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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

An ambassador is an honorary position, but also a very responsible one. An ambassador stands in place of another of greater distinction and purpose. Saint Paul liked to think of himself as representative of Christ and His message, and so do I! What a Christian challenge! To be a stand-in for Christ!

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We carry in our hearts and minds the indwelling of our Savior, with all the outpouring of God’s love. The call this Lent may be precisely to let Christ truly live out His love in and through us. We might spend some time reflecting on Paul’s words to the Corinthians (2Cor. 5.20-6.2).

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain!”

So we resolve not to receive the grace of God in vain. This Lent the church is even more than ever aware of the great message of God’s love and forgiveness, as Pope Francis has announced a Holy Year of Mercy. To reflect on God’s great love, acceptance and forgiveness, encourages us to be merciful to ourselves but also challenges us to treat others with this same mercy. We recognize and even celebrate that while made to the image and likeness of God, we are all very human and human beings are “in the making” and not brought to perfection yet. Because we are in the making we depend on and want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, to have mercy when we fail or make mistakes. We too need not to judge others or expect perfection from them. Let us use the entrance antiphon for Ash Wednesday as our own mantra this week: “You are merciful to all, O Lord. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.” But instead of the “Lord” say: “I am merciful to all.” And then see what happens.

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This post was written by our provincial superior, Sister Mary Anncarla Costello, in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

The California province of the Sisters of Notre Dame has a corporate stance against human trafficking. We share a very special association and long-time partnership with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and it is a privilege for me to serve as president of CAST’s board. I wanted to share an idea with you that I am extending to other groups as well.

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Are you looking for a way to make an impact on our society—or at least the part of it in which we live? Why not get involved with a very worthy cause close to our hearts? I would like to invite you to consider holding a short gathering of your friends/coworkers/parishioners and acquaint them not only with CAST but with some education about human trafficking. CAST has a wonderful PowerPoint which you could present at your gathering. Here’s how the gathering might go:

  • Simple refreshments
  • Welcome
  • Opening prayer
  • Why you are doing this (to give feet to our “corporate stance” and do something concrete to raise awareness)
  • Show the PowerPoint
  • Allow for reactions and conversation
  • Invite participants to pray for victims of trafficking and those committed to assist them
  • Invite those who wish to leave a donation payable to CAST
  • Thanks and departure

This could easily be done in about 75-90 minutes and what a difference it could make in terms of raising awareness and support for CAST!

If you are interested, please contact me during January (Trafficking Awareness Month) and I can provide you with the PowerPoint, materials, and maybe even a speaker if you would rather have someone else present the PowerPoint. Email me at acostello@sndca.org and use the link below to learn more about the excellent work that CAST does to combat slavery and trafficking.

VISIT THE CAST WEBSITE

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series – a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

It seems hard to believe that we have already reached the second week of the Advent season, when we revisit the story of John the Baptist calling out to us in the words of Isaiah: “Make ready the way of the Lord! Clear him a straight path!”

We might choose to lament that “making ready” has come to mean decorating and shopping, planning, scheduling and traveling; but how sad it is if we don’t move beyond those thoughts to make our own preparation for the coming of the Lord. Imagine how Mary was preparing in those last weeks before her son’s birth. She had to be so focused on that life within her, what his birth would mean, how her life would change. She was clearly making ready and clearing the path for him.

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So, we may need to ask ourselves: What am I doing this Advent that is different than previous years to make ready the way of the Lord in my heart, in my life with others, in the larger world? What am I actively doing to clear Him a straight path?

We need to make within us place and space. This may mean that we need to focus on gratitude and joy, and weed out the negative and our tendency to judge others. It may mean that we are called to simplify our life in some way: reduce our commitments and our busy-ness; clear out our possessions to pass on to others; challenge our own decisions so we give time and attention to relationships that are healthy and helpful.

Maybe this year, clearing the path is about dealing with a thorny relationship, or something we are holding on to which blocks the path for the Lord’s presence. Perhaps it’s about reaching beyond ourselves and forming new relationships with persons who have something to offer from a background, culture, experience, or education that is different from our own.

It may mean that we spend more time in silence and prayer to foster a greater openness within, a clearing out of our own heart, to make way for the message God has for us. As we celebrate this week of Advent, how will we respond to the question: Will I be ready to hear what he has to say to me this year?

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series- a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Ah, Night! Bursting with new-born-stars
Strewing pathways of fire as they soar
In silent pilgrimage through endless space,
And I stand smallened by their hugeness.
And yet within me, deeply rooted, is a light
Already safe at home and never to be dimmed.
– (Rainer Maria Rilke translated by William J. O’Malley)

The stars are lighting up the skies even when we cannot see them clearly. Our God is present in our midst even when we are unconscious of the very real presence of the divine. The divine spark is within each of us even when we focus only on our failures and limitations.

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When I was a postulant, the bulletin board outside our dining room had the following Advent reminder:

“Many saw the star, but only a few had the courage and wisdom to follow the star that led to love!”

Advent is a time for renewing ourselves in seeking and finding and celebrating the light that is Jesus. It is a time to get back in touch with the star that calls us to believe, to follow, to discover the gift that is Jesus living within me. Do I have the courage?

It is a time for pulling away (for a few moments each day, for perhaps an hour or maybe for even a day) to put aside the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas season to concentrate on the star that is beckoning.

Advent is a time to reach into my own soul and find the God who dwells within; the Child who yearns to be born anew in me; the Child who has perhaps been forgotten in the busyness of everyday life; the Child who needs to be tended to, loved, cherished in my heart; the Child who is the Prince of Peace.

Advent is a time of preparation. It is a difficult time if we use it properly. It is not limited to buying gifts, but is discovering anew the gifts within ourselves. It is not limited to decorating trees, but is challenging us anew to prepare (yes, even decorate) our hearts for the rebirth of Jesus in our lives. It is not limited to cleaning our homes for guests, but is calling us to “clean up” and get rid of the clutter in our lives that is preventing us from being a truly Christ-welcoming home. Do I have the courage to follow the star of Advent, the star that leads to love?

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The following appears at the end of the pope’s new encyclical:  

At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

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A Christian prayer in union with creation

Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!

Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!

Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
Amen.

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Sister Mary Regina Robbins led a discussion last week on good listening, and the power we have to make others feel loved by really listening to them. See the whole talk here:

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Written by Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

Are you ready for the pain and the delight of transformation?

In the Gospel account of Jesus’ transfiguration, we see that he was transfigured in order to reveal himself to the disciples. This event reminds us that we need to be transformed into the image of Jesus, whose disciples we are.

A story is told of a working man who was strongly drawn toward a beautiful vase that he saw in the town market. He bought the vase and brought it home. The vase was so beautiful that it made his living room look drab, dull and indeed, plain ugly. So he got bright paints, colorful curtains, and new carpet and transformed the whole room. Because of the beauty of the vase, the whole room was totally transformed.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, uses the same analogy when speaking of transformation:

IMAGINE YOURSELF as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.

But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building up a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.

Each of us is like a drab room or house…longing for transformation! Each of us can also be like the vase…so beautiful in God’s grace that we help the transform the world!

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