Tuesday, December 12, 2017



I’ve been thinking of stars a lot lately.  The sky gets dark earlier and earlier and I long for light.   Last week we had the super moon:  it was as close as it could get in its orbit around the earth and so shown brighter than ever reflecting not only the light of the sun but the light of the world.

Advent is a time to reflect on THE Light of the World; Christ’s double coming in the end times and Jesus’ coming as an infant.    Human nature, being what it is, often focuses on basking in the warm glow of the manger scene, a sterilized version of what really happened.  If we imagine the real nativity it would reflect on what is happening in our world today with all its injustices, homelessness, natural disasters and conflict between nations. 

Imagine what the birth of Jesus was like for Mary and Joseph. Talk about confusing circumstances: doubts regarding the couple’s future, conquering rulers ordering them to leave their home, journeying to faraway places, nowhere to lodge.  And after the joyful birth, a mad king sends his army to kill all the children in the region and they have to flee.   Life was not easy.  No wonder the Chosen People longed for the Messiah. 

We, too, have a deep need for Christ and we feel it most keenly when it is dark and the circumstances of our own lives leave us struggling.  No wonder we long for the Light of the World to enter in to our presence here and now. 

One of the benefits of living in a monastery is that we sing a wide range of Advent hymns throughout the day and season.  Most have phrases reflect our yearning for light:  ‘Creator of the stars of night,’ ‘Beyond the moon and stars, as deep as night, so great our hunger Lord, to see your light,’ ‘Love most bright’, ‘Come, O Radiant Dawn… Come, Sun of Justice,’  ‘Love, the star is on the way,’   ‘The King shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks,’  ‘Christ…her star and sun and strong redeemer,’  ‘Christ, may your light surround us.’   I could go on and on.  All these songs help us express our longing.    Like the four themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love assigned to the four candles on our Advent Wreath, they help light our way and give us strength and courage to follow the Light of the World.

Have you ever lain on the ground looking up at the stars?   I remember one time I was out by myself and gazing at the cosmos and having an eerie feeling while looking at the vastness of space.  I was overcome with a sense of wonder and awe thinking about its immensity, the eternal nature of the universe.  It felt like God was reaching out to me.  It was a bit terrifying.  Just me and God.  In hindsight, I realize it was a moment that Celeste would describe as being aware of your nothingness in comparison to the Infinite All.  It was quite a humbling experience.  About this Jesus told Celeste, “You should praise and thank me for this gift: I have given you an excellent being, with both the experience and the remembrance of your nothingness.”

We have been created in the image of God, so even though we are nothing, Jesus tells us we are worthy, ‘an excellent being.’  We can be points of light shining out God’s Infinite Love and Mercy to our sisters and brothers.   To our eyes, stars are just tiny points of light, but in reality they are unfathomably large balls of fire eternally aflame which continually burn and gives light through all eternity.  We are called to “always be on fire with a pure flame of most chaste love until finally, after all the worldliness has been burnt out of your being, CHRIST ALONE IS LIVING IN YOUR LIFE.” 

I did a word search for ‘star’ in the writings of Blessed Celeste and found three references.  Funnily, because her last name is Crostarosa it highlighted ‘star’ a lot more times wherever CroSTARosa appeared.   

Celeste writes, “God placed the stars in the firmament. These are like all the merits of Jesus Christ, our Savior and these merits adorn our soul like jewels which shine like stars in the firmament of our souls.”     

Carl Sagan once said, “We are made of star stuff.”  I think Celeste would agree.  She writes, “Everything that exists, the stars and the moon in the heavens, the earth, the plants, the creatures, even the current events, exists for the delight and good pleasure of God.”  God spoke from the bright cloud, “This is my Son in whom I Am well pleased (delight in).” Jesus, the First-Born of all creation, shares his matter, his very being with us.  God created the stars, the Son and us.  In our nothingness we are one with the Creator, the Son, the stars, one another.   In us God, too, delights.    Note the word ‘light’ is in delight.

What is our response to this mind-blowing reality?  Celeste answers, “Let your response be in your prayer and your work; let Delight in God be your food, your room, your life, your spirit, your desires, your hope, your security.   The evening shall be a time of silent thanksgiving to the eternal Father for having given Jesus to the world. And they shall thank God for all the graces and the treasures which the Church enjoys through the Son’s merits.”

So, this Advent, during the darkest time of the year, let us be like the stars of heaven that sang together with shouts of joy at the dawn of creation and join with all the children of God singing a song of thanks and praise for Jesus, the Light of the World.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


We celebrate Little Christmas each month in honor of the Incarnation.  This month it comes between the feasts of Thanksgiving and Christ the King.

Bl. Celeste says, "O God, my Lover, I give you infinite thanks because You deigned to speak to my heart with these most sweet words so full of goodness, that is: 
'To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,' meaning that You have given me the Keys of Your Divine Love since You gave me Your Divine Son so that Jesus might live His life in my heart and that I might live in Your Divine Heart… What kind of thanks can I give You, only Lover of my heart?!"

Then Celeste says, "In the second coming, it shall
become evident how God became Man when His glory and majesty and all His divine actions shall be revealed like the Burning Rays of the Sun since they were performed in a most excellent way by Christ-the-Wayfarer in that infinite love, humility and patience with which He brought about your salvation by His most holy death."

As followers of Wayfarer, the Incarnate Jesus does not promise us a life of leisure but rather a life of love.  Our lives have its ups and downs: our circumstances, our church, our world, all of creation seem to be in constant upheaval.   This causes our hearts to be troubled at times.  As Redemptoristines we called to live our lives with deep faith and hope, humility and patience.  We are called to bask in the burning Rays of the Sun ‘in a climate of intimacy with the Lord and of silent intercession for the salvation of the world,’ and to allow the Divine Heart of Love to live and manifest Itself in our hearts all the days of our lives.

 In thanksgiving we renew our vows to the Lover of our hearts.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


In Memory of Sr. Mary Anne Reed, OSsR,
who died October 18, 2017.

Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Gen 2

For the spirit of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive. Job 22

When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mk 15

“Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  John 20

What do Jesus and Sr. Mary Anne have in common?  She breathed the same air Jesus did.    They both took in air at the moment of birth and released air at the final moment.  In between they breathed, and breathed, and breathed.  In and out they breathed the Spirit that gives us all life.  Jesus’, Mary Anne’s, ours, are the gift of God’s life-breath.    As Mary Anne would say, ‘All is gift.”  Truly, Sr. Mary Anne was a daughter of God.

In the Seventh Soliloquy, Blessed Celeste tells of the stage of prayer where, “God breathes a breath of love into the soul and the soul breathes it back to God.”  She continues, “In this union there is a wonderful peace and joy.  It is so simple you can scarcely see in it any mystery.”  Celeste concludes, “Yet, how incredible is it that a poor earthbound creature can rise into the life of the uncreated Being!” 

That is our calling:  to breathe as Jesus did; to breathe in and out the life-giving breath as we perform our daily tasks in the midst of a world longing for  peace and to experience the uniting, merciful love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Let us breathe in the life-giving Spirit as we renew our vows as we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus this October 25th.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I woke up with this phrase in mind, ‘fumbling toward heaven.’  It didn’t seem to be connected with a dream or anything – it just was there.

But it got me thinking about football. A fumble is when someone on the opposite team makes you drop the football and recovers it for their side.  I am going to stretch this metaphor so run with me on this one. 

Jesus is the football we carry through life tucked under our arm close to our heart.  We are advancing through the game of life toward our goal: heaven.   When certain circumstances of everyday life dislodge Jesus from our heart and make us drop the ball, how do we get it back?  In the second letter to Timothy St. Paul writes, ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power, and love and self-discipline.’
Relying on the Spirit of Jesus we gain the power of the practice of self-discipline to scoop up the ball of Love and continue to carry it to our final destination. If we are called to be Jesus to each other and the world, then it shouldn’t be so hard to stoop down to lift up Jesus, ourselves and one another.
Sometimes, we feel like we drop the ball constantly but thank goodness we have fans to cheer us on whether we are in possession of the ball or not.  Who are our fans?  Family and friends, co-workers, and all the angels and saints are cheering us on!  Not only are they fans but also our team!   They offer prayers and lend support, especially when the everyday cares and set backs get us down.  In our most desperate hours, we throw a ‘Hail Mary’ forward pass to our Lady and she is there to help us.

To all eyes, Jesus’ death on a cross seemed like the biggest fumble ever.  But those who gathered below his cross: his Mother, John and Magdalene, believed and hoped in Jesus who came to save and bring them to heaven. And we know their hope was not in vain.   

So, let us not be like Lucy who whips the football away just as Charlie Brown comes up to kick it.  Let us be like Charlie Brown who, even though he fumbles, he always believes and hopes.  Let us never, ever give up hope.  Let us continue to fumble our way to heaven believing in Him who comes to save.


Monday, July 24, 2017


On August 1st  we celebrate the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists.   Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, foundress of the Redemptoristine Nuns, had this vision concerning her friend:

Jesus Christ showed Himself to Celeste surrounded by the light of glory, accompanied by the seraphic St. Francis de Assisi and Don Alfonso de Liguori. Then the Lord said to her, "This soul is chosen as the head of My Institute.  It is he who will be the first superior of the Congregation of men for the salvation of souls." 
St. Alphonsus was a prolific writer and has been named a Doctor of Prayer.  Here are some nuggets mined for his feast day.

 “From starry skies descending, Thou comest, glorious King.”

 “Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends."

          "I love Jesus Christ, and that is why I am on fire with the desire to give Him souls; first of all my own, and then an incalculable number of others."

           "If we would completely rejoice the heart of God, let us strive to make God's will alone our will.”

“God loves you.  Believe in God, return and God will bring to you the joy of everlasting life.”

 “Be full of courage, be joyful!  Become saints and love Jesus Christ very much for He gave His life and blood for each one of you.”

Divina Pastora by St Alphonsus
“It is part of the love of God’s plan for us to acquire and nurture all the virtues which make one perfect.”    
“We are made in God’s likeness, and endowed with memory, intellect and will…so that we in turn might love God out of gratitude for so many gifts.”
“By giving us His Son, whom He did not spare, God bestowed on us at once every good: grace, love and heaven.” 

 “Immaculate and Most Holy Virgin, O most humble creature before God, you were chosen as His Mother therefore establishing you as Queen of heaven and of earth…She is a garden of delights, whose odors spread abroad and abound; that is, the gifts of graces. So that whatever good we have from God, we receive all by the intercession of Mary.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


John Lennon’s famous nonsense song I Am the Walrus begins with, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”  Substitute the word Christ for ‘he’ and you get, “I am Christ as you are Christ as you are me and we are all together.”  Together we are Christians. 
See that in Lennon’s own trippy way he is saying something similar to what Jesus said in John the Evangelist’s  Gospel, “I revealed your name to those you gave me… they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.”  Jesus revealed his name, ‘I AM,’ to those who are his own.  We are God’s own.  Christ is God’s.    We are Christ’s own and God’s own.  And we are all together!   
Together we glorify God by being Christ to one another.  We open our hearts to share our hopes and dreams; we reach out. Yet, how can we glorify God with our imperfect loving?  We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and ages, backgrounds, foibles, capabilities.  Together we share in common God’s unconditional love.    
Despite our lack of (fill in the blank), we are called to be Christ’s love. St. Peter encourages us, “Rejoice to share in the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.”  Jesus loved all of us from the cross that we may have eternal life.   Whatever our sufferings may be, we too can offer love for the salvation of our sisters and brothers in Christ.   Together we are called to share this Christ-love with one another for the glory of the name. 
Rejoice! Together we are I Am.   

Monday, March 13, 2017


Welcome to the Second Sunday of Lent. In today’s Gospel Jesus, after his transfiguration, reaches out and touches his disciples and says, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’  Jesus tells them not to say anything about this vision until he is raised from the dead. The disciples did a great job in spreading the Good News because 2000 years later we, the believers in the resurrected Christ, proclaim by our words and actions just that; a better way to live: Christ’s way, a more loving way to live that entails self-sacrifice so that all the world will know God’s plan of love, mercy and redemption.      

Do you remember the game ‘Simon Says’ where you follow the movements of the leader?  That is what I am going to invite you to do periodically throughout this talk as we sing the refrain from the hymn We Remember. 
 Please follow me.

Remembering is a big part of Bl. Maria Celeste Crostarosa’s charism.  Celeste called this special remembering viva memoria: to be a living memory. She says it is our call to be active participants in the life of Jesus who lived dying so that the world may be redeemed and rise to new life.  
Let me give you a quick reminder of who our foundress is.  Bl. Maria Celeste Crostarosa was born the tenth of twelve children in 1696 in Naples, Italy. From her earliest years she enjoyed an unusual sense of intimacy with Jesus who spoke quietly to her heart.  When she entered religious life, and was still a novice, Celeste had a revelation that she would be the instrument by which a new order of nuns would be established.  After many trials, and with the support of St Alphonsus, the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer was founded on Pentecost in 1731.   But tribulation continued to follow Celeste and she was expelled from the original monastery in Scala for being not afraid to be faithful to her conscience.  A few years later, she began a second monastery of the Redemptoristine Nuns in Foggia.    Since her death in 1755, Sister Celeste’s message of love, joy and liberty of conscience has spread throughout the world.  Following her lead to this day, her daughters the Redemptoristines, and by extension, you, have carried on her mission of being a viva memoria. This year marks the 60 year anniversary of Redemptoristines in the Hudson Valley.
Remembering Celeste let us Sing:

Bl. Celeste was a mystic and a prolific writer who regularly shared her experiences with her community.  Here are a few golden nuggets from her treasure chest of writings.  She had something to say about every aspect of life.

Bl. Celeste says:  ‘As soon as you rise from sleep, thank the Creator for all the blessings of this day and offer to God all your words, actions and sufferings, abandoning yourself into God’s blessed hands.’

Jesus, in turn, said to Celeste as he held his divine heart in his hands, and says to us now: ‘Receive my heart  to love me  with my own love forever.  Embrace in my heart  all my creatures  and give to those souls  all the love of my heart.’

During Lent we strive to have the heart of Jesus by loving as Jesus did.  Celeste says, ‘Make your life an echo of Jesus’ love.’  Every day we are not afraid to make our lives are an echo of Jesus’ love. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we lay your head on the pillow at night.  In our busy schedules we are called to abandon ourselves into the hands of our Creator as we offer a sacrifice of love, praise and intercession that reaches out to all our families, friends, co-workers and beyond; to embrace in our hearts all of God’s creatures. Our mission as Redemptoristines and Associates is to be transformed into pure love.   Celeste often quoted Jesus in saying, ‘If someone asks you who I am, tell them I am Pure Love.’

Raising our hands in praise for another day let us sing:

Celeste says, ‘Leave everything in God’s hands and all things will fall into place for you for the best purpose!  Believe in God with faith and hope.’     See the picture inside your handout of the ring.  This is the Redemptoristine profession ring:  two hands clasped.  In Celeste’s lifetime in the eighteenth century this ring was commonly given as wedding rings.   It is a mani in fede ring.  In Italian it means ‘hands in faith.’  All our rings are engraved on the inside with ‘I will espouse you.’  As Associates, all of you have made a commitment and have offered your hand to the Lord, and to one another; by faith your hands are united in love and hope.

Jesus says to Celeste, ‘In loving me, be espoused to all those who are mine.’

How can we be espoused to all who are Christ’s? We are called to go unafraid beyond our selves, be transformed, and be Christ for one another.  During your life you have reached out to the poor and needy by lending a helping hand. Many of you were educators who imparted your firsthand knowledge by giving youngsters hands-on-experiences to expand their minds.  In your work, some of you have mentored others with a guiding hand.  Many of you, in caring for your families have laid healing hands on the sick.  Literally and figuratively, you weren’t afraid to get your hands dirty.  Sometimes, when life throws you a curve ball, its all-hands-on-deck! Throughout your life, consciously or unconsciously, by your words and actions have handed down the faith to all those around you. 

Jesus said to Celeste and says to us, ‘If you wish to give me pleasure, imitate that prayer which I offered in the Garden of Olives before my Passion, placing my whole spirit in my Father's hands!’    
Some of you are retired from work-life and have more graced time, time for prayer where you give God pleasure by just placing your lives in the hands of God.   Even without retiring, in your commitment as Associates, you have placed your whole spirit in the hands of the Father.  Here, you are gradually transformed and can say with the apostle Paul, ‘I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.’

With faith, hope and love let us sing:

Celeste says, ‘The just soul who loves takes delight in death at the hands of its Beloved.  Jesus lived dying and it is the living memory of Jesus dying that will be your life.’

How do we remember Jesus’ dying in our daily lives?  Remember what Jesus says at the Last Supper before he died, ‘Do this in memory of me.’   Every day at the holy sacrifice of the Mass we lift our hands as an offering to receive the Body of Christ.  This reminds me of a time when I was the Eucharistic minister;  a woman, instead of saying ‘Amen’ to the ‘The Body of Christ,’ responded saying, ‘I am.’  What a profound statement.  To me, her reply was a confident, yet humble remembering of our pledge of love, our commitment to be nourished by Christ who lives and dies and rises in us for the life of the world.  In presenting our hands we give our whole self so that Jesus may live and work and pray in us. 

To unite earth with heaven, Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross to embrace everyone and everything with his redeeming love.  As Associates you stretch out your hands to embrace and support your family, friends, co-workers, parish and all creation by your life.

In regularly taking time to pray you give yourself the gift of, as the psalmist says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Ps 46:11      This gift pleases God, soothes the soul and enables you to share in the viva memoria as participants in the life of Jesus who lived dying so that the world may be redeemed and rise to new life.  
United with Jesus, you are offering into God’s hands your entire life for God’s divine plan of mercy and love. 

With grateful hearts we can say with Celeste, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for my very beginning and my very end.’ 

With confidence in God’s mercy we remember Jesus sacrifice of love as we raise our hands and sing:

What can I do this Lent to be open to transformations and place my life into the hands of God?

I invite you to trace your hand and write a word or two of what you pray for at this Lent.

To close this reflection let us all pray the prayer on the back of the handout.