Once again, this Holy Week, we come face to face with the meaning of our faith. All we really can do is listen, watch, and remain close to Jesus in his encounter with a suffering and death that ultimately leads all of us to life. It’s an immersion beyond words in the holy mystery of God. As the Monica Brown song chants: Holy Mystery, Sacred Presence, All embracing, Most wondrous God, In this moment, In our being, We are one, We are one. Listen here to the song and enjoy images that represent the mystery. Then gaze at a crucifix and reflect on your own sacred history. When has God been present in struggle and in joy? When have you most needed the support of Jesus? What crosses do you carry now for which you desire God’s help? Stay together with the Crucified One in solidarity with all believers. Listen and pray in this most holy week.
Spring is sprung and many high school and university students are back in class after spring break. Once again, I’m in awe of those who gave part or all of their precious leisure time to serve among the poor and underprivileged. Congratulations to them and the teachers and others who accompanied them. Perhaps these words that Pope Francis spoke just last week to a service community in Rome will touch you, too:
Our mission is “to patiently weave together again the human fabric of the peripheries that violence and impoverishment have torn apart; to communicate the Gospel through personal friendship; to show how life truly becomes human when it is lived beside the poor; to create a society that considers no one a foreigner. Audaciousness is not the courage of a day, it is the patience of a daily mission in the city and in the world. Carry on this path; the poor are your treasure!”
On one of my final days in Rome last week, I woke up to quite a surprise when the city was blanketed in snow. Many took on the delight of children again, making snow “people,” running and laughing with joy. Everything else seemed to come to a stop. It became for me a good day to pack and prepare to return home.
As my flight took me first to Amsterdam, I had requested a window seat, knowing we would cross the Alps. Was I ever rewarded! All that new snow shone in a brilliant sun. Mountains are often used as metaphors for the strength and presence of God, and flying over the tops of them brings one to sheer awe, silence, and humble contemplation.
Now, it’s truly good to be home. Ministry among young people is always fun, and I’m glad to be back at it. A discernment retreat over the weekend for women wanting to learn more about religious life provided great conversation and sharing. And this week, at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri, we have 27 open and committed university students participating in the Busy Student Retreat. Together, we listen to the Spirit of God, who leads us ever deeper into prayer, faith, and the life journey with Jesus. What could be better?
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!
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.