Holy Leisure

January 7th, 2013 | Posted by Sr. Susan Maria Kusz in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

I’m “into” the pillars of Benedictine spirituality lately!  This Sunday morning — how appropriate for a Sunday — I reflected on “holy leisure” as one of these pillars.  Joan Chittister, OSB says this:  “Leisure is the Benedictine gift of regular reflection and continual consciousness of the presence of God.  It is the gift of contemplation in a world of action.  Holy leisure is a necessary respite from a wildly moving world that turns incessantly now on technology that grants neither the space nor the time it takes to think.”

So how do we today develop a culture of Sabbath body, mind, and spirit amidst all the flurry around us?

Today is Epiphany, the feast of “Little Christmas,” though our world largely moved on from the mystery of the Incarnation already on Dec. 26!  But as a pastor in Santa Fe reminded us last night, “It is STILL the Christmas season!”  How do we as Christians cultivate a mindset that appreciates a more contemplative spirit, holy leisure, amidst the fast pace of our times?

It’s Sunday … I’m hoping all who read these blog posts by our Sisters took some extra time to rest, relax, and reflect today.  Perhaps this is a great New Year’s resolution:  to cultivate the Sabbath … to find a good book and dig deep this year … to reflect with others on what you read together … to just take time to “be” in the presence of God, growing in God-consciousness.

Before you lay your head to rest tonight, ponder this:  how did I grow in mindfulness today? 

Creative Work

January 5th, 2013 | Posted by Sr. Susan Maria Kusz in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

I am a consummate football fan.  I am a devoted Oregon Ducks fan.  Watching them “play their little hearts out” on Thursday night as they raced across the field and exhausted their opponent

The work of our hands

brought me immense delight.  Keep those Ducks quackin,’ I kept thinking!

One of the pillars of Benedictine spirituality is creative work.  I often think that when we work in a manner that brings us joy, that pushes drudgery aside and enters into the mystery of creativity, that we are closest to the one attribute we can “for sure” assign to God:  Creator!  To participate in work is to participate in the very act of God!  It is to be “creator” … it is to be close to God.  As Barbara Cawthorne Crafton puts it, “…work ennobles us by allowing us to experience something of what God knows in creating the universe and in creating us.” 

In this sense, there is no menial task.  All is holy.  Today while doing some Saturday housecleaning, I am trying to be mindful of that.  Dusting … vacuuming … organizing … washing … all is holy.  I’m mindful of people who are ill or elderly or in prison and unable to engage in such tasks. I have the privilege of looking upon these mundane tasks as holy ritual, as a chance to be creative and mindful.

And I think of my Oregon Ducks … engaged in their creative work, “playing their little hearts out” with their eyes on the prize.  Can I too look at my daily work in the sense of “playing my little heart out” with joy and with my eyes on the prize?  It won’t be a trophy to set on a shelf; rather it will be being so close to God that I too am “creator”, participating in the work of building up the human community.  Fancy footwork, glorious passes, and right-on receptions can be creative work on the field.  Housecleaning, extending hospitality to our guests, planning and giving retreats, meeting the needs of those on staff:  these are my creative work.

May all our work this weekend be done in Benedict’s words:  That in all things God may be glorified!

 

As we celebrate today the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, many thoughts come to mind.  I often think of St. Elizabeth in terms of beginning the Catholic School system in our country, and rightly so, but something different strikes me today. As I read a little about her life this morning, I was struck by the profound impact her friends had on her.  After the death of her husband, it was the care and concern of her friends in Italy who led her to embrace the Catholic faith.  Something about the way they lived drew her to desire such active faith in her own life.

Upon further reflection, perhaps this is what education is all about. We work with individuals to help them grow in their desire to be their best selves. When I think about the educators in my own life who had the most influence on me, it was those who influenced my desires and set me on a path of discovering those desires.  Some of this happened in a formal classroom setting and some happened in the “classroom of life.”

Who are the educators in your life who have influenced your desires, calling forth the very best in you?

Wow!

January 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Sr. Marilyn Marie in Uncategorized - (6 Comments)

Wow!  This is what I find myself saying today as we celebrate with our dear Sister Mary Clarone her 80th jubilee of profession.  That’s right, I said 80!  Eighty years of commitment to a vocation as a Sister of Notre Dame!  Wow!

Sister Mary Clarone has done some pretty amazing things over these 80 years, but I am most grateful for her generous and faithful response to a call that God planted deep in her heart so many years ago.  Our celebration today is more about who she is and who God is than what she has done.  She lives so well our charism of a deep experience of God’s goodness and provident care.  She could not have known 80 years ago where her response would take her, but she did know and trust that God would be with her every step of the way.

So, today we celebrate with you, Sister Mary Clarone and rejoice in your life that proclaims “God is good. God is very, very good!”

A Light in the Darkness

December 29th, 2012 | Posted by Sr. Marilyn Marie in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

What an amazing combination of life and death this week has been!  Once again this year, I find myself a bit jarred by the contrasting feasts of the Church.  It seems we just begin to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s birth and we’re abruptly drawn into the feasts of Stephen, the Holy Innocents and Thomas Becket.  A part of me is crying, “Just let me enjoy the peace and joy of Christmas!”

Reflecting on this reality this morning, I am reminded of a basic art principle I learned in my early days of teaching:  the darker the color of a bulletin board’s background, the more brilliant the colors of the letters and pictures appeared. I quickly learned that the most vibrant bulletin boards often had a black background! 

Perhaps it takes these feasts of the Church that highlight death and sacrifice to help me truly see the gift of life and appreciate its radiant beauty.  Joy that comes easily doesn’t seem to hold the same depth and meaning as that which comes at a price.  Sometimes it just takes a while for me to appreciate the darkness that serves to highlight the light!

Snowflake pattern.  Is that an oxymoron?  Isn’t every snowflake unique?  Then why was I given a pattern to follow in second grade when cutting snowflakes and hanging them on a thread?

We are to pattern our lives on the life of Christ. The author of Philippians writes that he wants to know “how to share in his [Christ’s] suffering by being formed into the pattern of his death” (3:10). But is patterning our life on Christ’s life akin to oxymoron?  God made each of us unique. While patterning my life on Christ’s gives God honor, I think I honor God more by being fully who I am created to be—one of a kind.

Some events make the headlines on a given day and then are quickly forgotten: others become a part of the fabric of who we are as individuals and as a nation. The tragedy in Connecticut on Friday is one of the latter: we cannot simply turn away and forget what happened.

We certainly hold in our hearts and in our prayers the families of those who lost their lives. We pray for those who lived through this horrendous experience and will carry it with them always. We pray in gratitude for those who reach out and help in any way they can, especially by their quiet presence.

The senseless violence of this event pains me and makes me question how it will change me. Will I stop at condemning the violence perpetrated by another, or will I ask myself how my own acts of violence have contributed to a world in which such a thing could happen?  I may not pick up a weapon and physically take the life of another, but the violence of my words and actions may rob another of life. I’m guilty as well at times of failing to reach out and support another and thus nurture life within them.

In this season of Advent/Christmas when we focus on the gift of life, I want to be part of the solution in creating a world of peace.

“The the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them” (Is. 11: 6).

And what has been done to our children?  We watched as horror unfolded in Connecticut on Friday.  Little ones … believers in the magic of Christmas … still clinging to the hope that there is a Santa Claus … the innocent ones … whole lives ahead of them … and teachers who lost their lives as well … teachers of truth and goodness to the young ones … how can we anymore stand by and idly watch as these violent episodes happen in our country over and over again? 

Great God of Advent and Christmas, rend our own hearts in the midst of such violence and pain.  Shatter our complacency.  Give us the strength to stand up and be counted.  Help us to pray deeply.  Help us to reach out in every way humanly possible at this time.  Let us not spare ourselves in the effort.  These children are ours … these children are yours. Incarnation is real and is in our midst.  Let us not miss it enclosed in selfish little worlds.  Give us hearts of largesse and tears that cleanse and heal.  And bless all the little ones you have so recently received into your Reign of Love.  May their innocence do something to change our hardened hearts so that we lay down our weapons of violence and extend the olive branch of peace.  Amen.

Lighten up!

December 13th, 2012 | Posted by Sr. Marilyn Marie in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Today the Church sets before us the witness of one of the early virgins and martyrs – St. Lucy.  Many stories and legends surround this Saint, but in some way all remind us of her joyful fidelity in encounter with suffering. St. Lucy was truly “light” for others. We’ve often heard that the eyes are the windows of the soul; I picture St. Lucy as one whose eyes mirrored the joy in her soul.

Somehow each of us is called to see with the eyes of God rather than the eyes of selfishness and sin.  I think of how Jesus saw not a short, obnoxious tax collector but a curious seeker of God.  Rather than an unclean woman afflicted with a hemorrhage, he was able to see one who longed for healing and life.  His vision of an impetuous fisherman enabled that same fisherman to one day lead the Church.

Our view of others has great powers of transformation. Our call on this Advent feast is to lighten our world by seeing others as God sees them, by allowing our vision to transform, and by joyfully seeing all that we encounter as gifts of God.

Who will your vision bless this day?

Today is the Christmas play at the school where I teach, St. Richard, Swanton, Ohio. Its title is Bed, Bethlehem, and Beyond. Although the play opens with Mary and Joseph trying to find a bed for the night, the narrator reminds us that the incarnation began at the Big Bang when God wanted to become one of us. The children perform a choral reading of the Prologue of St. John’s gospel, reminding us that “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.”

The children echo “love following upon love, upon love, upon love” to let the audience know that the Incarnation continues. The “Beyond” of the play’s title began before time and will continue long after earthly time ceases. There’s more to the celebration of Christmas than a straw bed in Bethlehem. Take time to delve into the big picture of Christmas and discover “love following upon love” for all eternity.