Blessed Advent to dearest Sisters in Christ…
A lesson from nursing school was brought to remembrance recently. Our Psych Nursing Professor advised the class to judiciously listen when a person repeatedly uses absolutes, such as “I am seriously the only one in the family that ever takes the garbage out,” or “She always has kind words for everyone else but never, ever for me.” Persistently using “always, never, ever” which contradict reality, generally points to a clouded intellect in perceiving what’s truly what. Anxieties, emotions and hurts blur one’s perspective. You may be familiar with the saying,“I was so angry, I couldn’t see straight.”
Yet while each of us may recall an occasion where we expressed a similar skewed viewpoint, as Christians we bear allegiance to a God Who rightly speaks in absolutes. “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Moreover, He invites us to live in these absolutes of Truth. Perhaps this is in part what makes us fools for Christ (I Cor 4:10)! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4,5). And elsewhere: “(Love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (I Cor 13:7,8). “But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (I Peter 3:15).
Far from confounding us, God’s words are trustworthy and clear. They are not an invitation into winsome wishful thinking. Sometimes our lack of faith or wounds prevent us from believing them. Our Lord boldly persists and beckons us to what is actually fully achievable, not through our nature, but through His supernatural assistance. Our baptismal waters open the door. In the same moment this sacrament summons us to a life of intense love as if entering both the tranquil waters of an amiable lake (it is right to live conveying extravagant love) and the erratic torrents of an uncharted ocean (help! – it is challenging).
We love God, we also love the world. We vacillate and are dizzied in the indecision. LeFebvre’s “A Pensive Moment” captures it perfectly. This young woman, deep in thought, seems to be shedding the clothing of the world in preference to donning a white garment of abandonment to purity which covers her heart. A heart without duplicity. The built-in tension of desire and goal can only be reckoned from within. An intentional prayerful pause is imperative to learn the path of that full, whole life of giving one’s “all”. One breath, one step at a time, where truth can set one free. The fruit of silence. “The measure of love is love without measure.” – St Francis de Sales
Our Lord met us from the beginning with what was essential. In this Advent season we especially are poised to remember: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14). I have long imagined He arrives with grace in one Hand, truth in the other – offering them both in balance of one another. His graces are sufficient to meet the call of living in His truth – His absolute Truth. We are called to “all “ because He calls us!
St John Neumann, the Bohemian-born Bishop of Philadelphia, was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to waste one second of my life.”One second? At times full hours and days seem to slip from my grasp as through a sieve! Yet, as Catholics, there is a way that nothing is lost, not even that second, not even the dizzying tension when we fall short of our “all” for our Lord. The Church encourages us to offer our day at the get-go - as a morning offering, uniting the day ahead to Him. In so doing, nothing is wasted. And in that sincere offering, we assent to live in giving and loving with “all”.
The journey to “all” is not meant to be done solo. As Seven Sisters we have a unique opportunity to learn the joy of offering the extravagance of our love through our Holy Hours and remembering that the offering is done alongside six others the other days of the week (or twenty others in the case of groups for bishops). We also have the great joy of asking that the priests and bishops for whom we are committed to pray, will also come to know and model this great extravagance of love to the communities that they are called to serve. As Seven Sisters let us be in remembrance in that morning offering of “our day” of our Holy Hour. Further, when we enter the Chapel on that day, let us echo St John Neumann in an intentional offering of each second of that Hour for Father’s benefit.
At the beginning of last month, the Apostolate Chaplain, Fr Joseph Johnson, offered a rich reflection at the 5th annual Archdiocese of St Paul – Minneapolis Seven Sisters time of Recollection. He repeatedly challenged us to love with all our heart, soul and strength. Further, he masterfully unfolded how the priest understands his identity most - and thus his full expression of love - through the celebration of holy Mass. He received a standing ovation at its conclusion. It is no wonder that the love and generosity of this priest, long ago observed and admired, sparked the flame that ignited an International Apostolate. NOTE: The talk is available on the Website and copies of theDVD can be easily ordered from there, as well.
During the same day of Recollection, a question was posed from a Seven Sister in attendance regarding a possible pilgrimage for Seven Sisters. Father swiftly suggested France, with an emphasis on the parish home of our patron, St John Vianney in Ars. As a first step toward the realization of such a pilgrimage, a survey has been prepared to learn of sincere interest in such a quest. It is easy and quick. Fr JJ is asking this be completed by the Feast of Immaculate Conception, Dec 8. More info will follow reflecting the level of interest. Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JGRHH7P
Ah, the Advent season is here. A gift we happily embrace each year. A new slate. A new beginning. A new appreciation of silence and anticipation and mission. Let us don our purple (and rose) sweaters and dresses and welcome God’s perfect Will and Way for our lives and for another Church year ahead. May we grow in hope, peace, joy and love in this Advent season, as we anticipate the profound Christmas season ahead where our new-born King awaits! … And while we may not meet Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh, let us meet Him with another triad of gifts: a pledge to love Him will all of our heart, soul, and strength. St Bernard of Clairvaux reminds, “The way of perfection is not traveled by flying but by walking.” As Seven Sisters, may I aptly add: “and in the quiet and on our knees”. What a year it will be to extravagantly give our “all” for Him, Who is our All!
Archbishop Charles Chaput offers a suitable conclusion to this Communique and to this closure of a Church year… “As a bitterly difficult Church year closes, and we wait on the threshold of another beginning – a new Advent season – we need to remember three simple realities. God loves us infinitely and with a Father’s tenderness. God’s ways will be done, with or without our approval. And our choices and actions matter, not just in this life, but forever.”
United in prayer and mission...
that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest...
... eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day.... Pray that I will not 'spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted...' (St Teresa of Calcutta)
... your kind emails and notes and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! Don't stop writing to me. Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
SEVEN SISTERS - in and out and about:
SEVEN SISTERS BOOKLETS: Available as free download from Web site. Hard copies passed on for printing cost of $2 each + P/H. Order thru Web email or email above, with amount desired/ address
NOTES to Anchoresses: If you do not receive a Communiqué within the first 7 days of a new month, contact me directly or through the Web site email. In turn, when received, please pass the Communiqué within one week's time to your group members, if able - or have another in the group do this for you.
REMINDER: Some of you have a genuine gift to encourage participation of others in the Apostolate – do not squelch the zeal! You may have heard that we encourage women to be an Anchoress for only one group. This way the joy of leadership is extended and it is a more manageable role for each Anchoress. The focus and energies remain in the best place: the prayer efforts!
ALSO: While all Seven Sisters are happily remembered in daily prayer, the Apostolate only keeps record of the names and contact information of the Anchoresses. Each Anchoress is responsible to keep record of her group's members and assist in keeping them in the loop of communication. Team work at its best! Please inform of all NEW groups/Anchoress/priest/other changes thru Web site.
RECENT ... and AHEAD on the calendar:
Gratitude to Seven Sisters from St Hubert (Chanhassen, MN) as hostess’ extraordinaire for the 5th Annual Archdiocesan Day of Recollection (3 Nov 2018). Special recognition of tireless and generous Anchoresses, Ann P and Lois V! Along with Archbishop Hebda and 400+ Minnesota Seven Sisters and guests, there were Seven Sisters from Wisconsin, Nebraska and Texas too!
Grateful for a live radio spot (8 Nov 2018) with Julie and Chris, hosts of Catholic Women Now, broadcast on Thursday mornings via Iowa Catholic Radio out of Des Moines. Audio can be found on Web site of station (https://www.iowacatholicradio.com/) and Seven Sisters site.
Grateful to Seven Sisters in Ft Worth, TX, diocese (Anchoress, Catherine B) who planned and presented a half day of Reflection on 17 Nov 2018. Theme: The Priest on Fire.
10 Dec 2018: broadcast of radio interview through RadioMaria. Kathie Duggan show, Sacred Treasures. Recording will be Dec 6. Seehttp://radiomaria.us/
14 Dec 2018: Serra Club (Edina, MN): Informational
20 January 2019: Ave Maria, FL. Theme: Seven Privileges of Praying for Priests
04 May 2019, Magnificat Grapevine Chapter breakfast/testimony: Louisville, TX
10-11 May 2019 – Retreat in Lincoln, NE. Theme: In quietness and trust is your strength
Plans for Georgia visit in the prayer stages.