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Archive for February, 2011

extreme commitment

Two billboards have grabbed my attention as I drive to and from my office at the diocese where I do programming for young adults.  One says, “Commitment: be a part of something greater than yourself.”  Another says, “Live the X-treme!”  The first is for the Marines and the second is for the Army Reserves. The messages are catchy and compelling, designed to tug at the minds and hearts of young men and women who want to do something both honorable and exciting with their lives.

From my experience I can say that being a Sister of Charity has given me the opportunity to be part of something greater than myself.  One of the things I treasure about my vocation is being part of the lineage of Charity that stretches from Jesus to St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise to St. Elizabeth Seton and so many Sisters of Charity throughout the centuries. I feel honored to be a link in that chain of loving service to the most marginalized of people. I love seeing how the particular gift these saints and Sisters offered in their day is being re-fashioned for the needs of our own.  And I am energized and hopeful about the possibilities for the next generation of Charity.

Religious life is meant to be “extreme” in the best sense of the word.  Movies and cartoons mostly portray caricatures of the life.  One beautiful exception is “Dead Man Walking” which chronicles the ministry of Sister Helen Prejean with a man on death row and the families of his victims.  Sister Helen didn’t choose the ministry.  It chose her.  It required an extreme commitment to stand in the gallery to watch his execution. But she did because she had promised him, “I want the last thing you see to be the face of love. You look at me. I will be the face of love for you.”  That is commitment in the extreme.

Like the sky-divers on the billboard, I believe that the gift of your life as a Sister, Brother or Priest should take your breath away every day.  As we read in the letter to the Hebrews, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. (10:31) Life can’t get any more X-treme than that.

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st.valentine’s day

Tomorrow is a Santo Niño day and the mothers are making lunch for everyone. I decided when I got back from New Orleans this afternoon that we needed some kind of special treat for St. Valentine’s Day, better known in Mexico as “Dia de Amistad”. I decided on heart-shaped cut-out sugar cookies and started making the dough. Only one glitch: no heart-shaped cookie cutter. I decided that I could use a knife to cut them freehand. No two are alike!  Some have a quite “modern art” look and others only give a slight “impression” of being heart-shaped. The blade of the knife left some edges very jagged and raw. My rolling pin technique is not as good as my mom’s so some hearts are thick and the cookie is hard. Others are  thin and a little burned the way my dad always likes them.

 I tasted one right out of the oven and decided it wasn’t sweet enough so I made a powdered sugar glaze and added some red sugar sprinkles. Better, but not as good as I had hoped.  As I finished frosting them and shaking on the sugar I prayed over them.  I thought about the many broken hearts in Mexico these days due to the violence. Over 300 have died in Juarez since January 1st.  Eighty-six already this month of “Dia de Amistad”.  How many friends are missing this holiday?  As I made these little heart-shaped cookies for our special children, their mothers and siblings I prayed for peace, for security, for friendship that reaches across borders and is surely the sweetest thing of all.

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be content

In today’s first reading (Hebrews 13:1-8) the words that caught my attention were “be content with what you have”. The writer is exhorting them with regards to money but in my own reflections I felt it in more absolute terms.  How much discontent is born from wanting what we do not have!  An entire industry is founded on the premise that we can be convinced to buy what we do not need because we can also be convinced that our happiness depends on having whatever we want.

Is it possible to be content with what we have? Is it possible to “want” only what we have? And can we ever be free enough, content enough, trusting enough, to share what we have?  I know that it is possible because I have seen people who are, people who live with a lot less than I do.  There is always enough for one more person. 

I heard a song at the Motherhouse last week that has stayed in my mind and heart, perhaps preparing me for today’s reflection.  “These Alone Are Enough” by Dan Schutte, SJ is based on the prayer of surrender by St. Ignatius.  “Give me nothing more than your love and grace. These alone, O God, are enough for me.”  Can God’s love and grace be enough for me? How can they not?

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