Monday, March 20, 2017

Only a Shadow

Social media filters hundreds of videos past us each day. Somewhere in the last few months, I saw a video of children discovering their shadows. No sound was needed. Watching the many reactions to the figure that was following them was priceless. I laughed in the moment and didn't think much more of it. That is until I sat down to reflect on St. Joseph.

"The one chosen shadow of God upon earth," a friend wrote on Facebook in celebration of St. Joseph's Day (which seemingly straddles two days this year- March 19th and March 20th.) And as soon as I read that statement, I thought back to those babies and their great discovery.  

I wondered how Joseph felt- the shadow of God, chosen as a stand in, to foster and love God's beloved son, Jesus.  Maybe some days he was scared and maybe others he felt inadequate.  Perhaps, the shadow seemed misformed or warped some days, a poor replication of the real thing.  

Yet, Joseph pressed on. He trusted and he embraced what it meant to answer the call.  The light that shined upon him left an outline of the love of God wherever it went... be it Bethlehem or Egypt or Nazareth.  By simply being himself, Joseph brought God into the world.  

As Sisters of St. Joseph, we often say that little is known of Joseph, but what we do know is reflected in Christ.  Jesus grew up in the shadow of a man striving to do what was right, to live a life gifted to God, and as he grew, Jesus surely emulated Joseph.  He was kind and caring, compassionate and hard working; he stood for what was right and trusted in the vision of God, even when he couldn't see or fully understand what would come of it.  He was a shadow of faith, his life outlined in grace.

As we celebrate Joseph, it's helpful to remember the way he made the darkness of the shadow shine for all to see.   He lived a life others could follow. Without pomp or need for approval, he pursued what was right.  His great faith is what we emulate; it helps us discover our own shadow and not to run but to turn toward the Light that shines in and around us.  

Today, may we embrace that call and like Joseph, who dreamed in darkness and walked in the Light, may we be a shadow of God's grace for all to see.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

From the Pews in the Back

My latest piece has been published on the Global Sister Report. Entitled "From the Pews in the Back," it looks at what it means to move to the margins and how we might be able to grow and what we might be able to learn from taking a step back and taking in the long view of the world around us. Enjoy!

Twice last weekend, I found myself somewhere I haven't been in a long time: the back pew of church.

Any cheeky pastor or regular Massgoer will tell you, with a note of sarcasm in his or her voice, that the pews in the back are where the "real" Catholics sit. The further back, the better. There, behind dozens of heads, there's little chance of being singled out. You can come and go as you please, sneaking in late or leaving early. And there's no need to worry about who might be watching you because, for the most part, everyone is ahead of you.

Sitting in the back pew, though, I realized something different. There, in the back of the church, I had a different perspective. I could see things from a place I hadn't for a long time, and suddenly, I understood the call to stand on the margins in a new way.

Sure, I could go to the border, stand at a rally, or serve in a shelter. In fact, I had spent the week before with a group of students on an alternative spring break trip doing service in Appalachia, but for a moment, in that back pew, my understanding of the margins took on another dimension. 

I watched the families in front of me as parents wrangled their children with all the love and affection you can muster when a 4-year-old can't sit still. I took in a view of the whole church — couples, singles, families, young, old — as the community moved together, joined in worship. As the pastor pulled out a step stool and trash can to illustrate a point in his homily, I watched as the collective heads of the congregation stretched to see what was going on and as little children poked their heads out into the aisle to get a better view.

What I had thought would be distracting (not having a clear view) in fact put me more in touch with the people around me. As I listened to the Word of God, the people around me illustrated it. There, on the ordinary margins of the church, was a gift I wasn't expecting: the People and Spirit of God in my midst.

There was a closeness to the space in the back. People packed into these rows. What I had anticipated would be a solitary seat soon became a communal experience, and even if not everyone around me was singing or saying the prayers, there was a palpable presence to our being together. At the sign of peace, a whole group of people who'd come to Mass alone greeted one another, happy to have friendly faces in the same section. 

Taking this all in, I realized the only thing truly standing between my neighbor and me was the border of my own being. And yet, on the margins, that being is exactly what unites us.
It is our brokenness, our blessed and broken being that draws us together in communion and community. Sitting in the pews in the back, that became abundantly clear. 

I observed as eucharistic ministers were directed back to the woman with a walker so she wouldn't have to make the long walk to the front of the church and could still have easy access to the facilities she needed in the back. I listened as ushers welcomed and directed people long after the opening hymn. 

Further up in the sanctuary, there were places implicitly saved for people by virtue of regularity, but the pews in the back didn't have reserved seats. Everyone could have a place. 

The challenge, though, is bridging the gap between these places, connecting the center and the margins for the betterment of all. Placing ourselves on the margins isn't as easy as sitting in the back pews. It requires more than an hour a week. It means shifting our perspective completely — altering our life stance, questioning our convictions, and living in a place that is more often than not uncomfortable. 

To know and embrace such a shift to the margins is to become marginalized... Continue Reading Here

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why I Marched (and why we can't stop marching)

I made my way to the Women's March on Washington last Saturday filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I had gone back and forth about whether I should go, torn between a deep-seated conviction that there are matters of basic human rights, dignity and justice that need to be defended, and an internal disquietude about a broad protest platform that included certain positions I didn't agree with.

Holding all of this, I went anyway. Why? Because I believe that I needed to be there — to stand for justice, to express dissent and to use my voice and my being for change.

Perhaps the mix of conviction and fear, passion and trepidation, were exactly what I should have felt. This unease reminded me that justice comes at a price, and as I marched with a sign that identified my religious congregation and named our mission of creating union with all people and with God, I again acknowledged that standing up for what you believe in isn't always easy, and it most definitely isn't always clear cut.

Yet if being a religious sister and studying religious life has taught me anything, it's that sisterhood is powerful. The Women's March on Washington (and around the world) only deepened that conviction for me. It also deepened the belief that unity is the path to the future.

When we strive to engage one another in honest, open and often uncomfortable conversations, we emerge the better for having done so. I can't say that I support everything the Women's March was about, but I can say I support enough. I've given my life to a Love that's greater than myself, and that gift calls me to live my life in defense of all of God's creation. I believe in a world where we engage one another's voices and, in so doing, engage in one another's lives.

When we seek unity in this way, relationships guide the way and everyone gets a place at the table. As Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first woman to vie for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, once said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

We come to recognize that, beyond any one person or group, the table is large and the conversation we're engaged in is much larger and much more complicated than what we may have first imagined. Yet together we work with one another to find common ground so that the common good can flourish.

Pro-life; pro-voice

In the days since the March, I've watched as social media has erupted with debates over whether the Women's March was welcoming of all women or just some. The argument is that if you didn't fit a specific stance . . .  if you weren't pro-choice, there wasn't a place for you.

I've watched as fine, upstanding religious women and men have been slandered for supporting the Women's March — called deplorable names and lambasted for asserting that to be "pro-life" is to defend all life — unborn, marginalized, impoverished, incarcerated, trafficked, immigrant and so much more.

That is what it means to be pro-life: to defend the life of every person, even those you don't necessarily agree with. To recognize that every person deserves a voice and to take a stand so that what is right rises to the fore.

Women deserve equal rights. We deserve a world where all people have access to healthcare; where the water we drink is safe; where race isn't a qualifying or disqualifying attribute; where children can be brought up in loving families; where the press is free to report; where facts matter and righteousness and compassion are the principles we live by.

I believe in a world where all people are free. I cannot be better than my brother or sister; my good is their good, and that is the Common Good. In an age of "America first," there's a paramount conflict with the belief that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

I marched on Saturday for the least of my brothers and sisters because I live my life in union with God working for the least of these. I marched for the uninsured woman I accompanied through treatment for breast cancer, which could have been caught by access to preventative care. I marched for the asylum-seeking family my sisters welcomed into their convent so that they would have a home as they tried to find safety and welcome in a new land. I marched for the children in our schools who don't know where their next meal will come from after they go home. I marched to defend the arts which have transformed my life. I marched in honor of all the strong women who've formed me and have given me the gift of faith. I marched for my sisters who couldn't; for the sister who days before the march tucked a 10-dollar bill in my pocket to help pay for my transportation because she knew she physically wouldn't have been able to march that long.

I march in faith, hope, and love — in faith that our voices matter, in hope that democracy lives and in love of my dear neighbor.

Those are ideals for which we can't stop marching. It is the power of our faith and the call of our baptism: to love God and neighbor without distinction...Continue Reading Here

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cherish the Moment

There are some times in life that just need the light of hope.  At New Years, I helped give a retreat at Genesis Spiritual Life Center in Westfield, MA; that experienced was blessed.  Not only did it provide a prayerful pause for retreatants, but it also gave me a chance to look back on my year with new eyes, eyes of hopeful reflection and grace-filled review.  What I came across as I prepared my remarks was a poem from this past summer that I never published.  It didn't strike me as something I necessarily should until someone asked for the title of the poem during my talk and I gave it to them only to think to myself- "they're going to search that title and never find the words that go with it!"

Written before my reflections on brokenness & Christmas, "In a bar room booth & hospital bed, 6-16-16" dwells on the way light comes through even in the darkest moments and how Light is being born in us and around us all the time. God is waiting to be found- in people... in places... in moments.  

Coming to that realization and finding these words was a grace. I give thanks for it and for the gift of relationships that fill my heart and soul.  May you find those moments in these dark days and let their light shine in all you are and do.

In a bar room booth & hospital bed, 6-16-16

What is that moment
when you realize
that all your love
is caught up
not just in moments
but in the people
who inhabit them
And one small glance
One tiny nod
One heartfelt laugh
unleashes the floodgates
of a life and love you
long for and belong to.
That moment is a gift
and like all the gifts
of love we must do our best
to savor it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The God of Brokenness

Oh to be tangled up in God
who like a sling
holds us in our brokenness
that we might mend
through time and tenderness
the sweet remedy of mercy
And our soul
in silent stillness waits
not to be freed
but to be more deeply
So that no amount of force
or fear
might separate us
from the God of brokenness
who in the flesh
-in our flesh-
finds rest and reigns over
a kingdom coming
quite unexpectedly.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Be Here.

Be Here.

Perhaps that is the best prayer to begin this first week of Advent. It is a prayer for myself, for God, for all of us.

This is a season of waiting. We wait for something we've already experienced: a moment of revelation... of Incarnation. And because we, in some sense, know for what we are waiting... the One we are waiting for...we wait in hope.

Not hope that it will be the same, but that things will change. Hope that Love will come down and dwell among us.  This is the beginning and the end all wrapped up into one.

And all I can do in its midst is pray that I may be here. Open. Attentive. Receptive.  Ready.

Ready for the one who is already here, but to whom I still pray to "be here." To be here so I might recognize. To be here, so that I might perceive the presence. To be here as I AM always is.  It is a prayer of and for constancy. A prayer that God might not leave in the midst of all else.

Be here, my love. Be here with faith and hope that brings forth joy and love. Be here and recognize that nothing else really matters. Be here now. In the darkness be light. In the silence be whispered.In the stillness stir deeply. Be still and know. Be here and pray. Just be and find all that awaits.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The World Wide Web

In a world that seems to be divided on every issue imaginable, it's tough to believe that connection is still possible. How do I relate to someone I've never met or care for a situation I can't even conceive of??  It's not easy, that's for sure.

This week I found myself reflecting on just that topic tough & for your reading pleasure I offer my latest piece from the Global Sisters Report from the National Catholic Reporter: "Creating a true worldwide web of solidarity and action"
Monday night half of my friends showed up in the same place.

As I scrolled down my newsfeed on Facebook, I paused as one friend after another "checked-in" from Cannon Ball, North Dakota. That is, they declared their presence at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which is currently embroiled in protests around the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Of course, they weren't there, but with rumors circulating that geo-locating yourself there — even virtually — would help those protesting, people of good will tried to make an effort. "I'm there." One friend wrote, while another chimed in, "Standing in solidarity with the Sioux people of Standing Rock, North Dakota as they resist the oil pipeline."

It's hard to tell if these messages of support made a real difference or helped to protect those on the ground, but, at least on one level, the effort of this mass assembly at Standing Rock brought the struggle on the ground into the consciousness of the larger community of friends and families around the world.

For that moment, thousands joined those in the fields of North Dakota in love and support and the World Wide Web was much bigger than a site. It was the recognition that, in fact, we are all one — interwoven in a web of relationship around the world.

Each one of my friends was there . . . but they also weren't.

That's part of the dichotomy of social media. A click of a button puts up a post without contributing any money towards the cause or soliciting political action. And just as easy as that click of the button, I could scroll down the page to find another post that would be more pleasing to my conscience, something to meet my momentary sensibilities and soothe my soul.

So, what does it mean to be truly connected in this day and age?

For one, it means being a part of a much more realistic worldwide web than the one on my phone or computer screen. It means connecting with real people and recognizing that those connections have implications and expectations.

We were made to be in relationship with one another. From the very beginning, each one of us was born into a web of relationships. Over time, we grow in these relationships and with each new person we meet, our webs become intertwined. There's no helping it. The true task of our living, though, is to recognize the nature of this entanglement.

For every action I undertake, every word I speak, every person or situation I engage, I pull on the strings of my web. Thus, when I am lifted up those I am bound to by relationship are lifted up too. Or when I try to sever a relationship, the change in tension in the web impacts all the other bonds I sustain.

It can be easy to forget these connections in the everyday, to try to fend for ourselves. Such thinking, however, is a false perception. The way I act or choose to live my life will impact others whether I realize it or not. The attitude I project into the world will rub off on others. The clothes or the food I buy are bound up in other people's lives and livelihoods. The choices I make for balanced or healthy living have implications near and far.

We are all members of a worldwide web, and our membership in this global system makes us responsible to and for the entirety of the system. We are not alone; we are all one.

Framing our connection in such a way draws us not only into the hearts of one another, but ultimately it leads us into the heart of God. This is the One who stands with us. Bound by humanity, Christ knows the perils and pitfalls of the web of relationships we belong to.These are not easy connections; they cost something, and yet, they form us in our being present to them. They call us to a consciousness of others so that in the web of such relationships we might find God.

All of this doesn't mean foreswearing the internet though. It means embracing the World Wide Web as a piece of the larger web of human relationships. If we let it, the internet and particularly social media have the power to expand our world.

With intentionality, we can become citizens of the world, connected to news breaking around the globe and engaged in the lives and times of people beyond our normal web of connection. Taking such a step requires purposeful engagement. It means stepping beyond the atmosphere of distraction so prevalent in the digital age to engage a world of relationship present both in-person and online.

As Christians we need to be in both of these places. One is not better than the other; they are simply different ways of connecting and communicating. Interactions, both online and in person, require compassion, presence, and active involvement. You can't forget the person on the other end and, in turn, the call to action spurred on by human relationship in a world that is constantly connected.

If you can see the world this way, it levels the playing field. A world that seems vast and divided is actually strung together quite tightly. It is a world in which all that I do and all that I am influences the world around me. I am connected in ways I can't even imagine, to people I may not even know. Yet we are sisters and brothers.

As we stand on the precipice of a presidential election, it's helpful to remember that…Continue Reading Here