Contemplation means, among other things, seeing the real. Our founding sister, Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring, saw the real in the elderly at a time when there were no nursing homes. Some elderly persons who had no family came to live in the convent in Delphos, Ohio, where our foundress lived for five years. One woman was called the “praying mama,” because she prayed loudly all day long, but the sisters knew the praying mama was the presence of Christ as truly as Christ was present in their convent chapel. Contemplation sees such reality.
Author Archives: Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” “It’s always something.” When we hear these expressions, we think of the bad things in life that can pile up: a flat tire, spilled coffee, phone calls and text messages with bad news, loss, a forgotten appointment, a broken foot, disaster.
Charles Dickens led a difficult life, especially in childhood. His childhood experiences became immortalized in novels whose main characters are poor or sickly youth. So I was surprised to read that Charles Dickens said, “There is always something for which to be thankful.”
When things are not going well, I try to make it my practice to say with a prayerful attitude, “Praise and thanks!” Some may consider this a bit foolish; however, when we know that all of life is gift, then everything in life is also gift. Everything can work to our good. So if I spill a box of pins, I have nothing else to do while picking up the pins, so I engage my mind in prayer, saying, “Praise and thanks!” When I’m disappointed or frustrated, those times are also good times to say, “Praise and thanks!”
Today see how often you can say “Praise and thanks!” for everything.
I’m putting on a green shirt to attend a parish gathering. The front says “St. Richard Parish Family.” The reverse has a black tree with “Family Reunion” in white. The roots sport the word “Jesus.” Our parish in Swanton, Ohio hopes that everyone realizes that all of us are rooted in Christ. According to Simone Weil, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Without roots there is no tree. Without Christ there is no me. Creation began when God wanted to share the Godhead completely. Something had to receive the love, and that’s the universe, planet Earth, all people, Jesus, you and me.
Do you see yourself as rooted in Christ? Is our common rootedness in Christ filling the need of your soul?
Light transforms an ordinary pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. Similarly, the light of Christ transforms us ordinary people into saints. Who, after all, are the saints? They’re the people who let God’s light shine through in everything they do. We are privileged to carry the light of Christ within us. Do we let it shine?
Today be a jack-o-lantern. Let your light shine. Compliment the cashier or waitress. Pay it forward. Tell family members and friends how much you appreciate them. Be grateful for even the tiny things. Surprise someone with an act of kindness. It takes just a few minutes to transform a dismal autumn day into an experience of God’s goodness.
Halloween is coming, and many little people in our Catholic schools will dress as saints to celebrate All Saints Day on November 1. We’ll see a serene Therese of Lisieux, a Blessed Virgin Mary, and a Saint Joseph. Less often do we see the saints whose horrifying deaths were as gory as the latest movie. Saint Sebastian was shot through with arrows. Saint Francis of Assisi suffered the five wounds of Christ. Saint Lawrence was grilled over fire and supposedly joked, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” Saint Joan of Arc, too, was burned alive. Saint John the Baptist and Saint Paul were beheaded. Saint Ignatius of Antioch was fed to the lions. Saint Stephen was stoned to death, and Saint Isaac Jogues was killed by a tomahawk.
Sometimes we think of holiness as serene. We picture saints wrapped in contemplation, basking in God’s love. Certainly there were such times, but all of them—however they lived and died—were horribly good disciples of Jesus Christ.
Shakespeare’s comedies are near tragedies. The mix-ups and disguises, the twists of language, the intricate plot bring the audience to the brink of tragedy; however, something happens in the last act that changes course, and we receive that “happy-ever-after” feeling. The near tragedy becomes a comedy, often shown in an expression of community, such as a dance or actors staged in a circle.
The life of Jesus, too, was near tragedy. Everything pointed to crucifixion. On Good Friday tragedy prevailed, but Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He had the last laugh. Soldiers thought they had Jesus beaten? Ha-ha! The religious authorities thought Jesus was silenced? Ha-ha! Jerusalem would forget him? Ha-ha! Resurrection transforms the tragic ending into a comic beginning—like the Shakespearean comedy that ends in community. Now the Risen Christ is identified with all God’s People, and all God’s People are part of the Body of Christ. We, the community of Jesus Christ, have the last laugh.
For this reason we carve jack-o-lanterns, symbols of the last laugh. Their smiling faces seem to say, “Death, you can’t scare me. I’m going to rise with Jesus Christ! Graveyards, you’re not scary. I’m going to rise with Jesus Christ! Skeletons, that’s not me. I’m in heaven!” As you see jack-o-lanterns this week, let them remind you of resurrection and community in Christ.
“Seeing how God works in nature can help us understand how He works in our lives,” Janette Oke claims. Surrounded by 95 acres of woods, lake and meadow I live up close and personal to nature. Sometimes nature is slow, like a long cold spring when summer weather is hardly in time for the Fourth of July picnic. Sometimes nature is very fast. Leaves turn red with the turning of the calendar to August. Nature can feel like feast or famine—grapevines bare one year and heavy another. Nature is mysterious with more species unknown than known. Constantly changing, ever surprising, sometimes interminably slow, other times unnaturally fast are nature and God’s work in our lives.
How is God slow in your life? How is God fast? Is God more like feast or famine? Do you want God to be mysterious or well-known?
Take some time to observe nature, and then observe God’s work in your life.
I like tables. I like to do my paper work on a table, spreading out an array of paper, pens, markers, and a cup of coffee. I like kitchen tables with their feeling of at-home-ness. One of my favorite times of the day is to sit down at the dining room table with four other Sisters of Notre Dame in my small community in Whitehouse, Ohio. The Sister whose turn it is to make dinner sets down the bowls, as the steam rises, and our eyes take in the spread before their cast down in meal prayer. Convent meals are usually rather ordinary, and our talk encompasses the day’s activities, world events, or the cute things little ones say at school. Much of my ordinary day occurs at tables—wiping them clean, writing, eating, talking, or playing a card game. I believe with Macrina Wiederkehr in “the incredible gift of the ordinary! Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life!”
Life is the table at which we sit. What do you do when you’re sitting there? Let incredible things happen.
Genes, chromosomes, DNA, everything that makes me Me is mystifying and truly awesome. Out of the millions of possibilities, God made Me. But God didn’t step back to admire the creation. Instead God became part of my every cell–not in a pantheistic way, but in they way of Scripture: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Today live and move and enjoy your being in God.
When I get an idea, I tend to tell myself like the nursery rhyme character holding up a plum, “Oh, what a good girl am I!” Then I check myself: Wait a minute. Those good ideas come from God. God put that good idea into my head. God put that good desire into my heart. As Richard Rohr says, “We are always and forever merely seconding the motion” (Naked Now, 2009). And so my prayer giving strength to my idea or desire is “I second the motion, God.” Then I need to use that idea and follow that desire, for it is from God.
When you get an idea, do you thank God, or do you let your ego pat you on the back?
What desires are in your heart? How are you following them?