Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Standing Up for Life

As this 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade & Doe v. Bolton decisions comes to a close, I wanted to post something to commemorate the day. As I took a walk around the 'net and a few blogs, I discovered a post by Joe Koczera, SJ and decided to share Joe's message with you (hope it's ok, Joe) since it really spoke to me deeply, reminding me of the challenge and call to embrace a consistent ethic of life in promoting the Gospel of Life that Pope John Paul II challenged us to live fully:

On this 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Catholics in the United States have been asked by our bishops to pray for an end to abortion. More specifically, the U.S. edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that this date "shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. As we pray today for an end to abortion, we who describe ourselves as "pro-life" would do well to reflect on the responsibilities that come with this label. Many people on both sides of the abortion issue tend to frame the goals of the pro-life movement in legal and political terms. However, truly being "pro-life" means much more than seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade. To be pro-life is to desire - and to work for - a society that truly values human life at all stages. To be pro-life is not merely to challenge legal abortion and euthanasia, but to work for a society that truly cares for the most vulnerable persons among us. To be pro-life is to seek something far more radical than changes in law; to be pro-life is to seek to transform contemporary culture. As Pope John Paul II very eloquently expressed, one of the key tasks facing Christians today is replacing a culture of death with a culture of life. The culture of death is reflected not merely in a direct assault on human life, but also in a much more subtle attack on human dignity. In a culture that prioritizes autonomy and the fulfillment of individual desires, the values of interdependence and self-sacrifice remain unacknowledged. In a society that applauds the youthful and the strong, the old and the weak find themselves increasingly unwelcome. With the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexuality, the value of relationships and the meaning of family become less apparent. The culture of death has many aspects, and any movement toward a culture of life must confront all of them.We who seek a culture of life must be defined not merely but what we're against but by what we're for. On a very basic level, what we're for is a culture in which the full dignity of all persons is respected and in which all are valued. This goal will not be achieved through changes in law, but through the transformation of hearts. As a first step, I suggest that we each look within our own hearts and consider the ways in which we ourselves must be transformed. How does each one of us - self-described "pro-lifers" included - help to perpetuate a culture of death? How can each of us work toward a culture of life? My prayer for today is that all who read these lines (including myself as I write them) will have the courage to confront these questions. AMDG.

Now I am off to watch a bit of the March for Life coverage on EWTN (thanks to the repeat viewing).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Remembering dear Sister Francetta...

In my last post, I mentioned that I had spent Sunday afternoon at a local gathering at the Motherhouse of Sisters and Lay Associates. At the gathering, I sat next to my friend Sister Francetta and was very appreciative, deeply appreciative, of the spirit she was sharing and the effort she was putting forth not only to minister to others but to be ministered to as well. She played a very significant but unobtrusive part in Sunday's gathering, ensuring that each one who wished had an opportunity to share her thoughts on Pope Benedict's "God is Love" and that each one received a thought from the writings of our foundress, Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt, and the opportunity to share with the group how that particular excerpt from M. Pauline's writings was speaking to her at that moment. No was one pushed to share, all were invited, and by the end, each and everyone present - Sisters and Associates -- shared. And there was the visible fingerprint of Divine Providence present as the sharings revealed how relevant the particular passage each one drew from the plate was so relevant to her life in the given moment. At the end, Sister Francetta observed what a really beautiful and meaningful sharing had taken place and commented how sharings such as that one provide mutual support on the journey. Who knew the journey that S. Francetta was to take the very next morning?
On Monday morning, S. Francetta attended Holy Mass and received the Eucharist and then shared breakfast with the Sisters at the Motherhouse as she had done every year for the past x years. She then made a visit to Chapel and proceeded to her office. The Sister in the adjoining office heard Sister fall and immediately went to assist her; however, God had already taken His bride home to eternal life with Him.
A life such as Sister Francetta's cannot be summed up in a single post but it's definitely a life worth noting and sharing. As I try to make sense of her sudden death, I am trying to capture and not forget a single word she ever shared. She had a deep faith and trust in God and encouraged others to rely on God even in their darkest hours because He would not fail. I'm sure that was a lesson that did not come easy for her, but it was a lesson that was real for her and she shared it generously but gently, humbly but honestly. The wake for Sister will take place on Thursday and her Mass of Christian Burial will be on Friday. She touched so many people's lives but never counted the costs. She truly embodied the ideal that "Love Never Counts, Love Alone Counts."
May Sister Francetta rest in peace! May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On This Last Day of Christmas...

my good God gave to me...

Let's see... what has God given me as I pause on this last day of the 2007 Christmas season?

Looking back over the time of Advent and Christmas, I am thankful for the many gifts God has given me during this sacred time.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I had the privilege of participating in the liturgy by raising the Advent wreath. It's a very effective introduction to Advent but takes a bit of extra muscle even with the help of the rope and pulleys.

My Advent began with the annual Christmas Concert of the Daughters of Saint Paul . As has been my tradition since the Sisters began their Christmas Concert ministry tour three years ago, I catch their annual performance at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Princeton, NJ. Due to my schedule that day, I made it in time for intermission and had the good grace to be able to say "hi" and chat for a few minutes with my friend, Sister Anne Joan . Here's a picture from the day:

Picture complements of S. Anne's blog; photo by S. Bernadette.

The following weekend was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the titular feast of my community, the Sisters of Christian Charity , whose complete title is Sisters of Christian Charity, Daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Actually in one of the South American provinces the Sisters are known as "Las Inmaculadas" (Sisters of the Immaculate) whereas here in the US they are known as "Sisters of Christian Charity" or "SCCs."

The third weekend a group of Sisters and lay associates whose small groups meet at the Motherhouse embarked on the annual Christmas trip to Holy Family Convent in Danville, PA. That is our home for retired Sisters, sisters in assisted living, and sisters in need of nursing care. There is also a group of Sisters who are assigned there to minister to the Sisters and administer the convent home. This is always a special trip and the time there is never enough. It is a grace to know these Sisters and to witness them still, after 60, 70, 80 years of religious life still living their consecrated life with enthusiasm and dedication. Our visit this year was particularly grace-filled as were among the last to be able to spend time with S. F. who was in the process of "closing her eyes to this life and opening her eyes to God." I had the blessing of being able to spend time in prayer and thanksgiving at her bedside and give thanks for her life among us. She was a phenomenal teacher and valuable community member. She was small in stature but big in the impression she made upon you. Even as she prepare to meet her Spouse, she still had her characteristic smile for all who entered her room to say "farewell for now." Sister F. died two days later peacefully and quietly. Now she is enjoying an eternal Christmas celebration with God.

The remaining days of Advent provided an opportunity to purchase a wreath as well as to ensure that a young family enjoyed fresh evergreens for their Christmas celebration. With the arrival of Christmas, I was glad to join in the singing of favorite carols and enjoying my parish Church so beautifully and tastefully decorated to mark the feast of the Incarnation.

On the feast of the Holy Family, our parish had a special blessing for families and recognizing that we are all part of a family and all form the family of God all present were asked to stand for the blessing. We also prayed a special prayer of blessing for the Sister who is part of our pastoral team who will be enjoying a one month renewal program (sabbatical) in California. It's a well-deserved opportunity for her, but we are certainly already missing her.

New Year's Day brought the start of the new year and an opportunity to reflect on the significance of new beginnings with a deeper appreciation for the new starts that are provided to us by God each and every day.

The Feast of the Epiphany included a procession of stars leading to the manger so that all our hearts might re-focus on the Baby King whose birth we continue to celebrate.

Finally today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and bring this Christmas season to a close. This afternoon we had a gathering of Sisters and Associates for reflection and small group sharing on Pope Benedict's "God Is Love." Following that, I had the opportunity to make a holy hour of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving before the Blessed Sacrament and pray Vespers with the Motherhouse community. After a light supper, I made my way home and as I drove (listening to the latest Christmas CD by the Daughters of Saint Pauline reflected gratefully on the blessings of this sacred season.

In reality Christmas won't be the same as it was before my father's unexpected death (in mid-December) nine years ago, but I am thankful that drawing on and celebrating the faith he imparted to us that I am able to experience Christmas and the gift of Emmanuel.

I hope that your holyday season has been blessed and grace-filled wherever you find yourself in life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Parable for Today

I received this story via e-mail today:

A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard.

Suddenly, the light turned yellow just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping t the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She as escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects. He said, "I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper sticker, and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally.....I assumed you had stolen the car."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

And the Magi Came to Worship Him!

"We have seen His star in the East
and have come to adore the Lord!"
- Gospel verse for the Epiphany
They saw His star in the East and came to adore Him, Christ the Lord! Something more powerful than their intellect, reasoning, or nature moved them to take the journey to find the newborn King. They, themselves, of royal stature humbled themselves upon finding the Baby Jesus with His mother and Joseph and fell before Him on bended knee. Offering their royal gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they acknowledged the Kingship of Christ and accepted His manifestation of God to the Gentiles.
The story of the Three Kings --- Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior --- is familiar to us and in some ways heartwarming. We retell it with ease and accept its importance in that the divine royalty of Christ was made manifest outside His own Jewish world through the encounter with the Kings. We add the images of the kings to our own creche scenes and probably at our Sunday liturgy join in singing "We Three Kings of Orient Are" or if we attend a Spanish language service "Los Magos Que Vinieron a Belen" (or whatever our language of worship might be a corresponding song). In some cases, we re-enact the story with the arrival of Three Kings at our place of worship. Each of these aspects, as well as many others, help to mark the celebration of the feast for us. But in the midst of it all there are questions presented to us:
What is the significance of the Epiphany in today's world?
What is the meaning of the Epiphany for me in my life?
How do I take the place of the child Jesus to show God to others?
How do I take the place of the Kings to allow God to be revealed to me and through me?
Powerful questions to ponder. Lots of food for thought for tomorrow's liturgy and Eucharistic encounter. Hopefully I'll have a few more insights worth sharing. In the meantime, know that you are welcome to share your reflections on these questions.
Peace, grace, and blessed Epiphany!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

St. John Neumann, pray for us!

This evening I happened to be channel surfing and stopped when I came to the daily Mass being shared on EWTN. Father Anthony Mary, MFVA, was delivering the homily and caught my particular attention. He gave an awesome homily on Bishop Neumann and noted four intentions that we in this country should place before St. John Neumann. In particular, Father Anthony stated (and I agree) that it is appropriate to pray to St. John Neumann for the following needs here in the United States:
  1. Good bishops who are true pastors and shepherds of the people, bishops who can truly say, "I know my sheep, and mine know me."
  2. Renewal of Catholic Education
  3. Restoration and renewal of religious life
  4. A greater love and respect for the Holy Eucharist

Father Anthony proceeded to detail the relationship between each of these intentions and the life and sanctity of St. John Neumann. Having been ordained a diocesan priest, Neumann later entered the Redemptorists. There he found his call to the priesthood and religious life and through his ministry led the development of Catholic education and promoted the religious life including being recognized as a co-founder of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Visit the Redemptorists website for more information on his life and ministries. Also, if you find yourself in the Philadelphia area, consider a visit to his shrine, located in the Church of St. Peter's Parish, on the corner of Fifth and Girard Aves. As Father Anthony reminded listeners, one does not have to go abroad to make a pilgrimage to holy places.

St. John Neumann, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Today's Feast of Mary the Mother of God

A mother in every way...
Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother,
pray for us
that we may be made worthy
of the promises
of Christ your Son
and our Brother!
What's your favorite image of Mary?