Three Valiant Women

At the start of the day, despite written “to do” lists and iPhone calendars that give form and shape to the hours and to the people who are planned to be part of those hours, none of us is able to know exactly how the day will play out.  There are unexpected surprises and there are interruptions that will also lay their claim on some portion of the day.  I’ve come to appreciate that, oftentimes, it is in these unplanned moments that God sends His messengers and, in looking back at day’s end, these were where I found my treasures…

The morning was a typical Monday morning, not quite manic, but close.  Lots getting accomplished, even more still to do.  And then I heard the warm greetings of the women in the front office and a knock on the door to see if I were available to come out and see who was there…

It is always a joy to have alumnae come back for a visit.  We love hearing recaps of where life has taken them since we saw them last.  Today’s visit was from three SHA sisters whom I will call the “three valiant women” – Katie, Julia and Amanda, all from the Class of 2011.  It had been awhile since I’d seen them in person.  Most of the time I’m able to keep track by reading their Facebook posts and looking carefully at the pictures they share.  Today we were able to sit down and share conversation, the four of us, laughing at memories, talking about what is behind us and what lies before us on the journey.  As they talk about their own life, each is so radiant and loving.  Life is good…finally; God is good…always.

Adversity and suffering strengthen already “strong bonds” to cement them for life.  All three have had major doses of difficulty of the serious and heart rending or life-threatening kind.  As a young girl preparing to enter SHA, Katie, a formidable athlete on the softball field, was thrown a curve that drew every bit of grit and determination.  Today, she is celebrating 10 years being cancer free and is dedicating her life to the healing profession as a pediatric oncology nurse!  After graduation, Julia headed to college, ready to foray into the field of medicine as a physician’s assistant.  Sidelined from studies with a diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma, Julia was a brave warrior and is now celebrating 6 months in remission, getting ready to head back to Springfield College in May to finish that program in December!  And Amanda…dealt the blow of losing both of her parents by the time she graduated and then tragically losing her beloved brother shortly after.  How do you hold yourself together in a situation like that?  How does grief not rob you completely of hope for the future?  With a resilient spirit that is God-given and a network of love and support, Amanda is a nurse in pediatric psychology and is on track for her doctorate, enjoying life and living it to the fullest.

Thank you, Katie, Julia and Amanda, for being God’s messengers to me today and for being examples of how much of a “sacrament” friendship can be, of how resilient the human spirit is and what a valiant woman looks like.  I rejoice with you that “life is good”…finally! and I beg you to remember that “God is good”…always…in all ways.

 

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Finding God’s message in a Marriott…

Last evening I returned from a 4 day trip to Baltimore on business.  On the drive down, I listened to a podcast that centered on the importance of developing a “life stance” of being  awake, open and aware of how God speaks to my heart, to ponder the message and then to act.  I’ve been thinking and praying alot about that for the last few months, eager to read, listen and share about it. 

When I was unpacking and settling in to my hotel room on the 17th floor overlooking the beautiful Inner Harbor, I opened the desk drawer to place a few things and noticed a light blue vertical bookmark in the otherwise empty space.  Taking it in hand, I read:  “For almost 90 years, Medical Mission Sisters have been responding to the call of our  Founder, Anna Dengel, to live the kind of love she described in the words If You Love.  In our many encounters with those who are in need of healing, we strive to serve and not just work.  We try to give of ourselves selflessly, generously and tirelessly, so those who are experiencing pain, isolation, neglect and injustice will know that some one cares.”

I share it the short reflection If You Love with you today.  God spoke to me from a message left for me to find in a Marriott.  Where are the messages that God has planned for you to discover, to pray about, to act upon?   and how can God use us as His messengers?

If you have real love you are inventive. If you love you try to find out and are interested.  If you really love you are patient and long suffering.  Certainly if you love you accommodate yourself.  If you love you want to give.  You are tireless, selfless and generous.  If you love you really want to serve and not just work.  One does not spare oneself if one loves.        (Anna Dengel)

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Strength for the Journey

Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, we were invited by Jesus to join Him by entering the journey that is the Lenten season.  This holy time will be marked by prayer, fasting, and sharing in the works of mercy.  It will also bid us to reflect upon the presence of the cross in our lives, one that takes so many different forms – sickness, rejection, grief, crisis, misunderstanding, to name just a few.  May this song – one of my favorites – help us to remember that on this journey we are not alone.  He goes before us and He walks by our side, giving us strength, being our strength for the journey…

Ash Wednesday – Enter the Journey!

It occurred to me this morning that this is the 49th year since I’ve been “conscious” of Ash Wednesday ushering in the beginning of Lent.  Between my parents, my teachers at St. Brendan in New Haven, and the whole environment of our parish church, I had a great formation and I believe it was during 2nd grade, when I was 7 years old, that my first recollections of Lent began…  49 Ash Wednesday’s and seasons of Lent later, here I am, beginning again, with all my sisters and brothers in faith.  I’m ready to enter the journey once more time.  But I’m asking myself, “Will this year be different?”  “Can I make it different?  How?”
This year our Lenten season falls into the greater context of the Year of Mercy.  Inspired by Pope Francis, this year gives us the opportunity to experience mercy – mercy given as well as mercy received.  The corporal and spiritual works of mercy will be our “road map”.  Each day of Lent I’ll be posting here some thoughts to ponder as well as practical suggestions to make them come alive.  Perhaps it is here, in deciding to embrace living out the works of mercy, that this year will be different…
For today, Ash Wednesday has a penitential tone to it.  We are signed with ashes and are called to fast.  On this point, Francis that “fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him.”
Let us pray that, through our fasting, our eyes and ears may be open to recognize who is that brother or sister in need of our extra attention, our listening, our remembrance in prayer, our care today.  In the same way, let us allow ourselves to receive the care of another, reaching out to us in our need.
I’m praying for you….  Please pray for me.

The web of healing and mercy…

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A last thought to share with you from the text I shared earlier on “Just Mercy”…

Even as we are caught in a web of hurt and brokenness, we’re also in a web of healing and mercy.  How does mercy work? 

The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving.  It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.  It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.

All of us encounter the broken and brokenhearted among our family members and friends, those with whom we serve and those we serve, in the passing acquaintance as well as in the complete stranger….and in ourselves.  It can be overwhelming, but let us not give up on each other nor on ourselves.  Most of all, let us not ever give up on God’s grace!  We are each and all instruments of God’s grace, agents of His Will, in this great Year of Mercy…

 

Just Mercy

One of my dearest friends gifted me at Christmas with “Just Mercy”, a book about justice and redemption.  More than being what I would term an “interesting read”, it has been disturbing and provocative.  And sometimes that’s what I/we need.  After a month of reading several pages at a time (you need to take it incrementally), I’ve come to the end of my reading, very much thinking about what I can do to translate the effect of the pages in my own life.  I want to share with you what I would consider to be one of the two passages that go to the heart of our pondering “mercy” in this Jubilee Year of Mercy…

“Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn’t just illuminate the brokenness of others;  in a moment of anguish and heartbreak, it also exposed by own brokenness.  You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it…

…We are all broken by something.  We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.  We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.  But our shared brokenness connects us…

…Being broken is what makes us human.  We all have our reasons.  Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we never would have chosen.  But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing.  Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.  We have a choice.  We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing.  Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.

There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.20342617

Use Me, Lord!

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Yesterday’s post for the first day of Advent called us to reflect on the things that all of us have that can be used to answer the call to love.  Staying with the same aspects of our face, eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet and heart, let’s spend a moment today to reflect on how they can help us to make a loving response to God, “Use me, Lord!”

Let me be Your caring face, sharing You in every place where Your Presence is distant.

Let me be Your loving eyes, focusing on lonely cries where sight of You remains obscured.

Let me be Your patient ears, listening to shoe sighs and fears where Your healing hope is faint.

Let me be Your mouth to speak consoling truth to the weak where Your words are still silent.

Let me be Your gentle hands, serving as the need demands where Your touch has not been felt.

Let me be Your sturdy feet, walking ‘midst the cold and heat where Your path is yet unknown.

Let me be Your open heart, embracing those kept apart where Your love is not alive.

Let me be and let me do all I can in praise of You.  Use me, Lord, now and always!