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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Home from beautiful Arizona

I had a wonderful vacation and it was good to be with family and everyone spoiled me so that I really felt so loved and welcome. However, I am glad to be home and will be back at the University tomorrow and back writing my daily blog reflection with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Today I will just share a little prayer that somehow had become a bookmark for me.
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of today.
Refresh me...Invite me...
To discover your presence in each person that I meet and every event encountered.
Teach me when to speak, when to listen, when to ponder and when to share.
In moments of challenge and decision attune my heart to the whisperings of your Wisdom.
As I undertake ordinary and unnoticed tasks, gift me with simple joy.
When my day goes well may I rejoice!
When it grows difficult surprise me with new possibilities.
When life is overwhelming call me to Sabbath moments to restore your peace and harmony.
May my living today reveal your goodness. Amen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Arizona vacation is over!

Tomorrow I leave the house before five in the morning and will be flying home from Arizona to Florida with wonderful memories of these two weeks with my family. My brother and sister-in-law met me just two weeks ago in the evening and we went to one of their favorite restaurants and met my sister there for dinner. The next day was fairly quiet with time at the pool and driving around in my brother's new red convertible Corvette! On Thursday, we went to Sedona and stayed in the Sky Harbor Lodge with the most beautiful views imaginable from the balcony of our room (my sister went, too, and we shared this lovely large room with a fireplace.) Of course, we had the fireplace going until late the first night and it reminded me of so many family memories as my mother always loved a fire in the fireplace and the family would gather around and she even allowed us to toast marshmellows on winter nights. Living in Miami, we do not have a fireplace! The red rock mountains of Sedona are gorgeous and are all around - we went to the Holy Cross Chapel as one of our first stops. As both my sister and my brother had stayed in Sedona before, we returned to their favorite places and every meal seemed to be in a different, awesome spot. This blog will be too long to read if I tell you all the wonders of each day. I do need to mention going to St. Vincent de Paul Center in Phoenix where my nephew is in charge of fundraising among other things. He invented a very creative game last year and was repeating it for the public on a Saturday so we all went to "play" and it was quite an experience. You begin by being given a sheet that describes who you are. I was a homeless woman with a three year old son; because of having the baby, I was out of work and living in a shelter but had to find a job, childcare, money for transportation, etc. Actually, St. Vincent de Paul helps you with so many things so you start at one station and are passed on to another according to your needs. I was helped to see how to budget, what my needs were, where I could apply for a job, etc. I found the game to be such an education that I am hoping my nephew can market it for all St. Vincent de Paul groups in every parish. After that, we went to see where Blase and his wife live now and stayed there for dinner. I stayed with John and Anita in Gold Canyon until my sister came for dinner at the end of the week and I went to her home in Scottsdale. I suppose the most interesting things during this busy week were the boatride and then the Parish Renew retreat. Both are worth telling you about some day, but I want to get back to reflections and here is a tidbit from a talk that my sister gave. She spoke of three key words that are central to her love of the Eucharist:"Listen, love, trust." I suspect that these three words are central to every spirituality. I promise more when I am home!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Arizona, here I come

My sister has an Indian reservation behind her home and the sunsets are gorgeous; I think they are also spectacular at my brother's but his home faces a mountain and is almost in a desert although it is called Gold Canyon. I leave this afternoon on a direct flight of five hours to Phoenix where my brother and sister-in-law will pick me up. They had to put their dog to sleep yesterday as the dog had cancer, but it was a hard decision for them to make. I hope I can cheer them up!
For those who did not read yesterday's blog, I will be away from the computer and may not be posting my blog everyday during this time. I think it good to take the time off and will leave you with a quotation from Henri Nouwen about community that I think is worth reflecting on as we all belong to different communities and I was thanking for all the people in my life this morning who belong to my different and many communities.
"Community is first and foremost a gift of the Holy Spirit, not built upon mutual compatibility, shared affection, or common interests but upon having received the same divine breath, having been given a heart set aflame by the same divine fire, and having been embraced by the same divine love."
John Main's Essential Writings is also giving me much to reflect upon and I will be sharing some of his one-liners on my return. I am looking forward to seeing my family and just spending time with them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Athirst for the living God

"As the deer long for for the running waters, so my soul longs for you, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God..."

God gives us the desire for Him; the more we desire God, the more capacity we have to receive His Love. He longs to love us but we need to learn how to allow Him to love us.

I will be going out to Arizona tomorrow to visit my brother and sister-in law in Gold Canyon, go up to Sedona with them, my sister, and possibly my nephew and his wife,for a couple of days. Then I will be visiting my sister the next week in Scottsdale and making a retreat she is helping give the next week end at the nearby retreat house. I will only return on April 29.
I usually take a vacation from the computer when I go away, but this time I may try keeping my blog; it will not be everyday and I am sure the reflections will flow from what I am experiencing as well as my prayer.
This morning I thought about the Regina Coeli It is the prayer we say to Mary instead of the Angelus from Easter to Pentecost. In other words, it is a prayer for the Easter season. I was trying to say it in the car the other day and found that I was not sure of the exact wording so here it is, just in case any of you are in doubt about how to pray this ancient prayer:
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom it was your privilege to bear, alleluia
Has risen as He said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray
O God, You gave joy to the world
through the Resurrection of Your Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ. We ask You through the
intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother,
to bring us to the happiness of eternal life.
Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Good Shepherd Sunday

I love the image of the Good Shepherd. Jesus is our shepherd and we can say with the psalmist: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."
The verse before the Gospel is "I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me." He calls us each by name and he walks ahead of us and we follow him, because we recognize his voice.
The Gospel ends with one of the most tremendous truths told us by Jesus: "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."

Peter in the second reading for today tells us, "By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." We are like the black sheep above that has been sought and found and carried by the Lord. We return because he has the words of life and has come so that we may "have life and have it more abundantly."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

May God be ever near

I came across this verse somewhere and it stayed in my head: "May all your wishes come true and every dream be found. May God be ever near and joy be all around."

Since God is ever near, it is nice to realize, too, that joy is all around.

In the first reading from Acts today, Peter brings back from the dead Tabitha. He does this by prayer and then just said, "Tabitha, rise up." Before this, in the same reading, Peter has cured Aeneas who had been confined to bed for eight years because he was paralyzed. Peter simply said to him, "Aneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed." When we have faith in Jesus, we can work wonders. Let us pray for the gift of faith to be able to use it to make the world a better place.

I want to share a quote from St. Madeleine Sophie from a conference she gave for the Feast of Pentecost in 1827 - "Now these persons about whom I have been speaking have found the secret of touching hearts; as they are no longer on the lookout for their own advantage, they do not even desire to do good; rather they have only one desire: to follow the impulse of the Holy Spirit. As to good or poor success, they calmly leave that to God...Let us call on the Spirit, therefore, so that she can fill us with her gifts."
It is always a good thing to call on the Spirit and desire to have her gifts!

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Books

My office and my room at home are overflowing with books, but I could not resist buying a few more. One is John Main. Essential Writings with an Introduction by Laurence Freeman. It is one of the Modern Spiritual Masters Series by Orbis and I have the 5th printing, 2006. It looks really good with the story of his life, then his writings and some wonderful short quotes at the end. Then, I bought Timothy Gallagher's The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today. Crossroad, 2006. It looks very helpful and practical with lots of the experience of others included in how to make this prayer a really important part of our daily life. The third book is by Thomas Rausch, S.J. An 8 Day Ignatian Retreat for Priests, Religious, Deacons, and Lay Ministers. Paulist Press, 2008. I looked it over and think it could be very useful outside of retreat as well as using the chapters in a retreat. He is writing for ministers and has some good reflection questions. As I have just received these three, I am not reviewing the books but only telling you that I shall be reading them and they look like they are going to be excellent spiritual reading.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Living Water

Jesus tells us that "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him..."

The Father draws us to Jesus; on our own, we cannot connect with the Lord. It is a grace given to us by God. It is not our own doing. We are drawn to Jesus. There is, according to the Little White Book, a pull, an internal movement toward Christ. As a deer seeks water...God has put this "pull" in me to draw me. Have I sensed it? How do I respond? Do I desire to jump into the pool and find Jesus no matter what the obstacles? Or do I resist? Augustine told us, "Our hearts were made for you, O God, and they will not rest until they rest in you."

Here is a quote I like from St. Madeleine Sophie: "Go on advancing, you are on the true road. Remember, it is not you who have taken it, but God who has placed you there.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Jesus "rose" or "was raised"?

I was happy to find a rather satisfying explanation for the question I have often been asked about why the scripture passage says that Jesus "was raised" from the dead when we also speak of Jesus "rising" from the dead. The Little White Book says that both are true. It is a question of whether Jesus is being looked at from the point of view of his humanity, or from the point of view of his divinity. On the one hand, Jesus was not simply god masquerading in a human body. In his humanity, he became truly one of us - "tested in every way, but without sin" (Heb 4:15). As one of us, Jesus placed himself in dependence on the Father, trusting that the Father would bring him through death to glory.
On the other hand, it was the Second Person of the Trinity who took flesh, and Jesus could say, "The Father and I are one."
Thinking about Jesus as the Bread of life, brings to mind all the "I statements" that Jesus says in John's Gospel. Jesus is not only talking about who he is but what he does for us. Some of these sayings are:
I am the light of the world.
I am the good Shepherd.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the vine, you are the branches.

Take time to go over the above statements and hear Jesus saying each to you personally.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"I am the Bread of life"

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me with never thirst."
How, if Jesus is the Bread of life, does he nourish me? The "give us our daily bread" may have new meaning when thinking of Jesus as the Bread of life!

I was reading in Albert Nolan's Jesus Today about what we need to do to live as Jesus did. Nolan says that busyness is the supreme distraction. He goes on to show how Jesus had a profound need for silence and solitude. For us, "Regular periods of solitude and silence are indispensable." We need inner silence above all as "inner silence switches off the inner stream of thoughts, images, and feelings. Without this, authentic spirituality and spiritual transformation would not be possible."
Meditation is a way of calming the mind and heart as well as the body. It is a way of arriving at inner silence. Let us meditate!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Joy, Rain, Alleluias!

In spite of the rain (we need it but had a real storm last night with thunder and lots of lightning and it seems to be continuing in a soft drizzle), I feel like shouting, "This is the day the Lord has made! Rejoice and be glad! Alleluia! Alleluia!"
Actually, today is the Ceremony of graduation for my Online International Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies. This is the third group to graduate from the two-year program and I am sure that Jesus is rejoicing in these students. They have not only learned how others have sought and found God through the centuries, but they have been seeking and finding god in their own lives. They have been transformed and go forth to encourage others to believe in God's action in our daily lives.
The Little White Book tells us for April 7 that ten years ago the Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, decreed that any meeting "whatever its purpose, no matter how few or how many people are involved, shall have as its first agenda item, an open discussion of this question: "What does it mean that the Spirit is present in what we are about?"
If we followed this decree our lives would be transformed. Let us live today in the Spirit of Jesus, Alleluia! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Disciples on Way with Jesus walking with them

I love the story of Jesus walking with the two disciples who do not recognize him. Jesus drew near to them and just "walked with them" and asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?"
Cleopas,(the other disciple we do not know the name of but it could have been his wife) asks Jesus if he is the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn't know what has taken place. Jesus asks, "What sort of things?" He wants them to tell him so he can show them how the Scriptures have indicated what did come to pass. Then, when they reach their village, Jesus gave the impression that he was going on, but they urged him to stop saying, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."
So Jesus goes in with them to a simple Sunday night supper. They recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Then Jesus vanishes from their sight and they are filled with energy and retrace their steps the seven miles to Jerusalem to tell the others "what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread."
When we recognize Jesus in our daily life, we feel more energy; we want to spread the good news. Let us remember that we can always find Jesus in the Eucharist! He waits for us.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

At Sea With God at Dawn

I think this scene is helpful for beginning my morning prayer - I love the idea of setting sail with Jesus and letting the Lord plan my day and be with me in the boat. He is the captain and I am crew and we are going to do all today together and let the wind carry us along.
I have been planning the graduation ceremony for my Online International Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies which will be this Monday. Ten are graduating and five excellent students will still be in the Program in September. I hope to have a really good new batch of students to join them, but I must say that this last group has been one of the most hard-working, intelligent, creative groups that I have ever had the privilege of teaching. They have not only studied how others have sought and found God through the centuries, but they have been seeking and finding God in their own lives. I hope to tell them that on Monday. The ceremony will be videotaped and up on the University website hopefully as soon as possible.
Today's Gospel is special for me. It has Jesus coming to the disciples on the sea. They are afraid but he calls out, "It is I. Do not be afraid." John tells us that they wanted to take Jesus into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. I have often heard Jesus say to me, "It is I. Do not be afraid." It is a grace to thank for and I do, but I like having Jesus in the boat with me. He likes to be invited so I urge you to invite him to sail with you today!

Friday, April 4, 2008

At Sea With God

I received Margaret Silf's latest book, At Sea With God last night and found myself reflecting on what it means to be At Sea with God. She asks us to think of what kind of a boat we are?
I do not know how to sail, but I am sure that I must be a sailboat. I depend on the wind of the Holy Spirit to carry me across the water. Really, I have not had time to read much, but here are the Chapter Headings:
The Boat; The Cargo and the Crew; Setting Sail; Navigating the High Seas; Perils of the Deep; Going Nowhere; and Dropping Anchor--Moving On. You could almost use your own imagination to fill in the Chapters! I did turn to the back (always consult the bibliography) and noticed the last sentences of the book. I liked them enough to quote them here: When we are ready to voyage beyond the horizon, it won't matter any more that the boat falls apart. We will have learned to trust the immensity of the ocean of God's love.
I am adding the book to the list I keep on the right side of this blog.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"He does not ration his gift of the Spirit" (Jn 3:32)

I am using the Little White Book today for my blog as I was struck with what Bishop Ken Untener said about the generosity of Jesus. Ken died in 2004 but the Little Books with six minute meditations based on his writings keep appearing so that people have a help for prayer. Today's meditation is on this passage from today's Gospel of John 3:31-36:
Jesus said: "The one whom god sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life."
That phrase catches one's eye: "He does not ration his gift of the Spirit."
Jesus isn't miserly with his gifts. He's like a grandmother serving up a Thanksgiving dinner, with enough food for an army.
We see his bountiful generosity everywhere in the Gospels. Look at John's Gospel alone. At Cana, Jesus doesn't dole out the wine (and good wine at that). He provides over 20 gallons. In the miracle of the loaves, 12 basketfuls are left over. When the disciples can't catch an fish, he miraculously provides not a pail-full, but over 150 fish. And when the woman anointed Jesus at Bethany with costly perfumes oil (over 300 days' wages worth), he defends her largesse.
No, Jesus isn't miserly. Neither is his Father who gave his only Son. Neither is the Holy Spirit who floods God's life upon us.
God doesn't dole out gifts on the basis of quantity or even the quality of the recipient: "He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
The Easter season is one long celebration of God's goodness. Today's time with the Lord might well be a time of thank-you's. It's a beautiful, easy (and sometimes overlooked) way to pray.
Now, just spend some quiet time with Jesus thanking him for his generosity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Peaceful Scene

Sometimes I just want to reflect without words on a picture. Looking at the lake amid the mountains gives me a sense of peace. I am feeling disorganized today and yet know that I need to get many things done but I want to do them in peace. We hurry too much and Easter season is a call to slow down and walk with Jesus.
On another note, can you believe that John Paul II died on this day in 2005? It does not seem that long, but much has happened in the past three years. I am beginning to reflect back on the past academic year as I sent in my grades and, after the Online Program graduation ceremony on Monday, will be concentrating on the new course for September.
There is always much to thank for and I am going to make a division in my Journal for "Gratitude" and try to thank for something everyday. A grateful person is a joyful person! Try it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

One heart and one mind...

Today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles begins with the sentence, "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common."
Religious of the Sacred Heart have as our motto, One heart and one mind and the initials are carved on the cross we wear to remind us of our Cor Unum et Anima unum.
Community is formed by living together, sharing, praying, and becoming one heart and one mind. Since we are all very different individuals, it does not mean that we need to agree on many things, but that deep down we do have one heart and one mind because we share the same charism and mission.
Right now, many of us are reflecting on the transformation of religious life today and the challenges that face us. As long as we remain a community of believers and are of one heart and mind, I have no fear. God knows the future and is opening the life of religious communities to meet the needs of today's world. Associates are springing up all over the world who want to share in our "one heart and one mind."
It is an exciting time to live! Let us trust God and let God lead us into the future.