S: the letter that multiplies and makes abundant through plurals. What words characterize your life? How can you let your good qualities multiply their effects? What spiritual qualities would you like to make plural? Do you seek the more?
As we celebrate the Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) today, I can’t help but wonder what a mystic’s life is like. Mysticism often seems beyond reach, after all it involves a direct encounter with God! I’m reminded of various places in the Old Testament where we’re told that no one can see God and live.
Our Church celebrates the lives of various individuals whom we name “mystics.” Among others, Teresa of Avila seemed to have a special connection with God in prayer, moments when she was deeply united with God, prayer experiences that profoundly impacted the way she lived in the world.
The reality is this is not something beyond our reach. I know mystics, people who live their prayer and pray their life. I believe our Sister Mary Joseleen Hemker is one of these. Back in Toledo now after many years as an Adoration Sister at our Motherhouse in Rome, Sister’s life gives evidence of her intimate relationship with God. She, and many of our Sisters, spend many hours daily praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Her gentle and loving manner reflects Teresa’s words: “Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.”
God certainly wants to reveal Himself to us in prayer and life. Who are the mystics you know? What “mystical” experiences have you had?
The United Nations has declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl, establishing a day to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. The action follows a multi-year campaign by activists in Canada and the United States. In reserving a day for advocacy and action by and for girls, the UN has signaled its commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls. This day is especially significant considering yesterday’s attack by the Taliban on Malala Yousufzai, a 14 year old Pakistani girl who spoke out for the right girls have to equal educational opportunities.
I’m very grateful for the ministry Sister Mary Jo Toll does at the United Nations as an advocate for girls all over the world. I’m also proud of our girls at Notre Dame Academy who have educated themselves and provided information to others that will help make the world a better place for girls. Raising our own awareness is the first step in promoting changes in such important areas as illiteracy, child marriages, domestic abuse and harmful media images.
The NDA girls are posting flowers this week with phrases of why they are proud to be girls. Today, they will wear a simple piece of yellow yarn tied around their wrists to show their solidarity with girls all over the world.
Why are you proud to be girls/women? What will you do today to protect the image of girls and women throughout the world?
As I sat here looking out the window at the night sky, just still light enough to see cloud formations, I noticed a giant footprint in the sky, but before I could type this sentence, it disappeared. What if I hadn’t looked out at that precise moment? I would have missed an opportunity to smile at creation—actually in union with creation, because everything in the universe is interrelated. I had so many opportunities today to smile with creation.
As I got into the car this morning I saw five deer running through the meadow. Going out the driveway, I was stopped by three huge wild turkeys. A half mile down the road strutted eight “teenage” wild turkeys, perhaps of the same fowl family. Then I saw what I thought were flares. Instead they were ordinary road signs on which the red sun was beaming. Awareness of the present moment opens up delight.
As we celebrate today the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, I’m pondering the call he received to “build up the Church.” So often in his New Testament letters, St. Paul exhorts us to build up the Body of Christ, and certainly the Church is the Body of Christ.
Francis knew what it meant to build others up in small, daily ways. His mercy shown to a leper, his care for his brothers in community, and his prayers on behalf of those in need were his way of making Christ present. In some ways, what he did was quite “undramatic” and yet it has left a lasting impression on our world.
What may seem insignificant to us is often precisely what another person needs: a smile, an encouraging word, an offer to help. I’m grateful today for all those who “build me up”, and I’m reminded of my call to do the same.
Who has been a “Francis” to you recently by building you up as a member of Christ’s Body, the Church?
Both celebrations highlight for me the importance of doing little things well. Hilligonde and Elisabeth did the little things involved in teaching each day and caring for the children. Therese offered the little things of her daily convent life and sufferings. For each of them, the little things were their way of showing great love and following in the footsteps of Jesus.
These women give me courage and hope for living a holy life – doing little things is within my reach. My prayer today is that they will intercede for me the grace to see that it really is the little things done well that can make a difference in our world.
What “little thing” has someone done for you lately that has truly touched your life?
“Humility, a little virtue, because it loves the shade and annihilation, blossoms only in great souls.” (Mgr. L. Giraud) I was given this quote thirty-five years ago by my novice director and wondered what on Earth she was thinking!
I’ve been reading the Rule of Benedict and the other day came to his rather lengthy chapter on, you guessed it, HUMILITY! Benedict says: “We descend by exaltation and we ascend by humility.” Up is down and down is up! In her commentary, Joan Chittister, OSB says: “Humility … is the basis for right relationships in life.” My meditation led me to see that humility has to do with knowing our place within the universe. It has to do with realizing we are not God. It has to do with respecting the other. It has to do with claiming and using our own gifts, without pretense, and without pride. It has to do with justice, with truth, and with integrity.
Hmmmm …. Thirty-five years later I’m beginning to wonder if this is such a “little virtue” after all! Be on the lookout for where humility could blossom today. Notice it in your own life. Cultivate it. Sow its seeds in your home and workplace. Nurture right relationships with God, with your neighbor, and with all of creation!
This morning I sat with Psalm 23. It’s a familiar one to all of us, a psalm of comfort. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Most of us could recite much of it by heart. Today what struck me was the line “You prepare a table before me.” The first tables I thought of were the Eucharistic table and the tables at which we are fed and nourished as families, as communities. But another thought came to me: “What are all the other tables prepared for me today?”
As evening comes, I reflect on these tables of grace where I was fed and nourished: at the Eucharist … at lunchtime when we celebrated a retreatant’s 86th birthday … sharing some McDonald’s gift cards with a homeless man and receiving his hug in return … answering the phone and receiving good news about the health of one of our aged monks … speaking with a future monastery guest and discovering we have a friend in common … feeling grateful for someone listening to my story … feasting my eyes on a double rainbow before supper … and assuredly countless more! Indeed, I shall not want!
L-I-S-T-E-N. S-I-L-E-N-T. E-N-L-I-S-T. All three words have the same letters. All three words make a great way to live one’s Christian life. LISTEN to what God wants of you from the good desires of your hearts, your talents, and the affirmation you receive. Be SILENT and let the mystery of Christ penetrate your inmost being, deepening your awareness of God’s closeness. Then ENLIST in taking up the ministry God asks whether it’s the day’s mission or a lifetime discipleship. All three words can become your prayer for today. LISTEN. SILENT. ENLIST. AMEN.
Bishop Albert Ottenweller enetered eternal life early yesterday morning. When I heard this news later yesterday, I couldn’t help but thank God for the gift that he has been to so many. Bishop Ottenweller truly loved people and truly loved the Church. He loved the People of God.
So many of our Sisters’ paths have crossed the Bishop’s path over the years, including his sister (Sister Mary Jogues) and his nieces (Sister Mary Dean and Sister Diane Marie) all of whom are members of our community. I recall many times when he would stop by for a visit with them and with all of us.
My most recent memories of the Bishop include many weekday Masses at the Cathedral where he would celebrate Mass for us. One of the parishioners has aptly named him “Our Friend, the Bishop.” He cared for all of us and helped us to enjoy the simple things in life.
I have no doubt he will continue his presence among us and intercede many blessings for us – just from a slightly different place. May he know the joy of eternal life!
How was Bishop Ottenweller a blessing in your life?