The Saint of Ecology

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Today there will be celebrations and prayer services throughout the world commemorating the life and death of one of the most beloved saints in the history of Christianity: Francis of Assisi. The website franciscanmedia.org has much to say about Francis but for those who seek brevity, there is a summary statement on their calendar at the beginning of the biography which gives a taste of the most important information, including the most recent title under which Francis is known.

Saint Francis of Assisi: founder of the Franciscan family, Patron Saint of Ecology, inspiration to thousands, claimed by people of all faiths as well as those with no particular faith, a truly “catholic and apostolic man.” Though born in the 13th century, he belongs to all ages.

I think of Francis walking the Italian countryside, addressing all of nature as Sister and Brother, talking to the beasts and birds and listening to God’s messages everywhere. Today we are in the company of Brothers Wind and Air, and “fair and stormy all weather’s moods.” Tonight I will hope for a sighting of Sister Moon and the stars, who “in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and fair.”

Francis is a good model of how to live – amazed at everything – but also how to die, offering himself and all his suffering to the God in whom he placed all his faith, hope and (boundless) love. As I wrote that last sentence, Brother Sun made a momentary appearance, bathing the autumn countryside with golden light before receding into the cloudy sky. Just like Francis. Praised be…

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Nehemiah

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Today’s first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is from one of the historical books: Nehemiah – usually paired with the Book of Ezra. I must admit that I have little knowledge of this man or his writings but today I find that I could happily spend the day with him if I had nothing else pressing to do! My interest was piqued by a sentence in the reading that seemed like it could be said today when there is so much to lament in our country and the world.

After reading out and explaining the law to the gathered populace (from daybreak to midday!), Ezra, the scribe, was joined by “His Excellency” Nehemiah who exhorted the crowd: Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength! It seems that Nehemiah, a layman, was himself so distressed at the sad state of ruin in Jerusalem that he asked to be permitted to go and rebuild – a request that was granted by the king.

Since it is already 9:22 A.M., long past my normal posting window of time, I will conclude by saying two things. First, I plan to spend some time getting to know Nehemiah and his moment in history, and secondly, I suggest we all try not to spend the day in sadness – no matter the trials – because our strength truly does come, as Nehemiah reminds us, from rejoicing in the Lord, our loving and bountiful God.

Guardian Angels

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“You are an angel!” That’s a common statement for people who have experienced the kindness and help of another in a time of need. We have pictures of angels from our childhood bedrooms and a prayer (“Angel of God, my Guardian dear…”) that got some of us through scary nights in our youth. Today is the commemoration of the Guardian Angels and we can find mention of those holy, welcome beings in both Scripture and Church documents (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 328, 336) Moreover most of us have stories that illustrate God’s protection that we attribute to beings of other realms and humans who have acted as such.

This is a comforting feast, a day on which we thank God for the presence of angels in our lives, be they seen or felt. May you know the blessing of angels and walk in peace today and every day!

“The Little Flower”

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As we enter the month of October, I always think of a poem we learned in elementary school entitled “October’s Bright Blue Weather.” Even considering the title brings gratitude for living in the Northeast of the USA because of all the natural beauty that we witness as trees put on a colorful show and big pots of fall mums can be seen everywhere. There is a bit of sadness mixed in with the dying down of garden-fresh vegetables and disappearing fields of corn, but the slowing of activity with the shortening of daylight calls to our need for rest. We do well to heed the advice.

Today Christians mark the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one of the most revered saints of the Catholic Church. She lived only 24 years, a simple life by all external standards, but is celebrated the world over for her life of love in God. There are many ways to get to know her – many books and commentaries on her life. Today I found a quote of hers that I had never heard before. It speaks to me of her spirituality as well as to the season that is ending and the one we are entering. It is perhaps most appropriate for one whom we know under the title of “The Little Flower.”

I understood that every flower created by God is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s lovely garden.

St. Jerome

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Here’s a comforting thought. When we think of the word “saint” we often expect to read about people who were almost, if not totally, perfectly holy. Today is the feast of St. Jerome, the great scholar and Doctor of the Church who translated most of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin but was known also for his bad temper! Think of that on the days when you feel as if you’ll never make it into the community of saints. Then smile and relax into God’s loving heart.

Words

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There are a lot of words in the USCCB readings for this Sunday. I suppose it would be only fair to choose a balance of difficult – if there be such – and joyful words, but today I am filled with happy gratitude. I am a guest at a lovely, large, friendly house of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Wilton, Connecticut and feel only the warmth of hospitality that fits Psalm 146 where I read: Praise the Lord, my soul! or an alternative response of Alleluia!

What prompted me initially to consider the words was the beginning of the reading from Paul’s first letter to Timothy which held the following advice. Brothers, (but of course he meant “and sisters,”) pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness. (1 TM 6:11) That’s a pretty big order but in this house I am certain that the effort Sisters make toward those virtues is all wrapped up in perseverance which is, I believe, all that God desires from all of us.

Today seems a good day to reflect on those six words, saying them aloud looking in a mirror to see how I find each looking back at me and which, if any, appear in shadow today. Perhaps I might then bring the “shadowy” ones into the sunlight that is already shining brightly outside my window. (Remember patience and gentleness are both in the list and God asks only for our best!)

Thoughtful Advice

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Every Thursday, the Sisters in our Province receive weekly updates of events, issues of concern and news about province members and our Associates. Each time there is an introductory quote that makes us think. I thought yesterday’s offering was helpful in allowing some hope even in the midst of our concerns about the future of our planet. I share it not so that you and I can sit back and breathe relief, but in order to regroup our hope and willingness to participate in solutions.

The same way to look at the future on a warming planet — and the best way to survive it — is…to see what’s coming not as an inevitability, but as a work in progress: moldable reality affected by the choices we make today and tomorrow, and next year. Engaged optimism of this kind has been a critical ingredient of historical progress…The New Deal, forged amid the despair of the Great Depression, was not only an urgent response to the woes of the urban jobless and the displaced Dust Bowl farmers but also an act of optimism boldly spending resources not just to alleviate immediate pain but for the sake of the radically different future that FDR and others envisioned for American society. (Bina Venkataraman, “Why We Still Need Climate Optimism” The Washington Post, Sept. 16, 2019)

Suspension

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It’s interesting how things show up on the internet when I am in need of a “jump-start” for my brain. I’m presenting a day on mindfulness in a time of transition this coming Sunday. The first thing I saw when scrolling for early news this morning was a message from Melli O’Brien (Mrs. Mindfulness) on her website called The Mindfulness Summit that always calls readers to “change your world from the inside out.” Today she has a quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn that got me thinking. It said the following.

Being mindful means that we suspend judgment for a time, set aside our immediate goals for the future, and take in the present moment as it is rather than as we would like it to be.

Simple, right? Well, maybe not so much. What I like, however, is that the idea does not tell us to give up our capacity for mindfulness altogether but rather to suspend judgment for a time – likely just enough time to get clear and then forge ahead. I can live with that. Can you?

Meandering

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Finally, the leaves are beginning to show some colors of autumn! It’s not that I long too much for this miracle of beauty; it means the approach of cold and often inclement weather, after all. It is, however, one of God’s great gifts to those of us who live in the Northeast of the United States. One could spend a lot of time thinking of autumn as metaphor. (Going out “in a blaze of glory” comes to mind as an image.)

I wonder sometimes if all of life is not meant to be that kind of alternation of beauty and dissolution so we don’t hold on to anything too long. I wait for the autumn colors and would love to see them for months, but that would hold back the wonder of snowfall and interrupt the natural order of things…Some of you are already saying, “Fine with me – if I never saw snow again it would be okay!”

I could go on but I don’t know how I even got this far. It doesn’t take much sometimes to set my mind to wandering. I guess my point today would only be one of gratitude for God being in charge of the workings of the world and a wish that we would stop interrupting the flow…of global warming, for example…but there I go again with a new topic!

Enough! Blessings on your Tuesday!