A Hole in My Sock

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 24, 2023 |

Today I noticed a hole in my sock. My first response? “Oh, darn!” Now don’t think I started looking for needle and thread. Sewing and I are polar opposites. There is nothing in me that would give me even the slightest inclination to sew.

Now I do have a coloring book page (not colored by me) hanging above my desk. It says “Be brave. Be kind. Be true. Be you.” I sometimes wonder about the order of the adjectives. Do I need to be brave so that I can more readily be kind, true, and “you”, that is, my best self? If I weren’t true, would I not be me? What if I’d start with the last command—Be you? What is the engine that pulls the train of my attitudes and actions? Bravery? Kindness? Truth? I know no engine that would inspire me to darn my socks. Or would it be an act of bravery?

We Just Never Know When God Will Speak—Through Us

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 22, 2023 |

God speaks in an infinite number of ways. We attend to Scripture, other people, inspirations, creation, events that almost shout “Hey, God is in this!” How much do we attend to our own words? Couldn’t our own words be God speaking? I was struck by a Christmas letter responding to my own Christmas greetings. The recipient wrote, “When I read your card, it was as if God was speaking to me through you. I felt the force of God’s presence.” More than a compliment, these words reaffirmed the importance of the words I write—even the words of this blog. Your words have the same power.

My Most Wonderful Friends

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 19, 2023 |

Blessed Fulton J. Sheen wrote, “Books are the most wonderful friends in the world. When you meet them and pick them up, they are always ready to give you a few ideas. When you put them down, they never get mad; when you take them up again, they seem to enrich you all the more.” I thoroughly enjoy historical fiction—authors like Ronald Balson, Kristen Hannah, Pam Jenhoff, to name a few. More than the plot and the historical facts, I appreciate the authors’ skill in relating the thoughts and emotions, the drama and trauma people of that era experienced. The characters’ lives help me understand those I work with and live with day to day. When time does not allow the reading of fiction, I feel a little out of sorts, not my best self, certainly missing my “most wonderful friends.” I give small amounts of cash to good causes. When I send a few dollars to Braille Books for Blind Children,” I wipe a tear from the corner of my eyes. How sad not to be able to read! How sad that the majority of blind people do not know braille. How sad to have a life without “the most wonderful friends in the world”!

Sacramental to the Core

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 17, 2023 |

In January we celebrate the birthdays of our foundresses–Sister Maria Aloysia (Hilligonde Wolbring) on January 9 and Sister Maria Ignatia (Elizabeth Kühling) on January 10. Both were teachers who also took care of orphans and eventually began the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame—my congregation. In her endearing way, Sister Maria Aloysia wrote to the sisters in 1881, “Most important in our work is the uniting of all our actions with the works of the Divine Savior. Thus we make gold out of stones.” “Making gold out of stones” is more than a cute catchphrase for us sisters. It’s a sacramental reminder. Our foundresses looked upon what they did as a blessed way to unite themselves to God. Cooking dinner for orphans, teaching classes, and preparing for religious vows were daily happenings that became gold by uniting these tasks with the works of the Savior. Gregory Boyle claims the same reality. He says, “We are sacramental to our core when we think that everything is holy. The holy not just found in the supernatural but in the Incarnational here and now.”

What are you doing here and now? Texting? Packing lunches? Driving to work? Cleaning house? Whatever your “here and now” tasks are today, unite them with God. Let Christ’s continuing Incarnation wrap them with his love and unite them to himself. Then you’ll make gold from stones.

The Littlest Shepherd

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 16, 2023 |

My friend told me about children preparing for a Christmas play before the earliest Mass on Christmas Eve—usually called the “Children’s Mass.” The children put their coats in the last pew and donned the attire of shepherds and kings. One tiny shepherd slipped away from his classmates and went down the aisle to kneel before the crib. The shepherd closed his eyes, pressed his folded hands together tightly, and moved his lips in intense prayer. Those who noticed the child felt they had no need to see the play. The little shepherd had already told the story.

‘Tis the Season for “Hallmark”

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 18, 2022 |

Are you binge watching Hallmark movies? Are predictable tear-jerkers a way to relax after a day of frantic Christmas shopping? Are the movies a welcome relief from news channels? Do you find relief from Hallmark after reading the Church’s lectionary readings? What? What! In late November and some days in December the Church sets before us the signs of the end of the world. We hear of earthquakes and disasters. Panic and doom are the hallmarks that the Kingdom of God is near. What? What! Thoughts ping-pong in our brain. Disaster? No. Redemption? Yes, I guess. The human view or the God-view? Well, God’s, I hope. Advent is the time to wrap our heads around the seemingly impossible. We live in the past, the present, and the future—all at the same time. What? What! Every time is a present reality in the mind of God. And we live in God. And through the miracle of the Church Year, the lessons and reality of liturgy, we live in the past, present, and future. We’re like Scrooge who woke up after a night of ghostly visitations to realize the past, present, and future are rolled into one. (The original novel by Dickens states this clearly. You rarely find it in movie versions.) So, remember the past and learn its lessons. Live today doing kind deeds and work for justice. Look to the future with hope and gladness. The coming of God’s reign is already in our midst. Look up! The hallmark is God’s presence in every place and in every minute. What? What! Yes, God is so very close.

Twofold Character of Advent – Third Week 

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 11, 2022 |

When you woke up this morning, did you think, “Today might be the end of the world”? Probably not. So it’s a good thing we have Advent. Advent looks to the First Coming of the Son of God and prepares us for Christmas. Advent also helps us to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Pay attention to our Advent hymns. Try to find in the verses Christ’s coming in Bethlehem, Christ’s coming at the end of time, and his coming into our everyday lives. Will you know Him when He comes? Today look for Christ in coworkers, classmates, family, bell-ringers, podcasters, service personnel, store clerks . . . . They all have the face of Christ.

Mariam the Magnificent  

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 8, 2022 |

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is special to me and all the other Sisters of Notre Dame. For me, my home parish in Bellevue, Ohio, was titled Immaculate Conception. For all us Sisters, it is the patronal feast of our province, which is the whole United States. Recently I read the chapter titled “Mariam the Magnificent” in Always a Guest by Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest.  (I highly recommend this book!) The image of Mary I most appreciated in this chapter is this: “the timid teenager who is blessed, the one who accepts Gabriel’s proposal when he comes on God’s behalf to ask for her hand.” The author suggests that Protestants prefer the timid, quiet Mary. Yet she goes on to write about the outspoken Mary as seen in her prophetic Magnificat, along with the “chutzpah to question the angel Gabriel when he presents her with God’s plan.” The author continues: “Depending on what she says (all you can do is ask), her answer could be the best verse yet in the song God has been singing since Sinai: ‘I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people’ (Lev. 26:12 NIV).

What Is Your Opinion? 

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 6, 2022 |

Before Jesus tells the parable of the lone sheep that strayed from the herd of one hundred, he asks “What is your opinion?” A question like that would make the listeners very attentive. There will be a quiz! Maybe we should make Bible bookmarks with the question “What is your opinion?” I’m sure Jesus will be just as interested in your answer as he was to that first group of listeners to hear the parable.

Advent – Second Week

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 4, 2022 |

In Advent we remember the Old Testament stories leading up to the coming of the Messiah. That’s memory. We also look to the endtimes, or Parousia, when all will be united in Christ. That’s majesty. We become more aware of how Christ comes in every moment of our lives. That’s mystery. Memory, majesty, mystery: m-m-m- the sound we make at something good to eat. Yes, Advent is a time for good things. Are you awake to all the good that you can do during this blessed time?