Monday, January 29, 2024
Monday, December 18, 2023
This Advent I was blessed to join a host of wonderful writers commissioned by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States in reflecting on finding God in the Christmas prep. It was a delightful assignment that gave me the chance to reflect on the Christmas cards I send this time of year. Join me in reflecting more deeply and while you're at it be sure to join us for the final days of reflection at jesuits.org/advent
Each year, sometime in November, I begin to ask myself: What message will Christmas bring this year?
As I watch stores fill with decorations and radio stations slowly turn to Christmas music, I wonder to myself: What message do I need? What message does our world need? And what could possibly capture the magnitude of this season and the fullness of the Incarnation?
Then, putting all profundity aside, I ask myself: What will my Christmas card be this year?
There is something that brings me great joy in answering that final question. Browsing online catalogs and walking down the aisles of my local card shop, I marvel at the variety of cards available. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Christmas cards have you covered. A New Yorker cartoon with a child Jesus complaining about how close his birthday is to Hannukah? A Thomas Kinkade cottage tucked away in a winter wonderland? An abstract rendering of the Nativity? You name it, and I bet there’s a card for that.
Yet, as I browse, the question of message returns. What exactly is God calling me to be ready for this Christmas? It’s in answering that question that I ultimately come to the card I want to send.
Afterall, that message is what I will pray with time and time again as I write cards to my friends and family. That is the message that will be echoed in my own words written inside and which will be put on display in people’s houses, as the cards adorn mantles and refrigerators.
As I take my time writing my cards, my own mailbox will begin to fill with cards from near and far. Opening each one is a gift unto itself. These are physical manifestations of relationships maintained over the years, signs of connection and thoughtfulness.
Gleefully opening each card, I wonder to myself: What is the message this person wanted to send?
As the days of Advent progress toward Christmas, a collage of Christmas cheer begins to gather in my prayer space. With gratitude, I look upon them each morning, and as I recollect each night, I marvel at the ways God comes into our lives through the everyday relationships we maintain. God became human and dwelt among us.
In this busy season, the act of sending Christmas cards helps to ground me in that reality. It slows me down enough to see the goodness of God coming to life all around me. As I write my own cards, I revel in the simple signs of love these cards capture: families I’ve watched grow over the years, Christmas letters that give the roundup of what has been, and beautiful images emblazoned with messages of peace, hope, joy and love.
I take each card as a prayer from those who sent it, an act of intention — as if to say, I picked this stamp for you, this card for you, this picture for you… (And guess what else? I went to the post office, for you!). The implication of each is that if I would do that for you, I’d surely do much more. My hope, of course, is that those who get a card from me feel the same...
Read the rest of the reflection at: https://www.jesuits.org/stories/2nd-thursday-of-advent-christmas-cards/
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
My eight-year-old nephew has taken to creating imaginative
games. There are whimsical dance battles, intricate webs of hide-and-seek, and
fanciful games in which everyone must do what they’re told. Because he’s often
making up the rules of these games as we go, there is little room, in my
nephew’s mind, for improvisation on the part of participants. Try doing
something different and (more than likely) the game is over.
The same, it would seem, is true of those Jesus encounters
in today’s Gospel. In their eyes, Jesus didn’t play by the rules. Like John the
Baptist, Jesus challenged assumptions and pushed boundaries. What they had
imagined the Messiah to be, Jesus wasn’t. He wept in sorrow and rejoiced with
outcasts. He was fully human and utterly divine, a mystery beyond their—and
This is the mystery of devotion Paul writes about in his
letter to Timothy. This mystery is not some game we master but someone we come
to know: Jesus the Christ. “Manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit,”
Jesus invites us into mystery, to grow in relationship with the unknowable and
to bend our rules toward mercy. Our devotion demands that we reimagine what we
think possible, embracing the unexpected and adopting the wisdom of Christ.
This wisdom calls us into union with all—the rule makers and the rule breakers,
those who suffer under our assumptions and those in whom we find the kinship of
Christ—so that together we might become the Church of the living God that
Christ calls us to be.
[CREDIT] Sr. Colleen Gibson, SSJ, from the September 2023 issue of Give Us This Day, www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2023). Used with permission.
Friday, July 14, 2023
In my latest column for Global Sisters Report, I look at the need for rest as a critical aspect of engaging in life and our call to faithfulness. I hope that you get a chance to relax this summer amid work and apart from it. May the God of the Sabbath make space for the Spirit to expand in our resting and may we take the time we need so that that Spirit has room to breathe in us and the world!
Summer break can mean many things: days at the beach, time
to curl up with a good book, or a pause amid the daily grind to reconnect with
family and friends. With activities including barbecues, service projects,
annual retreats and long weekends away, the summer offers a time to shift with
the seasons, find a new rhythm, or (at least) put our current pace in
For some, summer is a season of vacation, while for others,
it is a busy time spent facilitating those spaces for others. Regardless of
where you find yourself this summer, I think something about the "in
between" moment of the season invites our recollection.
Two email signoffs recently caught my attention. The first
came as a response to my hope that the sister I was corresponding with was
enjoying the change of pace that comes with summer. With kindness and honesty,
she wrote of a few projects she needed to work on, after which she hoped
"to enjoy this pace of which you speak!"
The second came from an acquaintance who knew I'd recently
completed a degree program and hoped I would have a moment to breathe before
moving on to my next ministry. "Hopefully, these days are feeling a little
freer," she wrote before posing a few questions about a project we're
preparing for later in the summer.
After reading each email, I took a deep breath, imagining
the freedom we all hoped for in our responses. In between time, after all, is
what we make of it, and such freedom is as hard (or as easy) to come by as we
Looking at my summer calendar, I can see this truth playing
out in real time. The difficulty of the in between is how we choose to embrace
it. That embrace can be as easy as settling into a seaside lounge or as tight
as a schedule packed back-to-back with engagements and appointments. In our
busy lives, we sometimes see free time not as a time to rest but simply as
available or otherwise unoccupied time. Rather than saving time for recharging,
we often pack it with other to-dos and miss the regenerative power of being
free and changing our pace.
Of course, we all face demands to do more. The reasons are
many and varied. For some, time off isn't an option. With mouths to feed and
bills to pay, time off is an unaffordable luxury. For others, the idea of
taking a prolonged rest might seem to fly in the face of the pressing demands
of our world. With all the suffering and injustice in the world, rest appears
to be a luxury or disengagement from the things of the world that demand our
attention and action. From this point of view, the question arises: How can we
take time to just be when there is so much yet to be
This question, of course, is a false dichotomy. Rest is
neither solely for the rich or privileged, nor is it unavailable to the poor
and marginalized. Rest is a universal need and right. We each are called to
refill and make space in our own way. Rest is found in our making time and
space and our intention in taking it. Actively choosing such rest is an act of
resistance in a culture that demands productivity and directly correlates worth
with activity and output.
In her 2022 presidential address to the Catholic Theological
Society of America, "Remembering the Rest of Life: Toward a Rest-Inflected Theology
of Work and Action," Christine Firer Hinze makes a poignant plea for
rest as part of our Christian call to action. "In the face of the
potential endlessness of all the good work to be done," Firer Hinze asks,
"how do we better understand, incorporate and advocate for good rest, not
as a grudging accommodation to our finitude, but as an essential human,
societal, and spiritual good?"
By framing rest as an essential element of faithful action,
Firer Hinze calls all people of goodwill to account for the nature and
underlying motivation of our rest, examining our resistance to rest and the
grounding power inherent in genuine rest.
Finding rest means facing the pressure to produce and the
perception that productivity defines our worth. Solutions to such culturally
pre-programmed restlessness are not simple, or one-size-fits-all. Part of
learning to rest comes from reevaluating the unhealthy standards we've set for
Early in my religious life, I remember meeting with a wisdom
figure in my congregation about what advice she would offer a younger member.
"Say yes to whatever you are asked to do," she replied
I sincerely believe that she was telling me to be open to
opportunities and share my gifts with a sense of abundance. Yet her response
also delivered a message about working without abandon (or rest). Years later,
I realized you can't say yes to everything. You must choose wisely, discerning
when 'yes' is a prudent response and when rest might be a better choice for all
In time, I've come to cherish those people in my life who
have modeled such regenerative and integrated habits of rest, prayer and
service. Their example challenges me to reevaluate my work patterns and find
rest amid and apart from my everyday life. As Firer Hinze highlights, such rest
is integral to embodying a just love of ourselves, our God, our neighbors and
Drawing on the work of Tricia Hersey, the founder of The Nap Ministry, we
would be right to embrace a space of rest this summer — to grow in community
and faith. This is because rest is not a solitary endeavor but a communal
effort and investment. Restoring ourselves gives back to the communities we
belong to. Rest enables us to rely on others; it makes us vulnerable and lets
us lean into the support and care of others.
Rest also humbles us. Our need for rest shows us that we are
human. To be faithful to the practice of rest both amid our service and apart
from it is an act of faithful charity. We rest so that we can better love, and
by resting, we recognize that rest — the very act of sabbath-making — is part
of our call as people of faith.
Learning to rest and applying those lessons is
countercultural. As I stress about the projects that lie ahead and a new
ministry on the horizon, I feel the temptation to fill my time, to be
productive in the service of something other than the call to be present to the
feelings of the in between. Resting this summer is a call to develop patterns
and practices of rest in every season of our lives. That is a call that I, at
least, could use practice in answering. (Maybe you could, too.)
Thursday, May 25, 2023
My reflection on today's readings from Give Us This Day:
Be it a time of distress, a moment of loss, or a season of uncertainty, sometimes the greatest offer we can receive is the promise of prayer. I will pray for you. With those five simple words, what I once held alone (or that which I felt held me captive) is transformed from a solitary burden to a communal endeavor. Whatever was mine is now ours. The blessed assurance being that together we, each in our own way, will hold the intention at the heart of our conversation with God.
Friday, May 5, 2023
In my latest column for the Global Sisters Report, I reflect on the recent news about the expansion of voting in the Synod of Bishops/Synod on Synodality to non-bishop members, including women and other lay people. Check it out!
The tent is expanding. I repeat, the tent is expanding.
So often when we use the term "lay people," we think of people like us … but what if we are being invited to expand the tent of our perception to include those beyond our own circles or preconceptions?
With each new step on the synodal way, surprises are surfacing as our footsteps kick up the dust of new life. This dust shows us that walking the Way stirs things up, a process of mess making that ultimately holds hope. In this Easter season, we're called to rejoice in the One who walks the Way with us, the resurrected Christ who calls us to new life. As we enlarge our tents, let us rejoice in the promise of expansion and continue to lift up our voices so that all the world may hear the good news.
Thursday, April 6, 2023
In these holy days of the Triduum there is much to ponder- the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, the call to hope, and the encounter with suffering. in the midst of it all, I've offered the following reflection for the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for their series of Lenten Reflections. Today may be Holy Thursday, but I pray this Good Friday message reaching you wherever you are.
I have always loved Holy Thursday. That might seem like an
odd way to start out a reflection on Good Friday, but as I sit with the many
questions and the somberness of this day, I can’t help but recall that initial
love found in foot washing, students turned friends, and memories of a dinner
party we recall with each Eucharist.
Today, on Good Friday, I imagine the dirty dishes left
behind. Signs of what was hoped for, quietly held in the stillness of a story
gone awry. The cross is not what the disciples had anticipated. They surely had
imagined triumph like we saw on Palm Sunday, a lauded Messiah who would save an
oppressed people, who would overturn structures of domination and suffering
just as surely as he had flipped the tables in the Temple.
Suffering is not on the top of any of our lists of what it
means to be a follower of Christ.
And yet, today we stand at the foot of the cross and wonder:
how did all this happen? What does it mean for us? Why did it have to happen
and why would God let it? Simply and emphatically, why?
The answers to these questions resound in silence. They come
with tears and grief, mourning and weeping, pain and anguish. These are natural
responses to injustice and evil in our world. Any easy answers offered for such
a catastrophe should certainly be deemed suspect.
God didn’t send Jesus to die on the cross. Jesus died
because he claimed who he was and preached the Gospel- proclaiming good
news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, and healing for the outcast. This
Good News was a call to right relationship with God and with every neighbor
without distinction. It threatened the status quo, and for this, Jesus was
killed. Ultimately, what Jesus’ death on the cross reveals is the fullness of
God’s love for humanity.
This love draws us into union with God. It is what is so
beautifully expressed on Holy Thursday and so heartbreakingly snuffed out on
On this day, when we venerate the cross it’s important to
remember that Jesus gave his life not only for salvation from sin but also, in
the words of theologian Jon Sobrino, for freedom “from any sort of oppression,
inner and outer, spiritual and physical, personal and social.” That freedom
calls us to act for justice, wherever life is threatened or senselessly lost.
We are called to be agents of unity, bearing hope amid our mourning, faithful
friends actively upholding the promise of new life Jesus offers us.
- -Take time today to reflect on the places of
despair and injustice in our world. Who suffers senselessly? How is life being
threatened? What would it mean to venerate unifying love in these situations?
- -They say on Good Friday the world stood still.
If you can, try walking outside today. Imagine Jesus is walking with you. What
would you want to say to Jesus? What might Jesus be trying to say to you?
- What does it mean for you to bear hope in the shadow of the cross?