic year. The campus is lovely; the picture is one taken in front of the library. The new student center is getting the finishing touches and will be open for the students to enjoy. I am happy to be back but grateful for all the graces of this summer. Now, hopefully, we will not begin the year with a hurricane, but one is threatening to come our way by Friday. Trust in the Lord is a good way to begin this new academic year! I had brunch with a cousin by marriage (not sure how we are related really but she claims me and is a delightful person!) She is now eighty years old and still swims 30 laps every morning!! She keeps up with friends from all over and has had a fascinating life. She lived on a beautiful ranch in Argentina for eleven years and made me start thinking about my own experiences in Chile for twenty years. I may be sharing some of these memories in my blog.
The second reading from Paul's letter to the Ephesians(5:15-20)begins by telling us to "watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise..."
The daily Ignatian examen prayer that helps us to reflect on our day and to be attentive to the Lord's Presence is one way to watch carefully how I live! Paul goes on to give us excellent advice: "Try to understand what is the will of the Lord...be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praying to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father."
I guess we could consider speaking to others in the spirit of the Psalms; what I really think we should cultivate is that of singing and praying to the Lord in our hearts and giving thanks always and for everything! Think what a difference this would make in our lives! It is possible if we watch carefully how we live.
This Feast has a history. It first began to be celebrated as a feast day in the Eastern Church after the ecumenical Council of Ephesus(431)proclaimed Mary the Mother of God. The Assumption of Mary celebrates her being taken up to heaven body and soul. By the sixth century, the feast celebrated Mary's "Dormition, her "falling asleep", meaning her death. The Western Church began to celebrate this feast around 650; the doctrine of Mary's Assumption was only proclaimed officially by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
The theology of the feast is always found in the special Preface: "Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection, and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way. You would not allow decay to touch her body, for she had given birth to your Son, and the Lord of all life, in the glory of the incarnation."
It is consoling to know that Mary is in heaven, body and soul, watching over us.
One of my community is addicted to playing Mah Jeong in the morning and so I am not able to get on the computer early to write my blog; I am managing usually by trying to schedule ahead, but forgot about today. Actually, it has been a strange week for me. I made a long "to do" list but seem not to have done anything on it. I have not been such a procrastinator for ages. I think I had this mindset that I am on vacation and will begin after August 15th to really work. However, most of my "to do" list is not concerned with the University but with my keeping up relationships. Maybe God wanted this to be a quiet week and I am grateful that it was. I did get to the University one day and that was good as I was able to get my parking sticker for the next year. Few professors were there on Wednesday, but I suspect that Monday will have all back and working. I have managed to swim every day! I also have been thinking about the really positive effect that our dreams can have on our lives. However, they must not just remain dreams. I read the other day that we begin to fulfill the dream by one simple action step at a time.
St. Maximilian Mary Kolb is a modern martyr. He was born in Russian Poland in 1894 and joined the Franciscans in 1910 changing his name from Raimund to Maximilian Maria. He was ordained after studies in Rome and then returned to Poland. From 1930 to 1936 he was a missionary in Japan. Then, when the Nazis took over Poland, he was active in helping thousands of refugees, including Polish Jews. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1941, he was sent to Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped, ten men were chosen at random to die. One was a young father; Maximilian offered to take his place and so was executed. He gave his life for the other and is now a canonized saint.
The selected verses of Psalm 136 call us to thanksgiving. The refrain is "His mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever; Give thanks to the God of gods, for his mercy endures forever; Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his mercy endures forever.
That is only one verse, but you may want to make up your own today!
Jane was born in 1572 in Dijon, France. She married Baron de Chantal and had six children. She was only 29 when her husband died in an accident. St. Frances de Sales became her spiritual director and, with him, she founded the Visitation Order for women who wished to lead a religious life that was not as austere as some of the other orders; they were to visit the sick and care for the poor. Because of the spread of her Order to France, her nuns were forced to live a more cloistered life. Some convents taught girls; others became contemplative convents.
In Matthew's Gospel we have the consoling words of Jesus: "Amen, I say to you, if two agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."
Clare had to leave her home in Assisi secretly to join Francis and become a Franciscan; she was the first woman to be given the Franciscan habit. Soon others joined her including her mother and two of her sisters. Clare was made abbess in 1215 and her nuns were called "Poor Clares" as they practiced radical poverty. Clare died in 1253 and was canonized two years after her death.
Today's Gospel has Jesus first telling his disciples when they asked him who was greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, "whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven." Jesus then asks his disciples about a shepherd who "had a hundred sheep and one goes astray, will he leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray." We know that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and always seeks us whenever we stray!
St. Paul tells us that "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
We know this but how often we forget? I may find myself doing something as small as emptying the dishwasher. Do I do it with joy? I hope so for I need to seize these small opportunities to be a cheerful giver. Of course, I know that God loves me anyway but it pleases God to see us cheerful. He wants us to enjoy life! In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." I want to produce fruit so need to practice dying to self. Jesus also said, "I have chosen you to bear fruit..."
This is a picture of a broom tree. This Sunday's first reading from 1 Kings 19:4-8 is always a favorite of mine. We see Elijah weary after a day's journey into the desert; he is sitting beneath a broom tree and praying to die. "This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." How often do I want to cry out to the Lord that "this is enough!" and then, like Elijah, I just go to sleep. An angel comes to Elijah and wakes him ordering him to get up and eat. And there was a hearth cake and a jug of water next to him. He ate and drank, but then lay down again. However, the angel of the Lord came back and tole him again to "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" So he did and had the strength to then walk forty days and nights to the mountain of God.
There is a great deal to reflect on in this passage. Elijah wants to give up, but the Lord sends him help and the command to get up, eat, and begin his journey again. He is going to meet God, but it is not easy. God has strengthened him as he still does each of us, if we allow ourselves to be touched by an angel and obey the command to get up and then set out.
When taken with the Gospel for this Sunday, we see that the Eucharist is the source of life and strength and is given us for our journey. Jesus tells us that "whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The picture helps me to enter into prayer and the title today is taken from the first words of the Second Reading for Sunday from Ephesians 4:30-5:2: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." If we were all were really "kind to each other and compassionate" the world would be a happier place! We are called to be "imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us..." What is Christ calling me to today?
We celebrated the feast of St. John Vianney earlier this week but I wanted to go back to share with you something he wrote on prayer. Also, this year was declared by pope Benedict XVI to be the "Year of Priests" and the beloved Cure d'Ars is the universal patron of priests. Our minor seminary in Miami is named after him. He almost did not get ordained himself because he had such trouble with his seminary studies which were all in Latin. However, once ordained he attracted great crowds both for his ability to aid people in the confessional and for his short homilies. Here is one he gave on prayer: "The more we pray, the more we wish to pray. Like a fish which at first swims on the surface of the water, and afterwards plunges down, and is always going deeper, the soul plunges, dives, and loses itself in the sweetness of conversing with God. Time never seems long in prayer. The fish swimming in a little rivulet is well off, because it is in its element; but it is still better in the sea. When we pray, we should open our heart to God, like a fish when it sees the wave coming. The good God has no need of us. God commands us to pray only because God wills our happiness, and our happiness can be found only in prayer." (Quoted in Living with Christ).
Sometimes I see an image and need to keep looking at it as I know it has some inner meaning for me. Last night I made a taco salad without meat for dinner as it is quite hot in Miami; we are all tired from the trip home and trying to get caught up. I think I went to bed before 8:30 but then was awake at four this morning.
I have several new books that I will be sharing with you as all of them will give us a richness of spiritual reading for the rest of the year. I think we need to be very disciplined about making time for spiritual reading and I am afraid that I often do less than I would like so the books pile up. Fortunately, since I am still teaching Contemporary Spirituality, I do make time to keep up; one reads to nourish the soul.
These are just thoughts that come into my head as I sit here this morning with a long "to do" list. I want to do all with joy today. I think that when we act without joy, it helps no one. Sometimes I am doing things because I think I should do them; the Lord does not want that - I am happy to have the opportunity to help and want to serve with joy. By doing all with love I find joy and I am also so grateful that I can choose to be a joyful person. I think this is where I am today.
You may notice that my reflections are quite personal since I have returned. I am just writing whatever comes, but hope soon to be able to again prepare my reflections and hope that they continue to help others. The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of joy.
This is a picture of the new library at Loyola where we had all of our prayer sessions and Liturgies. I sat facing an entire wall of glass overlooking Lake Michigan. This new building is fantastic, but I am glad we had the large room in a closer building to our dorm and cafeteria; we had round tables and sat eight to a table. We were quite a mix so I was with someone from Redwood City, California, Australia, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, New York, Washington D.C., Atherton, California, Boston, and I was from Miami so we had East Coast, West Coast, southern middle and then Australia which is pretty far away. I loved the table conversations and the exchange of ideas as we also were from over 80 down to one still in her thirties. On the last morning we had generation groups, but no time to really talk at the table as we were "passing" some things we had discussed for our next action steps.
I kept going back in prayer to a quote from Monsignor Romano Guardini that I found in Magnificat for the Feast of St. Martha, June 29. I will just give a short excerpt here as I like it so much. He is speaking about God and says that he "is nearer to us than ever a lover was to his dearest one; he bears in heart our deepest concerns and bestows on us his watchful care...God is real!...God is the Comforter...To comfort, you must love. You must be open and enter into the other's heart. You must be observant; you must have the free and sensitive heart that finds the paths of life with quiet assurance ...."
I am back and ready to share with all my readers some of the highlights of my week of meetings in Chicago at Loyola University. The first days were with a group of about thirty-two Religious of the Sacred Heart who are engaged in Higher Education. It was a wonderful time to share our common mission as most of us work alone in different Universities although there are a good group of RSCJs at the University of San Diego and a couple at CTU in Chicago. We had time to pray together, to share, and to work on common goals and criteria that would apply to whatever work we are doing in Higher Education. The Higher Education meeting ended shortly after noon to give us time to prepare to help with the registration for the 220 RSCJs ( including some international guests and some Provincial staff) arriving for the United States Provincial Assembly/Chapter that same afternoon. We began officially with a lovely ceremony where each area blessed the water brought from the area's most identifying body of water(Mississippi river, Biscayne Bay for Miami, Lake Michigan, etc.) I was the representative for the Miami area who came forward and poured the water into one bowel so that all the areas were mingled. This was so symbolic of all that followed! When RSCJs get together it is a real "Cor Unum" - we love seeing each other, sharing, and praying together. The committees that planned the Assembly and the great prayer services and Liturgies did a fabulous job. We met at 8:30 each morning for prayer and then worked all day with a Liturgy at 5:00 on two of the days and I wonderful closing Liturgy on Sunday morning. All this may not be of interest to my readers, but I will need to process still all that we did during the assembly. I am just grateful to be able to belong to the Society of the Sacred Heart and one of the graces of the week was being with RSCJs from other countries! Our Mother General was present with one of the Central Team; our former Mother General was there, too. There were also RSCJS from Australia, Canada, Scotland, Poland, Africa, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Colombia, England,etc. It is always thrilling to hear all the great work we are doing in all parts of the world. One of our young nuns is going to Chile from September to June for an international experience so I met with her to share some of my love for that country and the people. It was just a great week, but very tiring. More tomorrow about the content! You will get much from looking at the website, rscj.org listed on the right.
Here is the last of the wonderful contributions from Jean in Maryland. I will be home and back writing a daily blog as of tomorrow. In the meantime, for your prayer and reflection:
Pedro Arrupe, S.J. was a former Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He has been called “the second Ignatius” being a Basque like him and because of his leadership during an extensive renewal of the Society. He was present during the bombing of Hiroshima and ministered to the victims. Here are 3 of his prayers written over the course of his life.
“Falling in Love with God”
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love in a quite, absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will effect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend you weekends, what you will read, who you know, what breaks your heart, what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, Stay in love, And it will decide everything.”
“Personal Prayer of Pedro Arrupe”
“Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes, to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times, to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.”
The third prayer of Pedro Arrupe was written while living with the after effects of a stroke that left him severely debilitated.
“In the Hands of God”
More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.”
The picture is the pond on campus at St. Thomas University; it is peaceful even when there are students sitting around working with their laptops. Now, let us continue with our letters from Maryland on Ignatian Spirituality:
#8 LETTERS FROM MARYLAND ON IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY
A great way to close these letters from Maryland is to turn to the poetry of prayers, some written by Ignatius and some by fellow Jesuits. They occur in various places including the Exercises themselves but a wonderful source book for this material and many other Jesuit prayers is the book, Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits.
It is fitting to use two written by Ignatius today: his prayer for generosity and the Suscipe which is said in repetitions as part of the “Contemplation to Attain the Love of God” used during the fourth week of the Exercises. Here they are:
“Prayer for Generosity”
Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; To give and not to count the cost, To fight and not to heed the wounds, To toil and not to seek for rest, To labor and not to ask for reward, Save that of knowing that I do your will.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”
Here is the second part of Jean's letter talking about Margaret Silf and Ignatian Spirituality. I just want to add that we have been using Margaret's book, Inner Compass in my reflection group all year. If I were to pick my favorite author on Ignatian spirituality it would be Bill Barry, S.J. who has some wonderful books. Maybe I will get Jean to dialogue with me about some of them.
The Exercises are riches that have come down to us from Ignatius and a small group of friends and involve the ministry of companionship. The Exercises are not an end but a beginning. Margaret Silf also gives concrete suggestions for dealing with consolation and desolation. She points out that to use the tool called discernment we must come to stillness and in the silence of our hearts wait patiently for the compass needle to steady so we can move forward again. Some concrete steps to take in desolation: Tell God how you feel and ask for help Seek out companionship Don’t go back on decisions you made in Consolation Stand still Recall a time of consolation and go back to it in imagination Look for someone who needs your help and turn your attention to them Go back to # 1. In Consolation: Tell God how you feel and thank him Store this moment in your memory to return to when things get tough Use the energy you feel to further your deepest desires Let the surplus energy fuel the things you don’t like doing and do them Go back to #1.
Any of her books you can find will be invaluable aids in both understanding and practicing Ignatian spirituality.
Hello, my name is Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ. Those initials stand for Religious of the Sacred Heart in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Since my religious congregation began in France in 1800 and now is all over the world, we have kept the RSCJ. By now you know that I am not only known as Dr. Helen Rosenthal, but also as Sister Helen Rosenthal.
I am the oldest of four children. We were all born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. We lived in a big house with a playroom on the third floor. On Sundays we either went to my paternal grandmother's house where her six children would gather faithfully for supper or we would have my mother's father and our great aunt and uncle for a roast beef dinner at home. In summer, I would go to the lake with my Dad and I still love to swim.