Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing....
Isaiah 9:1

Merry Christmas!

When I was younger, maybe in late middle school and through high school, I loved going to Midnight Mass. It didn't matter whether I went to my home parish of St. Mary's or the parish of many of my friends, St. Francis of Assisi. I loved that Mass. There was something magical and special about it.

Last night I was sitting in our Immaculate Conception Chapel at the University of Dayton at the "Midnight Mass at 10:30 PM" reflecting on the celebration. I was reflecting on something that I didn't quite get growing up. What's special about celebrating the incarnation so late at night? Why does it speak to me so? We gather during the darkest hour to celebrate the fact that into the darkness has come the greatest of Lights. God has chosen to enter our world. Our world is good, for all things created by God are good. However, our world has its share of dark moments and people who walk in darkness. Our own lives have their share of dark days or dark times. And it is into this reality of ours that God enters. If we let that soak in... touch our hearts... it's an awesome reality.

And what does that mean for us today? Meister Eckhart, a late 13th / early 14th century German Dominican priest, philosopher and theologian once wrote:
We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.
Indeed, how Marianist of him!

Our world and our lives are still in need of light - of joy - peace - comfort - love. What good is it if Jesus came then, but does not also come through us now? This is our call: to be Christ-bearers in our world today. That is very much in keeping with a Marianist perspective. For, as Marianists, we see our mission as continuing the mission that is Mary's - manifesting Christ in our world.

Celebrating today is important. It is important for us to remember that God became one of us out of God's great love for us. However, it does us no good as a people if our celebrations end today and have no lasting meaning into the days ahead. So, let us carry the celebration of Christmas forward so that Christ might be born in each day.

Many blessings for a peaceful and joy-filled Christmas,
Sr. N

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Let us imitate the love of our heavenly Mother and, like her, let us cheerfully render to all our brothers and sisters all the services we can, both for the body and for the soul. 
Ven. Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
Foundress of the Marianist Sisters (Daughters of Mary Immaculate)

Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception! 

Today is a special day for the Marianist Sisters. For this is the feast from which we get our name (Daughters of Mary Immaculate) and from which we gain our inspiration for mission. Mary - chosen from the moment of her conception, especially graced by God, completely open to the Holy Spirit -  so that she might bring the presence of Jesus into our troubled world, nurture the life of Jesus and teach him what it meant to be a faithful Jewish child, and point others to Jesus in order to say, "Do whatever he tells you." For us as Marianist Sisters we take Mary as our model of discipleship, our inspiration for how to be in our world, and our partner in continuing her mission.

Each morning all Marianist Religious (male and female) make an act of dedication to Mary. There are several different ones for use on different days. They all inspire me in some way, but one stands out as my favorite - the one for Sundays of Ordinary Time. It reads:

Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church,
today we join you in praising our God,
and rejoice with you in Christ our Risen Savior.
We, your Marianist Family,
seek to imitate your faith in God's promise,
your openness of heart,
and your listening to the Holy Spirit.
We joyfully dedicate ourselves to you
and to your mission in the Church.
Taught by Christ's example,
may we receive grace and courage
to minister to all people.

For me, this captures it all. We collaborate with Mary, we imitate Mary, and we dedicate ourselves to carry on her mission in the Church and in our world ministering to (and with) all people.

Last night we celebrated this feast liturgically with a vigil Mass at the University of Dayton. It was the closing of the University's "Christmas on Campus" - a day on which university students adopt children who live in poverty, bring them to campus and share with them in the traditions of the Christmas. The Mass last night was beautiful. The chapel, named for the Immaculate Conception, was packed. The choir was large and amazing. What was particularly moving for me was the music that was chosen. The choir led us in singing 3 different versions of Mary's Magnificat (2 during the prelude and one during communion). And the Mass began with what is quickly becoming my favorite non-Magnificat Mary song. It is appropriately titled "Song of Mary" by Dan Schutte. Some of the lines that always get me are: "Let us sing the praises of Mary, chosen as blessed from the least.... woman of strong and steadfast love.... friend of the poor in every age.... Blessed be the name of Mary, she who trusted the love of God."

Indeed. On this day in which we celebrate Mary, let us each learn from her to be strong and steadfast, compassionate, concerned for the poor, and always leading people to her Son.

Many blessings to you this day!
Sr. N