Hidden Riches

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022121.cfm

Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that we have been in “Lent” for over a year already? What more can we say about such a cold, grim season? It has been our own desert, just as Jesus had his –and yet, when he emerged, he had a surprising message, upbeat and hopeful: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.”

Can we come up with anything like that, as we look ahead to the end of the Covid 19 pandemic? Jesus had angels ministering to him: do we? Where do we see the “riches hidden in Christ” that the opening prayer (Collect) of today’s Mass refers to?

My first response is “First Responders” – the truly heroic, selfless folk who do the dangerous ministry of health care, transportation to hospitals, phone calls to next of kin, handholding and cellphone displaying as loved ones breathe their last. How many times in one day can one’s heart break? Who has the courage to step up to do that, not for their own loved ones but for complete strangers? Those are the “riches, in part, anyway.

Mr. Rogers always advised children to “look for the helpers”, a wise piece of advice.  As we ponder the enormous need all around us, we would do well to look for the helpers in these perilous times. Perhaps instead of sacrificing chocolate or ice cream or other treats for Lent, we might donate to the Red Cross, local food banks or hospitals to express our gratitude for the gift that they are. If not a monetary gift, maybe it would be even more meaningful to say some heartfelt words of thanks to a person who has cared so well for our own dear ones?  No matter how halting or unpolished, such words would be received as golden: “hidden riches” brought to light, offered, and received with gratitude.

Forgiving, Grateful Heart

 

 

By Sr. Barbara Baker, MHSH

(This post is part 4 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 2 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?

Ever since Pope Francis became our Church leader, I have been struck by his constant reminder to us that we are called to be people of mercy and forgiveness.   He is urging us to let go of grudges, hurts, and slights – anything that keeps us at odds with others.     My reflection on the Litany of the Heart focuses on the last stanza, that asks us to have mercy, to develop a  gracious heart that leads us to gratefulness and tenderness towards all that comes into our lives—even through our dark days and difficult challenges.

The encyclical “Laudato Si” has captured my attention since it was published.  In the parish where I minister, we are trying to raise awareness that we each of us has been entrusted with the care of our common home.  We are people who like convenience to the point where we sometimes lose consciousness of how we ‘use’ things and even people for our own gain. Can we hear God’s invitation to think about where all good gifts come from? Can we cultivate gratitude for the generosity of the Giver of them?

 Once we realize the source of all our blessings, we begin to relate to our God differently.  We are called to treat people and things with respect and gratitude and to approach life with a tenderness that we would show to a newborn baby.  It is a process of conversion over a period of time.  It leads us to an insight that we are all connected and need to relate with one another.  We are called to ‘disconnect’ from our technologies more so that we can ‘connect’ with people and experiences.  With all the ‘isms’ displayed in our world (racism, sexism, etc.), how do we get in touch with how each of us embraces any of them so that we can rid ourselves of these biases?  How can we learn to love all ‘because’ of their differences and not in ‘spite’ of them?

We call upon the Heart of Jesus to hear us in our plea to learn how to love as He loves!  Take a long and loving look at your heart and hopefully you will see a love that indeed reflects His love a bit more each day.

Perspectives on Thanksgiving

 

 

[Background: The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart are one of eight women’s religious communities who collaborate to support Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE), a non-profit organization that assists women asylum seekers as they build new lives in the United States.  The women hail from a variety of countries, and fled their homelands because of persecution.  They come to the US legally and go through an extended vetting process to gain asylum here. AWE and the other religious congregations support these women by assisting with housing, employment and education, and with building community.]

Recently, several asylum-seeking women who lived with the Mission Helpers have moved on to independent living, along with jobs and/or further education.  During their time living among the Sisters,  the women and the Sisters formed close bonds.  We cherished their time with us as we got to know each other. As we listened to their stories, we were filled with admiration for their strength, courage, faith and resilience in leaving home and loved ones behind, and starting over in an unfamiliar country.  The following are excerpts from letters that they wrote to us.

“I wanted to thank you for your love and care these last years. As a 19 year old girl in a new country, my only question was, what am I going to be?  Today, I can firmly say that I have a good future.  I stayed at MHSH, and not a single day did I feel like I was not at home.  I was surrounded by love, and good people.  I will never forget how you made me feel special on my birthdays.  You celebrated my life!  Today, I am leaving MHSH not as a stranger but a child of MHSH who is going to follow her dream.”  -G.

“To my amazing Sisters: Thank you for opening the door for me when I was homeless and had nowhere else to live.  The years that I lived with you made me so attached to Mission Helpers.  I feel like family and proudly call this place my second home.  The words “thank you” are not enough to express how grateful and indebted I am to the entire community”.   -S.

In reflecting upon our time with these women, we are profoundly grateful for their presence among us..  They have enriched our lives beyond measure.

We are also very grateful for you, who love and support us in so many ways.  We wish each of you a blessed Thanksgiving with your families and friends.

 

 

Giving Thanks

As we gather with family and friends around our Thanksgiving tables, we offer a reprise of this video by Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB on the grace of gratitude.  Appropriate for any time during the year, it is especially fitting for this day of giving thanks.  May we cultivate the habit of being grateful for our blessings throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart! We are truly grateful for the love and support of our friends and benefactors over the past 125 years.

 

See more reflections by Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, at www.gratefulness.org.

“What is God trying to say to us in our busy lives? Be patient! Learn to wait—for each other, for love, for happiness, for God!”**

**Title quote from Carlo Corretto, Letters from the Desert

A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent by Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Two-Purple-CandlesCertainly the thoughts of Carlo Corretto are underscored in the readings for this Second Sunday of Advent. Isaiah foretells of a time when the Lord will visit the Israelites and gather them in his arms like a shepherd gathers sheep so they may be comforted. St. Peter extols his readers to be patient for the return of Jesus Christ and to live today in hope and faith as we long for an intimate experience of God’s nearness and love. Finally we hear John the Baptist’s plea to prepare the way of the Lord in the desert—a time to clear away all that distracts us from realizing our utter dependence on God as well as God’s unconditional love for each of us.

What are we to make of all this waiting? In all of these readings there is an underlying sense of hope that God is somehow present to us in a real yet hidden way and also there is an awareness of a longing for a more immediate and personal experience of God’s care and love for each of us from moment to moment as we go about the art of living from day to day.

How do we live in the in-between time? How are we to be present to the not yet while we wait for a clearer and more intimate experience of God-with-us? The spiritual tradition offers some helpful practices that can help us remember our fundamental relationship with God that is grounded in our utter dependence on God’s generosity, beginning with every breath we take to every grace we receive day by day.

Advent is a good time in the year to call to mind and heart the goodness of God in our past life by remembering, appreciating and expressing gratitude for the many blessings we have received throughout our life. This practice is often called Remembering our Blessed History.

 Another helpful practice is to take some time each evening to review our quality of attention to the day that is just ending in order to become ever more aware of God’s presence moment by moment. In our prayer time we can ask God to reveal to us those moments when we were responsive to God’s invitation to act in a spirit of charity and compassion, and also to reveal to us those moments when we neglected to respond to (or did not even notice) that invitation. This practice is called an Examen of Consciousness. Over time the practice of an Examen can help us live more fully in the present, allowing God to heal our past and calling us to live in the now.

And finally, we can ask God to deepen our faith that God is present and active right now, loving us as we are, and calling us to greater generosity as we are led into a future that God intends for us.

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Don’t search for answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answers
.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Living with Gratitude—On Thanksgiving Day and Every Day

For some people, Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday.  What makes it so appealing is the relative simplicity of the day: gathering around the table with family and friends to enjoy each other’s company and partake of a delicious meal.  For many, it’s a rare gathering of extended family, whose members sometimes travel long distances to come together with loved ones.  Without the frenzy of shopping and the seemingly non-stop entertaining that can accompany Christmas, Thanksgiving allows us to stop, to reflect, and to get in touch with who and what we are most grateful for.  The depth of gratitude that we experience can truly be remarkable, and perhaps we wonder why we don’t experience it more.

In the spirit of becoming aware of gratitude each day throughout the year, we present this video, “A Good Day,” narrated by Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast.    May it help us to make each day of our lives an opportunity to notice all the blessings in our lives, and to be grateful.

See more reflections by Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, at www.gratefulness.org.

The Blessings Come Down

Thoughts on Thanksgiving by Carolyn Rodgers, Cook*

I remember the first Thanksgiving meal that I ever cooked.  My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, said that I should do the turkey because I was a cook.  I was working at Pappas Restaurant at the time; I was a short order cook and I had never prepared a main course.

I put the turkey in a very large pan filled with water—I thought I would boil it down. I thought that’s where the gravy would come from.  My fiancé looked at it and said he didn’t remember that his mother used so much water.  I didn’t say anything, but I was panicked. I didn’t want to ask any family member for advice, so I called my friend Margaret, who was a cook for the Mission Helpers.  After she finished laughing, she told me to get rid of the water, dry the turkey, salt and pepper it and put it in a pan with a tight lid.  She said it would make its own gravy.

It turned out beautifully and I’ve been roasting turkeys like that ever since—hundreds of turkeys.

And that’s how I’ll roast the turkey for the Mission Helpers’ Thanksgiving dinner.  I like everything that I cook for the Sisters, but Thanksgiving is special.  I prepare the turkey, potatoes and dressing the day before, and the Sisters prepare their special dishes.  Sister Dolores does a multi-layered gelatin salad and makes rolls; Sister Dolly makes a great cranberry mold, Sister Natalie prepares green beans with almonds…

I love Thanksgiving.  I love what I fix for the Sisters, and, on Thanksgiving Day, I love being with my family. For me, the day is all about family and friends.  Everyone comes together; all the food is fresh—nothing from cans on Thanksgiving Day.  And we laugh; there is lots of laughter.

There will be 17 or more people.  Before the meal, we form a circle, hold hands and thank God.  We each give God thanks for something—even the littlest children.  This takes a long time, but everyone gets to express their gratitude.

I believe that gratitude can take you a long, long way.  If you’re thankful to God, God will bless you, and the more thanks you give, the more God will be thankful for you.  When the praises go up, the blessings come down.  I really believe that.

Being together and being thankful is what it’s all about.   Everybody has something they can be thankful for—everybody.  Even if you live in a hut, you can say, “Thank you, God, for this space.”  On Thanksgiving, you thank the Lord for everything and everybody—that’s it.

*Carolyn Rodgers has been the cook for the Mission Helpers Community since 1984 and has never served the Sisters a boiled turkey.