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!

Changing Our View of Christ

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 4, 2024 |

Karl Rahner writes that the quintessence of Christianity, according to Saint Paul, is that Christians have turned from the false gods of their past life, to serving a living and true God, who will come again to take them to glory. We have completed Lent, a time when we tried to cast aside our personal idols of success, pleasure, desire for recognition, addictions, and whatever seemed more important than the divine. In the Passion Narrative we read of disciples who betrayed their Lord, denied Him, and forgot his promise to rise from the dead. Perhaps in some ways they made the Messiah, the Christ, an idol. At least they seemed stuck in their own idea what Christ should be. He certainly should not be a short-order cook, but there he is making a breakfast of fish and bread on the shore. “Come, have breakfast” the Cook called. Imagine the emotions and thoughts of the fishermen who toiled all night but caught nothing. This was the third time the Risen Lord had appeared to them. This time these seven guys (Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, Zebedee’s sons, and two others) felt surprise, disbelief changing into belief, relief, humor at the situation, and unimaginable joy.

What is your relationship to Christ? Has the discipline of Lent improved that relationship? Do you experience surprise, deeper belief, and joy?

The Emmaus Story – My Favorite Story

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

Do you ever look forward to your favorite Scripture story, waiting for it to be read in church? Well, I do. I anticipate my favorite Gospel story on Wednesday in Easter Week. Remember the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Every year I sympathize with Cleopas’s dejection over Jesus’ crucifixion and wonder how Cleopas and companion couldn’t recognize the Stranger. Since I’m a teacher at heart, I love to listen to Jesus teaching the history of the Chosen People from the time of Moses to the time of “the Christ [who] should suffer these things and enter into his glory.”  The two wouldn’t let Jesus go. They pleaded with him to stay, and then it happened. Their eyes were opened at the breaking of the bread. Then the two had their own story to tell the Eleven who already knew the Lord had been raised. I imagine a whole lot of disciples shouting and clapping and doing happy dances.  My heart burns within me at that Scripture passage.  When you read or listen to the Scriptures, when do you say “Were not our hearts burning within us when he. . .opened the Scriptures to us?”

“Imaginative Hope”  

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 2, 2024 |

Throughout our Sisters of Notre Dame history, our Superior Generals have composed letters at Christmas, Easter, and other times. These letters offer their own spiritual insights, remind us of our founding sisters Sister Maria Aloysia and Sister Maria Ignatia, our spiritual mother Saint Julie Billiart, and keep the Congregation abreast of developments, such as missionary activity. This Easter’s letter from Sister Mary Ann Culpert spoke of “imaginative hope.” More than a beautiful theme, the letter enumerated examples from history and the present that “imaginative hope” was God’s way to move the congregation forward by implementing God’s dreams. From 1850 to the present Sisters have looked for new ministries in hope to make God more known and loved. “Imaginative hope” was the impetus, the Holy Spirit’s urge, to realize God’s dream in Germany, Brazil, Indonesia, East Africa, USA, and many other parts of the world. The imaginative hope took root in education, hospitals, social work, missionary activity, prison ministry, parish leadership, and much more. The letter ended with the invitation to consider other ways God is inviting us to move forward. The invitation is extended also to our Associates. And, since you’re reading this, to you, too.

The “April Fools” in Scripture

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | April 1, 2024 |

Some call today April Fool’s Day. A “holiday” to fool others seems nonsensical to me. Yet this week’s Scripture readings have several accounts of people being fooled at the first Easter. The disciples witnessed the death of Jesus and feared their own deaths by association with Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea assumed he would never be buried in his own new tomb, but eventually he probably lay on the same stone slab as Jesus did. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were fooled by the Stranger who pretended not to know anything about what had happened the past few days in Jerusalem concerning the one they had hoped would redeem Israel. Judas was foolish enough to feel there was no hope for him, that his Master would never forgive him. Peter’s denial was foolish, but he wasn’t fooled by the Fisherman who asked the band of disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Mary Magdalene was not foolish enough to think a woman had no place in announcing the resurrection. She was the first to see the Risen Lord and give the Good News to the incredulous apostles.

Holy Saturday – March 30

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | March 30, 2024 |

On this night of vigil we participate in the interplay of past, present, and future. The new Christ candle is lit to praise the Christ of yesterday, today, and forever. Listening to the story of Jewish Passover we glorify the Lord who passed over from death to life. Like Exodus people ourselves, we go through the water, leaving behind sin and selfishness in the baptismal font and Easter’s rite of sprinkling. Once God’s people were led by a pillar of fire by night. Now on this night we are led by Christ-light.  Lumen Christi!

Good Friday – March 29

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | March 29, 2024 |

Crucified Savior, our world is fragmented by discord and division. Even in our small personal worlds we feel the violence, the shattering of trust, the brokenness of relationships, the scars of fear. Through your surrender on Calvary—“Into your hands I commend my spirit”—may we surrender ourselves to your healing. Reconcile our world, love us in our brokenness, make us whole—One Body in you.”

Holy Thursday- March 28

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | March 28, 2024 |

Tonight we participate in the beginning of the one liturgy that comprises the ritualization of the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. The three liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil are three but one, distinct but the same. All three make tangibly present the death and resurrection of Jesus. In each we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ and we ourselves became the Body of Christ. The reality is present at every Mass throughout the year and in every place, but it somehow seems that this night is the most special, the most precious. For me it’s the “extras,” the sung “Glory to God” absent for weeks, washing of feet, the annual hymns like “Pange Lingua,” the once-a-year solemnity, the altar of repose, the color and pageantry that conclude with stripping the altar and the feeling of emptiness and longing.

Gethsemani   — March 27

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | March 27, 2024 |

“Ah, Gethsemani, my favorite garden, my place of prayer. A garden that my disciples have also grown to love as a place to rest, to pray, to decide. This will be the last time I come. I will soon know the crush of the olive press. I will miss your fragrance, your gnarled trunks, your rocks. In my great need, let me agonize upon my favorite rock. Support me as I pray: “Abba! If it is possible, let this cup pass me by. But not as I will. Let your will be mine.”