By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | May 19, 2024 |

            Christmas lets us know Christ in his humanity. Epiphany lets us know Christ better in his divinity. The grace of Holy Week lets us know Christ in his suffering and death, while Easter lets us know him in is triumph over sin and death. The grace of the Ascension is to know him as the Cosmic Christ. What about Pentecost? “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said this to his apostles. The bishop said this to you when you were confirmed. The Spirit, then, is not given only once. The Spirit is an ongoing promise that is always being fulfilled, because the Spirit is infinite and boundless and can never be fully plumbed. The Spirit is all gift, all ours when we give Him away. It is the Spirit who makes us one with God and in God. The Spirit is the gift of God welling up in the Trinity from the common heart of the Father and the Son. The Spirit is the overflow of the divine life into the sacred humanity of Jesus, and then into us.

Another Look at Jesus’ Ascension

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | May 17, 2024 |

            When Jesus became human, he annihilated the dichotomy between matter and spirit. In the Person of the Divine-human Being, we see God’s plan to make matter divine, something already done in the glorified humanity of his Son. The grace bestowed on us by the Ascension is the divinization of our humanity, meaning our person is permeated by the Spirit of God.

            The grace of the Ascension offers an incredible union, that is, the invitation to enter into the cosmic Christ—into his divine person, the Word of God, who has always been present in the world in a saving way because of God’s foreknowledge of his incarnation, death, and resurrection. This is the Christ who disappeared beyond the clouds not into some geographical location, but into the heart of all creation. In particular, he has penetrated the very depths of our being. Our separate-self sense has melted into his divine Person, and now we can act under the direct influence of his Spirit.  Consequently, when you mow lawn or fold laundry, it is Christ living and acting in you. Our transformation into Christ appears in the guise of ordinary things—yes, in your daily routine. The Spirit transforms everything into Christ. “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). Do you see in everyone and everything the presence of God’s light, love, and glory?  (Resource:  The Mystery of Christ, Thomas Keating)

Our Spiritual Mother

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | May 13, 2024 |

We Sisters of Notre Dame honor Saint Julie Billiart as our spiritual mother. Saint Julie founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Our congregation is just Notre Dame—not de Namur or School Sisters of Notre Dame. Yet we might say we’re all related—some to Saint Julie as foundress, others like us as spiritual mother. We honor Saint Julie today, along with our spiritual cousins. With them we say Saint Julie’s motto: “Oh, how good is the good God!”

May 13 is a double-header; that is, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and that of Saint Julie. As we pray our rosary, perhaps we can add at each decade “Oh, how good is the good God!” The Blessed Virgin and Saint Julie probably say that a lot.

Will Her Children Ever Learn?

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | May 13, 2024 |

Our Lady of Fatima in 1913 asked the children in Fatima, Portugal to pray for peace. War in Europe was imminent, and it soon became World War I. War after war continued through the rest of the 20th century and into the new millennium. Rumors of World War III are in the air. Will Mary’s children—that’s all of us—ever learn to pray and work for peace? On this memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, I need to pray most fervently for an end to war in Ukraine, Gaza, and in many other parts of the world. I need to heed Mary’s message at Fatima. Mary, my mother, teach me. Our world keeps forgetting your lesson.

Catching My Attention

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | May 8, 2024 |

A bird called to me. Looking I saw nothing in the trees. I walked on, but before my second step I heard the same call. Again I looked but saw nothing that could fly. ‘Oh well! I might as well get going,” I thought until the call—this time with a teasing lilt—seemed to say, “You can’t find me, can you?”  No, I never found the bird, nor recognized the voice. Nature was playing a little game with me. Would I play along? As I walked the rest of the way home, I wondered how often Nature tries to catch my attention. I reflected upon my unintentional and unacknowledged impact on my relationship with the outdoors. Did my footsteps disturb the earthworms? Was pulling a weed a help or hindrance? Did I appreciate the delicate white five-petaled flowers along my path? Was I thankful to the breeze? Did I notice the new mint green ends of the evergreens? If Nature is a teacher it was telling me “Pay attention.’” 

If I Were a Child Again

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | May 3, 2024 |

Sometime in my youth my mother told me about something I did as a baby. With pride in her voice, she related how one day I heard the crunch of tires in the driveway and the opening of the porch door. Immediately I started babbling “Da Da!” I was happy that Dad was home, and my parents felt proud and honored at my welcome.

I thought of that incident today as I reflected on Jesus’ words “Remain in me.” Jesus asks us to remain in Him just as He remains in the Father. Jesus’ relationship with his Father was one of “Abba! Abba!” or “Daddy! Daddy!” or “Da Da.”  That is my relationship to God, too. What a tender way to feel the presence of God! A kiss from a Dad whom I have missed since my last prayer time and a snuggling in the arms of a proud Parent. Like a baby, I say nothing. I am content.

Spiritual and Material Entwined

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 18, 2024 |

I belong to a group studying the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Had I background in botany and love for gardening I might enjoy the book. As it is, I have only a deep appreciation for the author’s style and ability to find deep meaning in cleaning a swamp and gathering sap. Over twelve years of work creating a pond had dividends beyond sore muscles for her. The by-products of her work wove baskets, mulched her garden, and made her tea. She concluded of the life of the pond and her own life: “Our lives became entwined in ways both material and spiritual.” The details of Nature that fill every paragraph have impacted my spirit. The thoughts of the book about material things and my spiritual thoughts have become entwined a little more tightly. May all the things around you and me deepen our appreciation and wonder.

Five Loaves and Two Fish

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 14, 2024 |

When I played for Mass this morning, I was glad that there’s a hymn mentioning barley loaves and fish, namely, “We Come with Joy,” a parody by Delores Dufner. You remember the story, how Philip wondered how so little could feed so many. My mind went to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress scheduled for July 17-21 in Indianapolis. I can only imagine the hundreds of people involved in the preparation and logistics. Whether a keynote speaker or someone selling souvenirs or parking cars, everyone’s part will enhance this event whose purpose is to highlight the “source and summit” of our faith. The experience is beyond imagining in and of itself but also, like the feeding of the five thousand, the leftover fragments (the twelve wicker baskets full) will feed people’s hearts and minds for a long time after the event. Let’s pray that the Congress will enliven the religious culture of our nation and feed our spiritual hunger.

Give Me the Ritual; We Want It All

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 6, 2024 |

On Palm Sunday I witnessed a touching moment as I saw the ritual of palm through the eyes of an eight-year-old. The boy was crying very hard but quietly. He turned to his mom who wondered what the matter was. “The water didn’t touch me or my palm,” he said sadly. What could be worse than a dead palm, a reed without blessing, a lifeless nothing to wave? The moment was a poignant reminder of the power of ritual. Throughout Holy Week, especially during the Triduum, I hope we were all focused on the rituals. As the musician and director, I was nervous about doing the “rites right.”  Yet even though a server or cantor or musician might be imperfect, the rich symbols of candle, water, chrism, kiss on the cross, raised chalice, and more would carry the weight of meaning and grace. Those symbols lifted some of the weight from my shoulders—just as receiving a blessed palm after Mass relieved the anxiety of the eight-year-old.

Just Wait  

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 5, 2024 |

Saint Bonaventure believed that there is a spiritual potency in all creation, and it is already brought to completion in the resurrection of Christ whose “glorified body becomes the perfect expression of this relationship with the cosmos” (Christ in Evolution, Ilia Delio). What Christ experienced we—and all of creation—will experience, too. All will be radically transformed. There is only one way to be complete: to become one with Christ, the Alpha and Omega. To Him be glory and power, and may we be glorified in Him. I can hardly wait!