A family of four walked the red trail ahead of me. I passed the baby carriage and the mother who told me the baby was a boy. Ahead raced a father and a little boy about three years old. As I caught up to these two, I said to the boy, “In a couple years you’ll be able to race your brother.” He just looked at me while the father translated. Then the tike put a thumbs up with a huge smile. The father explained that his son didn’t know much English yet. The father then added, “At first I thought you said that I was the brother, and I took that as a compliment.” I responded, “I guess we’re all brothers and sisters.” As I walked on, I wondered what the father thought of my statement, since the family were perhaps Muslim. Maybe the father felt as sad as I did that millions of persons around the globe cannot begin to think they are anyone’s brother or sister after years of refugee camps, ethnic cleansing, and so many other evils. The family and I took the same path, and it made all the difference.
Author Archives: Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider
I am blessed with the ability to play piano, a gift my family gave me. My older sister taught me the basics, and eventually my parents paid for lessons. I have not become a “real” musician, for I have never had the chance to study theory or even a college course beyond the two basic ones demanded of elementary school teachers. But I have the ability to accompany. Cantors and choirs sing easily with me, for I play as people sing and not exactly as written. Because the main responsibility for singing is with the congregation, I let my hands “breathe” with the assembly. This creates unity between singing and accompanying, and thus accompaniment becomes real companioning.
Accompaniment that is easy to follow is reassuring, thus inviting participation. The feeling in the congregation becomes “I can do this,” and all can become companions to each other in the singing of hymns or ritual music. Moreover, the assembly can more easily join themselves to the action of Christ through the priest, especially in dialogues and acclamations. May all feel welcome in the song of Christ.
We Sisters of Notre Dame have a custom that each province celebrates a special feast, usually one of Mary: Immaculate Heart of Mary for Covington, Our Lady of Good Counsel Indonesia, the Visitation in India, and so on. We in Toledo, as well as the Sisters in Tegelen, celebrate the Immaculate Conception on December 8. As Sisters of Notre Dame (French for “Our Lady”), we have a common feastday around the world—the Annunciation on March 25. God’s request to Mary through the Angel Gabriel was answered by a courageous yes. It is that yes to God that all of us sisters wish to imitate. Mary Immaculate, pray for us.
Whether Hallmark movies and mysteries or round-the-clock Christmas programs, you can be sure to find a movie that’s predictable. A chance meeting leads to living happily-ever-after. Persons in grief or depression have bright eyes and big smiles by the last two minutes of the program. Yet the first Christmas was anything but predictable. A virgin bearing a child? God born in a cattle shed? The lowest caste of shepherds receiving news of the Messiah first? Kings coming to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere? No predictability in the Nativity story!
And what about Advent now? Predictable? Hardly. While some have tried to ascertain the date of the Second Coming, no one has succeeded. We are certainly clueless about the time or manner of the Parousia. We can’t even be certain about the day or hour or even minute. No wonder the Church keeps telling us “Be ready! Stay awake!” Attentiveness is the real hallmark of Advent.
With a few mild days of autumn left, I have cleared the yard of dead vegetation by cutting back perennials. Whatever was decaying or dead came up easily. The living part—the roots—remained in the ground, the energy tucked in and dormant until spring. All creation shares the energy, the energy of the Big Bang, the energy that is Love. Love is the passionate force at the heart of the Big Bang universe. It is the fire that gives life to matter. In effect, the physical structure of both the perennials and the universe is love. Love is the source and the goal, the root and the plant, the Big Bang and the universe. All is directed toward fullness of life. All is directed toward more love.
If love is at the root of the dying plants around our house, then isn’t it our obligation to let love be rooted in ourselves? The letters of Saint Paul tell us the same—to be rooted and grounded in love.
Recently second-graders made First Reconciliation. When Father raised his hand in absolution above a boy’s head, the boy raised his hand and gave Father a high-five. Although amusing, it made sense that the ritual of receiving God’s forgiveness deserves a high-five.
My aunt’s funeral landed on Friday the 13th. It was funny that no one in my huge relationship even mentioned the inauspicious timing. The perfect temperature and sun may have been part of the reason. And no one could have wished a better life for this 95-year woman who was always out and about and difficult to find in her assisted living apartment. She was a gift, and her family was grateful for the great gift that God had bestowed in letting us be part of her relationship. Being her niece made Friday the 13th my lucky day.
Has there been even one evening over the past few weeks that we watched the evening news without sorrow and empathy for the suffering of thousands throughout the world? Devastating natural disasters and violence make us feel helpless.
Walter Brueggemann writes in The Bible Makes Sense: “The Godness of God does not consist in his sovereignty but in his obedient suffering for the sake of the world.” This view of God makes us look thoughtfully at ourselves as made in God’s image. Since God made himself vulnerable, we are called to make ourselves vulnerable. Since God in Jesus gave up his power, we are called to do the same in an emptying of ourselves like that of the self-emptying of Jesus. Then we can be filled with the power to suffer in solidarity with others. We have had so many opportunities to suffer with others—the thousands suffering from hurricanes, floods, fires, violence, war, homelessness. We have probably helped through prayer and almsgiving. We have shared the God-ness of God.
For a moment, think of Life—God’s Life–flowing through every vein and in every artery, and between every synapse. Breathe joy into every cell. Did you know that you can reduce carotid artery build up by saying “Joy is flowing through every cell”?
It has been said that if you made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you try to act a little kinder than is necessary, the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you the face of God.