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
enmeshed
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

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.
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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.