This week let’s focus on our heart’s oxygen supply. Our penance this week is probably one you’ve never thought of:
Be a
breath of fresh air
Be a “breath of fresh air” in your workplace, your neighborhood, your school, your home.  Fill the week with good deeds and delightful surprises. If your church has special Lenten services, attend one this week. Don’t forget to pray for those preparing for the Easter Sacraments at the Vigil. Consider writing them a note to say you’re praying for them.
This is just one way to be a breath of fresh air.


Sadness and grief have been saturating the days of January and February, more incessantly than the rain swelling the rivers. A terrible accident left a young family without husband and father. Fire forced neighbors into the cold in early morning hours. A family matriarch wavers between life and death. Daily news reports tell of shootings, floods, war, starvation, threat of nuclear war, and culture eroded through dishonesty, vulgarity, and little value placed on life. How do we remain sane?

Dick Ryan gives this answer: “Whatever happens to me in life, I must believe that somewhere, in the mess or madness of it all, there is a sacred potential–a possibility for wondrous redemption in the embracing of all that is.” How does one embrace all that is when so much is hurtful and inhuman?  Jesus has shown the way in his passion and death. He accepted all the hate directed toward him. He received the blows as gentle as a lamb led to slaughter. He forgave the friends who betrayed him and denied knowing him. Jesus Christ’s self-emptying allowed room for the suffering to enter, become transformed into grace, and sent out as salvation. The sacred potential buried in the tomb was redemption and glorious Resurrection.

On this Third Sunday of Lent those preparing for Baptism undergo the “scrutinies.” With them, let us examine our own lives to see what we need to change to be more like Christ. This week let us  improve our hearts by focusing on giving up food. Our motto this week: Let us eat simply so that the poor may simply live.  Here are some ways: Give a contribution to an organization that feeds the impoverished. Make a meal for half the usual cost and give away what you saved. Lessen your intake of sweets, soda, or caffeine. (These things will help your ventricle (a word meaning “little belly.”))



March 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Clutter:  it adds up so fast.  I just cleared off my desk…well, last month. I’m really a very neat person. . Just don’t look in my closet. Just look at all this stuff accumulated over winter. Well, spring is coming.  Then I’ll be ready for spring clearing. Accumulation: it happens in our interior lives, too. Our minds bustle with so much undergrowth that has to be raked out. That’s an aim of Lent: to clear the mind so we can set our thoughts on things above.

Referring to having a “quiet hour,” Etty Hillesum in her autobiography An Interrupted Life writes: “A lot of unimportant inner litter and bits and pieces have to be swept out first. Even a small head can be piled high inside with irrelevant distractions. . . . the clutter is ever present.” Etty recommends meditation “to turn one’s innermost being into a vast empty plain, with none of that treacherous undergrowth to impede the view so that something of ‘God’ can enter you, and something of ‘love,’ too.”  She admits the clearing is not simple, but has to be learned.

Etty is right.  I need a “quiet hour” with focused meditation. Now where is my meditation book?  It’s somewhere under this pile.



This past weekend did you hear the story of the Transfiguration? Did you hear Jesus invite you to go up the mountain with Him? Did you enjoy the view, and spend time with Jesus as he let his divinity shine through? What can you do for your hearts this week to change them from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh? Just as God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son,” hear God say to you, “This is my beloved son” or “This is my beloved daughter.”  When you come down the mountain, be ready to take up your cross, as you continue your extra prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

This week remember to take time to feel God’s love for you. Then radiate that love to others.
Visit a lonely person, write a complimentary note, let someone ahead of you in line, surprise someone and spread joy.

Many of the Scripture readings throughout Lent speak of turning our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We will often pray “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” On Ash Wednesday the parishioners in my church received a wooden heart to carry with them throughout the holy season. We are embarking on a series of “spiritual cardiovascular exercises” to change our hearts of stone.

Our motto for the first full week of Lent is Let Jesus be your Pacemaker.

How do you think Jesus will set the pace? This weekend make an extra effort to listen to the readings and homily at Mass. Start your work week with a smile. Do something unnecessary like reading to children or giving a caregiver or overworked parent a respite.

                           Let Jesus set the pace of your good deeds.

Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, was born January 8, 1828, 190 years ago. In another decade we Sisters will celebrate the 200th anniversary of her birth. For now the celebration is rather quiet: a special meal, a birthday remembrance, an extra prayer on a day that marks the last day of the Christmas Season and the Baptism of the Lord. Many reasons to celebrate, but all part of the One Mystery. Jesus came as the reign of God in our midst, He was anointed by his Father and the Spirit to take on the mission of salvation—a mission that continued in the hearts of Christ’s close followers like Sister Maria Aloysia. May the birthday candles on Sister Maria Aloysia’s cake light the path that God marked out for the Sisters of Notre Dame. May her spirit live in our hearts. May her trust in God’s goodness and provident care be our own.

Year of Hope

January 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

A cartoon in the most recent National Catholic Reporter depicted Pope Francis reflecting on the new year. He was not optimistic but hopeful and told his friend he would declare 2018 Year of Hope. Like the remnants in Pandora’s box, hope is about all we have left. Nuclear war threatens. Refugees and immigrants languish in detention centers. Global warming is dismissed as a myth, while flooding and forest fires take lives every day.
But nothing overcomes the light of hope. “Arise! Shine for your light has come” (Is. 60:1). God and God’s reign will prevail. There is no doubt. May 2018 be a year of hope. Hold Out Promise to Everyone.

As I look at my Christmas cards once again before putting them away or recycling them, I note the greeting. One card devoid of the nativity scene and sporting a Christmas tree—with gifts in the snow?–says “Cherish the traditions.” Apparently it means the family traditions, and certainly those should be cherished.
As a child, my family tradition was giving each other gifts on Christmas Eve after having prayed the rosary and singing around the piano. Then on Christmas morning we went to the earliest Mass, had breakfast, and opened the gifts from Santa. Now my siblings gather on December 26 for a marathon of euchre interspersed with abundant food and an egg nog toast.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph probably enjoyed family traditions, too. Certainly there were the Jewish customs of the early first century. But were there other observances perhaps locked in the hearts of Mary and Joseph? Did they treasure in their hearts the dates of the first step Jesus took, the first word he uttered, his first day of school, the anniversary of his being lost in the Temple? Did the Holy Family join cousins for family reunions? Were there neighborhood parties? And did Mary watch Jesus closely observing whom he might pick someday to be his disciples? When Joseph died, how did Jesus and Mary pray for him and share grief and memories?
May the Holy Family bless each of our families.

Ask for Wonder

December 21st, 2017 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

In the preface of his book of poems, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me.” Wonder is worth praying for. It brings excitement at the sight of a supermoon or a meteor shower. Wonder elicits hope that the present wondrous thing is only one wondrous thing among billions of marvels yet to fill us with delight. Wonder keeps us simple and child-like. Wonder keeps us open to new possibilities and expectant that our spirits will soar and expand. Some say Christmas is a time for wonder. It is, but our prayer for wonder can be answered every day.