Posts Tagged ‘God’s servants’

What image comes to mind when you hear the words GOOD FRIDAY?

  • Jesus Christ crowned with thorns
  • Jesus Christ scourged, cruelly whipped
  • Jesus Christ carrying a heavy cross and falling
  • a blood covered, bruised body,
  • nails being pounded into flesh
  • arms outstretched
  • a look of love

Today, Good Friday, 2010,  put yourself at the foot of the cross and see the arms of Jesus outstretched for love of you.  When Jesus looks down from the cross and sees you standing there as a faithful disciple, what will he say to you?  What will you say to Jesus?

Each year we get a new chance to celebrate Lent and Good Friday — a chance to renew our Christian commitment to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.  Maybe in other years we were filled with fear or other emotions and ran away like the other apostles, but today we stand with John, the beloved disciple and with Mary the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross.  Listen in silence.  Open your heart and receive a message of love and hope that Jesus has for you.

The way of a Christian is death followed by resurrection.  After darkness, comes the light.  Reflect on the crosses of life that you have endured.  Recall “new life” experiences you have had, seeing spiritual growth after perseverance when facing suffering or hardships, trials, difficulties, challenges.

Now think of the words of the well known hymn Were You There?

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Ask yourself what causes you to tremble?

Is it shame when considering that at times you acted cruelly  like the soldiers who crucified Jesus, or were fearful like the apostles who denied Jesus or abandoned him in his time of greatest need.

One can also tremble when contemplating with great awe the love of Jesus who suffered and died to redeem us and give us the promise of new life.

Approach the cross now with a contrite heart and feel the graces and blessings of Jesus streaming from his wounded heart and flowing to fill each of us with hope.

Let this Good Friday not be a day of reflecting upon pain, darkness, sadness, death, but rather a day of faith and hope knowing of the unconditional love Jesus has for each of us.

In a quiet moment today, gazing upon a cross or holding a cross in your hand, thank Jesus for his outpouring of love and renew your commitment to live as a faithful disciples.

In Christ,

Sr. Judeen Julier

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The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

“In her total dedication to God in faith and love, Mary is the model for our daily surrender to the ever-new call of the Lord.”                        Constitutions #12

In the above passage from the Constitutions of the Sisters of Notre Dame, the surrender of Mary to the call of the Lord is paramount.  Surrender is “to give up possession or power over, to yield.” Mary’s surrender was not the weakness of someone who feels overpowered by another, who feels compelled to give up or give in.  Mary’s surrender, her fiat at the Annunciation, was a wholehearted “yes.”

The entire event is a miracle.  Mary takes the word of an angel – what an astounding visit that must have been – whom she credits with telling her of God’s will for her – to bear the Christ.  Not so surprising, is it, that Mary, an unmarried teenager, asks the angel, “How can this be?”  Imagine the struggle within as Mary absorbs the angel’s words and gives them divine credibility, but in the human scheme of things, cannot understand how it could come about.

Here’s where the surrendering of power, letting go of defenses, enters in.  The angel tells her that the Spirit is involved in this request.  Another moment of pondering for Mary, but then she surrenders the power that she has over her own life, of making her own choices – and she becomes the mother of Jesus Christ.  On the subject of letting go of our defenses, Macrina Wiederkehr, in Seasons of Your Heart, writes

when I let

my defenses go

blessings came running

and there appeared stars

i had never seen before


to me

for me

and then suddenly

in me

and through me

i ran forward

carrying the torch

bearing the prize


a star shining

when I let my defenses go

Scripturally, we only have snippets of Mary, her life and her words.  What little we know of Mary can perhaps only be spoken of in words of praise, of poetry and song.  As Thomas Merton wrote of her in Ascent to Truth :

And far beneath the movement of this silent cataclysm Mary slept in the infinite tranquility of God, and God was a child curled up who slept in her and her veins were flooded with His wisdom which is night, which is starlight, which is silence.  And her whole being was embraced in Him whom she embraced and they became tremendous silence.

Because of Mary’s fiat in the Annunciation, we are a people embraced and redeemed.

In Christ,

Sr. Mary Carlann Paganelli

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All people long to give their lives and hearts to something that really matters. For each Sister of Notre Dame, at some moment, that something became a Someone. The core of who we are as Sisters of Notre Dame lies in our deep relationship with God, who is both compassionate love and mystery. Our spiritual journey draws us into the unfolding and unfathomable mystery of God’s love. Our need to keep spiraling into God’s love is one with our desire for the transformation of the world. Called to participate in Jesus’ mission, we want to share with others what is deepest within our being: our experience of God’s goodness and provident care—the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame. We strive to be a healing presence in the world: women of God who have come to know Jesus and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

One of the great joys of belonging to an international congregation is that our world is broken open as we learn the customs, ways of praying, insights and needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. One of the greatest joys and privileges I have had as a Superior was to visit our Sisters on many continents! Aside from many adventures and making lots of new friends, I learned that our ministries may differ and we may not all look alike, but the spirit of joyful simplicity and deep belief in the goodness and providence of God is the same in Africa, Brazil, Europe, the United States and everywhere in the Notre Dame world! As the mission of Jesus continues to give us new energy for the 21st century, we strive to be a healing presence in the world: women of God who have come to know God and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Take a virtual tour of Notre Dame international at www.snd1.org. Enjoy!

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According to Scripture, Jesus went off into the desert for 40 days to be tempted.  These temptations challenged Jesus on the deepest level of his being and self-understanding.  Satan did not stand out on the periphery, but sought to enter into Jesus’ most vulnerable space–his desires. Satan cleverly devised temptations that were by no means trivial or haphazard; they were calculated to attack Jesus where his passions burned most intensely in pure white heat. Jesus’ unique and intimate relationship with his Abba and the mission entrusted to him were challenged at their roots. In the process of this purification, Jesus would come to understand more deeply who he was and out of that understanding, he would be empowered to move confidently on the path of his mission.

The First Temptation:  Conquer Your Hunger by Turning Stones into Bread.

The basic question for Jesus here was, “Is this about me or about others?”  Satan would like Jesus to focus on his own needs and desires. Jesus had to choose. He had to discern not just once, but over and over again when his powers would be used. The most paradoxical scene from the Gospels occurs when Jesus, who is all powerful, is hanging helplessly from the cross only to hear onlookers sneer, “He saved others, but he cannot save himself.” (Mt. 27:42)

Jesus had set his course here in the desert: his miraculous powers would be used not for himself, but for others. The Jesus who would multiply loaves and fishes for the starving crowd would himself become food for the hungry in Eucharist. Jesus’ identity as the Bread of Life is already prefigured here, along with the necessity of his being broken in order to be shared. Jesus’ fundamental standpoint, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), finds its roots here in the desert.

The Second Temptation:  Defy death by throwing yourself off the parapet so that the Angels will rescue you.

This temptation attacked Jesus’  identity as the Life of the World who cannot die.  Jesus was tempted to prove this identity through a spectacular show of power, a death-defying feat.  Satan offered him a painless way to prove his divinity based on trust in himself, not in his Father. This temptation was real for Jesus because it struck at the very heart of his mission–to lay down his life and take it up again.  Jesus refused, recognizing it for what it was–a self-serving trap.

Jesus did not come to prove his own immortality, but to die and rise so that we might share in his life. He chose to suffer rather than avoid pain, not because suffering is a good in itself, but because the cross would be the consequence of remaining faithful to his mission.  As his ministry developed, the reality of his rejection became at times overwhelming and the prospect of a horrific death caused Jesus great distress. This offer by the devil had to have affected Jesus very deeply. His mission to give his life in ransom for the many would in reality be death defying. He would die and rise. Satan offered Jesus a painless way of doing it and one can only imagine that Jesus had to be thinking about this offer again as he sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane over the thought of his impending death.

The Third Temptation:  Worship the Devil and Inherit the Kingdom

Jesus came to establish a Kingdom. It was his greatest desire–the fulfillment of his Father’s will–the ultimate purpose of his mission. Satan tested this desire with a quick fix. He offered Jesus a kingdom based on a lie, hearkening back to that ancient lie in Genesis, “You will not die …. listen to me and you will be as gods.” In the process, Jesus would have to deny his identity as the Beloved, the Son, the Incarnate Word of the Father.  Satan sought to seduce Jesus into discarding his intimate relationship with the Father in exchange for a kingdom.  But he was not willing to deny his Father in order to receive the kingdom. Outside his Father’s love, the kingdom made no sense.

Jesus realized that he would establish the kingdom by conquering sin and death, not by escaping it. He knew there was no easy way.  The kingdom would have to be established over time, through suffering, much misunderstanding and ultimately through his own death. In Jesus’ response to Satan, he already sets his course for Calvary.

The Church suggests that we use Lent and periods of extended retreat as times to go out to the desert to reflect on who we are, who our God is and to confront our demons.  God always calls us to the more–not necessarily to do more, but to be more.  The desert challenges us to go deeper, to enter into solitude that we might listen.  At times we may be afraid to go into the desert for fear of what we might hear–temptations, self-doubt, confusion, past sins, regrets, God’s gentle urgings–and so we avoid the desert.  But for those who are serious about the spiritual life, the desert cannot be avoided.  Even should we try to evade it, sometimes the Spirit will drive us there anyway, very often through life experiences.  A death of a loved one, loneliness, a life-transition, illness, all these can literally drive us involuntarily into the desert.

Once there, each of us will encounter God, the devil and ourselves with our inner demons and our deepest desires. We are challenged to look deeply at who we are and on what foundation we have built the house of our life. Jesus lived out of the conviction that he was the Beloved of the Father. Nothing could sway him from that truth. All testing plunges us to our foundations where we can say again, “In Jesus I am the beloved in whom my Father is well pleased.” This is the gift of baptism, what it means to be saved. This is the very truth that set Jesus free on his mission and it is the very same truth that will free us to move forward in response to God’s call.  Can we accept it?

In Christ,

Sr. Kathleen Burns

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Honestly, who wouldn’t want to see some Pope Benedict live tweets from the Vatican? That dream might not be that far off, after all. In a message sent to his followers, the Pope sung the praises of modern technology as a method for spreading the gospel.

“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled,” wrote the head of the Catholic Church. “Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, Websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”

That said, he reminded his priests that, while an important method of disseminating information, the medium itself is not the message. “[P]riests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ,” wrote the Pope. “This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a ‘soul’ to the fabric of communications that makes up the ‘Web’.”

*Note: There was recently launched the Twitter account @vatican_va which seemed like it was emanating from the Vatican, but attempts to confirm this have so far failed. The account tweets Vatican radio updates in several languages.

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Our pastor recently said in a homily, “In order to get to Heaven, you need a letter of reference from the poor.” This message resounded in my heart and I prayed for guidance pondering, “Will I get in?”

A few weeks later I was in downtown L.A. on business.  Astounded by the number of homeless and realizing how they had become “invisible” to most commuters, I asked a few people that were attending our meeting, “What can we do?”  Providentially, a few folks had the answer!  We are hoping to form a consortium of six or seven churches to collaborate in a “van project” that will serve meals to the homeless on a daily basis, concentrating on those parts of L.A. that are now underserved.  We are still very much in the research and planning stages. but the goal is to have our wheels moving by next autumn.  We know we won’t solve the entire problem, but, in the words of St. Julie, “You are not asked to do all the good in the world, but only the good that is within your power.” Please join us in prayer for this new venture!

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Celebrate Hope in Jesus

Advent is about hope, not fantasy. For centuries, people hoped for a Messiah and he came at last because of God’s goodness and because of their faith, perseverance and prayer. Now that hope has continued through the centuries after Jesus. People hoped that his message would last. They still hope that the world will follow his example. They hope that the earth will become a better place, and they pray, sacrifice and work to make it so.

The scripture readings for all of Advent tell us the great story of hope from the Hebrew Scriptures into the Christian Scriptures. During this last week of Advent we are called to journey to Bethlehem to prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus in our time. We also hear the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s greeting stirs the heart of Elizabeth to greet Mary as “mother of my Lord.” The greeting also stirs the unborn John to leap for joy in the hope that is to be fulfilled. What is my personal journey this week? Whom will I meet? How will the meeting change our lives? What is the hope I carry into and out of this week?

Jesus is our hope. He lives in us, comforts us and gives us vitality; he moves us to reach out to others with the touch of love. We celebrate Jesus this week by calling to mind his coming among us as a child, his life, death and rising from the dead. We celebrate by recalling Jesus’ presence in our midst through the power of his Holy Spirit. We celebrate by reminding ourselves that he will come again to gather all to himself in one final act of love.

We celebrate too, by remembering past Christmas-times, a sort of summary – family, light, warmth, the opportunity to give love to others, especially the beloved poor and marginalized, the great Christmas scriptures, stories and the keeping of colorful customs with family and friends.

Each year these blessed closing days of Advent hold out to us rich memories and true peace. Advent invites us beyond gift-giving to a deep compassion for those who suffer and are in need. Let us reach out and embrace these last Advent days; otherwise we will miss the blessing the season contains.

–Sr. Antoinette Marie Moon

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Ever attend one of those masses where something strikes you; touches your heart deep down? This past Thanksgiving Day mass at our local parish was a standout for me. When the time for the homily arrived, the celebrant invited parishioners to share reasons that they are giving thanks this year. Although all were very touching, one woman’s sharing really inspired the congregation. Her story was one of deep gratefulness for the blessing of life. After surviving two bouts of cancer she now sees each moment of life as the gift from God that it is. Her faith has been tested, and she has found it to be a source of great consolation. Even in the face of unbelievable trials she has nothing but gratitude to God for His abundant love and providential care. Her challenge to us, the parishioners, was “Can you live simply, grateful for the blessings God gives, so that others can simply live?”

So, dear readers, I would like up take up her challenge during Advent and beyond.
On each of the following days of Advent I would like to post one thing that I am grateful for, and I invite you to do the same. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this Christmas we brought to the celebration a truly thankful heart? As Maricela states, sometimes gratitude can be contagious!

December 3, 2009
Today is the feast of St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary who preached the Gospel in India and Japan. Today I am grateful for the missionary work of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Uganda. California and Kentucky were pretty brave to begin this endeavor, and God has blessed the work. I also pray today for Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire who invited us to his country and has been a friend and guide to us. Bishop Deogratias is dying. May God take good, gentle care of him.

Administrator’s note: Sorry for the tardy posting. Scheduling conflicts.

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rt_nuns1_070510_msAlthough many women are attracted to a common life with other Sisters who share their vision and commitment, it does not take long before they realize the truth of the old saying, “It’s grand to live with the saints in glory, but here on earth it’s another story.” We know full well that the community gathered in Christ is a fragile and cracked vessel. I have never been a perfect Sister, or superior, or community member. Then again, nobody else has been either!

Yet, community is the place that the Spirit of God forms us over time. It is the place where we are made whole and we are made holy. It calls us to a deeper wisdom and a deeper sense of why we are together.

“Our living of community in this spirit witnesses to the love of the Father for all people, revealed in Jesus, his Son. It is a sign of the goal toward which we are all moving, the new Jerusalem, where all will be one in the love of the Triune God.” (SND Constitutions, art. 62)

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images“There is a need for heralds of the gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of present-day humanity, participating in humanity’s joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with God.”  by Pope John Paul II.

This is a great description of who we are as Sisters of Notre Dame and gets at the heart of what it means to be contemplatives in action!

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