Friday, July 1, 2022

CHRISTMAS IN JULY

 ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…’ so the song goes, but is it?  It’s hot out!  While surfing the TV channels, I came across a Christmas movie on Hallmark.  In July?  There is another Christmas song, ‘Why can’t we have Christmas the whole year around, why can’t we have Christmas the whole year around.’ 

When we think of Christmas we tend to think of the baby Jesus and gifts.  Not Blessed Celeste, the foundress of the Redemptoristines.  She speaks of Jesus’ incarnation as how Jesus crossed “…an abyss in which the angels still get lost, and that humiliation he underwent as God when, in the first instant of his incarnation, lowered himself to take on human flesh, and, though God, became man.”  Blessed Celeste often speaks of the God-Man/Man-God, and his “…admirable excess of Divine Love,” that led him to the cross. 


This excess of Divine Love is what the Incarnation, Jesus’ living, dying and rising was all about.  Celeste speaks of Christ in the present tense: living, rising, dying because we are called today to live out in our lives God’s Plan of Love through our joyful participation in and union with the Life of Jesus for the redemption of the world

How can we have Christmas and live the incarnation the whole year around when we are so - human?    Invariably, when people live together we grate on each other with our failings and foibles.  As Redemptoristines, we open the gift of excessive Divine Love given to us by God to lift us beyond our imperfections and eccentricities and humanly, humbly give the gift of love and understanding to one another.

To help us keep Christmas in our hearts all year around we would all do well to receive the gift excessive Divine Love by recalling Jesus words to Celeste, “At the hour of sunrise, the memorial hour of my Incarnation, I, the divine Sun, rose upon the world and warmed the earth with the Dew of the Grace of the Holy Spirit upon all my creatures.”   

So, let us soak up the July sun and wish one another a Merry Christmas this July. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

HERE I AM

 A Excerpt from Sr Moira Quinn's novel about John the Baptist

   Elizabeth’s labor began late in the night, yet she waited for the dawn before she whispered to her husband, “Arise.  Tell Mary to bid the midwife come.  Today you will have a son.


Such a flurry of activity erupted after Zechariah clapped his hands, signaling the time had arrived.  From then on the women took over.  Their servant, Abigail, was in and out of the room fetching and carrying out orders given by the mid-wife.  Mary sat by her aunt’s side, holding her hand and heartening her with encouraging words.
     At midday, Zechariah tapped on the bedroom door and beckoned Mary to come out.  With a twinkle in his eye, he pointed to the crowd below in the courtyard.  There, before her eyes, were her parents, Anna and Joachim, and her betrothed, Joseph.  There, too, were his parents, Jacob and Deborah, and his brothers and their families.  Her heart was filled with wonder and happiness.  She had not seen her parents for three months.  And as for her betrothed - she had left on uncertain terms and awaited word from him there in Ain Karim.
     When their eyes met Joseph spoke in a loud and clear voice, “I have come for my wife.”
     Mary blushed with excitement.   They had not faced each other since the day Mary had told him she was with child.  He had come!  She felt so honored that Joseph would make the long trip to claim her as his own.  At this point Mary’s parents rushed to embrace their child, and the others gathered around and exchanged eager greetings.  Finally, Joseph pulled her away from the crowd. 
    He was almost twenty; tall with square shoulders and the strong arms of a carpenter, and honest brown eyes.  Despite his outward calm, he too was excited to meet her.  She was fourteen with rosy cheeks, sparkling hazel eyes, and warm almond colored hair.  She had changed, though; there was a certain softness about her figure, and she had a glow about her that came from the bearing of life within.
     “You look beautiful, Mary.  You’ve gained weight,” Joseph blurted out when they were alone.  He blushed beneath his youthful beard.  Men do not comment on women’s appearance.  “I mean, how are you?”  Mary blushed also.
     They had been engaged a short while when Mary came into the carpenter shop to tell Joseph all that the angel of the Lord had said.  Though he knew her to be a guileless girl, he could not comprehend what she was telling him.  Confused and afraid to break their engagement outright for fear of exposing her to scandal, Joseph agreed that Mary should visit her kinfolk in Ain Karim so he could have time to think and decide what would be the best way to handle their troubling dilemma.
     Joseph told her of the days since she went away; of how he thought day and night weighing all the possibilities regarding her unexplainable pregnancy: his right to shun her knowing the child she carried was not his, but fearful that would leave her open to being accused of adultery.  Under the Law, the penalty for such a crime was stoning.  He cared too much for Mary to allow any harm to come to her.   He could marry her quickly, and they could move to another place where no one knew them, but that would mean leaving behind everyone and everything they had ever known and loved.  Or he could marry her, and stay and bear the scandal, shame and gossip that would afflict them for the rest of their lives. 
     Finally, he came to the conclusion that Mary should live with her relatives in Ain Karim and he would quietly release her from their betrothal.  Being a righteous man, his conscience would not permit him to marry her even though he knew her to be innocent of any wrong doing. 
      Sleep had been difficult with all this weighing on his mind, but after the decision was made he fell into a deep, dream-filled sleep.  He dreamt an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid, Joseph.  Take Mary as your wife.  It is by the touch of the Creator Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a Son and you, of the lineage of David, shall name him Jesus, for he will save his people by winning them back to the Lord.”
      And as he awoke, a passage from scripture came to him, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, whose name shall be God-with-us!” 
     His heart beat with exhilaration.  Joseph now understood all that Mary had told him.  The time of which the prophets had spoken had come to pass and his betrothed was the woman of whom they had foretold.  His heart was opened to the truth, and he believed.  Praising the Lord, he quickly went to his family, as well as to Joachim and Anna, and persuaded them all to come with him to claim his betrothed, marry her, and bring her back to their home. 
     “Mary,” Joseph began, taking her hands in his big, rough carpenter hands, “on the day we were betrothed, I declared before our families and friends that you are my wife and I am your husband.  Yet, now you are ‘the virgin with child’ our Holy Scriptures foretold.  You are to be the mother of our Messiah.  And the Messiah is to come from the House of David.”  He took a deep breath to compose himself and continued, “I, Joseph, son of Jacob, of the House of David, a humble carpenter, though a virgin myself, ask that I may be the father of your Son in this world.  I love you, Mary.   I want to be your protector, provider, the father of your child, your husband.”     
     Mary looked deep into his handsome face, his hopeful eyes and responded, “Joseph, I love you, too.  There is no man I know of who is more caring, gentle or wise.  And there is no better man that our Son could call father here on earth than you.  I will be proud and honored to be your wife and for you to be father to our Son.”       
     Suddenly, cries of a newborn were heard from above.  Mary jumped up clasping her hands in front of her.  Joseph watched from his seated position as the brightness of Mary’s face gradually became solemn.  Her hands slowly moved down to feel her own small yet growing belly.  He knew she wondered at the miracle of an elderly woman conceiving and giving birth, and herself, a virgin with child, and pondered what all their futures would hold.

You can purchase the novel HERE I AM by our Sr. Moira by clicking on the button to the right of this blog.  

Sunday, May 1, 2022

IN MEMORY OF ME

 Have you ever heard the strains of a song and been immediately transported back to the first time it moved you?   Where a certain event comes to mind or feeling envelopes you?  I wasn’t even born when Glenn Miller’s ‘Moonlight Serenade’ was written but I practically swoon when I hear those opening chords.

In Bl. Maria Celeste’s life that ‘strain’ was being a “Viva Memoria,’ a Living Memory of Jesus.  She just didn’t remember Jesus, she experienced him in her inner most being.  And with that awareness of his intimate presence she was transformed into a living image of the Redeemer.  In all the moments of her life: the joys, the sorrows, the struggles, she strove to live by participation-union the life of the Redeemer doing all “In Memory of Me” who so loved her and the world God created. 

At the end of May we celebrate Memorial Day. Many people go to parades and wave flags and then have the first bar-b-que of the season.   Others, who lost loved ones in service to our country, go to cemeteries and plant flags or lay wreaths honoring those who gave their all.   Their memorial stones are a tangible reminder
of the sacrifice of those who laid down their life for love of country. 

Jesus, for love of all humanity, laid down his Godhead to become Incarnate and lived and breathed like any other person.   Out of God’s immense love  God gave us the Only Begotten Son, that through Christ’s life, death and resurrection we are made divine in life.  To show us the way to this union with Jesus in God, we must follow in the footsteps Jesus and live in memory of Him. 

The reception of the Eucharist nourishes us for the journey.  Being a Viva Memoria is akin to what happens in the Eucharist when we hear the words, ‘Do This in Memory of Me,’ where what is remembered becomes, in the very remembering, the actual Real Presence.   Likewise, when we live “In Memory of Me,” we carry on the loving, salvific plan of God by becoming, in our own time and place a living eucharist: a living image of Jesus for the world.

Remember God’s immense love for you.  What ‘strains of song’ echo in your heart when you think of God’s immense love?  How can you follow Jesus and live your life “In Memory of Me?”




Tuesday, March 1, 2022

THE SAINTS AND FLOWERS OF LENT

 The Brazilian PASSION FLOWER grows on a vine and looks like something out of

Carnival. This flower its with colors and frills, inspired the Portuguese missionaries, like St Patrick and the shamrock before them, to use the Passion Flower to help the native understand Christ’s Crucifixion.  The frilly filaments symbolize the Crown of Thorns, the top stigma are the Three Nails used to crucify the Lord and the five lower anthers are the wounds in Christ’s hands and feet and side. The blood of Christ is the red stain from the plant.  The fragrance of the flower represents the spices prepared by the Holy Women at the tomb.  Tea made from the dried Passion Flower induces sleep symbolizing the three days in the tomb and the sweet fruit symbolizes the resurrection and salvation of all peoples.


Brazilian SAINT DULCE died March 13, 1992.  At the time of her death she was the most well-known women in Brazil.  Coming from an upper-class family, Dulce, her name means ‘sweet,’ entered the Franciscan sisters and began giving beggars haircuts and treating their wounds outside the convent door.  She found housing for them in abandoned houses in an area called Rat Island.  Evicted from there, she housed the sick in an abandoned fish market.  Evicted again, she convinced the mother superior to let her use the chicken coop to shelter her patients.  The Superior permitted it, as long as Dulce took care of the chickens – she did – by feeding them to the sick and poor!  That chicken coop later became San Antonio Hospital. Eighteen years after Dulce’s death her body, and clothing, were found to be incorrupt.  Canonized in 2019, St. Dulce’s passion for the salvation of souls flowered in her sweet deeds as she became known as the patron saint of the poor.   


March 15
is the feast of a Redemptorist, SAINT CLEMENT HOFBAUER. St. Clement is known for bringing the Redemptorists from Italy across the Alps to Austria and Poland. His generosity is legendary:

 Once, while collecting money for orphans he stopped to beg at a bar.  There he was ridiculed and had beer spat in his face.  In response he said, “All Right.  That was for me.  But what can you give for my boys?”  The men were so astounded by his Christ-like humility they generously opened their pockets and gave all they could.  In his younger years, Clement was a baker of bread who worked day and night to feed the poor.   


We could associate WINTER WHEAT which symbolizes abundance and generosity. Winter Wheat is planted in early Winter so it is ready to reap in the early summer.

In the 5th century, it is said that SAINT PATRICK used

a SHAMROCK as a metaphor to convert the Irish to Christianity.   But the Celtic ancients already believed in the triune nature of everything such as the three stages of womanhood: maid, mother, crone; the three elements: earth, water and fire.  The shamrock is not the only sign of the Trinity:  the Celtic knot also symbolizes the Trinity and that God is intertwined in everything. Legend has it that Patrick designed the image of the Celtic Cross when he placed The Cross into the pagan Sun Wheel to Christianize the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth with the Cross of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  In seeing the Celtic Cross, our faith leads us to union with the risen Christ and hope in the life to come.   


The most common flower associated with ST JOSEPH on March 19th and the ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD on March 25th is the LILY.  It is a symbol of innocence; purity and beauty, peace.  

Joseph is depicted as holding the infant Jesus and a lily signifying purity and joy.

Likewise, in paintings of the Annunciation, Gabriel is often featured as offering a lily to Mary symbolizing the hope to be fulfilled in the new life she will carry: the Promised One, the Messiah.


When Mary visits Elizabeth she sings her Magnificat.  Perhaps she also sang from the prophet Sirach, “Listen to me, faithful ones: open up your petals; Send up the sweet odor like incense; break forth in blossoms like the lily.  Raise your voices in a chorus of praise; bless the Lord for all God’s works!” Sirach 39:13-14   

Lilies are often associated with funerals where they symbolize that the soul of the departed has been received and restored to innocence after death. 


One of my favorite flowers in later Spring is the IRIS.   Its name means ‘Sword Lily,’ and its symbolism is taken as an allusion to the sorrow of the Virgin Mary at the Passion of her Son.  Remember that Christ’s passion was foretold by Simeon in the Temple when Jesus was just a baby.   Simeon blessed the mother and child and prophesized over Mary, saying,

This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God... And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.”    Luke 2:34-35

The beautiful and elegant iris serves as a symbol of faith and valor in the midst of sorrow.  Its varied colors of purple represent the shades of sorrow that touches all our lives and the graces we have received from God to stand tall and fast like the iris, like Mary.  

 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Eve and the Snowdrops

 

Every three years, on the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time (sadly, not this year, but next year), we hear the story of Adam and Eve’s banishment from the garden of Eden.   But have you heard about Eve and the SNOWDROPS?    

After Adam and Eve had disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit they were cast out from paradise by the angel.  They sat outside the Garden of Eden in the lonely wilderness where no flowers blossomed and no birds sang.  The earth was barren.  The trees were without fruits and the grasses were brown and dry.  Snow began the fall.  Adam and Eve sat and remembered the beautiful greenery and colorful flowers of the garden which had once been their home.  Eve shivered in the bitter cold and sobbed.  God in heaven looked down and saw Eve weeping.  The Most High took pity on her and sent an angel to watch over them.  To console Eve, the angel caught a handful of snowflakes, blew on them and ordered them to become flowers once they touched the earth.  As the snowflakes came in contact with the earth they sprung up into beautiful white flowers.  Eve smiled with joy to see the flurry of snowdrops spring up in the snow.  The angel told Eve, "Take heart, dear Eve, be hopeful and despair not. You will be the mother of all the living.  Let these little snowdrops be a sign to you that spring and sunshine and life will come again."   


That is how snowdrops came to be a symbol of consolation, hope, courage and the promise of the end of Winter and the coming of Spring, and of our Salvation.  As Eve became the mother of the living,  her descendant, the Blessed Virgin Mary would be the Mother of Life, through Jesus, her Son.   

We are always happy to find a flurry of snowdrops in a sheltered corner of the monastery peeking up through the snow in late Winter.  This sign, indeed, is our reason to hope and our salvation.

Friday, December 31, 2021

GIFTS OF EPIPHANY


Gold.  Frankincense.  Myrrh. 


What wondrous gifts for a babe!
Why did the magi give them to a child they did not know?
 
They gave them because one of the magi discovered in the humble stable, a new born king and offered the gold. 
Another recognized a divine child come down from heaven and worshipped him with the sweet frankincense.  
The third magi offered myrrh when he suddenly foresaw the child’s redemptive cross and glorious resurrection.
They had come from different parts of the world and afterwards, returned to their homelands to share the wonderous epiphanies they experienced. 

Last year, on the feast of the Epiphany, we celebrated our Sr. Lydia’s 66th anniversary of religious profession; her gift to the church and the world.    Sadly, we could not celebrate with her because of covid in the nursing home.  Sister had contracted covid and never fully recovered.  She was 90.  That Christmas, I was inspired to send her a stuffed toy frog and to write a little legend about a coqui from her native Puerto Rico. 

THE COQUI’S GIFT

A bright star blazed in the night sky while under the palm tree slept three wise kings with their camels. In the palm tree sat a little coqui frog keeping watch.  Silently, he had listened to their words of wisdom and learned they were on their way to greet the new king!  


“A king!” chirped the little coqui.  “How I would love to see this new king.” 
Quietly, he hopped down and nestled under the cloak of one the kings so he might travel with them to see this wonder himself.  
For many days they traveled and with each night the star grew bigger and brighter.   Finally, the star, in all its glory, stopped and glowed over a humble stable.
“How disappointing,” thought the coqui.  “This can’t be right.  This is no place for a king.”  

Inside the home was a poor couple with a newborn babe.   Generously, the couple welcomed the Three Kings, and the unbeknownst coqui, with such openness, love and warmth that you thought you entered heaven!

 With great insight, the three kings said, “Truly, this babe must be the Son of God,” as they humbly bowed before the newborn king and they offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.    

Sadly, the coqui had nothing to offer. 

When nighttime fell, the three magi and the holy parents drowsed and dreamed dreams of the wonders of God’s love. The coqui hopped closer to look at the Holy Child.  The babe’s little hand waved and beckoned him closer. The baby king wasn’t sleepy.  Neither was the coqui. 


Sitting on his little chest, the coqui felt a puff of the Holy Child’s breath.  The pitter patter of the infant king’s heart set the beat and the coqui, filled with wonder and gratitude at being able to keep this heavenly newborn company, began to sing.  He found his gift!  The coqui sang loudly all through the night, and has done so every night since, singing, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” 

I imagine Sr. Lydia enjoyed this story because the Three Kings are a big deal in Puerto Rico and she loved coquis. Sr. Lydia died 3 weeks later.  We rejoiced for her, for now she is in heaven singing her own song of wonder and gratitude to Jesus, the King of her heart.

What is the feast of Epiphany all about? Epiphany actually has three manifestations of the presence of God in our midst.  The first being the Three Kings.  The second is when John the Baptist recognized Jesus for who he truly is at his baptism in the Jordan when a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Matt 3:17     And the third Epiphany is at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Unfortunately, this beloved gospel reading only comes up once every three years.  Fortunately, this is the year!   In changing the water into wine at Cana, Jesus, himself, reveals his glory to the disciples and that of the Father’s abundant mercy and love for humankind. John 2:11

We can ask ourselves today:
Are we like the wise magi seeking Christ the King in our hearts?

Are we like Mary and Joseph welcoming the stranger?

Are we like John the Baptist, preparing the way that others might recognize Christ?

Do we hear the Father say to us, “You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased?

Or are we like Jesus, using our God-given gifts to spread joy in the knowledge of God’s abundant love and mercy by our words and actions?

We need not be on some quest searching for something difficult to find. We have only to open our hearts to see evidence of God’s love surrounding us.  Everywhere and everything has been touched by the grandeur of God’s animating power.     Every moment of the day, whether it is something simple, like waking up in the morning, or difficult, like mourning the death of a child, is an occasion of God’s love and compassion.  

Can we be an epiphany of God’s love for the world in our own time and place?  Jesus believes we can, when he said, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, . . .  that the world may know that you sent me, and that you love them, even as you love me.   . . . Father, they are your gift to me.”  John 17:21-22, 24

I’ll end with a story about one of the sisters
I live with.  She has dementia.  Sister had always been a person with a heart of love.  Now, she can’t hold a conversation, but is still intent on looking for ways to help others.   At Mass, when she goes up to communion, she says, “Thank you” when the priest places the host in her hands.  It is very touching that somehow, she recognizes the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

If the only gift we can offer in the presence of God is a simple, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” than that gift would be enough.