Friday, April 24, 2015

Religious Life: A Life of Faithful and Faith-filled Service


Religious life is a life of faithful love. We have an example of this in Sister Leonilda Niberle, a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother who died this week. Sister was  one of 8 children, all girls.  Four of the 8 children answered the call to consecrate their lives to the Lord as Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.  She came to America in 1951 and six months later, after and intensive English course, she was missioned to one of our schools.  She enumerated her  ministry experiences as follows:
·         1952—St. Francis Borgia School, Cedarburg, WI: Housekeeping, cooking & washing
·         1953--Bakerville, WI (another elementary school). People, she says, loved me at the church.
·         1953-1970—St. Clare’s Hospital, Denville, NJ. “I was in charge of the Diet Kitchen.”
·         1970-2002—In charge of food service at Our Lady of Sorrows Convent where "I prepared the meals and took care of the kitchen and dining room."

Her work as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother was rich in that she lived an active/contemplative lifestyle. Whenever she was in the kitchen and whenever her scheduled allowed, Sister Leonilda found time to contemplative the Lord. She gazed on Him with love and He, in turn, gazed upon her. At the top of her description of her ministry in retirement, she wrote:

  •  Ministry of prayer at SSM Franciscan Courts 
    •    “My most important ministry” 
    •    “I like to pray in chapel a lot.”
    •    “Prayer is a blessing and help for others. I benefit spiritually as well.”   
Sister Leonilda speaks to us of the beauty of living an active/contemplative life as a woman religious.

Is God calling you?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Discerning: Divine Origin? Human Origin

Discernment: How do I know I am on the right path?  In today's first reading, Acts 5: 34-42,  Gamaliel asks the Sanhedrin to step back and think through what they are about to do to the Apostles for preaching in Jesus' name. He reminds the Sanhedrin  of two other persons who rose up and attracted a large following. One was killed  and all of his followers disbanded. The other simply perished and all of his followers scattered.  If what we are doing or thinking of doing persists, that is, opposition or encountering difficulties does not lead us to abandon the work or the idea that we are contemplating making a reality, is it possible that we are more likely, than not, to be on a path mapped out for us by God?  We know that the apostles, even though being flogged and imprisoned for their apostolic activities, did not abandon what they were doing. They knew that their mission was of divine origin, not of human origin. Nothing deterred them from talking about Jesus and making Him known. 

In the Gospel of today’s liturgy, Jesus also teaches us an important aspect of discernment, namely, separating ourselves, from time to time, to go apart to converse with God.  He knew, after the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes that the people wanted to “carry him off and make him king” (John 6: 1-5).  So, he escapes into the mountains!  When others are overwhelmingly applauding us, or making too much of us,  or when we find ourselves seeking to be "forever" applauded, or, perhaps, wanting to be elevated to high places,  it is time to go apart to refocus in light of God’s ways, as Jesus did. There is no other way to clarify our motivations or to discern what is driving us in a certain direction. Is it my desire to please the Lord or am I seeking self-aggrandizement?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Discernment: Paying Attention

In the Gospel of today’s liturgy,  John 21: 1-14, Peter and his friends go fishing and catch nothing.  Jesus is on the shore watching them. He says: “Children, have you caught anything?” To which, they say “no.” “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat.” They do so and bring in 153 large fish.

An essential apart of discernment is paying attention. God is the Director of our lives. He is always standing on the shore watching us and sending us directions, giving suggestions, challenging us.  Many times we do not experience any fruit to our labors. “We have fished all night and caught nothing.” Jesus, concerned, asked: “Did you catch anything?”  Are we humble enough to acknowledge the truth? Moreover, are we humble enough to switch directions, to try something  that was not part of our plan? Religious life? “You got to be kidding, Lord!” “That marriage partner? Really, Lord, we’d we good together? He’s not a wealthy man? He’s not cute. I want someone who makes lots of money. I want someone who is dashingly handsome!”  “That career?  This other career path promises lots of money, Lord. I want to be rich.” “No, my child! I have other plans for you.”

Are we willing to follow God’s plans or will we stubbornly and proudly stick to our own?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Discerning the Risen Christ

Discernment: Discerning the Risen Christ at work in today’s world-- In both of  the readings in today’s Catholic Mass, Acts 3: 11-26 and Luke 24: 35-48,  Luke asks the same question: Why are you amazed or startled?  The question is first raised by Luke in Acts when the people are startled that the crippled man was healed through Peter and John’s intercession. The question is raised again In the Gospel of Luke when the disciples and the apostles are gathered in the upper room behind locked doors.  Jesus appears  and says: “Peace be with you.” The disciples and the eleven apostles are taken aback. Jesus says to them: “Why are you troubled?  …[W]hy do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

The Risen Christ is very much in the here and now. I wonder whether Jesus would not ask us the same question He asked the disciples and the Eleven gathered in that upper room. “Why are you amazed when I work miracles through a physician, a nurse, a teacher, a parent, a public servant through whom I bring love, justice,  comfort, healing, truth, courage, understanding, and/or relief  of an unmet need to  a desperate, grieving, needy individual? Why do positive responses from people pondering a distressing situation leave you startled? Why are you discombobulated when a little child responds to a tragedy in a way that awakens the hearts of millions around the world to help Veterans of the Iraq war or victims of natural disasters or a child battered with cancer whose family needs comfort and financial aid? Why do question arise within you when someone forgives the person who brought harm to his/her family? Do you not believe? Do you not know that I continue the work I have begun from the beginning of the world and during my physical life here 2000+ years ago? Do you not believe that I am risen from the dead and dwell in every human being and can enter any “locked door”?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Religious Life: A Journey of Love

Religious life: Today we will bury one of our Sisters, Sister M. Flora Scheurer, age 98. One of the employers here at our assisted living facility described her as “a pure soul.”  She was lauded in ao many ways, one of which was that she was  one of the best primary grade (first and second graders) teachers ever known in my religious community. She was a woman who loved beauty and created it in so many different ways: poetry,  art, song, loving people and animals, enjoying gardening and producing all kinds of plants, engaging in mischievous behaviors and playing tricks on people,  serving the poor and needy or being engaged in creating things to sell in our gift shop to raise money to support our ministries to the needy.

She left us the following poem to be read at her wake:

I’m Free
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free
I’m following the path God has laid you see.
I took His hand when I heard His call
I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work or play
Tasks left undone must stay that way
I found the peace at the close of the day.

If my parting has left a void
Then fill it with remembered joys—
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Oh yes, these things I too will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow.
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full, I savored much,
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief—
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts, and peace to thee—
God wanted me now; He set me free.

She began her journey to become a woman religious as a teenager.  She would fall in love with Jesus many times and pass that love on to others over and over again.  She personified childlikeness that Jesus speaks about in the Scriptures when He says to us, his disciples: “Unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). Sister Flora heeded those words and, without a doubt, I believe the gates of heaven flew open when Jesus came to earth, took her by the hand, and said: Sister Flora, come. It is time!”