How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

college open house 1A few months ago I accompanied my nephew on a campus tour geared to prospective college students. The tour was led by an upper class student who belonged to a group called “College Ambassadors.” The student was welcoming and enthusiastic.  He was trying to give a positive impression of his college as he walked backwards leading us through the campus in hopes that some young people in our group would be moved to apply for admission.  My nephew seemed impressed and was listening to every word.

As the tour continued, I wondered what kind of an impression I have made on the people I have encountered over the years.  In particular I was remembering the many international students I met as a campus minister.  I recalled how my experience with them had helped to broaden my understanding of so many cultures around the world as well as how interconnected we are within the global marketplace.  Then I remembered the times I have traveled abroad, and I wondered what kind of an impression I had given others about the United States. Continue reading “How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?”

A Personal Relationship with God – Questions for Reflection

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

This Sunday we hear the very familiar story of the “Woman At The Well” (John 4: 5-42).  Surely it is one of the most beautiful (and powerful) stories of personal encounter with Christ in all of the Gospels. This story offers us a treasure trove of points to deepen our reflection and contemplation.

Jesus-Samaritan Woman at Well

As we ponder this story we notice that Jesus encounters a woman who is isolated and alienated in many ways—in her personal life, within the community, devoid of a meaningful purpose to her life.  Jesus invites himself into her life, moving her beyond the bondage of her past history, and asks her to do something for him.  With that simple action of giving the Lord water, and in conversation with Jesus, she realizes a deeper hunger she has for Living Water.  She is empowered to move beyond her personal concerns to announce the Good News, inviting others to come and see for themselves. 

For reflection:

My graced history—Along with Jesus I look at the history of my life. Can I recognize the presence of God at some points in my life? When have I experienced transformation? When has God led me beyond my failures and shortcomings? How has God been inviting me to develop some of my gifts? For what purpose? When have I asked for God’s grace? How has God responded? How do I express thanks to God for creating me and revealing God’s self to me?

mindfulmeditationMoving from isolation to relationship—Can I recall a time when I felt isolated and lonely? How has God invited me into relationship? How is God fashioning me into a loving and generous person? Who are some of the people who have been examples of loving service in my life? Where do I go to drink deeply from the springs of living water that revive and refresh my soul?

Experiencing the Call of Christ— How does Jesus refresh me and reveal Himself to me? When have I recognized Jesus’ voice calling me to discipleship? How have I responded? Do I experience myself “seeing Jesus in the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden?”

random-acts-kindness-workCo-laboring with Christ—How do I experience joy in participating in Jesus’ ongoing redemptive work in the world? What motivates me to pour out my gifts on the “little ones”… to desire to alleviate suffering… to feed the hungry? Do I ever hear the voice of Jesus saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant?” Have I ever been a transforming presence in another person’s life? How do I express my gratitude to God for this validation?

May we hear this gospel with new ears this weekend.

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/

Entry Into the Paschal Mystery – A Reflection for Palm Sunday

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Mk 11:1-10 (At the procession); Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-19, 17-20, 23-24; Mk 14:1-72; Mk 15:1-39

Palm Sunday ushers us into Holy Week.  As we receive our palm branch and listen to the opening Gospel we are transported in our imagination to the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, seated on a donkey.

The crowds are still looking for a triumphant hero who will release them from the treacherous rule of the Romans.  But, as we hear the Passion narrative—this year it’s from Mark—we remember that Jesus was alone in his suffering and death. The crowds did not get what they were looking for.

It is significant that Mark’s Passion narrative begins with the story of a woman who manages to break into a dinner party where Jesus is present.  She anoints Jesus’ body with expensive oil.  We are told that the oil was worth a year’s wages.  She breaks the jar and pours the oil on Jesus’ head.  Her action was not appreciated by the dinner guests.  However, Jesus commends her.  Immediately after that, Judas goes off to look for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to the authorities.

This story can inspire us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We might think of how we spend a year’s wages (a sharing of our gifts) to soothe the pain of those who make up the suffering Body of Christ in the world today.

As Holy Week unfolds and leads us to Easter joy, we come to a deeper realization that although there may not be many earthly rewards for us as disciples, Jesus promises to be with us now and “he prepares a place for us so that where he is, we also may be.” (Jn 14:3)

Questions for reflection:

  • Do you feel confident enough in your relationship with God to trust your life with him?
  • How does God trust you?  Who are some of the people that God entrusts to your care?
  • What graces do you need in order to live in this trust?

Getting in Shape—Spiritually

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius   
By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Almost like clockwork, ads for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nautilus, Bowflex and other quick and easy weight-loss and physical improvement programs flood the media after the Christmas holidays.  It seems that many people make New Year’s resolutions to look and feel better by spring, even though most of us know that a life-long dedication to regular exercise and attention to diet are necessary to achieve overall good health.

What about our spiritual health and well-being?  Can a simple quick-fix approach deepen our relationship with God?  Spiritual masters tell us that we have to develop “habits of the heart” or practice spiritual disciplines consistently throughout our lifetime if we wish to grow closer to Christ.  One such method was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th Century.  Based on the reflection of his own conversion experience, he designed a plan to help spiritual seekers learn the art of discernment: seeking and responding to God’s will in the circumstances of one’s particular life.  He called his method the Spiritual Exercises, and the text is considered a unique spiritual classic.

Ignatius intended the Spiritual Exercises to be completed during a month-long retreat or spread out over many months in the midst of everyday life.  In the process of doing the Exercises the “retreatant” learns various ways of prayer and is invited to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ in order to make a serious decision in tune with the mind and heart of Christ.  The most common method of prayer that Ignatius suggests is a form of contemplation in which the person uses the active imagination in praying with certain gospel events in the life of Christ.  At the end of the Exercises the retreatant has developed a habit of prayer that can be nurtured throughout a lifetime.

Many retreat centers and some parishes offer the longer format of the Spiritual Exercises, often between September and the following May.  Retreatants make a commitment to pray one hour a day and to meet in a group once a week (or every other week) to share prayer and experience support from each other.  This format can be particularly helpful for those who want to develop a way to pray and reflect in the midst of professional careers and family life.

Here is one of St. Ignatius’ prayers:

Lord, I freely yield my freedom to you.
Take my memory, my intellect and my entire will.
You have given me anything I am or have;
I give it all back to you to stand under your will alone.
Your love and your grace are enough for me;
I shall ask for nothing more.