Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thoughts on Freedom and Celebration

            The month of May brings to mind a number of celebratory occasions with memories of the yearly events in one’s life such as First Communion, Mothers’ Day, Pentecost, Graduation. For me May is the month to visit the people I know in Kentucky’s prisons. I don’t know why the visits fall in May, it just happened over the years that this is when my parish work slowed down and before summer activities co-opted my attention.
            The first week in May I visited Karen at Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pewee Valley. I have known Karen for about 25 years since our Exodus Jail Ministry group took a field trip to KCIW in the early 90’s to learn about the state facility in order to better understand what some of the women at the local Northern Kentucky jails were facing once they were sentenced. Karen was our inmate guide, a role she performed very graciously. Karen and I have visited occasionally over the years and maintained a fairly regular written correspondence. I have visited her bi-monthly in a pastoral capacity since last November.
            The second week of May occasioned the yearly Shakespeare Behind Bars event. This year’s play, Julius Caesar, performed at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange, marked my 10th year as an SBB fan. Several sisters usually join me in this celebration of arts and the inspiration that comes from witnessing the power of beauty to change lives and worldviews of the performers, friends and patrons.
            Now in mid-May I am planning for the yearly prayer visit of religious women and men to the men on Death Row at Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville. Several of us women and men religious from around state gather to have Mass and a visit with a number of the 30 men on the row. Over these 15+ years we and they look forward to reenergizing our friendships. It has become an important expression for us and our communities of the immense and unconditional value of human life.
            May brings us sunshine, warmer weather, longer days, opportunities for outdoor activities – many marks of freedom from indoor confinement and of happy gatherings. Visiting those who are incarcerated stirs up a great compassion for the inmates because of their lack of freedom to move around freely in and out of doors, to engage in safe activities with persons of their choice, and mostly to be with their loved ones for family events to be grieved or celebrated. I invite you to join me in prayer and advocacy for all who are incarcerated, for the persons they have injured and all involved with the justice system.
          Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Year’s End School Concert Reflection

Yes, God!
Yes, you live.
Yes, you live here and now in your children,
who radiate joy and almost glow especially
 in singing, “I see leaves of green, red roses, too ……..
What a wonderful world!” 
Afterwards, second graders ask: Why the tears, Sister?
They understand that I love their singing;
as does everyone in the audience.
They do not yet, of course, realize their real shining (Merton).
Some day, I hope they do.
Grace them and youth everywhere, O God, with the hope, courage, and all that they need to grow up
                     to live, love and help transform/bless the future for generations to come -
                                          That in all things God may be glorified!

Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mourning the Egyptians in Exodus 15

One particular Charles Schultz cartoon has remained with me through the years. Linus runs up to Charlie Brown, excited over a football game he has just seen. An unbelievable play with “just three seconds to go won the game for the home team. The fans went wild. They were so happy…hugging and rolling on the ground and screaming. It was fantastic!” Charlie Brown looks at Linus and asks in the final frame: “How did the other team feel?”

The other team in Exodus 15 are the Egyptians who have been cast into the sea.
At the Easter Vigil we sing with enthusiasm:
Let us sing to our God…gloriously triumphant.
Horse and chariot you have cast into the sea.
The floods closed over them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.

In the article “Remembering the Egyptians at the Easter Vigil” (Bible Today, Mar/Apr, 2017), Fr. Craig Morrison, OCarm explores the treatment of the oppressor in the Bible and the violence brought down on those who were not the home team. He cites the Jewish tradition of remembering at the Seder meal the suffering of the Egyptians. In the Talmud “the angels wanted to sing praise to God for the victory over the Egyptians. But God rebuked them, reminding them that the Egyptians are also creatures of God.”
I find it a revelation to do prayerful reading of scripture while being aware of my attitude toward the “other team”. During this year’s reading Pharaoh’s doubts came through to me, and I noticed that he asked of Moses: “Pray for me”. I could hope that a more wholesome attitude would carry over into other situations in which it is tempting to dismiss the “other team”.

Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jesus’ Sense of Humor

My favorite story in the New Testament involves two friends, grieving over the death of Jesus, and they are on their way to a nearby town, wondering how on earth could all these bad things have happened? They had such high hopes! And it ended in disaster, a horrible execution, the most vicious one that the occupying Romans could devise.Since most people traveled on foot in those days, it was not unusual for a friendly stranger going in the same direction to join them.
           The stranger was curious to know the news of the day, but the friends were amazed that he hadn’t heard, because it was big news! Even strangers would surely know, for so many travelers had come in for the big Passover celebration. However, they proceeded to tell him, as he questioned them further. He seemed pretty knowledgeable, quoting the prophets of the Old Testament that this was all meant to be; it was part of God’s plan. Who was this man? They were puzzled, yet they could feel a wonderful sense of joy welling up in them as he spoke.
   They approached the town, and were hungry. Surely the stranger was hungry as well, and would he join them for the meal? And it was during that meal that they suddenly realized Who He was, and at that moment He was gone! (Luke 24: 13-24)
I like to think of Jesus with a twinkle in His eyes as He lovingly questioned them on the Way, understanding their grief, caring about them and gently leading them on -  on to the Truth, giving them new Life as they shared the meal. Yes, He is indeed the Way the Truth and the Life! We can discover that for ourselves as we too welcome the stranger, share a meal, and learn what the poor have to teach us.
It seems to me that Jesus’ sense of humor showed up many times in His new resurrected life. He was enjoying it on every occasion, every encounter. He called her name, “Mary!” and she knew! No more tears for her; she had good news to tell and off she ran to do His bidding. (John20:11-18)                                     
To the apostles gathered together he surprises them with a spontaneous visit. They’re so scared he has to assure them: He’s real and he’s hungry! How about a little something to eat? Ghosts do not have a real body. They don’t need any food! (Luke 24:35-48)
He knew about Thomas’s declaration of a need for proof, and I can see Him teasing Thomas, “Come here and take a look, my friend. Now you can believe.” I wonder if Thomas was not only full of awe, but maybe even a little embarrassed, for he was not really scolded by his kind Master, just invited to come closer. (John 20:26-29)
And then there is another encounter with a stranger, fixing breakfast on the shore for the weary fishermen, who were up all night, with no results. How thoughtful of Him! (John 21:1-14)
              This Jesus is just so lovable, and He lives on in His resurrected life, inviting us to share the grief of others, to spread the good news, to feed the hungry, to find Him in so many ways as we practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. How many ways can we find Him today? He’s waiting, hiding, teasing us, daring us to come on and do it!

                                                  Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB