We are well into the first week of Advent, reminded again that we are a people of hope, of trust, of longing—waiting and looking for some signs that God is indeed in charge of this world and the universe. As usual, I am torn between trying to observe Advent in its totality, giving full attention to its stress on waiting for the coming of Christ, and wanting to turn the radio dial to hear the beloved Christmas songs or to do some early decorating in my bedroom and office. It is difficult to hold to the anticipatory part of Advent and not get caught up in a rush to Christmas. I know that I am not singular in this regard.
The familiar readings from Isaiah are a comfort and a wake-up call. He tells of a Savior who will come to transform us and our world. That signifies a need for change on our part, a need for repentance as well as a joyful expectation of the many blessings our Savior will bring. A little Lenten spirit might help, fasting before feasting; the Eastern Orthodox Churches practice that a lot more than we do here in the west. Both East and West, however, as one writer puts it, have “spiritual goose bumps” as we eagerly look to Christmas.
Today when I was driving, I noticed a sign that said, “Change is good.” There was no advertising sponsor named, no any attempt at solicitation. Maybe, it was God. The phrase that change is good struck a chord in me. If it’s good, why is it so hard to change, or to think change could be good?Is it because I have become cynical and can’t believe change is good, or that things will actually change.As I was pondering, I noticed that the old Sam’s Club was being demolished.Cement walls were toppling down exposing some of the foundational structure.Men were removing the fence around the property.WOW! Change right before my eyes.I quickly made a connection between the sign and the demolition of Sam’s Club.
Change is always happening, whether good or bad.Change occurs every day--sometimes gradually or swiftly.Technology allows us to experience the effects of change almost instantly. At the same time, there are some things in my life that I feel never change.I have never lost my appetite for sweets/dark chocolate, and I keep worrying about things I can’t control.Yet, there are things in my life that have changed.My weight has changed many times; my body creaks in more places than before; my stress level has been lowered through breathing techniques, and fears that I believed to be huge didn’t happen.
The most exciting change in my life is my relationship with God.As I have aged, my heart and understanding of God have become more expansive.I’ve grown to trust God’s journey for me and God’s voice speaking to me.The change that has brought me joy is living into the mystery of God’s love for me even when “I don’t get it,” but especially when “I do get.”It’s a paradoxical change.As we enter into Advent, I think of the mystery of change that occurred through the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.We get it and we don’t.It represents such a remarkably wonderful change in how we think about God.Happy Advent!
Veteran’s Day this year seemed to take root in me in a different way. After hearing veterans share so many moving accounts, the word RESPECT kept coming to me for days.
I’m not sure if it was because the month of November is often a time when we connect with our loved ones who “are on the other side” or if those who have died and remain eternal soul-mates just want me to listen to them oftener right now. In either case, I’m grateful they are helping me remember more clearly the reality of respect for everything and everyone.
I have gotten a glimpse of what rooted respect means from listening to my American Indian friend, Mary Lou. When I accompanied her to a powwow in Hinckley, MN I was marveling at the amazing richness of the clothing that the participants were wearing. She told me that they are so valuable and treasured that they are willed to others in their will.
Then she added, if any eagle feather happens to fall off of their dance attire while they are dancing, everyone must stop until one among them that is a veteran follows a sacred ritual to pick up the feather. Only a veteran can touch this “first American flag”. It suddenly dawned on me that every enlisted person has knowingly or unknowingly pledged themselves to be a potential Martyr-for-
Freedom. May I never forget the price they pay and honor and cherish each enlisted person.
It was the anniversary of my Dad’s death; he died in 1999 having lived 96 full and beautiful years. For most of the day I smelled incense; scientists say that scent is a powerful memory inducer. I began to stare out my window, thinking of Dad, when I saw...
A flock of birds atop a tree outside my window
they obviously like being together.
They cling to one another visiting, singing, or at times, flitting to a higher branch.
No one bumps into another: they like togetherness, yet they yearn for the freedom of flight.
As a small boy, my Dad had that yearning, too.
With chicken wings tied to his thin shoulders, he climbed the chicken shed and flew down!
He didn’t do well on that flight!
But I love him for the longing in his childhood heart
It must be genetic, for I, too, want to fly!
Mine, desires of the heart - but with a heavy body!
Working with the young women who are volunteering for the BWSC, is simply delightful. These women, as graduates of CSB/SJU, truly exemplify the Benedictine Values in action.
Just this past week, Jana Graczyk, who is at Colegio San Benito in Puerto Rico sent a wonderful suggestion to the Alternative Break Experience Coordinator. Jana feels strongly about recycling, and whenever she witnessed the relative lack of it at the school, she determined to assist the school in its efforts to become aware of it and begin practicing.
Therefore, she suggested to Carley Braegelman, ABE Coordinator, that Humacao and San Benito be considered as a the next new site so that CSB/SJU students could run a recycling campaign there and supply the school with the necessary collection bins and such for a program.
On the other side of the world, our volunteers in Tanzania have been making a concerted effort to visit small villages in the surrounding area of Chipole and St. Agnes Convent. They take a guide and set out on rather long treks to arrive at remote locations where roads do not exist. They visit the local people, many of whom have never seen white people before, much less American.
Here at St. Benedict's, we keep up with the activities of our volunteers by reading their blogs from our Home page. We invite you to read their weekly adventures and service projects in Puerto Rico and Tanzania . When you read what these CSB grads are doing, you may be inspired to help our Monastery to continue this worthy program by giving any amount to Give to the Max on November 16. Click here to learn and become involved.
“If a person feels a longing to be at one with the universe,
it is as if the universe feels the same longing to be one with the person.
If I sense a great aching in my heart to be in love with God,
it seems that God must in some mysterious way share that aching with me.”
Relationship. That’s what living is all about: mutual, reverent, open, caring relationships with the universe and the God of the universe. And what is so helpful is to know we are not alone in our longings to love and to be loved. As we touch another with a hand, a smile, a word, an aching desire, there is that other extended hand, returned smile, response or aching desire ready to create a relationship! Whom will you touch today?
When I was in the lower grades, around ages six-eight, I greatly admired angels, their wings in particular fascinating me (and I could not envision angels without them). Then I began reading the lives of the saints—in the upper grades-- and found so many to admire. However, both angels and the saints seemed completely out of my league--beings too far above me to be truly imitated. Still, it was important to me that they existed and one could at least dream about possibly mixing and mingling with them.
In early adulthood my focus on angels gradually lessened and I only sporadically dove into the lives of the saints (the old Butler version had been my constant companion). But a few favorite saints have remained ideals for me and I never tire of hearing or reading about them. Who could not be attracted to such people as Francis of Assisi, Isaac Jogues, Therese of Lisieux, Rose of Lima and Bernadette of Lourdes. They personify the heights to which we humans can reach, in spite of our frailties. Then I look around me and I know now that there are many saints present, not least my fellow Sisters, both living and dead. I think we are surrounded by saints (and angels, too) daily. Sadly, we just don’t notice the halos and wings.
This blog is maintained by a group of Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to post weekly and often succeed at that.
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