28 November 2010

Setting Out on the Journey

As we begin this most sacred season of Advent, we may think of this season as a time to remove obstacles on our journey to the manger. Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours will be spending a great deal of time with the prophet Isaiah during the Office of Readings. One may look at this book as one which calls us to embrace hope and to reject the temptation to give in to pride. Isaiah felt that the judgment and punishment which the Israelites brought upon themselves were due to Israel's and Judah's pride, made manifest in their desire to shape their own destiny instead of being faithful to Yahweh's covenant for them. Despite the gloom and doom of his words, Isaiah called the Israelites to wait in hope for the coming of a Messiah, the promised descendant of David's line.

His word still speaks to us today as it calls us to be vigilant in keeping our eyes and our hearts on the star as we set out on this four-week pilgrimage to the birthplace of our savior. Let us look carefully in our hearts and ask ourselves what obstacles might stand in the way as we journey to Bethlehem. Do we need to reconcile with someone at work, at home, at Church? Do we need to examine how we spend our time? Do we need to spend more time with the Lord, more time in prayer, more time with our family, with our friends? Do we need to be more patient with someone in our life? Let us find the obstacles, the detours and roadblocks and let us ask for the grace to negotiate them in a way which will help us to grow in grace as we approach the manger later this month.

"Our dear Savior and Master came to teach both the little and the great, the learned and the simple. Yet we almost always find Him among the poor and simple. How different is God's spirit from that of the world!"
St. Francis de Sales (Advent Sermon 1620)

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

As most of us in America celebrate the secular holiday of Thanksgiving, we might profit from adding a Christian flavor to our holiday and to all the days that follow.

"Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you" (Col 3:12).

It is a good practice to pause as we celebrate Thanksgiving and to give thanks for the many blessings we have received. It is a better, practice, however, to make sure that the "leftovers" last all year long. Long after the last turkey sandwich (with stuffing inside) has been eaten and the remains of the pumpkin pie enjoyed, we might do well to savor the spirit of Thanksgiving in our daily life. Let us keep before our eyes, a deep sense of the Lord's goodness to us in the many gifts we receive on a daily basis. Perhaps our Thanksgiving leftovers may last us the whole year through!

"Is it possible that I was loved, and loved so tenderly by my Savior, that He should have thought of me individually, and in all these details by which He has drawn me to Himself? With what love and gratitude ought I to use all He has given me?"
St. Francis de Sales

20 November 2010

The Power of Prayer

We're pretty sure that if St. Francis de Sales were alive today he would be using the Internet to spread the Good News and to encourage his readers to grow in holiness. In some small way, we try to be worthy daughters of this great patron saint of journalists by sharing bits and pieces of his patrimony with you, our dear readers. The Internet does seem to be evolving into an effective means of aiding in the noble work of evangelization!

In addition to being a medium for spreading the Gospel (and, in our case, sharing tidbits of monastery life) the world of push-button publishing makes the global world much smaller. News travels faster; rumors and false-reports spread like wildfire; on account of the Internet maps, directions and weather reports are at our fingertips and the encyclopedia salesman has had to hang up his briefcase. One other advantage to this fast-paced new medium is the "ripple effect" (sometimes called "going viral" ... which sounds scary!) of one message, picture or video reaching the eyes -- and hearts -- of millions.

In an effort to help spread awareness of a special intention, we share here the special intention of a seminarian in need of prayers. Philip Johnson is a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia who is studying for the diocese of Raleigh, NC. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumor. Those who wish to join their prayers, are invited to take part in a Novena which will begin on 29 November and conclude on 8 December. Links to the Novena prayer (in English and Spanish) as well as a letter from his bishop asking for prayers can be found here. Do join in the prayer brigade; for where two or three are gathered . . .

16 November 2010

The Tiny Tax Collector

Today's Gospel affords us both a spiritual and syntactical example.

First things first, the spiritual example is a charming one: a grown man, disliked by his own people because his job as tax collector implied that he colluded with the Roman authorities, climbs a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. One might not have difficulty imagining a teenager climbing a tree to see a rock star at an outdoor concert; the sight of a grown man scaling a tree with no indication of any concern for the opinions of those around him would surely have been the target of finger-pointing and head-turning.

We, too, should be unselfconscious when we seek the Lord in our daily life. Our quest may not take us up a sycamore tree, but it may take us some places which are equally precarious and similarly uncomfortable. When we encounter someone who treats us unkindly it is often difficult to reach out after we have been rejected or ignored. We may feel like walking in the opposite direction just so as not to have eye contact and risk feeling the discomfort of a cold stare. When we go out of our way to reach out to this distant neighbor, we are seeking out Christ. We, like the first-century tax collector in today's Gospel, sometimes have to behave in ways that will draw more attention that we might have wanted. We should not be surprised to overhear our colleagues say things like, "Why is she talking to him? He's always rude to everyone!" Or, we may fear that people will treat us differently if we begin to reach out to the local crosspatch. Let us not be concerned about how uncomfortable it can be to perch ourselves atop this tree of virtue. Rather, we should be emboldened by the knowledge that when we earnestly seek the Lord, we will see Him and He will come ever closer to us.

Our syntactical example is almost as charming as the image of the sycamore-scaling Zacchaeus and it speaks to the importance of identifying clearly the antecedents we use. The English translation of today's Gospel reads: "Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature." There is no indication in the passage of who "he" was who was short. Was it Jesus or Zacchaeus? English, not being an inflected language, lacks the ability to make this distinction. A cursory check of the Greek text, however, would reveal that the antecedent to the ambiguous "he" is, in fact, the diminutive tax collector. Without the original text to confirm the case of the pronoun, one might be left wondering.

"Blessed is the soul that seeks God alone. For she will find him everywhere and everywhere she will seek what she has found."
St. Jane de Chantal

12 November 2010

Featured Film

November's all-night Adoration and movie night on the 19th will feature the1956 classic film, "Miracle of Marcelino." The 90-minute story features an orphan who is raised in a Spanish monastery where his puerile antics wreak havoc for the monks.

The little boy's insatiable curiosity and his mischievous ways pave the way for a life-changing encounter with the Lord. This touching film continues to charm viewers (and keep Kleenex in business.)

Adoration begins at 7pm in the Chapel and movie go-ers may gather in the front hall by 7.15 to head up to the Little Odeon for pizza and our featured film. Don't miss this enchanting story!

Locals who would like to attend, may RSVP to the FB event here; or, they may email us directly.

08 November 2010

A Century in Review

Last Sunday, when many of our neighbors were out ringing doorbells, we were ringing in a new century. Our Sister Mary Raphael, about whom we wrote last week, celebrated her one hundredth birthday on Halloween. To honor our centenarian, the community performed a skit which highlighted events from sister's life: a fondness for map-reading, making washcloths for WWI soldiers, disciplining children, learning to dance and putting Mary Kay out of business with her very own wrinkle-busting exercises. The skit was written and directed by our Sister Archivist, costumed by our Sister Refectorian; it starred almost all 20 nuns, one postulant and our visiting retreatant. The opening song was penned by our Sister Organist and some of the more unusual (and un-monastic) props were procured thanks to our faithful friends and benefactors. We hope you enjoy a 5 minute visit to our recreation last Sunday evening.

04 November 2010

Hoof Tracks

There is usually a mixed feeling of relief and frustration when, at long last, we find someone for whom we have been searching. We feel relieved because our search is over and we have been safely united with the object of our quest. We do, however, at times feel a surge of frustration: perhaps a misunderstanding or miscommunication necessitated the "search" in the first place; maybe we did not anticipate having to circle the airport 50 times before finding our party for pick-up; and dare we muse about how we ever managed to "find" people in the dark ages, before the advent of cell phones? Surely, most of us have experienced this angst-ridden relief at finding the person for whom we were looking.

We know for sure that there were no GPS tracking devices embedded in the hooves of the sheep we hear about in today's Gospel. The shepherd who left 99 sheep unattended did not have a ETA and a cheerful voice offering to "recalculate" every time he took a wrong turn in search of his wandering ungulate. One can only imagine the frustration in the heart of this good shepherd as he searched for his missing mammal. Of the many lessons and truths hidden in this parable, perhaps one of the most striking is the manner in which the lost sheep was treated. The searching shepherd -- if he felt any frustration -- did not show the least bit of annoyance. He does not merely pick up and carry home the lost sheep; rather, "he sets it on his shoulders with great joy."

We might expect a proud parent to set a child on his shoulders when the celebrated offspring has done something meritorious. Getting lost is hardly a behavior which parents seek to reinforce (with good reason!) Principles of good parenting aside, the lesson for us, perhaps, is the gentleness with which the straying sheep was treated. How easy it is to be unkind to those who have inconvenienced us. How quickly we can forget the mercies shown to us by the Lord! How do we treat those in our lives who have strayed: from us, from the Church, from virtue, from a spouse, from family? The next time we have an opportunity to show our frustration or unleash our vexation, let us ask for the grace to imitate the good shepherd in today's parable and, with joy, bend our shoulders to carry the burden of a lost soul.

"You will catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel of vinegar."
St. Francis de Sales