Deep Listening

Sr. Rita Ann and I are in Rome for an international meeting of our sisters here from every continent. We’re engaged in deep listening, first to the Holy Spirit, and then to one another as we plan for our 2019 General Chapter. It’s always a gift to be with sisters from so many countries and cultures.  We make great effort to listen well, to be sure we understand what others are sharing, often in unfamiliar languages, and to have hearts open to God’s Spirit and the wisdom of the group.

After 6 full days of meetings, we had a little free time, and Sr. Rita and I took off to see some of Rome by night.  St. Peter’s Basilica lit up is a sight to behold, even from a distance.  Trevi Fountain is also beautiful, as people throw coins into the water with hopes of returning to Rome again. The number of selfies taken there is astronomical.

We still have several days of work ahead of us.  I think the listening we do makes even more sense as we become aware of the “cries of the poor” all around us.  Our sisters bring stories of the people of their countries and regions.  And in our walk around Rome the other evening, we saw a  man crawling into his cardboard box at the door of an old building, and a “tent city” for homeless under the porticoes of a beautiful old church.  Speak to us now, Holy Spirit, and teach us your ways!


Bellissima Roma

There’s something about the “Eternal City” that truly is beautiful! Yes, it’s noisy,  sidewalks are not clean, traffic is crazy, and transportation on a city bus means stuffing in together with way too many people in one small space. But all that pales when one considers the grandeur of Rome.

I’m here to do some work at our Ursuline headquarters and, in my break times, out revisiting what I love.  Here’s what is for me some of the unique loveliness of Roma.

  • St. Peter’s Basilica: designed by Michelangelo, Bramante, Maderno, Bernini and others, how could it not be magnificent?  Home of St. Peter and now Papa Francesco, I’m always moved to reflect more deeply here about the gift of being a follower of Jesus.
  • The Italian people: lively and animated, in the piazza or at the market, always with a “buon giorno” as they offer the fruits of their labor.
  • The mixture of sublime and amusing: street clowns and musicians, churches that guard the bodies of saints, people going about everyday life, tourists and refugees and lots of cats.  There’s a little of everything here.  What’s amazing to me is how they all seem to co-exist in relative peace.  In this world of so much competition and fighting, maybe that’s what makes this city so special.






Angela Merici: Here Today

How often have we longed for assurance that loved ones who have died are still with us?  We need their presence.  I sometimes “talk” to family and friends who I believe live on in a new way after death. Relationships with them are still real and very meaningful, though I can no longer see them.

Understand that now I am more alive than I was when I lived on earth. . . . and now, even more, I want and am able to help you. (Angela Merici)

When St. Angela, foundress of the Ursulines, said in the 1500’s that she would be “more alive” after her death, she certainly already knew God intimately.  It’s this faith and complete trust, her kindness and pleasantness (“piacevolezza” in Italian), her passion and courage to respond to God and lead other women in the process, that makes me love her and believe she is with us today.  For her feast which is Saturday, January 27, talk to her a bit about how you’d like her help.  She’s alive and wants to do good for us.

We Are the Body

“We are one body, the body of Christ, and we do not stand alone.”  Students in our high schools sing this John Michael Talbot song with energy at school liturgies.  It makes audible the unity they strive to live within their school communities.

We ARE the body of Christ–called to connect, support, embrace and love.  I thought of this on Martin Luther King Day. How are we Christ’s body? Cardinal Joseph Tobin remarked recently of the Church, “it’s not the Elks or the good old boys club. This is the body of Christ, and this is where his word is proclaimed and the sacraments are celebrated. I wouldn’t let anybody drive me out of that.”

Yet, the body is a suffering one.  “The racial divide . . . is creating what I call a ‘Corinthians crisis,’ where one part of the body of Christ—Christians of color—is suffering while the white part of the body of Christ is not feeling their pain,” wrote Jim Wallis (The Heresy of Ideological Religion, Sojourners, February 2018).  We do not stand alone.  “Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.” wrote Dr. King.  Makes me seriously ponder . . . .