Everyone who is still breathing is unfinished. That’s where Lent comes in. Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving form the tripod on which the season stands. They are the three tried and true ways to lose our lives for the sake of saving them.  What finishing touches do I need? How shall I achieve becoming a more finished product of God’s creation?

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians gives four qualities to help us become instruments of peace: humility, gentleness, patience, and love. Each quality involves pushing ourselves away from the center of our world. Isn’t that what Lent is all about? Lent’s prayer and practices help us push ourselves aside to make Christ our center. The first quality, humility, comes from an awareness of our own unworthiness. It can be humiliating to face ourselves, so we might try comparing ourselves to others: “I’m not as bad as they are.” But comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ is not so much humiliating as humbling. The courage to compare ourselves with the standard of Jesus gives us hope, for we know He wants to transform us into His very Self. Transformation in Christ is Lent’s goal.

Your Whole Heart

February 14th, 2021 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

We will soon begin the season of Lent when God says, “Return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2:11). Do we find ourselves trying to think of something different to do during Lent? More service? Fewer complaints? Stations of the Cross? Here is a thought: Seeing with God’s eyes. Seeing with God’s eyes means seeing reality with “the eyes of your heart” (Eph. 1:18). We become fully conscious that everything is surrounded by God’s love. We see all things in God and God in all things. Our physical eyes are open about 16 hours a day. It’s difficult to see God in all things even a few minutes. Perhaps even more difficult to make ourselves mindful to try. Over the next 40 days, upon waking pray, “God, help me to see with your eyes today.”

My Heart Is Moved

February 13th, 2021 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk. 8:1-10) begins “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.” Jesus’ empathy led him to action. Haven’t we been so blessed to see numerous acts of empathy over the past months? Anonymous donors paying bills of the unemployed. Nurses holding hands of dying patients. Children selling beverages for firefighters and veterans. Banners expressing thanks and hope. Food banks lengthening their hours. Bakeries and restaurants giving their best—not their leftovers. Medical personnel giving vaccinations to drivers stuck in a snowstorm, lest the precious medicine go to waste. On this day before Valentines Day, let your heart be moved to empathy and lead you to action.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, and since he is my favorite President, I will write about him today, even when leading up to Valentine’s Day with 14 blogs about heart. For Lincoln I chose this quotation from Mark’s gospel: “Wherever your treasure lies, there your heart will be. (12:32). Lincoln’s heart longed for a united nation. Peace was his aim. Even during war he held “malice toward none.” Paraphrasing Scripture, Lincoln advised: “Do good to those who hate you and turn their ill will to friendship.”

Here are a few fun facts about Abraham Lincoln:

He began to wear a beard when Grace Bedell told him that he would look a lot better on the campaign trail, since his face was so thin.

He wrestled 300 times and lost only once.

He hated the nickname “Abe.”

Five million pilgrims arrive in Lourdes, France, each season to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Mary identified herself: “I am the Immaculate Conception,” which is now engraved on the Miraculous Medal. People of faith touch or drink the waters from the spring at the grotto in Lourdes in hope of cures.

February 11 is a day to pray for all the sick. Included here are some prayerful thoughts by Pope Benedict XVI on the sick and those who care for them.

To all those who work in the field of health, and to the families who see in their relatives the suffering face of the Lord Jesus, I renew my thanks and that of the Church, because, in their professional expertise and in silence, often without even mentioning the name of Christ, they manifest him in a concrete way.

To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, we raise our trusting gaze and our prayer; may her maternal compassion, manifested as she stood beside her dying Son on the Cross, accompany and sustain the faith and the hope of every sick and suffering person on the journey of healing for the wounds of body and spirit!

The passage recounting the Lord’s agony in the garden is one of the most emotional in the Scriptures.  Filled with fear and dread, Jesus asks three disciples to be with him. He says, “My heart is full of sorrow, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake” (Mark 14:34).  Jesus’ perfect human nature attuned his emotional and physical pain to exceptional acuity. What the heart of the God-Man filled with sorrow means is unimaginable. Working in a funeral home, I have seen persons convulsed in sorrow. And every day we hear stories of cruel mistreatment. Children are separated from their parents. POWs are tortured. Renters are evicted in bitter winter. The sins of the world’s cruelty are immense beyond comprehension. Yet Jesus bore the world’s sin and redeemed it.

Are we willing to take on another person’s pain? Can we say with Saint Paul “I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you” (Col. 1:24)? Let us be open to holding another’s sorrow in our hearts.

I enjoy reading. Trying to make my favorite relaxation educational, I often read biographies and autobiographies. Recently I read The Luckiest Man, Salter’s book about John McCain. Then I read The Truths We Hold by Vice-President Kamala Harris. Both (one Republican, the other a Democrat) made “we the people” their compass. These two senators were similar in their determination to help all Americans fulfill their dreams. A demanding work ethic dominated their days. The Truths We Hold ends with Kamala Harris’s mantras:

  1. Test the hypothesis.
  2. Go to the scene.
  3. Embrace the mundane.
  4. Words matter.
  5. Show the math.
  6. No one should have to fight alone.
  7. If it’s worth fighting for, it’s a fight worth having.
  8. You may be the first. Don’t be the last.

These mantras could have been John McCain’s also. They need to be the mantras of every United States citizen.

God is transcendent, a word that seems to focus on God’s distance. Yet in a theological sense, transcendent means “otherness.” God is that which we are not; God is completely other. Yet God is imminent. Scripture portrays God as very near desiring to share God’s love in the Big Bang, taking on our human nature and pitching his tent among us.

God’s transcendence and imminence are somewhat synonymous. Reflecting on God’s transcendence, we “set our hearts on what pertains to higher realms” (Col. 3:1) while living and moving and having our being in God with our feet on terra firma. While God is Wholly Other, God becomes one of us. Everything we see, touch, taste, smell, feel is part of the Divine Milieu. Every being is connected in God. So look for God today. God promises: “When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).

I hope you pray for religious sisters, priests, and brothers often. Today is a special day to do just that in the diocese of Toledo. (Consecrated Life Day, begun by Pope John Paul II in 1997, is really on February 2, but is often celebrated on Sunday.)  Also pray for more persons to respond to a vocation to consecrated life.  My religious community expands the length and width of the United States, along with a dozen other countries. Since 1850 we Sisters of Notre Dame have aimed to witness God’s goodness and provident care. As apostolic women religious, we serve the mission of the Church in service to the poor, education, parish involvement, and other needs. Surrounding and enhancing our ministries is prayer. And tucked between is life in community—cooking, cleaning, playing, growing in love for one another. If the title weren’t already taken, a movie about consecrated religious should be “It’s A Wonderful Life!”