Friday, January 27, 2017

Their Dignity

By Victoria Hood

Please read the following poem (which I wrote) in the context and consideration of my current ministry, which is working with adults in the Kansas City, KS, area who have developmental disabilities. Thank you.

Their Dignity

A person’s dignity, is a winter coat
enveloping their body in warmth
Protecting them, a warrior’s shield
from the harsh and cold reality
Everyone deserves and needs one
but money does not grow on trees.

When fine motor skills
elude individuals
Help the feeble and young fingers
pull zippers up to chins
Snap the hood
then teach them why they should
Put gloves in their pockets
for waging snowball wars.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day Prayer

Today, the United States officially receives its 45th president.  After one of the most divisive elections in national history, we hope and pray for healing among all people and that our government will be moved by the Spirit to work cooperatively for the common good.

The following is an adaptation of the prayer for civil authorities composed by Archbishop John Carroll for use on the occasion of the inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

      Almighty and eternal God,
      you have revealed your glory to all nations.

      God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
      through you authority is rightly administered,
      laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.

      We pray for the president:
      Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
      the President of these United States,
      that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
      and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides.
      May he encourage due respect for virtue and religion.
      May he execute the laws with justice and mercy.
      May he seek to restrain crime, vice, and immorality.

      We pray for the members of Congress:
      Let the light of your divine wisdom
      direct the deliberations of Congress,
      and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws
      framed for our rule and government.
      May they seek to preserve peace, promote national happiness,
      and continue to bring us the blessings of liberty and equality.

      We pray for state and local officials:
      We pray for governors,
      for the members of the legislature,
      for judges, elected civil officials,
      and all others who are entrusted to guard our political welfare.
      May they be enabled, by your powerful protection,
      to discharge their duties with honesty and ability.

      We likewise commend to your unbounded mercy,
      all citizens of the United States,
      that we be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your holy law.
      May we be preserved in union and that peace which the world cannot give;
      and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
      be admitted to those which are eternal.

      We pray to you, who are Lord and God, for ever and ever.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Responding to God’s Love

By Whitney Schieltz

This week we returned to Ordinary Time; and after spending the holidays with my family in Ohio, I returned to community life and ministry at the Border.  As I caught up with friends and coworkers, many expressed a relief and joy for things to be “back to normal” after the busy Christmas season.  For me, however, Christmas was the break from busyness, and getting “back to normal” is returning to that busyness.

Jesus Heals the Paralytic, by Harold Copping
As an introverted Enneagram Nine, I am not fond of large crowds and am inclined to live life at an unhurried pace.  So as I reflected on this week’s Gospel readings, it was challenging for me to imagine myself in Jesus’s place traveling from town to town as “people kept coming to him from everywhere.”  This was not a new thought, however, since the fast pace common to apostolic religious life has been an ongoing concern in my discernment. I often wonder if I will fall victim to exhaustion if I continue on this path to becoming a Sister.  I wonder how I should respond to God’s invitation to serve.

Pondering these questions, I remembered what Fr. James Martin, SJ, shared in his discussion of similar worries: “There is good news and there is better news.  The good news is that there is a Messiah.  The better news is that it’s not you!”  So looking back at 
Wednesday's Gospel, instead of identifying with Jesus, I looked to Simon Peter's mother-in-law for my cue of how to respond to God’s call.  After Jesus healed the woman, she immediately responded with an act of service.  God was not asking her to compete with the miraculous works of His son, only to spread His love by serving those around her.  She did in that moment what she was able to do.  And that is what God asks of us.

Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife, by John Bridges
God’s love is also what we need to restore us in times of exhaustion and distress.  As Jesus was fully human, he too was no stranger to these feelings and needed time away from the crowds to recuperate.  After many healings, “he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  Through prayer, and through his Father’s love, he was restored and able to continue in his mission.  He always responded—even when he might have preferred to be alone.  And God will always respond when we call out to Him.

So now I ask myself: Am I ready to step out of my comfort zone and into the crowds?  Am I willing to put the needs of others before my own desires?  Am I willing to risk exhaustion in response to God’s love?  Do I trust that God will restore me when I turn to Him in prayer?  
How am I responding to God’s love?

Friday, January 6, 2017

My, How You’ve Grown!

By Sr. Andrea Koverman

Typically reserved for young children, this is not a comment most adults are accustomed to hearing.  It’s a joyous exclamation that gives expression to the wonder we experience when witnessing an infant transforming into a toddler, a child, an adolescent, an adult.  I’ve had the happy good fortune of sharing my office for the past few months with the precious new son of the director of the organization where I minister, and I have said those very words to him myself!

2 months old
5 months old

 So, I was surprised when Sr. Annina Morgan, still one of the sharpest dearest wisdom figures in my community at the age of 100, recently said something similar to me. I was one of many joyful people gathered to witness Sr. Annie Klapheke professing her first vows in early December, and went to say hello to Annina before the ceremony began. I remarked at what a happy occasion it was and how it seemed only yesterday that I was doing the same as Annie. I leaned down to kiss her velvety cheek and when I drew back and looked in her big brown eyes, she said, “But it’s already been more than a year—and look how you’ve grown!” Followed by an invitation to reflect further on that with, “How have you grown this year, Andrea?” She never lets an opportunity like that slip by!

Srs. Annie Klapheke and Annina Morgan

Musing and praying with that question has occupied my spirit ever since. Much more helpful than my typical where-have-you-failed-end-of-the-year reflection, this how-have-you grown reflection feels more fruitful already.

I have to admit that I am glad to see 2016 go. I can easily generate a list of blessings, joys, and gifts that I received during the year, and I am genuinely truly grateful for each of them. But, it has been a year of considerable loss and sorrow for me as well; things I never dreamt would happen have, and people I wasn’t ready to lose have gone. Sometimes I have felt like the battered little fishing boat out on the Sea of Galilee with a sleeping Jesus seemingly unconcerned or unaware of the storm I was struggling to weather. Mercifully, those moments pass relatively quickly, and hindsight helps me see how those painful experiences have helped me to grow in faith and trust in God. Like a best friend who just grows dearer and dearer, it is love that sees me through and love that gives me confidence that as Julian of Norwich said, “All is well, and all manner of thing shall be well,” come what may.

I know my heart will continue to break as I endeavor to live out my community’s charism of responding with care to the needs of our time in ways that are sure to feel risky. In his homily at my mother’s funeral now several years ago, Fr. Gino looked at my brother and sister and me sitting with our arms around each other and told us we would have to make a conscious choice that day. Rather than allowing our hearts to close in an attempt to avoid the kind of pain we were feeling, we would have to choose to love again, which with all certainty would mean we would suffer again. 

On January 4th, we celebrate the feast day of the foundress of my community, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who relied on God’s grace to give her the courage and strength to choose to love again each time she experienced a fresh heartbreak. That grace saw her through the deaths of her husband and two children, through the rejection and scorn of family and friends when she converted to Catholicism, and through the many obstacles, hardships and disappointments of starting a new religious community. “Be prepared to meet your grace in every circumstance of life,” is a commonly cited quote of hers. In reflecting on the year behind me, I whisper a prayer of thanks for the grace that leaves me with a heart in tact and open to love despite my own heartaches. I wonder how “prepared” I am to meet God’s grace for whatever is coming next, and I pray that I am even more aware of God’s gift of readily available and always accessible grace in the year to come.

Like I used to tell my students, hoping to do well is not the same as being prepared to do well—that takes effort. How can I prepare to meet God’s grace? Just as it is with any relationship, the most important thing is time. Time for talking, praying, listening, meditating, just being and enjoying each other’s company. In the busyness of life, I’ll have to make it a priority to invest the time with God that will allow our relationship to deepen or it won’t happen. Making the effort it will take to grow in awareness and reliance upon meeting my grace is at the top of my new year’s resolution list! What’s at the top of yours?