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.

Love at the Roots

November 27th, 2017 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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.

Live to Love

October 30th, 2017 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Madame Guyon (French, 1648-1717) writes in her poem “Live to Love” that “Our days are numbered, let us spare/Our anxious hearts a needless care,–/’tis Thine to number out our days,/ Ours to give them to thy praise.” With the coming of November the Church turns our thoughts to those who have gone before us. The calendar turns our thoughts to veterans, living and deceased. The landscape looks barren, death-like. And those in middle-age are prone to look to their own demise and wonder When?
Guyon continues “Love is our only business here,/Love, simple, constant and sincere,/ Oh blessed days Thy servants see,/ Spent O Lord, in pleasing Thee!” November is also a time of thanksgiving. For each day let us give thanks and spend the twenty-four hours in pleasing God.

When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Mary about the infancy, childhood, and young adulthood of Jesus. Probably Mary has already told the story millions of times to those entering the celestial heights. Yet I can’t imagine she’d tire of telling the story by the time I get there. Moms seem to relish opportunities to talk about their children. What were Jesus’ first words? Amma? Abba? When did he take his first steps? What were some of the cute things he did? Tell me about his schooling and his early efforts in the carpenter shop. Just what was it like to be the “Holy Family”? If only archeologists could find Jesus’ baby book!

When I give talks on prayer I ask the audience to call out the things that fill their day. Depending upon whether the audience consists of adults or students, answers may include work, study, meals, sleep, homework, sports, piano practice, and so on. As they call out each item, I throw a piece of dry sponge into a glass. When the glass is full, I observe, “There’s hardly room for anything else. So when can we pray?” Then I pour water into the glass. Yes, there’s room for prayer. And the water makes the sponge soft and pliable. The “water” of prayer can easily surround the busyness of our day. George Herbert said it well in his poem “Prayer (II)”: “Of what an easy quick access,/My blessed Lord, art thou! How suddenly/ May our requests thine ear invade!”