Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Reflection: December 31

Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3

On this feast of the Holy Family we read in the Old and in the New Testament how God dealt with families in difficult situations. God revealed to Abraham the future of his descendants before Abraham even had any children. Faith enabled Abraham to become a father even though he was old, and later to offer this son as a sacrifice. It was faith in God that brought many individuals and their families through hopeless hurdles. The Holy Family, too, had to travel to Bethlehem, escape to Egypt and undergo terrific anxiety when the son entrusted to them was lost. Is there a family that is not stabilized and enabled through faith?

Mother Pauline’s life reflected learnings through her family, which she alluded to often in her writings – how she learned to care for the poor through her mother; how she learned to put self aside in caring for her family after her mother’s death; how she learned to deal with people in high positions through hosting her father’s parties… and especially how she sought to learn about her Catholic faith despite her father’s Protestant leanings. Her sacrifices for daily reception of the Eucharist enriched and nourished her faith, which in the future, enabled her to trust totally in God as she dealt with her religious family of Sisters.

God has a plan for each individual, which began at our conception and continues today. All our dealings with people over the years, and our faith in the times of struggle, have strengthened that seed of faith implanted by God at our Baptism. May we continue to cooperate with and totally trust in this Divine Plan, and see through our daily happenings and the people we encounter, a God who loves us and leads us to Himself.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas Reflection: December 30

Luke 2:36-40

Anna, a widow, prayed, fasted, worshiped and stayed in the temple into her old age. God called and gifted her to be a prophetess. She spoke of the child Jesus when his parents presented him in the Jerusalem temple. She might have been the one least expected to have knowledge about the Messiah. Nevertheless, God chose Anna; through prayer and fasting, she did not let her status of widowhood prevent her from being faithful to God and from prophesying.

Prophecy is a gratuitous gift from God. As we grow in our Christian and Religious life, we advance in wisdom and understanding. Some among us have a pronounced gift of prophecy; they see things years in advance. Look at the last 10 years and remember a Sister who might have suggested something in a Congregational Assembly that might have sounded outrageous at the time. Perhaps little, if any, attention might have been given to the idea. It might have even become a topic of discussion for a while. However, a few years later, we might have done exactly what she suggested, sometimes after being forced by circumstances. That Sister is the prophetess among us. Whether she is chronologically older or younger does not matter. Rather, the good that is done for the Congregation by the great ideas that are generated is important. Blessed Pauline put it very well: “When good is done, it does not matter through whom it is accomplished.” 

Today, consider: Who are the prophetesses among us? Do we recognize them, or do we label them because they see, think, and speak outside our comfort zones and challenge the status quo of the Congregation? Identify and acknowledge a Sister you think is a prophetess among us and pray for her. Pray for greater inner freedom and for more prophetesses in our Congregation.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas Reflection: December 29

Luke 2:22-35

“Now there was a man whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout awaiting the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

Waiting is very hard for us to do. To wait for a long time is VERY hard, and in this day and age, it is almost unheard of. We would rather find another and faster route. Simeon was steadfast and waited for a sign that he knew God would give him. He was an old man and still he waited and waited – and trusted. He did not give up as months and years came and went. He prayed that he would not die until he saw the blessed Promise.

Can I identify with Simeon? Do I recognize Jesus in the happenings of my life? Can I wait patiently for God’s direction and promise in my daily life? Simeon’s eyes were growing weak with age, but he trusted that when the Child came to the temple the Holy Spirit would enlighten him. Simeon was not alone in the waiting. The Holy Spirit was with him and would lead him to the Promised One when the time came.

Waiting for God to fulfill our request can be almost intolerable. There is a reason why things happen when they do. Scripture tells us that Simeon was a man of prayer and was open to the Holy Spirit. Can I say this of myself?

From the founding of our Congregation until her journey to heaven, Mother Pauline was an ideal model of waiting for answers from God and of openness to the Holy Spirit. So many heartbreaks, so many decisions, yet we know she prayed and waited for the Holy Spirit to direct her.

As a Sister of Christian Charity, am I a person of prayer like Simeon and Mother Pauline? Can I be patient and wait for the Holy Spirit, or am I always in a hurry for a fast answer?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Reflection: December 28

Matthew 2:13-18

This feast commemorating the tragedy of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents reminds me that violent acts of hatred have been occurring since the beginning of time. I often avoid watching or reading the news because it is so depressing. Child victims of violence, disaster, extreme poverty and abuse seem to be most upsetting to many of us because of their delicate innocence and helplessness. Looking at their suffering faces stirs me deeply, and I’m often tempted to retract back into my comfortable, yet microcosmic, world.

Our Mother Pauline gave us such an inspiring example by her response to others’ suffering in her own life. Her tenderhearted sensitivity towards those in need – especially, of course, the children – moved her to take concrete actions to help ease their misery. Her untiring devotion to the poor, the blind, the sick, the oppressed, and even the animals reminds and motivates me to reach out in the same fashion. Her charism has been infused by the Holy Spirit into each of our hearts, so we cannot shy away and do nothing in a world brimming with unmet needs.

Choose a social justice issue that touches you deeply. Do something concrete to help. (Examples: write a letter to a local government official, read more about the issue, educate others about the topic, contribute personal budget money toward this cause, add the intention to your daily prayers, etc.) Remember St. Teresa of Calcutta – another wise Mother, like our own – always advised, “Do small things with great love.”

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Reflection: December 27

John 20:1a, 2-8

In this beautiful Christmas season we come face to face with the Resurrection scene in the Gospel on this feast of St. John the Apostle. He and Peter hear the witness of Mary Magdalene and run to the tomb to see for themselves what she has proclaimed. Jesus’ birth and resurrection are tied together and presented as one, reminding us that he shared and glorified our humanity and will bring us into the everlasting life of his kingdom.

Blessed Pauline reminds us: “Let nothing hold us back; let us, too, arise to a new life.…Let your whole life henceforth be one of blessing and peace. Be eyes for the blind, a staff for the lame, consolation for the discouraged, the way for the erring, and knowledge for the ignorant. Oh, arise with Jesus, and remain with Jesus, then your flesh will arise in splendor and glory, too” (1842). With these words Pauline admonishes us to be faithful to what has been from the beginning, what we have heard and our eyes have seen, what our hands have touched, so that we might proclaim eternal life to all by being all we are called to be each day!

In what ways am I living out today’s scripture and Blessed Pauline’s challenge?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Reflection: December 26

Matthew 10:17-22

Today’s Gospel contains words Jesus spoke to all of his disciples – words recorded for our day as well as for St. Stephen and the early followers. In today’s climate these words give me hope: “Whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Jesus speaks about his followers being mistreated and hated by all because of him. It is occurring today in many varied ways, and it happened so drastically to Mother Pauline and the earlier Sisters. We know the hardships endured during the Kulturkampf. The pain and rejection were real, not only in the 1870’s, but during World War II when some of the Sisters were imprisoned, injured, exiled or suffered the loss of everything.

The “deaths” we all experience in our lives may not be as harsh or obvious as those mentioned above. Probably few of us will find ourselves imprisoned or in court for proclaiming Jesus, though we cannot be sure of that. Our persecutions can be much more subtle, but no less painful. Misunderstandings, “stoning” by harsh words, sarcasm, or avoidance can be a martyrdom. Rejection of the faith by family members or friends can strike at the heart and wound us. But Jesus reminds us that we are never alone.

Resurrections always follow the deaths. We find support in the community and the daily grace of the sacraments. God gives us words to speak, strength to rise, forgiveness with which to reconcile, and the promise of heaven where all will be made new.

Mother Pauline reminds us: “With serenity, courage, and proper reflection one can advance far under God’s protection, but principle may never be compromised even a hair’s breadth” (1878). When in my life have I had to rely totally on God for strength in a devastating situation? How did God see me through?

Monday, December 25, 2017

Reflection for Christmas Day

Luke 2:7

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Today, Christmas, is a day of wonder. God made man, Jesus, came to dwell among us. Emmanuel, God present with us. What joy fills our hearts! Our response must be joy-filled awe and delight. Pause and enjoy the presence of Emmanuel in our manger, in our hearts.

But God dwells among us every day, not just today. Where do I find Emmanuel in my daily encounters? Can I see him reflected in the faces of the children I teach, the patients I care for? Can I discover Jesus in the Sisters I live with? Does Jesus reveal himself in the annoying co-worker I would rather ignore?

Jesus, you come in many forms. Open my eyes to see you in all I meet every day, not just in the manger on Christmas. And open my heart to make room for you when you come to me in any disguise.

"There is no room for them in the inn. Mary must lay her son on hay and straw in a stable. Wonder upon wonder!” (Blessed Pauline, 1842)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 24

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Luke 1:26-38

Is today the Fourth Sunday of Advent or is it Christmas Eve? Was David a shepherd or was he a king? Is Mary a virgin or is she a mother? Today, it appears as if we are being called to live in the “both/and.” It is, indeed, both the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. David was, indeed, both a shepherd and commander of Israel. Mary was, indeed, both a virgin and a woman who conceived and bore a son.

The life and ministry of Blessed Pauline offer many “both/and” incidents. Recall examples in which Mother Pauline was both a servant and a leader. Think of how she could both reprimand a Sister and continue to show her maternal love and patience. Remember that, during the Kulturkampf, she both closed multiple foundations in Europe and opened twice as many in the Americas.

Additionally, Mother Pauline was grateful for both joys and sorrows. In 1857, she prayed, “Continue, O God, to watch over us in your loving Providence. To you be praise for every struggle, every affliction, which you send us, as well as for every joy; for both sorrows as well as joys come from your loving, paternal heart. Both are destined for our salvation.”

As we leave the Advent season and enter the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, both God and human, both Savior and poor child born in a manger. During this season, let us pray for the grace to celebrate the “both/and” of our lives as destined for our salvation – both sickness and health, both joy and sorrow, both good and bad.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 23

Malachi 3:1-4; 23-24; Psalm 25: 4-5ab, 8-9, 10, 14; Luke 1:57-66

Mother Pauline exhorts her Sisters in a letter to Sister Liboria, “Use carefully the holy season of Advent and the beautiful feast of Christmas to renew your soul and that of your entire house” (December 9, 1858).

In keeping with this injunction Mother Pauline made nearly 160 years ago and considering today’s Responsorial Psalm, we ask God to teach us his paths, to guide the humble to justice, to teach the humble his way. It reminds us, too, that the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

For a Sister of Christian Charity, what does this mean? First of all, it means to have an open and uncluttered heart so that we can listen to the voice of God. During this season, as our calendars fill up with social obligations, responsibilities in the school, clinic, parish, and convent, and the decorating of our chapels and our homes for the feast of Christmas, it is increasingly difficult to maintain a heart of quiet and calm.

As active religious women, we cannot spend Advent in seclusion, but we can strive to maintain a heart which is open to God’s words. We are cognizant of Article 32 in our Constitutions: “As an active apostolic congregation, we embrace the mission entrusted to us by Christ: to go out to all the world and bring the good news—love, justice, peace.”

In the same article, Mother Pauline reminds us, “It is a great grace that God should permit us to assist in the spread of his kingdom.” As we conclude our Advent journey, we ask God for the openness of heart and the strength of will to follow in his path and to do what lies in our power to co-create a world of justice, kindness and constancy.

What am I doing to prepare the way of the Lord within my heart, with those with whom I come in contact, with the marginalized of the world?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 22

Luke 1:46-56

In a General Audience on February 15, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56 as “a canticle that reveals the spirituality of the biblical anawim, that is, of those faithful who not only recognize themselves as ‘poor’ in the detachment from all idolatry of riches and power, but also in the profound humility of a heart emptied of the temptation to pride and open to the bursting in of the divine saving grace.”

Concluding his remarks, the Holy Father drew on the Exposition of the Gospel of Luke by St. Ambrose: “May Mary’s soul be in each one to magnify the Lord, may Mary’s spirit be in each one to rejoice in God. . . . Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God because, consecrated in soul and spirit to the Father and to the Son, she adores with devout affection one God, from whom come all things and only one Lord, by virtue of whom all things exist.”

On May 1, 1854, Mother Pauline wrote to Sister Josepha: “Our spiritual progress is not limited by the circumstances which surround us but rather by our own attitudes. Let us therefore humble ourselves and look confidently to the infinitely powerful help of God. The Lord will never fail to grant sufficient grace.”

As we draw ever nearer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who became poor and humble for our salvation, let us pray for the grace to identify an attitude that has become an idol. What attitude am I grasping so tightly that it prevents my heart from receiving the “bursting in” of divine grace? Am I able to let it go so that, with Mary, I can truly magnify the Lord and rejoice in God this Christmas?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 21

Luke 1:39-45

 As an overthinker, I second-guess most decisions that I painstakingly consider from every possible angle. When I read that Mary set out and traveled in haste to her cousin Elizabeth, I can’t help but wonder if Mary also wondered: Was the angel’s appearance real? Had she made the right decision? What would Joseph or her parents think? Was she really full of grace? Was she worthy of being the Mother of God? What would all of this entail? What a relief to hear Elizabeth’s greeting and that even the babe in her womb leapt for joy at being in the presence of Mary and the yet-to-be-born Savior! This response of Elizabeth and John, combined with affirmation of the angel’s words about Elizabeth, were enough to put all those “wonderings” to rest.

When she was young, Pauline received a message about dedicating her life to God. She waited so long to become a Sister. We don’t hear much about her doubts, though human nature tells us she surely had moments of wondering – even to the point of considering an engagement to Fritz von Coffrane. Yet, through it all, we see how God remained with her, guiding her, reassuring her through prayer and interactions with others until that dream came to be. God continued to do so throughout her life.

In a few days, we will celebrate the birth of Christ, an occasion that refutes the second guessing of God’s love and commitment to each of us. It is a clear message that God wants to be with us and guide our every step. We have only to be attentive to prayer, as well as to the people and events that God will use to help us find and remain in his will.

Consider recent decisions you made. If you have any doubts about them, how might God reassure you that you made the right one? How do they reflect or reinforce God’s loving plan for you?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 20

Luke 1:26-38

When reading or hearing the Gospel for today, I often wondered what form Gabriel took when coming to Mary. Was it a bright light, a voice, or a human form? Whatever it was, it caused Mary to be afraid. Gabriel’s words were so reassuring, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” What an announcement! Mary is to be a mother – not just any mother, but the mother of the “Son of the Most High.” Then a question “How can this be?” followed by her commitment, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

 Motherhood – physical or spiritual – is a sublime vocation with qualities of love, compassion, patience, caring and thoughtfulness. We find these qualities in our dear Mother Pauline. Often in her letters she advises superiors and sisters to practice patience and thoughtfulness towards the sisters and children. One example is from an 1877 letter to S. Nicodema: “Take the loving, most blessed Virgin Mary as your model. How humbly, how admirably, how united with God, how devoutly and industriously she must have presided over her home!” As daughters of both Mother Pauline and Mary we strive to imitate the qualities of their love for God and humanity and have sung with fervor these words of our community hymn: “What a mother have we. Teach us your love and your sweet charity.”

 How often do I ask, “Why?” or “How?” when faced with difficulties? What does it take for me to follow those questions with my own fiat?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 19

Luke 1:5-25; Psalm 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard."
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked. 

For you are my hope, O LORD;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother's womb you are my strength.

I will treat of the mighty works of the LORD;
O God, I will tell of your singular justice.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
(Taken from Nan Merrill’s book, Psalms for Praying)

While we are transitioning as a community into a new Motherhouse, fear could easily overwhelm us if we did not have the hope and trust in our God, our Spouse, to strengthen us.  I am reminded of Mother Pauline and Margaretha, when Mother asked her to pray, “That I may get so far,” in order for her to receive Holy Communion.  May we truly trust and hope to become one with each other, lovingly accepting each other in calm, peaceful cheerfulness – whether here in our new Motherhouse or wherever we are living and working for the sake of the kingdom of God.

We can all ask ourselves:  How well do I trust that God, Jesus, our Spouse, and the Spirit, will take care of me and give me all I need?  Let us prayerfully consider this, and praise and thank God for all he has done to help us get this far.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 18

Matthew 1:18-25

Between the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, some form of “Do not be afraid” appears over a hundred times. In today’s Gospel reading, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” When Joseph awoke from his dream, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”

In writing to Father Bogaerts in New Orleans, “A glimpse ahead might fill one with trepidation were it not for our trust in God who directs all things” (January 24, 1874), wasn’t Mother Pauline really saying, “Do not be afraid”

In the homily for the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978, Pope John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. . . . Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.” Many times throughout his almost 30-year pontificate, the Holy Father reminded us, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, Do Not Be Afraid is the title of a book he wrote in 1984.

From Joseph of Nazareth to Mother Pauline to Pope St. John Paul II, we have received so many reminders not to be afraid. Today, as we enter into the last few days before Christmas, let us attempt to name a fear and prayerfully offer it to God. If we have trouble doing this, let us remember Joseph’s dream and the words of both Mother Pauline and Pope John Paul II. Imagine what would have happened to each of them (and to us) had they not faced their fears and done as the Lord commanded them!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 17

Every day, some of us receive great news or experience successes, while others receive bad news and experience failures or disappointments.  Perhaps giving thanks when you received what is good for you and your family has been a habit of yours.  How about giving thanks at times when you did not get what you expected or desired?  Can you also give thanks as St. Paul reminded the Thessalonians, “in all circumstances”?  This can be tough when it is close to home, or when your family members or friends are suffering.

St. Paul understood struggle. He reminded the Thessalonians in his time and he reminds us today that we need to give thanks, even in circumstances when we do not feel like it. Why?  Because he believed that it is “the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.”  Today’s first reading mentions one aspect of that will:  God sent Jesus “to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”  By delaying our thanks to God when situations are challenging, we might find ourselves unintentionally “quenching the Spirit.” 

Even before the founding of the Sisters of Christian Charity, Mother Pauline was someone who understood struggle, avoided “quenching the Spirit,” and gave thanks in all circumstances.  In her retreat notes from March, 1845, she wrote: “Whatever God does with me is well done.  In every dispensation of Providence, whether it bring joy or sorrow, I will exclaim, ‘Thanks be to God!’”  She carried the spirit of gratitude with her through the founding of the Congregation, through so many losses in her life (especially during the Kulturkampf), and through her own death.  She is a model of openness to the Holy Spirit.

Today, choose one thing/event for which you are struggling to give thanks. Share it with God in prayer and be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 16

Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; Matthew 17:10-13

Today’s readings from Sirach and Matthew teach us that God uses signs in proclaiming the Kingdom.  John the Baptist, the sign par excellence, shows the way by the practices of prayer and fasting. Old Testament people believed that Elijah, another sign, would come first to announce his coming. John fills the role of Elijah and prepares the way for the coming of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance. As watchful servants, we too must prepare the way by turning from selfishness and whatever diminishes our living the way of the Messiah, a way of joy and peace, of contemplative awareness in the midst of a fast paced society. We are signs of the Lord by our silence and Sabbath living.

The Advent season reminds us also of the end times and is a reminder to us of our own death.

Mother Pauline prayed for a happy death:  

“Jesus awaken in me an ardent desire for you, for my heavenly home. O delightfully blessed moment, when this frail body collapses and my soul enters into the eternal rejoicing of the Lord” (1847).

“I am really looking forward to heaven, where in undisturbed bliss we can possess all those whom we love” (1855).

“O blessed, joyful hour of death! O inexpressible bliss of dying. My soul rejoices in rapture and delight at the thought of death, the bridal day of eternal life” (1850).

As we begin the novena in preparation for Christmas, let us be united as an SCC family in a spirit of quiet and reflection, stilling our minds and hearts in the midst of so much busyness and activity. During this novena, let us live in hope-filled expectation of the Lord’s coming now and at the end of time—both personal and universal.

Today, try to be a sign to others by making an effort to live a more contemplative lifestyle.  Additionally, pray the prayer for a happy death that was composed by Bishop Conrad Martin and read to him by Blessed Pauline as he was dying.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 15

Matthew 11:16-19

“I’m for Paul!” “I’m for Peter!”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I refuse to follow the crowd!”  “Everyone is doing it.  Get with it!”

“I’m for this change.”  “I prefer the status quo.”

Things really have not changed since the time of Jesus.  One day everyone is shouting in favor of something and three days later, they condemn it. 

Do we easily “dance or cry” to the “tune of the moment” played by friends, politicians, neighbors, the news media, or the thousands of other sources on our information highways?

What do we believe?  Do we stand by our convictions or do we go with the flow of what is popular at the moment?

What are our limits, our boundaries – “Anything but this,” “Anywhere but here,” “Not him/her,” “Anyone but them”?

Do we stop to listen to ourselves?

Jesus challenges us today.  Are we up to that challenge? Where do I stand with Jesus?  Am I compromising on my Catholic principles and values because I do not want to offend?  Jesus did not worry about offending anyone by the authenticity of his life or his words.  To live the Will of the Father was his only source of strength; the GOOD NEWS of love and forgiveness for ALL was his message.  He did not compromise.

Mother Pauline did not compromise, either.  She knew the source of her strength in making decisions, guiding the Congregation: “O Jesus, teach me to conform my will always more and more to your Holy Will.  Direct me and all my affairs wholly as you will and teach me to say always: ‘Thanks be to God’” (1846). 

Today, take a written self-inventory – Are you dancing?  Crying?  Floating in between?  Something else?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 14

Matthew 11:11-15

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew presents to us John the Baptist.  He stands in the desert, preaching a message that calls us to look for the coming of the Savior both in our daily lives and in the future.  John invites us to conversion and hope through the witness of our lives.  Today’s scriptures can open our hearts to God’s presence as we accept the invitation to be still and await  the richness of God’s gift given to us in Jesus Christ.  During this season of Advent we seek to welcome Christ our Light into our hearts.  The scripture readings fill us with longing as we stop to reflect and prepare to receive the Light that comes to us both at Christmas and in the present moment.  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a Great Light.  A Light that is for all people” (Is. 9:2).

Saint John of the Cross whose feast we celebrate today was attuned to the season of Advent.  Speaking about God’s unconditional love which is available to us he writes, “Where there is not love, pour love in, and you will draw love out.”  Another Saint, Teresa of Calcutta, reflects the call we have during Advent, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.…It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing that counts.”  Blessed Pauline in her writings expresses our call during the season of Advent.  “We must open our hearts and touch the world with love.”  And, “Do not bear the name Christian Charity in vain.  Embrace all people with sincerest love.  If I have love I have enough.”

Jesus, Light of the World, as I continue to walk with You during this Advent season give me a heart open to Your gentle invitation to love.  Help me to stay awake and allow the love of God to shine through me to each person I meet today.   

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 13

Isaiah 40:31

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. …” Surprisingly, when looking up HOPE in an online dictionary, the first of many definitions was “one of the three Christian virtues.”  Of course, they are referring to the three theological virtues – for surely, we are not limited to only three Christian virtues!  Hope is indeed a virtue; it is more than wishing for a favorable outcome to a difficulty or a good grade on an exam; hope becomes virtuous as we place whole-hearted confidence in God when we can’t comprehend his plan, believing that our Lord sees the bigger picture … that God will bestow abundant grace to strengthen our weariness and abate our fears.

Mother Pauline practiced the virtue of hope to a heroic degree as testified to in the beatification process.  Her heart was centered on God throughout her life and she continuously hoped in God’s providence.  Never is this clearer than during the fateful time of the Kulturkampf.  Experiencing closure after closure of firmly established and well-loved ministries was a crushing blow even for the sturdiest and most trusting of hearts.  If Mother Pauline hadn’t remained steadfast in hope and trust at such a time, the Sisters of Christian Charity wouldn’t be in the Americas today. A familiar maxim of Mother Pauline written in 1872 is proof positive that hope can be a guiding light in the midst of darkest night:  “The dear Lord does all things well.  Let us therefore praise and bless him at all times and cheerfully continue along life’s way.”  In the midst of our own daily storms, both little and big, and during this season of hope-filled Advent waiting, let us HOPE in the Lord and “soar as with eagles’ wings!”

Reach out today to someone whose world is on shaky ground, and encourage him or her with a hope-filled message from the Scriptures or Mother Pauline.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 12

Luke 1:26-38

If Mary was perplexed by the greeting of the Angel Gabriel, I wonder how she might have felt knowing many people throughout the centuries would call her “mother.” Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Reflecting on the simplicity of the Virgin of Nazareth, and her fiat, it is no wonder she chooses to reveal herself to the poor in spirit— in this case, a poor mestizo named Juan Diego. In the ordinary circumstances of her life she was able to show that the One who accomplished the work in her was the Lord. We do not have to seek Mary in the greatness of signs and wonders, because she walked our ordinary path. Therefore, we can trust that her experience of life’s joys and sorrows makes her heart more compassionate towards us. Our Lady’s words to Juan Diego demonstrate this:

“Here I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of … all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.”                                                                                                                
“Am I not here, your mother? Are you not under my protection? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”

Today let us try to find Our Lady in the ordinary circumstances of our day, and pray with Mother Pauline: “Blessed Virgin Mary, I run to take refuge beneath your protection. Help me in life and in death.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent Reflection: December 11

Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26

While living in Rome I have come to appreciate the roof top gardens of many Italian homes.  Although mostly out of sight from the general populace, when invited to the terrace of an Italian home, the beauty of greens and flowers displayed there can be breathtaking.  Our own Generalate roof, although not as manicured as some roof top gardens, is the home of some flowering cacti.  They seem to reflect, “The desert … will exult … will rejoice and bloom.”  I had never realized how many cacti actually do bloom and how very beautiful they can be.

The desert is mostly perceived as barren, hot, sandy and unfriendly.  But today’s reading portrays the desert as filled with glory, splendor and having a highway called the “holy way.”  The reading gives a new perspective on the desert.

The reading from Luke also speaks of a “new perspective.”  Once again we find ourselves on a roof.  The friends of the paralyzed man find that they are unable to enter the house by a door.  So they will find a new way to approach Jesus, the Healer.

Both readings present us with an alternative way of thinking:  the desert can be a beautiful place if we look for the beauty.  Likewise, a deeper relationship with Jesus might be found in a new approach to prayer.

Mother Pauline herself found solace in the image of the desert, when on her investing day she wrote:  “It was He also who counselled the soul to disdain wealth, earthly affections and the following of one’s own will—all that, we must trust to Him alone.  He will guide us safely through this world and into eternal bliss.  ‘Who is she that cometh up from the desert, leaning upon her Beloved?’”

Where in my life must I look more deeply to find beauty and ultimately to find Jesus?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prayer for December 11

For several years, it has been our Congregational custom to offer the 11th of each month as a day of prayer and fasting for peace.  Thank you to the Sisters in our Western Region for providing this prayer to use on December 11.

Advent Reflection: December 10

Isaiah 40:1-5; Mark 1:1-8

Today as we begin the second week of Advent we hear the prophet Isaiah challenge us to "Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God."  Isaiah continues by saying that if we fill in the valleys, level the mountains and hills, work the rugged and rough lands to become broad valleys and plains, then "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together."  John the Baptist embraced the Call and radically responded to God.  He set out to level mountains of pride, fill in areas where there was ignorance, knock down the hills of hatred and division and soothe and restore hope to the rough and rugged of heart.  The Gospel account proclaims that the “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River.” These people finally found someone they could listen to and believe in and so they began to make their lives straight for the ONE who was coming soon.  
Like John the Baptist, we need to take responsibility and respond to our Call with firm determination and seriously help make our world straight by living our consecrated life with a holy simplicity, a holy charity and a holy humility.  We need to allow God to form His image in us so that the "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together."

What will be my response to this Call to "Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God"?   How am I preparing the ground to receive the ONE in my life?   How am I helping others prepare their “ground"?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Advent Reflection for December 9

Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26; Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

It is Advent.  “In response to God’s call,” where am I going? What am I doing? How am I reacting?

We read in Matthew that “Jesus went around to all…teaching… proclaiming…curing…moved with pity.  Jesus then sent out the Twelve after instructing them: ‘Go…proclaim…cure…raise.’”

Jesus instructs us also to “Go…As you go…proclaim…cure…raise.”  Where do I go?  To whom and what do I proclaim, cure, raise?  I desire to go where God calls me and to whom God wants. But how do I know God’s will?   Isaiah tells us that God does not hide himself: “From behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way walk in it,' when you would turn to the right or to the left.” 

God is always present; but I am not always present to God and do not always hear God’s voice within me or through others.  Even with other people I am not always present:  “What did she say?  I wasn’t listening.”  I need to live in the present moment and strive to be aware of God’s presence so that I can hear God’s voice and know God’s will for me.

With Mother Pauline I pray: “From morning to evening and from evening to morning, let my heart be with God.  I want to remain with him, walk before him. . . . O dearest God, help me to become ever more closely and more intimately united with you, thereby growing in genuine love of neighbor.  Grant me a heart full of love to impress itself on every aspect of my behavior” (1854).

What can I do each day that will help me to respond to God’s call within me at the present moment?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Reflection for December 8

Luke 1:26-38

While cruise control might be useful when driving a car, it should never be employed in the spiritual life.  When I was younger, I struggled to understand how the “Immaculate Conception” could be a role model for me. I pictured her safely gliding on cruise control over the choppy waters of temptation.  My own dealings with grace and temptation have made me realize that just as we are called to full, conscious, and active participation in the Liturgy, we are also called to full, conscious, and active participation in grace, and Mary is our model.

We can glide through life on cruise control, relying on our natural tendencies, but eventually we meet a struggle that is too heavy for our natural abilities to carry. When we meet a “Kulturkampf” in our lives, our “cruise” comes to a grinding halt. It is disorienting and scary. Only in the full, conscious, and active participation in the life of grace can we allow God to transform us, to raise us from the natural to the supernatural. Those who have experienced a “grinding halt” know that it is actually a blessing. It is often only then that we realize that the “god of ourselves” is finite and that we must rely on the infinite God to lead the way. Get back in the car, and, like Mary and Mother Pauline, say “yes” to every road, whether  it leads through “the midst of thorns, or rather sharp stones, on slippery ground, or steeply uphill,” (First Draft, 8). They are the roads of the Lord. Full, conscious, and active participation is required. Our fiat can never be on cruise control.

Reflect on a struggle or hardship that you are facing right now. Simply say “fiat,” and pray for the grace to live fiat today and every day of your life.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent Reflection for December 7

Isaiah 26:1-6

In the middle of today’s first reading we read, “Trust in the Lord forever!”  The word “trust” always reminds me of the many times that I had to endure “trust walks” during school retreats, or playing in the school playground and falling backward, believing that someone would be there to catch me before I hit the ground.  No matter how many times I did this type of activity, it never truly helped me understand what trust was all about!

Recently, I read that T.R.U.S.T. means:  Totally Relying Upon the Savior’s Teaching.  Advent is  about revisiting the stories of individuals who lived their faith by practicing trust.  They call to us across time to deepen our trust in a God whose mercy endures forever, who protects those who listen to His words and acts on them.

As Sisters of Christian Charity, our example of lived faith practicing trust is Blessed Pauline.  We read in the First Draft toward the Constitutions, “[The Sisters] must confidently abandon all their cares to God; they must place all their trust in Divine Providence and surrender themselves completely to it like an infant in the arms of a loving mother.  They can and must have the confidence that . . . God will take them under His protection and grant whatever they need for soul and body” (54).

She is a model of how trust should be: “Trust more in Divine Providence than in human support. . . . Put your trust in the Lord especially in times of trouble.”

As you put out all the decorations, remember that the Infant, His parents and the varied visitors to the manger are examples to us of those who acted in faith and deepened their trust in the Lord!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Advent Reflection for December 6

Isaiah 25:6-10a; Matthew 15:29-37

Aristotle states that virtue is the mean between excess and deficiency.  Yet, God seems to go beyond the mean.  Today’s gospel goes from one extreme to another: God turns a deficit into a banquet that satiates a famished crowd and leaves seven baskets of leftovers!  God is not just being generous; God goes over the top! Just look at the feast that Isaiah describes in the first reading!  “The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.”  Frugality is not one of God’s attributes.  Rather, God leans on the side of prodigality when it comes to providing for us.  For some, the rich food of God’s mercy and the choice wine of holy love can be seen as wasted upon the “undeserving,” but God’s wrenching heart seems to equalize the saint and sinner.

Alfred Hüffer’s Pauline von Mallinckrodt: A Short Biography recounts many anecdotes that illustrate Mother Pauline’s extravagant love.  In one instance, she comes to the defense of an intoxicated man when a postulant neglected to add milk to a cup of coffee meant to sober him (203).  In another, while Mother Pauline was very ill, the doctor informs her of a novice who would not allow him to lance a boil on her neck because she feared needles.  Disregarding her own pain, Mother Pauline calls for the novice.  Without her notice, Mother Pauline nonchalantly lances the boil to relieve the novice of her pain (206).  Mother Pauline’s excessive love extends even to animals.  In Sr. Mary Perpetua Rehle’s We Felt Her Love, Mother Pauline liberates the flies that the Sisters caught in a fly-catcher (10) and has the gardener release the mice who infested the garden (7).  For God and Mother Pauline, love goes beyond the mean.

Today, how can I respond extravagantly to the call of love? 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent Reflection for December 5

Luke 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit saying, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. . . . No one knows who the Son is except the Father and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

This Advent season our hearts are tuned in to a longing for deeper awareness of God’s presence, a deeper alignment of our way with God’s way. We turn to reading more and doing more in the name of God to direct this deep-down thirst to see God and the things of God more clearly.  And yet, Jesus praises the simple of heart, not those who try too hard to be perfect.  Perhaps the answer is to be found in what the childlike fix their hearts upon. Maybe it is their childlike simplicity and their lack of self-absorption that allows them to capture the heart of Christ in such an endearing way.  Instead of concern about doing it “right” or being perfect, they simply recognize that God is the source of their longing and joy.  Their desires, their thoughts, all their choices are focused upon God.

In the First Draft toward the Constitutions of the Sisters of Christian Charity, Mother Pauline sheds light on this mystery: “We and all creatures have our being at every moment in the eternal being of God by His love and power, by his infinite love and mercy” (p. 4-5).

Resting in the words of Jesus quoted above, what is God inviting me to let go of today?  How might God be inviting me to cherish more deeply His loving gaze upon my heart?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent Reflection for December 4

Isaiah 2:1-5

“Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths."

With Advent vision the prophet Isaiah sees a future time, beyond the troubles of today, when the mountain of the Lord will be raised above the hills. There, the Messiah will dwell among us.  There we will receive, with peoples who have come from many nations, instructions for justice, peace and holiness so that we may walk in his paths.

Like Micah and many prophets before and after, Isaiah calls us to join the great pilgrimage to a mountain top, our Advent journey seeking the LORD.  It could be to Mount Sinai, where in a spectacular theophany, God gave the Commandments of the Law and renewed Covenant promises. It could be to Mount Tabor of the Transfiguration where, with Elijah the prophet and Moses the Lawgiver, we will see the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus.   Or, it may be to the great City of God, the new Jerusalem.

During this observance of her 200th birthday, we might also join young Pauline von Mallinckrodt in her treks up the formidable hill of Wewelsburg on the way to church for daily Mass, asking prayerfully how to balance the time pressure and worry of family responsibilities, and forming a meaningful response to the heartbreaking needs of others. Perhaps we more readily connect with the steady determination of the superior of the Congregation and true Mother, who literally faced mountains to visit every Sister in the congregation in Europe and the Americas in her final years with us, faithful forever.

Mindful that we climb our Advent mountains in the company of others, let us pray for each other on the way.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent Reflection for December 3

Mark 13:33-37

Jesus challenges his disciples:  “Be watchful! Be alert! . . . May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. . . . Watch!”  We are invited this Advent-tide – this time of sacred waiting –  to declutter our lives and our hearts.  We are challenged to open wide the space of our hearts, to widen our tents in order to make this a welcome space for God among us.

In the words of our Foundress, Pauline von Mallinckrodt, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us! What an abasement for our God!  Learn to be little, in truth lowly and poor and humble so as to please the poor Jesus.  Let our heart be completely poor and empty so that He can enrich it with the gifts of His grace” (1842).

Today, can we commit to a few moments of silence? Can we accept the challenge to become still and quiet within, while preparing the room of our hearts for the presence of God among us?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Stop Trafficking Newsletter for December

The December issue of Stop Trafficking -- highlighting the vulnerability of children (including their exploitation in the travel and tourism industries) -- is available here.

In Response to God's Call: Pauline 200 Advent Reflections

Starting tomorrow and throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, we will provide a daily reflection written by one of our Sisters.  At the close of 2017 and the dawn of 2018, we remember the years of preparation and the events that took place in celebration of Mother Pauline's 200th birthday.  We offer this collection of reflections for Advent and Christmas as a way to continue the spiritual renewal sparked by our "Pauline 200" commemorations.  Each reflection contains references to the Scripture of the day and to Mother Pauline's life and writings, as well as a suggested action for that day.  We have given this collection the title, "In Response to God's Call," for several reasons.  This title brings to mind our inspirational "Response 200" days in July and the title of the history of the Congregation written by Sister Anna Schwanz.  Additionally, these are the words we have spoken at our First Profession, Perpetual Profession and every renewal of vows.  What better words could there be to enhance our spiritual preparations as we enter a new liturgical year while remembering the remarkable year we have just experienced?  What better reminder could there be that everything we do is done in response to God's call?

Tune in tomorrow for our first reflection!  Feel free to comment by going to the blog and clicking "comment" at the bottom of the post.  (Email subscribers:  To comment, click on the link for "SCC JPIC Messages" at the bottom of the email, then click on "Comments" at the bottom of the blog post.)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Prayer for World AIDS Day

God of all compassion, comfort your family members who live with HIV.  Spread over us all your quilt of mercy, love and peace.  Open our eyes to your presence reflected in their faces.  Open our ears to your truth echoing in their hearts.  Give us the strength to weep with the grieving, to walk with the lonely, to stand with the depressed.

May our love mirror your love for those who live in fear, who live under stress and suffer rejection.  Comforting, healing God grant rest to those who have died and hope to all who live with HIV.  God of life, help us to find the cure now and help us to build a world in which no one dies alone and where everyone lives accepted, wanted and loved.  We pray in your name.  Amen.   (From ELCA prayer resources)