Flanner O’Connor claimed: “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”

Many New Testament stories show persons eager for change: a parent eager for a child’s cure, an official begging for his servant’s healing, three apostles ready to stay up on Tabor, a crowd anticipating more miraculous bread, ten lepers going home after years of forced isolation. One story, however, sticks out for a possible reluctance to accept the grace-given change. It’s the story of the man who had been lame for 38 years. Jesus asked him, ‘”Do you want to be healed?” All the lame man ever knew was his inability to walk. His pallet, like a security blanket, meant he did not have to make his own way in the world. What would life be like if he walked? Did he have any skill other than begging?

Lent is a time for personal conversion, changing our ways—maybe even throwing away our security blankets. Change demands courage. In the remaining weeks of Lent, let’s look seriously at our need to change and beg God to give us the grace.
Who knows? Maybe our lame and limping will change to dancing.


This week let’s focus on our heart’s oxygen supply. Our penance this week is probably one you’ve never thought of:
Be a
breath of fresh air
Be a “breath of fresh air” in your workplace, your neighborhood, your school, your home.  Fill the week with good deeds and delightful surprises. If your church has special Lenten services, attend one this week. Don’t forget to pray for those preparing for the Easter Sacraments at the Vigil. Consider writing them a note to say you’re praying for them.
This is just one way to be a breath of fresh air.


 

Sadness and grief have been saturating the days of January and February, more incessantly than the rain swelling the rivers. A terrible accident left a young family without husband and father. Fire forced neighbors into the cold in early morning hours. A family matriarch wavers between life and death. Daily news reports tell of shootings, floods, war, starvation, threat of nuclear war, and culture eroded through dishonesty, vulgarity, and little value placed on life. How do we remain sane?

Dick Ryan gives this answer: “Whatever happens to me in life, I must believe that somewhere, in the mess or madness of it all, there is a sacred potential–a possibility for wondrous redemption in the embracing of all that is.” How does one embrace all that is when so much is hurtful and inhuman?  Jesus has shown the way in his passion and death. He accepted all the hate directed toward him. He received the blows as gentle as a lamb led to slaughter. He forgave the friends who betrayed him and denied knowing him. Jesus Christ’s self-emptying allowed room for the suffering to enter, become transformed into grace, and sent out as salvation. The sacred potential buried in the tomb was redemption and glorious Resurrection.


On this Third Sunday of Lent those preparing for Baptism undergo the “scrutinies.” With them, let us examine our own lives to see what we need to change to be more like Christ. This week let us  improve our hearts by focusing on giving up food. Our motto this week: Let us eat simply so that the poor may simply live.  Here are some ways: Give a contribution to an organization that feeds the impoverished. Make a meal for half the usual cost and give away what you saved. Lessen your intake of sweets, soda, or caffeine. (These things will help your ventricle (a word meaning “little belly.”))


 

Clutter!

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

Clutter:  it adds up so fast.  I just cleared off my desk…well, last month. I’m really a very neat person. . Just don’t look in my closet. Just look at all this stuff accumulated over winter. Well, spring is coming.  Then I’ll be ready for spring clearing. Accumulation: it happens in our interior lives, too. Our minds bustle with so much undergrowth that has to be raked out. That’s an aim of Lent: to clear the mind so we can set our thoughts on things above.

Referring to having a “quiet hour,” Etty Hillesum in her autobiography An Interrupted Life writes: “A lot of unimportant inner litter and bits and pieces have to be swept out first. Even a small head can be piled high inside with irrelevant distractions. . . . the clutter is ever present.” Etty recommends meditation “to turn one’s innermost being into a vast empty plain, with none of that treacherous undergrowth to impede the view so that something of ‘God’ can enter you, and something of ‘love,’ too.”  She admits the clearing is not simple, but has to be learned.

Etty is right.  I need a “quiet hour” with focused meditation. Now where is my meditation book?  It’s somewhere under this pile.


 

 



This past weekend did you hear the story of the Transfiguration? Did you hear Jesus invite you to go up the mountain with Him? Did you enjoy the view, and spend time with Jesus as he let his divinity shine through? What can you do for your hearts this week to change them from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh? Just as God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son,” hear God say to you, “This is my beloved son” or “This is my beloved daughter.”  When you come down the mountain, be ready to take up your cross, as you continue your extra prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

This week remember to take time to feel God’s love for you. Then radiate that love to others.
Visit a lonely person, write a complimentary note, let someone ahead of you in line, surprise someone and spread joy.

Many of the Scripture readings throughout Lent speak of turning our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We will often pray “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” On Ash Wednesday the parishioners in my church received a wooden heart to carry with them throughout the holy season. We are embarking on a series of “spiritual cardiovascular exercises” to change our hearts of stone.

Our motto for the first full week of Lent is Let Jesus be your Pacemaker.

How do you think Jesus will set the pace? This weekend make an extra effort to listen to the readings and homily at Mass. Start your work week with a smile. Do something unnecessary like reading to children or giving a caregiver or overworked parent a respite.

                           Let Jesus set the pace of your good deeds.

William McNamara, OCD wrote: “To be unique is not a matter of peculiar differences but of outstanding fidelity . . . fidelity to myself and the God who calls me to become more and more gracefully myself, my very best self, not in isolation but in communion with the whole human race.” McNamara adds that we must continue until we are “so faithful that God will look on me with pleasure and say: ‘This is my beloved son.’” What a beautiful way to think of uniqueness! Enneagrams, Myers-Briggs tests, fingerprints, and just plain living can prove our unique qualities; however, to think in terms of deepening fidelity puts us in direct line with the moment of our creation and our faithfulness to that moment.

God-matter

January 7th, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Popular yard signs and hash tags tell us that Black Lives Matter, Women Matter, You Matter. I’ve never seen a yard sign “God-matter.” Yet the outdoor Christmas decorations that are starting to disappear are signs of “God-matter.” The Logos, the Word of God, took on a body. God and matter united, and in that process all matter is spiritualized. God became Jesus of Nazareth, the  Christogenesis that makes God the heart of all matter, the Christogenesis  by which human energy is integrated with divine energy throughout the cosmos.

Soon stable scenes will disappear, the Holy Family statues wrapped and stored. Perhaps we will not reflect on the pregnant Mary until Advent 2019. Meanwhile we have twelve months to reflect on the world, a divine milieu pregnant with God (Chardin). 

Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, was born January 8, 1828, 190 years ago. In another decade we Sisters will celebrate the 200th anniversary of her birth. For now the celebration is rather quiet: a special meal, a birthday remembrance, an extra prayer on a day that marks the last day of the Christmas Season and the Baptism of the Lord. Many reasons to celebrate, but all part of the One Mystery. Jesus came as the reign of God in our midst, He was anointed by his Father and the Spirit to take on the mission of salvation—a mission that continued in the hearts of Christ’s close followers like Sister Maria Aloysia. May the birthday candles on Sister Maria Aloysia’s cake light the path that God marked out for the Sisters of Notre Dame. May her spirit live in our hearts. May her trust in God’s goodness and provident care be our own.