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!

Suffering Sand

September 28th, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Dick Ryan said: “Suffering can be like a grain of sand in an oyster; it can create a magnificent pearl.” Although suffering can be irritating like a tiny grain of sand, we may feel its weight like a huge boulder. No matter the size, we rarely think of the suffering’s potential to become a pearl. Perhaps we waste our opportunities to use suffering for good. Pain and hardships are rampant now, touching ourselves or people we know. Unemployment, hurricanes, fires, unprecedented unhealthy air quality, riots, physical and verbal brutality. What are we doing with the suffering with which the media—or our daily lives– bombards us? Although it’s hard to explain, somehow good can always come from suffering. I find it so in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Even now I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (Col. 1:24). How did Paul find joy in suffering? How do we? We search for the pearl. Newscasts often end with the heroism of firefighters, the generosity of fund-raisers to help the hungry, the touching love amid pain. These are the pearls. Will today give you a chance to be heroic, generous, loving?  Most probably. If not, we can prayerfully offer the sufferings we encounter as gifts to God and God’s People. “Here’s my headache, God. Here’s my frustration. Here’s my sorrow. Take all as gift, O God, and transform them. Turn them into pearls of prayer and help for those most in need. How all this works I can’t fathom, but I believe. After all, you can make a pearl from a grain of sand.”

Grape Harvest

September 24th, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The purple orbs bulge and cascade in clusters. Grape harvesting time is here. Grape wine, juice, jelly—delicious in taste, resplendent in gustatory expectation. But first, the mess, the stains, the intense labor. Is it worth it? Dick Ryan writes: “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.”  Although Ryan wasn’t speaking of grape harvest, the analogy applies. The willingness to bottle or can, taking on the demands of cooking and the mess—oh, the mess—redeems me of my selfishness. I surrender to the yearly harvest and its possibilities. Aged wine—the redeeming quality. Wine transformed into the Blood of Christ, fulfilling its sacred potential. The harvest has eternal rewards.

One Step Behind

September 20th, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

In her essay Evolution Toward Personhood, Ilia Delio writes: “If we relate only to the past deeds of others, we will always be at least one step behind where they themselves presently are and thus we will never really be in relationships with them, only with their ‘remains.’” I’ve never thought of living persons as “remains,” but I can see what Delio means: we tend to deal with persons not as they are now, but as we think they are according to past experiences with them.

When it comes to other persons’ faults, I don’t suffer from memory loss. If I meet a person ten years after they hurt me, I remember the hurt and assume “they haven’t changed a bit.” But haven’t I changed in the past ten years? I trust I’ve become wiser with age. Didn’t they? I’ve learned from experiences. Haven’t they? I hope people take me as I am today, not as my “remains.” May I do unto others as I want them to do unto me.

Same New, Same New

September 17th, 2020 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

When asked “What’s new?” during this time of COVID, we might answer with a sigh “same old, same old.” Days blur, little is newsworthy, and we mark time by trash pickup days. With little stimulation and in-person interaction, it’s easy to feel lifeless. To add spark in my life, I read biographies, where I find in the famous figures of past centuries the precursors of leading figures today. Apparently human nature doesn’t change, and I sometimes find myself in the historical figure’s foibles. More life-giving, though, than biographies, is enhancing someone’s life through a phone call or good deed. Ilia Delio in her essay Evolution Toward Personhood writes “The more one affirms life in one’s fellows and gives oneself to enhance their lives, the more one is truly alive and thus truly oneself.” With more time on our hands, we can more easily think of easing another’s burdens. Even when we expend our energy, we feel more life and humbly get in touch with our own goodness, our ways to find in routine the “same new, same new.”