Saturday, July 28, 2012

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
Ps. 145
(Responsorial Psalm for Sunday July 29, 2012 - the 17th Sunday Odinary Time)

Every once in a while something strikes me. The Mass readings for a certain day will hit me as particularly appropriate for life at the moment. The readings for tomorrow are like that for me at this time - God provides what we need - sometimes in unexpected ways or when it seems impossible. Our God is a God of surprises, indeed.

I last blogged about 10 days ago. Since then I have been in Cleveland accompanying one of our sisters. Sr. Audrey has had a rough several years. Without going in to too much detail, she has had a mysterious ailment of the lungs and a series of infections that have been terrible. Earlier this summer she came back to Cleveland because of a recurrance. She had a number of surgical procedures and was in and out of ICU. After approx. 5 weeks in the hospital, she is now in a transitional care facility receiving physical therapy and nursing care. Many of the other sisters have been here with her during the summer - taking turns. When I leave in a few days I will have been here for a total of 2 weeks. And... surprisingly to me... the days have been full of grace.

That's what summer has been for me - a time of great grace. And sometimes grace comes in expected ways like when I'm on retreat (3 times this summer!) and sometimes graces surprises me like when I'm just being present to someone - or changing her socks - playing a game of UNO - or exchanging stories about life.

God gives us what we need - in abundance as the Gospel for tomorrow points out.

At the same time that I've been here in Cleveland, many of our sisters from around the world are gathered in Rome for our 31st General Chapter. There they are discerning the direction for our Congregation for the next 5 years.

A sister from my community, Sr. Laura, is there. And our Provincial, Sr. Gretchen, is there. However, she is no longer our Provincial as of a few days ago. She was elected to our General Administration (GA). Which means she is moving to Rome to serve the needs of our Congregation at large. Another one of our sisters, Sr. Estella, was serving on the GA for the past 10 years and will be coming home.

We knew Estella was coming home. Her 2 terms are up. However, Gretchen moving to Rome is quite the surprise. We know that the Spirit of God leads us and has led to this outcome. But exactly how things will unfold for us here in the U.S. is, as of yet, unclear. That is why the readings for tomorrow seem appropriate - God provides in abundance. We don't need to know the details of how. There is no need for doubt about that - even when things are unclear or something doesn't even seem possible. God finds a way.

Someone in my life - I can't remember who - says often (with a sly grin), "God's always up to something." Indeed! And I am thankful for that!

Many blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The world doesn't need another Mother Teresa.
The Church doesn't need another Francis of Assisi.
The world/the Church needs you.
From a poster at Mary's House - the Marianist Family Retreat Center 
Cape May Point, New Jersey

Reminders, reminders and more reminders. Every once in a while reminders are very good. Apparently, I need reminders more than most. My summer's been full of 'em!

Last night I returned from my 3rd (and last) retreat of the summer. I was part of the staff for the 3rd week of family retreat programs at the Marianist Retreat Center in Cape May Point, New Jersey. It was a wonderful week. There were a total of 7 families on retreat, plus there were 3 families working on the staff. It was there that I read the above quote.

There have been many times in my life that I've lamented not being Mother Teresa... or Dorothy Day... Mother Adele... Oscar Romero or Martin Luther King Jr.... I'm not Edith Stein or Therese of Liseaux... nor am I "Sr. So-and-so" who lives down the hall from me. Nope. I'm just plain me. And believe me... some days I embrace that easier than at other times. In my laments I've often said, "I can't because I'm not..." Perhaps that is true sometimes. But it isn't true all the time. And, of course, I "know" that. But every once in a while a person needs a reminder.

My summer has been full of little reminders... reminders of gifts from God and reminders of challenges to embrace. Here are just a few...

  • I do not read enough. 
    • I love to read, but for some reason, I don't read as many books as I used to. Nor do I read journal articles (unless someone recommends them on Facebook). Earlier in the summer I read a book a co-worker let me borrow. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Dunn. Not only did this book challenge me and inspire me, it opened my eyes to how much I miss reading books like this. It is books like this from which a person's world view can expand and clarify one's own mission. Thank you to Molly for letting me borrow the book!
    • I also read a little bit of fluff also - Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. Yes. I did. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. :) Thanks to Toni for this read.
  • Never take for granted the gift of uninterrupted silence/prayer.
    • Silence is a luxury. It is a gift. It is also necessary for the spirit. While on retreat I had the great gift of hours each day spent in prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, journal writing - and just being. There is a certain amount of clarity that comes from sitting perfectly still for an hour or two. If there is ever a time that can happen during the academic year, I will not take it for granted!
  • Praying near water does wonders for the soul.
    • On the first retreat the retreat center was on a creek. The second retreat center was on a large river. The last one was on the Atlantic Ocean. Each place had it's own particular beauty. And each gave my spirit a unique gift.
  • Stewing over imperfections (mine or others') does nothing good.
    • So, why not look at unique gifts instead (mine and others')? Perhaps that will do much more good - for me and for the people in my life.
  • The sunscreen/bug spray combo in 80% humidity makes a quick run nearly unbearably hot.
  • The Marianist vow of stability thwarts one's tendency towards instability.
    • As you read that sentence, it might seem obvious. However, I had honestly never thought about it. Each of the vows seems to be opposed to a "value" of our society (i.e. poverty stands opposed to materialism and upward mobility, obedience stands opposed to individuality and selfishness, and chastity stands opposed to objectification and being ruled by one's desires). I honestly had never thought about what stability stands opposed to... commitment-phobia! Duh.
  • Growth in holiness is not only (and maybe not primarily) for my benefit or for the work I do. But for the people with whom I live and with whom I interact.
    • Another "Duh" moment. It's not about me. How many times am I going to need that particular reminder?
And so, there you have it. The lessons of summer 2012 (thus far).

If you don't mind... I have two prayer requests before I sign off...

One, currently, Marianist sisters from all over the world are meeting in Rome for our General Chapter. This is the meeting of leaders from each region that happens every 5 years. Two American sisters are there (Laura and Gretchen). It is at the General Chapter that the direction of our Congregation is set for the next 5 years, our general leadership is chosen and various issues discussed. Please pray for their openness to the Spirit of God in their deliberations and process.

Secondly, tomorrow I leave for Cleveland. One of sisters has been very ill while I've been galavanting across the US. I will be with her at the Cleveland Clinic and then as she enters a rehab facility. Please keep her and all of the Marianist US sisters in your prayers.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N