Women of Strength

By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

The call is the motivating force that beckons us forward, no matter the doubts and fears. We are called to keep moving with the forces of the times as they change around us. We must trust that we are being led and are being called to lead. We must not give into our fears or false beliefs about who and what we are or what we can or cannot do. There is a force within us that guides and protects us no matter the unjust systems we confront in life.

We have been called from the beginning of time to be the birthing force of change in our world. We must not let apathy pin us to our seats but move onward, trusting even when the path forward isn’t clear.

The history of so many people who believed in Christ is full of accounts of humanity being moved to change. These peoples followed the guidance and prompting of God and courageously risked their very lives to see changes in vast systems of belief.

We are women who are meant to be unconstrained by the belief systems passed down by others. Instead, we must stand tall as we walk like Christ into a sinful world seeking, like Christ, transformation for all God’s peoples.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms of Love

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

(This post is part 3 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 3 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Where do you go when you need a helping hand and no one is around, or no one understands what you are going through.  Maybe you have experienced a major disappointment, lost a job or were turned down for a promotion.  Perhaps you feel alone, lost, confused, hopeless, unloved, or you do not know what to do or where to go.

 Do you remember that Jesus, the visual image of the Trinity, is always approachable and ready to lavish grace and love on anyone who asks?  The title of this reflection comes, in part, from an old spiritual that was popular in the days when pioneers were setting into the Southern and Western parts of the United States.  It was a long and dangerous undertaking.  Many travelers put their trust in God and hoped to survive the journey.  Where else could they put it?

 The section of the Litany of the Heart I choose to explore (eighth stanza) is near the end.  It highlights some qualities that Jesus can share with each of us in our life journey.  In fact, the entire Trinity wants to participate in this outpouring of grace.

 Here’s what the litany might suggest:

 Be our refuge when we feel alone, confused, and away from home.

 Be our shelter when we feel rejected, misunderstood, lost.

 Be our comfort when we don’t know where to go, or what to do when we are sick, confused or weary.

 Be our rest when we try too hard, are lost and alone along the way.

 Be our welcome breast when there seems to be nowhere to go, when we are hungry and cold.

 

 For reflection: What graces do you desire from God?  Do you ask in confidence?

 

Healing Heart

By Sr. Carole Ruland, MHSH

(This post is part 2 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 5 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Healing Heart

 Lately, I have been praying with the Scriptures, to gather some of the events that express what Jesus’s Heart called him to do and to be in the world of his time.  The Gospels show us how Jesus touched the lives of the people when he walked the earth.  We are called to love and reach out to the people of today. “Spirituality of the Heart” is expressed in many different ways.  The love Jesus showed during his life on earth is our spiritual challenge of today and tomorrow in a world that needs the love of God.  We are challenged by Jesus’ life to be unconditionally loving, caring, compassionate, healing, forgiving, transforming, inclusive, and merciful.

Matthew 11:29-30 tells us: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”  The bible tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them.  He healed those who needed healing!  He fed those who were hungry!

 We, too, often find ourselves in the midst of situations that need someone to reach out to help people.  In my hospice ministry with the dying, I felt like I was opening myself and receiving the gift of following in the footsteps of Jesus.  In turn, I was given more peace than I ever could have expected. 

We may not be able to do what Jesus could do, but the warmth in our own hearts can give some support to others.  And, when we are able to help another, we can let the love of God touch us as he did in his life.  Even a “hello” has power to lift spirits, and produce smiles. 

 

Loving, Compassionate Heart

 

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

(This post is part 1 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 6 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

 

Loving, Compassionate Heart

“So loving”… the all-encompassing loving presence of the Sacred Heart in our lives helps each of us to contribute to the holiness of the Church and give glory to our God.  It is this loving presence in our lives that leads us to experience the Soft Whisper of Love.

Leaving for my work (as a counselor to women who are victims of abuse) one morning I had this deep sense of a loving presence. As my morning continued and a I listened to women experiencing pain, desperation and fear, I looked up through the window and I saw a huge tree with branches spread wide, as if it wanted to give me a big hug. I called it to the attention of the woman in the room with me to see if she was seeing what I was seeing, and she smiled. At the end of the session, I shared with her the big hug that I experienced from a loving presence in the room.  She was open to it and left with a big smile on her face!

We read in the Gospel of Matthew: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be”. (Matthew 6:21)

“So Compassionate”… Compassion alludes to kindness and sympathy, but there is something deeper, something even more profound and powerful, in its meaning. Compassion inspires and encourages us to expand our circle, it invites us to embrace all life, regardless of species,  and be able to make loving, merciful choices.

The Sacred Heart represents a God of Compassion who desires that we live and act compassionately. “Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight”. (Psalm 119: 77)

Compassion occurs when the heart “quivers in response” to the suffering of another, giving rise to the wish to alleviate that suffering.  When we are suffering and feel the urge to help ourselves, we are experiencing self-compassion.

I will end this reflection by sharing with you a reminder for all of us from a teacher at Loyola University of Maryland, Robert J. Wicks:

NURTURING YOUR HEART

Read a bit

Listen to a favorite song

Call a friend

Remember a kindness

Help the poor

Keep perspective

Smile broadly

Laugh loudly

Close doors gently

Do what you can

Live gratefully

Relax for a moment

Breathe deeply

Tease yourself often

Take a quiet walk

Tell God a funny story

 

 

Taking the Long View

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Quick!  What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common?  No idea?  I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.

Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery.  They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?).  To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!

So – Brigance and Fox:  Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death.  In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.

O.J. and Chanda Brigance

 

Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor.  Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own.  Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse.  Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.

Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan

 

Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.

 It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us.  “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained.  Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.

Love. Changes. Everything.

A reflection for the fourth week in Lent.

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

“Prodigal Son” by Kristi Valiant

 

Today marks the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, from the word ‘”rejoice,” be joyful.  We are halfway into Lent and Easter is fast approaching.  Our readings this Sunday speak of love, mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness. 

As I reflected upon today’s reading a song repeated in my heart, “Love Changes Everything!”  Love, the song tells us, “will turn your world around….”  Each of our readings speak of changed worlds – changed hearts.  The Israelites have reached the promised land of Canaan and Paul reminds us in the second reading that “whoever is in Christ is a new creation…the old things have passed away….”  I wonder what has passed away for me/you these four weeks of Lent or where have we found the newness that comes in our returning to or deepening our friendship with God?  It is through that deepening friendship that we bear fruit (remember the barren fig tree from last week).  What is the fruit we are bearing – tending?

Again, the lyrics of the song, “Love changes everything, brings you glory, brings you shame. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”  How have we been reconciled to God these weeks and what is the call we have received to be reconcilers?  When Paul implores us on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God, to whom else do we need to be reconciled?  The parable of the Prodigal Son shows that through love everything is changed.  It is love that restores and brings us to our senses.  Who is it in this parable that speaks to you today?  Is it the loving, forgiving and merciful father?  Is it the young son who went off to do his own thing only to find he lost it all and needed to find a way back home?  The young son who was, most likely, expecting a reprimand (maybe even a dismissal) and instead was greeted by a loving father who ran out to meet him on his return and threw a party in his honor. 

Have you experienced that kind of love and acceptance that goes beyond humiliation at mistakes and uplifts and restores to life?  Some would say the father was a fool and perhaps that’s even what the older son was thinking, yet, “love does change everything…and love makes fools of everyone.”    Has love ever made a fool of you or made you do seemingly foolish things?  Can you relate to the older son’s upset – the absence of his joy in serving – his feelings of being unnoticed and unappreciated? The older son’s understanding of the limitlessness of the father’s love is revealed in his jealousy.  Don’t you wonder if the older son’s heart was changed by the love of his father who left the celebration of his younger son to go out and plead with this older son?  I do think love changes everything and as the song says,  it changes everyone and “love will never, never let you be the same.”

View From the Mountaintop

A reflection for the second week in Lent

 By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

As I pray with the Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, I wonder why Jesus took Peter, John and James to the top of a mountain to pray.  Wouldn’t a nice spot by the sea do? Or a secluded area off the beaten path?  As we look through the Gospels, we find Jesus choosing numerous places to pray and teach.  There is the desert, the hill overlooking Jerusalem, the mountain or plane to teach the Beatitudes, the rock where Jesus gathered the children, to cite a few.

 When I imagine being on a mountaintop, I experience a broader perspective on life.  I forget my problems as I take in the beauty of our world.  I am reminded of the diversity of God’s creation.  I am also reminded of the uneven distribution of resources, clean air and wealth, among other things, that afflict our planet.  A big challenge for me is to know when to come down the mountain and get to work.

 Suggested questions for reflection:

What are the places that help you encounter God?
How are you challenged by the uneven distribution of resources cited by the author?
Do you also have difficulty “coming down from the mountaintop?”

 

Examen Prayer for First Week in Lent

The Word

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

—Mark 1:12-13

Reflect

In the desert, Jesus could see the stars and thank the Father for them. We are called out of the world in this season of Lent, so that we can give thanks too. In time, Jesus was called out of the dry desert to a busy life. So too are we called to love and serve God in a busy life. Let us live with hearts full of thanksgiving.

1. Give Thanks. I thank God for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word.

2. Pray for Light. I ask the Father to let me see my day as the Holy Spirit sees it, and to show me what I need to see.

3. Find God. I look at my day in the light of the Spirit.

I look back over the morning, the afternoon, and the evening.
Who talked with me or worked with me?
Did I get done what I meant to do or leave things out?

4. Anything Wrong?

Do I trust that God is with me when I fail?
Where I was ungrateful, I repent and offer thanks.

5. What Now?

I look forward in hope.
What have I to do now? What have I to avoid?

Prayer

I seem to give little, Lord Jesus,
to anyone I know in need.
Is it enough to contribute to causes
that help the suffering,
or do I have to help
with my own hands?
Show me others to help.
I will thank You for it—and ask for the courage
to tackle what You lead me to.
Amen.

Source: Ignatianspirituality.com

Prayer by Joseph Tetlow, SJ

The Change That Changes Everything – A Reflection for Easter

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

We live in a world and in a time of rapid change.  All avenues of social media keep us aware moment by moment of how quickly things change all around the world.  Closer to home, “in the blink of an eye” as they say, our lives change.  It could be a phone call, a medical diagnosis, news about a loved one and life is never the same.  Perhaps it’s the death of one we hold dear or the birth of a child, a grandchild, a niece or nephew.  Change is all around us; change is the one constant in life.

Recently I was struck by a phrase that I heard and shortly thereafter read in an article. The phrase – “the change that changed everything.”  I kept coming back to that as I prayed about this Easter blog.  Truly, Easter is THE change that changed everything for us who today proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Risen!” 

 Our Lenten preparation and opening to the love and grace of God that is all-surrounding, have perhaps changed our hearts to see even more clearly the awesome mystery that from death comes new life.  We come to embrace in a deeper way what the great mystics knew, that resurrection is how reality is – that nothing dies, everything is transformed.  These forty days have invited us to grow more fully into being a resurrection people.  Our faith is meant to witness a message of hope.  How does this hope allow us to stand with others in their deepest sorrow – in their deepest joy?

 

 May we, like the women at the tomb and those first disciples be surprised by the mystery of resurrection.  May we, like them, experience new freedom as the children of a God who calls us from all that entombs, entraps and keeps us bound.  May our despair, doubt and disappointment be transformed in the light of the resurrection as we find new life, hope and the gentle breath of presence and peace.  For truly Easter is THE change that changes everything!

 

We Stood Together on September 11

A Reflection on September 11, 2001

By Fr. Paul Wierichs, C.P., who was a chaplain in the New York Office of the FBI on that date.

Sept 11Everyone remembers, and will probably always remember, exactly where they were and what they were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I was chaplain for the FBI’s New York office. After returning to my office after my morning run, but before I got to my desk, all of my phones began ringing – my beeper, my private line, my business phone – all ringing simultaneously. All were people alerting me to the horrific events that had begun to unfold, starting with a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Traveling into New York City I was struck by the number of New York firemen and police being called back to work. Before I entered into the Queens Midtown tunnel, I stopped for a moment and looked over in the direction of the World Trade Center and saw nothing but billowing smoke. As I rushed into the FBI’s New York office, close to the World Trade Center, the office was frantic – faces were grim – something I had never seen in this office.Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see in person at Ground Zero: the dust that permeated the air, the acid smell, the carnage, workers putting their own lives at risk to find survivors. I had lived in a monastery while many of my generation served in Vietnam. I could never truly appreciate the horror they went through. When I talked to people at Ground Zero who had served in Vietnam, they said this was more horrific.

During the first couple of days, standing there with my FBI raid jacket with “chaplain” on the back, I was overwhelmed by the number of firemen, policemen and other rescue people who came up to me saying, “Chaplain, may I speak to you for a moment?” I heard more confessions in two weeks than I had in years.

As a Passionist, I am called to preach the passion of Jesus. For me that means entering into the passion of people’s lives, particularly when they are called to carry a cross. We offer them hope, consolation, and love. I am honored that I was able to be part of heroic people’s lives. Looking into the eyes of everyone around I saw an inner wound to the soul itself. God was also present in those eyes, giving us all the strength we needed to go that extra mile.

Most law enforcement and emergency workers do not express emotion. This was not the case that day. I was standing inside the American Express building when six firemen brought out the body of one of their own. I said, “Let me offer a prayer.” The lieutenant called them to attention, hats off, and brought those men but also myself to tears.

What struck me about the heroism of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers was their total dedication to the task at hand. When people were running out of harm’s way firemen were running towards the crisis, risking their own lives to help others who needed assistance.

Their unyielding hope in looking for survivors amid all the tons of rubble, dust, glass and steel for more than two weeks showed the true character of each of them. Their outpouring of generosity reflected the outpouring of generosity from all people of all faiths, with their prayers and donations. People came together in unity that day. We can all remember where we were on 9/11, because we were all together.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops