Thursday, September 25, 2008

Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes --
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wow. Two posts in one week... I'm back, in deed!

For the past several days this quote has been ringing in every fiber of my being. Perhaps it's the absolutely beautiful weather we've had... or maybe it's the glimpses of the divine I've seen in the people I've encountered... I just think I'm finally paying attention.

Currently, I'm reading a book entitled Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. In this book are thoughts, lecture notes, and ideas of Henri Nouwen sytematically laid out after his death by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. This book is ... great. That's an understatement, but I feel that anything I could say is an understatement. It's meant both for people who are seeking spiritual direction, but also for those who minister as spiritual directors.

Anyway, I read something today that I just had to share with you all. Why? It moved me and I thought that perhaps other people could benefit as well:

Before the word was incarnated in her womb, Mary bore witness to the
word of God. Because of her obedient listening, the word could become flesh
in her. Listening is a very vulnerable stance. Mary was so vulnerable,
so open, and so receptive that she could listen with her whole being.
Nothing in her resisted the word that was announced to her by the angel. She was
"all ears" and heart. Thus, the promise could be fulfilled in her far beyond her
own understanding and control. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary said. "May it be
to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38).

Listening is the core attitude of the person who is open to God's living
and creative word. Prayer is listening to God, being open and receptive to God's
influence. True listening has become increasingly difficult in churches and
institutions, where people remain on their guard, afraid to expose their weaker
side, eager to be recognized as successful and bright. in our contemporary
competitive society, listening often is a way of "checking the other person out." It is a defensive stance in which we do not really allow anything to happen to us. It is a suspicious way of receiving that makes us wonder what serves our purposes and what does not. The psalmist warns against this hardening of heart:

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord; Do not grow stubborn, as your
fathers and mothers did in the wilderness, when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, although they had seen all my works. (Psalm 95: 7-9)

The word of God here is to listen to the voice of love and not to harden your hearts.

This kind of listening asks us to model our lives on Jesus and to commit to follow the way of life Jesus set forth. This listening assumes a personal prayer life and a belief in Jesus's activity in the world today as the Living Word of God.

Listening to the incarnate word of life is the heart of Christian faith. In Mary, we see the purest form of this listening. That is why she is called "blessed' by her cousin Elizabeth. it is through her obedience to the word that became flesh in her that she becomes not only the mother of God but also the mother of all the faithful. We who wish to be faithful are called to this same kind of obedience. When we listen faithfully to the word, the word becomes flesh in us and dwells among us.


Perhaps you think about the word of God as a divine exhortation to go out and change your life. But the full power of the word lies not in how you apply it to your life after you have heard it but in how its transforming power does its divine work in you as you listen.

Wow. That can certainly give you a lot to reflect upon... In fact, I've been praying with this most of the day - in the midst of the busyness. And perhaps that's why the quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning is moving within...

Many blessings to all who read this!

Sr. N

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future.
Rather, it is a deepening of the present,
and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
Thomas Merton

Well... I'm back! I suppose that could be taken in several different ways, couldn't it? That is intentional on my part...

It seems like it's been a really long time since I've posted here. However, it's only been about 2 weeks. I guess you could say that I've lived 2-3 months in 2 weeks!!! Have these weeks been full? Yes. My weeks are almost always full - meetings, phone calls, to do lists, community schedule/responsibilities ... But, I've also learned a lot in this short amount of time

The most important lesson(s)? Embracing the present - recognizing God where I least expect to find the sacred - living in ambiguity and change... these can all be difficult, but they are also GOOD... and a place in which I can encounter God.

It's not a secret that I don't like change. People who know me also know that I like feeling a sense of control over what's going on around/within me. What I'm learning, though, is that ambiguity is a fabulous teacher... and so is trusting in God's presence when there isn't the accompaning "warm fuzzy" type feeling.

For the lessons of these past few weeks I say "Thank You, God!"

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Trinity is community... we are created in the image of this community.
We exist to be in relationship - with God and with others.
Me :)

So, here I am. Over one month after my last post. No excuses... unless, of course you read my last post. *smile* 

Tonight I am brought to a reflection on relationships. But before I launch into that, let me tell you a little about what I'm up to these days...

First, the ministry for which I'm paid. What some people would call a "job", but I hesitate to say that. But, I digress. I am a campus minister in a residence hall at the Univ. of Dayton. It's the largest residence hall on campus - 1,100 residents to be exact, most of them first year students. I think I explained how that works in my last post. Anyway, needless to say, it keeps me fairly busy. My days are filled with building relationships, participating in planning meetings, running programs and praying with students. It's a great! It seems to be a good fit for my personality....

Second, I serve on a vocations committee for the Marianists. The committee has Marianist brothers, priests, sisters and members of the Lay Marianist community. We meet once a month to discuss efforts on campus to "get the word out" about Marianist life and provide opportunities for people to discern with us.

Then, there are opportunities for my personal formation/discernment. Yes, discernment. I professed first vows in June, this is true. However, until I profess final vows, I am still in initial formation and this continues to be a time of formation and discernment. So, there are formation retreats, meetings etc. This continues to be good for me also. 

In fact, last weekend I had the opportunity to attend an intercommunity formation weekend in Pennsylvania. This was a gathering of religious in formation with various congregations in the area - both male and female. There were Franciscans, Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Charity, the Congregation of Saint Joseph... and MANY others. It was a WONDERFUL weekend. Our speaker for the weekend was Sr. Mary McCormick, OSU. She's a professor at a seminary in Cleveland. Our topic for the weekend? God.

Yep. You can't get more all-encompassing than that. 

It would be difficult to put all of what we did into a paragraph or two, but let's just say that we had time to reflect on what it means to be a people who believes in a Trinitarian God... how does that belief affect the way we live, pray, "do theology,"... everything, really.

And this is what brings me to relationship. 

Our lives... my life... is about right relationship - with God, with myself, with others. My ministry... it's about relationships. The vocation efforts? It's about relationships. My formation & discernment? You guessed it. It's about relationship.

With relationships being so key, I'm challenging myself to pay attention to them... nurture them and allow them to nurture me. 

Now... if I could just figure out how to make a day about 12-hours longer...

Many blessings to all who read this!!!
~Sr. N