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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Faithful Citizenship

With the election cycle in full gear, it seems fitting that I would share my latest reflection from the Global Sisters Report, an article entitled "Fitbits & Family Ties: the baptismal call to faithful citizenship."  May it meet you where you are and invite you more deeply into the call to live a life of mercy, love, and engagement.
--

It's hard to believe that after months of campaign ads, primary battles, debates, and commentary, Election Day is still a month away. Each day brings with it a new batch of headlines, claims of he said this, and she did that. At the end of the day, it can be exhausting. And yet, with 31 days until November 8, we are each called to consider this election cycle in terms of what it means to answer the baptismal call as a citizen and person of faith.
This year, in celebration of my 30th birthday, my parents gave me two presents. They are presents that have stuck with me.
The first, quite literally, has stayed on me since May. It is a Fitbit. This little band on my wrist, a fitness tracker, has taken the place of my watch and has counted the number of steps I take each day. At first, I wasn't sure how I'd like it, but now I barely notice that it is there, save for the little reminders it gives me to get up and move during the day and the way it gleefully buzzes if/when I reach 10,000 steps for the day.
The second gift was more of a surprise. It was a letter containing a story I had never really heard — the story of my birth. In it my parents bantered back and forth on the page about what was important to include. My mother made a point of saying I'd taken my time coming out. My father recounted how, because of that, he was able to leave in the middle of the long slow labor to go to a retirement luncheon for my grandfather. I laughed and I cried as I read the story. These were things I'd never known. But even more so, there was such love in their words that I couldn't help but give thanks that I'd been born to these people. Their letter affirmed a part of who I am and poured forth the love parents have for their children.
But what do a Fitbit and a sentimental letter have to do with baptismal call or this year's election?
These gifts give us a good framework for considering the baptismal call that we live out each day. This call traces itself all the way back to Jesus' baptism in the Jordan. For all the differing accounts of Jesus' life and ministry in the four Gospels, the baptism of Jesus distinctly appears in each one without exception. This is where Jesus' ministry begins. To put that in Fitbit terms, that's step one on the journey. For everything that will follow, this moment marks the beginning of the rest of Jesus' life, a life that embodies the call to live in and with God, growing daily and encountering the Divine in every aspect of life.
And what is it that Jesus hears as he emerges from the waters of baptism? "This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased."
Before any miracles or healings, before any temptations in the desert and before any disciples began to gather, before any parables or teachings, there is only Love. God declares right then and there, before Jesus has done anything, that he is God's beloved. And God does the same for us.
The majority of us don't remember our baptism. We were infants and the call we answered was not of our own accord. The people who answered by bringing us to the life giving waters of baptism believed. In their love for us, they wanted us to have the gift of that belief, too.
I imagine God smiled on each one of us that day, no matter our age or the circumstances, and said "This is my beloved child: I love you and you are mine."
And from there, we — like Jesus — stepped out into the world. As with my Fitbit, some days are better than others. There are nights, I find myself walking up and down the block to get the last few steps to 10,000 in before day's end. Yet, no matter the day, in our lives of faith the call of our baptism echoes over and over. Our goal is to strive towards the goodness God sees in us and to share the graces we have been blessed with. This requires attentiveness to our relationship with God and our relationships with others. That's a challenge that requires action beyond steps. We must be active in sharing the love of God, remaining faithful to the challenge of the Gospel in our lives: to be more loving, more merciful, and more engaged.
Nowhere is this truer than in our role as faithful citizens. The Gospel doesn't promise to win us friends or make us rich. It seeks what is right, standing on the side of the forgotten and proclaiming that the Good News begins in the heart of Love. At the Transfiguration, Jesus would be reminded of his "beloved"-ness. Perhaps this is what he needed to go back down the mountain to pursue the Truth that would ultimately land him on the cross.
That too is part of our baptismal call: to stand for justice and to seek God's will in the workings of the world. That will is bigger than our own. It requires a consciousness not only of my security and comfort but also that of the common good.
At the end of the day, I wonder if I am healthier for having a Fitbit. The answer: maybe. But I can tell you I am more health conscious because I have this little tracker on my wrist. The same can be asked of our baptism: Are we as a country and communities healthier for me having lived my faith today? Have my actions been attentive to God's will and call? Did I strive to bring God into the everyday actions and being of my life?
Each day we will answer these questions differently. The hope is that over the span of many days we might be able to answer more affirmatively than not and, in the process, ultimately discover the transformative effects of our faith lived out.
Part of those transformative effects can be seen in our children. My parents wrote to me "You never know how a child will affect the way a family works." Yet, having another child simply expanded their capacity to love.
If we could see each person as an individual inviting us to a greater love, how might our world change? Rather than turning against one another, we might see that my future is inherently tied to yours. This is part of what we say yes to in our baptism, consciously and unconsciously. It is the gift and challenge of the faith we've received. Each day is a chance to better live those promises made long ago, to renew our baptismal call.
As we look towards Election Day, we are again invited to consider that baptismal call.
There are no perfect candidates, just as there are no perfect people... Continue Reading Here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fitbits, Family Ties, & Sacrament Forums

Tomorrow I'll be posting a excerpt from my latest Global Sisters Report column, which deals with our baptismal call as it relates to being a faithful citizen. The metaphors and examples used in that article, though, have been doing double duty this week. On Tuesday, I offered a reflection to a group of parents whose children will be making their first Communion or Confirmation this year. My remarks focused on what it means to live your Baptismal call especially in regards to the everyday life of a parent. I offer those remarks here for your reflection and hope they shed light today, in their original context, as much as they will offer tomorrow in a more general sense.

This year, for my thirtieth birthday, I got two birthday presents from my parents. They are presents that have stuck with me.

The first, quite literally, has stayed on me since May. It is a Fitbit. This little band on my wrist has taken the place of my watch and has been tracking the number of steps I take each day.  At first, I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but now I barely notice that it is there, save for the little reminders it gives me to get up and move during the day and the way it gleefully buzzes when I reach ten thousand steps for the day.

The second gift was more of a surprise. It was a letter containing a story I had never really heard… the story of my birth.  In it my parents bantered back and forth on the page about what was important to include.  My mother made a point of saying I’d taken my time coming out. While my father recounted how, because of that, he left in the middle of the day to go to a retirement luncheon for my grandfather.  I laughed and I cried as I read the story. These were things I’d never known but even more so, there was such love in their words that I couldn’t help but give thanks that I’d been born to these people.  Their letter affirmed a part of who I am and poured forth the love parents have for their children.

So, why am I telling you this? What do a Fitbit and a sentimental, biographical letter have to do with the Sacraments or Baptism or anything we’re discussing this evening?

I think that in a way, these gifts give us a good framework for considering the Baptismal call that we live out each day. This call traces itself all the way back to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, of which we heard Matthew’s account proclaimed tonight. 

For all the differing accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry in the four Gospels, the Baptism of Jesus distinctly appears in each one without exception.  This is where Jesus’ ministry begins. To put that in Fitbit terms, that’s step one on the journey.  For everything that will follow, this moment marks the beginning of the rest of his life… a life lived in and with God, growing daily and spreading to all those he encountered. 

And what is it that he hears as he emerges from the waters of Baptism? “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

Before any miracles or healings, any temptations in the desert or before any disciples began to gather, before any parables or teachings, there is only Love.  God declares right then and there… before Jesus has done anything… that he is God’s beloved.  And God does the same for us. 

For the majority of us, we can’t remember our baptism. The call we answered was not of our own accord. But still the people who brought us to these life giving waters believed… and in their love for us, they wanted us to have the gift of that belief, too.  And, I imagine, God smiled on each one of us that day, no matter the circumstances, and said this is my beloved child:  I love you and you are mine.

And from there, we- like Jesus- stepped out into the world.  As with my Fitbit, some days are better than others.  There are nights, I find myself walking up and down the block to get the last few steps to ten thousand in before day’s end. Yet, no matter the day, in our lives of faith the call of our baptism echoes over and over.  Our goal is to strive towards the goodness God sees in us and to share the graces we have been blessed with. This requires attentiveness to our relationship with God and our relationships with others. That’s a challenge that requires action beyond steps. We must be active in sharing the love of God, remaining faithful to the challenge of the Gospel in our lives- to be more loving, more merciful, and more engaged.        

At the end of the day, you might ask Am I healthier for having a Fitbit? Maybe. But I can tell you I am more conscious because I have this little tracker on my wrist.  The same can be asked of our baptism: Am I healthier for having lived my faith today? Have I been attentive to God in my midst and did I strive to bring God into the everyday actions and being of my life?

Each day we will answer these questions differently; but the hope is that over the span of many days we might be able to answer more affirmatively than not and ultimately, in the process, we will discover the transformative effects of faith lived out.

Part of those transformative effects can be seen in our children.  As parents and guardians, you bear the responsibility of nurturing the faith of your children. You wouldn’t be here otherwise. “You never know how a child will affect the way a family works.” My parents wrote to me this year. Yet, having another child simply expanded their capacity to love. 

As their letter filled in the blanks of my birth story, I realized that the big details were never a mystery. I may not have known how exactly I came into the world, but I already knew the faith, hope, and love they instilled in me by example.  That’s the gift and challenge you’ve been given as parents and are called to continue to give.  Even before your child could say “Amen” you said it for them. You made the same promises that your own parents, mentors, and god parents made for you… each day is a chance to better live those promises, to renew your baptismal call.

In a few moments, Fr. Bob will invite you to formally recall and renew those promises responding with the words “I do.”  As you do that, I hope you’ll think of those people who said “I do” for you and you’ll be aware that your response is not just for you, it is an example to your child too. As you travel the journey of this special year with your child, I hope you’ll remember the deep love from which you were called and recognize it is the same deep love to which you’ve been given.    

Let the Spirit live in you… The same Spirit that came down at Jesus’ Baptism. And take each step knowing you are beloved: called by name, gifted by Grace, and sent out to transform the world by affirming those promises each day with your life.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"An Experiment in Hope"

In my last post, I alluded to the article it connects to, a reflection entitled "An Experiment in Hope" in the Global Sisters Report, that was published last Friday as part of the Horizons column.  Below is an excerpt and link. May it offer insight into the reality of the future and how seeking a new horizon is as much about changing position as it is about gaining new insight. 

Demographic collapse is tough ground to build a case for hope on. Yet, that's exactly where Marcia Allen, CSJ, began her presidential address, entitled "Transformation – An Experiment in Hope," to the Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) last week.

She didn't talk about diminishment or downsizing, as women religious are apt to do. She didn't sugarcoat the facts or put on rose-colored glasses. No, she stood as a leader of the largest association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States and spoke the truth: Membership is collapsing.

"Our members are virtually evaporating!" Allen declared as she provided the statistics to support such a claim. What once served the leaders of 150,000 to 181,000 members will by 2025 serve the leadership of fewer than 29,000 sisters.

I can't imagine anyone in the room was shocked, but, as I read and reread Allen's remarks later, I was struck by the clarity and realism with which she spoke and wrote. What might at first seem tragic, struck me instead as awe-inspiring. This was real — and when we face reality, whether it is in ourselves or in the systems we are a part of, there is potential for growth. If demographic collapse was being so frankly discussed on a public stage, there might be hope. After all, the topic at hand was transformation, not desolation.

I have often said that as a young woman, I came to religious life knowing full well the reality of religious life. To the extent that I could, that is true. Yet, as with all things that we come to as an outsider, I could only know so much. At times, the reality of collapse is starker than I ever realized and in certain moments, it is actualized in ways I never would have imagined. In time, I've come to grapple with it more fully and to understand what exactly it means for me and the women I call sisters. Some days it spurs hope, other days it brings gratitude, and on even more days it causes me to wonder if change is possible.

The amalgamation of these thoughts and emotions is what Marcia Allen's poignant words struck on in me. And in her upfront naming of reality, I recognized that this, in fact, is the reality we need to move beyond.

Our task now is not to develop a new way of seeing the old. We're not meant to rearrange what we have, to make a new plan or to remodel what has been. The task at hand is to allow for a totally new view ― to recognize a new horizon.

The only way to see a new horizon, though, is to change where you are standing. Like falling asleep on a road trip, we awake to find that the cityscape we once saw has given way to fields of green and a flat horizon. Perhaps that is the way it is with hope and the transformation of religious life, too. For so many years, we've told ourselves numbers will increase and change will come. The change, though, has come in a different way, not in the form of new and abundant vocations, but in the inevitable impact of time. As we have waited and worked in hope, collapse has taken its toll.

So much has already changed, but still, no matter our numbers, we choose from where we see, and we have the opportunity to take in a new horizon. To see, as Allen puts it, "a whole horizon of possibility, a landscape filled with potential and unlimited opportunities." We cannot just sustain what was, we must develop questions that move us beyond now, meeting the needs of the future.

Reaching that new horizon, however, requires shifting our stance. It means approaching religious life in new ways, deconstructing systems, and gambling on the essence of our foundations. This isn't easy. No one ever said it would be.

In futility and desperation, we might shout out: "Tell me where to stand!" No one can, though. Like the Israelites in the desert, we wander. Taking in our surroundings and our reality, we keep our eyes on the horizon, bracing ourselves for what is to come. We remember too, that God works in the darkness. The wind blows through the night to part the Red Sea; in darkness, the Spirit hovers above the waters of Creation to bring forth life.

As a newer member in religious life, this wandering can be tiring but it is also formative. Just as Marcia Allen says that transformation is an experiment in hope, so is religious life today. It is an experiment that we take part in — that we give our whole selves to. In faith that leads to hope, we traverse the landscape...Continue reading the rest here. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poem: "The Power was Never Yours to Begin With"

Tomorrow my latest column will come out on the Global Sisters Report. The piece is a reflection on Marcia Allen, CSJ's Presidential Address at last week's LCWR Assembly. In the course of writing it, the following poem emerged within me. I originally thought it would close the piece but in the end, it turned out to be a part of the creative process instead.  Hopefully, it shares its own light and will shed light on what is published tomorrow. 

The Power was Never Yours to Begin With

You will feel like you have died
and you have
because there's no room for you
that's the only way
the future can come
by your letting go

be put in the tomb
And, lo, wait until you see what emerges
resurrected
Hope never before seen
shining
on a new horizon.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Flotation Devices

This summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. Between retreat and formation classes, time in Orlando for the US Federation of Sisters of Saint Joseph 50th Anniversary Federation Event, and vacation with family in Wisconsin, today marks the first time in a month that I will sleep for two consecutive nights in my own bed.  

That break, however, is short lived as I pack to head up to Boston College for a week to study before getting back to ministry in August. 

Yet, in the midst of much activity, I've found the time to write a new column for the Global Sisters Report's Horizons column. The piece is entitled "Holding onto Hope in troubled times" was published on Friday and explores the difficult necessity of finding hope as the world faces tragedy, violence, and disunity at (what seems like) every turn.  Hopefully, it speaks to your own experience as it draws off my own. Together, let's find hope in the trouble times and hold on to each other for buoyancy.
___________
Pulling into the post office parking lot as I came off of retreat, I stopped for a moment in the car. I thought to myself, The flags are at half-staff again.

And for a moment, I couldn't remember why.

A laundry list of places streamed through my mind: Baton Rouge, the Twin Cities, Orlando, Nice, Dallas, Baton Rouge (again), Istanbul ...

The names spun round and round in my head, and yet, I guiltily admitted to myself, I couldn't place the reason why the flags in front of me hung in mourning. At some point, I had to turn the news off; I had unplugged in exchange for my sanity and my soul.

Hope, it seemed, needed help floating. Perhaps that's what we all need in the darkest of times: flotation devices.

As the new year began in 2014, Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks about creating community and ending violence in the world to ask, "What is happening in the heart of humanity?"

Without missing a beat, he answered that question with a simple imperative statement: "It is time to stop."

As the 24-hour news cycle continues and reports of violence flourish, it's hard to imagine that stopping is an option. How do you possibly counteract hate? How do you stop violence? How do you heal the heart of humanity?

Faith, hope and love: These are the only viable answers. These are the virtues that dive deep into the heart of God and draw directly from the one who made us. Love may be the greatest of all these virtues, but truly, no one virtue can exist without the others. Love begets faith, which begets hope, and vice versa.

We love because God first loved us. We believe because love has been revealed to us in one way or another. And we have hope because current and past experiences of faith and love inherently foster a future full of hope. In the simplest terms, the heart of humanity is found in faith, hope and love. If we believe that, then anything — even stopping the current cycle of tragedy and violence — is a possibility.

That's all I could think of as I watched individuals join hands along the length of Hope Memorial 
Bridge in Cleveland on the eve of the Republican National Convention this past weekend. They came together to "Circle the City with Love," a founding principle of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who organized the event.

There, on that bridge, thousands of people stood in silence for 30 minutes to witness to the power of love. In the process, they gave a glimmer of hope by not only showing the love present in their city, but by revealing love at the heart of humanity. They stopped and, for a moment, the heart of humanity beat brighter.

In much the same way, NETWORK's Nuns on the Bus have been traversing the country since July 11, speaking to the ways we must mend the gaps in our society. Each stop of the bus offers another moment of healing, a pause for grace, for faith, for hope, and for love to enter the world. The stories shared at each stop are glimpses into the shared humanity we hold. Together, we can overcome hatred and apathy; we can grow in awareness and foster community. The first step, though, is to see the gap so we can mend it.

Those gaps can be anywhere: in our social service systems and our everyday relationships with one another, in the divides we realize and in those we have yet to become fully aware of. The recognition that these divisions exist is the first step of many to creating union in our world.

Seeking such unity moves far beyond this moment in time and recent "newsworthy" events. It calls us to recognize the many injustices that exist in the world, to bring hope and change beyond the headlines. It challenges me to recognize my role in labor trafficking, to face the fact that my food might not be fairly produced, and to call upon myself and the corporations I patronize to embrace just labor practices. It means praying for peace personally and with others. It means joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in a national boycott of Wendy's restaurants, calling elected officials about immigration reform, and working to minimize my carbon footprint in all areas of my life.

And in all of these actions, hope is alive, working toward a better tomorrow by believing in and loving today.

Perhaps that is the greatest challenge: keeping hope alive in the small things so that no matter how daunting a moment seems, the darkness can never overtake the light.


Hope, then, floats above tragedy, above violence, and above grief and mourning. Hope sustains us and allows us to see more clearly, no matter how blurry the signs of the times might seem. When read with eyes of hope, faith and love, the signs of the times can be transformed from tragically daunting to utterly inspiring... Continue reading the rest here.