As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, I am reminded of a newsletter we received last month from our Sister Mary Jo Toll who ministers at the United Nations. Sister participates in a Working Group on Girls and their current effort with the Commission on the Status of Women is to raise awareness of the need for education for girls throughout the world. Education is certainly a key factor in moving out of the cycle of poverty, yet many girls lack this opportunity.
Our Sisters in many other countries also work to uphold and promote the dignity of women. Sister Mary Rashmi in Tanzania writes, “I began my mission by organizing rural, marginalized women into Self Help Groups with an aim of empowering them towards self-reliance and leadership. The women have shown steady growth by taking new initiatives and steps to bring about transformation in the society. As I look back I have much to be grateful for. Motivating the rural women to be ‘agents of transformation’ in the society, we have been able to move ahead.”
I am so proud of my Sisters who follow in the footsteps of Mary and seek to find ways to celebrate the special gifts which women bring to our world. It also causes me to stop and reflect on the women who have influenced me. I thank God for their presence in my life.
Who is a woman who has made a difference in your life? How has she influenced you to be a better person?
Today’s Gospel reading at Mass tells the story of the mother of James and John looking out for “her boys.” Her reply to Jesus’ question, “What is it you want?” is an impassioned plea that her sons have the best seats in the house when they enter the kingdom with Jesus. One has to give her credit for caring for her sons and for knowing to whom she should go with her request. Jesus doesn’t fault her care, but he does give a new direction to what is truly best for them. Their lives, given in loving service, are the surest guarantee for spending eternal life near Him.
Mothers usually have an uncanny sense of knowing what is best for us. I certainly believe this is true with Mary, our Mother. Because she knows the heart of God more intimately than any other, she has an inside view of what will bring us true happiness and peace. This is one of the reasons I love the traditional prayer, The Memorare.
Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
I can’t think of anyone I would rather trust with my needs than Mary. What is your favorite prayer to Mary asking for her help?
Yesterday’s Scripture reading about Abraham being put to the test and being asked to sacrifice Isaac always leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. It just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Abraham and Sarah were good and faithful people, they hoped and prayed for children, God gave them Isaac, and then…they are asked to give back the greatest gift of their lives. Perhaps my knowing the end of the story lessens its impact.
While the examples of being tested in my own life may not be as dramatic or traumatic as Abraham’s, they can also call forth tremendous faith and trust. Sometimes the obedience of daily life, the call to give without counting the cost, and the invitation to put others first can truly stretch my capacity to love.
Mary knew a similar “testing.” At times dramatic and at times very simple, her life also challenged her to place her faith and trust in a loving God. “The meaning of the obedience asked of us can occasionally remain hidden. Such obedience, like Mary’s fiat, is a surrender of love made in faith, leading through darkness to light” (SND Constitutions, Art. 39).
We, too, know the end of the story – the gift of eternal life that will be ours someday. May this knowledge strengthen our faith.
Around noon yesterday, our dear Sister Mary Carola Billat entered eternal life and the fullness of God’s incredible goodness.
When I think of Sister Mary Carola, I think of her never-failing smile, the twinkle in her eye, her loved nickname “Crayola,” and the delightful rapport she had with junior high students. She definitely knew how to have fun with them, and her love and care for them was always evident. As recently as Christmas 2010, former students were still coming to visit. Sister addressed many of us in community as “Kid,” and I always felt it was one of the highest compliments she could give us.
Our Constitutions states, “God gives us the gift and mission to proclaim to others his overwhelming goodness and provident care.” Sister Mary Carola experienced this goodness so profoundly that it naturally spilled over in her many relationships with others. We rejoice in the blessing her life has been and the gift her memory and intercession will continue to be.
Living in a society that constantly bombards me with words can lead me to take my words less and less seriously. It seems at times as though my words have little consequence, and yet I’ve also experienced the tremendous impact words can have. I’ve been comforted by a simple encouraging word, and I’ve been stunned by a harsh and critical word.
Jesus reminds me in today’s Gospel that it’s the sincerity with which I pray rather than the number of my words in prayer that really matters. He gives me the simple, yet transforming, words of the Our Father as a model for my prayer. I don’t need to rattle on in my prayer; God already knows what I need. Mary must have known this well, for several times in the Scriptures we’re told, “She pondered all these things in her heart.”
I’m so grateful for the witness of my Sisters who faithfully give voice to intercession for others in their prayer. This is especially evident in our Congregational practice of Perpetual Adoration. Our Sisters around the world take turns praying before the Blessed Sacrament for the needs of the Church and world and all those with whom we come in contact. Our Toledo Province has the hours from 4:00-5:00 p.m. and 8:00-9:00 p.m. It is there in a special way that we speak our needs, your needs, to Our Loving God.
Submit a prayer request here or click on the “Prayer Request” tab on our web site: www.toledosnd.org. For what intentions would you like us to pray?
As we begin this Lenten season, there may be a variety of things running through our minds and hearts. Some people I know experience Lent as a true season of penance; they can’t wait until it’s over for another year! Some take it in stride as a necessary part of the liturgical year; they more or less invest in the practices of the season. Then there are those I know who truly look forward to this season, not because it’s easy but because the purpose of Lent speaks to something deep within.
As I received my ashes at Mass this morning, I found myself wondering just what difference this Lenten season would make in my life. Will I truly be more in love with Jesus Christ and live more like Him as a result of the coming weeks? Isn’t that what the conversion of Lent is all about? I want to choose those resolutions that will help make me a closer and more faithful disciple of Jesus.
If anyone knows what it means to follow Jesus, it is Mary. She knows the heart of her Son better than any other. She understands that truly knowing him invites us to experience all of life with him – the joys and struggles, sufferings and successes that we encounter. If we are open, she can help us find Jesus in every moment of every day.
Let’s pray for one another on this Lenten journey that the difference these days make will be real, and we won’t end the season with a regretful “So what?” How will you grow this Lenten season?
Today’s Gospel reading from the Gospel of Mark is one of my favorites. As I reflect on the friends of the paralytic who brought him to Jesus for healing, I’m reminded of the power of intercessory prayer and the gift of so many in my life who have helped me grow closer to Jesus.
But today, my reflection on this Gospel took me in a different direction. As I look forward to the beginning of Lent this Wednesday, I found myself asking, “What is the sin that paralyzes me and keeps me from true inner freedom?” What is it that keeps me from being whole, holy and healthy?
This is one of the reasons I look to Mary for guidance. She was able to set aside anything that would be an obstacle to her being loved by God and loving Him in return. She will be a good companion for me this Lent as I hear Jesus’ invitation to be truly free.
What’s paralyzing you and holding you back from being healed by Jesus?
St. James’ letter in the New Testament is a reminder of how practical our faith is to be. In today’s first reading, he exhorts, “Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Another translation speaks of Christians as “doers of the Word.”
There are certainly many calls to “do the Word” each day, in big and little ways. I think, among many others, of our Sisters in food service. Sister Virginia Marie Myers and Sister Arlene Marie Hoffman play a key role in food preparation here at our Provincial Center. Sister Janet Marie Smith uses her knowledge of food service as a Dietary Manager with the Lucas County Senior Nutrition Program. These Sisters take seriously the Word, “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat.” It is not only putting food on the table but the care and attention they give that make their service part of living God’s Word.
Mary modeled a similar living of the Word at Cana. Not only did she experience concern for the wedding couple in their shortage of wine, but she did what she could to alleviate their embarrassment. Whether I put food on the table for our family, help in a soup kitchen to serve those who are hungry, or work to change systems that redistribute the world’s food, I am “doing the Word.” How will I put my faith into action today?
The Scripture readings for today’s liturgy speak of signs and faith. In the Gospel, we read of one of the few times that Jesus expressed frustration over an obvious lack of faith. The Pharisees request — We want a sign. We want proof. — ended with Jesus leaving their midst and finding others to whom He could minister.
It seems to me there is a difference between asking for proof and asking for clarity. After experiencing the angel Gabriel’s message, Mary also asked a question, but her question sought a further clarity that would enable her to do God’s will. She didn’t ask for proof that the angel was real or that all would turn out well in the end. She asked how she could be part of the unfolding of God’s plan.
Sometimes I can also get caught in “proof”-seeking or wanting to know the end result. It’s not that God forbids me to ask questions, but He desires that I ask in faith. What do I need to know in order to have the clarity needed to live His will?
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a day when we commemorate the first appearance of Mary to St. Bernadette. Along with the appearances at Fatima and Guadalupe, Mary’s appearances at Lourdes are among the most popular in Church tradition. In reflecting on this feast, I was struck by the fact that Mary herself, the children at Fatima, and Bernadette were all quite young at the time of their unusual divine encounters. Their youth only added to the incredulity of the adults who heard their stories.
There seems to be something in us as adults that hesitates to believe children and yet longs to do so. To what else can we attribute the recent popularity of the book Heaven is For Real? Perhaps there is something innate in us that yearns to see life and what really matters with the innocence of childhood, that strips away the masks and layers we tend to accumulate as we grow older. The young seem to be able to approach God (and Mary) with the freedom of having nothing to lose.
I want to celebrate this feast in the spirit of wonder and faith that marked these “young” visionaries. May they intercede for all of us the grace we pray for in a prayer of Consecration to Our Lady of Lourdes: By the fervor of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people that the church may be one and there be peace in the world.