Throughout the past two weeks I have marinated in the spirit of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Well, since I am a Sister of Notre, I am surrounded by the Notre Dame spirit all the time, but I mean the events of the past two weeks have left me supersaturated, drenched. First on July 3 we celebrated our sisters’ jubilees with prayer, photo ops, meal, and program. The spirit of ND is celebratory of one another. (“You aren’t going to put our Mardi Gras parade on Facebook, are you?”) Then on the next day we gathered for our annual Fourth of July picnic. The spirit of ND is loud. (“Bingo!” “Put a few more burgers on the grill!” “Last one to the pool!”) Following quickly was our annual province assembly, a time to look over the past year and look to the future, a time to share wisdom. The ND spirit was reflective, open, unifying. (“Thank you for sharing that.” “Let’s look at it another way.”) Then I was one of 20 participating in a Notre Dame spirituality retreat of six full days prepared by our own sisters. It was a time to look at our founding and our charism. It was a time to examine under a microscope our DNA. And what did we see? Whether 1850 or 2016 we saw these characteristics in our day to day living: obedience, humility, charity. We saw courage during the time of war and economic depression. We noted how the Cross of Christ has inspired us and been with us in every decade and continent. We proclaimed anew “How good is our good God!” And we deepened our trust in God’s provident care.
Many people frantically run through the day, although students on summer break might be exempt from the hurry-hurry, “got-no-time.” While summer may afford a bit more leisure, leisure is still a commodity hard to come by. Who has time for leisure?
David Steindl-Rast has said that leisure is not the privilege of those who have time. Rather leisure is the virtue lived by persons who give to each instant of life the time it deserves. When you think about it, wasn’t Jesus a man of leisure? Certainly he was always on the move—that long journey to Jerusalem that covers much of Luke’s Gospe? But note the ways Jesus gives each instant the time it deserves, as he walks along the way. The apostles wanted to shoo children away when Jesus had a hard day of preaching, but Jesus took the time to bless them and maybe listen to their stories or play a little game with them. While Jesus was heading to the home of Jairus to heal his twelve-year-old daughter, he took time with the woman who touched the tassel of his cloak. Jesus could have kept on walking knowing someone was healed, but he took the time to see who it was, perhaps asking, “What else can I do for you?”
Time belongs to God, and we are responsible for the use of such a great gift. Do we choose to be our best selves in the midst of time pressures? Are we letting ourselves grow in self-discipline by giving to each situation the time it deserves? Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Spend your summer in leisure—even if it means being busy.
Several evenings recently the sunsets have been fantastic—but you have to catch them! That’s the fun part. Just walking or driving along, and suddenly you stop breathing. Everything stops—even breath—for a few seconds of pure awe and joy and wonder and incredibility and thankfulness. For those few seconds we are contemplatives. I imagine that our five-second contemplation rivals the mystical practices of the mystics who wrote books about their experiences and got their names on lists of the canonized saints.
In “The Joy of Science” in the July 4-11 issue of America we read that contemplation is “enjoyable, and though in the moment it is quite effortless, contemplation is far from passive because the whole self is engaged. It feels effortless because it is what our minds were ultimately made to do”)p. 14).
Be on the lookout for moments of delight. Be open to the inspiring moments of beauty, goodness, and truth. Let your heart love it all. Say nothing, yet know that’s a great prayer.
Everything is too quiet—no breeze, no chirping of birds, no movement. The scene could be a painting on a canvas. But something—with no evidence to prove it–is stirring, brewing, intensifying. What will come? A much-needed rain? Hail? Damaging winds? The storm of the century as happened with West Virginia’s flooding? Or nothing at all in one of nature’s false alarms?
Three hours before the beginning of our province’s jubilee celebration honoring jubilarians of 50, 60, 65, 70, and 75 years I walked through the Sisters of Notre Dame Center. Nineteen candles stood in readiness. Day lilies, snowballs, and other flowers were ready to show off their beauty. The tables in the conference room were set in Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. The program with its Mardi Gras theme written by our sisters ministering in New Orleans was practiced, the stage empty. What would burst forth from the silence, the waiting? It was certainly the calm before the storm of love.
When we Sisters of Notre Dame gather on any occasion, the hugs are numerous, the laughter loud, but the decibels do not come near the noise of jubilee celebration. For 50 or more years our sister-jubilarians have lived a life consecrated by vowed loving chastity, loving poverty, and loving obedience. On jubilee the lives of our jubilarians gush in a tsunami of love.
Some words or phrases are just plain fun to say. They delight the mouth and please the ear. At times the consonants and vowels shape the facial muscles into a friendly mien. For a pleasant countenance, try these words: delightful, supreme, ebony, alleluia. Here are some fun words to say aloud: circuitous, slithering, diplomatic, soothing, recalcitrant, surreptitious.
Simply because of their sound Scripture phrases may stick in my head. The phrase that reverberates most often is “love following upon love” (Jn. 1:16). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my whole day were love following upon love? I know that God’s love toward me is love following upon love. After all, God can’t stop loving me! But what about my day? My response to God? My attitudes and actions toward others and myself? Well, sometimes it’s stumbling following upon stumbling or fumbling following upon fumbling. Or it might ineptness to ineptness instead of another of my loved phrases “glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). I trust that God transforms my limitations to humility following upon humility. And when my heart is attuned to God, love follows upon love.
Although my eyes are nondescript, my driver’s license claims they’re “blue.” Actually the color could be a blob of green, brown, and blue paint. The license is just a guess. Other parts of me are quite descriptive. My fingers are short and stolid—nothing to look at but great for playing forte on the final chord. My hardy feet can wear out anybody’s 7 ½ hand-me-down shoes. Thick head of hair, rather long nose, attached ear lobes, and wide teeth attest to my parents’ genes and chromosomes.
Recently I read a poem about God’s genes in us. We can’t look like God who is Spirit, but Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Jesus begins with a story in which a blind woman asks someone who helps her, “Are you Jesus?”
Be grateful for God’s genes, and let the wonders of divine heredity work in you. We can be sons and daughters in whom God is well pleased and sees the Godself. Imagine God saying, “You’re a spittin’ image of Me.”
I had the privilege of seeing several monuments in D.C. at night. One of the most impressive was that of Martin Luther King, Jr. Our eyes locked, and I was reminded of Michelangelo’s imperative to his statue of David—“Speak!” The Stone of Hope, as the monument is called, represents the breakthrough in civil rights, as well as the unfinished work toward equality. King is coming free of the rock, proclaiming “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” But he has not fully emerged, as he accepts “finite disappointment” while encouraging others to “never lose infinite hope.” Perhaps his words carved on the stone wall will inspire us to give all persons equal dignity and rights: “Make a career of humanity. . . . You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
Leaders who could have continued inspiring our country to greatness lie buried, along with their potential for inspiration in the hearts and minds of their fellow Americans. In this time of division within parties, at this time when political rhetoric has deteriorated to mudslinging, we have forgotten John F. Kennedy’s words: “Let us not seek Republican answers or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.” As we consider our votes and discuss our nation’s future, we cannot “enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,” for “the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all” (JFK).
My wish is that the next President of the United States would require every Congressperson and every member of his or her cabinet to spend a week touring our nation’s capital. They would be required to read every quotation at the memorials and monuments to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. They would need to walk through the Vietnam Memorial and speak to the veterans they see. Some hours in the Holocaust Memorial Museum would be another requirement, along with a trip to Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery. In the course of their first term in office each senator or representative would make it a point to visit each building of the Smithsonian. Having completed this tour, everyone would be imbued with the principles of democracy and the inspiration that has inspired the world. Our leaders would realize Thomas Jefferson’s words: “In matters of principle stand like a rock,” and they would know “action will delineate and define you” (quotations from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial).
Walking up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial, I felt that I was approaching moral greatness in a man who claimed “I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my best each and every day.” That daily best included not punishing the South after the Civil War. That daily best included integrity in his use of authority, practicing what he preached: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Our newspapers contain articles about poverty, racism, infant mortality, and poor education. We need the will to ensure every American has enough to eat, a place to stay, and an opportunity to become their best selves. Otherwise we face the risk that Lincoln spoke of: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”