I love this idea from Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ: “Your asking is only seconding the motion. The first motion is always from God.” God plants desires in our hearts and minds. We become aware of these inspired ideas, ruminate on them, and perhaps come to desire what God desires for us. We then pray for the grace to follow “our” desires. However, this is seconding the motion. Then God and I vote, and the vote is unanimous!
Author Archives: Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider
I am not an animal lover. I’m afraid of dogs, so I will be far away from the blessing of pets that will occur in my parish on Friday, October 4, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Will the prayers quiet all the animals, or will the holy water start a dog and cat fight? You can tell me later.
Yet I know I should have more affection for animals. After all, all creatures are children of God. According to Richard Rohr, all creatures bear the DNA of God. No exceptions.
Through the intercession of Saint Francis may we see Christ in every creature. May we see the incarnation of God’s love in every living being from the aardvark to the zebra. And in case you won’t see an aardvark or zebra today, see the incarnation of God’s love in the persons you meet.
In 1850 the Sisters of Notre Dame came into being as Hilligonde Wolbring became Sister Maria Aloysia and Elisabeth Kuhling became Sister Maria Ignatia, the first novices of the new congregation begun in Coesfeld, Germany. Would our congregation have ever begun without the friendship and shared teaching ministry of Hilligonde and Elisabeth?
Now nearly 170 years later friendship and common ministry are hallmarks of the Sisters of Notre Dame as we celebrate Foundation Day on October 1 and move into new chapters. Over the past few years plans for unification of the four provinces in the United Sates have been underway. On this Foundation Day we know the name of our new united province—Immaculate Conception Province. We know the names of our new provincial and her council. And we are looking forward to our official unification in July, 2020. Through all these years and throughout the process of unification we have grown in friendship and continue our common ministry to make known the goodness and provident care of God.
Greta Thunberg has mobilized youth around the globe to protect Planet Earth. Marches mobilizing thousands of participants demonstrate the earnestness of these young people to ensure their future and that of generations to come. For them and all of us it is a matter of the survival of humans, animals, plants, every creature. Perhaps for some of these young people the marches go beyond the urgent need for physical survival. Planet Earth also holds our spiritual survival.
Richard Rohr in his book The Universal Christ reminds us that creation was the first Bible. It existed 13.7 billion years before the second Bible was written. Is pollution ripping out pages from this spiritual book so filled with God? Already there are hundreds of species we will never see again. That’s hundreds of species about which we could have been filled with awe and praise God for God’s creativity. That’s hundreds of species who in themselves cannot praise God by their very existence.
Rohr writes: “God love things by becoming them. God love things by uniting with them, not by excluding them.” Do we love as God loves? Can we understand the unity and interdependence among all creatures?
Take time today to read Creation’s Bible.
Peter Brook said, “We don’t know how to celebrate because we don’t know what to celebrate.” What deserves our celebration? To answer that question, we might ask another: “What doesn’t deserve our celebration?” So what shall we celebrate tomorrow? How about celebrating getting up in the morning? You’re still alive! You have another chance to love and be loved, to right wrongs, to make a difference in the world. Within the first few minutes of waking, there are at least a dozen things to celebrate: eyesight, hearing, a roof over our head, clean running water, restful sleep, loved ones. Throughout the day there will be food to eat, clothes to wear, opportunities to work and play and pray. Being grateful is a way to celebrate, to see all as gift. After all, we don’t deserve all the abundance with which we have been blessed.
Recently I heard about a gentleman battling cancer. Whenever he’s asked “How are you?” his response is always “I’m better than I deserve.” Now that’s a celebratory attitude toward life.
Covey’s famous 7 Habits book claims “Interdependence is ten times more difficult than independence.” How true this is for business teams, athletic teams, economic growth, and peace in the world. Stated positively, interdependence is ten times more effective than independence. So much more can be achieved through teamwork, including the teamwork of intercessory prayer. One of our Sisters sends out prayer requests solicited through our website to all the sisters. Within a day’s time all the Sisters are remembering those intentions in our prayers when we gather for Liturgy of the Hours (Evening Prayer). During the petitions we pray the composed prayer intentions found in our books, but we also add “For all the intentions recommended to our prayer”—the requests that are emailed or spoken to us, those needs we discover daily in the news, the requests tearfully brought by students and coworkers. Where two or three gather in the name of Jesus, Jesus is there in their midst. We are confident of the interdependent prayer—yours and ours together—presented before Jesus Christ, who constantly intercedes for us before the throne of his Father.
I read the book Spreading the Fire: the Story of the Sisters of Notre Dame in California 1924-2010 by Sr. Mary Joanne Wittenburg, SND. The hardships the Sisters endured filled me with empathy for the loneliness, inconveniences, and backbreaking work they encountered. Although more recent times lessened the challenges, similar challenges met them in their mission to Uganda. Several of these Sisters I came to know through meeting them at SND gatherings and retreats. Along with empathy I felt pride at their single-minded devotion to God and God’s work. As I turned the last page, I realized that the history of California is becoming the history of SND-USA. How enriched our history through California’s past, present and future.
Nine months after the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the new patronal feast for us Sisters of Notre Dame, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like all feasts, this day is less about the saint and more about the marvelous work of God. We celebrate all that God has done in Mary and which Mary allowed to be done to her. The Gospel chosen for the day may be the genealogy of Jesus (again the focus on God-with-us). Joseph took Mary into his home for his wife. Together they prepared for the birthday of their Son. All things “work for good,” so let us celebrate God and God’s work in Mary—with cake and ice cream!
In her book At the Still Point, Sarah Arthur writes, “Summer is nothing short of miraculous, a kind of extended intoxicating dream.” As students and parents wake up to alarm clocks now that school has resumed, they may feel rudely awakened. The intoxication of freedom from homework and schedules still clings to them. Yet the calendar claims summer still has a month, so let us dream.
Dream of the flavors. Late August is a sumptuous time. Tomatoes and peaches titillate nostrils with heady sweetness. Sweet corn and late melons become a gustatory feast. We cultivate our tastes on the ripeness of fruits and vegetables in full flavor. Savor the last fruits of summer, and let them possess you.
Dream of the sights. Sunflowers delight the eyes. Kayaks dot the rivers. Monarch butterflies add splashes of orange. Maple trees hint red and yellow.
Dream of sounds. Evenings are deafening with cicada song. Grass and leaves begin rough modulation before full autumnal crunch. Strains of children’s shouts grow louder in anticipation of their decrescendo with the coming winter. Milk the delight, relish the dream, stand transfixed, and wake to a new season.
I’m not a professional painter, but I enjoy the challenge of painting a room. Recently I painted two classrooms. (Full disclosure: Someone came behind me with the tricky trimming around light switches and smart boards.) Dip the roller, raise it high, smooth the paint and keep it even. Repeat. There’s something contemplative about the repetitive movement. Last year our congregation had a general conference in Tanzania. An important topic was the characteristics of our Notre Dame culture. Having begun religious life in 1970, I’ve imbibed these characteristics but was rather surprised to see striving for excellence among the 21 traits. Of course, I always saw striving for excellence in my SND teachers, and our formators required excellence of us, and I myself have driven myself to excellence. But I guess I never put striving for excellence into so many words to describe our international culture beginning in the 1800’s. Yet that may be why I enjoy painting. It’s relaxing and contemplative, and perhaps I can step back to see a job well done—proof of our ND culture.