I’m not a professional painter, but I enjoy the challenge of painting a room. Recently I painted two classrooms. (Full disclosure: Someone came behind me with the tricky trimming around light switches and smart boards.) Dip the roller, raise it high, smooth the paint and keep it even. Repeat. There’s something contemplative about the repetitive movement. Last year our congregation had a general conference in Tanzania. An important topic was the characteristics of our Notre Dame culture. Having begun religious life in 1970, I’ve imbibed these characteristics but was rather surprised to see striving for excellence among the 21 traits. Of course, I always saw striving for excellence in my SND teachers, and our formators required excellence of us, and I myself have driven myself to excellence. But I guess I never put striving for excellence into so many words to describe our international culture beginning in the 1800’s. Yet that may be why I enjoy painting. It’s relaxing and contemplative, and perhaps I can step back to see a job well done—proof of our ND culture.
When someone cries, tears spring to my own eyes. Just reading about someone else’s crying can do the same. In mid-July we hear the story of Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers. The part that brings a catch to my throat occurs when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers: “Joseph could no longer control himself in the presence of all his attendants, so he cried out, ‘Have everyone withdraw from me!’ Thus no one else was about when he made himself known to his brothers. But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him. . . ” as he said “I am Joseph.”
Having lived in a whole new world as a governor in Egypt, Joseph shared his world of plenty with the sons of Israel. Joseph chose compassion, extending the compassionate love of God, to those who wanted to kill him.
Extending compassion is part of our Notre Dame charism. Our foundress Sister Maria Aloysia served wherever needed. Her free heart quickly responded to any need. She had compassion—a word meaning willing to suffer with. We are reminded to suffer with, maybe even cry with. The world needs our loud sobs.
Our hearts go out to farmers whose crops are behind schedule or not planted at all. This year there is little hope that corn will be knee high by the Fourth of July. Perhaps the best hope of discouraged farmers is above the ankles and up the shins. For what do Sisters pray as they gather for the Liturgy of the Hours? Along with the intercessions in the prescribed Evening Prayer we pray for the needs of the world far and near. Almost without exception we pray for the farmers—for themselves and their families, as well as for all those whom they feed.
Each week Sister Joanne Mary Frania collects the prayer requests sent to her or through social media, and these are sent to all the Sisters of our province. These requests are added to our communal and personal prayer.
Perhaps you’ve sung the camp song “We’re All Together Again.” That could be the theme song for us Sisters as we gather in July for many occasions: retreat, jubilee celebrations, national gatherings, and business. No matter the occasion, the event deepens the living of our charism. Deeply experiencing God’s goodness and provident care, we gather in joyful simplicity. Fun and laughter abound in a July 4th picnic. “Bingo anyone?” “Anyone for a boat ride or swim?” Jubilees are a time to reminisce—often with a lot of self-deprecating humor—as we look at old photos and remember the foibles of novitiate days. As our sisters come in from places like Florida and Maryland, they and we catch up on one another’s lives. Who is sick? Who is moving to a new home or ministry? Who has great news to share? When we gather, almost invariably a statue of Mary is in our midst. Our Lady, Notre Dame, continually reminds us to listen to the Word of God and respond, “Whatever You will.” Too soon we will be returning to our places of ministry—New Orleans, Indianapolis, or around the corner. Renewed and refreshed we are off to evangelize—still “all together again” in our vowed life, community spirit, and trust in God’s goodness and provident care.
It is a relief to be back in Ordinary Time. Although Lent and Easter, especially the Sacred Triduum, are very meaningful to me, those seasons are stressful. We run from ashes to Easter Candle. (And even after that we have the liturgical details that come with Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi.) Ordinary Time has a walking pace. Yet it has its challenges, too. For the next 30+ weeks the Sunday gospels call us to complete the mission of Jesus. “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), and we must do the same. We cannot look back once we determine to follow Jesus. Completing his mission takes multitudinous forms. Big issues of climate change, immigration reform, and all types of poverty confront us. Then there’s the annoying little stuff, the daily frictions that test our love of neighbor. The mission of Jesus was to bring about the reign of justice and peace reconciling all things to God in loving unity. What a tall order! I can’t even imagine what it all really means. I only hope that you and I somehow join our actions to Christ’s own mission–even if only at a walking pace.
When I saw the movie Breakthrough I gasped at the moment the three boys fell through the ice. The next few minutes were harrowing and horrifying, as the one boy descended into the dark water. Later I reflected on the deep plunge the neophytes took at the Easter Vigil. They willingly died with Christ in order to be raised with Him.
The ritual of baptism buried the neophytes with Christ. As happened in the harrowing of hell, Christ grasped their hands and pulled them out. For all of us who are baptized, our hope is in Christ. Jesus broke the chains of death and descended among the dead. In his victory, we are risen. May we always accept the outstretched hand of God.
Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are bound up with the mystery of the Incarnation. It was the Incarnation which began Christ’s kenosis, his self-emptying when he left heaven for earth. His death fulfills kenosis when his emptying became complete. By dying, Jesus rejoins the Father, sits at His right hand, and sends the Spirit. Our baptism unites us with Christ’s death and resurrection in the mystery of our salvation. We are also thus united with Christ’s incarnation, to be fulfilled when all things are put beneath Christ’s feet and Christ becomes head over all.
The art of visiting has all but disappeared in our society. How regrettable as I think back to the weekly visits with dozens of cousins playing softball or hide-and-seek or singing and playing musical instruments. We are also missing out on the mystical act of finding Christ in one another, as that of the visit between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. We miss the chance to see and celebrate what is hidden and deeply powerful. All that Elizabeth’s neighbors saw was her happiness to see Mary and receive her help. But unseen to them were the cousins’ looking into each other’s eyes and intuiting God’s miraculous power. The three months spent together would be the support that carried Mary and Elizabeth through wonderful moments and the suffering they would endure. Their souls magnified the Lord in unison; the Magnificat became a duet.
The feast of the Visitation is my favorite Marian feast. It’s the Feast of Friendship, a friendship that acknowledges the God-life within. Mary and Elizabeth were companions on the spiritual journey, trading the role of guide according to the needs of the moment. They supported each other over rough inner terrain, giving direction and sharing God.
The next time you visit someone, risk to share yourself and your God.
During the second half of the Easter Season several of the weekday readings from the Acts of the Apostles tell of the early Church’s hesitancy to admit Gentiles. That’s understandable enough, for the Jews had a history of being the Chosen People. Even Peter was reluctant to accept Gentiles until his vision of the sheet containing animals, birds and reptiles and being told “Take and eat!” The Spirit told Peter to not discriminate against anyone. After that, Peter would debate that “God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the world of the Gospel and believe,” and Peter proclaimed that God wanted “no distinction between us and them” (Acts 15).
Our Western culture’s mindset is dualistic; it’s either-or; things are right or they are wrong; people are on the right or on the left. This phenomenon describing Western thought patterns Cynthia Bourgeault in her book The Wisdom Jesus calls the “egoic operating system.”
As we strive to let go of our ego, we have more chance of seeing another thought pattern, of understanding another point of view, of creating unity and building community. When we “lose ourselves,” abandoning our silos, we gain access to numerous benefit that comes from community.
Who do you think you are? God’s gift to the world? You’re right! Just for a moment, accept that you really are God’s gift to the world. You can make a positive difference in the world. This is what we pray for when we pray “Renew the face of the earth.” Let the Holy Spirit inspire you with a smile or a kind word. These acts are all “bits of hope,” “fragments of salvation.” Remember the words of Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” So “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4) and let everyone know it, because your face shows it.