Sunday, February 19, 2012

The final word is love.
Dorothy Day

Next week we will begin the season of Lent. Seems like we just celebrated Christmas, but here we are: mid-February with Lent around the corner.

I've always had a real appreciation for the season of Lent. The infinite mercy of God and my constant need for it is typically at the forefront of my mind and has been since I was a teenager. As I've gotten older, though, the meaning of Lent has expanded for me. Now, I consider my response to God's love and mercy. God is "kind and merciful, slow to anger." ... Okay. Now what does that mean for me in my daily life. Does it make a difference?

It's during Lent that I take stock of life and relationships. How am I doing with being a person of love and compassion? How do I live out my love of God? Dorothy Day once wrote, "I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least." I'm not sure about you, but the truth of this quote scares me a little and challenges me.

Earlier this month I was part of an e-mail exchange with two former students of mine. We were discussing the meaning of love, friendship, relationships and ultimately the human condition. The exchanges were very lengthy and ranged from the philosophical and theological to the mundane. The exchanges challenged me and offered excellent points for reflection. What does it mean to love others in the day-to-day, concrete situations of our lives? Believe me, the answers are not as clear as we would like to think.

In recent years my reflections and prayer during Lent have also been shaped by my formation process with the Marianist Sisters. You see, the timing works out that it is always during Lent that I write my annual letter expressing my desire for the next stage of formation or a renewal of vows. The writing of the letter is a process of discernment in and of itself. I am asked to consider my life in community and in ministry, my living of the vows (poverty, chastity, obedience and stability), how I live out our mission and how I sense my call to religious life as a Marianist. And really, it all boils down to love - in the concrete, day-to-day messiness of life. The final word is, indeed, love.

On a side note, next week the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will launch a new blog/website - Being Catholic. Several weeks ago the Archdiocese asked me to be one of the contributing bloggers. My first post should go up on Ash Wednesday. Chances are it will be a reflection on Lent, love and/or conversion. Please be sure to check it out:

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

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.

Happy February! It hardly seems possible that February is here... especially since here in Ohio the weather is unbelievably temperate. And yet, here we are... the start of a new month.

I've been doing a lot of thinking/reflecting/praying about balance lately. It seems to me that in recent years we hear a lot about the importance of living a life in balance. We hear it in health news and in spiritual reading... in books on leadership and articles on religious life. I seem to be surrounded by messages about balance. Therefore, I pray for the grace of finding balance.

A metaphor that people often use to talk about a balanced life is that of someone juggling. There's a ball labeled "prayer" and another labeled "community." There's one labeled "ministry" and one for "rest." Then, of course, there's "friendship" and "solitude"... "intellectual growth" and "care for self"... the list is actually endless.

What has often occurred to me, however, is the fact that those balls are not always all the same size... some weigh more than others depending on other life circumstances. So, for me the question isn't "How do I keep all the balls in the air... all the time." But, "Which ones are the most weighty?"...

The issue for me isn't so much one of "balance"... that terribly elusive ideal. But, rather, prioritizing and then saying "no". I absolutely stink at prioritizing things. I just want to get that out there. I'm good at addressing those things that seem urgent... and every once in a while the urgent things are actually important. However, there are important things that are not necessarily "urgent" that I can't seem to get a handle on. You know what I mean? It seems to me that I could even go so far as to say that I find motivation in urgency.

That's bizarre, isn't it? Has that been influenced by the culture? One in which instant gratification, stress and caffeine seem to be the fuel of choice? Or is it a question of maturation? There is much to ponder on this oddly warm February day...

Each morning Marianists renew our dedication to Mary and to her mission of bringing Christ to the world. I was struck this morning with the words of one of them that seem appropriate... I'd like to share it with you:
Mary, you pondered in your heart
all the awesome, confusing, and marvelous events of your life.
You considered carefully what God might want of you
and then abandoned yourself to God's goodness and your vocation.
Teach us to treasure and ponder,
to consider and surrender
so that, living religious life in your name and for your honor,
we might come to that blessedness
promised to all your sons and daughters,
the children of God.
Abundant blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N