For the last few years, I've spent the days leading up to the new year in the cozy confines of a retreat center in western Massachusetts. While friends send text messages about New Year's Eve, I share silence with a group taking a prayerful pause at year's end. In silent, guided reflection there is the invitation to reflect on all that has been, to pray for all that will be, and to bless the time we have.
In Horizons, younger sisters reflect on their lives, ministries, spirituality and the future of religious life.
I'll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on my niece, Lucy. I'd been following the updates all day, and now I was standing before a few-hours-old baby.
In the Middle Ages, the idea of spiritual motherhood was quite popular among both women and men. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian, understood his role as abbot to be "Mother." St. Francis of Assisi described himself as a mother to his brothers, and Meister Eckhart wrote, "We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God always needs to be born."
In our culture, the anticipation of Advent can be drowned out by the sheer volume of Christmas decorations already on display. It can be difficult to ground and center oneself in Advent in the midst of it all, and yet that is the invitation of these next four weeks.
While the gifts we receive are many and varied, the more we practice thanksgiving, the more we find that part and parcel to the gifts we receive is the gift of gratitude itself.
"They" can be anyone we choose to see in opposition to ourselves. And as soon as I draw a line of demarcation with "them" on one side and "us" on the other, the opportunity to call ourselves brothers and sisters has slipped away.
Horizons - On a recent trip for a friend's first vow ceremony, we sat around the night before in a mixed group of sisters and friends talking about the vows. I teased now-vowed Presentation Sr. Mary Therese "MT" Krueger with the question, "What's your favorite vow?" and it soon became obvious that some around the table were unclear what these mysterious vows were all about.
The transformative process of bread-making is a story of death (the killing of wheat at harvest), rebirth (the yeast within the dough), death again (in the oven) and new life (when bread nourishes the human body). How is the death-to-life process part of our community life?
Maybe the aching melody awoke something within me, some bone-deep gratitude and inexplicable love for ancestors I've never known. Certainly, I felt surrounded by them, my grandmothers and grandfathers in both genealogy and faith.
Cancer had not been in Sr. Marie Flowers' plan, but she accepted it with grace. "God must have a different plan for me. It's a new plan — an adventure. I love adventure!" She never lost the sense of the expansive possibility found in God.