Love following upon love

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 11, 2012 |

Today is the Christmas play at the school where I teach, St. Richard, Swanton, Ohio. Its title is Bed, Bethlehem, and Beyond. Although the play opens with Mary and Joseph trying to find a bed for the night, the narrator reminds us that the incarnation began at the Big Bang when God wanted to become one of us. The children perform a choral reading of the Prologue of St. John’s gospel, reminding us that “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.”

The children echo “love following upon love, upon love, upon love” to let the audience know that the Incarnation continues. The “Beyond” of the play’s title began before time and will continue long after earthly time ceases. There’s more to the celebration of Christmas than a straw bed in Bethlehem. Take time to delve into the big picture of Christmas and discover “love following upon love” for all eternity.

We Have a Winner!

By Sr. Susan Maria Kusz | December 9, 2012 |

So a red-shirt frosh has captured the Heisman and set a new record for the books.  A winner!  He must be full of happiness at such recognition; Texas A&M must be rejoicing along with him.

We have a winner in today’s Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent.  John the Baptist, an odd man by our standards, born into privilege, dressed like a hippie, doing “his thing” down at the river water rather than in the temple, being prophetic for he had received the Word of God deeply into his heart, his psyche, his being, his very way of life.

We have winners around us today:  prophets in our midst.  Do we notice?  They might be stand outs like JB … odd people by our standards:  the person without a home standing on the street corner looking for a handout … the person in the news who stands up for human rights and gets cut down by various groups because we just can’t handle their message at the moment … the environmentalists challenging us to look at how we treat God’s lovely gift of creation … all these folks have something to say to us.  Advent might be a good time to reflect at the end of each day:  what prophet/s did I meet today?  What did they have to say to me?  Can I hold the tension of their challenge and my discomfort?  Am I able to feel God nudging me to “the more”?  Like JB, can I receive the Word of God deeply into my very being so that this Word transforms my very way of life?

Yes, we have winners all around us.  I hope that Manziel, Te’o, Klein, and Lee have parties and awards for their team efforts this season.  They deserve it. So do their respective schools.  But John the Baptist, a man we surely would place on the “marginalized persons” list if he were alive today, is also a big winner this Advent Sunday.  And he challenges us to go beyond the parties and awards to a place of welcoming the Word within.  I’m up for the challenge … how about you?

Memory, Majesty & Mystery

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 6, 2012 |

The Church celebrates three major comings of Christ during Advent: the historical coming of Jesus born 2000 years ago (Memory), the Second Coming (Majesty), and his coming in to our lives moment by moment (Mystery).

There are many reminders of Jesus’ historical coming: manger scenes, Christmas trees, Christmas plays, Advent calendars, and more. The Second Coming stays pretty much under our radar.  What should hit us between the eyes is the Mystery of Christ among us in his Word, in the Eucharist, in other people. God can mysteriously sneak up on us is thousands of ways: lyrics of a song, advice of a friend, opportunity for service, collections for the needy, a hug, an idea, a gorgeous sky, a new snowfall. Memory, Majesty, Mystery.  May your Advent be filled with good things because of your goodness!

“Come, Let us climb the Lord’s mountain….”

By Sr. Susan Maria Kusz | December 3, 2012 |

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.”   — from Isaiah 2: 1-5, reading for the first Monday of Advent

I am no stranger to mountains, having lived in the foothills of the Rockies for the past ten plus years.  Their mystery is ever-alluring.  For many years, well before moving to the southwestern USA, Psalm 121 has been a favorite of mine: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains ….”  Here I have that opportunity daily:  to lift up my eyes to the mountains … to climb a mountain … to find my spirit refreshed with a glance from my desk as I let my eyes rest upon the mountains.

Isn’t it interesting that Isaiah chooses a mountain as the place where we may learn of God’s ways?  That Jesus goes to a mountain to pray … to teach?  That we today find our spirits soar when we gaze upon a mountaintop?  Yes, their mystery is ever-alluring, drawing us apart to pause … ponder … pray.

As we wait in joyful hope on this first Monday of Advent, may we be led apart to hear God’s message of love drawing us into the Advent dream so that we may be the new House of Jacob that walks in the Light of the Lord!

Do you ever really retire?

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 3, 2012 |

Sr. Brigid Kelly and Sr. Cyrilla Hellman are two SNDs who are active in prison ministry.

Every year in early December there is a collection for retired religious sisters and brothers. You may wonder what we Sisters of Notre Dame—and other congregations–do when we retire. Well, we keep right on working!  There’s always something to do for God!

We have sisters who do prison ministry, adult literacy, and musical entertainment in hospitals and nursing homes. Some teach English, tutor, sell crafts and cards, do laundry for the homeless, help adults get their GED, and assist migrants in becoming naturalized citizens. If you ask them, what they do, they’ll say prayer, presence, praise, and mission support. They’ll never say “retired.”  Shouldn’t we change the name of the Retirement Fund to Seed Money for our Very Active Sisters and Brothers to Advance the Kingdom of God?

The virtue of balance!

By Sr. Susan Maria Kusz | November 28, 2012 |

Have you ever had the thought:  “I’m the only one working around here!” or “I’m the only one putting in my hours all the way!”  I suspect most of us have thought this at one time or another and then dealt with the feelings that come up around that thought!

I’ve been reading the Rule of Benedict …. The last few days the readings for the day have been focused on prayer, work, and sacred reading.  St. Benedict challenges his monks to the virtue of balance.  Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, in her commentary on the Rule of Benedict, says this:  “The monastic does not exist for work.”  Benedict says that his monks are to have a sense of balance, alternating work, prayer, and holy reading throughout each day in a regular rhythm that provides continuity and gives a sense of meaning and purpose to life.

The challenge for me:  the next time I feel “out of sorts” because I think I’m the only one doing all the “work” around here, I need to remember to take a deep breath and find some balance!  I do not exist solely for work. Though I’m definitely not “Sister Mary Lazybones,” I’m going to be more mindful today to find some balance between my work and prayer and play!  How about you?

Heavenly thoughts

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | November 28, 2012 |

The Church devotes the month of November to remember those who have gone before us. We have prayed for all our deceased loved ones. Perhaps our thoughts were  turned toward heaven more frequently in November. What do you expect when you arrive in heaven?  What excites you the most through anticipation of your new home in God? Will it be seeing your family? Learning what heaven is like? Getting your questions answered? Some may look forward to seeing all the persons who have been helped in achieving their heavenly reward because of their influence. How many persons have you influenced so that they live in heaven forever?

Giving Tuesday

By Sr. Marilyn Marie | November 26, 2012 |

Well, we’ve had Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  I just recently learned that tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday.”  Some have set aside this day to draw attention to our need to respond to the needs of those around us.

Our Sister Elizabeth Maria, pastoral associate at St. Wendelin, Fostoria, is currently helping with an effort to do just that with some of the migrant families in the area.  With the help of the National Honor Society at St. Wendelin School, St. Wendelin Parish, and parishioners from Blessed John XXIII Parish near Perrysburg, they are doing what they can to provide warm clothing, food and other items for these families.

Today’s Gospel reading of the widow who offers her two small coins reminds us that what we have to offer may seem small, but if given in love, it can make a great difference. What will you be able and willing to do tomorrow to celebrate “Giving Tuesday?”

The Bible says. . .

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | November 20, 2012 |

Reading the Bible may do you very little good. (Did you re-read the sentence? Did you think it was a misprint ?)

Well, reading the Bible may do us very little good if we don’t put it into practice. The Bible encourages us to praise God and give thanks for everything (see Eph. 5:20 and 1 Thes. 5:18). Can we praise and thank God for everything today whether it’s snarled traffic or the best parking place, an empty toothpaste tube or a refrigerator blessed with abundance, a stubbed toe or a heart full of joy? Praising God for traffic jams and stubbed toes takes more “trust muscle,” but that muscle will strengthen over time with use.

Time to Give Thanks

By Sr. Marilyn Marie | November 19, 2012 |

As we enter this Thanksgiving week, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the many reasons I have to give thanks: – a text from a friend, an unexpected invitation to lunch, an amazing sunrise, Sisters in community to share the amazing sunrise, warm clothing when so many go without, gas in the car and easy access to travel, a funeral celebration reminding me of the precious gift of life, a smile and joyful greeting of a coworker, a Christmas cactus in bloom….

Maybe I’ll make it a point to keep the list going all week. God is indeed good and all is gift from Him.  What’s topping your Gratitude List this week?