Sabbath Rest

Last Sunday my local Ursuline community had an outing to the Missouri Botanical Garden. After attending Mass together at a local parish we drove the short distance to the Gardens, where we enjoyed a tasty lunch followed by a leisurely walk through the bot-garden-2016various exhibits. What made the afternoon even more special was our guest, Sr. Colette Marie, an Ursuline from France whom you met here.

Sharing Eucharist together, followed by an immersion in the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation, was a wonderful way to live Sabbath. Life is so full, and even we Sisters get caught-up in the disease of busyness and overwork. Rest and recreation are essential values in everyone’s lives. Most people I know, myself included, find that regular time off from work of any kind makes us more productive when we return to it. If you’re interested in recapturing the spirit of Sabbath in your life, read Becky Eldredge’s short post Reclaiming Sabbath and see where it might lead you.

On Being Poor

2008-100_8234Those who live Religious life profess a vow of poverty. It’s not a choice to be destitute but rather to embrace the poverty of spirit taught by Jesus.  In a world where money and possessions are gods, we Religious choose to hold “in common” all we have so we can better share with others in need. It demands daily effort to live detachment and interdependence, and it helps us recognize that all are poor in one way or another.

Jesus called all to be poor in spirit, to embrace their need for one another and be grateful for the ways they are enriched by others.  On this feast of St. Vincent de Paul, great apostle of charity, consider these words of Jean Vanier: “Sometimes the greatest resource of all can be a small gesture of kindness from someone who is poor.  It is often a gentle look from someone who is vulnerable which relaxes us, touches our heart and reminds us of what is essential.”

The Really Important Questions

I spent last Saturday in a workshop with an awesome group of about 75 youth ministers from the St. Louis archdiocese.  It was wonderful to meet some who are alums of Ursuline Academy, St. Louis, and others I knew from Busy Student Retreats at universities. All are helping teens and young adults to ignite the fire of following Jesus.

untitled3One speaker, Sarah Swafford, gave an outstanding talk called “Engaging the Screenager.” Sarah has extensive experience working with college freshmen and listening to their concerns and needs. Referring to what she calls the “80-20 problem,” she shared the questions that single women and men typically worry about 80% of the time: Who am I going to date and eventually marry? What is he or she going to do for me and how is he or she going to make me feel? How good can I look doing it? Being consumed with these questions, she pointed out, leaves little room for reflecting on life’s most important questions.

untitled“What would happen,” she asked, “if we took the 80-20 problem and flipped it around?” What if people spent 80% of their time asking the big questions: Who do I want to be? What am I living for?  Who am I living for?  

As one who tries to teach the importance of discernment in making life-choices, I thought she was spot on.  Young adults need to hear this message and be freed to spend their energy on deeper questions.  Take a look at Sarah’s website to learn more about her insights and the book she’s written.

Changed By Silence

Our world is noisy. Our lives are noisy. We have constant chatter in our heads. Even when we’re supposed to be sleeping, our electronic devices—so rarely powered down— make noise next to our heads. Constant noise is detrimental to a lot of things, but I’m increasingly convinced of the negative effect of unrelenting noise on my sodawn-clipartul. I crave times of silence and stillness. I need to step apart from the noise each day in order to be able to engage the world from a deeper, thoughtful, Gospel-centered place.

One way I counteract the noise of life is through the self-discipline of rising early and sitting in silent prayer. If you aren’t a morning person, please don’t stop reading! Simply translate what works for me into what works best for you. Silence changes me. Silence provides what I need to let go of the superficial clutter and begin to “hear” more deeply. I hear the whispers of my heart. I hear the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

I offer you two sources of encouragement to further your own practice of silence. One comes from Shemaiah Gonzalez, a young married woman with 2 children. The other is Silent Together. If a practice of silence is new for you, start with small steps. Carve out 5 or 10 minutes each day. Be creative, like Shemaiah. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t get rid of the clutter in your head. It will eventually subside. Ask God for the grace of faithfulness..

Enduring Bonds of Unity

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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with our Ursuline sisters at Francis Place, fp-front-bldga skilled care facility where our infirm sisters live. I picked up Sr. Ursula at Nazareth and the two of us drove down for a visit. It was a perfect late-summer day. Sr. Susan gathered the sisters and we all went out to the patio to admire the beauty of nature, drink lemonade, and enjoy one another’s company. We shared news of recent activities, updates on Ursulines around the world, and stories from the past that remind us of our enduring bonds of unity. St. Angela’s counsel came alive francis-place_2016among us: “Take care to have your daughters come together from time to time in a place you think best . . . so that, together like this, they might also meet each other as loving sisters, talking over spiritual matters, rejoicing together, and encouraging one another . . .” (8th Legacy)