Friday, April 18, 2014




When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19: 26-27

Last summer I had the great blessing of being on retreat for 30 days in preparation for my final vows. The retreat is designed to help a person enter into certain times in the lives of Jesus and Mary in order to strengthen one's relationship with them both. In that way a person's "yes" has a foundation in something solid. The mysteries on which one meditates are the annunciation, the crucifixion, Pentecost and Cana. Today I return to my time on Calvary.

Of my 30 days of retreat the time I spent contemplating the scene on Calvary were the most meaningful - and the longest. The retreat, while guided by a director, was somewhat self-paced. This morning, as we enter into the mystery of Good Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you some of my reflections from the days I spent "on Calvary" last summer… 
(The thoughts are a little disjointed because they were written on different days… and I've removed some things… Also, the image above is not the image written about below).

Today, I return to Calvary. The place where Jesus asks us to take Mary as our Mother. The place where both Jesus and Mary give of themselves completely for love of us.
This morning I am sitting in the Chapel at the Marianist Residence and trying to contemplate the image before me - Jesus is being lowered (presumably from the unseen cross) into the arms and lap of Mary who is gazing into the face of her dead son.
Can there be any image more sad than a mother gazing at the face of her dead child? It's a heartbreaking image. What must be on her mind? What anguish - what heartbreak - what sorrow….
I had not realized it until now - Jesus uses the same word (at least in the English translation) that Mary used at the Annunciation, "Behold." … "Woman, behold your son." "Behold your mother." Look and see with the eyes of love. Look and see with the eyes of your heart.  
I am the beloved disciple. I am the one whom Jesus loves. … At the foot of the cross Mary takes my hand. Both of us filled with sorrow - her sorrow much deeper. And yet, there is strength in her stance and faith in her gaze - it shows through even the deepest grief. Love. That is what I see. Love for Jesus and love for me. I want to drink that in.
Imagine how she held the broken and bruised body of Jesus after his death. This speaks to me in saying that she will also hold me in moments of need. But, it also says that in imitation of her, I should hold those who are crucified today - in the many ways people are crucified in our day.  
 "Mary, behold your daughter. Love her as you love me."  This is essentially what Jesus is saying, "Help her become the person you helped me to be. Teach her, guide her, listen to her, speak to her heart. Love her as you love me and as I love you."… "Nicole, behold your mother. Love her. Learn from her. Have her concerns as your own. Allow her to nurture my life in you so you can become more like me." 
Looking at the suffering Christ - I see love. "No greater love has one than this, to lay down one's life for a friend." That is what the call is - to be love. To give - not counting the cost. To sacrifice for the good of others…. Mary who taught Jesus all of what it means to be human in this world - teach me, as well, how to be more like Jesus - to be a better human being - to be love.

Yes, this is where my Good Friday prayers take me… to the foot of the cross with Mary. 

May each of you be blessed with the graces of this day as we contemplate the great love of Jesus poured out from the cross into our world… and into our lives.

Many blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gratitude for 2013

In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Grace and peace to you today!

It's been a while since I've sat down to type a few thoughts here in my blog. This is certainly not because I've run out of things to say! You may know that when I write, I'm fairly verbose. It's more because my life is much more full than it was when I began this blog. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may recall that I started this blog when I was a first year novice. Back then I blogged nearly once a week about my prayer life, what I was reading, living in community etc. It's now been about 7 1/2 years since I began this blog (under a different name) and life has changed a great deal.

Being that today is the last day of 2013, I've been reflecting this morning on the gifts and blessings of the year gone by. It's been year full of travel, wonderful people, extended moments of silence, deep prayer, deepening in my understanding of my various roles etc. And I've composed a list of  moments/lessons/events/people for which I am grateful. I thought I would share. By the way, these are in no particular order.

1. Friends
I am grateful for the many people in my life who challenge me to see things from a different perspective. Those who offer support when I feel overwhelmed by life. The ones with whom we share with one another our struggles, joys, hopes and dreams. The people who send random texts just to give me an update on their lives or to say they prayed for me that day. Many of these people do not live in the same city that I do and it is often difficult to maintain friendships across the miles (at least, that's true for me). However, there are those with whom the friendship is very well maintained. I am grateful for these people.

2. Saying "no" can feel very selfish at the moment, but sometimes it is the best thing - for everyone.
Of course, this is not a new lesson for me. In fact, it is one that I seem to learn over and over again. I suppose I'm a slow learner. Somewhere in my life I learned that to be a "good person" you had to say yes to everything that is good and everything that might be helpful to others. Serving on a committee? That's a good thing to do -  "yes." Giving a talk at a conference? That's a good thing to do - "yes." There are more good things/opportunities in this world than any one person should ever say yes to. Sometimes, it is better to say no - even though it might feel selfish or self serving. Because what can happen if someone is over-scheduled with many good things, is that that person can no longer do a good job at any of them - something has to give. And if the only person "hurt" was the person who says yes to everything, it wouldn't be as big of a deal. But, often others lose something also. Lesson learned? Goodness, I hope so.

3. "Pope hope" (as one of our Sisters often puts it)
Over this past weekend a friend of mine said, "You have a crush on the Pope!" And I, with head bowed, replied, "Yes. Yes, I do." I have always been drawn towards people who challenge me to be better in ways I had not previously considered. No one is challenging me more these days than Pope Francis. The more I read of what he's written or said, the more I feel called to conversion of heart. Conversion in my attitudes towards ministry. Conversion in my prayer life. Conversion in the way I live the vow of poverty. Conversion in the way I care for the poor and the marginalized of our communities. Lately, I've been reading (and praying with) the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. It seems that every word of this document cuts right to the heart and is causing me to ask some serious questions of myself. The true test will be, however, whether or not the document propels me to some sort of action beyond myself. That's the true test of conversion, no?  

4. The summer of 2013 
There are no words to capture the grace that was the summer of 2013. I am not sure there has ever been a time in my life that I have felt more grounded, free, at peace, and filled with joy. There was a 30-day retreat that brought me into deeper relationship with Jesus and with Mary - and a greater commitment to the Marianist mission. There was the celebration of my 38th birthday with some of my closest friends. There was the day I walked MILES all over San Francisco with one very close friend and one new friend. Then there was the time spent with about 70 other "young nuns" - deep in conversation about charism and the future, dancing for hours with no shoes on (and very sore muscles the next day!), praying together and having a blast. There were the days spent at Indian Lake with other "younger" Marianists - praying night prayer on a boat in the middle of the lake as the sun set will always be a highlight of those days - as well as Marianist karaoke and late night conversations under the stars. All of this was capped off by the celebration of my perpetual vows in August. What a glorious weekend that was! So full of joy. Definitely a wonderful way to bring an end to a summer full of grace.

5. 2013 was the year of publicity… I'm not a fan.
With newspaper articles, magazine interviews, photo shoots, and sharing my bio numerous times, it seemed that my picture and my story were "everywhere" (at least in my small world) for a while. This has never been true in my life until 2013.  And, I think I will be happy if it is not a major part of my life moving forward. The most awkward thing was the photographer who came to CJ to take pics for St. Mary's Univ. alumni magazine. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life! My students in my 5th period class seemed very amused, though. The lesson here? That's not the kind of life I want to live - I much prefer being under the radar.

6. Retreat work seems to be in my blood
In the spring of 1990 I attended my first retreat. From 1990 until this very day I have had a hand in planning and/or attending more than 5 retreats a year. I have come to the realization this year that this part of my life is probably not going away any time soon. Not that I ever wanted it to, but I suppose I assumed that I would "grow out of it" or "move on." Nope. It's in my blood. And I think it's a good thing.

7. Ideas and dreams are good things. However, bringing them to fruition may not happen or may not happen in my way or with my timing. And that's okay.
When I dream - when I think about the future - I tend to dream big. For the most part, in my everyday life, I am a realist - fairly practical and objective. However, every once in a while an idealistic side of me takes over and with wide-eyes and a bit of naiveté I want to change the world. My response to those who are more realistic than me is often, "Why not?" or "Who says I/we can't do thus-and-such?" And while there is a time and a place for such wide-eyed idealism, there is also a need for the balance of realism. That's a bitter pill to swallow for someone like me. But, it reminds me that I'm not actually the one in charge - thank you, God! I am grateful to those who do not laugh at the ridiculousness of my dreams, but gently pull me back down to earth and reality. But, the dreams are still there. And who knows. Maybe someone else will bring them to fruition at a later time. Or not. And that's okay.

8. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
With that being said, sometimes even when an idea seems preposterous or when the roadblocks seem insurmountable, we may be called to do it anyway. Trusting in God and taking a risk on an impossible dream may sometimes be what we are called to do. Of course, there is a certain amount of discernment that has to go into this. But, if one never tries… never steps out of the box… never takes a risk… then one will never know what could happen. This was made more evident to me in the purchasing and establishing of our discernment community, Annunciation House. Sometimes, you just need to take a risk - and trust that God will guide, provide and sustain.

9. Never underestimate people's capacity for generosity.
In relationship to #8 I would be remiss if I did not mention how grateful I am for the generosity of so many people in helping us establish Annunciation House. From all those who gifted us with dishes and bedding… small appliances and gift cards… to those who gave innumerable hours in cleaning walls, power washing the deck, moving furniture, etc. We are so very grateful. Personally, I was overwhelmed with people's generosity. I still am when I sit back and consider how much was given to us and how much practical support we received. Thank you all!

10. Community.
This year I am grateful for community. We are small, but that's okay. It allows for flexibility and deeper relationships. Perhaps it would be very difficult for someone to live in a community that is always in flux. However, I have found a lot of grace in that. We started with 2 - then we grew to 3. Now we are at 4 and may grow to 5 in 2014. And it's good. God has gifted us in many ways. It is a blessing to live in a community whose sole purpose is to be a place of discernment. Who doesn't need that in their lives, right?

And so, there you have it - random thoughts on the year 2013. Today I was considering the tradition of making New Years resolutions. I haven't done it in a long time. As of yet, I haven't made a decision about it for 2014. However, my hope is that in 2014 I will continue to learn and grow more and more into the person God created. Our world needs people who are perfectly themselves - it is only in this way that we can cooperate with God and one another in establishing God's kingdom.

Blessings of peace and joy to all who read this!
Sr. N