A Farmer First of All

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 22, 2022 |

My dad bent steel with mathematical precision for the amusement park rides at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. That was his full-time employment, yet I tended to think of him as a farmer. While I never went into the steel factory, I could see him daily working in the fields or barn of our small farm, feeding the cattle, harvesting the crops.

Six miles from our farm was the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio. Our family often went there for Mass or devotions. When walking through the woods to pray the rosary, I would see the Stations of the Cross and an occasional statue. Having moved from home over 50 years ago, I see several additions to the Shrine’s devotional sites. One that I find most fitting is the addition of St. Isidore and his wife Maria. The shrine was designed with the rustic look of a barn, complete with some farm tools. Simple farmers have a place in the roll call of the saints. The saying “Close to the sod, close to God” apparently is true. Certainly, it was true for my dad.

Not Who I Think They Are

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 19, 2022 |

It is my privilege to write our sisters’ obituaries. Fortunately, I am supplied with many statistics: names of family members, dates of birth and religious profession, years and places in active ministry, and perhaps a newspaper article or two announcing achievements or awards. Invariably I am surprised by the information I never knew about the Sister. I may have known her as a teacher, but sitting in a classroom rarely affords me insight into her hobbies and talents. If I never lived with the sister, I can’t appreciate her personality or witness her idiosyncrasies or learn she is a master of quick puns. Each sister is so much more than I think she is. Maybe you and I are so much more than we think we are, too.

What Do You Like Best About Your Job?

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 17, 2022 |

I was riding in the passenger seat of a hearse when the funeral director asked me, “What do you like best about your job?” We had just left a cemetery where I led a prayer for a person who had no relatives or friends. My answer was quick in coming: “The split second when family enters the funeral home, and our eyes meet. They seem so relieved to know someone is there for them.” I could have added, “My other favorite time occurs when the family leaves after visitation hours, and I hear, ‘You stayed the whole time for us.’”

When I memorized the works of mercy as a kid, I wondered if I’d ever have burying the dead as part of my ticket into heaven. Well, I don’t know whether it’s a ticket into heaven, but it is my privilege here on earth. Families face so many details when a loved one dies. Remembering details during a time of sorrow is nearly impossible. As staff support I may be able to answer some questions or perhaps foresee a need. As I stand at the entrance of the funeral home to greet, I pray short prayers for the deceased. “May they rest in peace.” And may the loved ones find bits of peace and solace through the ministry of funeral home personnel.

Valentines

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 14, 2022 |

I wonder what Saint Valentine thinks about Valentine’s Day. The Church certainly remembers him, but the feast gives all the recognition to Saints Cyril and Methodius. Go figure. I see one connection, however. The two brothers were sent off in 863 to Slavic nations. While missionaries before them were teaching the people in Latin, the two brothers invented a Slavonic alphabet, translated the Scriptures, and thus founded Slavonic literature. Their missionary efforts were quite successful and became the model of inculturation for future missionaries. The brothers’ hearts were focused on the people they served. These German brothers threw in their lot and shared in everything. Their hearts became inclusive with their love for a different nationality.

On Valentine’s Day let’s examine the inclusiveness of our hearts. What is our attitude toward migrants and immigrants? Is there any culture we look upon with suspicion? Do we encourage learning more than one language? How open are our hearts to differences?

Single-Minded

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 12, 2022 |

Recently I read a meditation that reminded me of the many times in our formation years we were told to be single-minded. Not surprisingly when I looked for the author’s name, it was a Sister of Notre Dame! There’s something about the straight forwardness of being single-minded that leaves no room for waffling. A hymn that “says it like it is” is Rory Cooney’s “We Will Serve the Lord.” The composer repudiates pleasure, idols, gold, power. The refrain rejects all siren calls: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

Our foundress, Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring, wrote succinctly with single-minded focus. No room is left for alternatives. Here are a couple examples: “We should do all things in the name of Jesus.” “The dear God has always taken care and will certainly continue to do so.” May we Sisters of Notre Dame, our Associates and readers do all in the name of Jesus with trust that God will always take care of us.

Getting Sidetracked

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 9, 2022 |

My mind could win a gold medal at being sidetracked. I like to think that’s a sign of creativity—even genius–but it’s far from that. No athlete gets a medal for skating or swimming into another lane. Not being focused gets us out of bounds. (I bet we all have wondered, “What am I doing here?” or “What did I come here for?”) Then we bring our mind back into bounds and realize our lack of attention only gives us more steps—unnecessary ones—in our day.

“OK, Valerie,” I tell myself. “Now you’ve lost some precious minutes retracing your steps.” So? I try—when I remember! —to get some good from my sidetrack. While I’m going back up or down the stairs, while I’ll going into the room where I should have been in the first place, I pray, “Praise and thanks!” Three words that are adoration, lifting my scatter-brained head to God, turning my heart in the direction where it should always be. For this, “Praise and thanks!”

Another Name for February 2

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | February 2, 2022 |

Many of us Sisters entered the community of the Sisters of Notre Dame on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord (also known as Candlemas, the Purification of Mary, or the Meeting of the Lord). As a worldwide congregation, we celebrate big jubilees—25, 50, 70 years—from the day of our religious profession; however, it’s nice to remember this anniversary of the day we left home. Those who entered before 1975 or so assumed that they would never set foot again in their family home. Quite a commitment for a teenager or young adult! Vatican II changed much in religious life, so over the past 50+ years those entering the community did not face this renunciation and perhaps left home with less emotion.

Like Mary and Joseph who presented Jesus in the Temple, my parents dropped me off at the front door of the Provincial Center on Secor and Monroe. The parents of Jesus did everything “in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” They offered two  young pigeons and then took the 40-day-old Jesus back to their home in Nazareth. My  parents would leave me there. Was this a greater sacrifice? My parents never said what was going through their minds and hearts that day or any day thereafter. They would never interfere with my desire to be a Sister of Notre Dame.

I think we should give this feast another name—The Feast of Parents Who Sacrifice. If you know parents who have permitted their children to vow their lives as priests or religious sisters or brothers, thank them. I can only imagine that their sacrifice continues to bless the Church—not unlike Mary and Joseph’s sacrifice that continues to bless the world with the words and life of their son.

Spiritual Amnesia

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 31, 2022 |

Where do you live? Is your answer a street and house number or maybe a generic word like “house”? If so, we may be forgetting where we really live. We live in God. Every moment of every day God is loving us, attentive to us in an infinite way that only God can, and we can never imagine. Throughout the day do we think about God’s unconditional loving attention to us? Perhaps not very often—at least not as often as we’d like. It takes effort to remember that we live in God. But what a blessing it is when we do so. “I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20) sums up the purpose of liturgy. Psalm 139 tells us that God thinks of us constantly: “How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand” (vv. 17-18). Every hour God faithfully protects us: “The Lord is faithful. He will strengthen you and guard you” (2 Thess. 3:3). Every minute God cares for us: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Every second God loves us: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness toward you” (Jer. 31:3). Here is my suggestion:  Memorize one of these Scripture quotations and try to recall it several times today. It may help cure our spiritual amnesia.

“Isn’t That the Sweetest Thing?”

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 28, 2022 |

Occasionally we are awed at something that elicits “Isn’t that the sweetest thing?” Recently I experienced this at a funeral home. The family of the deceased covering four generations seemed quite bonded to each other and to the great-grandfather in the coffin. I was pleasantly surprised that even the youngest children between the ages of three and six stayed several hours and managed to use their “inside voices.” At the end of the night when families were leaving, and I anticipated cranky kids, the opposite occurred. The great-grandchildren still had a sense of reverence and awareness of funeral home etiquette. When the very last great-grandson, a child of three, turned from his good-bye to his great-grandfather, he cried and asked, “Can’t we take him home? Let’s take Grandpa home.” Now, wasn’t that the sweetest thing?

Christmas in Ordinary Time

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | January 17, 2022 |

We recently completed the Christmas Season and entered Ordinary Time. While Christmas decorations are taken down and stored, Christmas continues. Christmas celebrated the tremendous coming of Jesus Christ to earth in the womb of Mary, his mother. Yet what we call “Christmas” or “Incarnation” (God becoming human) began billions of years ago. Actually, the Incarnation began with the moment of “Let there be light!” in Genesis, chapter one, at least 13.7 billion years before the event that brought angels, shepherds, and magi to the manger. Long before God became Jesus (Jesus’s personal incarnation), Christ was deeply embedded in all things (Jesus Christ’s universal presence). Richard Rohr explains in his book The Universal Christ: “Jesus came out of an already Christ-soaked world. The second incarnation came out of the first, out of God’s loving union with physical creation” (p. 15).

We have often heard “Keep Christ in Christmas.” How do we do that in Ordinary Time when the Church remembers the adult life of Christ? Like the Wise Men we seek the Christ in creation—all creation—people, animals, plants, rocks, everything, every cell, every atom. Like Mary, we nurture the Christ within us and share the Christ with the world. Like the shepherds and magi, we live in amazement of the wonders of God and God’s creation—the “Christ-soaked” creation. With the angels, let us sing God’s praises— “Glory to God in the highest!”