Mother’s Day 2022

The month of May gives us the opportunity to remember both Mary, mother of Jesus, and all other women who have left imprints on our hearts and souls — our mothers, of course, but also beloved grandmothers and aunts, teachers, doctors, neighbors and dear friends. All the women who have journeyed with us in life can be remembered during the month of May.

We have a brand new design for our Mother’s Day card

click on the link to view:  MothersDay order form22

The Gifts of Christmas

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

Growing up in my family, Christmas Eve meant gathering around the Christmas tree, house lights dim, tree lights glowing, the scent of logs burning, the fragrance of pine needles, as my Dad read with great fanfare The Night Before Christmas. His boisterous rendition was always followed with our attention turned to the creche as my mother proclaimed, with more hush than gusto, Luke’s Infancy Narrative. From an early age, I learned that the sacred and the secular go hand and hand.

This is the time of Christmas. This is the time of a global pandemic. Perhaps there has never been a time when we were more in need of God entering our chaos and becoming human in Jesus.  The Incarnation is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds and almost by the sheep.

The troubadour of Christmas. G.K. Chesterton, helps us to uncover the spiritual center of the secular:

THE OTHER STOCKING

 What has happened has been the the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.  It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good ~ far from it.  And the experience was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. Of course, most people who talk about these things get into a state of some mental confusion by attaching tremendous importance to the name of the entity.  We called him Santa Claus because everyone called him Santa Claus, but the name of a god is a mere human label. His real name may have been Williams. It may have been the Archangel Uriel. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking, now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.

                                                                          

                                                                                             

For our pondering

 Where in my life is God inviting me to enlarge my heart and to love a bigger God?

Recall a moment of Wonder/Amazement in your life.  Revisit.  What happened inside of you?

Does the Incarnation provide an invitation to live your life differently post-COVID?

 

 

 

 

Who’s In Charge Here, Anyway?

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122020.cfm

In today’s first Scripture reading (2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 12A, 16), we see God issuing something of a course correction to the king.  David somehow had come to think that he had created his own success (“Settled in his palace”, “rest from his enemies”) and he wanted to share his prosperity with God.  As soon as you read that, you may think, “isn’t that backwards?” and in fact God instructs the prophet Nathan to remind King David of how he made it to the top – namely, with the power of God, not on his own merits.  Put more bluntly, God asks David, “Who do you think you are? I called you from herding animals.  I made you commander of my people.” In contemporary parlance, in other words, God is saying to David, “Get over yourself!”

Most of us have gotten such treatment at least once in our lives, maybe not from a prophet but from life itself.  We are shocked – SHOCKED – that thus and such is happening to us!  A pandemic – herenow? Businesses shutting, opening, shutting again? People who never could have imagined needing any kind of public assistance, forced by lack of funds to stand in line at a food bank? We are not citizens of a third-rate dictatorship – ah, but haven’t you heard that very term used recently, and repeatedly?

Here we are, folks – look in a mirror and confront your own need, then turn to God and express just what God has been hoping to hear from you: your longing for a savior.  Jesus’ coming to save us was not just centuries ago.  He will come again and again, in all sorts of disguises and through all sorts of people and agencies, whenever we humble ourselves to ask, and accept what has made available.

For reflection:

In what ways are you serving as God’s surrogate in reaching out to others’ needs? Think beyond the material to the emotional and spiritual. Take note of the expressions of longing in so many Advent and Christmas hymns, such as “O come, O Come, Emmanuel”. Make those songs your true prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing the Way

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120620.cfm

During Advent in the northern hemisphere, we observe a shortened span of daylight.  For many people, this can bring on a downturn in mood, and some even suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder.  This darkness can extend to our spiritual lives as well.  How then do we bring more “light” into our lives and the lives of others?  Lighting our Advent candles is one way of keeping vigil as we await the birth of Jesus, and the rituals we observe around the candle can bring a sense of hope and joy.  During this season we might also try to rid ourselves of egotistical tendencies and some of the “busyness” in our lives and spend some quality time in prayer and reflection, calling to mind who we really are in the sight of God.

In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist say:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In his book, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent, Richard Rohr, OFM states:

“John the Baptist’s qualities are most rare and yet crucial for any reform or authentic transformation of persons or groups.  That is why we focus on John the Baptist every Advent and why Jesus trusts him and accepts his non-temple, offbeat ritual, while also going far beyond him.  Water is only the container; fire and Spirit are the contents, John says. Yet if we are not like the great John, we will invariably substitute our own little container for the real contents.  We will substitute rituals for reality instead of letting the rituals point us beyond themselves.

John the Baptist is the strangest combination of conviction and humility, morality and mysticism, radical prophecy and living in the present. This  son of the priestly temple class does his own thing down by the riverside; he is a man born into privilege who dresses like a hippie; he is a superstar who is willing to let go of everything, creating his own water baptism and then saying that what really matters is the baptism of “Spirit and fire”!  He is a living paradox, as even Jesus said of him: “There is no man greater than John…but he is also the least” in the new reality that I am bringing about (Matthew 11:11). John both gets it and does not get it at all which is why he has to exit stage right early in the drama.  He has played his single and important part, and he knows it.  His is brilliantly a spirituality of descent, not ascent.  “He must grow bigger; l must grow smaller.”  (John 3:30).

The only way such freedom could happen is if John learned to be very empty of himself already as a young man, before he even built his tower of success.  His ego was out of the way so much so that he could let go of his own ego, his own message and even his own life.  This is surely the real meaning of his head on a platter.  Some have cleverly said that ego is an acronym for “Edging God Out”.  There’s got to be such emptiness, or we cannot point beyond ourselves to Jesus, as John did.  Such emptiness doesn’t just fall into our laps; such humility does not just happen. It is surely the end product of a thousand letting-goes and a thousand acts of devotion, which for John the Baptist gradually edged God in.”

For Reflection:

How do you manage to schedule some down time in your day? Can you make this a priority during Advent?

How are you bringing more “light” into your own life, and the lives of others during this season?

Do you keep a journal to help you track your progress?

How is your spiritual life one of “ascent” or “descent”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching and Waiting in Chaotic Times

A reflection for the first Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm

 

Our Advent season opens with Jesus saying to his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!”  Again, at the end of our Gospel reading Jesus says, “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”   Watch for what?  Watch for who?  This Advent season is like no other as we live in this time of Covid-19 with great unrest and division in our country and in the world.  We wait for healing, we wait for peace, we wait for a vaccine.  We focus our Advent waiting and watching on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.  In faith, we trust that Emmanuel God is with us.  In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are reminded of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus.  We are reminded that as we wait, we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  We have all that we need to prepare.  This time of Advent – this time before Christmas, we are given the invitation to deepen our awareness of God’s love for us and for all the world.  Just as Mary prepared for the birth of Jesus, we are invited to ready that space within us for something new to be born.  As we wait to welcome the Light of the world, we are called to be light for the world.  What does that mean in your life?  What would a deeper awareness of God’s love look like in your life?

 

We know that we come to discover our selves in and through our relationships.  Advent is an opportunity to take some time, to make some space in our busy lives to sit in quiet and deepen our relationship with God.  Tell God what it is you hope for, ask God to help you let go of whatever keeps you from loving with an open heart.  Confide your fears and concerns to God who loves and cares for you more than you can imagine.  Become aware of who you are becoming during this Advent season, not just about what you are doing.  As you wait, you may want to invite Mary and/or Joseph to wait with you.  Try to imagine their preparation, their hopes and dreams, their fears and concerns.

 

We pray, ‘Come Lord Jesus, come into our waiting, keep us alert and watching as we awaken anew to your presence within us and all around us.  Thank you for this time and may we use it to deepen our commitment to follow you and be instruments of your peace.’

 

 

 

 

 

Laudato Si…Five Years Later

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”

–Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
“Laudato Si” (Praised Be)

 

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si, we re-post this piece that originally appeared in 2015 for your reflection. May we recommit ourselves to caring for the gift of our earth. For the full text of the encyclical,  click here.

The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC., and published on June 18, 2015.

pope-environmentThe Problem

This sister [our common home] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

Pope Francis_the green vision of Pope FrancisNever have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.

Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.

Policy and Political Leadership

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

The establishment of a legal framework, which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems, has become indispensable, before the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm overwhelm not only our politics but freedom and justice as well.

A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

Negative effects of Fossil Fuels 5International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.

Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.

True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.)

What is needed is a politics which is farsighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.

Reality of the Problem and Necessity to Act

Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.

Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent.

Calls to Action

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.

Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

Pope encyclical 1Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it.

Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively and replaced without delay.

Negative effects of Fossil Fuels 2Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.

Truly, much can be done!

Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.

A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.

Climate 2-change-and-cocoa-Chocolate-firms-action-to-temperature-rise

The Stations of the Cross Chaplet: Journeying Together During Holy Week

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D. Min.

 

Several years ago, while in Assisi, Italy with my University of Dayton students, I encountered the Stations of the Cross Rosary, or Chaplet, as it is to be called.  We were waiting to enter the Carceri (St. Francis’ Hermitage in the mountains above Assisi).  There on the side of the road was a stand vending religious articles.  There, on the mountain, I discovered the beautiful Chaplet that has become central to my daily prayer particularly during Covid-19.  

 Covid-19 is preventing us from being physically present for our Catholic Services and particularly our Lenten Traditional Stations of the Cross. I remember when growing up that no one in the parish ever missed 7:30 Friday evening Stations Devotion during Lent.  The entire parish was present. This Lenten Catholic Tradition was woven into the fabric of our Catholic spiritual lives.  

Today, more than ever, the Stations or Way of the Cross prophetically speak to us as we listen or view daily news. We are experiencing a living Way of the Cross in the lives of millions of people around the world. It is imperative now for us to daily embrace afresh journeying the Way of the Cross as a means of daily connecting with and supporting one another.

 During the 2000 Jubilee Pope John Paul II guided us through a moving Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum for Good Friday. It can be found with this link: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2000/apr-jun/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20000421_via-crucis.html

 I treasure praying the Stations of the Cross Chaplet each day as a way toward connecting spiritually with all who are experiencing effects from Covid-19, related illnesses, suffering from angst, distress, ambiguity, despair, and death of loved ones in their lives. Each one of us is journeying through our own personal difficulty brought on by Covid-19. Yet, together, especially during this Holy Week, while we are isolated in our own personal spaces, we can spiritually reach out supporting one another along each of our Way of the Crosses with Jesus by our side.

 For how to pray the Stations of the Cross Chaplet, click on this link:

https://www.blessedbeadsrosaries.com/stations-of-the-cross-chaplet-prayers

 Throughout this Holy Week, we invite all to join our Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart family united in prayer for recovery and end of Covid-19. Our Sisters hold each of you in prayer.

 

 

Saintly Snark – A Reflection for the Feast of St. Joseph

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Know any Christmas-y songs about St. Joseph? No? Well, I know only one, and I cherish it because it’s midrash-like: it goes behind the scene, and evokes a rich line of thought (one of the purposes of midrash).

Actually, the scene is set after Christmas, when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are fleeing to Egypt to evade Herod’s soldiers, coming to execute all baby boys who could pose a threat to Herod’s power (think “the Holy Innocents”, whom we celebrated a couple of days after Christmas, bringing us back with a thud from all the holiday sweetness and light).

It’s one long trek to Egypt by foot and donkey, so the family takes a break when Mary sees a cherry tree up ahead. Some juicy cherries sound wonderful to her, so the song reports her request of Joseph to pick some for her.

Snarkily, Joseph replies, “Let the father of the baby pick cherries for you.” Wow! Was he ruminating during that whole long trip over Mary’s pregnancy- without-his-involvement, and the resultant upending of all their happy plans together? (Unexpected pregnancies and other life-altering events have been known to make good, even saintly, people snarky and then some!).

There’s no record of Mary’s reply – perhaps she was stunned to silence by her spouse’s uncharacteristic testiness. But someone else does reply: that “father of the baby” causes the cherry tree to bend down far enough for Mary to pick her own cherries!

I suspect the stunned silence shifted to Joseph, who had to rejoice in such an emphatic affirmation of the baby boy’s true origin, putting to rest all Joseph’s anger, hurt and bitterness.

Of course, “The Cherry Tree Carol” is made up: there’s no mention of cherries in the scriptures, as far as I know. But in the department of “be careful what you wish for”, could this be any better a response?

So many conversations could grow from this rich, imaginative carol! What could you say to Joseph? To Mary? Even to baby Jesus?

A Spiritual Lesson from a Crown of Thorns Plant

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min.

Recently I inherited a Crown of Thorns plant. The truth of the matter is no one wanted it. Out of partial neglect over recent years, it simply developed spidery wild projections of thorny branches with little to no signs of life. It only irritated your skin if you moved too near and touched it.

No family member wanted to discard the plant because it had been the favorite plant of their mother’s while she had been alive. Yet, no one took the time to care for it. It had become an annoyance because the plant was perceived as lacking beauty. It simply had become a lifeless plant. Each time I visited the family I commented on the care for the plant. I felt the plant simply entered a state of hibernation.

One day when I returned home from the University the Crown of Thorns plant was positioned at my front door. The family was moving. Because of my affirmation of the plant over the years, I inherited it. It remained at my front door for a few days. Did I really want to bring it into my apartment, care for it, continue to believe that life surged deep within it?

Yes. I took the time to study further how to care for my Crown of Thorns plant. I offered it the best light in my apartment by my study balcony window, proceeded to fertilizer, and water it according to the instructions, misting it occasionally; and, oh, yes, talking to it every day. In less than two weeks I observed the first showings of tiny green leaves emerge from the spidery branches. Within two months the plant radiated a headdress of bushy emerald leaves. Now I am waiting for its lush pink flowers to fill in the green headdress. Yes, life hibernated within it over the recent years. If you believe, you will see and discover the hidden beauty within and around you.

Frequently I find myself meditating on my plant during morning prayer as the morning sun streams through the window cuddling the plant. I imagine myself composing a parable centered on my Crown of Thorns experience. I discover parallels with spiritual life stories my University students share between classes, or while meeting them walking across campus. I patiently listen to their angst concerning the emptiness, dryness, fruitlessness they may be experiencing in their spiritual lives. “I am empty of any feelings toward God. Has God abandoned me?” “Where is God now in my life?” “Where can I experience God’s life igniting a fire within me?” “Why do some of my friends feel God’s closeness and love and I am so empty, lifeless?”

I found that sharing the encounter with my Crown of Thorns plant sparks a meaningful dialogue on nurturing our spiritual life. Just as a life force may have appeared to be depleted for a few years in my plant, with a little bit of care and attention the life force emerged with splendor. We may feel dryness, emptiness, a loss of life and meaning at certain moments in our lives. We are called to believe in the beauty and richness of a Divine Life Force/Energy (God) which may appear hidden but is present within us. God does not abandon us. We need only pay attention. God’s Divine Energy is constantly flowing within, through and around us. We need only be patient. We need to lean deeply into the Divine Life Force surging within us even in our bleakest hours. I encourage my students in such moments to pause and become mindful of God’s unconditional ceaseless love for them. Or, by contemplating or imagining the Divine Force surging within affirming, comforting and radiating God’s unconditional love flowing through every fiber of their being.

 

PS: Called “Euphorbia”, the Crown of Thorns is one of the few succulents with real leaves – thick, fleshy, and tear-shaped. The leaves appear on stems that are armed with sharp, inch-long spines. The plant gets its common name from the legend that the thorny crown worn by Jesus at his crucifixion was made from this plant.