Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dying to self: coming to new life

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
John 12: 24

     This verse is very powerful for me at this time – it seems to highlight the convergence of three related story lines. The first story is this past Sunday’s gospel in which Jesus has us reflect on his coming hour of death on the cross and his veiled warning to us that this (dying) is what it means to follow in his way. The second story line is the bigger picture of how this fits into Lent – we are nearing Holy Week, just days away from the remembrance of Jesus’ Passion and the conclusion of this penitential season. The third story is that of the sainted Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who was assassinated twenty two years ago this past Saturday. Allow me to share with you three short quotes of his that are meaningful to me: 
      In the sermon just minutes before his death, Archbishop Romero reminded his congregation of the parable of the wheat. "Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grains of wheat that dies”.
"I am bound, as a pastor, by divine command to give my life for those whom I love, and that is all Salvadoreans, even those who are going to kill me." …
“I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people.”
     Only a few weeks ago one of our RCIA participants asked me to explain paradox. The first thing that came to mind was the example of Jesus’ teaching that we must die to self in order to live fully. Everyone in the group had examples in their lives about self sacrifice for loved ones that resulted in greater love and freedom for themselves and those with whom they are in relationship. And that is yet in this life; and only a foretaste of the Holy Mystery beyond. 
     Still, all in all, dying is dying. It’s never easy and never going to get easy. Everyday I know that I need to make choices. Some days I make some really good self-sacrificing choices, some days I could do a lot better. And everyday I need to look over the day and be as honest with myself as I can be. Only by trusting in God’s great love for me can I have both the courage to do this and the enthusiasm to keep growing in my spiritual life.
Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Brief Reflection on Feast of St. Benedict

Stillness and inner quiet 
are needed to hear
A word spoken by another
 and the soft whisperings of the Spirit.

Surrendering quick responses
Allowing prejudices to slip away


Listen, carefully, my child,
Benedict urges
 If today you hear God’s voice
                                       Harden not your heart.

  Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


     “When your heart speaks, take good notes.” That quote which is the title of a book is my chosen definition for journaling. I take lots of notes and have them all over the place—on my desk, on my reading table, tucked in my spiritual reading books and in my Bible. I underline phrases and write responses in the columns of my Living With Christ, a monthly paperback containing the daily readings for the Eucharist. I write longer “notes”, of course, in my journals of which I have many.
     I love to write and in journaling there is no stress as there is in writing an article for Leaven, our newsletter, or in preparing a reflection on the Scriptures for Evening Prayer. In journaling I simply write whatever comes from within—a prayer of thanksgiving or things I’m worried about or things that appear from without like the large beautiful stag wearing antlers like a crown and strutting along our hillside like royalty.
    For me journaling is revelatory. I’m often surprised by what comes off the tip of my pen. I say to myself, “Did I write that?” or “Where did that come from?” Writing is like having a spiritual director or counselor,; it helps objectify, put things in front of us that we didn’t know we were thinking. I think of Julian of Norwich, a spiritual director in her day, who said,” I tell them what they told me and they say, ‘My, how wise you are!’”
     My journal is a record of the past. It helps me remember events, important or not, happy or sad. Events that I may otherwise have forgotten like the treasured conversation I had with my brother shortly before he died or the haikus I wrote sitting alongside the Pacific Ocean. Poems which in retrospect are not all that bad!
     The author of the book that is my opening quote is Susan Borkin and the subtitle of the book is: the Healing Power of Writing. I would not have thought of writing or journaling as healing but doing what one loves and expressing one’s self honestly and freely can contribute to wholeness and self-knowledge. Teresa of Avila wrote something really good about self-knowledge. I can’t recall it at the moment but I’m sure it’s in one of my journals.
               Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Accompanying Christ on the Journey

      Recently I had a patient and dear friend die from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. For four years we journeyed through this dehabilitating illness as muscle groups deteriorated and ceased to work. Even as a health care provider, I felt helpless to relieve her pain and suffering. Yet it is far more in our presence, caring and love that we support and embrace another’s pain and sorrow.
     In today’s gospel, Matthew 20:17-28, Jesus gathers the disciples [and us] and says, “Behlod, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
     Jesus is asking each of us to accompany him on the journey. In Baptism we entered fully into the Mystical Body of Christ and into the Paschal Mystery. How in this world are we going to accompany Jesus? The same way we accompany any loved one on a painful journey. We do this by allowing our hearts to beat with his—beat for beat—reaching out with love and compassion to him and to all the suffering members of His Body within our midst today. We can do this only through the sanctifying grace that is being provided for us daily through Jesus’ suffering and death. Within the journey we are also accompanied by the Unifying love within the Trinity. May God’s peace be with each of you on the Journey.
     Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine. Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB