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Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

 

 

 

 

Today is the Feast of All Souls and we remember our loved ones who have passed away; while we sometimes fear death and don’t want to think about it, there are many who can feel better about it when we consider it from different perspectives.  Two such perspectives given here might give us reason to pause:

“A woman requested that she be buried with a fork in her hand because she wanted to remind others of her favorite part of a meal.  She loved it when someone said, ‘Keep your fork for dessert.’  She knew that the best part of the meal was coming!  So the next time you reach for your fork, let it remind you, oh so gently, that at the end of a meal or at the end of a life…the best is yet to come.”

This also reminds me of something the Victorian poet Robert Browning once wrote in Rabbi Ben Ezra:“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!’

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

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In the Gospel of Matthew 19:26 we read that “with God all things are possible”.  This reminder is especially meaningful this month as we celebrate the feast of Apostles Simon and Jude (October 28).  Many Catholics have a strong devotion to St. Jude, often called the saint of the impossible.  St. Jude intercedes for us to God in our many needs…because his faith, like ours, trusts that God can do what we cannot do!  Scripture reminds us also that if our faith is the size of a mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds!) we can move mountains….I like to think of the “we” as God and I, working together in a “faith-filled” relationship. Having faith in one another is also important.  We need to believe in the people we meet each day, the people with whom we share our lives. A story is told of a ten-year-old boy who was working in a factory in Naples before present laws on child labor were put in place.  His mother was convinced he had a good singing voice, and by working in the factory he could earn enough to pay for music lessons.  His first music teacher, however, told him he did not have what it takes and that it would be a waste of money to pursue the idea.  His mother, a peasant woman, was not so easily discouraged. She encouraged her son, told him she believed in him and sacrificed to save money for his music lessons.  Her efforts bore fruit, and her son, Enrico Caruso, became one of the world’s greatest tenors.  Miracles happen for those who show God that they are serious about what they seek.  This week, believe in a miracle, trust in our good God, pray seriously for what some might think is so impossible…and then keep trusting!

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paull Grech SND

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There is a story of a young woman who believes that God lives on top of a mountain at the ends of the earth.  She journeys to the mountain and begins the long climb to the top.  At the time she is beginning, God thinks “What can I do to show people on earth that I love them?”  God says, “I know, I will journey down the mountain and go to live among them.” Thus, when the young woman reaches the top of the mountain, God is not there.  She thinks, “God doesn’t live here!  Maybe God doesn’t even exist.”

Sometimes, we look for God in the wrong places.  We forget that God came down to live among us.  Jesus, God-made-man, shows us how to live in relationship with his Father.  An ancient Jewish saying tells us, “God dwells wherever we let him in.”  Where do I let God in?  Where do I look for God?  Where do I find God?

All of us have so much to be thankful for each day.  When we awake to a new day, when a friend is in touch with us, for the food we eat, for the water that flows into our homes,

for flowers, birds, trees, our health, for doctors close by who care for us: the list can go on and on.  Thanking God should be part of our daily lives.  It is also good to tell God about worries and concerns: about jobs, relationships, family, health, whatever comes to mind.  Sharing those thoughts with God will often help to lessen the burdens we carry.

Take time — lots of it — each day to talk to God in prayer. If you spend time with family members or friends, engage them in prayer with you, and listen to how they share their joys/concerns/thanks with God.

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

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We know that we face many uncertainties in our world, but our faith assures us of a certainty from which we cannot hide.  God has called us into life, has breathed his Spirit within us, gifts us with individual talents, with family and friends…and promises us eternal life.  We celebrate all the ways in which God calls us and blesses us, and know that in recognizing his presence in all the events of our life we are being true to our baptismal consecration.

“May you be wise in choices and decisions!  May you be caring in all relationships and compassionate to those in need.  May you meet life’s adventures with a clear mind and a bold heart.  May your integrity be a gift to the world, and may the Spirit of God be with you always” (blessing by Pat Bergen, CSJ)

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October is a month filled with Church celebrations—and this week is especially meaningful:

On Monday, October 1, we celebrated the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower and on Tuesday, we remembered our Guardian Angels.  So this week, we ask St. Therese to teach us her “little way”—a way of doing everything with love for Jesus.  We ask our Guardian Angels to protect us and to guard our children in all that they do. On Wednesday, we called to mind the great St. Francis of Assisi, whose love for God’s creation and his prayer for peace have impacted us in so many ways. We pray with St. Francis, asking God to make us instruments of His peace and to guide us in taking care of his creation. On Sunday, October 7, we celebrate the feast of Mary as Queen of the Rosary and ask Mary especially to intercede for all those in the military. With Mary, our Mother, we walk with Jesus through the mysteries of His life, death, and resurrection whenever we pray the rosary.  These prayerful reminders of each of these holy people support us in our daily lives as we ask their intercession for all of our needs and the needs of our world.

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The word retreat actually refers to “pulling back or away.” When used in a religious context it refers to a time set aside for an individual or group to pray, to listen to God and spend quality time with God.

In the Catholic tradition this time can be just a few moments, a few hours, a few days or even longer.  St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises (30 Day Retreat) or the 19th Annotations are highly regarded longer options.

As Sisters of Notre Dame we make an eight-day retreat every year.  The sisters always look forward to this time of retreat. After a year of ministry, there is an urgency to reconnect with the God who has called us to himself. Our primary call is to be women of prayer and retreat time allows us the time to be immersed in prayer.

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I like to think of my retreat time as a second honeymoon. It is time for me to renew my personal relationship with my God; the God who created, chose, called and sustains me in my religious vocation. In silence I am refreshed. I spend peaceful time with my Beloved and I am guided by the words of the old song  “I only have eyes for you!”  My Jesus IS the center of my life. I am free from most of the big distractions in my life. As sisters living in community, we still have some small obligations. We still help with dishes! But the demands on us are minimal. We are given time, that most precious of commodities.  And this time is marked by an overall quiet in the house, the freedom to pray as much as we want and the certitude that our sisters are praying with and for us.  It is a time when I as an individual, called by God, can discern in a special way where I am in my life, what challenges might be weighing me down and how God fits into it all. It is the time that prepares me spiritually for the unknown, the inevitable steps that I will be taking in the days and weeks until my next annual retreat.

Retreats that are private, directed, guided or preached; alone, in small or large groups, home or away; led by one of our own sisters, by a good set of CDs, by books, or by a priest or a sister from another community are all enriching experiences.

We can even do retreats for a minute, five minutes, an afternoon, a day or two, or longer. Take time for awareness and communion and loving relationship with our good God who is always waiting!

 – Sister Marie Paul Grech

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In the month of May, our thoughts turn to Mary for many reasons: May processions and crownings, Mother’s Day, feasts of Our Lady of Fatima and the Queenship of Mary. In fact, there is a feast day of Mary celebrated somewhere in the world on every single day of the month of May according to the Roman Calendar of Marian feasts.

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Michelangelo’s “Pieta”

 

What can we learn from Mary?  Just think about her words:  “I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Annunciation), “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Visitation), “Do whatever he tells you”; (wedding at Cana); and what she doesn’t say because she “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:20).  At the Cross, Jesus gave us the precious gift of his mother, and we know that she continues to embrace us lovingly as she points the way to her Son.  She has special “bragging rights” and we can imagine that if she walked with us today, she would be tweeting and texting in praise of her Son.  She wants us to love him as she does.  She wants us to follow him and listen to his words (in a way, if we read the Gospels regularly, isn’t this similar to reading a personal blog from Jesus?)

What might Jesus be saying to us today?  Do we hear his voice assuring us, “Do not be afraid”?  Can we hear the gentleness in his voice as he reminds us, “Love one another as I have loved you!”  And as the early Church gathered in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles recount that “All joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus.”  Mary teaches us to be PRESENT in the community!  Perhaps during this month of May, we can try to be more present, more attentive to the words of Jesus, more loving , more faithful and more faith-filled as we strive to follow Mary’s example in embracing her Son and her Son’s beloved people.

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In today’s Gospel, we hear the apostles voice a sentiment that should be our daily prayer:  “Increase our faith!”  They recognized, as we often do, that our faith is not always what it should be.  Even though we have hopefully tried to deepen our faith, especially in this Year of Faith, we may find ourselves overcome by the inevitable challenges of life—the illness of a loved one, the headlines in the newspaper, the constant barrage of “bad news” on the radio, TV and computer…our personal sense of loss, fear or doubt.  Our faith is tested! No doubt about it!

Jesus doesn’t ask us to have boundless faith, but “just a little,” that of the size of a mustard seed—which in Jesus’ time and in his locale, was the smallest seed.  As with so many of Jesus’ parables, he focuses our attention on the ordinary things around him…our faith, even though small, has great potential.  God delights in using what many might deem insignificant to prove a point. We hear Jesus talk about the child, the widow’s mite, the single lost coin and single sheep.  We know Jesus used only five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 people (not counting women and children).  And in this parable, we hear of the tiny seed which grows into a very large bush and is expansive enough to “house” innumerable birds of the air of various kinds.

We see the movement from a tiny faith to an abundant evangelization!  Our tiny seed of faith can draw others to Jesus if only we hold out our arms and embrace all those who come into our lives.  As faith-filled people, we can be the means by which others come to know and love and serve our God who loves all of us so much.  Like Pope Francis, with his gentle smile and welcoming touch, we can be instruments of God’s peace in our words and actions.  With arms outstretched, we welcome all people—not just those we know, but ALL people.  We aim to BE Jesus to them, caring for their needs, and not limiting ourselves in generosity.  So many of us are impressed by the simplicity, the life choices, the kindness and compassion of Pope Francis. What are we doing to challenge ourselves to follow his example, his spirit of discipleship?  We can all do our part!  We have many opportunities to do this…calling a lonely person, visiting the sick, showing patience toward a restless child, praying for the troubled parts of our world, contributing to Together in Mission, supporting a homeless shelter…and on and on. In the words of the foundress of my community, Sister Maria Aloysia, “You are not asked to do all the good in the world, but just the bit that lies within your power!”

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Half empty? Half full? What do you see when you look at the sky…? At a stranger on the street?  At your children? At your elderly parent? At your backyard? What do you see?  Do you see what is wrong or what is right? Do you see what needs “fixin’”? or what has potential…?

A friend of mine shared a picture taken by her granddaughter….a picture of wispy clouds…where some of us may see only clouds….she saw angels…and so did I!  Did her vision plant the idea in my head?  I really don’t know, and it doesn’t matter because I did see the angels! It is much like other things in life.  If we have the Spirit’s guidance planting ideas in our heads, we do see things differently. Are we able somehow to look at a friend and not be conscious of his/her faults but to see through them to the innermost heart? Will we be able to look at our child (even if he/she is in a naughty mood) and see the beautiful gift from God who lightens our life? Will we look at a weed-laden yard and see the possibilities? Can we walk with an elderly friend and experience the wisdom — and forget the slow steps?

So many things make a lasting impression on us….what we see, what we hear, what we hear about…opinions shape our thinking, our prejudices (yes, we all have them!), our ways of responding to people, situations, uncertainties. We are bombarded from all sides….and we seem to never be able to “get away.” We get emails, phone calls, text messages, snail mail. To whom are we most open? Who influences us most? Are we guided by the bold headlines in the newspaper, the news flashes we receive as text messages, the consumerism of advertising? Sometimes we are just not sure where we are going, in which direction we find our real peace. What role does our God play in our personal and family decision-making? Do I pray in a spirit of openness to whatever God’s answer may be? Do I believe that God always answers prayer…even when the answer is NO or NOT YET? Who is my compass….?  Where is my true north?

During these “lazy,  hazy days” of summer, may I be open to the Spirit so that I may be open to the good things God has in store for me!

– Sr. Marie Paul Grech

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Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.06.09 AMAs we welcome the month of May we look to Mary–we recognize that she gives us the example of how to put our gifts at the service of others:

First we see her as a young woman, using her gift of a listening heart as she hears the call of God to give of herself so that God’s love for humankind could be expressed in a remarkable way.  We then see her as a mother-to-be who could rightly have been focused on herself and her unborn child, sharing instead her gift of helpfulness as she hurries to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

We see her later, giving her gift of compassion as she notices the potential embarrassment at the wedding feast; and we see her gift of motherly insight as she tells the waiters to do whatever her son would tell them.  Throughout her son’s public life, we see her quietly living her gift of self-sacrifice, willingly letting go of her son, empowering him to go about his father’s business.

At the cross, she again shares one of her gifts–the gift of quiet suffering but she doesn’t stop there– from the foot of the cross she makes yet another commitment to give of herself–as our mother.  Mary wasn’t given every gift possible–we don’t hear that she was a good artist, or math scholar, or even a good housekeeper.  What we hear about are the gifts of the heart–one or more of her gifts may be ours as well–or we may have different ones–it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that the gifts we have, we share.  Whatever light God has put into our hearts, we let shine.  Whatever it is that makes us “tick”, we know who our creator is–and we thank him for the gifts he has given us.

– Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

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