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Archive for August, 2009

Transitions

Who likes change? I mean, who really enjoys being jolted from the familiar and comfortable? Even when the path is rocky and treacherous at least there is a sense that one knows how to maneuver. Until something changes. Then there is a questioning of confidence and direction. Movements become more tentative, deliberate and cautious.

I’m conscious of many transitions these days. School is starting for students and teachers. Young people are going off to college or graduate school. Sister Peggy is heading to a sabbatical program in New Hampshire on Thursday. The meeting I went to the Motherhouse for last weekend was to discuss the challenges and possibilities of forming new local communities (i.e. groups of Sisters who live together). Today my doctor gave me a “heads-up” that he will be moving to San Antonio next August. And I continue to find my way among young adult Catholics in the diocese of El Paso.

There is truth to the saying that whatever is not changing is dead. In other words, to be alive is to change. God must really be into change.

So I pray: Change my heart, O God. Change my mind. Change whatever in me needs changing. Just be careful to stay nearby in all the transitions so that I don’t lose my nerve!

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A Still Center

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Wednesday afternoon I arrived at the Motherhouse, unpacked my things, checked email and then wandered down the hallway to the chapel. It was about 4 p.m. and I thought maybe I’d catch evening prayers. I opened the door and such a beautiful stillness enveloped me. There were probably no more than ten Sisters scattered throughout the chapel. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration. A bunch of perfect red roses was arranged in a vase at the foot of the altar. After the hustle of travel preparations and busy airports this was an oasis of peace and calm. Kneeling in the familiar quiet space I was aware that no matter how frantic or chaotic our lives become, somewhere there are places like this where Sisters sit, offering a “long loving look” at God who looks back in love. While we are wiping runny noses or sweating in a long line at the border or worrying about friends who are immigrants, our Sisters are here, lifting our concerns to God. They are our still center point. What a blessing to be here in person!

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Traveling…

I’m off to the Motherhouse tomorrow for a few meetings. It has been a very busy week so far, trying to get things in order. I look at the weeds that are overtaking the garden and can only sigh. I think this is the normal state of affairs in an August garden. At least it is producing good quantities of tomatoes and zucchini and there are several promising melons hiding in the weeds.
One special event in the midst of the meetings this weekend will be the Diamond Jubilee celebration. Sixty years of religious life is truly something to celebrate.
I’ll have to see if the Motherhouse computer system will let me blog. If not, see you on Monday!

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La Quinceanera

On Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a quinceanera Mass for the granddaughter of two of my former patients.  Victoria was born 15 years ago on August 14 and broke a long string of grandsons in the family.  She has been the little princess of the family and on Friday she appeared as such.  Surrounded by her many doting aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, and of course her parents and grandparents, she was truly the belle of the ball (which was to follow the Mass!).

The Mass was celebrated at a small church out in the lower valley near where we used to live.  The priest, like me, had been welcomed into the family many years ago.  He is originally from Colombia and recounted fondly how the Ochoas had become his home away from home.  He referred to Victoria as “mi hija espiritual” (my spiritual daughter) and spoke of his joy in seeing her grow to adulthood in faith as well as in mind and body.

The beautiful rituals of this special liturgy recall baptism in many ways.  She was blessed and signed with the cross by her parents, godparents, and grandparents.  She received the candle signifying the light of Christ from the hands of same dear family members.  She renewed her baptismal promises and shared her gratitude to God for arriving safely at her fifteenth birthday. Accompanied by her entire family she presented roses at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I have attended many quinceaneras during my years in the Southwest but none have been as steeped in faith and family as this one.  Victoria’s grandparents, Josefina and Armando, have truly passed on the gift of faith to their children and grandchildren.  I shared Fr. Celimo’s gratitude for being welcomed into this family: so many Christmases, Mother’s Days, weddings, baptisms…This is a special blessing for priests and religious who must often miss their own family celebrations!

As I drove away from the little church in the valley my heart was full of gratitude for the privilege of knowing this Mexican-American family.  How my life has been enriched by their gracious hospitality!

Victoria and her proud grandparents

Victoria and her proud grandparents

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This morning as I walked into the kitchen from feeding the hummingbirds the sun was streaming in on Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was “a moment”. Kind of how I imagine it was when Mary surprised Elizabeth. It’s all about hearing. “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!” May we not miss those moments today when God wants to surprise us with a visit. Hint: be on the lookout for BEAUTY!

And thanks for all the affirmation of my efforts to become a blogger. We’ll all be learning in the process!

The sun streams through our kitchen window early this morning.

The sun streams through our kitchen window early this morning.

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Welcome!

“Teach us to count the days.

Teach us to make the days count.

Lead us in better ways

that somehow  our souls forgot

Life means so much…

Life means so much…

Life means so much.”

This song by Chris Rice has been running through my mind as I look back on the year since I finished chemotherapy in August 2008.  It reminds me of Psalm 90:  “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (v.12)  The experience of having ovarian cancer, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, and then regaining strength, picking up my life again and discovering what has changed and what remains the same, is essentially about gratitude.  I take care to remember the gift of being restored to health.  I give thanks to God and to all those whose prayers, words and acts of kindness carried me along the path to this day.  And I wonder, “For what purpose have I been given such grace and strength and health today?”

During my months of treatment and recuperation I found that my Caringbridge website helped me make meaning of it all.  Being connected to my Sisters, family and friends created a “sacred web of healing”.  Many have asked if I wouldn’t continue to share my reflections now that I am on the other side of that experience.  I hope that this blog will help us to continue connecting and remembering how much each day counts, living in gratitude and wonder that life means so much.

Every day is a gift you’ve been given

make the most of the time

every minute you’re living.” (more…)

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