March 5, 2015

Gift

A little over two years ago a friend of mine got married and had little packages wrapped with blue paper and white bows as the centerpieces for the tables at the reception.  The wedding cake looked exactly the same with three tiers and a big white icing bow at the top.   As they entered into their vocation that day the theme of being a “gift” was beautifully evident and the phrase from Guadium et Spes continued reverberating in my heart, “Man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of himself”.

I remember hearing once that the greatest grace after Baptism is the gift of a religious vocation. Religious vocations are gifts that are directly received from the Heart of Christ pouring itself out in a complete gift of love on the Cross.  Gazing upon the crucified Lord, our hearts are compelled to be poured out as His was, that we may be more fully conformed to Jesus, who “fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Guadium et Spes).

Something that has struck me in my short time here has been how authentically the Sisters receive the blood and water which flows from the Heart of Christ into their own hearts in prayer and then pour themselves out for others in a sincere gift of self.  St. John Paul II once said, “Become who you are.”  If we are made in the image of God, then the more fully we conform ourselves to Jesus by giving ourselves as gifts like He did, the more fully we in turn become who God made us to be.  I think the word that best sums up the disposition of my heart during these months would be “gratitude” - gratitude for the gift of the Sisters and their vocations and that the Lord has invited me to be a part of this community.  And isn’t gratitude the proper response when one is given a gift?

- Kristen Rainey, Postulant

March 1, 2015

Temptation

I use many avenues when teaching music. Sometimes you need to put your whole body into it to feel that beat or get the musical concept across. As I was teaching the concept of meter in 3, feeling a 3 beat, getting the body involved was a necessary component.
We played 3 Meter tag the other day in 1st Grade. As we marched around the room to a 3 beat, however, my 1st graders struck me with their many tactics in conquering this game. The goal is ultimately to be the last person left. Oh, there are those who are very good at outmaneuvering the taggers. Those are not the ones that caught my eye. It’s the ones that head straight for the taggers, as if they can’t resist the temptation of getting close and maybe getting tagged. I watched it happen over and over. They were inevitably out first or second every time.
I wanted to shout, “Go the other way! Don’t go towards them!” They probably would have listened, but I’m sure that’s how our Guardian Angels feel with us. There’s something alluring about temptation. We just can’t help ourselves.  We are drawn to it like a moth to a flame, and the next morning you find them dead in the candle wax.
If there is anything that Lent reminds me of, it is a particular time to guard myself from being lured in by temptation. As I strive to keep my resolutions, maybe I’ll fail and be lured in, down and out. However, I’m going to start again round two, and begin again because I want to give God my all this Lent, even if I failed once already.

"Brothers let us begin again, for up until now, we have done nothing." St. Francis of Assisi

- Sister Mary George, FSGM

February 27, 2015

Encountering God in His Creation

The last couple of years I have been a student at Benedictine college studying Biology. I was first drawn to biology through my love for nature. A major part of my love of nature comes from the fact that for me it is a place of radical encounter with God.  It is when I’m sitting next to water or within the woods that I find a stillness within me which brings me to God’s peace and love. In fact, I was first drawn to St. Francis because he was the patron saint of ecology. Since then I have realized that there is much more about him and his spirituality that I love including his love of the cross and the Eucharist. Yet, his ability to see God and God’s will and works within creation remains one of the ways in which I connect to St. Francis.
            It has been a gift for me to continue the biology degree which I started before I entered the convent. It’s continued to bring home to me the amazing intricacies of God’s creation and the uniqueness of each different part of creation. My Sisters have told me that they never know what they are going to see when I walk through the door. I have been blessed with a variety of experience. From labs in which I have been netting fish in streams and studying axolotls and fruit flies to projects in which I’m growing plants or catching insects. Each different encounter has drawn me more into the beauty of what God has given us on the Earth and the amazing minute details which he has placed here in His love for us.
            There is so much which is interdependent on the Earth and so many amazing particulars on each different level whether the molecular, the cellular, or on that of the ecosystem. When one studies the spectacular details of creation one becomes aware that the daily workings of life which we so often take for granted are miracles which are continuously given to us by God.
- Sister Karol Marie, FSGM

February 22, 2015

Abide in My Love

How’s your Lent going so far? Sometimes we can view Lent as that time of darkness or 40 days of agony until we can do or have the things we gave up and often a season to just get through or try to avoid. Sometimes the penances or challenges of giving up the things we enjoy or changing the ways we have become comfortable allow for a struggle and accept change in our hearts. 

I can remember times in my own life when I would begin grumbling as the beginning of Lent was approaching. My false idea of Lent was that Jesus did not want me to be happy or joyful for 40 days but rather I was to walk around moping with a sad almost mournful appearance. Well this is definitely false! This is not at all what Jesus wants us to do during this season of Lent. Yes, we do recognize our great need to turn away from our sinfulness and look at how we can grow in virtue and change our vices but there is HOPE! Even in this time of fasting from the things we enjoy, Jesus tells us “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites… But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden” Matthew 6:16,18.

Jesus has given us this time of Lent not to be sad or gloomy but to draw close and encounter the love of His Sacred Heart! Think of these next 40 days as a retreat. We put aside the material things that do not last so that Christ may increase and be at the center of our hearts! The things of this world can so easily distract and draw us away from the One who is waiting to lavish us with His love. Jesus gives us this time to go to a new and deeper depth in our hearts a place we have never gone before to ENCOUNTER Him. He wants us to be captured by His loving gaze. Encounter Him in a new way this Lent. Do not be afraid. He is full of gentleness, kindness, patience and mercy. Go deeper into this burning love of our Savior who has given everything to win us back and present us as beautiful and precious gifts to the Father, washed clean through the blood and water which poured from His Sacred Heart. What more could He give to us than Himself. He gives us everything and we can draw from this Sacred Heart all the graces which we need daily. Receive Him!

With this deep abiding love, Jesus calls to you, “Come and seek Me, abide in Me and My LOVE”. Lent can be a time of joy, joy of experiencing the Heart of Jesus, the joy of knowing we are loved by God. He desires deeply to fill us with His joy until it is overflowing out of us. So don’t forget to smile during this time of Lent and rejoice in the love of God! Allow His love to consume your Heart and do not be afraid to unite your heart with His Heart.

Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us. 
- Sister M. Isabella, FSGM

February 17, 2015

Empty Me

I recently received a letter from my mom, and something she said left me thinking:

"I forget we cannot store up the grace and love of God.  We have to gather it daily.  His peace flows freely to us, but we must seek it daily by prayer.  Our Lord had designed us to need him day by day even moment by moment."

We can't store up the grace and love of God.  Just like the manna in the desert for Moses and the Israelites, he will always give us what we need for each day.  We can be tempted to seek after extra and store it up in fear that it will fail to be there when we need it.  If we trust in His faithfulness, we never question, we never doubt whether His Love and Grace will be there.

The problem I often face is "Am I open to receiving all He is offering."  Do I fill up my time with God in prayer with my words, according to my plan, seeking control because there are some things I would rather avoid?  The Lord wants to come be with me and fill me with all that I need, but all those other things are in the way.  It's like pouring water into a cup filled with marbles.  The marbles take up so much room that the water barely has space to fit.

Amazingly, the God of the universe not only tolerates, but actually desires us, His creatures, to be with Him.  We are made to need Him.  God yearns to fill us with His Love and Grace, but we must first empty ourselves of all the other things that fill that space in our hearts.  We have to give Him all the worries, the pain, the joys, and everything else.  Then, in the stillness, in the silence, in the vulnerability, allow Him to fill us with His Love and Grace.
 - Sister Mary Francis, FSGM

February 3, 2015

A Present from the Lord

In the Collect for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, celebrated on February 2nd, we pray, “Almighty ever-living God, we humbly implore your majesty that, just as your Only Begotten Son was presented on this day in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, so, by your grace, we may be presented to you with minds made pure.” 
On this Feast, also considered the World Day for Consecrated Life, several of us presented ourselves to our Eucharistic Lord at Saints Peter and Paul Church, not far from our Provincial House here in Alton.  There we joined many other religious communities from the area to praise the Lord who has gifted us with a sure path to following Him more closely: the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  These three vows are a present from the Lord to each of us, safeguarding our vocation to be united to Christ in the religious life. 
The Holy Family witnessed to each vow as they brought their Divine Son to the temple.  Poor in material things, they brought the offering known to be for those who had only a meager income: two turtledoves.  Their undivided hearts expressed the chaste call of resolute love for God.  They listened attentively to the prescription of God’s law to present their son, the Son of the Father, to Him in obedience.  As we contemplated this Divine Family while chanting Evening Prayer and adoring the Son present in the Blessed Sacrament, we prayed for the universal Church and religious brothers and sisters worldwide and offered back to our Lord what we have first received from Him: our lives.
- Sister Marysia, FSGM

December 26, 2014

Humility

“The Lord wants the whole, undivided heart.  And only those who are resolved to give it to Him and to stay with Him for life are allowed to dare to wear the dress, the holy bridal dress of faithfulness.  Only those, however, have a right to the joy of living near Him.  Give everything, dear Sisters, without any reservation, just as the Lord on that first Christmas gave everything for you.  Because it is sure that He already then gave His heavenly Father His life for mankind.  Now offer Him yours.  Lay it as a sacrifice in the crib!  You will see how royally, no how divinely, He will repay you.” 


Our foundress, Mother M. Anselma, before a secret Reception ceremony, Midnight Mass, 1877