Inspiration

Discover in Prayer God’s Deepest Desires for You

An Interview with Fr Greg Cleveland

In Awakening Love: An Ignatian Retreat with the Song of Songs, Fr. Greg Cleveland, OMV breaks open some of the most intimate words in sacred scripture. Using the Song of Songs, he provides us with beautiful insights, reflections and prayer exercises that help us to delve deeper into our relationship with the Lord and to open ourselves up to God’s ever-present grace. We wanted to know more about Fr Greg’s way of inviting people to discover in prayer God’s deepest desires for them, so we asked him a few questions. 

Thank you for taking this time, Father! So let’s dive right in. How can people experience God?

God is always present to us and trying to communicate himself to us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  It reminds me of the story of a farmer once attended a conference on Christian life. The group was asked to consider a moment in life when they had an experience of self-transcendence. The farmer became very interested when he recounted that during the harvest he would stand in a field of wheat and hold a grain of new wheat in his hand. This experience was overwhelming and moved him to tears; but he never told anyone as he didn’t think they would understand. As the farmer continued, he came to realize that up until now he had never connected this profound experience of the harvest with his faith as a Christian.

God was blessing that farmer, providing for him in his work, and giving him the joy of the harvest, though the farmer did not realize it. The more we are open and attentive, the more we will realize God’s presence and receive his gifts. The experience of God touches our whole person, our mind, our emotions, even our physical bodies. We need to reflect more on the ways we really experience God in our ordinary lives in order to come to greater conscious awareness of his presence within and around us.

It sounds like personal reflection and being open to God reaching to us is the key. Is that correct?

God can communicate himself to us in so many ways. He reveals himself through creation which reveals the beauty and power of the Creator. In persons, places and events he is present to us. He cleanses and nurtures us with his very life in the sacraments. In prayer God manifests himself to us in a special way through our faculties—especially the most spiritual faculties of the human person – in our memory, intellect and will. As we experience God through these faculties, we move from God “out there” to God within our very being. We meditate on God’s word and come to understanding of his truth and conviction in living in his love. Faith is not merely intellectual assent, but the experience of the living God in a covenant of love. In prayer we open our hearts to God’s action and he moves us in the free use of our faculties, making us alive in his grace.

So where do we start?

Let’s begin with the faculty of memory. Our memories are the storehouses of our life experiences and give us a sense of identity. We have an entire history of our relationship with God in these experiences. As we pray with the scriptures, God touches our memories and brings us to awareness of our participation in the mysteries of the life of Christ. For instance, as I pray upon the episode of Christ’s baptism, I may recall my own baptism and incorporation into Christ and how his abiding presence has awakened a sense of my own call as a son of God the Father.

I then apply the faculty of the intellect to ponder the mystery. I might think about John the Baptist and his humility, feeling unworthy to baptize Jesus. I think of Jesus’ humility in identifying with sinners though he was without sin. I allow these thoughts to penetrate my own proud heart, moving me to desire humility and a share in the grace of Christ’s baptism.

Now I am moving through the memory and intellect toward acts of the will. Aware of the presence of the Holy Trinity in Christ’s baptism, I am moved to desire greater union. I make acts of faith, hope and love with my will. I choose to accept the grace of my own baptism and to follow Christ more closely in his humility and desire to serve. Touched by God’s grace, I feel alive in body, soul and spirit.

Notice how the memory, intellect and will always work together in harmony. In exercising these faculties, we are in the image of the Holy Trinity. In prayer and by grace, we experience the love of the holy Trinity in and through these spiritual faculties. We really do experience God, especially in prayer. 

What are some practical steps we can take?

Prayer is the greatest adventure of the heart. There are a few things I’d suggest. You can even look at them as bullet points:

  • Realize prayer is a priority. I’m never too busy for prayer. I need God more than the air I breathe or the food I eat. Carve out quality and quantity time for prayer – begin with a manageable amount of time and gradually increase it.
  • Develop a method of praying with Sacred Scripture. You cannot do better than praying with the Word of God. We need to structure our prayer to ponder the scriptures and apply them to our lives. St. Ignatius offers various methods that help us open our hearts to God.
  • Pay attention to movements in my heart. God addresses himself to us in prayer and elicits a response on our part. I may be moved to positive feelings of love, joy or gratitude –- negative feelings of fear or resistance. I notice my reactions and express them to the Lord.
  • Experience conversion of heart. The Lord comes to cast his healing light into the dark recesses of my heart, moving me to repentance or change of heart. This is a joyful, liberating experience that removes obstacles to the Lord’s presence.
  • Become sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As I live in the Lord’s abiding presence through prayer, I notice his invitation to imitate him and follow him more closely. My heart is more easily moved by the Spirit to be Christ-like in specific situations.
  • Be reflective about God’s presence in my day. Take some time to reflect back on your day to notice how God has been living and active in your life. Look for the blessings with gratitude and fill in the negatives with his mercy. Move forward with a hope, trusting in God’s help and providence.

Prayer is less about what we accomplish than what God is doing within us.  We live in a culture that values achievement above everything else.  We feel we must accomplish something in order to feel useful, and we base our self-worth on our achievements.  But in prayer we simply receive, enjoying reality and the holy Trinity of persons.

A seasoned and skilled retreat director, Fr Greg Cleveland helps people tap into their deepest desires as they learn to journey intimately with the Lord. Currently executive director of the Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Denver, Colorado, where he offers spiritual direction and retreats while teaching training programs in these ministries, Fr. Greg Cleveland is the author of Awakening Love: An Ignatian Retreat with the Song of Songs. “Writing with insight, passion, and pastoral verve, Fr. Cleveland shows us how to respond to God’s gift with total self-giving that is both appropriate and supremely joyful” (Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., Editor-in-Chief, Magnificat).

 

Inspiration

Why Cultivate a Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

June is drawing to a close, and we cannot leave it without remembering its dedication to the Sacred Heart. To many people, devotion to the Sacred Heart seems a little strange. We worship Christ who was resurrected from the dead, and yet we have a special devotion to his… heart?

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Church recommends this devotion, and we all know about it, but we don’t necessarily know why. And yet even when we don’t “know” in our heads, we “know” in our own hearts and souls: with so much indifference to faith in the world, having Jesus call to us though his heart, giving us the symbol of God’s infinite love, the symbol of his generous self-sacrificing love for humanity, speaks directly to our own hearts.

And we cannot forget the simplicity of the symbolism: in every language, the heart is regarded as the natural symbol of love and affection.

In fact, humanity has always associated the heart with love. It is the life-force of the body; when the heart stops beating, life ends. So it’s not surprising that as devotion to the Incarnated Christ increased in the Church, people experienced his love for them through his heart.

In Judaism, the word “heart” is referring to every person’s core. While recognized as the principle life organ, the heart is also considered the center of all spiritual activity and the seat of all emotion, especially love. As the psalms express, God speaks to a person in their heart. This notion of the heart is clear when we read the words of Deuteronomy 6:5-6: “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

Throughout the Gospel we see the outpouring of Jesus’ love from his heart—in the miracle stories, his reconciliation of sinners, and his compassion for the grieving. Even on the cross, Jesus poured out his love for us as the soldier’s lance pierced his side and blood and water poured out.

The early Church Fathers clearly cherished this meaning of the Sacred Heart:

  • St. Justin Martyr said, “We Christians are the true Israel which springs from Christ, for we are carved out of His heart as from a rock.”
  • St. Irenaeus of Lyons said, “The Church is the fountain of the living water that flows to us from the Heart of Christ.”
  • St. Paulinus of Nola said, “John, who rested blissfully on the breast of our Lord, was inebriated with the Holy Spirit, from the Heart of all creating Wisdom he quaffed an understanding which transcends that of any creature.”

General devotions to the Sacred Heart were popular in early Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, but specific devotions became even more popular when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, had a personal revelation involving a series of visions of Christ as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote, “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart,” with the chief features of the devotion being reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month, Eucharistic adoration during a Holy Hour on Thursdays, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

The devotion continued to grow throughout the Middle Ages, and in 1353 Pope Innocent VI instituted a Mass honoring the mystery of the Sacred Heart. During the age of the Protestant movement, devotion to the Sacred Heart was practiced in hope of restoring peace to a world shattered by political and religious persecution.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was given promises as well as admonitions, the benefits that could be accrued when we pray to the Sacred Heart:

  • I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
  • I will give peace in their families and will unite families that are divided.
  • I will console them in all their troubles.
  • I will be their refuge during life and, above all, in death.
  • I will bestow the blessings of Heaven on all their enterprises.
  • Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
  • Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  • Fervent souls shall rise quickly to great perfection.
  • I will bless those places wherein the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored and will imprint My love on the hearts of those who would wear this image on their person. I will also destroy in them all disordered movements.
  • I will give to priests who are animated by a tender devotion to my Divine Heart the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
  • Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be effaced.
  • I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence: they will not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart provides a special closeness to the incarnated nature of God. We love his heart with all of our own hearts. We rest our heads, our worries, and our pain within his heart, and he has promised that he will hear us.

More than just a way of prayer, this devotion is based on the essence of the Gospel: to take on the heart of Jesus so as to live in his love and bring it to others. No matter what stage of spiritual growth you are experiencing, praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can help you grow more deeply in love with Jesus and experience the love of his Sacred Heart in your life.

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Inspiration

More Than a Mystery

This Sunday’s observance of Trinity Sunday brings me back to my first encounter with that ineffable dogma. I came home from first grade, mischievously entertaining what I knew to be the mildly blasphemous definition, “God is the Supreme Bean.” (That would be Supreme Being, or Bein‘ in my teacher’s very pronounced Southern accent.) And this Supreme Being was One God in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son, I knew, is Jesus. The rest—and how it relates to us—as far as I could gather, all fell under the category of “It’s a mystery.”

For decades, even into my early religious life, I honestly thought that the mystery of the Holy Trinity was some kind of supernatural lagniappe: a little something extra thrown in with the truths of the Apostles’ Creed, the grace of the Sacraments, and the guidance of the Commandments; a reality to be revered, preserved and adored—from a distance. It didn’t cross my mind that this pinnacle mystery, this Mystery with a capital M, had any connection whatever to the human vocation.

And then Pope John Paul started giving his now-famous series of Wednesday morning talks, starting with the creation of the first man and woman, male and female, “in the divine image.”

“Man appears in the visible world as the highest expression of the divine gift, because he bears within himself the inner dimension of the gift, and with it he carries into the world his particular likeness to God.” [TOB 19]

From the beginning, the human body in its masculinity and femininity was a “transparent component of reciprocal giving in the communion of persons. Thus, in the mystery of creation, the human body carried within itself an unquestionable sign of the ‘image of God‘…” [TOB 27.3]

“Happiness is being rooted in Love” [TOB 16], and God, who is Love (1 Jn 4:8), created us so that we could participate in that selfsame happiness. The pope loved to quote (and did, at least twelve times!) Vatican II’s teaching that because we are made in the image of God, we can only find fulfillment through a “sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et Spes 24:3). He even gave this principle a name: “The Law of the Gift.”

The language John Paul uses in his Theology of the Body when speaking of human beings is the very same language he uses when writing of the mystery of God in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, written about the same time. In fact, John Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Person-Gift” of the Trinity.

A gift is always a sign of ourselves, given freely and without expectation of return. There is nothing more beautiful in life.

We reflect this with those we love every time we find ourselves planning a surprise for them for a special occasion, or simply because we saw something that would give delight. It is possible to turn almost everything into a kind of gift. It’s almost embarrassing how small these can be—friendly eye contact with a harried cashier; letting a car in at an intersection; welcoming the halting and imperfect expression of something that you may not fully agree with. Even receiving a gift can be a gift we return to the giver!

Thanks to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts so we can begin to love not only our dearest family and friends, but everyone—even (and this is the sheer grace of God) our enemies, something the Christians of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Sri Lanka teach us on an almost-daily basis.

The Trinity is not, as I thought since first grade, a remote “Supreme Being.” We ourselves are meant to reveal the Most Blessed Trinity; to be living images of the living Triune God whose life is gift: fully given, received and returned. We are meant to be the self-portraits of God in the world; living portraits, engaged in the Trinitarian life of self-giving love in myriad places, ways and occasions.

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity is a renewal of the call to “be like God as his very dear children” (see Eph 5:1): something that is only possible if we live by the fruit of the Tree of Life, the Cross.

by Sr Anne Flanagan, FSP

Inspiration

The Lesson of the Sleeping St Joseph Statue

A dear friend of mine had only months to live. Her life had been complex. Woven into each decade were unforeseen sorrows that still scarred her spirit. A visit from the local parish had left her unsettled and worried as she faced her final goodbyes, her last yes to God, her final look back on her life, the reality of all that had been. She began to feel that all she had done was somehow now written in stone and could never be made right.

She called me up not knowing what to expect, if there was any hope for her, afraid even to ask lest she find out that her pastoral visit was really her final door…closed…on hope.

We settled into a quiet conversation. I sensed she was clutching at straws, trying to pin down the mystery of life and death with some logical explanation. As she turned and twisted her life this way and that in an attempt to understand, she generated explanations and analysis which didn’t seem to satisfy. I could see what was happening. She was going through an enlargement of her spirit that now reached far beyond the story she had lived. Faced with her imminent eternal reality, she like a candle was already being lit with the radiant FOREVER that awaited her, yet she was aware of how she had not fully grown into the spiritual maturity that suddenly was becoming clear to her.

As I listened to her, there came to my mind the image of St. Joseph…sleeping.

Here he was the new guardian and foster-father of not just any baby, but the Light of the World and the Son of the Eternal One…. They were escaping imminent danger as King Herod sought the child to kill him. They were resting exhausted in the desert as they were escaping to Egypt. And Joseph slept. The stakes were too high for him to rely on his own strategy to care for the Son of God and the Son of Mary. His sleeping acknowledged his fatigue, his weakness, his sorrow, as well as his trust in the mysterious strategies of the Eternal One that often make no sense to us. This is the lesson of the sleeping St. Joseph who knew that even as he was a “little one,” his every need was cared for by the divine providence of the Eternal Father.

So I offered my friend this image of the sleeping Joseph. I encouraged her to be okay with being a little one. I can imagine that Jesus had a deeply affectionate memory of his earthly father when in his public ministry he prayed to his Father in heaven with a loud voice: “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I thank you that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to the little ones” (Mt. 11:25).

The little ones. It is okay, my friend, to be a little one.

To have the courage to rest, knowing that the way God sorts things out is always in our favor, that he sees what no one else knows, that he isn’t trapped in the stories we write of our lives but sees the alternate story HE is writing with our lives.

St. Joseph, model of the little ones, is the model of every virtue in the Christian life. Pope Paul VI called St. Joseph, “a poor, honest, hardworking, perhaps even timorous man, but one with unfathomable interior life, from which very singular directions and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions, such as that decision to put his liberty at once at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable virginal love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and the nourishment of the family; in this way he offered the whole of his existence in a total sacrifice to the imponderable demands raised by the astonishing coming of the Messiah, to whom he was to give the everlastingly blessed name of Jesus (Mt. 1:21), whom he was to acknowledge as the effect of the Holy Spirit, and his own son only in a juridical and domestic way” (Homily of Pope Paul VI on St Joseph, March 27, 1969).

I have in my room a statue of the sleeping St Joseph, but in our convent we have a large St. Joseph statue (and many small statues in individual rooms and offices) where we put our requests this great Saint and Provider to help us with things we need. St. Joseph has never been “sleeping on the job” when it comes to caring for our community’s needs. I have been praying to St Joseph for his guidance in prayer and holiness since 2008 when I wrote the book St. Joseph: Help in Life’s Emergencies, when my own devotion to St Joseph began. And I can always tell when I forget to pray to him. The uber graces begin to dwindle. St. Joseph is very respectful and doesn’t impose himself upon us. He waits to be asked.

Powerful graces are won for us through the intercession of St. Joseph even in our spiritual life.

Saint Teresa of Avila believed so strongly in the power of St. Joseph that she once said, “To other saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succor us in some special necessity—but to this glorious saint, I know by experience, he has given the power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as he was subject to St. Joseph on earth—for St. Joseph, bearing the title of father and being Jesus’ guardian, could command him—so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they, too, know the same thing by experience.”

So whether you are in great need of interior peace, as my friend was, or asking for the grace of a good death for yourself or others…or you are turning to St. Joseph for material needs for yourself or your loved ones…or asking St. Joseph to guide and heal and protect the Church, you can be assured that this great saint will teach us the same trust in the Eternal Father’s providential care that he had learned as the guardian of Jesus. We will learn that we can sleep peacefully in God’s protective compassion, knowing that we are well cared for.

Here is a prayer to St. Joseph by St. Francis de Sales that you may wish to pray today on the Feast of St. Joseph:

Glorious St. Joseph, spouse of Mary, grant us your paternal protection, we beseech you by the heart of Jesus Christ. O you, whose power extends to all our necessities and can render possible for us the most impossible things, open your fatherly eyes to the needs of your children.

In the trouble and distresses which afflict us, we confidently have recourse to you. Deign to take under your charitable charge these important and difficult matters, cause of our worries. Make its happy outcome be for God’s glory and for the good of his devoted servants. Amen.

By Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Inspiration

Don’t Miss Jesus in the Bethlehem of Your Life

It all began quite spontaneously, unintentionally. One of those things that settle on you like a gentle night or a soft dew. Peace. Possibility.

We sit there a long while, holding hands, our fingers curled together protectively, vulnerably. Understanding communicated through simple gestures. I look at her and ask Jesus: “Jesus, will you show me how you are in this my sister, my sister waiting for you to come.”

In the evening I discover her waiting quietly, as the nurse prepares her supper. She is alone. I slip into a chair beside her and reach quietly for her hand. She says something I can’t understand, but I know she is speaking to me.

“Jesus, how are you within my sister, my sister who is waiting for you to come?”

I close my eyes and wait for Jesus to guide me to whatever he wishes me to see. I sense a brilliance, a happiness. The joy of God who is putting the finishing touches on a brilliant gem that gives him immense pleasure.

When I’m in a hurry, too busy to sit for 30 minutes to hold Sister’s hand while she eats, I can’t see HIS face. When I’m too efficient to notice someone who can’t follow my train of thought, too important to do the little services or hear the whispered secrets, I miss HIS eyes.

In these days we are preparing for the celebration of Christmas. We are looking forward to seeing Jesus in nativity sets and Christmas movies and in Christmas liturgies, and all this is good. But let us not miss HIM where he is now, still in the Bethlehem of our lives, in the poverty of our need, for after all that is what Jesus took on himself when he came to earth.

Jesus has come, and he has stayed. He is here and his face is wherever there is human sorrow and joy. See him, and Christmas is every day.

My heart cries out with the ancient words of Scripture:

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.

Give us new life, and we will call upon your name. (Ps 80: 2-3, 19)

By Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Inspiration, Uncategorized

All Souls: Thoughts and Memories

Commemorating our deceased loved ones is very much a part of our lives and the life of the whole world, for that matter!

I was once visiting Guam and happened to be there on November 2nd of that year. We were invited by our hosts to go with them to the cemetery to keep vigil and to pray and to celebrate the lives of relatives and friends who had gone before us in the sleep of peace. What an experience! People were there as early as the crack of dawn, praying and chanting, along with processions and song. I shall never forget that experience.

Go to any of the five continents throughout the world and you will find a wide variety of faith symbols that will leave you with much reverence and heartfelt prayer for those who have gone before us into eternity.

I remember my paternal grandfather making a trip to the cemetery every year on Palm Sunday to visit the graves of my grandmother and uncle, and bringing palm branches, flowers and a votive candle to recall their lives and to pray for them in a special way of remembrance aside from his daily prayers for their repose.

Each culture has their customs, tributes and vigils to offer that are deeply ingrained in their hearts as they recall the blessings and virtues these souls have lived during their lives.

I think that All Souls’ Day is closely linked to All Saints’ Day to remind us that there are souls, even today, who have lived heroic lives in the face of their everyday trials and tribulations and left us examples of fortitude, patience, and constancy in the face of the same difficulties that we too may have. Our ancestors are worthy of our veneration and lasting remembrance.

I hope this generation will have the opportunity I had of experiencing this deep devotion, of venerating loved ones and acquaintances who have passed from this life to the next in holy peace, of remembering the dead for happy times experienced together and for the virtues they lived.

by Sr Barbara Gerace, FSP

Read more: Purgatory, Candy, and All Saints by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Inspiration

Everyday Grace: How to enter into another’s pain

We all have felt the intense pain of loss, and know how terribly isolating it can be. But in some ways it’s even more difficult to be with someone who is in pain than it is to experience it ourselves. We want to fix things, to make it all right again for them, and when we cannot, we feel frustrated and angry. How can we deal?

  • Remember God is there. God doesn’t rush in to fix things or to sugarcoat anything; God is there for us for the long haul, though everything. If we remember that, it helps us to just be with someone else who is suffering.
  • Validate the other person’s pain. The worst thing you can do is say “Cheer up, it’s not really that bad.” Even if it doesn’t feel “that bad” to you, it does to them. Respect that and don’t minimize others’ feelings.
  • Be Christ to the person in pain. Don’t try to come up with answers; just offer Christ’s presence. The most difficult thing is to do nothing and just be; but you’re not doing it by yourself.

No one understands why we suffer, and there are no “right” prefabricated answers to pain. All that there is, is presence. You can be that presence; you can make sure that the person in pain is not alone. The ability to freely enter into the suffering of another is a reflection of God’s love, and it’s what we’re all called to do.

 

Inspiration

How Mary strengthens us as we carry the cross

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14). Early in the fourth century, Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. During the excavation for the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (to be built on the spot that tradition held was over the Savior’s tomb), workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. The cross immediately became an object of veneration.

The following day, September 15, is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, stood with her Son as he hung on his cross, and she stands here with each of us as we carry the cross beside her Son. Whether the cross enters our life through loss, failure, sin, illness, relationships, Mary is with us because she knows our sorrow. She herself has lived through the agony of the moment-by-moment struggle to make sense of pain, to find a way forward, to try to reframe what is happening into something our minds can comprehend. And she knows the final leap of faith, the only thing that can make sense of the struggle between the force of Love and the shadows of darkness.

Here are three ways Mary strengthens me as I carry the cross:

  • She teaches me to see. When life is brought to a shabby wreck through illness, failure, fractured human relationships, the bitter awareness of sin, Mary assures me that my own Calvary’s are paradoxically the places of my greatest hope.
  • She teaches me to wait. The cross cannot be explained away. It defies logic. Mary teaches me that conclusions I may reach with my mind are necessarily incomplete when I am  dealing with the painful situations of life. As she pondered in her heart the death of her Son, she slowly waited for understanding.
  • She teaches me to trust. The cross is essentially how God works in and through the way-things-are to defeat the darkness that still struggles for the upper hand in my life. I have been blessed to realize, at least in my better moments, that I want to let God act. In the words of Mary, I am finally able to say, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your will” (Lk 1:38).
These have made me stronger and you may find that they also make you stronger also when the cross looms large in your own life.

I’d like to introduce you to our new Just a Minute Series. When your burden is heavy these small take-me-with-you books will bring you light, love, and healing. It is like opening a window, taking in the fresh air, and gratefully receiving the sunshine. Each meditation takes just a few minutes to read, can be chosen at random, and is filled with encouragement and simple insights. These short meditations will enable you to connect with God’s heart through scripture and listen to what he is saying to you right here, right now.

by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, fsp
author of Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments

Inspiration, Uncategorized

“They’re all out!”

Along with everyone else in the world, we sisters have been keeping prayer vigil as rescue attempts were underway for the 12 Thai boys stuck in a flooded cave with their soccer coach. In fact, on our chapel door there’s a note where we’ve been keeping track of the progress. First there were four rescued successfully, then eight more made their way out with the help of Navy Seal divers. We prayed this morning for the remaining boys to be rescued. I checked the news as I sat down to prepare this newsletter and breathed a sigh of relief at the jubilant headlines: “They’re all out!”

The plight of these boys captured the heart and imagination of the world and has galvanized different countries to work together to find a way to rescue them.

There is something so beautiful, so human, so deeply sacred when we join hands together to save each other. Although it was a difficult, complex, and dramatic rescue, one that even took the life of one of the rescuers, the plight of these children was a straightforward issue: the children were in mortal danger from a natural disaster and needed adults to rescue them—quickly.

It might be easier for us to project our hearts’ noblest sentiments onto situations that are traumatic yet untangled with politics, confusion, and too many unknowns. When I think of the over 3000 children separated from their parents in the past weeks at the border between US and Mexico and who are now in government custody, I have terrible pictures in my mind: of children under five expected to defend themselves in hostile courtrooms; of children moved across the country so that parents have no idea where they are—and DNA must figure out who is related to whom; and of the hashtag #wherearethegirls asking why only boys appear in released photographs. There are so many issues, so much confusion, that my own heart is left feeling paralyzed.

These children, too, call out the noblest sentiments within a Christian heart. But they also bring up for each of us the stories, emotions, histories, beliefs, judgments, and biases that are part of every human life. It is easier to hold our breath with the world, rooting for the safety of the boys in Thailand, than it is to sort through issues the children of immigrants on our borders raise for us. Do they deserve any less from us?

So let us step aside, nobly, from all the adult issues regarding immigration, from our political beliefs, so that we can at least collectively hold our breath and pray and work for the safety of children as young as one year old, who right now are trapped, not in a cave but in a system, without the care of their parents—just like the Thai boys. Let us see them as helpless children, in their deepest sacred human dignity, and remember them in prayer until each one of them has been rescued and returned to the grateful arms of their parents.

Amen.

by Sr. Kathryn Hermes, FSP

Inspiration

The Fruit of Love

Peace is a fruit of love, understanding and harmony…. (VPC137)  Be strong in the face of adversity that may befall us, bearing willingly for the love of the Lord the great and small sufferings which we encounter in daily life. Let us learn to suffer without complaining, taking everything from the hands of the Lord (VPC75).

Mother Thecla Merlo