Sunday, November 30, 2014

In All Things Give Thanks!

Here are a few photos of moments of great joy!
A little lunch gathering with our brothers in our preaching class!  Sr. Chuc made Pumpkin Soup! Yum!

Turkey and all the Fixins.  With Grateful hearts we hosted three of our Dominican Sisters living in the St. Louis area.

We are wrapping up our classes, deep cleaning the house and preparing to head to our home congregations for Christmas.  Wishing you all a Blessed Advent, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too!
See you in January.
Srs. Kelly, Christin and Chuc. 
Srs. Joye and Megan say Merry Christmas too :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life and judgment

Christ King –Mtt25:31-46

            Today is Christ the King Sunday. Our Church celebrates Christ the King on the last Sunday of the ordinary time. It means Jesus Christ is God, who is the begging and the end of the world. Today’s readings also reveal three aspects of truth, which are: this world will end. Everyone will be judged, Christ will be the judge on the last day and there is a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God will come. These aspects of truth invite us to accept that nothing lasts forever in this world. In front of God, everyone is equal and will be judged. God will not ask us? How many things we did, how famous we were? But God will judge us about what we did for love in our life? So how do we live?
            It is so interesting to see that if we have a sensitive conscience, we often judge ourselves before the judgment day of God. For example, when we do bad thing, in the deep place of our heart, we often do not feel peace. We will become what we see in our heart. Thus what do we often do and see? Seeing outside is good, but better and necessary is seeing inside, seeing in the dark places of heart and soul. Do we often ask: Who is the poor? Who are naked today? Do we often search these questions outside and inside of us? Each of us has own answer.
            A little good thing has power to change a life forever. I would like to share to you a story, which touched my heart.  It challenged my view of love. It influenced my religious vocation. It is “a beggar man was invited at party table”.
 The context of the event was lunch time. It happened when I was in high school. One day, when my father had two important guests who came to sign their business contract with my father’s company for the coming year. The major issues had been agreed, but some details of their contract still needed to be discussed.  Thus, to save time, they used a lunch time to continue their discussion. While they were eating, a beggar came in front of our door.
             In the social context of my culture, a meal table is shared among close friends and family members. We sometimes have a party to celebrate after we have signed a long business contract. If the business party only includes members of family and business partners, it means business partners were accepted to be close friends or their friendship is emphasized.  In our custom, when a beggar comes to ask for help, we offer them food and money. We do not invite them to share in the same table. However, my father behaved at that time in different way. He asked guests that: “is it OK, if I invite this beggar to share a table with us?” Of course, guests said, “yes”.            
            My father asked the beggar to sit next to him and me. He introduced us and guests to the beggar and then he said to him: “Take us at your home”. My father made sure of all things as they went very smoothly.  He treated the beggar as a close friend. He continued his business conversation with guests; he sometimes stopped to take food for the beggar if the beggar did not help himself.  My father also asked him or me some questions, which made us feel that even though he was very busy, but he still cared for us at this time.        
            There was no one in my family ever mentioned this event again.  My parents thought that what happened and what they did were natural and normal. My brothers and sister were too young to deeply understand it.  Our guests said my parents were so kinds.  They expressed their respect to my parents. They went back to their city.  However, that experience stayed with me a long time. My father’s action made me think a lot. I found quiet places to think about it again and again. I prayed to understand it. I searched for the reason and meaning of that action.  I questioned myself in silence. I also brought these questions to him:  Why did he do it? What force did he have to behave beyond our custom? etc.
            His answer made me more confused: “because he is a person among us”. I knew he was a person among us, but he was a stranger. He even was a beggar. He was not our friend or our family member. I heard my father’s answer, but I did not understand his message. In my view at that time, I only invited my family members, my best friends and who I love to share meal table with me. My world only includes them. I could pray for others. I could help them in need. I could bring money and food for a beggar that was enough kind.
            My father’s action made me so surprised. I never thought I would do it or someone in that situation could do it. It was also not in our custom. A stranger should never share a meal table, particularly at a business party and business discussion. It was above my understanding. And then, all these things challenged my living faith in daily actions. It opened a view for me to step out and above of our custom to come to others with my loving heart and respect them as they are very important persons.
            This event called me to change my view, my discipleship. It challenged me to think about “kind and nice”. It was good but it was not enough. I needed to be truly kinder and nicer from my heart. My father’s action challenged me to be really present when I attend liturgy and pray.  My father brought a core of faith, which is “love”, “respect” and “behavior as equality” in his daily actions. These things challenged me and contributed to make me decide that I wanted to be a sister. It is action as a follower of Jesus. I would and will offer my whole life to do something better than giving some actions. Even today, when I think about this event again, I recognize that it was a very meaningful and challenging image, when my father asked a beggar sat between him and I. It helps me to understand God’s commandment of loving and requirement of Jesus, “what you did for one of these ones, you did for me” (Mtt 25:40). Thus, I choose to prayerfully reflect and share this particular event to you.
            I invite you to share to me in prayer: Jesus Christ, you are the King of love, please transform me and others to live for love in our daily life.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Showing Up

“Why do we need the Church?  Why should we even look to the Church to end racism when we can find other, better spaces to do that?”

The question came from a college student during a recent lecture given by Fr. Bryan Massingale, a Milwaukee priest and prominent Catholic voice for racial justice.

His response to the young woman?  He was grateful for the question, he said, because it was both an indictment and a challenge. We as people of faith should be leading the charge of justice, but we are not.  We are squandering the precious gift of faith that we should be passing on, and so young people are finding the Church irrelevant.

 The student's questions are the same ones I have struggled with throughout my adolescence and young adulthood.  I, too, have had moments when I asked myself whether I could stay in a Church that often felt irrelevant, hypocritical, and exclusive.  Obviously, I decided to stay… and not only to stay, but to begin the path of becoming a vowed member of a religious community.  Why?  Because I believe in the power of showing up.

Showing up.  It’s a theme that has come up over and over throughout my novitiate year.  My spiritual director has talked with me about the importance “just showing up” when it comes to prayer.  There are days that I would rather not show up, when I don’t feel like praying, or when my prayer feels fruitless.  But prayer is a relationship with God, and because I value it I’ve gotta keep showing up, even when it’s hard.  This challenge extends to my life in the Church.

There’s an episode of the West Wing in which President Bartlet is asked a question about young people and their involvement in politics.  The older generation and the younger generation each blame one another for failures in the political process, the president says.  Older people think the young folks are lazy, young folks think the older generation has failed them.  “So are we failing you, or are you failing us?” he asks.  “A little of both.  Decisions are made by those who show up.”

I think the same happens in the “Church as institution” vs. “Church as people” dynamic.  Is Church leadership responsible for making audible, visible, and tangible ALL the beliefs we profess (not just a selective few), and challenging members to live them out?  Yes.  Are parish communities responsible for creating vibrant, welcoming, relevant communities who live out these beliefs and even allow spaces to question them?  Yes.  And are we, regardless of age, responsible for showing up, speaking up, and being the Church we want to see?  Yes.  We are ALL responsible for being, creating, and living the Church.

To paraphrase the message of President Bartlet, are we failing the (institutional) Church or is the Church failing us?  A little of both.  When it comes to racism, we can’t get over what we haven’t confronted.  And we can’t be a part of change if we don’t show up.

Monday, November 10, 2014


There was a full moon on Thursday, November 6th  and I could not sleep to save my life.  I confess, I briefly, somewhat unconsciously glanced at Facebook.  At the top of my newsfeed was a post from my friend "Mary" (named changed to protect actual patient).  I found it odd that she would be posting at such a late hour of the night too.  At first I could only read part of the post until I clicked on “Read More”.  The first part read, “As I sit here tonight at the hospital able to breath and no longer vomiting I feel like I am in heaven. So here it goes:”  I recall taking in a deep breath as I clicked “Read More”.
You see, "Mary" has already cheated death 3 times in the last couple of months.  Doctors have told her that there is no good reason her heart should still be beating, there has been so much damage to her heart.  I braced myself, wondering what could have possibly happened to her now, so I read further.  She wrote, “I have had extremely poor health over the past several weeks with additional heart damage. Unfortunately, I have found out that my transplant doctor does not think I will make it the six months it will take for the additional testing to even make the heart transplant list. So after speaking with God, my teen daughter, and my sister I have made the decision to forego the heart transplant and go home and have signed up for Hospice”........
"Mary" and I have known each other since I was in the high school youth group for which she was an adult leader at the time.  I practically watched her young daughter grow-up.  We spent many a Wednesday and Sunday night trying to figure out just what in the world God, Church and life was about.  We sang, we laughed, we cried, but most importantly she brought to life for me a little sign that sat above a mirror in the youth house that read, "You Are Loved" ♥ God.
So, this past weekend I went to visit "Mary" during her final day in the hospital, before she would be moving home.  We caught up on the last couple years of our lives and then she began to share with me her journey of beginning to prepare for the end of her all too short time on this earth.  I asked her how she was feeling and she said, "Pretty good for only having 10% heart function."  Wow!!!, I thought, to be in a place where just breathing is a moment by moment miracle, to still have the outlook on life that she does is a call to action for me....and for all of us.
At what percentage is our heart functioning?  Surely, mine feels 100% when all is well and bright, heck I could save the world!  But what about those times when its at 90% because someone cut me off in traffic, or 80% when the sun hasn't been out for a day or two and I'm getting crabby, or 70% because maybe we are beginning to identify with true suffering, or at 50% when we begin to see the glass half empty rather than half full?  When have we given our neighbor 10% when we knew we were  called to give them 100%?
As Thanksgiving approaches, may we be aware of God's presence around us and within us so that our hearts are always functioning at 100%.  And remember.....You Are Loved! ♥ God

Monday, November 3, 2014

Falling leaves and life

      When autumn arrives, it is a time for leaves to change.  Nature wears a new shirt, which is yellow, red and brown. There is no artist in the world can paint this colors well, but everyone can recognize and feel this beauty.
            This week, St. Louis began to feel colder; trees danced back and forth in the wind, the leaves began falling and flying in chill. The life of a leaf is simple and short, but it is enough for the leaf to test interesting flavor of life. The leave was germinated in spring; grew in summer and falls when autumn comes. A leaf has a short life, but it is enough to cover the earth with its shadow. It helps tree to provide flower’s scent for wind to deliver in universe.  It bears fruits for human and creatures to use.  It also takes away carbon and provides oxygen for the universe and all creation. The leaf does not stop providing, because after death it still gives its last breath to this world by powerful colors of yellow, red and brown, which made this earth seem  bright before the cold winter comes. When the leaf comes back to the mother earth, it uses the last relic of its life to provide this earth nutrition for future life.  Whether earth is healthy or not depends much on the life of the leaf.
            Seeing falling leaves, I think about human life.  Our life is similar to the life of leaf.  An Asian metaphor expresses human life as fast as the shadow of a running horse, which crosses outside a window. Our life is like a leaf, which is small and fragile but brings life for the world and beauty for the universe. The life of a leaf teaches us about our own life.  It starts by providing us with shelter and shade, then it gives autumn beauty and finally in its death it gives nourishment. Reflect on our life, what shelter and shade do we provide?  Are our older years colorful and beautiful?  Will our death provide encouragement and inspiration to others?
            In my journey of life, I have met many good people who bring the nutrition, life and beauty into the flowing river of life. In my view, they are the love and kiss of heaven and earth. They live four times. They were born from universe to their mother’s womb. They leave their mother’s womb to be born into the world. They worked or are working to make people in this world love, and then they leave or will leave this world to be born into heaven. Their life is in the circle of the life of heaven and earth. They are children of God, who live and act with consciousness and love. Their life is flying with smiles and kindness. Their bright shines not only when they still alive but even after they die.  Are you those people? Yes, if you live above things. I wish you a happy life. And please don’t forget to pray for those who are alive and the kind who have died.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Non "stop" fun at the Inter Community Novitiate (ICN) Halloween Party

"Carving" out a good time at ICN!

Happy Halloween from your CDN novices!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Corners of Encounter

I was perched on a hay bale behind a tractor when I saw it: the tree with the lights in it.  It had only a few leaves and it was rather small, especially compared to its more impressive counterparts scattered throughout the 650-acre cattle farm.  It sat atop a ridge, illuminated from one side by the setting sun, and something about the angle made its few leaves glimmer like a string of Christmas lights.  It glowed.  My eyes glanced past it, not registering its brilliance right away, and by the time I looked back, the effect was gone.  A fleeting moment of beauty, a flash of God, something ordinary suddenly revealed as sacred.

The farm at St. Catharine, KY, where I saw my tree.  
It's run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

I borrowed the phrase “the tree with the lights in it” from Annie Dillard, who uses it to describe a mystical encounter she had: 
“One day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with lights in it.  I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame.  I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focussed and utterly dreamed.  It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.  The lights of the fire abated, but I’m still spending the power.” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Aren’t our lives like that?  We move through our days, and every once in a while something comes along and knocks us off our feet.  A loved one reveals a flash of the Divine through a small gesture of love.  A strain of birdsong swells our hearts almost to bursting.  Let's not overlook these moments!  They are moments of clarity, mystical moments, encounters in which we glimpse the love with which God gazes upon us.

The grave of Thomas (Fr. Louis) Merton
The other novices and I have been taking a lecture series on mysticism, which Evelyn Underhill describes as “the art of union with reality.”  (Think about that for a while… WOW!)  Two weeks ago we learned about Thomas Merton, beloved Trappist monk, mystic, and prolific writer.  He saw his own “tree with the lights in it” one day in Louisville, KY, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut.  At that busy corner, after seventeen years of living under the illusion that his monastic life was somehow separate from the rest of the world, he became:
“overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs… even though we were total strangers.  It was like waking from a dream of separateness.” (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander) 

This weekend we visited the abbey where he spent most of his adult life and is now buried, and we also went to the corner of Fourth and Walnut.  It is an unremarkable place, a plain street corner with a urine-stained bicycle rack and a bronze plaque marking the spot.  It doesn't seem like a place where someone would have a mystical experience, but I guess God often looks a lot like ordinary life.  Maybe that's the key to mysticism.

Annie Dillard has some wisdom to share on this subject, too:
“They went… in search of the Divine, and they found it the only way it can be found, here and there- around the edges, tucked into the corners of the days.” (Teaching a Stone to Talk)

And so, it is in the unexpected and ordinary corners of our lives that we encounter God.  Thomas Merton found his at the corner of Fourth and Walnut.  Annie Dillard found hers at Tinker Creek.  In addition to the tree at the farm, the past few months have brought me a few “corners” of my own: 
  • Holding hands with a sister who can no longer talk due to a massive stroke, whose sparkling eyes and unassuming smile say more than words could.  
  • Stopping in my tracks under a brilliant yellow tree during a jog in the park.  
  • Lingering around the table after dinner with my community, laughing and talking about nothing in particular.  
  • Getting lost in the rhythms and harmonies of the gospel choir at the church I attend each Sunday.  
  • Learning about mystics Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen, women who lived centuries ago and continue to reveal Divine truths to us.
  • Sitting in the intimate quiet of contemplation with my sisters each morning.
I’m grateful for these corners of encounter, these trees with the lights in them.  I pray that their power continues to transform me long after the lights fade.

Eucharistic chapel at the Benedictine monastery in Ferdinand, IN.