Upper Rooms – Then and Now

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

During this Easter season we, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, send you prayers and blessings for you and your family. Here we are, like the apostles, in our “upper rooms” -many of us since mid-March until today  – and most likely for a while longer.  How much longer, Lord?

How often the apostles left that room during those 40 days from Good Friday night to Pentecost, is not so important. They were in the Upper Room pondering and wondering what had happened, how it happened and why it happened. How the journey with Jesus ended was not what they imagined and hoped for?  In the Upper Room, they waited, carried on conversations, tried to strategically plan for what to do next. Jesus left no clear strategic plan that they understood with their imperfect, partial or inadequate faith.  I am sure they tried to support one another as one or the other began to flounder into worry, distress, or darkness.  I like to imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holding her own amongst them as ‘mother’ soothing their fears.  Her faith was strong enough to carry them into the events they were about to encounter in the coming 40 days.

The Upper Room soon became an encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ.  The closure did not prevent the ‘light of the world’ to seep through into their presence. When Jesus suddenly appeared he understood their hearts. He first says to them: “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. It is I.” How unbelievable those moments must have been. Were their minds and eyes tricking them?  Could it be he was there in their midst?  I try to ponder what their diverse emotions were.

The Upper Room was to become the ‘place’ – a ‘sacred place’ where the apostles were to enter a new missionary formation experience.  Here they were being tested and strengthened with a new or deeper faith and hope for the task ahead of them.  Jesus had promised his Spirit would come to them. The Upper Room experience was a maturing period for each one to reimagine their vocation/ mission.

Perhaps, as we are in our “upper rooms” (homes), this is what is being asked of us.  Jesus says to us today: “Peace be with you.  Do not be afraid. I am here. It is I!”  Let us rest our minds and hearts in/on the Risen Jesus.  Let us keep our focus clear for our mission.  Let us not falter. May these be days of new religious imagination, courage, compassion, and service to all those we are called to serve in a COVID-19 milieu.

 

 

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.

 

 

St. Joseph: Witness and Mentor During the Christmas/Epiphany Season

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

 

St. Joseph is one of the patron saints of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. A careful read through our MHSH archives reverberates with attention St. Joseph receives through the gradual unfolding of MHSH history. Our prayer manual contains a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph.

 

 

 

Dear St. Joseph, man of God.

You, whose heart was always on fire

with love, and whose life was a

constant prayer and continual

contemplation, teach us the

perfection of the interior life.

Teach us how to model our hearts in

accord with the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Teach us how to live and labor for God

and our neighbor in the faithful

observance of our vows and commitments.

May we, after having honored and

imitated you on earth, eternally sing

with you, the mercies of Jesus, and

Mary.

St. Joseph, pray for us. Amen.

During these days of the Christmas/Epiphany Season we are reconnected with the two direct solitary references to St. Joseph by name in all of scripture. He does not speak. He listens. Both times it is in a dream that he encounters a call. Scriptures simply indicates he acts upon the call within the dream. He is the silent one in the crèche’ scene but the strength of his presence is the anchor for the early years of Jesus and Mary’s life.

St. Joseph demonstrates the power of listening, silence and acting upon the inner voice that calls us each and every day of our lives.

Pope St. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation “Redemptoris Custos: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.” The Pope writes: “He (Joseph) took her (Mary) in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.” (#3) Through moments of ambiguity and unsettled questions, the Holy Family’s exodus into Egypt, and the remaining silent years, Joseph represents one who is open in deep listening to the movement of God and with complete confidence responds in faith.

Pope Francis’s pre-Christmas (December 23, 2019) reflection on the vocation of St. Joseph said: “The example of this meek and wise man calls us to raise our gaze and press ahead. The surprising logic of God isn’t about making calculations of what people will accept, but of opening their hearts “to new horizons, to Christ and his word.”

As Mission Helpers move forward into a new period of our history, we discover the silent, firm faith and presence of St. Joseph modeling for us the way into the future.

Being Advent People…for Life

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

Growing up in a tight knit Catholic, (Polish/German) faith community, I came to understand and appreciate the message, awe and beauty of the Advent season. 

The Advent wreath was the center of our homes, classrooms and parish. There was anticipation with lighting of each new Advent candle during the four weeks of Advent. Our religious imagination remained kindled with expectation, hope and the awareness that Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday was near.  I am delighted when I visit a family to discover the Advent wreath as the center of their home and Advent prayers become the fabric of their faith journey.

Many years ago I discovered the Advent homilies of Fr. Karl Rahner,SJ, a leading Catholic Theologian of the 20th Century.  His homilies enriched my understanding of the breadth and depth of the meaning of Advent. He reminded me that Advent is not only about the past but the present and future.

He wrote, “Advent demands that we look to the future: we are people of expectation and hope.”

Today we all need to embrace ‘hope’.  Advent brings a fresh perspective amidst the angst, stress, distractions and polarization we experience in our world today. If we embrace that we are ‘Advent people of expectation and hope’, this makes all the difference how joyfully we experience the Christmas Season. Contemplate that each of us can be a beacon of hope and promise during these Advent days within a world that experiences darkness instead of light.

 By reading select biblical narratives during Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s unconditional love for each one of us. This is one of the great mysteries we live each day: God with us ‘now’ but ‘yet to come’. 

How wonderful is this? It is only through the eyes of faith that we believe (embrace) the ‘newness of God’.  In one sense, we are referring to what we call is a Theology of Presence – a sense of sacredness to the now – the present moment.  With this awareness, we are people of expectation and hope. We live, move and breathe in a ‘sacred world’ of God’s spirit – alive, dynamic and energizing – inspiring us forward. 

Pope Francis consistently invites us to prepare for and experience an encounter with Jesus Christ. This is what Advent is all about. It is preparing our minds and hearts to be open to receive Jesus’ presence in our lives.

Fr. Rahner reminds us Advent means that every person and every Christian is and should be an Advent person- not just in this part of the church year, but also in his or her entire life. 

Therefore, there are many ways we can prepare our minds and hearts for living as Advent persons.  Prayer, sacraments, scripture reading, meditation, Lectio Divina and the study of our faith. It is in this spirit the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation offers a broad spectrum of online  e-courses and e-seminars to prepare us during the year to celebrate with depth, wonder and expectation the Advent Season.

Yes, we are women and men of expectation and hope. We are Advent People. Let us rejoice! 

Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min, is the Director of The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. IPI oversees many university and global projects, including the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, a distance learning program serving 88 (Arch)dioceses worldwide for adults who want to enrich their faith, for religious educators, Catholic teachers,catechists, youth ministers or those interested in faith formation.  To see the complete online e-course list in English, Spanish & Arabic, go to VLCFF.UDayton.edu