Prayer and Action

A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent
By Sr. Nancy Barshick, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030721-YearB.cfm

Something was wrong. I was feeling it. I could name it. I could not understand it.

Jesus and I together had been through tense weeks the past several months. Like so many, I was daily asking HIM for help for so many causes: worldly hatred, pandemic, ethnic clashes, lies about the US election, etc. etc.  Asking what HE was going to do about them.  Daily I felt his presence. But after those intense weeks His presence had begun to fade.  We were “losing contact.” But WHY?

A morning, a few weeks ago, found me walking the hallways of the Mission Helper Center having a one-way conversation with Jesus while carrying a piece of paper with a name on it.  I wandered into chapel.  Standing in front of the tabernacle still clutching the paper asked “Look, Jesus, what is causing this loss? Are you mad at me? What has gone wrong?  Oh, I knew what many would have said if consulted.  “You need to have quiet time with Jesus.”  “Need to humble yourself before Him.  “Need….” I knew these were not the answers for Jesus and me, but neither was I prepared for HIS answer that day.

It came loud and strong- “YOU, like so many lately, have been asking for MY help, MY intervention, MY inspiration.  Tell me, what MORE are YOU, Nancy Barshick, going to do about these causes and wants besides prayers for MY help?  MHSH Sisters /Staff, Family/Friends, MEMBERS of this world’s population, how are they going to HELP ME with their actions? Inspiration needed?  Check Luke 2: 13-25 for what I had once to do for MY Father”:

“HE MADE A WHIP OUT OF CORDS AND DROVE THEM ALL OUT OF THE TEMPLE AREA…. “TAKE THESE OUT OF HERE AND STOP MAKING MY FATHER’S HOUSE A MARKETPLACE.”

SO how can one respond to Jesus request for help besides prayer?  For some this will first mean looking deep within asking why there is fear to act about issues included in their prayers. Time and tears will rank high.

For others who are ready BUT…  Commonly told to me: 1, “I don’t know what to say.”   2, “I’d be embarrassed if someone heard /read what I had done and laughed at me.”  3, “My prayer group believes in the power of prayer leaving action to those who enjoy it.”   4, “Me, I’m not an action person.”

Remember the paper I mentioned above that I had clutched while addressing Jesus?  It contained the name of a man I encourage people to hire so he can get supplemental income.  Jesus, that morning, used it to remind me, Nancy Barshick, there was so much more to be done and some of it was going to take a lot of courage and nerve.  Was He reminding YOU also?  Encouraging to overcome Your FEARS and BUTS?

The choices of action with prayer are ours.  The world and Jesus await.

 

 

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”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reflection Moment

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

This morning I am once again being entertained by my hummingbirds. This is the first time in my life I ever had a summer off (if one imagines recovery from surgery as a summer off) to spend quality time in the mornings or evenings during prayer observing hummingbirds dive between the feeders.

I discovered the opportunity has been a kind of inner healing experience for me.  I have heard that simply surrendering time to observe hummingbirds is a healing opportunity but now I understand and embrace it.

Several years ago while in Trinidad a friend invited me to a hummingbird sanctuary. I had never imagined how many kinds of hummingbirds there are or how many could be in one location each morning and evening at the feeders. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I felt I was in the middle of a hummingbird circus which was amazingly delightful. Thus, my love for hummingbirds grew.

Last week I even purchased (via Amazon) another Shepherd’s Hook and feeder since so many hummingbirds are fighting over the two feeders I have.  I know that soon the hummingbirds will be headed south. Thus, offering me another glance at the meaning, value, and preciousness of time. Or, how and where do we focus our time and energy along life’s journey? How many major initiatives or activities have I allowed myself to be absorbed in, worthy as they were, yet to miss perhaps the ‘little moments’ that may offer the greatest insights in life. Or, render the richest and deepest meaning and impact on life and the life of those around me.

As the early fall days draw upon us, there is now a rush of hummingbirds on the balcony each morning. They are delightful as they scatter, chase and swiftly zoom to and fro guarding their Shepherd’s Hook domain.  (Click on link below to see video). Their numbers are increasing each day simply indicating the arrival of those who are migrating from the north headed south. There, I understand, they spend our winter and prepare for their migration north once again in early summer. The hummingbirds have become a daily reminder for me of all humans who are migrating around the world today. I hold them all in prayer.  I wonder and ponder who is willing to care for them during their migration or exile? (Text continues below video).

So, during these few short weeks, my balcony is one of their ‘resting & feeding’ stopovers.  I really have found these meditative moments not only healing but bringing inner comfort peace and joy into my life.  This is what we need today in our lives. There is too much hecticness.  I hope I can bring my new inner harmony and peace into the lives of those I will encounter when I return to campus September 4th when my medical leave is over.

 

(Sr. Angela Ann is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton).

 

An Advent Gift "From the Heart of God"

heart-lydia-cho-rscj“From the Heart of God…” was the theme that captured the attention of nearly 80 people who gathered on Saturday, December 3, 2016, at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart for an Advent Day of Prayer.

Mission Helper Sr. Clare Walsh, facilitator of the day, began with a quote from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” inviting us to look at where our hearts might be “two sizes too small.”  Dr. Seuss gave way to reflecting on Advent Scriptures from Isaiah and Luke, followed by Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy challenge – to enter the chaos of our world with Jesus, Mercy Incarnate.

Participants were asked to reflect on “Where in our lives is God inviting us to enlarge our hearts and to love a bigger God?” dsc_1735

The day of prayer provided an opportunity to slow down, linger, ponder, wonder…to step out of the rush of Christmas into the hush of Advent.

“From the Heart of God…” came reflection, silence, prayer, lively faith sharing, and a delicious lunch.

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Our gathering ended at 3pm with Rev. Robert Albright presiding at Liturgy during which Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH, renewed her vows.

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The Mission Helpers have sponsored days of prayer at their Center for the past 12 years. Sr. Jane Geiger, MHSH is the behind-the-scenes person that has made it all happen. Keep your hearts open for the next one…watch for the announcement.

(Heart image by Lydia Cho, RSCJ)

 

Don't Just Pray — Do Something!

A reflection by Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

 

“Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.”                                                                               –Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

As I grappled before God over the horrific and senseless mass shooting in Orlando, Ignatius’ words echoed within me. From centuries ago, Ignatius joins the anguished voices of today, crying, “Don’t just pray, do something!”

Perhaps prayer is most pleasing to God when our relationship with God leads us to see the face of God in another, to be the face of God to another.

Hate terrorizes. Guns kill. Prayer acts.

The act of prayer takes place when we act for justice. We pray when we sign a petition for gun control, or we vote to ban the sale of assault weapons. We pray when we accept and embrace the differences in our faith, in our expression of love, in our gender, and in our culture.

We pray when we recognize mental illness as a disease and provide proper care and funding. We pray when our hearts are free from judgment.

one heartOur hearts are broken. Our prayer is broken. Something tells me that one won’t be healed without the other.

(Image created by and used with permission of the Society of the Sacred Heart)

A Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Lent

By Sister Dolores Glick, MHSH

As our Lenten Journey continues on this Palm/Passion Sunday, we look back to the beginning of our journey—the promises and resolutions we made on Ash Wednesday (almost like our New Year’s resolutions). We promised to spend more time in prayer, entering into a deeper relationship with Jesus. That relationship would lead us to others—to feel the hurts and pain of those around us. Perhaps we promised to help others by almsgiving—sharing our gifts of plenty with a homeless shelter, a food pantry, an aging neighbor, one suffering an addiction.

journey travelHow are we doing with those promises? Have we learned that fasting is so much more than just not eating or drinking certain things? Have we thought about fasting from unkind thoughts about another person, or fasting from buying something for ourselves so that we might contribute financially to those in need?

Pope Francis designated this Lent as a time to foster mercy through the traditional corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Try one on each day and live it. Now that’s a challenge!

As Jesus walks through his passion this week, let us join him as he enters Jerusalem with loud jubilation. Let us be present with him at the last supper as he shares his very self with the disciples and with us. Let us be with him in his prayer and agony in the garden, in his cruel sufferings, and in his death on the cross. Let us be among his friends as they received his body. And let us know that all this was done for love of us.

jesus-walkingREFLECTION:

Sit with Jesus today as you would with someone you know is dying. Experience the heartache of Jesus as he leaves his mother and dearest friends and followers.

Fasting becomes a prayer when I intentionally let it draw me to change my ways so that I am more in touch with the mind and heart of Jesus.

Pope Francis calls us to “fast from ‘globalization of indifference’ and begin feasting in the ways of Jesus: nonviolence, forgiveness, solidarity, social justice and active, compassionate love for all who suffer.” We have only just begun…

 

The Transfiguration – A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

Excerpted from a Meditation by Larry Gillick, S.J., Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality

[Readings: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10]

The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent presents the Transfiguration, or the “the Changing of the Garb.”  Peter, James and John go up a hill with Jesus.  They have a most intimate encounter with Jesus, God the Beyond, and, of course, themselves.

Jesus dazzles his followers with some state of glorification. Moses, the man of the law, and Elijah, the man of prophesy, are seen conversing with Jesus.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, and the “voice” again ordains him as “my beloved son.”  The terrified trio is encouraged also to “listen to him.”

Immediately after this experience, there they are, just the four again and nobody else, no other sounds.  They leave with this experience and their questions about what it was all about.  They are charged by Jesus not to speak about it until he had risen from the dead. They did not understand this, either, but they kept on walking back down from this hill of intimacy.

Peter, James and John experienced an unusual convention and communion.  They are “befuddled-beholders” and they go off into the routine down-the-hill living of their lives.

Their faith seems to be strengthened, but at the same time they experience bewilderment and must ask themselves about the “realness” of what has just happened.

Devotion, prayer, liturgy can be similar calls to simple and honest closeness.  Trying to figure out these experiences and explain them cheapens them and flattens them out into a practice rather than a delight. We go toward a time of being met by the Holy, given something of ourselves by the encouragement and comfort of God’s presence and then sent away, but always the little question, “Was that really real? Or was I talking to myself, comforting myself, judging myself?”

Intimacy with God does not lead to comprehending, but to sending, living, transfiguring, changing because we are so loved.  I wish to come away from every liturgy or times of personal prayer less able to explain why I live the way I do.  I wish to be a befuddlement  and, in a sense, be a transfigurational experience, not easily explained away.

Reflection:  Am I able to delight in the unexplainable mysteries and experiences of my faith? 

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

You're Invited…

A Reflection on Lent by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

InviteHave you recently received an invitation from a friend or relative to attend a get-together?  The invitation may have been to a dinner party, a birthday or anniversary celebration, a wedding, a baptism or some other special event. Whatever the occasion, it is clear that the host wants friends and loved ones to share in a celebration.  At the bottom of the invitation you may have seen the words “regrets only.”  Your optimistic host seems to assume that most people will want to come, so she asks only those few who cannot attend to let her know.  What seems at first a perfunctory postscript belies a welcoming, hospitable stance.

Can you imagine receiving such an invitation from God?  In this case, God invites you to get together over the 40 days of Lent to renew and deepen your mutual love and friendship, to ponder what it means to be in relationship with God, and with all of God’s creation.  How do you feel about receiving such an invitation? Do you immediately put the dates on your calendar and look forward to them with eager anticipation?  Or does this invitation fill you with doubt or guilt, or even fear and dread?   Is it just one more thing to schedule into an already overloaded calendar? Are you tempted to send your “regrets?”

“Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.”  These words of today’s Gospel acclamation, taken from Joel, assure us of God’s desire that we put aside whatever is holding us back from accepting God’s invitation to greater love and intimacy.  Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, our loving God stands ready to forgive, to mend rifts, and to embrace us as cherished members of the family.  All we are required to do is show up with an open mind and heart.

Remember that “prayer” is conversation with God.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t have to involve stilted, formal language.  Sometimes, as with good friends or a couple who has been together for many years, it does not have to involve words at all – just a profound “being with” the other. But if you need some help to get started, a list of Lenten prayer resources is found below.

Blessings on your Lenten journey from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Selected Lenten prayer resources:

Creighton University Lenten Prayer Resources: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/

Moved to Greater Love:  (9 week Lenten/Easter prayer experience produced by the Jesuits) http://www.jesuits.org/story?TN=PROJECT-20140128033207

Pray As You Go Lenten Retreat: http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/

Sacred Space Retreat for Lent: http://retreats.sacredspace.ie/

“This Night” – A Reflection on Holy Thursday

By Sister Clare Walsh, MHSH

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; Ps 116:12-13, 15-18; 1Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15

Holy Thursday. Passover. “Why is this night different from all others?”

We are tempted not so much to ignore the evil in the world as to feel overwhelmed by it, frozen by a sense of futility. Holy Thursday opens countless opportunities for prayer, but among them are ordinary acts having a profound, long-lasting effect.

Friends gathered, a meal shared, forgiveness offered, bread broken, wine poured, memory evoked, service rendered. Most often it is the small, everyday act of kindness and compassion that define us and break the cycle of futility.

Holy Thursday makes clear that we are not here to lord over one another; we are here to wash another’s feet. It is as if Jesus is saying to us, “Do not be afraid to stoop down and offer the most humble service imaginable to one another.”

Homeless people having their feet washed by volunteers at the First United Methodist Chuch of Miami.

Foot washing is one of those small, everyday expressions of humble service that reveal us to be followers of Jesus. Look around your world of family, neighborhood, work…what might foot washing look like today?

Why, in 2012, “is this night different from all others?”