Sunday, November 30, 2008

Self sufficient in Christ

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:9

How 'wicked' sad I am to hear and read of the Wal-mart worker, Jdimytai "Jimmy" Damour, being trampled to death by a mob of folks pushing to get into the store to buy stuff.

In my checkered Catholic sister career as a teacher, parish and youth minister and social worker, etc. I've seen people in great need for food, clothes and shelter and those who have enough but have this great deep want for? What? More of whatever it is that other folks have. They are not content with their life.
I don't call them savages as some have. I don't believe that any of those folks wanted to kill Mr. Damour for a Wal-mart special. In fact they were probably pushed forward by the great crowd behind them. I wonder about the many motives of the individuals in that crowd. Why did they go out at that 'unGodly' hour to stand out in the cold and wait to get in to buy some thing?

I know I want stuff too. I have the use of things. As a Catholic Sister I don't own things, but I have the use of them for my ministry. So the Community buys me a car, clothes, books, a laptop and printer, etc. Guess what? I want the latest, most powerful laptop going, but I don't get it because we tend to go practical, not the best but something good and hopefully durable.
Some of us are using Windows 95 machines.
If someone were to give me the machine of my dreams I'd be thrilled for the moment. It's enjoyable to have the latest thing, the coolest Ipod or smartphone or widescreen TV.

Does it make me or anyone happier, better, more cool? No.
I think the wants people are trying to fill have nothing to do with possessing things, with being able to give cool gifts. I believe we are trying to fill up a hole within us that no material object will fill. For me I know the One who fills my wants and needs is Jesus Christ, the Lord.
How I wish more people could know this. I am praying this Advent be more than just a season of shopping but a season of hope for the coming of Christ within us EVERYDAY.
I pray we can be like St. Paul who said:
Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient.
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.
I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Philippians, 4,11

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church

The Catholic Church just had a synod of Bishops on the topic of Scripture. The Synod sent out a letter on Oct. 24th which can be accessed here:
There will be a letter called an Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Benedict sometime soon.

While I always try to read and pay attention to letters, exhortations, encyclicals and the like from Rome (it's part of what I'm committed to as a vowed religious) I'm especially interested in this topic. Reading the Bible as a young women of 22, rekindled my faith in God and changed me from a "Sunday Mass Catholic" to a practicing Catholic every day.

Four central points concerning the Word of God were highlighted:

1. The divine Voice. in Creation, in history
2. The Face: Jesus Christ
3. The Home of the divine word, that is to say the Church, which, as Saint Luke suggested
(Acts 2:42), is supported by four ideal columns.
the breaking of the bread
brotherly communion
4. The road the Word of God walks upon
The Word of God must run through the world’s streets which today are also those of computer, television and virtual communication.

Here's a piece of what the Synod had to say in their Oct. 24th letter:

Dear brothers and sisters, guard the Bible in your houses, fully read, study and understand its pages, transform them into prayer and witness of life, listen to it with love and faith in the liturgy. Create the silence to effectively hear the Word of the Lord and hold a silence after the listening, because it will continue to dwell, live and speak to you. Make it resound at the beginning of your day so that God will have the first word and let it echo in you in the evenings so that the last word will be God’s.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


September 11th makes me think about peace. It's amazing that some people affected by violence can be "missionaries" for peace like the September 11th families for a peaceful tomorrow,

Why do they hate us Americans so? We're a peaceful people.
Someone said that today and I remember hearing that said so often after September 11, 2001. To the folks that attacked the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and crashed into a field in PA, we Americans are akin to the devil. They hate us because they've been taught to hate us by ingnorant teachers who happen to be Muslims who belive a version of Islam which is as far removed from the real thing as a brand of Christianity that would condone killing another for the sake of Jesus.

Also compared to the majority of the world we're rich. Most of us are not rich but compared to the standards of most folks we have money, homes, healthcare, education and stuff, in abundance.

Our government has power and has used it around the world to protect our economic and military interests. The people affected by our government's use and abuse of power don't feel very happy about being pushed around. We wouldn't like it either.
For a good article on why they hate us see:

Many Americans are ignorant about our government's powerful role in other countries' affairs. Most of us, included many in Congress, swallowed the lies told that led us into attacking Iraq.
We have to pay more attention. For me as a follower of Jesus, I have to do more than be peaceful and be non violent in my daily arena. That's a start but not enough. I have to be responsible for my country as much as I am able. To me it means taking a more active role in contacting legislators and government officials and letting them know my views.

It's troubling that it so difficult to find politicians who values somewhat reflect mine. I might agree with one on my belief opposing abortion, but find that his/her value for human life is only for the unborn. If the rest of his or her values and voting record indicate little value for the lives of the poor, the foriegn, the criminal and the one whose country opposed our government's policy can I support that politician?

This is an ongoing struggle for me and I think needs to be a struggle. It would be easier if it were back and white. Simple. Struggling to do the right thing, the peaceful action isn't easy.

So I pray for peace and to be able to act in ways that lead to a more peace filled world.

World Peace Prayer

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe. world.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Following Jesus: Fr. Damien

Today I've read that one of my childhood heroes Fr. Damien De Veuster has been approved for the final step of sainthood by the Church. I had the habit as a girl of reading biographies of historical characters, saints and the like and Fr. Damien was one whose story left a deep impression. A missionary to a leper colony on the island of Molaki, he did all the works you might expect a missionary priest to do, but more than that he treated the people, despised by the rest of the world as lepers,with respect and love. He and others who followed to work there helped to give the people hope and got them involved in improving their lives. Fr. Damien's life can be read at

I know realize that his life like each person's involved struggle, temptations and times of great sorrow, pain and discouragement, involved the cross. Love always comes to the cross the points where it's necessary to know we can't do it without the help of God and that the great plans we made for our life and the lives of others in our lives may likely be changed in ways never anticipated.

This past month I had great plans for a month of retreat, attending a great workshop, visiting some sisters at some of our missions and visiting family. Instead, I spent it having a serious infection from a failed root canal that put me in the hospital and necessitating two oral surgeries . Not my plan.

Who knows why? Only God. For me it taught me some little measure of what its like to be so weak, you can barely get out of bed. So I let go and know what really matters is the relationships with Jesus, with the people in my daily path and those He puts in my life. Doesn't matter what gifts of health, wealth and fortune I've got, but that I use whatever I have to love. Like Fr. Damien, he served God and his people in good health and sickness, dying a leper at age 49.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to forgive

Over my 25+ years of ministry I've had the great privilege of accompanying many people who have suffered great hurt at the hands of others. Forgiveness is so difficult. I believe for some it takes lots of God's grace and lots of time.
Below is a link to a great article on how to forgive.

Forgive - wikiHow

Friday, April 25, 2008


Jesus said to his disciples:“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” John 15: 9-11

In reflecting on this Gospel, it seems to me that Jesus lays out our path in so clear and simple a fashion, it's a wonder to me that I or anyone else have trouble following that path.
All we have to do is follow the commandments and for us that means the Ten Commandments and the great Commandment (Matthew 22: 39 -42). Then are joy will be complete.

No problem! Well of course it's a daily struggle and requires daily choices.
I read the other day that Blessed Frederic Ozanam at age 20 was quite a defender of the faith in law school when someone challenged him by asking,

"What do you do besides talk to prove the faith that is in you?"

Frederic went on to establish the St. Vincent de Paul society which has been and is ample evidence of Frederic's faith as well as many others.
So if I want the joy of Jesus to be complete in me I've got to do something besides talk to prove my faith. In my experience I'm presented every day with opportunities to do just that. The Holy Spirit is like that. Here are a few words on joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit from
Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSO.

The second Fruit of the Spirit is Joy. Joy is an abiding sense of well-being based on the experience of a conscious relationship with God. It is the sign of liberation from the false self and the growing awareness of the true self. Flowing from joy comes the freedom to accept the present moment and its content without trying to change it. Bliss might be described as the fullness of joy. It is the abiding sense of being loved by God and of being permanently established in his presence. It is the experience of the living water that flows from the divine Source in our inmost being, which Jesus spoke about in John's Gospel: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Out of that person's inmost being: will flow rivers of living water." John the Evangelist adds: "This he spoke of the Spirit who would be given to those who believe in him" (John 7:37-39).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Paschal Mystery

One of the practices of the MSBTs is to receive a mystery when you enter the Novitiate.
Back in the day, the sisters were given their mystery by Fr. Judge. Then there was a time when they would suggest a couple of mysteries that meant something to you and the folks in charge would pick one for you. Your mystery went with your religious name. So You might be Sr. Mary Christine of the Sacred Heart or John Marie of the Good Shepherd or Margaret Mary of the Sorrowful Mother.
Anyhow I entered at a time when we got to pick ours. So when I wrote my letter requesting to be accepted as a novice, I also asked for my name Barbara ( we were encouraged to go with our baptismal names) and I asked for the Paschal Mystery. One of the Sisters said to me after the ceremony accepting us as novices, "Hey, the Paschal Mystery, that means death!" I think I replied "yeah well it means resurrection to new life too!"

This is what the catechism says about the paschal mystery:

571 The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all"313 by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.

I asked for the Paschal Mystery because I was an alumnae of a retreat program known as TEC Teens Encounter Christ. It was heavy on the Sacraments and God's saving love for us as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Today's scripture from Matthew 26:14 really shows what the Paschal Mystery involves. There we have Judas and Jesus. One makes a choice for others and the other makes a choice for himself.
I find it's a constant struggle to live this mystery. That;'s what we're supposed to do with our mysteries; somehow live them our in our daily life. Sometimes we joke about what would be a better mystery to pick so as to make life easy, something like the "Peace, Love and Joy of God" or the "Happy and Easy face of the Trinity" No such mysteries exist for there is no life without sacrifice and sorrow. That's just the way it is.

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven St. Rose of Lima

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sr. Anna Charles

Today one of our oldest sisters was buried. Sr. Anna Charles was 99. At her wake last night, like all our wakes we told stories about her life. She entered the Missionary Servants of the most Blessed Trinity in the 1930's because she felt the community was about service. Service to God and to his people. So she served. She taught kids about God, she assisted poor families to get help, she visited homes, helped people get married and just about anything you could do to connect people to the love of God and the Church.
Then she started falling asleep suddenly.

She had narcolepsy. She couldn't stay awake to teach, to visit, to help or to listen. And she could not drive.
She came to our Motherhouse in 1959 and she worked in the kitchen peeling vegatables all day. The sister telling this story said Sr. Anna Charles was always smiling as she worked. She also made rosaries. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of rosaries over her lifetime. We figured her rosaries have gone at least to Europe, the Middle East, South America and of course the U.S. They've been in homes, cars, jails, nursing homes,barracks, garages and churches.

Another gift she gave freely was music. She could play the piano. She needed no sheet music, she just played song after song. She loved hearing and making music.

Sisters talked of Sr. Anna Charles life with God. During her many years at the Motherhouse she spent a great deal of time in the Chapel praying for all the people who sent in prayer requests.
In her last few years of life she was mostly bedridden , dependent on others for everything.
She always was always thrilled when it was time to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Day after day when the Sister bringing the Eucharist to the sick came to her room to ask if she was ready to receive, she would answer oh yes oh my Jesus and try to sit up straight in her bed as she received the Sacrament.

I'm sure she never expected her life as a missionary to be what it turned out to be. But with all she had I think she lived out our call.
By our lives as Missionary Servants we seek first to glorify the Triune God. We
follow in the footsteps of the apostles who, filled with the Holy Spirit, went forth from
the Cenacle to spread everywhere the knowledge and love of Jesus. We live and work
that God's name may be hallowed, that his kingdom come, that his holy will be done
(Mt 6:9-10). Rule of Life #3.
I hope you pray for me Sr. Anna Charles.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Christmas Season

It's still the Christmas season! Everybody in our neighborhood here in Northeast Philadelphia has taken their lights down and thrown out their tree, but not us. We're keeping our lights, tree and nativity sets up till Sunday, the official end of the Christmas season for Catholics. Most folks go along with the stores, and more on towards Valentine's day, but why rush? It's such a wonderful time of year and such a wonderful theme to dwell upon. Emmanuel: God is with us. God loves us so much he sent his only son. Now God can be so subtle. We don't get hit over the head with the all powerful magnificence of God in all his splendor and glory, no, God decides to slip in as one of us, as one of the most vulnerable and unthreatening forms one could assume, a baby.

Actually in our Missionary Cenacle spirituality, we have the tradition of beginning to prepare for the next Christmas the 26th of December. Our founder Fr. Thomas Judge said,
"The Cenacle has been preparing for this holy festival since last Christmas, for this is our custom, that we begin on Christmas day to prepare for the next Christmas.
The whole year, indeed, should be a preparation."

So we need to continue to get ready not only to celebrate Christmas but to continually welcome Jesus into our heart and into our life, everyday of the year. Merry Christmas!