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Posts Tagged ‘Sr. Marie Paul Grech’

The Sisters of Notre Dame were recently featured in the Acorn Newspaper! Click the link here to read the article.

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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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By Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

God of all goodness,

fill us with your hope as we place ourselves in your loving care.

Enlighten us with your wisdom that we may always seek what is good.

Strengthen us with your grace that we may act justly and make a difference in our world.

May Jesus be our guide and

model as we strive to live lives of compassionate service.

Sister Marie Paul Grech made her first profession in 1972, and currently lives in Thousand Oaks, California.

 

 

 

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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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In one of Pope Francis’ reflections on consecrated life, he hit upon a reality that resonated deeply with me.  Speaking about community life, Francis acknowledged that

“It’s good for the elderly to communicate their wisdom to the young, and it’s good for young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom.”

I experienced this when I entered the community at the age of 18.  It was a different time, and at 18 women were marrying out of high school, so entering the convent was not such a surprise.  I was responding to the voice of my God and I simply trusted.

At that time there were four retired sisters living in the same building as we were as postulants and novices. It was an experience in history for me. Sister Mary Brigid, Sister Mary Walburge, Sister Mary Cletus and Sister Mary Balbina embodied all that it meant to live a lifetime commitment to consecrated life. At the time I didn’t even suspect what I didn’t know about the new life I had chosen- or that had chosen me!  But I could recognize that these women had succeeded in making it a lifelong choice. These were prayerful women, holy women, women who had lived the Gospel and their vowed life with joy and dedication.

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I remember walking by their small rooms, noting the rosaries in their hands, and being sure that they were praying for me and for the needs of the world. It was only years later that I learned more about the many sacrifices they made in coming to California from their native Ohio, and about the many challenges they embraced in beginning a new venture in California. All I knew as a young postulant was that these were holy women, models of all I wanted to be. Their quiet lives in prayerful retirement motivated me to want to

“…carry it forward, not to safeguard it, but to move forward with the challenges that life brings us, to carry it forward for the good of their religious orders and of the entire Church.”

Pope Francis said it so well! As we celebrate our consecrated life, Francis’ words challenge us to allow the Holy Spirit to animate us, and to live our lives with joy

“always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens up, who leads and guides us toward the horizon.”

– Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

Sisters Mary Walburge and Balbina were among the first SNDs to come to California. Follow their journey here.

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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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“Twinkle, twinkle, little star….when you wish upon a star…would you like to swing on a star….”  Well, I guess I am dating myself!  If anyone can sing these lyrics with me, you know what I mean!

Stars in a dark sky make us look up in wonder, invite us to see that we are so small in comparison, give us hope in the midst of the darkness, remind us that we are not alone.

Today we celebrate not just stars, but the star!  The star that led the magi (wise ones, sages, astronomers) from their homes far away to find a tiny baby, a king without an earthly kingdom, a star himself who would so influence the ages that we still celebrate his birth, his life, his words, his power to save- just everything about him!

We are called to be faith-filled like the magi, who trusted that the star would lead them somewhere special, to someone special. We are called to be courageous, overcoming every obstacle that might keep us from following Jesus. We are called to be generous, giving to others without counting the cost. We are called to be risk-takers, willing to change our plans when it is the right thing to do (like the magi who went home another way).

We are invited to remember that the story does not end here (see Mt. 2:13 ff).  After the magi departed, Joseph also had a dream, warning him.  Mary and Jesus were not going to have an easy time of it. They had to be off and running that night.  Immigrants without a home, Joseph takes them to Egypt: no job, new language, strange land, no friends or relatives, for an unknown time….we can only hope they found kind people to help them.

I recently received an email with the following message that really speaks to today’s celebration of Epiphany:

“Christmas leads to Epiphany, that light shining from Bethlehem upon the whole world. The beam of that light, experienced by seekers in ancient times, continues its glow until it reaches the seekers of every era, and particularly the seekers of today.

May we open our hearts to those who long for God, and may the doors of our churches be opened wide to embrace those who come to glimpse a newborn Child and grasp God’s vision of hope.”

May our New Year 2014 find us rich in all the priceless gifts that Jesus brings.  May we pray with gratitude for all those who have led us closer to Jesus even to this moment in time.

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Each day we encounter the incomprehensible, we often do not see the “whole staircase.”  There are so many opportunities for us to demonstrate faith in ourselves, in others and mostly in God.  When I was in Uganda several years ago, I was touched by the parish community’s heartfelt rendition of the Creed each Sunday. These were people who had little.  The church itself had a dirt floor, simple benches, and no glass on the windows. People had walked from as far away as eight kilometers to come to Mass.  The Creed was sung with alacrity, resounding in the tiny church to the beat of drums and homemade instruments.  With each sung article of the Creed, the refrain was almost shouted:  “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”

Still today, I try to sing this in my heart. We do not understand so many things in life: the death of a young person, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!” The destruction and suffering caused by a typhoon, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”  The conflict in a neighborhood or in a family, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!” The anxiety of unemployment, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”  The debilitating aging process, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”

If we have faith, we know that in all things, God is still here. That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it does give us a measure of hope.  Pope Francis is a man of hope, a leader who reaches out to the neediest among us.  He is not afraid to embrace suffering humanity and to give us an example of what it means to live a life of faith and integrity.  As we come to the end of the Year of Faith, hopefully our faith is deeper, stronger, and more embracing of those whose lives we touch.  And if we still feel we have work to do, we can always make a commitment to make the next day, the next week, or the next year another time of faith, and give ourselves another chance to fall more deeply in love with the God who loves us so much!

I read the following statement recently about faith and our need to continually work at it:  “I was playing on the surface of my faith most of the time and not plunging into its depths.  I was splashing about in the shallow waters, when I needed to be scuba diving.” (Tom Mangan)

So, how about it?  Will you continue the journey of faith?  Will you join me in the scuba dive?

God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain,

but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

 
 

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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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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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