Sunday, December 16, 2007


Advent is a busy time of year. Stressful for many because of the many expectations around Christmas and other holidays celebrated around this time of year, it is still for me a time of peace. Well at least interiorly. I hear from many of our sisters of their activities. Those in ministry with Latinos have just finished the celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12th ) and are now engaged in the Posadas. See:
Others are involved in the many, many activities of this time of year no matter if they minister in parishes, agencies or retreat houses. Life is full.

Traditionally Advent has been a time of preparation to welcome Jesus into the world, your life, your heart. One of the sisters told me that Pope Benedict said Jesus isn't coming he's already here. That's 3rd hand info what I know he said is this, "We could say that Advent is the time when Christians should awaken in their hearts the hope that they can change the world, with the help of God,"

It is a time of waking up to the fact that God is with us. Here among all the messes we have made are making and will make, God is present. We just need to be aware of that presence.

This Advent was so very different for me because I went on my yearly retreat and had lots of time for prayer, silence, reading scripture and reflection. So very different from most of my past Advents when I was involved in counseling and direct service at Catholic Charities.

Besides using scripture I had the daily podcast from the English Jesuits,
For Advent they are using quotes and scripture from Pope B16,s 2005 Encyclical on love, Deus Caritas Est. Wow, are they beautiful! Anyhow all this has helped a lot with my awareness of the presence of Jesus. I know of Jesus' bringing to us, to me, the great compassionate and merciful love of the Trinity.

I do pray that the awareness of God's love would spread all over the world and impact the way we live. Not just at this time of year, but throughout the year. I know my responsibility is to make that awareness present in my actions and in my treatment of others, to the folks in my daily providence. I am impatient though, I wonder why the fulfillment of God's plan can't be NOW! Why aren't we all living together in peace, harmony, justice and love. Why are so many people suffering violence , hatred, hunger? Why don't we all get off our butt stop focusing on the trivial, the greedy and the me, me, me attitude towards life. Well too bad I have to be patient and let life unfold as God would have it. It is after all God's world, God's plan, God's mission and I am a just a little spec in the great overall workings of God's effective love in life.

Which reminds me of another thing, letting go. That was another theme of my retreat; that letting go of the illusion of control. It's a great secure illusion for sure. We all like to think we're in control of ourselves, other and events. The reality is the only control possible is over myself and even that is at times tenuous. Anyhow let me pay attention to you Lord in the ways you give me in my daily life and let me respond to other with your love and compassion. Amen.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving to God

In 1621 the Pilgrims decided to celebrate a day of gratitude to God. Why? Because they believed that they had survived their first hard winter and reaped their first harvest in their new home thanks to the grace of God. The 56 survivors gave God the glory for their surviving the dangerous journey, the rough winter, the goodness of the indigenous people and the food they had been able to grow and harvest for the winter ahead. They considered themselves blessed by their creator God.
Today most of us in the U.S. don't have to worry about survival the way the Pilgrims did. I for one take for granted the food, shelter, clothing and good health I have. Perhaps my blessings are not so concrete as the Pilgrims were, but they are there just the same. My list of blessings looks like this: faith in the Triune God, people; the ones I live with now, my family living and dead, my friends, my community, the capacity to enjoy other people, nature, colors, music, books, computers, etc. sleep!, energy, health, humor and laughter and I could go on.
One more big gift is a good attitude, maybe I'm an optimist but from what I see of pessimists being an optimist is more fun.
A good sight for focus on blessings:
Thanks be to our good and loving God!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Franz Jaegerstaetter

"I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian; it is more like vegetating than living." Franz Jaegerstaetter

Almost 100 years ago a humble and just man was born.
He is on the road to being declared a saint because he resisted being a Nazi soldier because of his faith.
A devout and defiant Austrian farmer he was beheaded by the Nazis in 1943 for his resistance.

He was charged with treason after his request to be excused from regular army service for religious reasons was denied. The married father of four was posthumously exonerated in 1997 by a Berlin court.

"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Matthew 5: 8 -12

Monday, October 22, 2007


There's 9 Million children is the U.S.A. without health insurance and I will bet that not one of them is a child of a senator or congress person. It seems that the reasons legislators voted against it had to do with it being an imperfect bill. They quibble over a 35 million dollar bill for health care for children cause it's not perfect but vote billions for a war based on lies which we're now stuck in due to the incompetent management of the the same folks who oppose increased health care for kids. I am angry about this. Some times its embarrassing to be an American!
Catholic Charities has a good page on the policies to reduce poverty. Their take on S-Chip is at

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Humility and Charity

"It is not enough to give soup and bread; this the rich can do. It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread that you give them."
—St. Vincent De Paul

I have too much. Too much access to info, too much to do, too much choice about the course of my days and too much stuff.
I have to wonder why I have so much while so many people lack what they need to survive?

Vincent De Paul was big on charity and humility, which makes sense because without humility, without really accepting oneself as a creation of God, dependent on God for all, its just too easy to get caught in the trap of thinking I am the center of the universe and I am responsible for all the good things I have and all the good gifts with which I've been blessed.
It's too easy to have an attitude of - I am better than the next one because I have ... fill in the blank ______ health, friends, brains, virtue, energy, education, money, good looks, access to power and choice and so on... With such an attitude it's impossible to act with charity.

Of course all these things could be taken away in an instant! When that happens and I believe it does happen in some way to each person, I hope to have the grace of forgiveness for those who will give to me.

In thinking about Vincent De Paul and these two favorite virtues of his. Three people in my life came to mind, Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick, Dona Juana Rivera and Sr. Cass Kohler. These three people are, I'm sure, in heaven. They vary greatly in their talents, backgrounds and gifts but are alike in possessing great charity and humility.
Dona (the n ought to have a squiggling line above it) had little education, was very poor and had nine children and many grandchildren. She gave away freely what she had, shared her project apartment with strangers in need and was friends with an amazing variety of people.
Sr. Cass Kohler was a down to earth person. She admitted she wasn't the brightest person as she struggled to get through nursing school, but her sense of humor and her awareness of others needs should have been noted summa cum laude. It was a joy to live with her. Her death at 41 due to breast cancer was a great loss to many.

Fr. Vincent was 90 when he died in 2006. Revered by many, well educated in the classics, he taught Greek and Latin to seminarians, was Novice Director for many years and held high positions in his community, yet he seemed equally at doing home repair projects at our camp like retreat center in CT. Fr. Vincent had many gifts but he had a special gift for relationships. He was warm and accepting of people, yet you always wanted to be and do your best around Fr. Vincent.
Three people of humility and charity! May their example and their prayers help us to be like them in the practice of these virtues.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Pool

It's been a while since I wrote anything between a week with my family in MA. and a week at our Family Life Program. It was not on my agenda to go online very much. Now I'm back and I'm reflecting on my recent experiences.

I have spent from a week to seven weeks each summer at the Trinita Family Life Program for the past 18 years. The Trinita Retreat Center is in New Hartford, CT. (45 minutes NW of Hartford) in the summer the Trinita Family Life Development Program, which is primarily for families from inner-city neighborhoods happens. The summer program is a combination of camp fun, communication-building activities and a chance to deepen spiritually. "Blanket time" is a daily hour of family sharing, and in peer group discussions mothers & fathers are able to support one another in their struggles to raise a family in the inner city. There's lots of opportunities for fun, for doing silly things you wouldn't do at home in the neighborhood and for enjoying the open space of gentle green hills. Plus there's a pool!

The pool is open two hours a day and everyone seems to enjoy it.
A fond memory I have is of one day at the pool when it started to lightly rain. The parents and kids asked me in my capacity as MSBT at the pool (there's always one of us present) if the pool was to be close. It was quite warm and this rain was the kind of light shower not accompanied by thunder and lightning. I said no, the pool's not closing, no lightning no closing. Everyone cheered and jumped in the pool. Spontaneously every child adult and volunteer present starting bobbing up and down in the pool, shouting Trinita rules, Trinita rules! It was pure joy!
City pools tend to be crowded and at times dangerous. At Trinita it's clean, roomy enough and safe, so everyone can enjoy. Thanks be to God for the pool!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Be good do good be a power for good!

The Design Team

Today one of the Sisters came up to me and thanked me for the mural that we did during the Summer Mission Institute. She really liked the idea of illustrating a favorite motto, a quote from our founder Fr. Thomas Judge, CM,
Be good, do good, be a power for good!
I've been involved in more mundane matters this past week, mainly paperwork, so that doing the banner with the young adults of the Summer Mission Institute seems more than a week ago. I think it turned out well. The best part was the doing; everyone, no matter their talent or perceived lack of talent, felt able to pitch in and paint. It's amazing how enjoyable it is to work in an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement.
Not to be corny but the atmosphere was an illustration of the motto as much as the mural. The group of people were from different places and backgrounds yet worked together like they'd done it for years.
I've been blessed in the people with whom I've worked. Sometimes you hear horror tales of bosses and coworkers who are complainers, critics, screamers or just plain mean.
The other day our Sisters were describing some of the experiences they've had with Pastors some excellent, some awful. I guess it seems so much worse when a person is supposedly a man (or woman) of Good, yet their behavior is far from what you would expect.

Thanks be to God for the folks who are good, who do good and are a power for good. The sister who thanked me for the mural is a perfect example of that kind of person. Sr. Paul Miriam tries in everyday ways to be that good person who does good and is a power for good. She would be amazed and perhaps embarrassed that I was testifying to her goodness in a blog, but there is good reason to brag about her. I think people who are good and kind ought to get more recognition. So here's to the folks who are good may they multiply!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Never boring!

I can't ever remember being bored. I've always had the ability to find life in all its variety interesting if not always pleasant. I can enjoy being alone doing nothing or being alone with God or with my own thoughts. In my years as a sister, there seems to have been no lack of something to do, something to pray about , some one to attend to, something, somebody to think about or be present to. I of ten find myself surprised when I hear a person say "I'm bored" or "that's boring." It like they're speaking a language with concepts beyond my comprehension.

This week too is full of variety and interesting people and events.
My Community is part of a Religious Family. We grew out of a Lay Group called the Missionary Cenacle Apostolate. A group of brothers and priests called the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity or Trinity Missions also came out of that group as did a small group of women in private vows, the Blessed Trinity Missionary Institute.

Anyhow, the four groups sponsor a program for Young Adults called the Trinity Mission Center. They do education and and discernemnt programs. This week is the annual Summer Mission Institute. The theme is Baptism and we are doing a mural using a saying from our founder Thomas Judge, " Be good, Do good, Be a power for good." There's about 15 young adults participating plus five more on the Team. There's lots of paint, brushes and wall space so we'll see where we go with our mural. Another opportunity for not being bored!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Way of Being

My current ministry is serving on the General Council or Leadership Team of my Religious Congregation, the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, aka Trinitarians. I get to do a lot of different things,; travel a lot and visit our sisters in various places including Mexico, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and many other places. I get to go to lots of meetings, do lots of listening to people and do lots of paperwork. Once in a while I have an opportunity for something different.

Last week I was at a workshop on Law and Religious Life. We 100 or so sisters from different congregations and one priest, have three lawyers, Canon, Civil and Civil/Canon talking to us on various issues. All the issues are focused on Living the Evangelical Councils or Vows; Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.

Some of my Sisters made faces when I told them where I was going, as if I was going to something distasteful. It's not distasteful, it's like a retreat, very centered on Jesus and on Religious Life as a way of following Jesus through the way we live our lives. Quite beautiful, moving and challenging! It's not some much about what we all do, although we do a lot of good things, but more about a way of being.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Come Holy Spirit!

One of the Sisters told me she heard there was a web site sponsored by a group of atheists where you could click a link to deny the Holy Spirit. Right off I said, "why would atheists bother to deny the Holy Spirit?" If you don't believe, I would think indifference would be evident. It takes some energy and caring to actively go to a website and so on. My secondary reaction was something akin to horror. I just don't know why you would mess with the Holy Spirit. Of course I realize people do things to shock and in my years of ministry I've seen and heard a lot of sad and shocking things. But, fooling with The Holy Spirit seems like biting the hand that feeds you.

Of course I'm coming from a very Catholic background and perspective. I believe in God, I believe the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of God, God active in the world today, God active in my life today . In my experience the Holy Spirit has been a constant presence always there to lead and guide me. When things we're tough I've found myself praying to the Holy Spirit.

How does this work in actual practice?
First of all I pray everyday that the Holy Spirit guide me and that I pay attention to that guidance. Then whatever the situation, event or interaction, I try to respond from that part of myself most in touch with God. This can mean anything from a simple smile or a listening ear to engaging in serious dialogue with others. There are some days, for sure when I do a poor job of being in tune with God the Holy Spirit! Some days I very consciously ask the Holy Spirit to be with me especially when I need to meet with someone and discuss something important to them or us. In the various ministries in which I've been involved, teacher, youth minister, social worker, formation director and now General Councilor for my community, while I depend on my background, education and training I trust that what I say and do is shaped and refined by the Holy Spirit.

I haven't done any empirical testing of the efficacy of the Holy Spirit's acting in my life. For one thing I'm not willing to try life without the Holy Spirit in order to do a comparison study!

This is St. Paul's take on measuring the effectiveness of the Spirit's presence.

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22,23

Here's what the founder of my community, Fr. Thomas A. Judge, CM
had to say about the Holy Spirit,

Whatever we see of calm, of loveliness,
whatever beauty there is,
it is all of the Holy Spirit.
O, we want beauty of soul,
we want harmony of mind, we want peace of spirit;
that must come from the Holy Spirit.

Actually he said a lot more about the Holy Spirit but that's one of my favorites. Another favorite is this prayer of Augustine

Breath into me Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

Happy Pentecost!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Being a witness!

Today is the feast if the Ascension of the Lord. In today's Gospel we hear the incredible trust Jesus placed upon his disciples and upon us too!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things. Lk 24:46-53

Being a witness of these things in my daily life may be some what different than the first disciples at first glance. They went joyfully into Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising God. When the Holy Spirit came they really let loose.

Some one did tell me I was a joyful sister today and I do spend quite a bit of time praising God in Church and out. Coming from my part of the world, a rather Catholic ghetto in Boston, MA, we're not too comfortable with going around preaching and praising God. Exposure to other cultures has opened me up some to be more outward in expression. But I can talk all I want, yell in the streets that Jesus is Lord (unlikely) write in a blog of my belief in Jesus and in His teachings, it means nothing if I treat the four sisters I live with poorly. It's an every day commitment to be that witness of the things of the Lord Jesus in all the small ways and in the big ways.
In the face of all the violence and sorrow in our world, the deceit in high places and the disappointments in our lives it's tempting at times to think why bother? Well certainly because God bothered and the disciples and saints of the past bothered. And the disciples and the saints of today still bother. I came across a quote of Dorothy Day,
"people say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes."
So I hope to take my steps, do my actions trusting in God's taking them and doing with them what He will.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Be Fire!

Be Fire! was the theme of a general asssembly of our community. The theme speaks to me of the Love of God. Love of God as in Jesus giving his life on the Cross for us, the love of God found in the gifts of the Holy Spirit that push you to be more and to do more than you would ever do of your own power. I set up this blog as a way of sharing follow up from our assembly. But -- Getting into it was a bit of a challenge for some of our sisters so now it's mine all mine!
Barbara Mc