About Sr. Nun Other

May 16, 2012, completed my 30th year as a Sister. It was both a milestone and just another day in an interesting journey. Some of those thirty years included singing with Gloriae Dei Cantores, marching in Spirit of America band, and serving on our Sisters Council. As a monastic, I live surrounded by beauty and within a frame work of opportunity and possibility. I'm sixty-four (much to my surprise) and extremely grateful for my life as a sister - past, present, and future.

Palm Sunday

That Day in Jerusalem

How is it that our passions start with the best of intentions? We honor a prophet, many say the Son of God, to others at the least, a healer and messenger of joy and hope. We line the cobbled streets with love, genuine at the time, waving palms and crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!” 

But we’re fickle and our short-lived loyalty a handshake passed from one side of a metaphorical street to the other. Who serves me best? I’ll serve him first. What fear caused me to throw the palm branches and in a courtyard join the shouts of “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

The dichotomy of Palm Sunday and Good Friday lives in me, in a heart divided between love of God and love of being God. I am the true tragedy of Holy Week and Jesus the triumphant savior who rescued me through the shedding of innocent blood, who never left my side before Pilate, while scourged, or when tortured on a cross.

Lost and afraid
Too late for reparation,
Too late to recant
My shouts of crucify.
Oh gentle Savior
Crushed by pain,
Vilified for innocence
You offer a gift
Forgiveness.
I reach out cupped hands, fill them,
And press them to my heart.

 

Feast Day of St. Joseph – March 19th

The Dream of St Joseph (Rembrandt)

Saint Joseph is known by many titles: the Worker, the Carpenter, Patron of the Universal Church (in Catholicism) and Descendant of King David. Perhaps he should also be called Saint Joseph the Listener, the man who believed an angel messenger when told he would be earthly father to the Son of God. When warned of impending violence against the Holy Family, Joseph immediately obeyed instructions and fled to Egypt. And there, when he heard of Herod’s death did as the angel told him and returned to the Holy Land with Jesus and Mary. Avoiding the dangers of Bethlehem, they settled in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. The Gospels describe Joseph as a tekton, the traditional name for a carpenter. It’s believed that he taught his craft to the young boy, Jesus.

Saint Joseph listened and obeyed because he first loved God. If we’re forced by circumstances to sometimes “take a back seat,” we should consider Joseph. Entrusted with the care and protection of Jesus and His Blessed Mother, Joseph remained faithful, steadfast, and anonymous. He is last mentioned in the Gospels frantically searching for the child Jesus, lost in Jerusalem. Our final glimpse of Joseph is of a confused and bemused father, confronted by the questions, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

On Saint Joseph’s Day, let’s pray together for patience to listen, the grace to accept what we hear, and the wisdom of humility to recognize our own insignificance in the vastness of God’s plan.

First Sunday of Lent

In recent days, many of my conversations contain the words, “What are you giving up for Lent?” What AM I giving up? Whatever it is, I’m fairly certain I’ll take it back on Easter Sunday. Let’s say I choose candy and sweet treats. Well, forty days from now, M & M’s will still look, feel, and taste like M & M’s and there’s no reason I shouldn’t eat one. Or two, maybe six. And while the residual “deny myself” will linger, past experience tells me it’s not long for this world.

But what if we change the words from giving up to letting go? I propose that Lent is more about letting go and Jesus is our example. Just read the Gospel of John, Chapters 14-17, the Farewell Discourse. Spoken to the eleven that remained with Him at the Last Supper, Jesus first tells them He’s going away to the Father but will send the Holy Spirit to guide them. He then bestows peace, and encourages them to love one another. He warns of persecutions to come and trouble they will encounter as true believers. Jesus prays for love, that his followers “may all be one as He and the Father are one” and that “the love with which the Father loves Him may be in them.”

In essence, Jesus prepares them for letting go of their human relationship with Him, the way of life they’ve traveled, and the closeness they’ve enjoyed so that a new dimension of faith can be born. He places the entirety of His earthly mission in their hands, these bumblers and sinners, and men of brave heart. He asks of his disciples that which is both simple and extremely difficult: let go of the familiar and hold on to the promises from the Greatest Friend they’ve ever known.

This Lent I hope to let go of a two-year breach in a relationship, caused by deep pain not within my grasp to understand. It will require more sacrifice than a cut back in sugar and more work than walking past the candy dish empty-handed. But I know it’s time for me to forgive and Lent is the grace-filled time in which to try.

Feast Day of Saints Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions – March 7

Community of JesusThe Passion of Saints Perpetua, Felicitas, and their Companions, one of the earliest Christian Texts, contains a first-person diary-like testimony of the young martyr, Perpetua.

Saint Perpetua was a well-educated, married noblewoman and mother.  Born to a pagan father and Christian mother, she chose to follow her mother’s faith and ignored the pleas of her father, who feared for her safety.

Saint Felicity was a Christian slave girl, imprisoned with Perpetua, and was herself expecting a child. Both free and slave alike were tortured and condemned to death. While incarcerated, Felicity gave birth to a daughter who was secretly taken away and cared for by Christian friends. Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Third Century martyrs, are among seven women and eight men commemorated by name in the list of ancient martyrs.

The passion narrative describes the arrest of five catechumens, that is, Christians being instructed in the faith but not yet baptized.  The five included three men, two of whom were free and one a slave and Perpetua and Felicity.  An additional man joined their group, one who voluntarily went before a magistrate and declared himself a Christian.  The six were tortured and executed at military games held in celebration of the Emperor Septimius Severus’s birthday.

Controversies surround the authorship of Perpetua’s Passio.  Personal accounts of female martyrs are rare and crucial documents accredited to female authorship even more so.   Modifications of her writing reveal the struggle of gender issues that were prevalent and the accepted definition and role of women within the church itself.  However, in this story of male and female, slave and free, we honor the courage and unbreakable unity of those called Christian. Martyrdom recognizes no class distinction and all are made one in the love of Christ.

Saints Cyril and Methodius Day – February 14th

Ss Cyril & Methodius, University of Skopje

Celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church on May 11th, the Catholic and Anglican churches chose a February feast day for the two brothers, Cyril and Methodius. Born in Thessalonica, Greece, both men spent the majority of their missionary years in Eastern Europe and were instrumental in the translation of the Gospels into Slavic languages.

Cyril (825-869) was primarily a philosopher and later an ordained priest. Methodius (826-884) served five years as governor of a Slavic region in the Greek empire and eventually became a monk. In 861, both men traveled as missionaries to Russia.

Cyril developed the Cyrillic alphabet, which enabled the Slavic translation of the Psalms and the New Testament and gave the brothers’ the ability to preach and celebrate Mass. They wrote a Slavic Civil Code as well to improve the lives of the common people. The Cyrillic alphabet is still used in modern Russia and other Slavic nations. For their dedication and work, Cyril and Methodius earned respect and the title “Apostles to the Slavs.”

Both men suffered for their faith and came under the scrutiny of the church hierarchy with much of the controversy instigated by German clergy. A contributing factor was that Saints Cyril and Methodius served the people as one of them. Called to Rome and forced to defend their actions, the papacy declared emphatically for the two brothers and not only exonerated them but sought their consecration as bishops.

Cyril died before his consecration and Methodius, though consecrated, was deposed by a German synod and imprisoned for two years. They lived, as Christian Saints often do, misunderstood for their zeal and venerated after death for that very same unquenchable love for God.

Star Struck

A sleepless night. Thoughts invade, sore muscles rebel, and I’m cold. Time to relocate. I quietly grab pillow and blankets and head downstairs to the couch, hoping a change of venue will help.

I sit for a while, looking out the window.  The wind ruffles leafless branches creating a layer of graceful movement beneath the clouds.  The stars shine particularly bright doused as they are with moonlight.

A memory taps me on the shoulder. The stars. My brother, when four years old, called them “tars.” He became the star of family folklore while toasting marshmallows over a campfire one night. With a clear voice, he announced, “The parks look like the tars up in the ky.”

We found the missing letters cute and funny, and they were. But now I recognize the profound observation of a sensitive four-year-old. God brought the stars down to earth for him that night for a closer look. The sparks looked like the stars up in the sky.  How beautiful and wise and straightforward.

It reminds me to listen carefully and take my time, from one heart to another.

Confession of St. Peter – January 18th

Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter (Giovanni Battista Castello, 1598)

Jesus asked, “But what about you?” And Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 16:15-17

Peter listened, heard, and reacted, just as he had when first called to discipleship. His legacy is that of a man of flesh, capable of a bold declaration of belief and equally capable of losing faith in a moment of fear and weakness.  Luke 22:54-62 describes Peter’s denial of the Lord he loved and followed: “Woman, I do not know him.” And he denied not once, but three times.  Still he is the rock upon which Christ built His church and to whom He gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Today we love and honor Peter for his humanness, his weakness made strong through faith, and his life restored by forgiveness.

Epiphany of Joy

Epiphany is a Greek word meaning phenomenon, appearance, making clear, or the dawning of an unexpected light. For an interlude between Christ’s birth and baptism, we celebrate the visit of the Magi, three wise men from the East. We call them wise because they recognized that a star led to an Infant King, one worthier than any earthly monarch. By instinct and a dream, they refuted a dark ruler of evil design and protected the new born and His family. They brought gifts, valuable and symbolic: gold to honor His Kingship, frankincense as a sign that He is God, and myrrh foreshadowing His death and subsequent resurrection. We add them to our crèche, opulent in dress and royal in manner, somehow at home in the lowly manger with shepherds and sheep, and a child asleep on a bed of hay. Epiphany – a day when God opened his arms to all mankind and graciously invited us to belong to Him.

Feast of St. John the Apostle – December 27th

 

 

John, the Beloved Disciple, the youngest and perhaps the most vulnerable was born c. AD 6 in Bethsaida, Galilee, Roman Empire. His parents were Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman and Salome (or Joanna), a holy woman who cared for the circle of disciples. John was the younger brother of James the Greater, also among the first disciples called by Jesus.  The two young fishermen, though generally calm and gentle by nature, were called Boanerges (sons of thunder) by Jesus. A gospel story tells of their demand to call down fire on an unbelieving Samaritan town, but Jesus rebuked them for their anger.  Mark 9:38, Luke 9:54   James was the first Apostle martyred, and John lived over half a century beyond his brother’s death.

The Bible records several significant incidents that John personally witnessed, among them the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration of Christ, and his presence in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Peter and John were sent by Jesus to prepare for the final Passover meal, the Last Supper, at which John sat next to Jesus. Of the group of close Apostles, only John chose to remain at the foot of the cross. And from that cross, Jesus placed the care of His mother, Mary in his hands.

The Apostle Paul referred to John, along with Peter and James the Great, as the “pillars of the church.”  John was a prolific writer, and traditionally, the Biblical author of the Gospel of John, the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation.

He was the only one of the original Twelve to die a natural death, although legends of near death by poisoning and a miraculous escape from a vat of boiling oil exist. Roman authorities banished John to the Greek Island of Patmos, where according to tradition, he wrote the Book of Revelation.  Saint John died c. AD 100, aged 93-94, place unknown. In our hearts, he remains the young and beloved disciple who never left His Savior’s side.