“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love” is the prayer of today’s Second Reading. What does boundless love look like? Do you see a small child running to a grandparent to encircle legs in a hug? Or an adult son or daughter caring day after day for an elderly parent shriveled with dementia and arthritis? Is it a parent working three jobs so the children receive a good education? Is it the priest ministering at two parishes? Is it yourself?

Advent is the season for boundless love. As you count the days until Christmas and wonder “How will I ever get it all done?” pray that each thing you do demonstrates boundless love. Throw a cupful of boundless love into the cookie dough. Smile at the cashier, inwardly extending boundless love. Clean your house remembering the boundless love that each room holds. Seal each Christmas card with a prayer that the Lord will make the recipients “increase and abound in love.” And in all the busyness of the month you’ll find yourself abounding in love on Christmas morning.


Fishers of People

November 30th, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


On this feast of Saint Andrew we hear Jesus inviting him, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” If we are fishers of people, what is our bait and hook? What do we do and say to attract persons to Christ? I feel the answer is simply bearing the mystery of Christ within and letting it show through our lives. We need to complete and perfect ourselves—to be the best version of ourselves as Matthew Kelly states.

As a kid, I liked to climb a mountain of snow and yell “I’m king!” But when no one was around to hear my yell, was I really a king?  What makes Jesus a king?  We do. After all, you can’t be a king if you don’t have followers. We just celebrated the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The title is a paradox. While Jesus Christ is ruler over the cosmos, the Gospel presented him during his passion. The cross is his throne, and his crown is made of thorns. No trappings of triumphalism there! Typical hymns for the solemnity underscore the paradox. “Crown Him with Many Crowns” hails Jesus with his scepter. But we also sing “Lift High the Cross,” remembering we are his followers who bear on “our brow the seal of him who died.” The verses of these two hymns alternate between Good Friday and the Second Coming, while rooting us in today’s reality that we are followers carrying our crosses and awaiting our crowns.

Think of the title “king” as one of governance, and we see Jesus as one responsible for the care and well-being of God’s People. We who have been baptized as “priest, prophet, and king” must attend to the care and well-being of others, too. We have been given one another as neighbor and kin and good stewards of the earth. We build Christ’s kingdom on earth. One day we’ll all be part of the new heaven and new earth. Then we’ll realize that God’s kingdom is more like a “kin-dom.” One day all humanity will be a family made in the image of God and we’ll see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. In the meantime, let’s treat each other royally.

          In 1776 we took a big chance and won our independence. Not long after we took another big risk. We wrote a Constitution assuring every citizen freedom and rights the world had never seen. In the 1880s and early 1900s our nation abolished slavery and gave everyone the right to vote. In the first half of this past century we took a chance on making the world safe for democracy, and we won. Now in 2018 we face another big chance—the chance to do the right, continue our greatness, and live up to our values.

            A caravan from Central America, 2300 of whom are children, are laboriously traipsing hundreds of miles with hope in their hearts but little on their backs. Meanwhile border patrol agents in riot gear are undergoing exercise drills to do what? Scare kids? Don’t let prejudice and fear take the place of American values. If we love our country, we’ll let in the migrants and refugees. Their presence will improve our economy by creating jobs, as well as taking the jobs no one else wants. And these migrants will work with enthusiasm, pride, gratitude, and expertise. We need these migrants as medical personnel, teachers, and persons in service areas.

            Migrants and refugees are not a problem; they are our chance to do what we’ve done for over two centuries. We the people of the United States are the most generous people on the globe. How did that happen? Because once upon a time, except for Native Americans, everyone was an immigrant. Everyone was grateful to be a citizen, where freedom and justice were new phenomena, where everyone could dream the same American dream. And we prospered. We the People of the United States once again have a chance to form a more perfect union by welcoming the refugee. Let’s not miss our chance.


Let’s Grow Up

November 8th, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

            Are our national policies based on the WIIFM principle—What’s in it for me? Maturity is determined by how much we grow out of self-centeredness and how far we can attend to the other. Though the most powerful nation on earth, we are childish in practice. Does it always have to be “my way”? To the rest of the world do we sound like spoiled children never sharing our toys? Just a few examples:

            Nearly 700 million people lack safe drinking water causing 800 children to die every day. Drilling a well costs under $5000 and will give a thousand people clean water for the rest of their and the lives of their progeny. With all the money spent on sending troops to the border—for what purpose?—we could make friends around the globe with just buckets of clean water.

            The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts environmental catastrophe by 2040. We could afford sustainable energy if we weren’t wasting talent and resources on nuclear weapons that sit in storage and campaign ads that say nothing.

            We protect ourselves from potential attack and imagined enemies while ignoring Syrian Christians who escaped from ISIS in 2014 only to spend the last four years without hope in camps.

            How many meals could an assault rifle buy? How many diseases could be eradicated with the cost of refurbishing an old warhead? How many young lives could be rehabilitated for the cost of incarceration?

            What our nation fails to realize that what’s in it for me is the opportunity to assure our citizens and the citizens of the globe the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that we profess. Let’s grow up.

Toxic Puzzle

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

I recently watched the video made by Bo Landin titled “Toxic Puzzle.” Toxins are everywhere: in the air, in water, in the ground. The movie showed that toxins are causing ALS, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other neurological disorders. The culprit is BMAA, which is present in every algae bloom. Only very specialized equipment can detect BMAA, so rarely is it tested or talked about. Many don’t believe in cyanobacteria, but tests have proven its presence. Tests on beached dolphins, for example, show they had the equivalent of Alzheimer’s with BMAA in their cells, which corrupt body-building proteins. Bo Landin predicts that 50% of the population will have Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, our nation backs out of global environmental efforts.

Isn’t this social sin?


Baptism is replete with symbols: candle, water, oil of catechumens, chrism, new name. But the one that speaks most to me is the white garment. Although white may symbolize purity of soul, the adjective “white” is less significant that the noun “garment.” For we are clothed with Christ. We put on, coat-like, a new person, a new member of Christ’s Body and Church. Teilhard de Chardin uses similar imagery. At the Omega Point Christ will wrap himself with the garment of humanity. Jesus, the Christos, will not only be clothed in his humanity but in all humanity. May we enwrap Christ in glory.



For months our country has known only division seemingly for no other reason than red vs. blue. Gregory Boyle is in his book Barking to the Choir writes:  “How do we tame this status quo that lulls us into blindly accepting the things that divide us and keep us from our own holy longing for the mutuality of kinship—a sure and certain sense that we belong to each other?” Whatever happened to “United we stand, divided we fall”? Coming together in unity is the only positive, creative response to the needs of our times. Energy is wasted and finances lost in shouting matches, polls, negative ads. If the same energy and finances were directed toward ending hunger, conquering disease, cleaning our environment, the effort would not only make a better world but also increase our sense of belonging to one another. Let’s change direction. Let’s direct our efforts to a future full of life. And oneness is at the heart of all life.



I have just finished reading Walter Brueggemann’s book Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out. In the first three chapters of this small volume Brueggemann guides the reader through the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrating how YHWH hears the groans of the people and commands prophets and psalmists to speak. The remainder of the book focuses on figures in the New Testament who refuse to keep silent. In chapter 4 titled “Jesus Rudely Interrupted” we read about the Syro-Phoenician woman who wouldn’t allow her ethnicity, gender, or religion prevent her from speaking up on behalf of her daughter. The author shows how the importuning of this mother actually changes Jesus’ mind. Jesus tells the woman that he had come only for his Jewish race. But the woman persists, breaking the consensus that God’s food was only for Jews. Jesus did not defend privilege, he did not defend Jewish chosenness, and he did not insist that he was right the first time. “Because she broke the silence in a daring, insistent way that reeducated him, her daughter is set free, just as she had asked” (p. 52). Was it the mother’s courage and passion that pushed Jesus’ ministry beyond Galilee? Yes, Jesus moved into the “region of Decapolis” and began healing in Greek territory among Gentiles.  Similarly, the crowd tries to silence blind Bartimaeus, but he cries out “more loudly” not for alms but for complete restoration. Again Jesus hears.

What I appreciate most about this book is the emphasis on how silence protects privilege and why the privileged are often silencers. Written in 2018, this book is apropos to our political, social, economic and religious systems. The reader reflects: How are governments, churches, and laws silencing persons on the margins? How would Jesus respond today? We need to ask

“What would Jesus do?”

Sr. Mary Dean Pfahler SND
Parish Ministry Director / Spiritual Director
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Long Beach CA

The low-tire-pressure icon appeared on the dashboard – again.  The first time that happened to me in Long Beach, I was informed that – by California law – air is free at gas stations.  However, it turns out I paid a self-service pump $1.50 with a major credit card for enough air to get the icon to go away.

So this time I was going to get professional help.  The Goodyear tire store on the way home from St. Bartholomew’s looked promising; service persons were working on cars in 6 bays.  The gentleman at the desk pointed out an empty bay where I should pull in.  Then he asked, “You’re a nun, right?”  That question  intrigues me, so I had to ask, “How did you know?”  He said he could always tell but didn’t explain how.

The fact that I was wearing a white blouse, black pants and the congregational cross probably helped.  But I was wearing “normal” clothes on Monday night when I accompanied a friend to A Place for Kids in Orange County.  She had been volunteering with this bereavement group for years, and I was sitting in for the first time.  While children meet with their age cohort, the parent or guardian meets with other adults for mutual support.  The grandmother who sat on the far side of the table told my friend afterwards that she knew I was a sister even though I introduced myself as “Mary.”

After 50 years, apparently, the long black habit and veil I used to wear becomes extraneous.