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Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

A Christmas Reflection by Jane Leung, SND Postulant

This past Tuesday I joined Sisters Valerie Marie and Shawn Marie at South Central LAMP (Los Angeles Area Ministry Project), to volunteer for the Christmas party event for the children who are enrolled in the school’s enrichment programs. I had never volunteered there before, but the Sisters have a longstanding relationship with LAMP and currently Sister Cristina Marie sits on their board. It was raining while driving to Los Angeles but we were all in good spirits, looking forward to helping out and meeting the children and their parents. We also met up with our friends Ruby and her children Corina and Jacob. Ruby and Corina had volunteered for the Stretch Your Heart program this past July with Sister Val. We also brought along with us Monika, a young woman who was staying with us at Villa Regina for a Come and See experience.

Sister Cristina Marie organized the activity rooms so well. We set up various games for the children as well as the craft tables. Sister Shawn showed some of the volunteers how to make snowflakes and we hung them up before the children arrived. Sister Val and I helped to set up the game room. We weren’t sure how the heavy rains would affect the turnout for the party but we need not have feared. The rooms were soon filled with children and their parents who came to wait their turn to see Santa. We had so much fun playing games, and I must say that it’s been a long time since I played with children! One little girl took to me right away. Her name is Ruby, and she wore a pink bow in her hair. After she saw Santa, she came and showed me the brightly-wrapped package that she held in her hands, her eyes sparkling with joy and her smile so wide. I cannot tell you how much my heart felt for these children and their parents. It reminded me that Christmas is for children and for those who are children at heart.

The spirit of giving and of love was felt by all, from the Los Angeles SWAT team members who helped to collect the donated gifts for the children, to the generosity of the volunteers and staff. Wonder is something that we adults sometimes forget to have during the Christmas season when we are distracted by too much to do. The wonder that the little girl Ruby had that day will stay with me forever. I can imagine how Mary must have felt holding baby Jesus on the night he was born. I wish everyone a glorious and wonder-filled Christmas!

 

 

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“Seek Him in all souls, good or bad, wise and foolish, attractive and unattractive; in the depths of each there is God”

Hazrat Inayat Khan


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“But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what movements of fire!
Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one that I am,
coming from You and Your glory!
The glory I know it and I say it is your Holy Spirit,
who has the same nature with You, and the same honor, O word;
He is of the same race, the same glory,
of the same essence, He alone with your Father,
and with you, O Christ, O God of the universe!
I fall down in adoration before You.
I thank You that You have made me worthy to know, however little it may be,
the power of Your divinity
“.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

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“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about—quite apart from what I would like it to be about—or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions…. Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear”.

Herbert Alphonso, SJ

Listening for God’s call to holiness; which is a personal and unique invitation to live our deepest purpose in life; is a lifelong clarion call to a conversion of heart. In the silence of a contemplative, listening heart, we can respond to His gratuitous gift of our life in deepest gratitude. A gratitude that is in actuality a faithful, trusting response to His will. Think Mary’s “Yes!”. Our personal vocations, each lived distinctively, contribute to the prism of Christ’s light shining in our world. A vocation which God has created specifically for you, at this time, now, in history. It is a dance of Creative Love that the Trinity wishes to engage you in, and for a certain part of this dance, only you alone know the steps. As we discern God’s will for us in the quiet of prayer, you realize your questions were always being answered. You only needed to listen for the music.

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"A Surrendered Heart" by Chip Coates

Last year I spent two happy months at Providence House, our place for formation for new Sisters. Not having cooked in about 30 years, I observed my co-Sisters preparing delicious meals. Part of their culinary secrets seemed to be the marinade. Somehow the marinade and the barbeque would transform the menu into something really delectable.

After watching this for a week or two, I volunteered to make the evening supper. The menu: hot dogs! These were not ordinary hot dogs, mind you; I had marinated them in Greek seasoning and anything else that looked interesting in the spice cupboard. Of course, when this was discovered the “real chefs” really got a good laugh, although personally I thought the hot dogs were acceptable!

This week I am reading Tatoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J., the priest who works with thousands of gang members in East L.A. This anecdote about letting things marinate in your heart really touched me.

“Rascal is not one to take advice. He can be recalcitrant, defensive, and primed for the fight. Well into his thirties, he’s a survivor. His truck gets filled with scrap metal and with this, somehow, he feeds his kids and manages to stay on this side of eviction. To his credit, he bid prison time and gang-banging good-bye a long time ago. Rascal sometimes hits me up for funds, and I oblige if I have it AND if his attitude doesn’t foul my mood too much. But you can’t tell him anything—except this one day he actually listens. I am going on about something-can’t remember what but I can see he’s listening. When I’m done he simply says, “You know, I’m gonna take that advice, and I’m going to let it marinate,'”pointing at his heart, “right here”.

Perhaps we should all marinate in the intimacy of God. Genesis, I suppose, got it right–“In the beginning, God.” Ignatius of Loyola spoke about the task if marinating in “the God who is always greater.”

Ignatius writes, “Take care always to keep before your eyes, first, God.” The secret of course, of the ministry of Jesus was that God was at the center of it. Jesus chose to marinate in the God who is always greater than our tiny conception, the God who “loves without measure and without regret.” To anchor yourself in this, to keep before your eyes this God is to choose to be intoxicated, marinated in the fullness of God. An Algerian Trappist, before his martyrdom, spoke to this fullness: “When you fill my heart, my eyes overflow.”

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The last week here in Southern California we have been able to see the Perseid meteor shower in all its glory. However, my sense is that most folks were content to read about it in the newspaper or see it on the Internet, foregoing the 2:00 a.m. opportunity for the best show. It reminded me how much of life is spent reading, observing, studying; one could easily move into a “spectator mode” of life…physical life and spiritual life. Like a sports fan in the stands, one is always watching, sometimes cheering and sometimes booing, but never playing the game.

Author Caryll Houselander reminds us that EXPERIENCING God through love is the core of our genuine reality, the core of a living faith. She reminds us:

“The being of God, then presses upon man. It is his (her) environment. It sings to him in the winds. When he touches grass or water, he touches it with his fingers; he smells the hay or clover and in newly cut wood; he listens to it in the falling of the rain or the murmur of the sea. He tastes it in the food that he eats; he sees it in the flowers beneath his feet; he is clothed in it in silk and wool. Its measured beat in his own blood rocks him to sleep with the coming darkness and wakens him with the light. He receives it in the sunlight like a sacrament that gives life”.

From “The Reed of God” Sheed & Ward, publishers, New York 1944

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to make sure we have not become “once-removed” from God, absorbed by reading about him, reflecting, talking, etc. The small child who sits in the dock while others swim will never drown, but will not have genuine happiness of joy in the experience, either. Experiencing God is sometimes risky, but I think we will be pleasantly surprised by the joy that it brings.

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Deep within us all there is an inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center a speaking Voice to which we may continually return.
Thomas Kelly

Last evening 29 of my Sisters here in Thousand Oaks began a retreat which will last for eight days. Quiet pervades the house as they devote themselves to prayer and reflection, even taking their meals in silence. It is a time when we religious women remember the old saying, “Why hast thou come hither?” In the business of life we, too, can forget the “one thing necessary.” This graced period is a wonderful time for us to wake up and focus on what has been blurred by the pace of life.

Having made my retreat earlier in the year, I am observer, sensing the presence of God overflowing in our convent as I wait for my broken limbs to heal. The divine presence is alway samong us, in us, around us. Unfortunately, most of us walk around with “spiritual amnesia.” The great work of the sabbath, of a retreat, is to REMEMBER.

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. He walks everywhere incognito. Ane the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.
C.S. Lewis

Can you find time for a “mini retreat” today? If possible, try to schedule even fifteen minutes is your bust schedule for a pause that remembers.

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I often notice when I am out in public how little silence there is around me.  We talk about various forms of pollution that are destroying our earth, but what about noise pollution!  Why are we so afraid of silence?  It used to be that you could stand in line in the bank in silence, but now there is a TV blaring at you as you wait.  Now gas pumps talk to you while you are putting gas in your car and it is very hard to find a quiet place to read in an airport because the TV’s are everywhere.  Then there is the piped I music when you go to the stores and restaurants.  Why do we need to have this?  Most of the time I find it distracting and I can’t wait to get out the store because I don’t like the music.  In religious life we value silence, because it is in the silence of our hearts that we can listen to God.  Do you incorporate silence into your daily life?

Silence

Silence vibrating is Creation

Silence flowing is Love

Silence shared is Friendship

Silence seen is Infinity

Silence heard is Adoration

Silence expressed is Beauty

Silence maintained is Strength

Silence omitted is Suffering

Silence allowed is Rest

Silence re-circled is Scripture

Silence preserved is Our Tradition

Silence given is Initiating

Silence received is Joy

Silence perceived is Knowledge

Silence stabilized is Fulfillment

Silence alone is.

Anonymous

Blessings,

Sister Valerie Marie

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I read this weekend a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver about the gift of listening. It is something we almost never think about, for we usually equate hearing with listening, something altogether different. For to truly listen to something is to lay aside your own thoughts for a time and become open to whatever it is you’re focusing on. In a sense, you open your heart to accept without judgement, or the need to categorize and label, that which is asking to be heard. Two examples from my own life bring this concept into clarity for me, and I’d like to share them and see if it helps with seeing the difference between the attitude or stance of truly listening and that of hearing.

Once as I was listening to the birds singing during my morning meditation, I began to focus more intently on the singing. To my astonishment I realized they were not just singing in my own little backyard, but throughout the entire neighborhood! I could clearly hear flocks of all types of birds singing in joyous concert welcoming the morning from all the corners of my little patch of the city. It’s as if I had never heard them sing like that before, the vast area they sang from, and the multitude of voices. I heard God that day, reveling in His Creation. My heart was open to receive this blessing because I was listening, putting my own ruminations aside, being present and in the moment.

Another example of the difference of a listening stance or attitude is the way it is noticed by the one in need of hearing. There have been times I’ve been quietly listening to a friend or co-worker sharing some particular trouble they were experiencing in their lives; when they would stop and look at me and say “what is it?” . I would respond “nothing, I’m just listening to you”. So unfamiliar were they with someone actually allowing them to speak while remaining focused on what they were saying, that they just assumed something must be wrong! It seems that for many people, the experience of actually being listened to is something that never happens, and that is a tragedy.

So, we need to ask ourselves, am I listening right now or am I only hearing, filling my mind instead with to-do lists, labeling, and stereotyping? Am I only waiting for the pause so as to jump in and state my important assessment of the situation, or am I allowing my friend’s story to touch my heart, sharing with her the burden of her sadness? Finally, do I only hear the noise of the birds who cut into my sleep on a Sunday morning, or the Divine Chorus of God, bursting with joy in praise of the glory of His Creation?

To find Mary Oliver’s poem “Mockingbirds” follow this link.

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The Sisters of Notre Dame invite single women ages 18-40 to their summer volunteer program July 12-16. Stretch Your Heart volunteers will serve the homeless at the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Bakersfield and share in the community life of the sisters at their lodge near Frazier Park. For details, call 805-452-9699, connect by e-mail Sr. Val at sistervalsnd@gmail.com or visit http://www. sndca.org by June 30, 2010.


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