Sunday, March 27, 2016

Walking Through Holy Week

By Sr. Meg Kymes

I believe!  I’ve seen it!  Did the people who praise you in the streets and lay their cloaks on your colt and palms in your path say that?  Did they believe what they saw?  Or were they the same ones who cursed you on Friday?  Were they the ones who called to Pilot for your blood, “Let it be on our heads and the heads of our children!” 

Where would I be?  Would I be clinging to the Apostles with your mother and Mary Magdalen?  Would I be helping sing your praises on Sunday and join the masses calling for your blood on Friday?  I could even be like Peter, swearing I would die with you then deny you.  How can I judge when I know my own sins?  I join Peter’s cry for mercy.

Would I be at the foot of the cross with John, your beloved, your Mother and the sobbing   Mary Magdalen?  Would I hear, “Woman, behold your son.  Son behold your mother.”?Would I feel the earth shake and see lightning flash across the sky?

I desire to be like Mary Magdalen.  I want to be overwhelmed with sorrow on Friday and have boundless joy on Sunday when I see you in the garden.  I want my joy in Your presence to be so large I have no choice but to spread the Good News to others.

Our world today is not too different from your world then.  We praise our savior one day and condemn him the next.  We hold no respect for the life of the child or the condemned.  My Lord, my God have mercy!  Our world still need your glory!  May we sing one day, “Holy, Hosanna to our King!”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The CASA Experience

By Melissa Fisackerly

Marie Flowers, SCN invited our house to take part In her ministry event called Embrace A Child breakfast given by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).  The morning started off with a warm welcome from the CASA team in Louisville.  It was nice to hear one of the judges speak on behalf of CASA.  She spoke about how much it means to her and how important it is to them that children in the foster system have a CASA.  I was especially moved by the testimony given by a woman who was given a CASA in her life and is now an advocate for her children.  Her story is one of too many circumstances that is right before our eyes.

The mission of CASA in so many words is to help, support, show the children what love is and find “forever homes” for each child that is in the foster care system.  I have not had much experience with CASA in my life until a few years ago when a family member was a CASA for a child.  I learned a little through my aunt’s experience of advocating.  My parents fostered siblings who had a CASA.  We did not have much interaction with the CASA volunteer but realized the importance of a CASA volunteer. In the foster children's lives.  I may not have had experience with CASA but I have had experience about adoption and foster care system.  I am one of nine adopted in my larger family and one of five in my immediate family.  Three of my siblings were in foster care in Guatemala and my youngest brother was in foster care in Hammond, Louisiana by my parents.  My four siblings did not have a CASA but were in foster care system for various reasons.   The event opened my eyes even more in recognizing that there is a child always in need of love, care, and support.  I was grateful for the reminder that there is someone bigger than me!

Earlier this month, I got to ride in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Louisville, Kentucky.  Marie invited me to ride in the parade and represent for CASA.  What a fun day!  With Marie you know you are going to have a BLAST and that is exactly what we did.  This was another good experience for me because it gave me more time to get to know the organization.  I enjoyed listening to the Louisville CASA team share some of their experiences with me.  They said some of their cases are easy while many are difficult.  I noticed the ending of their sharing they would say, the goal is to find a forever home for each child.  Each time I heard that ending it would tug at my heart.  It made me think of my four siblings and what their situations could have been especially my youngest brother, Luke.   Riding on the CASA float was not only a chance to ride in a parade but a way to get the word out by telling the people on the sides of the streets that WE NEED CASA VOLUNTEERS.  I was grateful for this day and to spend it with Marie as we sat in the back of a pick up truck.  Here are some photos to prove how much fun we had:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Holy Week Reflection: 2016

By Sr. Alice Ann O'Neill

"Pray that you may not undergo the test," Jesus said this twice to his disciples the night his Passion began. Jesus himself prayed for this so fervently that his sweat fell like drops of blood. Jesus knew suffering intimately in the end of his human life on earth, and his suffering and death have been commemorated and re-enacted for over 2000 years. We believe Jesus' death began a new covenant between God and God's people and perhaps Jesus, our teacher, was also modeling how to truly live through his death. Jesus trusted his prayerful discernment with God. He bravely placed his life in service to God, and his sacrifice of suffering and laying down his life has inspired billions of people to believe in God.

Suffering and death are not topics people wish to talk about deeply together. Many suffer in silence, and others cry out to God, "why have You forsaken me!" Suffering is difficult to understand and many offer the standard pastoral response, "God's ways are not our ways...God's will is a mystery." To try to help myself better understand God's will concerning suffering, I read books such as Kushner's When Bad Things Happen To Good People and Young's The Shack, Wiesel's Night, and the Bible to help me understand. The battle of good versus evil and free will with God's will are polarities which can never be resolved but are deserving of deep prayerful reflection. Through prayer, discernment, resilience, and direct experiences with suffering, a deeper understanding has developed for me, or at least an openness to the mystery. 

Ronald Rolheiser, in his book Sacred Fire, describes a mature Christian disciple as someone "who has surrendered his or her life to God at a deep level." Jesus' Passion, his suffering and death, were the ideal model of this mature discipleship. Jesus prayed to not be tested through suffering and death, but knew that if this is what God was leading him to, he trusted God and surrendered his life for his friends. Jesus encouraged His friends to do the same. Jesus suffered so something could come to life, so God could shine through him.

Sisters Anselm, Reginette, Judith, and Marguerite: Missionary Sisters of Charity.
On March 4, 2016, a Christian community in Yemen caring for poor, elderly people lost 17 men and women. Four Missionary Sisters of Charity and 12 of their co-workers were brutally murdered, and a priest living in that house was kidnapped and is missing. These Christians were quietly carrying out their daily duties of caring for others in the name of Jesus in their corner of the world and this is why they were killed. Since their martyred deaths, every corner of the world has heard about the desperate plight of people in Yemen.  By killing these brave Christians, the murderers have empowered and illuminated God's message through Jesus and moved millions to compassion, to prayer, and hopefully to action to help Christians in Yemen and throughout the Middle East. Sometimes this kind of suffering and death is asked of God's disciples. There are millions of Christian martyrs in our world's history.

Jesus said, "pray that you may not undergo the test," but if we are asked to give of ourselves through suffering or even death, let us also pray that we may join ourselves with Jesus and His Passion. Through prayerful intention, we can join our suffering with the suffering of others; suffering unique to each Christian...
....physical and emotional abuse and pain...
...losing dear ones...
...and much more.
With Jesus, we can offer our suffering and join together in compassion with others. We may never know or see the results of our offering ourselves but we can trust that God will use us and our suffering to help our world. Perhaps it will also help us to grow into mature discipleship and develop a heart willing to surrender all to God as Jesus did…from darkness to light…from death to new life. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Gave Something Up for Lent...

By Sr. Laura Coughlin

When it comes to the Lenten practice of “giving something up”, I’ve been rather slack in the past.  It seems to me that if there is something I need to give up, I should do it right now.  But then, of course – who does that? 

Saints do.  And this is a goad to my conscience.

How useful is it really to give up things like beer and candy in a difficult season when a return to these goods is fully anticipated at Lent’s conclusion?  If the purpose is conversion, and you have a problem with beer, shouldn’t you be giving up beer for good?

The saints would say AMEN to that.

We misunderstand saints when we treat them as going too far in fasting and other penances.  The holy ones know the wide gap between God and humankind because they have been gifted with vision.  They know that sacrifices which seem outsized to the rest of us are only baby steps in the eyes of God.  And they set the example that wholehearted baby steps are irresistible to an indulgent parent.  Isn’t this why the Father runs toward his beloved young man while still “a long way off”? (Lk 15:20).

But the prodigal son wasn’t a saint, so perhaps the parable doesn’t work for the story I’m telling.  Then again, the holy ones consistently demonstrate a pattern of thought from which they describe themselves as the most debased of all.  A saint’s “who am I to judge?” comes not from presumption that sin is not sin, but from the examined knowledge of concupiscence, of one’s own inclinations to evil.  Out of this knowledge, they understand the need for mercy.

When I began this post, I intended to write about how Lenten sacrifices better enable us to look at God directly.  Beer and candy and television and Downton Abbey (NO, BRITISH ANGLICANS ARE MUCH TOO ENTERTAINING TO BE FASTED FROM!) and Facebook and Donald Trump and checking email every two minutes and and Youtube videos and the ubiquitous cache of itunes on the ubiquitous iPhone entertainment system can be distractions that deprive believers of the one who offered himself as the humble, but glorious, mediation of divine mercy.

So….I gave up useless internet surfing.

A small thing?  Nay, a deficient and persistent habit of the mind that translates curiosity into what T.S. Eliot described as “knowledge of motion but not of stillness.”

What do I mean more precisely?  How much energy is expended researching the ideal pew for people with back pain, or trying to find out whether standing over sitting offers significant weight loss benefits, or watching YouTube videos of Rebekah, “Coonrippy” Brown’s seized pet raccoon, or being pulled off track by every tiny idol of “long skirt” because I googled one back in November? 
So straighten up you backslider!  Purify your heart, ye double minded!  It would seem that to be a fisher of persons I must remove the slack in my fishing line.

Imagine the young man dragging himself home toward his father.  He’s sweating, he stinks, he’s badly sunburnt, and his shoes – if he has any – are full of holes.  He cannot stride quickly with such contemptible footwear and so much hunger, but he has only one goal on his mind, and this he pairs with a formidable determination.  He will not stop until he gains the security of living again in the Father’s household.  To be in that household is to enjoy warmth, encouragement, companionship, nourishment, rest, work, a sense of purpose, and the certainty that comes with belonging.  So secure was that home that the weary son imagines slavery there to be better than “freedom” elsewhere.  Driven by necessity more than by the type of freedom we often imagine as an ideal condition, he decides that what he has is enough – it is, finally, enough to simply return to the household where he was always loved without condition.

The saints know that they and others are on such a journey, and they desire to be at the front and lead because they have been freed from the illusion that any other goal is worthy.  This, it seems to me, is the desire that is emphasized in the Lenten fast.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Learning to Fly

By Kara Davis

This past weekend, I had the privilege to participate in an Archdiocesan Catholic Youth Conference.  During the Archbishop’s homily, he told a story that went something like this:

God created the whole world and every creature in it.  There were many animals with four legs who spent their days running, jumping and leaping.  They could run fast, jump high, and leap across barriers with their four legs.

There was a little bird who watched how much fun the other animals were having while running, jumping, and leaping.  When the little bird tried to leap, all he was able to do was a little hop, for he only had two short legs and two flaps covered with feathers.

The little bird decided to file a complaint with God, for he desperately wanted four legs so he could run, jump, and leap like the other animals.  He wanted to trade his seemingly useless flaps for another set of legs.  So, the little bird met with God and stated his request.

God looked at the little bird and said, “Move those feathery flaps up and down, and then come and tell me whether you still desire to have four legs so you can run, jump, and leap like the other animals.”

The little bird was reluctant, but decided to give it a try.  He closed his eyes and started to move his feathery flaps up and down, just as God had said.  Soon, his two feet were no longer on the ground.  He opened his eyes and found that he had risen above the land.  He was flying!  He was soaring!  These feathery flaps were not useless after all!

After his flight, the little bird found God and said, “I’ve decided to keep my two feet and two feathery flaps.  I wanted to leap, but now I can fly!”


Part of my role at the youth conference was to deliver a keynote address to the room full of about 350 teenagers.  Normally, the only time anyone hands me a microphone is to call bingo at the nursing home.  I have never spoken to an audience like this before, and was terrified.  When the sound man asked me if I wanted to hold a mic or use an around the ear mic, I lifted my trembling hands and he said, "Around the ear it is!"

Throughout the weekend, I watched the other speakers on stage and desperately wanted to channel their confidence, charisma, and conviction.  God, I want to give high-fives and run around with electrifying enthusiasm like him.  I want to make the room break out into laughter like that guy.  Lord, I want to speak with eloquence and confidence like her.  I want to lead the youth in prayer like him.  

And then God responded, “Be who I made you to be.  Flap your wings!”

After my keynote address, a parent chaperone was sitting next to me at supper and asked how I thought my talk went.  I am a critical perfectionist and started a list of criticisms and things I would have done differently, not losing my conclusion page being the first.  He shook his head and said, “The teens don’t care about any of that.  Do you know why they connected with you?”

I was silent.  They connected with me?  He continued, “They connected with your transparency.  They connected with your vulnerability.  They knew you were uncomfortable and afraid to be up there, and they watched you deal with that fear on stage.  I've been going to these things for a long time.  They saw a vulnerable human, just like themselves up there on stage.”

I just sat there for a minute.  Wow.  I thought I had put on a confident front, but these teenagers saw right through me.  I guess I don’t have much of a poker face after all.

Something that I have taken from this experience is that God makes us who we are, and we need to trust in that.  I am reminded of the words of St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who God made you to be and set the world on fire.”  Like the little bird from the story, I thought I needed to present myself as a confident, comfortable speaker on stage in order to be an effective instrument of God’s message.  However, in my transparency, my feelings of fear and vulnerability, I connected with the teens in a different way.  I realized that I didn’t need to compare myself to the other more experienced, professional speakers who spread God's message using their own gifts and talents.  I discovered my wings and learned to fly.