Sunday, March 29, 2015


Fresh from a Lenten Retreat during the later half of this last week, I find myself filled with encounters of God as numerous as the birds in the sky that I could blog about.  We journeyed to Springfield Illinois to the Chiara Center where  Fr. Stan Drongowski, O.P. and Sr. Teresa Tuite, O.P. journeyed with us and our inter-community novitiate in a Parable retreat. 
On the Feast of the Annunciation Fr. Stan preached about God's encouragement to Mary:

 Now for me jumping out of a perfectly good airplane was rather easy and something I did with little fear and with confidence that I would land on my feet in the end.  I put total trust in that gentleman strapped to my back to operate our parachutes and to get us to our destination (the ground) safely.  I had a prayer card of the Blessed Mother in my pocket just in case!
And yet when God says: JUMP I cling tightly to the familiar, the safe, the certain, say Oh, No not me Lord, are you NUTS!  Often times every part of me wants to do God's will with reckless abandonment but fear going SPLAT keeps me tethered at times!  Perhaps I need to remember who is operating my parachute.....

Afterall, that parachute is full of desire to do the will of the one that propels me each day.  Sr. Teresa encouraged us to approach God with not just open hands but hands FULL OF DESIRE.  Only when I approach God with arms wide open can I totally surrender to all the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that prevents my parachute from opening to the loving embrace and will of God.
Only when, like Mary, I step out and BE NOT AFRAID and JUMP will I land wherever God calls me.  For in the end the WILL of God will not take me wherever the GRACE of God will not carry me.
Whether we go SPLAT or stick the landing all our JUMPS are full of GRACE!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jn 12:24

In reading today, Jesus said, “If a grain of wheat falls to the ground and does not die, it remains just a grain of wheat. However, if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Jn 12:24). This leads me to share with you a story, which touched my heart and it was a topic for my meditation many times. After 1945 in the north and 1975 in the south, Many Vietnamese men and women religious, seminarians and priests were put in prisons because they were Christians. Some Christians, seminarians, religious and priests had a chance to go out or stay in Vietnam. Go or stay? It was a painful and big discernment. Going would mean freedom and a continuation for religious life. Staying seemed like no future. It would a suffering with the nation; it would be a prison, suffering life and thousands of other challenges.
            While the new government killed some priests, and put others into prisons, they also pushed thousands Christians and other Vietnamese people together with their family into forests where they had to cut down trees to build their shacks and make forests became their fields, their new home land, because their own houses, home land were occupied by the new government. In those forests, there was no light, no water, no school, no hospital, no church, and no other common things for a common life. It was a new land of communist system, which did not have even a single place for religious and priests. In addition, people there, still were pressured by strict new government policies.
            Among those people in one of those mountains, there was a single middle age man. He worked hard like other people. He had a nice but simple roof. However, he was different from other men. He had no wife, no children, no ID, and very simple things which he carried with him when he arrived among other people to that mountain. He was a gentle and silent man. His garden was always green with vegetables and much fruit. His field produced much grain, but he never sold them for money as others. He brought them to the poorer families. He asked people to come to his garden to get food when they needed. He spent his free time helping others to cut trees or build their houses. No one knew who he was, where he came from, or how his family was, and for his safety, no one asked him about these things. They knew that he seemed to be their stability in this hard life. Every morning, when they passed by his house on the way to their fields, they needed to see his gentle look, see him quietly working in peace. Those brought them more energy and peace. In the afternoon, when they returned home from forests or fields, they often saw him in front of his house. He looked at them in silence. They sometimes saw his gentle smiles to them. It seemed like he was as a good shepherd, who counts his flock before a day ends. Police were confused by him, but they had no reason to take him away from that mountain. Christians believed he was a priest who was hiding himself to be with them.
            One afternoon, there was a group of four religious and priests disguised as tourists to hide from the police, but their true purpose was visiting this man to find out who he was. One sister asked him “are you a priest?” His answer was only a very gentle smile on his peaceful face. In that moment both he and the people in the group understood he was truly a priest who had chosen to stay with his flock. However, it was the first time meeting and for his safety and peoples’ safety, no more questions were asked, and they knew, if they did ask, the answer would still be a smile. Later, they found out who he was and which diocese he belonged to.
            His image and picture stayed in my mind as I prayed. His smile and face were gentle as a light and fresh wind on that mountain, which brought a silent blessing and peace for people there. He had chosen to stay with his flock. To choose this, he knew he could not celebrate mass at the altar in the church. He could not have chances to give sacraments for his people. However, his life became a long Eucharist celebration on that mountain. In his Eucharist, there was no wine, no bread, no music, no song, no liturgy to consecrate the gift. However, his field became his altar, the mountain was his sanctuary, and the universe was his church. From that high place, he celebrated the Eucharist every day by his life. His sweat flowed out as drops of wine to be consecrated to be the blood of Christ. His blisters burned on his hand were a gift of bread. The natural wind blowing over that mountain was as music and hymns for his liturgy. The leaves danced in forests around to sing with the universe for his Eucharist, and the sun set light on that side of the mountain to bless and consecrate his gift to become blessing and peace for the world. How beautiful and meaningful his life was!

            How about us? What do we choose in our daily things? Does our choosing express our love, our beauty of our hearts? Does our choosing express God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s care? Do we die to our selfish way so God can grow in and through us? Do we make our faith to be our living way? Are we grateful for God to be with us in the Eucharist? And are we happy because God in this world? Are we happy to welcome God into our house and our life through communion and living peacefully with others? They are invitations of Jesus Christ, dying to ourselves so God can grow in and through us in this world.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My First Souvenir

This past week was our spring break.  We headed to New Orleans where we spent time rehabbing a house with the Saint Bernard Project and getting to know other members of our Dominican family.  Here is just one story from our very full week:

It was our first full day in New Orleans.  Skies were blue, it was warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt, and I'd just discovered there was a big park near the convent: perfect conditions for a run!  I headed out the front door and got one full block before tripping on an uneven slab of pavement and tumbling to the ground (un-gracefully enough that the dog in the yard next to me gave a startled bark.)

Grateful I was close to home, I went back to clean up the knee and hand that took the brunt of the fall.  Rather than wander through the house with my bloody knee looking for a bandage, I went into the kitchen where I knew there were two women cooking.  The older of the two took me into a side office, pulled out a first aid kit, and remarked, "well, you got your first souvenir to take home with you!"  Then, in an expert way that led me to believe she'd done this a time or two before, she began fixing me up.

We introduced ourselves.  I learned that although B was not a New Orleans native, she'd moved to the city in the 1960s and had raised her kids there; it felt like home.  She had been working at the convent for over 20 years.  Soon, the younger woman came in and I learned that she was B's daughter.  Before long, talk inevitably turned to Katrina.  Before the storm (I learned that New Orleans residents now mark the passage of time by Katrina), B and her husband had shared a duplex with their daughter, and they had lost almost everything in the storm.  They told me stories of saving a precious few family photos and of long months of waiting to move back home.  They lovingly described other members of their family who have never moved back.  Over and over, they repeated their gratitude for not having lost what really matters: one another.  Before I knew it, what could have been a five minute fix had turned into a 45-minute conversation.

We novices have arrived safely back in St. Louis, bringing with us plenty of other souvenirs: new skills learned on power tools, stories of Hurricane Katrina survivors, meals and laughter with Dominican family, lots of touristy photos, and of course coffee with chicory.  But so far, my first souvenir has been the most important.  Long after the bandages come off and the scabs heal, I'll remember the blessing of my time with this mother-daughter pair and their gifts of story and self.