Before Vatican II the Solemnity of Christ the King was the last Sunday in October. In my home parish this was the weekend for First Communion and every third year Confirmation. So I am fond of this feast as an anniversary, although now the Solemnity rightfully occurs on the last Sunday of the Church Year (this year November 22).

Kings and kingdoms may sound pompous, but the Gospels for Christ the King show a humble and generous King This year (Cycle A) the King welcomes into the kingdom those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.  Last year (Cycle C) the King from his cross welcomes a thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And in Cycle B Jesus tells Pilate that he has come into the world as a King to testify to the truth. Every year Jesus turns the focus away from himself and on his People. May humility, truth, and generosity characterize our world leaders, and may those virtues characterize us, so that we will be welcomed into the Kingdom.

Be the Ear of God

November 16th, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

“Silence grows me and frees me,” writes Joan Chittister in Radical Spirit. “It enables me to become the ear of God on earth. . . ” (p. 162). So often we remind ourselves that we are the hands and feet of Christ, but it’s a bit surprising to talk about becoming the ear of God on earth. With our hands we make sandwiches for a food pantry, and with our feet we go to a Habitat site. Our hands and feet do the work of God to meet the needs of his children.

But what do our ears do? Listening to God’s small voice, we may discover our weaknesses; we may hear a different interpretation of Scripture; we may focus on a call to do more or be more. In this way silence grows and frees me.  In the deep silence of listening we may hear what enters God’s ear. We may hear the moans of suffering that God attends to. We may catch sounds that delight the Creator. We may catch the whispers of children, the agony of the grieving, the shouts of injustice. When we hear what God hears, we become the ear of God on earth.

Today let your hands and feet do the work of God that you heard by being God’s ear.

The Church Year continually evolves. In the first couple centuries the anniversaries of the deaths of martyrs were remembered, and many of those early saints are still on our Church calendar, such as Saint Lawrence on August 10. The list gets longer with each new decade.

Robert Taft, S.J. suggested each parish church having its own calendar of local saints. Who has been known for their lives of prayer and good deeds? The day of their death becomes their birth into eternal life, which becomes their day on the parish calendar. You may like to start your own calendar for the family and friends and coworkers who have gone before you.  Periodically flip through the pages and pray the names aloud.  “Saint N.N., pray for us.”  This becomes your own Litany of the Saints.

Saints have a past. One denied his Master, and another doubted Jesus’ Resurrection. Some were scolded for their lack of faith. Some couldn’t control their anger or addictions. Hagiographers portray several as eccentric. Reading the lives of some saints, we may even feel sorry for their families, friends, or community members who had to put up with them! Yet we now pray to these hard-to-live-with saints. Why? They had a future. Somewhere buried beneath their obvious faults and failings were hearts centered on God. These saints kept following God’s will and leading the lives they were called to live. Their eyes were on the prize—life with God. We have a future, too. Come on, all you fellow sinners! Keep trekking! Rejoice and be glad!  Our reward will be great in heaven (Mt. 5:12).

Have you ever lain back in a hammock and said, “Aah! This is the life”? As if anything besides relaxation is not life. Yet life encompasses everything, even suffering and death. In Evolution Toward Personhood, Ilia Delio, OSF writes: “The gospel message is about life. Anything else…misses the vision of God, who is Life itself.” In the Gospels we see Jesus experiencing life in its entirety. His life was perfect virtue, yet Scripture says he became sin (2 Cor. 5:21).  I could never imagine Jesus saying in his agony in the garden and subsequent imprisonment, “This is the life.” Yet he lived that night with his whole being. At every moment of his days on earth, death, and resurrection Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

As followers of Christ, we live and move and have our being in him. These weeks of the pandemic have been difficult, sad, frustrating. Yet they are the life we have been given. We begin a new month, and some may count the days since they were employed or had seen their families or had a chance to rest from long shifts in hospitals. Each day has been and will be another day of life. How will we live each day of November?

Let’s include in our daily routines some reading of the Gospels to find the message of Life and the vision of God who is Life itself.

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.”