Friday, February 24, 2017

February Highlights

February is officially coming to its end! This year it started with the threat from Punxsutawney Phil of six more weeks of cold weather.  In the lovely city of St. Louis, the month of February concludes with the initial sights of spring, the blooming of beautiful flowers like jonquils and crocuses and the last day of month ends with the festive Mardi Gras.

During the shortest month of the year, we experienced amazing insight regarding our vows of celibacy, poverty and psychosexual development. It has been an intense month with various invitations to go within and continue our spiritual and personal growth.

Following are some of the highlights of the month! 

We had the great opportunity to enjoy a delightful meal and intimate conversation with members of our Dominican family! We are very grateful to Br. Charlie Bouchard and Br. Carl Joseph Paustian along with the dynamic insight of Dominican Sisters of Sparkill Sr. Paulette Patritti and Sr. Mary Jane Bookstaver. 

February provided some very intense ICN speakers and insights! While the majority of our time was focused on our internal work, we did have a few moments to celebrate our comradery and friendship. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Invitation for Lent

Blog by Margaret Uche
As Lent approaches I have been reflecting on what is God inviting me to change that can help me into the season with a sense of purpose and opportunity to grow in my relationship with God. I know Lent is a time of prayer, penances, and sacrifices.
How do I open my mind and heart to carry my cross and follow Jesus this Lent?

I was reminded of Pope John Paul 11 words in his book Agenda for the Third Millennium where he said Christ suffering and cross is a message of salvation and light to all. I learned that suffering is Good News because I can be transformed by it. It is through Christ suffering that I can obtain hope and it gives meaning to all human suffering because if I share in Christ suffering I can also look forward to sharing in his resurrection. “If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Roman 6:8).

This semester at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate, we are discussing the book written by Fr. Paul Murray called The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality.
I learned that Father Dominic and his early Friars preached the truth and preached it by Joy. His face was always radiant with Joy except when he was moved by compassion for his neighbor in trouble. I learned that their life was far from being easy or full of good times. They faced all kinds of suffering in their work of preaching the Good News, sacrifices, and following in Jesus footsteps. They believed and trusted in Divine Providence and were able to persevere through these things and bore it with patience.

In the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12), Jesus reminds us of the blessings and reward for those who persevered through difficult times. I am called to bear all suffering with Joy and rejoicing because Jesus alone can deliver me from my difficulties and can give internal life if I remain faithful and persevere to the end.

What is Jesus inviting you to change this Lent that will help deepen your relationship with him? How might it shine the glory of God for others?

Monday, February 13, 2017

All You Need is Love

One of my favorite songs is All You Need is Love by the Beetles and it seems proper as we approach Valentine’s Day.  We are officially in the season of “love” where pink hearts are in stores, schools and pretty much everywhere.  During this time we are invited to acknowledge our appreciation for those that we care the most through valentine cards and a personal highlight, chocolates and flower exchange!  On Tuesday many will take time to share love, gratitude in different forms of affection to friends, family members, etc. I am reminded that not too long ago we were participating similar actions as part of the Christmas Celebration. 

Both Valentine’s Day and the Christmas Celebration are enfolded with the embodiment of love.  During Christmas we are reminded of the AGAPE love of God to us. Through the incarnation of The Word, God not only gives a liberating testimony to the eternal love, but also provides with THE role model to follow.  It is in the example of Jesus that we are called be the love to all.  

As part of the Valentine’s Day celebration we are encouraged to let those that hold an important place in our lives know that they are appreciated and loved.  I am very grateful and truly blessed for the mentors, guides, wisdom figures, family and friends that I love.  During my prayer I say their names, see their face and realize that all of them have played an important role in my understanding of God’s love.  I also acknowledge that the sentiment of love and gratitude is not restricted to a day, but is a grace given to me every day.  

The bottom line is that the people in our lives all contribute to our relationship with God allowing us to be in communion! Through our participation in communion we are to be in relationship with diverse individuals, united in the wholeness that only God can provide. It is here that we can actually touch, embrace and give love to the God that resides in the individuals in our communities, but in turn we can have tangible experience Gods love for us.  A friend recently explained to be that common union or communion in community takes place through common unity. 

In looking back at my relationships, there are a few that did not start like the ideal friendships, others that have been very bumpy and others that have taken hard work to maintain. My personal network of loved ones involves relationships that have experience conflict.  While conflict was not pleasant, I realize that it came out of love and it provided me many insightful lessons.  I am reminded that Jesus is inviting me to love even when I and others are not very lovable.   I am invited to take a risk, be intimate in time of conflict and put into practice the skills that we are learning in the ICN; to be respectful of the differences and have the ability to negotiate and compromise.

So as we celebrate Valentine’s Day and every day, let us not forget that God loves us immensely; beyond all imagination.  Jesus is encouraging us to be in relationship with each other and embrace our need to be intimate with others and the God in them.

I conclude my post by sharing a rendition of “All You Need is Love” which was recorded at the same time in over 150 countries to share some love and create awareness. 

As a final note, I will gladly accept hugs and chocolates on Valentine's and always!

Some Fun Facts:

  • Everyday: We are invited to embrace God’s infinite love for us and are to share this love with each other every day!   

Saturday, February 4, 2017

We Are the Light of the World!

This week at our Inter Community Novitiate, we spent some time reflecting on the nature of religious life. Our liturgical celebrations mirrored our discussion as we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life on February 2nd. During our celebration of the Eucharist, I truly felt a spirit of thanksgiving to be gathered with others who had also discerned to walk on this pathway of discipleship.

ICN participants listening to a question from the group.
I am still pondering many of the strands that came up for me during our two days together, but I think much of what we talked about can be summed up in a parable our presenter shared with us, called the Gift of the Rabbi. In the story, an abbot of a monastery that has gone down to only five members goes out to meet with a rabbi in a nearby cabin to ask for advice. While the rabbi didn’t have the answer the abbot was looking for, his words as the abbot was leaving was, “the Messiah is among you.” The abbot took this back to the monastery and the monks tried to make out what this message could possibly mean. They kept asking, which one of us could be the Messiah that will save this monastery? In their questioning, they found a newborn respect and reverence for one another that ultimately was attractive, and people spent time among them in their prayer, and some even asked to join.
This parable illustrates for me how religious life is, above all else, about witnessing a life of discipleship. I can see this at work in my ministry this year, where my greatest gift is my presence to the women I serve, rather than any activity I might do with them. What matters most in my ministry is the act of showing up week after week and, through that action, giving the message to the women I serve that I value and reverence them.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world” (5:14). Jesus is not telling his disciples that they can be light of the world on some unforeseen and distant day, but today! Right this very moment! Likewise, all of us who follow the path of discipleship are light for the world, right this very moment.

The stage set for our morning prayer with the bags with our names
 written on them and a candle before each bag.
As we discussed during our time together, religious life, by following the example of Jesus Christ, who is our Light, we give light to those around us. We celebrated this among ourselves when we prayed on Thursday morning. We had been encouraged to write messages of encouragement for everyone there, and to put those messages in bags with our names written on them. At the end of prayer, we were invited to pick up our bag so that we could bring it home with us and read our messages there. Through our messages to one another, we were able to be light for one another on our journey and, hopefully, by showing each other honor and respect, give light to the world.