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.

Feast of St. Luke – October 18

Born in Antioch, Syria, Roman Empire, some scholars maintain Saint Luke was of Greek descent. Others say Luke was a Hellenic Jew; that is, his beliefs and approach combine Jewish religious traditions with elements of Greek culture and language.  Tradition presents him as the only Gentile Christian among the four Gospel writers.

The Gospel of Luke has considerable appeal to Gentile readers. His writing style is narrative and conveys a perspective that we share – he views the events, not as an eyewitness, but as someone searching and transformed by what he hears. Of the four Gospel writers, only Luke talks of shepherds and angels and an inn with no room. Only his Gospel incorporates the personal testimony of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the importance of her example. Saint Luke’s Gospel has been referred to as The Gospel of Mercy, Gospel of the Poor, and the Gospel of Joy – a reflection of a heart tuned by God.

Saint Luke is also credited with writing The Acts of the Apostles. When Combined with his Gospel, Luke contributed over a quarter of the New Testament text. In Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, he refers to Luke as a physician (a Greek word meaning one who heals), and from that reference, we infer he was both a disciple of Paul and a physician by trade. We also have Paul’s word that Luke was in Rome with him near the end of his life.

An 8th Century Christian tradition proclaimed Saint Luke to be the first icon painter.  Iconic works of Jesus, Mary, Peter, and Paul, as well as an illustrated gospel book are attributed to him, unproven but worthy of consideration.

Saint Luke is honored as Patron Saint of Artists, Physicians, Bachelors, Surgeons, and Students.

Feast Day of Simeon the God-receiver

Luke, Chapter 2:25-35 recalls the story of Simeon, a devout and holy man who believed in and waited for the consolation of Israel. Simeon, whose name in Hebrew means “obedient, listening,” was the recipient of a promise. The Holy Spirit assured him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, as the custom of the Law required, it was Simeon who, with an old man’s gentleness, took the baby in his arms.

His beautiful canticle, known today as the Nunc Dimittis, reminds us of God’s faithfulness to the obedience of love. In awe and gratitude, Simeon declared, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

Simeon, a quiet man of faith and obedience, held a baby in his arms and sang a lullaby to the Son of God.

Feast Day of St. Francis – October 4th

Today we celebrate the feast day of The Poverello (poor little man), a beloved saint, small in stature and large of heart. St. Francis of Assisi was born in Italy around 1181 or 1182. His father, Pietro di Bernardone, was a cloth merchant and his mother Lady Pica, probably of French descent. Pietro was in France on business when his son was born. Lady Pica named their son Giovanni, but upon his return from France, his father changed the name to Francesco. Many believe the name change was in honor of his mother’s heritage.

Francesco was a charismatic youth, had a great zest for life, and was a leader among his peers.  He received a good education and was able to read and write in Latin, and could read and converse in French as well, although not fluently. In 1202, Francis fought in a war between Assisi and Perugia and was taken captive. He was held prisoner for almost a year, and when finally released, in a feeble condition. A dream (or vision) to return to Assisi prevented him from joining yet another battle. Upon his arrival in Assisi, he devoted himself to solitude and fervent prayer that he would know God’s will for his life.

Francis made a pilgrimage to Rome, dressed in rags so that he might experience the life of a beggar seeking alms before St. Peter’s Basilica. Francis himself gave alms to a leper and despite a deep personal aversion toward lepers, kissed the man’s diseased hand.

Francis renounced both family ties and worldly goods in order to embrace a life of poverty. His deepest heart’s desire was to emulate the life of Christ and to follow the teachings of the gospel; that is, embracing with joy and humbleness of heart all that Jesus said and did.

A simple man, he lived an extraordinary life. He was a preacher, teacher, Founder of two religious orders and imitator of Christ in the highest sense of the word. He referred to poverty as “his bride,” and respected all nature as the reflection of God. To this fragile man, weakened by illness and self-denial, all creatures were his “brothers” and “sisters.”  Today, he is the Patron Saint of Ecology.

In 1224, Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ, the first saint in history to do so. On October3, 1226, he died a young man of 44, partially blind and in great pain. To his last breath, he lived the essence of his own prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy.

 

And all the Bunnies said…Amen!

 

I’ve grown softer in my old age and cry over simple things. Conversely, I become stronger in old age, traveling to problems I used to leave for someone else. Let me tell you a story, a real and recent one. A month or so ago, we experienced a flash flood in our little town on Cape Cod. I didn’t think much of it, watching out the window, but when water began pouring in the basement, I joined the group of The Alarmed. The Convent was well cared for by several sisters, so I grabbed a raincoat, and sloshed my way to the church to help there. As one group fought bravely with push brooms, another gathered towels for plugging door leaks, and a third hooked up sump pumps. One sister was feeding a drainage hose out a window and yelled to me, “Don’t look! There are dead bunnies out there!” I confess I looked and got my heart broken. Five tiny guys had washed up and out of their burrow and lie in a twisted heap, pelted by wind and cold rain.

Let me say right now, I’m not brave. I’m terrified of lightning and the sound of thunder that follows it. I heard myself say, “We can’t just leave them there!” And then hopefully listened for volunteers. My sister-friend said she’d help me. Help me. Okay, better than nothing. I grabbed two pairs of plastic “dentist” gloves to protect against disease, two baggies and a new trash bag – my idea of recovery equipment. First at the scene, I discovered two of the bunnies were alive. It was now a rescue operation, and I shouted the good news. The other sister ran to get a box, while I made a make-shift tent with the baggies. I cried like a baby as I waited. I cried, prayed, and waited, flinching at every lightning bolt. I was Scarlett O’Hara scratching the barren earth for food, fist raised to the heavens, vowing to never give up. Eventually, my friend returned, the box complete with air holes and lined with a soft towel. I gently picked up the two living bunnies and put them inside. The others I just as carefully placed in the garbage bag, respecting them in death as best I could and took them inside the warm church building.

We called Charlie, a man known for his kindness toward all creatures, and he agreed to take our little survivors to the animal rescue center. As I waited for Charlie to arrive, I continued my prayer vigil, promising the two bunnies Jesus loved them and they were safe. Slowly, to my amazement (forget my prayer bravado), the two little fellows revived.

Sometime after Charlie left, we noticed movement in the trash bag. Two more bunnies, thought to be deceased, had responded to the warm environment. Charlie graciously returned and made a second trip to the animal shelter. All four babies were treated for hypothermia and adopted by someone willing to eye-dropper feed them. We’re told they’re doing well and on their way to full recovery. Stormy, Flash, Thunder, and Reign – we wish you long life and all the best and may your sibling, Sunbeam, rest in peaceful slumber.

 

Feast of St. Matthew – September 21st

“Follow me.”  These two simple words transformed the life of Levi, Son of Alphaeus, to Matthew, a beloved apostle of our Lord Jesus. Levi was a publican or Jewish agent of the despised Roman Empire. He was hated and mistrusted by his fellow Jews and thought of as a traitor. He often sat by the customs house in Capernaum, collecting taxes from the Jewish people for Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. Then Jesus ridiculed and criticized for associating with sinners, and the worst of Hebrew society called him as one of his own.

Matthew, the name given by Jesus, translates as Yahweh’s Gift. When invited to join the disciples, he renounced all worldly possessions and committed himself wholeheartedly to following the Lord. He even re-paid all those he had cheated. Matthew remained steadfast and faithful throughout his life. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he was among those chosen to teach and spread the gospel. Much of his teaching took place in Palestine. There it is said he wrote his account of the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

He died near the present day country of Ethiopia and his remains entombed in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy. In Christian art, Matthew is sometimes depicted with a winged man, one of the four living creatures mentioned in Revelation 4:7 and further described as those who worship and praise God day and night. Matthew left behind all that defined him, made amends, and followed Jesus to the end.

 

Feast Day of Saint John Chrystosom – September 13th

To the Eastern Church, Saint John is known as Great Hierarch and Ecumenical Teacher, to the West, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church. To all, he is Chrystosom, meaning “golden-mouthed,” the great preacher.

Saint John was born c. 349 in the ancient Greek city of Antioch, near what is now Antakya, Turkey. His father, a high-ranking military officer, died shortly after his son’s birth. He was raised by his mother, Anthusa, sometimes referred to as a pagan but known to many as a devout Christian. Anthusa had many influential contacts, and John studied under Libanius, a gifted teacher from whom he learned skills in rhetoric as well as a great love for Greek language and literature.  John then turned to the study of theology, was baptized, and tonsured as a reader (considered the first step in becoming a priest.)

In about the year 375, Saint John became a hermit and lived a life of extreme asceticism. It is said he spent the next two years continually standing with little sleep and committed the Bible to memory. His health deteriorated as a result of such practices, and of necessity, he returned to Antioch, his body permanently weakened.

Here is the progression of St. John’s rise (and fall) through the church hierarchy after his return to Antioch:

• Ordained as a deacon in 381
• Ordained as a presbyter (priest) in 386
• Appointed against his will as Archbishop of Constantinople in 397
• Banished from his archbishopric in 403
• Exiled to the town of Cucusus in Cappadocia 404 to 407
• Sent into further exile in 407 and died during the journey

St. John was a highly educated man from a wealthy background who preferred a modest life. He emphasized care for the poor and used his considerable rhetorical skills to admonish excess found in the Church and the secular world.

He was beloved by the common folk for his deep and uncompromising understanding of scripture. His speech was eloquent and beautiful in its simplicity. Accusations of aloofness, tactlessness, and lack of political skill, were counterbalanced by his honesty, courage and sensitive heart.

 

Feast Day of the Nativity of Mary – September 8th

A common thread in the celebration of Mary’s birth is that, as our Savior’s mother, she represents the “first dawning of redemption in our world.” While the modern canon of scripture has no record of her birth, we do find a non-canonical history, documented about 150 AD.  We know that her parents’ names were Joachim and Anna and that the couple, unable to conceive, yearned for a child. A beautiful tradition holds that an angel appeared to Anna, and promised the birth of a daughter. Joachim was considered a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and that as such, he had homes in both Judea and Galilee. Some accounts name Tzippori, Israel as Mary’s birthplace, while others maintain she was born in Nazareth, and some a house near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem.

Mary, born to become the mother of the Savior of the world, is represented by many holy symbols: A lily, fleur de lis, pierced heart, starry crown, rose, snowdrop, the Ark of the Covenant, seat of wisdom and many others. Saint Augustine describes Mary as “the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.” Her birth, and ultimately the birth of her Son, transforms our inherited nature.

Both Eastern and Western Christians honor Mary, the Mother of God, and recognize her obedience, devotion, and love. The oldest known hymn to Mary is of Greek origin and titled, “Beneath Thy Protection.” It was found on a papyrus dating back to 250 AD, and translates to English as:

We fly to Thy protection,

O Holy Mother of God;

Do not despise our petitions

In our necessities

But deliver us always

From all dangers,

O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

Amen

 

Feast Day of St. Augustine of Hippo – August 28th

A Roman-African, Saint Augustine was born on November 13, 354, in the town of Tagaste (renamed Souk-Ahras, in modern day Algeria.) His mother was Monica, a devout Christian and his father Patricius, a Pagan who on his deathbed converted to Christianity. Augustine considered his mother integral to his life, and his father a stranger. His family were Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, but were Romanized and spoke only Latin in their home.

Augustine was a typical youth of his time and led a hedonistic lifestyle. He was the father of a son born out of wedlock, and eventually abandoned the mother and in so doing, the son. His attraction to “wine, women, and song,” led him from the church of his mother and his childhood. He, however, maintains that the name of Christ never left the recesses of his heart.

In 386 he traveled to Rome and Milan, where he met St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. St. Ambrose was an inspiration to Augustine and instrumental in his baptism. St. Monica found great peace and consolation in Augustine’s baptism and return to the church, both of which happened before her death.

St. Augustine was a man of brilliant mind and considerable rhetorical skills. He considered a career as an orator or lawyer, but then found a greater love of philosophy which he pursued with great fervor. Eventually, Augustine returned to Africa to live for God and hoped for a simple life of prayer, fasting, good works and meditation.  However, the African town of Hippo called him as priest and bishop, and he reluctantly accepted. On the wall of his room there, written in large letters, were these exceptional words: Here we do not speak evil of anyone. He was devout, charitable, and friend of the poor.

St. Augustine lived until the age of seventy-five. He left us with Confessions, an account of his life and the nature of the times in which he lived.  In his humility he declares, “Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold, Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.”

Feast Day of Bartholomew – August 24th

Bartholomew is one of the least mentioned and least known of the original Twelve Apostles of Christ.  He was born in the first Century AD in Cana and was martyred several years later in Albanopolis, Armenia. Although some commentators reject this notion, many believe that Nathaniel and Saint Bartholomew are one. If true, we know that Nathanael, a man from Cana in Galilee was summoned to Jesus by Philip.  Of him, Jesus said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.” (John 1:47b).  He was also, then, one of those to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection. After fishing all night unsuccessfully, they saw a man standing on the shore.  He instructed them to cast their net again, and the catch was so plentiful they couldn’t haul it in. Invited to cook some of the fish and eat with this mysterious man, they recognized Him as Jesus, their Lord.

There are three Christian traditions regarding Bartholomew’s death.  One tradition teaches that he was kidnapped, beaten unconscious, and thrown into the sea to drown.  Another maintains that he was crucified upside down, while a third, and the most widely accepted, says he was flayed (skinned alive) and beheaded in Albanopolis, Armenia.   Tradition maintains that Bartholomew’s conversion of Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity, enraged the king’s brother, prince Astyages who feared a Roman backlash.  The Prince, in retaliation, ordered Bartholomew tortured and executed.

Saint Bartholomew the Apostle is the patron saint of those who struggle with nervousness and any sort of mental issues.  Let his name be a reminder of the love and grace of the Lord in our times of stress!

 

As He Loved Us

I’m a great fan of the late composer and performer, John Denver. My favorite song is “Perhaps Love.” You may think I have a sentimental streak, and you could be right, but among Mr. Denver’s credentials is the title Poet Laureate of Colorado. His words are simple, profound, and down to earth. Here are some of the descriptive phrases present in his lyrics:

Perhaps Love
Is a resting place, shelter from a storm
Like a window or an open door
It can be like a cloud or strong as steel.
Sometimes love is holding on,
At other times letting go.
It can be like the ocean
Filled with conflict and pain,
Loves’ memory will bring you home.

I’ve been searching the scriptures to understand love. I know it’s essential to love and be loved to find wholeness. I pondered this verse, Ephesians 4:2, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in Love. I fall short on all counts because of my nature and history. To love as Jesus loved is hard work that requires personal transformation and His grace.