Want a meaningful gift for Christmas? Want to have an impact beyond Christmas Day? Today I received my WorldArk magazine from Heifer International. I love looking for the best gifts that fit my budget but will still lift persons in developing countries from their poverty. It’s wonderful to look at all the good one can do by contributing. Llamas or alpacas? Ducks or geese? Livestock or honeybees? You can even fill an ark! I know what I’m going to give in the name of my family for Christmas—but I won’t say it, because I have family who reads these blogs. (By the way, this is not a paid announcement. Just a friendly thought to help you with your Christmas shopping.)
So Shop Around the World

Mindful of Race

October 30th, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I recently read Ruth King’s book Mindful of Race (Sounds True: Boulder, Colorado, 2018). King proposes to transform racism from the inside out. One way is to look at our membership. Are we in a dominant group or a subordinate group? Dominant groups are unaware of being a racial group and how that impacts others. Why?  Because they see themselves as individuals. On the other hand, persons in a subordinate group identify with their group. Those in the dominant group tend to think, “I can succeed, so why can’t everyone else?” When the faults of the dominant group are pointed out, the persons in that group respond, “But I personally am not like that.”

This dynamic can apply to other areas besides race, such as financial status, power or authority, education. Are we part of a dominant group or a subordinate group? How does the group affect my actions and attitudes? Am I mindful of how others feel and think?  King’s book goes much deeper than the right thing to say or do. She asks a more basic question: How mindful are we? As we Sisters of Notre Dame across the nation study to recognize the subtle suppression and oppression of subordinate groups, we need to reflect very deeply—with mindfulness.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the #1 day of the year to be with family; however, this year we are encouraged to stay home and enjoy the holiday with only those of our household. This is sad, and we empathize with those who are lonely. Allow me, though, to change the perspective from loneliness to aloneness.

Cosmologists tell us that the structure of the universe, its energy, its expansion, and goal is love. Even when we sit at a table by ourselves, we are part of the love of the universe.

Love is something to be given and to be received, and perhaps we do that best on Thanksgiving Day with family. Yet there is always another being involved—always God and another being—actually all created beings. That’s the reality. We exist with others. We exist for others. We are more “we” and “us” than “I” and “me.” 

As we look toward Thanksgiving Day, include in your preparation some time to reflect on aloneness. Aloneness is a choice to take the time to better myself, to consider my self-worth, to discover myself as interesting. Besides carving the turkey, we can carve out a special time and place to realize that to live is to be with.

Last week the autumnal colors were at their peak. Driving down the same road a week later, I appreciate the fall colors, but my breath isn’t taken away. The peak moment is gone. Or is it? I imagine that God delights in every splash of sun across the trees, the sound of scurrying chipmunks, the gliding grace of every eagle, the succulence of every fruit, the touch of every flower. Whatever comes from God’s hand at that first moment is its peak moment. Nor does it ever descend from its “peakness.” Every hour, every day, every year of its existence is its perfection in God’s eyes. If we would see as God sees, every living being, every created thing would be perfect.

My Aunt Died

October 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

My aunt died. I didn’t know her well. Her husband, my uncle, married later than most in the 1960s, and I was in high school by the time of the wedding. Both sides of my family came from households with ten kids. My parents’ nine siblings married, and that gave me quite a few aunts and uncles—to say nothing of first cousins. This latest aunt to enter eternal life was quite shy, but always very cordial in voice and eyes. Before she came into our family, her husband was a long-time bachelor. We kids thought he’d never marry. Living in the same hometown as my mother, this bachelor uncle would often stop by during the day. Did he smell lunch?  Was he lonely or seeking advice? Maybe all these. Or was it a special bond between my uncle and my mother that I could sense? I never asked, and I wish now that I had investigated what my mom and my uncle were like when they were kids. Did they do the things that we nieces did on his farm like gather hickory nuts and skate in the ditch?

It’s been two days now since my aunt’s death, and I imagine the loneliness my uncle feels. Perhaps he’ll turn once again to his favorite sister (now deceased). “Hey, we need to talk.”

A word that has gained prominence over the past months is “essential.”  We speak of essential workers: doctors, nurses, researchers for vaccines, firefighters, police, ambulance drivers, paramedics, soldiers, teachers, grocery store employees. Of course, they are undeniably essential and deserving of gratitude and admiration, as well as the last spot on the nightly news. As the pandemic drags on, more and more persons join the list, such as counselors and psychologists, truck drivers and postal workers, IT personnel and maintenance. I am grateful for all these essential persons, and I make a point to show gratitude to those who serve me in any capacity. Today when I left our local library with six DVDs and nine novels from which my community of four can choose, I said to the librarian, “Of all the essential workers, today I put librarians at the top!” She gave a grateful sigh. I had seen during my visit the dedication and pace at which the librarians were restacking and cleaning. As I walked to the car, I felt confident about a weekend in the company of book and movie characters.  Had the librarians not been at their job, the weekend would have been lonelier.

God said, “Let there be light!” and God created things that keep creating themselves from that first burst of energy. Everything and everyone is a creative continuation of God. The Trinity is Love, an energy of love, a relationship of love. Richard Rohr writes in The Sacred Dance: “God’s nature as relationship creates ours, and ours is constituted by this same bond, which is infinite openness and capacity to love.” Do you sense the relationship of everything?

Glaciers are melting, land is falling into the sea, thousands of acres are burning, hurricanes are tripling in number: this is not the creative continuation of God’s “Let there be light!” Nor is it the relationship that we are invited into. We humans must make an about-face to direct ourselves toward union with everything and everyone. We are running out of time.

We Sisters of Notre Dame are preparing for a General Chapter. Perhaps one question will be “What will be our mission and ministries in the future in order to unite our world in love?”

October sets a splendid table across the land. Orange pumpkins, checker brown fields. Green and red apples peek through leaves turning a rusty hue. Gray clouds like puffed rice predict cold nights. Startingly white full moons belie “the blue moon.” Baskets of yellow mums, like centerpieces, rivet the eye. Corn fields beckon for a-maze-ing adventure. Feast in the outdoors, and then come inside. Doughnuts, pumpkin pie, caramel apples await. Enjoy a cup of warm mulled cider. Outdoors and inside, October is the month for gourmets. Praise the Lord of the Seasons! Acclaim the bounty of creation!