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Thursday, December 31, 2009

For each of us there is a desert to travel, a star to discover...

Today's reflection is first of all a poem taken from an Iranian Christmas card and used by Bishop Hunthausen in an annual letter to the Catholics in western Washington. Here is the poem:
"If, as Herod,
We full our lives with things,
and again with things;
If we consider ourselves so important
That we must fill every moment
of our lives,
When will we have time
To make the long, slow journey
Across the burning desert
As did the Magi?
Or sit and watch the stars
As did the shepherds?
Or brood over the coming of the child
As did the Magi?

For each one of us
There is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves
To bring to life."

Hunthausen said that "the journey we make across life's desert following a somewhat elusive star, is a journey that will most surely lead us to the Child who is God, and in discovering the Child, we will really only be discovering our true selves and the key that unlocks all of life's mysteries." He then goes on to say that we do not make this journey alone. It is one we make together in faith and in hope, supporting each other along the way.

Throughout the ages, spiritual writers have always seen our way to God as a spiritual journey. Where and how God will lead me in this coming year is not as important as my willingness to follow the star and to set out again with joy and gratitude,

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Cards

I still send Christmas cards. And I receive Christmas cards. Some are very beautiful; some I use for meditation. I keep them all in a basket and pray each day for the senders. My favorite cards are those showing the Infant Jesus with his arms reaching out the way babies do when they want to be picked up and loved. I think I may make a collage with some of the cards this year to keep in mind that I am to pipe a song of joy to the Infant Jesus. That desire has stayed with me over the years and came back during the days of Advent prayer; I know that I have a special vocation to give joy. I do not know if I am living up to this grace, but I know it is a call given to me by Jesus and so I need to try to cultivate it with his help.

We will be looking back over the past year during the next few days and thanking for all the graces given to us. Sometimes it is only when we take time to reflect back that we are able to see what a great grace some event was for us. At the time we may not have thought so, but we see now how God was working in our lives and that brings gratitude. Sometimes we see that we missed the boat and need to ask pardon for not heeding the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I think that a reflection over the past year is always fruitful. This allows us to see also how the Lord wants us to spend the New Year. Let us pray for one another.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our hearts are opened

This is the end of Pope Benedict's homily on Christmas and I thought it worth our reflection today.
" This is what God is like. The Angel had said to the shepherds: "This will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12; cf. 2:16). God's sign, the sign given to the shepherds and to us, is not an astonishing miracle. God's sign is his humility. God's sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love. How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God's power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like. He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him. Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love. Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist's sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God's love. Origen says of the pagans: "Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood" (in Lk 22:9). Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the Liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: "Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)" (in Lk 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen."

Monday, December 28, 2009

"There was no room for them at the inn"

Someone sent me some information on the World refugee population that is connected with the famous line in the Christmas story, "for there was no room for them at the inn" This is from Luke's Gospel.

Matthew tells us that the Holy Family had to flee into Egypt as Herod was searching for the Child to destroy him. That made the Holy Family "refugees" in the legal sense defined by a 1951 UN Convention: that is, men, women and children who have crossed a national border "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, are outside the country of nationality, and unable to, or owing to such fear are unwilling to" return home.

There are 10.5 million people in our world today who are refugees! There are 26 million people who are "internally displaced", meaning that they have fled or been forced to leave their homes to avoid persecution, but as they remain in their own countries are not technically "refugees" with the largest populations in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and Colombia.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

The Holy Family is a model of family life; actually, we know very little about the day to day life of the Holy Family, but it is in our family that we learn to receive and to give love. The opening prayer for today's liturgy says: "Father, help us to live as the holy family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home."

We receive so much from our families. Each family has its own traditions, small things that add a distinctive spirit. Christmas is a time for remembering all that we have received from our families.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Prefaces

There are three different prefaces for Christmas and each gives a slightly different view of how God is made visible in the Incarnation. Preface I tells us:
In the wonder of the Incarnation your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory. In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.

Preface II tells us:
Today you fill our hearts with joy as we recognize in Christ the revelation of your love. No eye can see his glory as our God, yet now he is seen as one like us. Christ is your Son before all ages, yet now he is born in time. He has come to lift up all things to himself, to restore unity to creation, and to lead mankind from exile unto your heavenly kingdom.

Preface III says:
Today in him a new light has dawned upon the world; God has become one with man, and man has become one again with God. Your eternal Word has taken upon himself our human weakness, giving our mortal nature immortal value. So marvelous is this oneness between God and man that in Christ man restores to man the gift of everlasting life. In our joy we sing to your glory...

There is a great deal of theology contained in these Prefaces for Christmas and much for us to reflect on during the Christmas octave.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all!

I wish you all a very happy, holy, and merry Christmas today. I am thinking that happy means more to me than merry - maybe because happiness is deeper and lasts longer than merriment. Anyway, I am going to share some of a meditation called "Remembered in My Heart" from a book that I love by Macrina Wiederkehr; it is not a new book but one I return to and is called Seasons of Your Heart. She begins by saying: Every day I take my friends to my prayer. They are remembered in my heart....then
Today, my friends,
I am leaving my head for a while
I am on a journey to my heart.
I am taking each of you with me
to the oven of my heart
to the very center
where God lives.
I am taking you separately
one at a time.
I take you there to remember you well
like yeast remembers dough.
Remembering is a kind of loving
a kind of baking
and sometimes breaking.

With love, my God talks to me there
in the oven of my heart
And shows me why it's part of heaven's plan
that you became a part of my heart.

I remember you walking into my days
(or did I walk into yours?)
I reflect on all the ways
you've been grace to my heart.
I remember the times
you've been sacrament to me
a real presence for my journey, a communion
feeding my weariness new strength.

I am grateful for your presence in my life
because of you I own a warmer heart
a heart more breakable
more pliable, soft and rearrangeable.

When people touch me deeply
it is my heart that remembers.
And so, I remember you,
lovingly, dearly.
I cherish you, and then...
I leave you there, somewhere
in the oven of my heart.
I go back to pick up someone else
and bring them too
until we're all together
remembered in my heart.

I find joy as well as comfort in the love of my friends and want you to know this Christmas that I hold you all in my heart.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

I suspect that I should save this picture for Christmas morning, but I was thinking about the angels letting the shepherds know about the birth of Christ; they are the first to know the good news that today a savior is born to us!" They had to be the most humble of people as the Jews looked upon them as the lowest class and they were even considered outcasts. Yet they believed the angels and went off seeking the newborn savior.
I have been thinking about and trying to stay with Jesus in the womb of Mary this Advent. He was in darkness but experiencing growth. He was being prepared in that darkness for life and was to become the Light of the World. The Incarnation is a mystery that gives all of us joy and gratitude.
Tonight we have the traditional "veilee" which is a time of prayer to prepare for the coming of the Lord this night. I was reading about the first Christmas that Mother Duchesne prepared at St. Charles in 1818 and marvel at the holiness of those first missionaries. They all had to sleep on the floor in the same room with the children and seemed to think nothing of this. I think I shall read an account of that first Christmas at our veilee tonight.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eve of Christmas Eve

The O Antiphon is "O Emmanuel, King and Lawgiver, Desire of the Nations, Savior of All People, come and set us free, Lord our God." Finally, God is to be with us again in a special way on this day when He came into the world. He was content in the womb of Mary to grow as all babies do, but now He is coming into his own - "the Word was made flesh!" we can only adore and pay homage to the Lord of all who came to us as a child in need. He cannot talk or walk or even stay awake, but his whole being is here for love of us! Let us love Him in return! Let us spend the day with Our Lady as she prepares for the birth of her Son. Silent Joseph must have been a comfort for her; however, I think she was very much alone in what she was going through and both were trusting God and praying that all would be according to his will.
Let us pray that we may all be set free from all that hinders our union with God.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O King of Nations

The O Antiphon is "O King of Nations, the Only Joy of Every Human Heart: O Keystone of the Mighty Arch of Humankind, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust." We celebrate Christ as King of the nations and prince of peace. He comes as a helpless baby to save us. He reigns from the crib and wants us to live in love and peace. What can I do to further peace in my world today?

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Radiant Dawn...

The O Antiphon for today is "O Radiant Dawn, Splendor of Eternal Light, Sun of Justice: Shine on those lost in the darkness of death." This is the shortest day of the year and it is one on which we celebrate the Radiant Dawn. Christ is the Dawn that comes to shine on all of us who sit in darkness. This is a reason to be cheerful. If it is pouring rain, or cloudy, we still know that God is here with us even if the sun is not shining.
Here is the Litany of Humility that I promised to share. I do not know where it comes from originally, but it is powerful, I think, and I am trying to say it and mean it.

A Litany of Humility

From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Please pray for two special intentions; one is my sister-in-law who is now numb from her waist down and the doctors are not sure what is the problem and so she is having multiple tests and treatment and no results yet. I would really appreciate your prayers for both my intentions this week. Thank you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

O Key of David...and 4th Sunday of Advent

The antiphon for today is "O Key of David, O Royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven. Come break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death." This is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent so we know that Christ is coming within the week. We need to be the key that releases those who are dwelling in darkness, those who are grieving. Christmas is a time for reaching out to others to bring them joy.

I have been thinking much about humility this Advent and praying to really be humble. God seems to be providing the opportunities. I came across the Litany of Humility again and intend to copy it for all - then we can pray for one another to increase our humility in this Advent season when Jesus was still stirring only in the womb of Mary.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

O Come, Ocome, Emmanuel

O Come, O come, Emmanuel.
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

The O Antiphon for today is "O Root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all his people: come to save us without delay!"

Come, Lord Jesus, come and do not delay. That is a good walking prayer for Advent!

Here is a thought about Emmanuel, the most familiar name perhaps that we give to God during Advent. God is with us; we believe that. How does his presence make a difference?

Friday, December 18, 2009

His name will be called Emmanuel

Matthew has an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream to tell him; "Do not be afraid to take Mary into your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." And Matthew adds that all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us."

Joseph believed and obeyed the angel. I think we forget what a leap of faith this must have been for Joseph.

I had such a wonderful three days of prayer at the Cenacle in Gainesville; it is a long drive up and back, but the quiet prayer in Advent really helps to prepare the way of the Lord. I went back over my life and found that I have always felt a special call to stay with Jesus and give Him and others joy. It was good to have the time to reflect back and to just sit quietly in the Presence of Jesus. I prayed for everyone as I know what a busy time this is and here I was having three full days of prayer plus the long drive up and back.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Wisdom of our God...

We are getting close to Christmas when we begin the O Antiphons. The first is "O Wisdom, but all the antiphons go way back in the liturgy and are still found in the Mass and sung by those reciting the Office during the seven days before Christmas.

An Antiphon is a brief liturgical chant based on the Psalms, or sung as a refrain to the Psalms, and is usually sung responsively. This Antiphon for Advent is a setting of the "Great Antiphons", or "O" Antiphons, appointed to be sung at Vespers, each on its own day before Christmas.

The author of the Advent Antiphons is not known for certain, but many have been attributed to Gregory the Great in the 6th Century. During the 12th Century, five Antiphons were arranged as a hymn contained in the old Spanish Breviary, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".

Here is today's antiphon:

O Wisdom of God, which art the Word proceeding from the Most High; reaching from the beginning to the end; firmly and gently disposing all things: Come Thou, and teach us in the way of understanding.
Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To Live with the Spirit

I am sure that some of my readers will recognize that To Live with the Spirit is the title of a poem written by Jessica Powers. One of my dearest friends sent this to me; it is her favorite and I prayed over it and want to share it with you:

To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener.
It is to keep the vigil of mystery,
earthless and still.
One leans to catch the stirring of the Spirit,
strange as the wind's will.

The soul that walks where the wind of the Spirit blows
turns like a wandering weather-vane toward love.
It may lament like Job or Jeremiah,
echo the wounded hart, the mateless dove.
It may rejoice in spaciousness of meadow
that emulates the freedom of the sky.
Always it walks in waylessness, unknowing;
it has cast down forever from its hand
the compass of the whither and the why.

To live with the Spirit of God is to be a lover.
It is becoming love, and like to Him
toward Whom we strain with the metaphors of creatures;
fire-sweep and water-rush and wind's whim.
The soul is all activity, all silence;
and though it surges Godward to its goal,
it holds, as moving earth holds sleeping noonday,
the peace that is the listening of the soul.


The first line in each of the three stanzas is worth a meditation!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

58th Anniversary of My First Vows

I remember this day so well. I had a marvelous private retreat before it and Jesus was so present to me and I kept asking Him to let me realize what I was really doing when I took my vows and consecrated my whole life to Him. As I had had all the sports for the high school and seventh and eighth grade for the whole of my second year as a novice, I was allowed to go talk to the children that afternoon. I still remember standing on a bench so they could all see me as they crowded into the locker room; they wanted to see my vow crucifix and. of course, they had been present that morning when we were given our black veils. It was the octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and I had several days before going back to St. Louis to begin my active life as a religious. My family had not come for the ceremony as it was too far to travel since they would be seeing me in St. Louis. I went by train with one of the students so had to wait until vacation began. I was still so caught up in the grace of my vow retreat that I seemed to have had the grace of tears, but i think it was because everyone was so kind to me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Feast of St. John of the Cross

I love John of the Cross and he certainly pictured our spiritual life as a longing for divine union. He not only is known for his reform of the Carmelites, his friendship with Teresa of Avila, his dark nights and all his writings and magnificent poetry, but he is also a doctor of the Church.

I love his "The Living Flame of Love" and I think the image of the inner wine cellar fits with my Advent in the womb of Mary. I am longing for silence and solitude and feel that this longing is from the Lord.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent

This Sunday is called "Gaudete Sunday" and means in Latin "rejoice"! We rejoice for the Lord is coming, He is near. We forget that Jesus is here with us, Emmanuel, but we prepare our hearts to celebrate his coming closer as we make room for him in our hearts.

The first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah begins with "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel. Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!...The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals."

Let us slow down and keep our joy! It is important to do this as everyone is having a busy time with material preparations for Christmas and Jesus is looking for us to be busy with our spiritual preparation - Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay! That is the refrain I am trying to keep along with my "smiling yes" that is not as easy as I try to balance too many things. But, by the time you read this, I am in retreat at the Cenacle in Gainesville where I will be praying for all my readers. I am trying to schedule ahead as I will be off the computer for five days. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness of the Americas. It is a lovely feast and we need to think of our Mexican neighbors who had Our Lady leave her image on the cloak of Juan Diego who was recently canonized, I think. He was a native Aztec peasant on a country trail near what is now Mexico City. The little Blue Book for Advent says that the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe came from Juan's description of the woman who appeared to him as "te quatlaxupe". The bishop's interpreter misunderstood what he heard and thought Juan was referring to a shrine in Spain named Guadalupe. Actually what Juan said means "woman who crushes the serpent."
Our Lady always chooses the humble, the poor, and those who the world does not think much of as they are not rich or educated, but Mary prefers the simple, humble ones.

Today is also the birthday of St. Madeleine Sophie and I took the habit on this day in 1950. My parents came to the ceremony; we were dressed as brides and walked down the center aisle and then received our habits and went out and had our hair cut and were dressed in the habits which had been blessed before they were given to us. Then we came back in our black habits and white veils. I was happy but think it was very hard on my parents. However, they went to New York and shopped at Macy's and sent me a whole box of toys for Christmas and we had such fun playing with them all - jacks, pick-up sticks, Parchesi, ball on a paddle, yoyos, harmonicas, and I do not remember most of what was in that box but know it gave us all joy.

I am driving to Gainesville today, a six hour drive, to have a mini retreat and ask for your prayers; I will be back on the 16th. I am trying to schedule some blogs for while I am away as there is so much to reflect on during Advent. And tomorrow is the Third Sunday. It goes by so fast when we have so much to do before Christmas; I like to think that my three days of retreat are always a counterculture sign that what really counts is the spiritual preparation. However, I am pressured to get things done so that I can go away for these days!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christ comes to us in everyone

Again I am quoting from Caryll Houselander:
"It is part of God's plan for us that Christ shall come to us in everyone; it is in their particular role that we must learn to know him. He may come as a little child, making enormous demands, giving enormous consolation. He may come as a stranger, so that we must give the hospitality to a stranger that we should like to give to Christ...
If we see everyone in our life as "another Christ" we shall treat everyone with the reverence and objectivity that must grow into love..."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

During this tender time of Advent...

One of the books I am using this Advent has been on my bookshelf. It is a small book called Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander and is edited with Scripture selections ad comments by Thomas Hoffman. It was published by Sheed and Ward in 2000. I first read Caryll Houselander's The Reed of God when I was still in High School and I have loved it ever since. Here is an extract:

"When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defense.It is not selfishness; it is not egoism. It is an absorption into the life within, a folding of self like a little tent around the child's frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish, and some day to bring forth the life. A closing upon it like the petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in its heart.

This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the Life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation....

By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent; he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart.

Today Christ is dependent upon us. This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this tender time of Advent we must carry him in our hearts to wherever he wants to go, and there are many places to which he may never go unless we take him."
The Reed of God, pp.30-31

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Expectation and hope

Benedict XVI also had these thoughts on Advent (again taken from the blog, "Whispers in the Loggia"):

"Another essential element of Advent is expectation, expectation that at the same time is hope. Advent drives us to understand the meaning of time and history as "kairos," as a favorable occasion for our salvation. Jesus illustrated this mysterious reality in many parables: in the account of the servants invited to await the return of their master; in the parable of the virgins who await the bridegroom; or in those of the sowing and harvesting. Man, in his life, is in constant waiting: When he is a child he wants to grow, as an adult he tends to his realization and success, growing in age, he aspires to his deserved rest. However the time comes in which he discovers that he has waited too little if, beyond his profession or social position, he has no choice but to wait. Hope marks the path of humanity, but for Christians it is animated by a certainty: The Lord is present in the course of our life, he accompanies us and one day he will also dry our tears. In a not too distant day, everything will find its fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice and peace.

However, there are very different ways of waiting. If time is not filled by a present gifted with meaning, the waiting runs the risk of becoming unbearable; if something is expected, but at this moment there is nothing, namely, if the present is empty, every instant that passes seems exaggeratedly long, and the waiting is transformed into a weight that is too heavy because the future is totally uncertain. When, instead, time is gifted with meaning and we perceive in every instant something specific and valuable, then the joy of waiting makes the present more precious."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary was never tainted with sin. We all believe that from the moment of her conception she was kept free from sin. She was to be the Mother of God. Jesus was like us in all things except sin. His mother had this special grace and so we pray, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you." And Mary listens to us and helps us to live our lives today. We also pray every time we say a "Hail Mary":
"Pray for us now and at the hour of our death." It is consoling to have Mary praying for us, telling Jesus what we lack as she did at the Wedding Feast, and then telling us to "Do whatsoever He tells you."

In Advent we think of Jesus in the womb of Mary. Jessica Powers has a lovely poem called Advent that I used in my Christmas letter this year and I am still praying over it. I will need to copy it for you sometime as I am trying to get ahead and schedule the blog for when I will be in retreat next week. I think I may also be sharing some "Stations of the Crib" that I did one year for Advent. In the meantime, I like the idea of spending Advent in the womb of Mary.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feast of St. Ambrose

Ambrose was proclaimed bishop of Milan in 370 by the people without even having been baptized. He excelled as a preacher, teacher, and pastor. He baptized St. Augustine. He was named one of the four great Latin fathers of the Church.

I found in the blog, "Whispers in the Loggia", which I try to read to keep up with what is going on in the Church and which I have posted on the right side, the following excerpt from a homily of Pope Benedict XVI which is worth reflecting on for Advent:

Let us reflect briefly on the meaning of this word [Advent], which can be translated as "presence," "arrival," "coming." In the language of the ancient world it was a technical term used to indicate the arrival of a functionary or the visit of a king or emperor to a province. But it could also indicate the coming of the divinity, which goes out of concealment to manifest itself with power, or which is celebrated as present in worship. Christians adopted the word "advent" to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is King, who has entered into this poor "province" called earth to visit everyone; he brings to participate in his advent those who believe in him, all those who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone. Although we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways.

The meaning of the expression "advent" includes therefore also that of visitatio, which means simply and properly "visit"; in this case it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me. We all experience in daily life having little time for the Lord and little time for ourselves. We end up by being absorbed in "doing." Is it not true that often activity possesses us, that society with its many interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate much time to amusements and leisure of different kinds? Sometimes things "trap" us.

Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an "interior diary" of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a "visit," as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent

The first week of Advent is over and we are now looking at John the Baptist who came to prepare the way of the Lord. We have Luke, in this Sunday's Gospel telling us how John went about proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah's words:
"A voice of one crying out in the desert:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and
hill be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

All the readings give us hope.

We had a wonderful Advent retreat yesterday at St. Thomas University given by one of the most articulate RSCJ that I know; she integrated the spirit of the Society of the Sacred Heart, St. Madeleine Sophie's life and prayer, and our Advent preparation. It was so well done and one of the best Advent retreats I have made and I have been giving them or making them for the past 23 years at the University. I will share more later in the week. The quote that stays with me from yesterday is one of my favorite from a letter of Sophie: "Be humble, be simple, and bring joy to others."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!

I suppose I should save this image for Christmas, but we are saying, "Come, Lord Jesus, come" and it is nice to know that He is here. I was reflecting on another of Jessica Powers poems and will copy it here for you. (I am at the Advent retreat at St. Thomas University today; it is a day I began over twenty years ago as a good way to stop and listen and prepare for Christmas.)

The Hidden Christ

I went into the Christmas cave;
There was no Child upon the straw.
The ox and ass were all I saw.

I sought His stable where He gave
His goodness in the guise of bread.
Emptiness came to me instead.

Filled with my Father’s words, I cried
“Where have You hid Yourself?” and all
The living answered to my call.

I found Him (and the world is wide)
Dear in His warm ubiquity.
Where heart beat, there was Christ for me.

I went back to the Christmas cave,
Glad with the gain of everywhere.
And lo! The blessed Child was there.

Then at His feasting board He gave
Embrace. He multiplied His good
And fed in me the multitude.

Jessica Powers (1963)

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Compassionate Fire"

I have been reading a new book called Compassionate Fire: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty. It is edited by Robert A. Wild and I am adding it to my list of spiritual books as I find these letters give me new insight into these two contemporary spiritual authors. Both were striving for sanctity. I was glad to hear that Robert Wild is the Postulator for the cause of canonization for Catherine. He says in his afterword that postulators gather material for the Church's discernment regarding a person's heroic living of the gospel. "One aspect of holiness concerns how a person inspired others to love the Lord. Such influence is another indication of the love of God working through her or him." Wild is convinced that Catherine had a strong and life-changing influence on him. Both authors had a great deal of influence on others and both were prophetic voices; it is good to see their spiritual friendship. I was amazed at the length of some of the letters!
I am also thinking how good it is to be able to inspire others to love the Lord. I think that all spiritual directors try to do this and hope that I am inspiring not only directees but also my students to love Jesus. I am grateful for all those who have inspired me to love God beginning with my parents and continuing to this day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feast of St. Francis Xavier

This Jesuit was the first great missionary in the Society of Jesus. He took the faith to the Far East beginning in India and then going to many countries before Japan. He died while waiting for a ship to take him to China. His body is still intact but the right arm, that blessed and baptized thousands, was sent to Rome. Francis was a man of faith and worked many miracles. He can help us keep our Advent resolutions, if we have made any.
I have a little booklet that follows Luke's Gospel through Advent and it has a place at the beginning to write one's resolutions. I have not yet done that as I am just trying to do what is needed each day. I am taking time for afternoon prayer and I am determined to get rid of clutter! This has meant some tiring days sorting through all the things in my office. Yesterday I found all the questions for my comprehensive examinations - not for my PH.D. but for my Masters- and really was amazed at how well I prepared and how lovely my handwriting was at that time. I felt that I no longer knew most of the material, but pitched it all. I could have used it in my teaching days, but now I am not keeping anything. The next thing I need to tackle is the other walls since the one filled with books is being emptied quickly. I have one wall with diplomas and plaques, but what to do with them? My community will not want them hanging anywhere at home (my room has no place for them) - I may just give away the frames and see if I can put some of the diplomas and certificates in a book!! In the meantime, I am saying, "Come, Lord Jesus, and help me get rid of my clutter. I am including interior clutter, too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Letting Go

Mater had to let go of her expectations when the angel appeared to her to ask her to be the mother of God! How unexpected, how terrifying, and yet how simple was the entire experience. Mary "let go" and trusted God.

We, too, must learn to let go. John Gallen says: "An important part of the Advent experience is letting go--of not being in control--of waiting. Advent is a time when we wait upon the Lord. We are not waiting for his coming to Bethlehem. That already is our treasure, and he is already with us. It isn't that we forget or disregard Bethlehem. The gift of Bethlehem draws the focus of our waiting beyond that small town to his brimming presence about to be shown in all its transfiguring fullness...The dynamics come to this: Experience of God occurs and flowers only when the God who aboundingly transcends every form of human experience and human imagining uncovers himself to us...We need to wait on God. Advent shapes our prayer as a prayer of letting go of expectations."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beginning Advent

I have started my new Journal for Advent and thought about the different ways we experience God during Advent that we prayed over in community on Sunday. God comes in the unexpected; God comes when we let go; God comes in simplicity. Well, Mary was one who first experienced the coming in a way she did not expect. What were her thoughts when the angel came to her? She was told not to be afraid and she seemed to summon trust in this unexpected moment and was able to respond with great simplicity: "Be it done unto me according to your word."
I am trying to find God in whatever happens and God sent an angel to help me today. I am also trying to say "yes" with a smile no matter what I am asked or what the circumstances. I need to take this one day at a time, but God is only in the present moment. I think God smiles back when I manage to say "yes" with a smile!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Feast of St. Andrew

Scotland - Saint Andrew
Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland. He was born in Capernaum and was a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee. Together with his older brother Peter he became one of Jesus' first disciples.
After Jesus' resurrection Saint Andrew made many journeys by land and sea, teaching and preaching. He died for his faith, although just where and when is not certain, but he was crucified on a diagonal cross because it is said that he did not feel himself worthy enough to suffer on a cross the same shape as his Lord.
Many years later his bones were brought to Scotland for safe keeping and were buried in a shrine where the town of St. Andrews now stands. I took this information from the Internet. I know he was one of the first two who followed Jesus and he was the one who recruited Peter. He was one of the twelve apostles and so has had his own feast. It is sometimes just before Advent and it was the wedding anniversary of my parents.
We can ask Andrew to help us prepare for the Lord's coming this Advent. He was a disciple of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way of the Lord!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time to slow down and get in touch with what really matters in our life. Unfortunately, we have made the preparation for Christmas so material that we are rushing around and are preoccupied with gifts and cards and the shopping malls are crowded and then the decorations rushed and we forget the essential. Let us slow down and realize that this is a season of waiting, of longing, a season to find silence and peace as we unclutter our hearts. We are preparing the way of the Lord. We are making room in our hearts and calling, "Come, Lord Jesus, come!" I think it is Mother Stuart who says that we only say "Come" when we are prepared. Let us spend this Advent preparing for the coming of the Lord into our hearts and into our world.
I will not have finished my Christmas cards before Advent this year, but will try to write them in great peace and with love and joy as my gift to others.
Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Prayer of the Potawatomi

This is the last time I will be speaking of St. Philippine Duchesne (at least for a time) but one of my course just wrote a beautiful piece about her and quoted this prayer composed by Sharon Karam -

Prayer of the Potawatomi on Hearing of the Death of Philippine.
By Sharon Karam, RSCJ

She comes, Great Spirit.
She comes soon.
Comfort her spirit and care for her passage.
Let the grasses of the fields whisper her homecoming.
Let the lapping of the Mississippi’s water
Chant her back to you.
Put out your colors this morning in all four season’s flowers.
Let them bloom all at once in her honor.
Let the mockingbird, known for cleverness,
Imitate all manner of songs, one for each mood of our hearts.
For we are sad; she was our sister.
We are glad, too; she is your child.
We are sorry; too many miles prevent our putting out his blanket
Once more, over her shoulders.
(She learned weaving from our hands;
We learned to pray from her face).
Let the sun blaze forth her compassion,
And the full moon tonight remind us
Of her hours praising you in this tent.

Our village will keep vigil tonight.
Chief declares a fast in her name until tomorrow.
We will pray in what was her tent
For both our peoples and for all those places
On the flat map which she left for us.
Creator, hear our prayer for her, for our children,
For those prairies, trees, and rivers.
For the faraway mountains and this brook which holds our tears.
Hear our sighs for these, our children,
That they remember what she taught them
And recall her name, for many moons, as your great woman.

Now let us ask Philippine to help us prepare for Advent which begins tomorrow!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day After Thanksgiving

We had a beautiful day! I went to a Liturgy that is always so moving with a sing along at the end with all the patriotic songs. They always have someone from the armed forces carry in the American Flag at the end and this year it was a very young and handsome Marine; tears came into my eyes as I realized that this young man was soon to go to war and might be killed as the many other young people have that we have been sending into battle.

We had a gorgeous dinner and were all quite exhausted afterwards; we have delicious leftovers to enjoy tomorrow. The papers call tomorrow "Black Friday" and people get up early to go stand in line for the doors to open at the stores as all have these huge sales to get shoppers out to buy. It is the biggest shopping day of the year! I am not going anywhere tomorrow but will write Christmas cards and maybe clean out my books. I always do my Christmas cards during Thanksgiving vacation so they go out early and I can begin Advent with my Christmas preparations more or less done so I can concentrate on the spiritual preparation. I do still need to send a few gifts, but no shopping for me on "Black Friday"!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Today I am copying a Thanksgiving Prayer that "Dear Abby" that was penned by her mother, Pauline Phillips.

O Heavenly Father,
We thank thee for food and remember the hungry,
We thank thee for health and remember the sick,
We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That thy gifts to us may be used for others. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Women - have they a flaw?

This is longer than usual, but someone sent it to me and I thought it would be of interest to all women.

One Flaw In Women

By the time the Lord made woman,
He was into his sixth day of working overtime.
An angel appeared and said,
"Why are you spending so much time on this one?"
And the Lord answered, "Have you seen my spec sheet on her?
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic,
have over 200 movable parts, all replaceable
and able to run on diet coke and leftovers,
have a lap that can hold four children at one time,
have a kiss that can cure anything from a scraped knee to a broken heart
-and she will do everything with only two hands."

The angel was astounded at the requirements.
"Only two hands!? No way!
And that's just on the standard model?
That's too much work for one day.
Wait until tomorrow to finish."

"But I won't," the Lord protested.
"I am so close to finishing this creation that is so close to my own heart.
She already heals herself when she is sick
AND can work 18 hour days."

The angel moved closer and touched the woman.
"But you have made her so soft, Lord."
"She is soft," the Lord agreed,
"but I have also made her tough.
You have no idea what she can endure or accomplish."

"Will she be able to think?", asked the angel.
The Lord replied,
"Not only will she be able to think,
she will be able to reason and negotiate."

The angel then noticed something,
and reaching out, touched the woman's cheek.
"Oops, it looks like you have a leak in this model.
I told you that you were trying to put too much into this one."
"That's not a leak,"
the Lord corrected,
"that's a tear!"
"What's the tear for?" the angel asked.

The Lord said, "The tear is her way of expressing her joy,
her sorrow, her pain, her disappointment, her love,
her loneliness, her grief and her pride."
The angel was impressed.
"You are a genius, Lord.
You thought of everything!
Woman is truly amazing."

And she is!
Women have strengths that amaze men.
They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
but they hold happiness, love and joy.
They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry.
They cry when they are happy
and laugh when they are nervous.
They fight for what they believe in.
They stand up to injustice.
They don't take "no" for an answer
when they believe there is a better solution.
They go without so their family can have.
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children excel
and cheer when their friends get awards.
They are happy when they hear about a birth or a wedding.
Their hearts break when a friend dies.
They grieve at the loss of a family member,
yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left.
They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart.
Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you
to show how much they care about you.
The heart of a woman is what makes the world keep turning.
They bring joy, hope and love.
They have compassion and ideals.
They give moral support to their family and friends.
Women have vital things to say and everything to give.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Maybe the Thanksgiving holidays always bring back memories, but I am thinking of how often I took the natural beauty of Chile for granted and need to thank for that now. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the entire world and I had the joy of living there for twenty years! I must admit that my memories of the first year are not all good as I went without knowing a word of Spanish and was given charge of the Middle School with 157 children; that was bedlam the first morning but I survived! We did not leave the very limited grounds but could see a park behind us full of lovely trees. Then, with the changes and working in formation and on a mission team, I did travel up and down Chile as a spiritual director who visited all 19 communities. By then, after having been head of a school of over 600, and having ten years in the school, I was more into formation and retreat work and found that I loved helping others. I look back with gratitude on those years, especially the last years as superior in the poorest region of Chile. We had a wooden house built by the priests next to the church on a bluff in Coquimbo. We could walk to the other side of the church and see the ocean. Then, a short walk in the other direction brought us into the desert. It is good to let these memories flow freely through me as they increase my gratitude for all that I have been given.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thirsty for God

I have been feeling a thirst for God. This is good, but it has made other things less attractive to me and they are the things of daily duty done with a smile and with love. I am wanting to pray when I need to be cleaning out my office. This is temptation so I must learn to pray and clean and make the clearing out a prayer. I am finding joy in being able to give things to people.
I think that God gives us a thirst for Him so we keep seeking Him. The longing for union with Him is the reason we keep striving to live each day well or at least a little better than the day before. I always see how much is still to be done to make my soul transparent, joyful, and grateful. Advent will be a time of thirsting for God.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jesus, King of the universe

Almighty and merciful God,
you break the power of evil and make all things new
in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe.
May all in heaven and earth
acclaim your glory
and never cease to praise you.

Let us widen the circle that prays this prayer together on Sunday beyond Catholics and Anglicans. (this is taken from an Anglican page where I found this picture)

Let us pray that the reign of Christ may live in our hearts and come to our world]

Almighty and eternal God,
you have made of one blood all the nations of the earth
and will that they live together
in peace and harmony;
so order the course of this world
that all peoples may be brought together
under Christ’s most gentle rule;
through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

A friend in Scotland has just sent me this link where you will find the wonderful book of The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart online:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

This is dawn, the beginning of a new day. The other is sunset, the beginning of the end of the day. Actually, dawn is the bottom picture as I posted it first and the sunset is on top. Both are so common in our daily lives that we do not stop to reflect on them, but are often caught up in the beauty of the first streaks of light crossing the sky as we wake up or the gorgeous color of the sky in the evening. What really matters is what we are doing in between these scenes. Has my day been one of love? Have I reflected joy so that others are uplifted? Have I shown my gratitude to each who surround me with such love and service? I guess it is time for me to thank for the days that do reflect the beauty of God's sunrises and sunsets and hope that I am also creating some soul beauty by my actions between sunrise and sunset.

Today is a delightful Saturday and I am going to enjoy it fully as I prepare to give thanks to Christ, the King of my heart, and end this Liturgical year's Sundays tomorrow and prepare for Advent.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christ the King is the end of the liturgical year

This Sunday, we will be celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. It used to be at the end of October and now is the last Sunday of the Liturgical year and the Sunday before Advent. Advent begins a new liturgical year and I love the sense of beginning anew to wait for the birth of Jesus in our hearts and in our world. I have a new Journal ready to begin the new liturgical year. Today, though, I am thinking of the Kingship of Christ; he came to establish a kingdom, but not in this world. He came to us poor, needy as any tiny baby is needy, and like us in all except sin. He lived a humble life and has given us an example. Let us prepare for Sunday by letting him reign in our hearts!
Now, an important announcement. Do not buy the book I thought had on Mother Stuart. I ordered three copies of the Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart and they came at once, but they are not about her and not the book that I thought it was going to be and so I am sending all three copies back today! I cannot understand how they can use the same title and have nothing about Mother Stuart. I hope none of you ordered the book. I will not ever mention a book again that I have not had in my hands, but this is one of my favorite books and has been out of print so when someone told me about it, I not only ordered it, but was delighted to tell others.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clearing Out

This picture is from Scotland and speaks to me of living water. I have just heard that I need to vacate my office before the holidays and so that means getting rid of a wall of certificates, a wall of books, four file cabinets, and many other keepsakes that have been given to me over the years. I knew we were going to be short of space and so said last year that I would not really need to keep my office, but I thought I had until March. Now it means that I must get rid of everything as I really cannot take anything home as I have no room to put anything!! My bedroom is overflowing with books and there is no place to put them in my community. I could use some prayer right now to help me get rid of everything. Twenty-three years is a long time and I have accumulated many things!! I know I will feel good once I am rid of everything, but I am feeling exhausted just thinking about the amount of stuff I have even in my desk drawers! I can help others clear out, but find my own things difficult to just pitch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Philippine's spirit is still at St. Charles

Many will be visiting the Academy of the Sacred Heart today for the Feast of Saint Philippine Duchesne. I love the little shrine which was her resting place for so long and where some of us went every evening after supper to pray and then close up the shrine. There were amber and green vigil lights on her tomb which was a marble slab in the middle of the floor; it was so easy to pray there in the flickering light of the almost finished vigil lights. I was only thirteen when we started going out each night with one of the nuns to pray there, but it is easy for me to still remember how much I felt loved by Mother Duchesne. I did not know much about her life then but knew that she loved children and we felt her love there.
Happy Feast to all my readers today! For more information about Philippine go to:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eve of St. Philippine Duchesne's Feast

Philippine was so humble! I continue to read her life again and marvel at her love that allowed her to embrace so many hardships. The worst, of course, was feeling that she was a failure and useless. I hope she is rejoicing with all the family of the Sacred Heart tomorrow in heaven and that she sees the fruit of her abnegation and tremendous love.

I am late getting this on because there has been one thing after another that I have had to do today and I guess my blog did not take priority. This is a busy week and I seem to have forgotten all the things that were happening this week. Well, I am sure all the essentials will get done and hopefully I will be more inspired tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Resting in God gives energy!

This is a picture of an older Philippine Duchesne. I am just amazed at all she did and think the saints must have draw energy from prayer. I find myself even getting more energy after Centering Prayer and so I guess it is something that really does happen in prayer. I do know that nothing goes right for me the day I do not have at least an hour of prayer in the morning. Sometimes it seems that I just sit there and it is very poor prayer but it does seem to transform the day. Now, if only I were as faithful to find the time for prayer in the afternoon. Well, reading Philippine's life has called me to look deeply into my own.

Yesterday I was up at 5:30, prayed, showered and dressed and went out to get some breakfast. I met one of my community who was still in her bathrobe. She asked me where I was going as I had been to Mass the evening before and this was Sunday! Wow! I thought it was Monday and so had the entire day to do nothing!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We do not know the day or the hour...

Today's liturgy is reminding us that we do not know when the end is coming; heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of God will not pass away. No one except God knows when- we just need to be prepared. The end of the liturgical year brings the thought of what used to be called "the four last things" - death, judgment, heaven or hell- before us so that we think seriously about how our lives are being lived in preparation for a future. We will be celebrating the Kingship of Christ as a fitting end to the Liturgical Year and then we being again with the beautiful season of Advent.

I am still deep into the life of Mother Duchesne who had so much to suffer. She was so selfless and humble and still a wonderful example for all of us.

Before I end today, I want you to know that you can now buy the marvelous book in paperback on called "The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart" - I hope all my readers will have their own copy and enjoy the wonderful prose as well as the deep and simple spirituality of this terrific English woman. I am ordering two copies today for Christmas gifts. It is a great book and one I often read over and over again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preparing Philippine's Feast by Praying at her tomb

The shrine at St. Charles was never finished, but it makes the smaller, starker version seem to fit St. Philippine Duchesne's life. She worked so hard and prayed so long and well during her whole life. She always considered herself a failure as the houses she began in Missouri were struggling during her lifetime; she never learned to speak English very well; when she finally managed to get to the Indians, she was unable to learn their language and could only pray for them. She said in a letter to Mother Barat as early as 1829: "I am nothing but a wornout walking stick, fit to be cast aside right now. But I beg you not to agree to the suppression of one of the houses in Missouri. St. Charles will be an educational opportunity for the children of the vast spaces of the western country. This convent (she is writing from the City House in St. Louis) is in the episcopal city, the most important place in the state. St. Ferdinand is the novititate and has a boarding school with a lower tuition than we charge here..."

Philippine did not even have money to pay the postage to send letters; she did her best to write when there was an opportunity for Europe. Her letters are full of details that help us to picture the life in the early convents and all the hardships that the nuns endured. She makes light of the privations, but does worry about the health of her nuns and the children. I am reading again some of her letters and feel that she is very near to us today.