Did you ever eat one of those Dove chocolate hearts? Do you read the little snippets of “love advice” on the inside of the foil wrappers? A retreatant or a visiting director from last weekend’s directed prayer experience must have gifted us with a bowl full of these hearts, wrapped in red and silver, looking ahead to February 14. Hungry, I filched one from the bowl yesterday as I passed through the hall. I carefully unwrapped it, not wanting to miss my “love advice” for the day! Here’s what it said: “Savor small romantic moments.” Hmmmm! I began to think about my prayer each morning. When has it last felt truly intimate? When in my day have I felt the nearness of God? When have I met Jesus in my days recently? Good questions to ask! Think about the last time you felt a little romance with your God! Maybe it’s time to turn up the heat! Spend a little extra time in prayer and meditation, a little extra “paying attention” to notice God’s presence in your day! Heed the “love advice” — savor those small romantic moments!
Author Archives: Sr. Susan Maria Kusz
I stayed up late last night to watch our President give his 5th State of the Union address and to listen to the Republican response. And then I could not get to sleep! Questions kept coming to me: What are the “great divides” in our hearts? our lives? Whether or not we gift ourselves with labels of Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Independent, Libertarian or who knows what, how willing are we to reach a hand “across the aisle” of our “great divides?” What might it look like for our nation if we could do just that? Maybe even on a smaller level, if we experience strife in family, community, cities, states … what might it look like if we all made a mighty effort — meaning, listening to the other, maybe setting aside some of the ego-self — to search together for the common good? Many of the Saints might call that honest discernment. It takes some looking at the “state of our own union” … the “state of the heart.” Perhaps that’s where we all need to start: a good look at the State of the Heart. Maybe, just maybe … just maybe? … it could lead to “a more perfect Union.” Think on it. Let’s begin today by listening to one we might otherwise dismiss. Let’s begin today by reaching out in a handshake of peace and welcome to the one we label as “the other.” Let’s begin today to work toward “a more perfect Union.” Yes, God bless the United States of America!
Whose feast is it tomorrow, December 6? Hint: his name is in an old and familiar Christmas carol! As children, my sister and I used to put out our shoes on this night, with hopeful anticipation that Jolly Old St. Nick would stop by and leave a toy or treat. How we loved awakening on the morning of December 6th, running to the door of the bedroom, and checking what might have appeared over night! Then, I entered the convent and WOW … we celebrated St. Nick in a BIG way in the novitiate! Such good fun.
This feast reminds me of the call to be childlike. Think of how children”wait” for Christmas … or any holiday, for that matter … for their birthdays … for school to be out for the summer …. There is such anticipation. Such eagerness. Such expectation.
Advent is like that … a time of expectant waiting with eagerness and joy. Tonight invites a little fun into this season, a little more expectation and hope. Put out a shoe. Share the story of the good St. Nicholas’ generosity. Play St. Nick. Know of someone who could use a smile? a helping hand? a good meal? Invite them into your life and share the Advent / St. Nick / Christmas spirit on this holy night. And then celebrate the jolly Saint’s feast tomorrow. Let generosity be the gift you share!
We Sisters usually pray “travel prayers” when we drive. Decades ago in some affiliation I recall that at the end of our little litany of prayers, a Sister would add the final touch with “Mother Cabrini, bless our machini!!” To which we all dutifully added our resounding “Amen!”
I have a fondness for this Saint whom we celebrate on our Catholic liturgical calendar this day. Frances Xavier Cabrini had big dreams: she wanted to be a missionary in China. Thinking her health was too frail for such adventures, congregations rejected her as a candidate. Undaunted, Frances decided to found her own congregation. And the United States became the field where her big dreams were realized as she worked with Italian immigrants in the city slums, founding schools, orphanages, and hospitals. Today St. Frances Xavier Cabrini has the distinction of being our first American citizen Saint.
A woman with a very big heart, a bold dream, and the enthusiasm to bring the love of God everywhere, Frances Cabrini is an example to us in our own time. Today right here in the United States members of Congress wrestle with issues of immigration reform … human trafficking rages all around us, often hidden from our eyes and consciousness … young people live without home and hope on our streets here in the richest nation of the world … questions and concerns about health care reform swirl about us. What would Mother Cabrini have to say about all this here and now? “We should traverse the whole world to make Jesus Christ known and loved,” she told her daughters. “A God who loves us so much! Can we not love Him with all our souls, no matter what the sacrifice?” I think Mother Cabrini would urge us to reach out to today’s immigrants … to work together to end the enslavement of peoples on every level … to ask the questions that get at the root of mental illness and homelessness and hopelessness … to find better ways of providing safe and sacred health care. She respected the dignity of each human person she encountered. She’d urge us to do the same.
Today let’s remember that St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is one of US. She’s OUR American Saint, OUR heroine, one gone before us in the faith. Let’s ask her help as we wrestle with national issues that are so much bigger than ourselves and our own little worlds. More than “Mother Cabrini, bless our machini,” perhaps we can pray, “St. Frances Cabrini, lover of God’s littlest and least, give us hearts that encircle the world, hearts on fire with hope, hearts that respond to the needs of all who experience poverty today. Like it was for you, may the world be too small a place for all the love we want to bring in the name of Christ. Amen!”
Last week Monday I went to my mailbox after arriving home from work. Lo and behold, what do you think awaited me? My first Christmas card of the season … on November 4! Then, on Thursday I received TWO more cards! Amazingly early! I wonder: how can people be so “organized” to get all their greetings out that soon?
This morning as I did my morning walk I was showered with snowflakes. Shivery cold weather has entered the Susquehanna Valley. Brrrrr …. Christmas cards, snowflakes, darker days: signs of coming winter. So soon!
The cards and the snow got me thinking about the Mystery of the Incarnation. Emmanuel. God-with-us. On Saturday night I went to Mass in Robesonia and once again Fr. Mark had a marvelous homily. As he closed his remarks, he invited us to welcome the darkness of the season. He suggested that each evening we take up our favorite “brew” … decaf coffee, herbal tea, or “even hot chocolate” (which drew chuckles from the churchgoers) and sit in the dark, in quiet, and “just be thankful.” Be grateful for the people who crossed your path that day. Be grateful for food, shelter, clothing. Be grateful for family. For a job. For good health. For hope. Be grateful for another day of life. Be grateful for those who have gone before us in the faith. “Just be thankful.”
As the cold and darkness settle around me, I give thanks this day. I’ve been sitting in the dark Sunday and Monday night, drinking my “sleepy time tea” and recalling the blessings of the day. I invite you to do the same as we head toward Thanksgiving. Jesus is incarnate once again … God-with-us dwells in you and me. Where have you seen this Mystery today? How has Incarnation blessed you?
Sunday’s Gospel was the familiar and beloved story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). We read in Scripture: “Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was, but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.”
I went to Saturday evening Eucharist at a little country parish. Fr. Mark gave new meaning to this gospel as he preached. He told us to use our imaginations and go back to the time in which Zacchaeus lived. He invited us to note that Zacchaeus was a man of wealth. Now men of wealth, Fr. Mark said, in those days showed off their wealth by “eating their way” to happiness. The bigger the girth, the wealthier the man! Therefore, he said, we can imagine that Zacchaeus was very rotund, probably as wide as he was tall. So, further use your imagination and think of the mighty challenge it was for this “fat little man” to climb a tree, literally out on a limb with all his weight. Fr. Mark said that in all likelihood, Jesus was first attracted to looking up because of the groaning and creaking of the limb right above him! Gives new meaning to “Zacchaeus, come down quickly,” doesn’t it?!!
In light of Zacchaeus’ example in climbing that tree, which was undoubtedly no small feat for a man of his size, we are invited to ask ourselves a few questions this week as we live into the words of this beloved Gospel story:
Is our desire to see Jesus great enough that we are willing to leave behind the things we consider so important?
Are we humble enough to admit that Jesus sees us in all our uniqueness — and loves us just this way?
Can we climb that tree no matter how challenging the task or how foolish we may seem to others?
Be “Z” this week. Want Jesus. Go out to meet Jesus. Live Jesus. He’s everywhere … if you only have the eyes to see —- and the sycamore tree to climb!
OK, I admit it: I’m no great shakes at cooking. Oh, I try. Knives are my nemesis. The other day I attempted to cut a butternut squash. You should have seen me before I got a decent knife! WITH the decent knife the poor squash went bouncing off the counter and I said a quick prayer that my neighbors below me would not hear the loud bang when I slammed the squash against the cutting board to get it free from the knife! So, yes, cooking is an “experience,” a “happening” in my apartment!
Despite my inexperience, I take a nearly gleeful delight in creating something worthwhile to eat. And so it was that last weekend I made a crockpot full of black beans and veggies — with plenty of butternut squash — with the intent of wanting to share this bounty with someone at work who was just returning from burying her beloved dad. With some trembling and fear (Maria has the reputation of being a soup-maker par excellence), I called her up and said I had something to bring over. Hoping and praying it tasted OK, I took over a big bowl of steaming veggies for her supper last Sunday night.
Something about that experience changed me. Out of my poverty, my insufficiency, my inability, and inadequacy, a divine gift was shared. Cups full of love (in addition to the squash and onions and mushrooms) were added with a liberality characteristic of this season of harvest. Maria was touched and grateful. More than that, I was touched that my simple gift was gift to her amidst her grieving. Isn’t it amazing the gifts we can offer from our own weakness and humility? Isn’t it amazing how the grateful reception of our gifts shifts our confidence? Isn’t it amazing how God works?
By the way … in case you were wondering … a couple of hours later I sat down to try the crockpot wonder myself. Simply divine!
Happy Feastday! Has anyone extended this greeting to you today? I hope you will hear it at least once! After all, it is your feast, our feast, the feast of all the “little saints” here and gone before us. Oh, we are used to the “biggies” … the Peters and Pauls, the Matthew – Mark – Luke – and John quartet … Mary Magdalen, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Joan of Arc, and the list goes on and on. They have their own special feast days on our liturgical calendar. But what about us? Have you given a thought to your own grandparents, your Mom and Dad, your siblings who have gone before you? Do you think of them as saints? Do you think of yourself as a “Saint-in-the-making?” Today is a good day to take some time to celebrate them, their ongoing presence in your life. Today is a good day to celebrate us, saints on the way, doing our best to live a life of joyful service and compassionate grace. What will you do to celebrate today? Happy Feastday!
A heart-stopping moment: I was driving home from the Jesuit Center the other day when a large deer darted right in front of the car. Awesome!
A heart-expanding moment: I was praying Monday morning when I looked out across the newly harvested cornfield and witnessed a very BIG buck leap across the field, antlers held high. Awesome!
Two events, awesome in their own way. What is it about deer that lure us into observing creation with a more careful and contemplative eye?
So much of God’s creation we take for granted. As fall continues to unfold before our very eyes in the splendor and majesty of color … in the animals seeking food before winter approaches … in the whispers of wind and colder breezes … let’s be attentive. Look … listen … smell … taste … feel … in a word: SAVOR. Beauty is everywhere!
There are more statues of this man than anyone else at El Santuario de Chimayó in the small village of Chimayó in northern New Mexico. He outstrips St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Francis of Assisi and even Our Lady of Guadalupe and Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, in whose honor the pilgrimage site was created many, many years ago. Who is this man? None other than the one we celebrate this day in Catholic tradition: St. Jude. The one we give the name “patron of hopeless causes.” One of the obscure apostles who has left obscurity behind in popular Catholic piety. No other “saint” garners as many novenas as does St. Jude!
I have a special affinity for this Gospel fellow since I grew up in the parish of St. Jude in Toledo many moons ago. Though the church was officially closed a number of years ago, I’d like to think the spirit of that lively Catholic community lives on in those of us who were so privileged to be a part of this dynamic parish. Fond memories of feast day celebrations rose up as I prayed this morning: dress up days in green and gold (our St. Jude colors), chrysanthemums on the altar in greens and golds, processions, novenas, green and yellow frosted cupcakes for the occasion. All the things children would remember! The halcyon days of youth.
And today? Perhaps we need St. Jude more than ever. Amidst government shutdowns, health care glitches of major proportions, wars raging across the globe, ever ongoing violence in our schools, vast environmental degradation, poverty, hunger, abortion, you-name-it … who is the saint for our times? Maybe amidst the growing rise of uncertainty and disillusionment we need a saint who can help us walk through the minefield of hopelessness and fear. Maybe St. Jude needs to be more than a saint for personal hopeless causes. Maybe we need to ask him to walk with us collectively and globally.
And just maybe … WE need to BECOME the “Saint Judes” and “Saint Judiths” of today. Maybe WE need to stand up in the face of fear and hopelessness, and as Christians offer a word of truth … encouragement … comfort to those in despair. Maybe WE need to BECOME charity and justice, the “two-feet-of-love-in-action” as the very remedy for hopelessness in our world.
Indeed … on this day and every day: Saint Jude, pray for us!