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Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

By Sister Mary Grace Leung, SND

The seasons of the Church’s liturgical year have always been special to me because I entered the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. I was baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2006 and every year I look forward to my anniversary!

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When I learned about Advent in my classes, I made sure it was special by lighting up the Advent candles at home before I had supper. I said all the prayers and pondered on my anticipation of Jesus’ birth. Then Lent came, and I was truly touched by the practice of praying, fasting and giving alms. I was eager to fill my rice bowl for Catholic Charities and I bought food for the homeless whom I greeted along my walks on the streets of the city. Lent helped me realize that I needed to be with and for people who are in need – something that was lacking in my past.

My eagerness and excitement in taking the final steps to my baptism was filled with so many graces. The three scrutinies of the catechumens, the three readings from the Gospel of John about the healing of the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus and the Samaritan woman all pointed me toward conversion experiences that enriched my prayer life and openness to what God was calling me to as a new disciple and member of the Church. What moved me was hearing the voice of Jesus telling me “do you know that I love you?” I said, “Yes, I do!” and every Easter I am reminded of God’s love for me, and that he is always with me in times of darkness as well as in times of joy. God’s love endures and strengthens all of us for the journey, and this is the great blessing of each Easter season.

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By Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy, SND

The time of Lent is a concentrated period in which we gaze contemplatively at the face of Jesus. Each of us might search for something different in his eyes – acceptance, understanding, love, forgiveness, or guidance.

We often approach Jesus aware of and burdened down with our failings, our shortcomings, our biases. My wish for all of us at this season, however, is that in our contemplation of the face of Jesus we might see not our faults and foibles reflected in his eyes but that we might see ourselves as only he sees us. In the Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross writes:

When You regarded me
Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,
In this, You loved me again,
And thus my eyes merited
to also love what You see in me…
Let us go forth together to see
ourselves in Your beauty.

These words give me hope. They remind me that God has made me in His Divine Image. The faults and flaws that I see in myself are invisible to his eyes. When I am present to Jesus as my constant companion I am able to see myself reflected in his eyes and to love myself as He loves me. I then can become a true reflection of the Divine Image.

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They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21. Is this not what I ask of God every day? What a grace in my life it would be if, on a daily basis, Jesus and I went forth together, my eyes seeing in myself and in others the goodness He sees and loves. When Jesus looks at me, he does not see a fragmented person. He sees me whole and holy, as he made me, his beauty reflected in me. Gazing on the face of Jesus, loving in myself what he unconditionally loves in me can lead me to also see others as a reflection of his beauty.

And so, during this Lenten season, what will each of us seek? Will I seek my own way? My own preferences? A front-row seat to my own opinions? Or will I seek the face of Jesus, asking Him to hold me as well as every person in His loving gaze, going forth together (Jesus, my family and friends, myself) to see ourselves in His beauty.

 

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Cleansing of the Temple: Jn. 2.13-25

By Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple area is shocking. He is definitely center stage in this scene. We see a side of his character that we were not expecting! Jesus in full stature, with energy and anger, makes a whip and drives people, oxen and sheep out of the area in front of the temple. We can picture the tables upturned and money splatting all over. He tells those who were selling doves “Get them out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” What’s not to run from? This man is in a rage! And along with this gesture Jesus proclaims without compromise, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” So Jesus, what was going on with you that day?

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I get it. Jesus manifests divinity and humanity. However, I find myself thinking: In Rome, Lourdes and Assisi haven’t we seen folks selling souvenirs and bargaining with people? And they do this right in front of the most holy and beautiful basilicas! In fact the economy of cities are enhanced by tourism purchases. So Jesus, what are we supposed to do with this “sign”?

Certainly our first reflection echoes the minds of the disciples describing prophets in the Old Testament: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” Jesus demonstrates a passionate love for his Father and true worship. Jesus knows motivation and sees through what is going on. As the last line in this account reads, “He was well aware of what was in man’s heart.”

And this leads us deeper into a second reflection: Jesus is well aware of what is in my heart. Am I well aware of what is in my heart? As we journey through Lent; as we enter more deeply into the basilica of true Paschal Mystery worship of God through, with and in Jesus, what clutter stands around the entrance? What moneychanger tables block my humble contrition and my sincere desire to know, love and serve God?

Now picture Jesus with that same energy helping you to dash out the junk, sins and the bad habits that the Holy Spirit keeps nudging you to get rid of. Hear Jesus say directly to you: “Get them out of here! Stop turning your beautiful Temple of the Holy Spirit, into a marketplace of detractions.”

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The Apostleship of Prayer ‘receives monthly prayer intentions from the pope and urges Christians throughout the world to unite in prayer for those intentions.’ Check back to our Facebook page each month for a reminder of Pope Francis’ universal prayer intentions. This month’s universal prayer intention is for hope for humanity. Read below for full post from The Apostleship of Prayer. 

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One night a long time ago an angel appeared to some shepherds and told them a savior had been born nearby who would save people from their sins and ultimately from death. Then many angels appeared proclaiming “peace on earth, good will to all.” What an amazing scene in the hills outside Bethlehem!

Jesus was born to reconcile humanity with God and with one another. He came to establish the just order based on loving God above all else and on loving others as children of God. Sharing human life to the point of suffering and dying, Jesus brought hope. He rose from the dead never to die again, and he offers eternal life to all who come to him.

Pope Francis has called Christmas “the feast of trust and of hope which overcomes uncertainty and pessimism.” He said: “And the reason for our hope is this: God is with us… he comes to abide with mankind, he chooses earth as his dwelling place to remain with people…in joy or in sorrow. Therefore, earth is no longer only ‘a valley of tears’; rather, it is the place where God himself has pitched his tent, it is the meeting place of God with humanity, of God’s solidarity with people.”

The Son of God took flesh so he could be with us. He offered his flesh on the cross for the life of the world. He continues to offer his flesh, his Body and Blood, in the Eucharist. As Pope Francis said, “This closeness of God to every man and woman, to each of us, is a gift that never fades.”

May this Christmas bring peace and hope to all!

Reflection

How do I find peace and hope in the celebration of Christmas?

Scripture

Colossians 1: 15-23 Christ is our peace and reconciliation.

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Palm Sunday
 The Beginning of Holy Week
By Sister Marie Paul Grech

The beginning of Holy Week…sometimes called Palm Sunday, sometimes called Passion Sunday….but which is it?

Typical of our day-to-day experiences, life is filled with multiple names for things, and each name has a different story to tell. When we focus on Palm Sunday, for example,  we direct our attention to the glorious reception Jesus receives from a fickle crowd, a crowd composed perhaps of many of the same people who, less than a week later, would call out for his crucifixion.

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When we focus on Passion Sunday, we fix our gaze on that which is yet to come: the humiliating execution of an innocent man. Yet are not both true? Do not both co-exist and call us to a broader understanding of Jesus, the Son of God who deserves the glory and honor, and the Son of Man who gives up everything to be one of us, especially in our suffering? Isn’t this a reality that we deal with all the time? We are called to live in the world, but not be of the world. We are called to work and to pray. We are called to pray in silence and to pray in community. We are called to work for the kingdom and to trust in God’s action in our lives.

There is no either/or in our following of Jesus, only both/and. We are called to follow Jesus on the road to Calvary, while never forgetting the joys of the Transfiguration. We speak the words, “Crucify Him” with dread and guilt, and yet we know that it is our sins that he carries. We are gifted with discipleship, knowing that like Peter there are days we act as though we do not know him. Palms and Passion are two sides of the same coin. One calls to holiness of life, and one calls to celebration and gratitude for all that our good God has given us through his Son, Jesus Christ.

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Sister Mary Grace Leung reflects on a diversity workshop she attended during Province Day on January 25th.

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Last weekend presenters from the Kaleidoscope Institute were invited by the Ad Gentes Committee (Sisters Mary Lisa, Jane Marie, Mary Paulynne, Florette Marie, Mary Bernadette and myself) to conduct a workshop for our Sisters on developing competent skills for nurturing relationships in our lives and ministries within a multicultural context.  Although many Sisters have extensive experience living and working abroad, the purpose of the workshop was to help us grow in communication skills for the continuously changing diversity around us, to be sensitive to people from different cultures, and to understand ourselves better by examining the cultures we grew up in. 

Each of us is a sum of cultures – family, cultural, geographic, educational, ethnic and professional. The workshop used a variety of methods to explore some of our beliefs, values and personal preferences through table discussions, scripture study and spontaneous responses to the facilitators’ questions. We were encouraged to use listening skills in a deeper way that would be mutually inclusive.  For example, the Kaleidoscope Bible Study Process asks that a scripture passage be read three times. After each reading, participants are invited to share their reflections based on a question posed by the facilitator. Mutual invitation is the process where a participant invites another participant in the group to share their reflection. As a result, everyone is given time to respond and no one is left out.

Another method of discovering oneself was the examination of low and high-context communication styles. For example, a low context person is individually oriented, and focuses on action and solutions. A high context person is group-oriented and focuses on relationships first before taking action.  We discover our preferred working styles and learn how to stretch and accommodate others who have different preferences.

As a result of the workshop, I was reaffirmed in who I am and how I use my communication skills for building community. I was also challenged to recognize that there are many ways to work together. I am bi-cultural, born and raised in New York City by Chinese parents. This workshop shed light on what my communication style is based on all my different “cultures.”  I am really looking forward to part two of this workshop which will be held in March. We are Sisters of Notre Dame looking to a future full of hope, one that will see increasing diversity in our members, and that is truly a wonderful thing!

Sister Mary Grace Leung, SND

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SONY DSCI doubt that Pope Francis realized, as he stood on that balcony on March 13, 2013, what an impact he would have on a world so in need of a visionary leader. Pope Francis exemplifies what it means to be Christian, committed to Jesus, in whose name we have been baptized. He tells us that:

We Catholics must pray with each other and other Christians. Pray that the Lord gift us unity! Unity among ourselves! How will we ever have unity among Christians if we are not capable of having it among us Catholics…? …How much damage divisions among Christians, being partisan, narrow interests cause to the Church! Divisions among us, but also divisions among the communities: evangelical Christians, orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, but why divided? We must try to bring about unity.”

The introduction to the prayer service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity calls us to understand that “When Christians worship, they link themselves to this vast global village, so full of beauty, of struggle and of hope.” We are connected in a special way to all those who follow Jesus and who strive to live out his call “to be one, as I and my Father are one.” The prayer service also includes the following prayer which reminds us of the beauty of diversity. We come from all over, responding to the call from God, and we come in order to be one in Christ.

“Loving God, you call all of us: from our homes and from our offices, from our

mines and from our factories, from our fields and from our shops, from our

fishing boats and from our herds, from our schools and from our hospitals, from

our prisons and from our detention centers, to be one in fellowship with our

Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Taken from Week of Prayer for Christian Unity)

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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1512560_673410886036339_1966250748_nSister Mary Karlynn Werth’s job as “house administrator” keeps her busy maintaining the Provincial House in Thousand Oaks, California where she lives. She and her small staff keep the convent clean and in proper working order year-round, doing everything from carpet cleanings to elevator repairs.

Recently she took on a part-time position at the Hilton Fund for Sisters in Agoura, California. She handles mail from Catholic sisters all over the world who are seeking grants from the Fund.

The Fund was established 1986 by Conrad N. Hilton (who founded the Hilton hotel chain) to support the apostolic work of Roman Catholic sisters. Any project supported by the Fund must have a sister involved in it.

Sister Mary Karlynn is moved by the heroic projects that come across her desk.

“I feel honored that I’m able to do this. When you hear about these things, they make an impression on you. You have to stop and think: What do we really need?” she said.

The sisters who request grants from the Fund need help in many forms.

“The things they ask for are very simple,” Sister Mary Karlynn said. Some groups need educational supplies like desks or computer training resources, others want nails or wood for building projects, and still others request pens, pencils, or sewing machines.

One cause that stood out to Sister Mary Karlynn was the mission of the Good Shepherd Sisters in France to help a community in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) negatively affected by the mining industry. The Good Shepherd Sisters run a school for children in Kolwezi (DRC) and offer meals to them so they can escape grueling and dangerous work in the mines, where many begin working when they are just three years old. To learn more about the children of Kolwezi, click here.

Sister Mary Karlynn is pleased that the Hilton Fund for Sisters is able to support the work the Good Shepherd Sisters are doing. She hopes to stay on at the Fund as long as she can. Previously, Sister taught intermediate and junior high school, and served as a principal for many years. She was born and raised in California, and took her final vows as a Sister of Notre Dame in 1967.

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Mpopeany of us have been touched by the joyful simplicity of Pope Francis, and it is telling that so many people refer to his simple lifestyle choices as an example for all of us.  His preferences in living quarters, dress, modes of transportation and so on have been commented on by the media, his fellow priests, and Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  His smile and obvious love for people radiate a God-centeredness that is refreshing and inspiring.  He is truly a man of faith, a man of hope and a man of deep compassion.

In Pope Francis’ first encyclical (letter), he called us as disciples of Jesus to carry the light of faith to all that we meet.  The encyclical was first drafted by Pope Benedict (intended to complete his three-part series on hope, love, and faith) but completed by Francis.

We are called to be people of faith:  “Those who believe are transformed by the love to which they have opened their hearts in faith.”

We are called to be evangelists, sharing our faith:  “Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion, or a personal opinion.”

Pope Francis challenges each of us: “Could it be the case …that we are the ones who are ashamed to call God our God?  That we are the ones who fail to confess him as such in our public life, who fail to propose the grandeur of the life in common which he makes possible?”

We are called to reflect on the gift of our faith and Pope Frances encourages us to ask Mary for help. He concluded the encyclical with a beautiful prayer to her, quoted here only in part.

 “Mary, help our faith!  Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call…Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus that he may be light for our path.  And may this light of faith always increase in us…”

-Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

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