May 25, 2015

I Thirst, They Hunger

           I have enjoyed reading and preparing for the “33 Days to Morning Glory” Marian consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  Among many inspirations for me from God, personally as well as for those I serve, the phrase “I Thirst” that Jesus spoke to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has spoken volumes for me (pun unintended since volume is the measurement of liquid which quenches thirst – I could not resist given that I teach science J - excuse my aside).  Jesus thirsts for our love. This is humbling!  Our Lord and Savior, and my Spouse as a religious sister, thirsts, craves and desires my love!

Teaching Chemistry was a new adventure for me this year, so I related to the other science courses I have taught and any God-connection that lended itself to the subject matter.  If seeing is believing then in both faith and science, we had a challenge…  I had asked my students if they can believe in something they cannot see (given that atoms are so small that they seem invisible) and they would answer: “Yes!  Jesus!”  I loved the response but wondered (and asked them) if they truly knew Jesus.  Over the course of this school year, I have seen many students seeking this challenge.  Many are hungry for Jesus, and to quote one recently: “Sometimes when our doors are shut, He comes knocking.  It’s our choice to open the door or not.  When we open that door, He can do amazing things in our lives…  Through His signs in our life, [and] through other people… who are huge role models in my life who keep me hungry for J.C.  All these amazing people, God graciously placed in my life, have given me hope and opened my eyes to the beauty around me.  God is all around us and is always knocking on my door – and I have finally gathered the courage to open up to Him.”

Another door to talk about Jesus was through a diocesan recollection day for sophomore girls to learn about religious vocations.  I brought six girls down and we met our sisters from another school in our diocese.  I took a group picture of us with our chaplain priests.  One of the girls asked for the pic.  I with my “old” e-mail and she with the latest social media made the connection (although I always encourage face-to-face/real time communication!).  She did not know what caption to put with the picture but remembered something I have said more than once.  When I ask for prayers for my co-sisters, I ask for my “sisters who dress like me but don’t look like me” and when I intercede for my blood sisters, I asked for my “sisters who look like me but don’t dress like me.”  It is funny how things we say make an impression.  She was excited to receive many likes on her private view.  We are not rock stars as sisters (the ones who dress alike) but we are public people whose words, actions or image speak volumes to others.

I have learned and loved and laughed much this year.  In a new found love of reading, I have become a student of my Beloved.  In the words of Mother Teresa to her sisters (who dressed like her J): “Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart?  What Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you… Not only that He loves you, but even more – He longs for you.  He thirsts for you.  “I Thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.”  Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you.  Or who He wants you to be for Him.  The closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst.”  It is in the presence of and nourished by the Blessed Sacrament that I have been able to ponder and to hunger for Him who thirsts for me.  Every day is a new opportunity to learn, to digest, and to rise (OK one more pun since I have used yeast in the lab too J).

We are all students, even us teachers, and I am thankful for the lessons learned through Him and others, and for the joy and openness of my students.  May our Lord be our guide and may we be open to Him and all He has to offer.  I realize that I can truly say that He (Jesus) Thirsts, and We Hunger!

by Sister M. Benedicta Bourke, FSGM

May 18, 2015

With a Grateful Heart

With a grateful heart, I thank the Lord for the privilege of this Jubilee year and thank Him for His faithfulness and His love, which knows no ends.  I am grateful to each one of you Sisters who celebrate with me the Lord’s goodness and His mercy throughout the ages.  His call to the religious life is a mystery to me and yet I rejoice in His grace and mercy, present and ever new.

His Excellency Carlo Maria Vigano said in his homily (reiterating the words of St. Catherine of Siena), “It is Charity that kept our Lord nailed to the Cross…”  This is the Lord Jesus who has revealed Himself to me and the One in whom I choose to give totally of myself.  With Mary, our Mother, I join in one voice:  “The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”

- Sister Mary Grace, FSGM

- On celebrating her Silver Jubilee

May 12, 2015

Latecomers and Beggars

People who know me well know that I am prone to misadventures when I travel.  I have missed flights, been re-routed on trains, and have been lost for long stretches of time on both highways and country roads!

I had an exceptionally spectacular mishap several years ago.  I was living in our local community in Washington D.C., at the time.  For reasons that are too complicated to explain here, I had to fly to Buffalo, NY, and drive to Toronto, Canada, to visit my family instead of flying directly to my destination.   The trip there was uneventful, but the journey home resembled Dante's description of purgatory.

Why was the way back so complicated?  Quite simply, I had left my house too late to catch my flight from Buffalo to Washington, D.C.  I was left with only option for my return trip - the bus.  Being late often leads to inconveniences and uncomfortable situations.  In my case, it meant exchanging a ninety-minute flight for a crammed twelve-hour ordeal.  It meant forfeiting the place that had been saved for me.

Forfeiting my place.  Losing out.  Missing the boat - or in my case, the plane.  Aren't we all afraid of this?  Aren't we all afraid that when the portions have been doled out, nothing will be left for us?  This fear plays itself out in many concrete circumstances.  It bespeaks the suspicion that grace is no infinite and that God is not enough.

However, is this fear justified?  How does God treat latecomers and beggars?  He waits for them.  He embraces them.  He celebrates them.  And who of us has not been late?  I don't mean for an event or an appointment, but in love.  As His creatures and His children, there is a very real sense in which all of us are latecomers.  God loves us first - always.  Human love has the character of a response - always. The cry of St. Augustine, "Late have I loved thee!" has a weight of an ontological statement.  It speaks the truth of our human condition.  And it is a glorious condition because we are awaited by a great love!

Do not be afraid!

 - Mother M. Maximilia, FSGM

May 5, 2015

Mary, Cause of our Joy, Pray for Us!

           May is here, and with it, spring is in full bloom! The coldness of winter has left us, and the majesty of God’s splendor in creation is singing out through the chirping of birds and blossoming of flowers. It seems only fitting that it is in the midst of all this beauty we remember in a special way the Blessed Virgin Mary, the cause of our joy.
            A couple of years ago when I was teaching 2nd graders the Litany of Loreto, a student asked me, “Sister, why is Mary the cause of our joy?” Before I could reply, another student said, “Because she brings us to Jesus! And Jesus makes us happy.” It is simply just that. We love and honor Our Lady because she brings us to the very source and cause of our joy—Jesus!
             Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, she received the fullness of the Word of God in her womb. In complete faith, deep humility, and total surrender, she gave her fiat, saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:36). Her joyful “yes” to God’s will shows her total dedication to Him. In her simple but profound assent to God’s plan for her, she shows us that the value of our life does not depend on doing great things in the eyes of the world. Rather, the true value of our life comes from faithfully accepting God’s will for us, in a spirit of openness and joy.
            In this month of May, let us especially unite ourselves with Mary. Let us strive to imitate her, who, in poverty, humbled herself and remained hidden throughout her whole life, remaining chaste and pure, allowing herself to belong to no one else but God, and in obedience,  carried out the will of God by bringing Him to the world. With Mary, let us “proclaim the greatness of the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior!”

- Sister M. Immanuela, FSGM

April 28, 2015

Delight in the Lord

This is one of my favorite times of the year. It is also one of the busiest times. There is so much that is happening: the Easter season, Renewal of Vows, the newness of life, Confirmation, graduations, the anticipation of summer.  With all of these occasions the celebration of life occurs around us each day and it also occurs within us! It is an experience of beauty that brings joy, peace, and new life in a particular way. We know that something that is beautiful is attractive. We have a desire to be a part of it and are drawn to it. Examples that come to my mind are the flowers, the sunshine, a heartwarming conversation, an act of mercy, which are gifts of God’s beauty at work in our daily lives. We also find this invitation to beauty in Scripture, “I will allure her to me in the desert.” And “When I am lifted up [on the cross] I will draw all people to myself.” Where are we being drawn? Into the desert? To the cross? We may ask where is beauty here? How is this attractive? It is because we are attracted to the person of Jesus Christ Who is Love and Love is beautiful! Love is attractive! Living from this awareness brings new life found in the promise of Easter and it is here that Jesus turns to you and says that you are beautiful and He “delights in you”. It is wonderful to allow Him to delight in us, and for each of us to offer our hearts to Him and share all those little things that bring us joy, that are good. For He created the world and God “saw that it was good”. During this time of year, I hope that you can take a moment to slow down, and not only “smell the roses” of God’s creation, but enter into your own heart and hear the voice of Jesus: the One who desires to encounter you and reveal the beauty of His love totally poured out for you. 

- Sister M. Caterina, FSGM

April 25, 2015

“Were not our hearts burning within us . . . " Luke 24:32

Last week one of our Junior Professed Sisters, Sister M. Gemma, was talking about what she wanted to write for the blog, and said that she was going to reflect on Renewal of Vows.  I kiddingly said, “I’m going to do that, too!”  This was only funny because I am in Final Profession, and have been, for almost 15 years.  Well, I decided to do just that . . .

The Renewal of Vows of our Junior Professed Sisters, on the Feast of Divine Mercy, was a beautiful day of renewal for me!  I have had the privilege of living with five of our Junior Professed Sisters at St. Clare Convent in Steubenville.  As each of these Sisters recited their vow formula, I joined the other Sisters in interceding for her.  I asked the Lord to lavish His graces on each one, especially the areas they most need Him.  As I saw them all kneeling and giving their lives to the disposal of our religious Congregation, I reflected on the promise that we say to our postulants on the day of their Reception, “we will pray and work with you, and we will always be there when you need us.”  This was a good time to examine what I have done to support each sister.  Have I really done what I have promised?  Am I a source of renewal or destruction? 

It has been such a grace to be able to see how beautifully the Lord is working in the hearts of so many Sisters.  They each reflect the Merciful Love of Christ in their own unique way.  Things would get so boring if we all did it the same way!  Renewal of Vows was an opportunity to reflect on my own promise of “forever” . . . of my own desire to make the Merciful Love of Christ Visible!   

On our 10 hour trip back to Steubenville, from Alton, two of the Junior Professed and I spoke about the Lord for at least 6 of those!  It was like “walking on the road to Emmaus”.  Our hearts, “were BURNING within us!”  Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of my Sisters, and for your Merciful Love!

Sister M. Rosalinda, FSGM

April 20, 2015

“Behold I am making all things new” Revelation 21:5

            What a tremendous grace to renew my vows for the first time! It was perfectly fitting that it was on the Feast of Divine Mercy. To be a bride of Christ is a supreme gift of divine mercy. God’s love is entirely gratuitous. Like the “spring of water welling up to eternal life,” He pours His love into our hearts, and draws us to Himself. He has conquered the grave that we may have life and have it abundantly. As I reflect on these past eight months since I first professed my vows, I am struck with the depth of God’s generosity. God is supreme, and has no need of us; still He chooses us. God is all powerful, and still he uses us. He thirsts for us, longing to make us new each day. For in allowing ourselves to be made new, we “renew the face of the earth.” Fr. Tim Christy, who gave two conferences on the recollection day before renewal, said: “In order to inspire others to conversion, we must first become acquainted with it ourselves.” Renewal is ultimately a call to conversion; to again cast off the old man and put on Christ. One is invited to look at where they have been, and where they wish to go. Renewal is defined as “the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again.” It is through our profession of the evangelical counsels that we are given the grace to persevere. In laying down our lives, and placing ourselves “at the disposal of this religious congregation,” we are strengthened. In recognizing our weakness, God’s power is made perfect in us. As I said our vow formula, I misspoke one line, repeated it correctly, and continued on. When I returned to my pew, it dawned on me that I am not able to live my vows solely on my own strength; therefore why should I be able to say them of my own ability. It is a precious reminder that all is gift. God is the giver of all good things. He is faithful, and He will lead us. Trusting in Him alone, we WILL be made new. We ARE being made new. In radiant joy let us announce with our lives, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. […] [F]or the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

-Sister M. Gemma, FSGM