Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Happy Mardi Gras!

This morning on the radio I heard a talk show host say that even though he isn't Catholic or even Christian, he was going to give up something for Lent. It's interesting how some Catholic customs have managed to soak into the popular culture like that.

This link from the Franciscans has a brief history of Mardi Gras and its roots in the Catholic Church.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Choose God, not the works of God"

Those words are from the late Cardinal Van Thuan, the Vietnamese bishop who endured 13 years in prison, 9 of them in solitary confinement. He was arrested simply because he was a priest and bishop.
In his book, Testimony of Hope, he relates how he felt so desolate in prison because he couldn't do anything for the people of his diocese. He had been forced to abandon his people and this broke his heart. But he relates:
"One night, from the depths of my heart, a voice said to me, 'Why do you torment yourself like this? You must distinguish between God and the works of God. Everything you have done and desire to continue doing--pastoral visits, formation of seminarians, of men and women religious, of the laity, of the youth....all of these are excellent works. These are God's works, but they are not God! If God wants you to leave all of these works, do it right away and have faith in him! God can do things infinitely better than you can.... You have chosen God alone, not his works!'"

He said that gave him peace and changed his way of thinking. It's a lot like the kind of active indifference that St. Ignatius recommends. When we have to do discern what God is calling us to, Ignatius says to approach it by being indifferent to the outcome, wanting only what God wants. "Choose God, not the works of God."

Friday, February 24, 2006

George Weigel talk on Pope John Paul II

I just got back from a talk at Boston College given by George Weigel. He spoke on Wojtyla and the philosophers. It was the keynote address of a two-day conference on the philosophy of John Paul. Weigel's talk was like a biography of John Paul as a philosopher. John Paul taught at the Catholic University of Lublin, which was the only place from Berlin to Seoul during the Cold War where a truly free academic climate flourished.

Weigel spoke of so many profound ideas that it's hard to grasp all of them. Here's one of them: John Paul taught about ethics and the person. He said that moral acts are real acts of real people with real consequences. He explored how the choices we make, for good or evil, make us into the kinds of persons we are. What an important message for us today. Arguments for abortion, for example, have been promoted heavily through rhetoric about choice, as if the mere fact of making a choice is the only thing that matters, and not what we in fact are choosing. But if we choose evil, we become evil, and if we choose good, we become good. If I choose to push an old lady into the street and steal her pocketbook, that act affects my character. If I choose to help an old lady carry her groceries home, that act alaso affects my character. One act doesn't make a character, but many acts, repeated over time, shape a character.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

God has cast into the depths of the sea all our sins

Sr Anne over at nunblog has a great reflection on the reality of sin and evil.

On retreat St Ignatius puts some serious meditations on sin toward the end of the first week. It was very sobering to meditate on it, and at a certain point I realized I was feeling uncomfortable. In prayer I had to honestly look at some areas of sin in my life. My director told me to go back to the place where I felt uncomfortable. It was as if the Holy Spirit was "convicting" me (to use a term the evangelicals like that I like too). At that point I went to confession and just gave all the baggage to Jesus. Then I took some meditative walks along the coast and thought about that wonderful verse somewhere in the Bible: "God has cast into the depths of the sea all our sins."

Now ready -- new encyclical

Pope Benedict's first encyclical is now ready. There's been an amazing amount of interest in it and we're getting many orders!

A lady called the order department from somewhere in the South and asked in a drawl, "Now why did you change the color of the cover?" Linda, our order entry operator, responded off the cuff, "New pope, new color!"

Congratulations, Cardinal O'Malley!

This morning I heard the news that Bishop O'Malley was named a cardinal. As head of the Archdiocese of Boston he took over the diocese in the midst of the huge crisis of the scandal. I think he's done a wonderful job of effectively responding to that crisis. But the effects of it have run very deep and the Church in Boston needs a lot of prayer. Then he had to face difficult decisions regarding the closing of parishes and all of the controversy surrounding that. I'm sure he would appreciate the prayers of all of us as he faces these big responsibilities.

A while ago he visited our convent one Sunday, celebrated Mass and talked with the community. Everyone enjoyed him as he is very gracious and very humble.

I'm inserting here the picture of myself and my co-novice, Sr Laura, when we celebrated our silver jubilee at a Mass at the Cathedral in 2004.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Decisions--follow your gut feeling

The other day the newspaper had an article about a new study that was done about how people make decisions. (I couldn't find it online though). For less complex decisions, people in the study made better decisions when they analyzed the decision as they made it. But for larger, complex decisions, the study found that people made better decisions if, after looking at all the factors, they went away from it and after a lapse of time followed their gut feelings.

The study authors said that because complex decisions involve so many factors, the conscious mind can't consider them all at once. So people tend to focus on one or two things that appeal to them more and ignore everything else if they try to make a complex decision solely on the basis of logical analysis. But the subconscious mind can sort through all the factors while we're doing other things. That's why the lapse of time after looking at everything helped people make better decisions.

When I think about my own life, I realize that my most important decisions were made by following my gut feelings. The biggest decision was when I decided to enter the convent. I didn't sit down and logically analyze all the pros and cons, but I felt in my heart that God was calling me and I wanted to respond. I imagine it's the same when people get married.

How does this study compare with your own experience?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Seven Founders of Servites

Today is the feast of the seven founders of the Servite order. In the early 1200's seven men got together and organized a new religious order, calling themselves servants of Mary. The order has a strong Marian charism.
I recall Fr. Walter Brennan, a wonderful Servite priest who taught theology at the Marian Institute in Dayton. I had him for some classes and his teaching had a lot of depth. He was not only an academic but had a lot of pastoral experience because he worked at an inner-city parish. He shared with us a document from one of the Servites' meetings. In talking about Mary and evangelization, it states:

"John Paul II characterizes the new evangelization as 'new in its fervor, its methods, and its expression.' This leads us to take the Virgin of the Magnificat as icon of our evangelizatin commitment. Her fervor is the fruit of her faith and humility, and expresses her gratitude and enthusiasm."

Mary, help us in our efforts to lead people to Jesus, your Son.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Share the joy

Today I was deeply moved because I found that someone had left the following comment in the post where I said I would pray for the intentions people listed when on retreat:

"Sister, the prayer I left with you was answered, and today I was able to receive Communion for the first time in more than twenty years. You will always remain in my prayers with deep gratitude."

I can only rejoice in God's grace at this! It's so wonderful to see how he truly does answer our prayers, even when in our human way of looking at things it seems there is no solution. God always has a solution. I'm also grateful that the person who received the grace went back to post the comment. Not that I can claim the credit for it, since it's God who gives the grace. But in his wonderful providence God allows us to intercede for each other and in the communion of saints there is this wonderful exchange of graces.

Praise God!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Elevator rescue!

Last Friday evening one of our senior sisters, Sr. Caroline, got stuck in a small elevator near our dining room. It stopped between floors and wouldn't budge. Of course these things always happen after our maintenance men leave for the day. So we called the elevator company and luckily they had a mechanic in the area who came out quickly. He found that the motor had burned out and had some difficulty in getting the car to move to the floor level.

So Sr Caroline was stuck in the elevator for about an hour. Several of us stayed in the hallway talking to her through the wall. Luckily, she stayed calm and didn't panic. She said, "Well, Lent is coming, so we have to do penance." Then she told us the riddle of the day (every day she has a riddle that she tells). When the mechanic finally got the car to move and the door to open, she emerged with a smile. Now we just have to pray to St. Joseph for some funds to get the elevator fixed.

Happy Valentine's Day!

God is love!

With Pope Benedict's new encyclical, this theme has been discussed a lot lately.

St Ignatius stresses how important it is to realize that we are loved sinners. God loves us no matter what sins we may have committed. His love doesn't condone the sin, but helps us rise above it.

Today is a great day to ask for the grace to let God's love into our hearts.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita

Today is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a saint whom John Paul canonized shortly before his death.
Her life story is an incredible one--born a Muslim in Sudan, she was sold into slavery and suffered extreme harshness and torments. Through God's Providence she ended up being bought by the Italian Consul, who treated her kindly. She traveled with him to Italy and eventually became a Catholic and a religious sister. She did humble tasks lovingly and the people in the area came to love her for her gentle kindness.

St. Josephine, pray for us, and intercede for Sudan, where so much war, violence and slavery still exist.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blind beggars

The story of Bartimaeus in chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel was one that I used often during retreat.
It describes Bartimaeus as a blind beggar, and that's what we all are before God. Bartimaeus simply kept on shouting out, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" When the people around him tried to make him stop, he just kept shouting louder. The Gospel says a large crowd of people were following Jesus. I can imagine them walking along the dusty road, under the burning sun, pushing and shoving, all trying to get to Jesus. But Jesus stopped and stood still because he heard Bartimaeus.

It reminds me of the scene in March of the Penguins when the father penguins return and pick out their chick from thousands of them, just by the sound of its voice. Jesus listened to Bartimaeus despite the large crowd.

Bartimaeus is a great model of prayer because he knew how to ask!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ask God for graces

One of the things I learned on retreat is how St. Ignatius really stresses the idea of asking for the graces we need. Every prayer time is supposed to start out with becoming aware of God's presence and then asking for the graces we want. And it's not only asking but even begging!

As I was going through the exercises and would hit certain bumps in the road, my director kept telling me to ask God to help me get through it. And the amazing thing is that he did! The graces really came.

That's something not only for retreat, but for all the time, whenever we pray. Keep asking, keep knocking on that door, keep seeking, like the Gospel says. My director said that God wants to give us grace more than we want to receive it--he's just waiting for the right moment when we're really receptive. It can be on retreat, or it can be at home, while shopping, driving the car, or praying at church. God is so in love with us that he lavishes it on us.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Back from retreat!

Today I got back from retreat! I prayed for the intentions that people had listed here, and will continue to do so.

I'm very grateful to my community for giving me this opportunity for spiritual renewal. It came at a good time for me and has left me feeling "recharged."

For now I just want to say hello to everyone and that I missed reading all your comments. I intend to blog about some of the wonderful graces that came through the retreat as I get settled back in and catch up on my work. I hope to focus on some things that anyone can tap into in their own lives whether they can go on retreat or not.

One thing for now: a group of about 20 people made the retreat, and it was amazing to me how just through being together in prayer and silence, a real bond formed among us. There were two break days when we could talk and get to know each other a little more, but for most of the time it was silent prayer that drew us together. Most of us didn't know each other before coming there (however we were blessed to have a group of 9 Jesuit novices with us making the retreat). But by the end of the retreat we had truly formed a community. It brought home to me in a new way how important prayer is in forming community. That's true whether it's a religious community or the community of the family. Shared prayer draws people together at the "heart" level. And families don't have to make a retreat together for that to happen. Some kind of family prayer is enough. It's hard to find the time today when family members are drawn in so many directions, but it's well worth it.