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.

We Have a Winner!

December 9th, 2012 | Posted by Sr. Susan Maria Kusz in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

So a red-shirt frosh has captured the Heisman and set a new record for the books.  A winner!  He must be full of happiness at such recognition; Texas A&M must be rejoicing along with him.

We have a winner in today’s Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent.  John the Baptist, an odd man by our standards, born into privilege, dressed like a hippie, doing “his thing” down at the river water rather than in the temple, being prophetic for he had received the Word of God deeply into his heart, his psyche, his being, his very way of life.

We have winners around us today:  prophets in our midst.  Do we notice?  They might be stand outs like JB … odd people by our standards:  the person without a home standing on the street corner looking for a handout … the person in the news who stands up for human rights and gets cut down by various groups because we just can’t handle their message at the moment … the environmentalists challenging us to look at how we treat God’s lovely gift of creation … all these folks have something to say to us.  Advent might be a good time to reflect at the end of each day:  what prophet/s did I meet today?  What did they have to say to me?  Can I hold the tension of their challenge and my discomfort?  Am I able to feel God nudging me to “the more”?  Like JB, can I receive the Word of God deeply into my very being so that this Word transforms my very way of life?

Yes, we have winners all around us.  I hope that Manziel, Te’o, Klein, and Lee have parties and awards for their team efforts this season.  They deserve it. So do their respective schools.  But John the Baptist, a man we surely would place on the “marginalized persons” list if he were alive today, is also a big winner this Advent Sunday.  And he challenges us to go beyond the parties and awards to a place of welcoming the Word within.  I’m up for the challenge … how about you?

The Church celebrates three major comings of Christ during Advent: the historical coming of Jesus born 2000 years ago (Memory), the Second Coming (Majesty), and his coming in to our lives moment by moment (Mystery).

There are many reminders of Jesus’ historical coming: manger scenes, Christmas trees, Christmas plays, Advent calendars, and more. The Second Coming stays pretty much under our radar.  What should hit us between the eyes is the Mystery of Christ among us in his Word, in the Eucharist, in other people. God can mysteriously sneak up on us is thousands of ways: lyrics of a song, advice of a friend, opportunity for service, collections for the needy, a hug, an idea, a gorgeous sky, a new snowfall. Memory, Majesty, Mystery.  May your Advent be filled with good things because of your goodness!

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.”   — from Isaiah 2: 1-5, reading for the first Monday of Advent

I am no stranger to mountains, having lived in the foothills of the Rockies for the past ten plus years.  Their mystery is ever-alluring.  For many years, well before moving to the southwestern USA, Psalm 121 has been a favorite of mine: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains ….”  Here I have that opportunity daily:  to lift up my eyes to the mountains … to climb a mountain … to find my spirit refreshed with a glance from my desk as I let my eyes rest upon the mountains.

Isn’t it interesting that Isaiah chooses a mountain as the place where we may learn of God’s ways?  That Jesus goes to a mountain to pray … to teach?  That we today find our spirits soar when we gaze upon a mountaintop?  Yes, their mystery is ever-alluring, drawing us apart to pause … ponder … pray.

As we wait in joyful hope on this first Monday of Advent, may we be led apart to hear God’s message of love drawing us into the Advent dream so that we may be the new House of Jacob that walks in the Light of the Lord!

Sr. Brigid Kelly and Sr. Cyrilla Hellman are two SNDs who are active in prison ministry.

Every year in early December there is a collection for retired religious sisters and brothers. You may wonder what we Sisters of Notre Dame—and other congregations–do when we retire. Well, we keep right on working!  There’s always something to do for God!

We have sisters who do prison ministry, adult literacy, and musical entertainment in hospitals and nursing homes. Some teach English, tutor, sell crafts and cards, do laundry for the homeless, help adults get their GED, and assist migrants in becoming naturalized citizens. If you ask them, what they do, they’ll say prayer, presence, praise, and mission support. They’ll never say “retired.”  Shouldn’t we change the name of the Retirement Fund to Seed Money for our Very Active Sisters and Brothers to Advance the Kingdom of God?

The virtue of balance!

November 28th, 2012 | Posted by Sr. Susan Maria Kusz in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Have you ever had the thought:  “I’m the only one working around here!” or “I’m the only one putting in my hours all the way!”  I suspect most of us have thought this at one time or another and then dealt with the feelings that come up around that thought!

I’ve been reading the Rule of Benedict …. The last few days the readings for the day have been focused on prayer, work, and sacred reading.  St. Benedict challenges his monks to the virtue of balance.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, in her commentary on the Rule of Benedict, says this:  “The monastic does not exist for work.”  Benedict says that his monks are to have a sense of balance, alternating work, prayer, and holy reading throughout each day in a regular rhythm that provides continuity and gives a sense of meaning and purpose to life.

The challenge for me:  the next time I feel “out of sorts” because I think I’m the only one doing all the “work” around here, I need to remember to take a deep breath and find some balance!  I do not exist solely for work. Though I’m definitely not “Sister Mary Lazybones,” I’m going to be more mindful today to find some balance between my work and prayer and play!  How about you?