The following is a reflection given by President Jean Anne Zappa, OSU, at the annual Missioning ceremony held in the Motherhouse Chapel on Sunday, August 29, 2021. The theme for this year’s missioning is “Live in Joyful Hope/Vive Con Gozosa Esperanza.”
I hope she will be ok. I hope he is not upset with me. I hope it is alright. I hope Jean Anne doesn’t t talk too long. We use the word “hope” more often than we imagine, and we use it as a verb or wanting a happy outcome.
Pope Francis reminds us that hope is not optimism, but it is believing and proclaiming what you already know, having a certainty. He says Hope is what is; not something you may want it to be. Hope is not afraid to see reality for what it is and accept the contradictions. This is not unlike what St Angela conveys in her writings. Mary Jo Weaver said that St. Angela was not defined by the bleak realities around her. She embraced them, because of her sureness of a loving, faithful God. That is why she could say with confidence: act, move, believe, strive and hope.
Hope is about having a longing experience, not longing for the past or the future, but a hopeful, faithful, and loving focus. As Sister Mercedes Sanchez said in her recent LCWR talk, “we need to discover seeds for the future that are present here because hope gives us wings to connect us with the past and the future.” God has been, and is, accompanying us to be faith-filled people of hope.
The Book of Ruth is a transition book—a bridge between the Old and New Testament, giving hope for the fulfillment of the covenant promise. Ruth knew in her heart God’s promise and that is why she could make that commitment to Naomi. Do you know that in your heart? Ruth and Naomi offer all women hope who look for encouragement and relationships along the journey. The word Ruth means companion. How can you companion others, especially women, and offer hope?
Hope is never still; hope is on a journey with us. Every Yes, we say, is a seed of hope, a gift of presence to another, grounded in the reality of love.
Written on a concentration camp cell wall during the Holocaust were these words: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining; I believe in love even when I cannot feel it. I believe in God even when God is silent.” That, my sisters, is hope.
If there were ever a time when individuals, society, our world, needs hope, it is now. Hope is the one gift each of us individually and collectively can offer and witness to our broken world, to give hope to the vulnerable, the lonely and marginalized. Hope is not something I hold onto for myself. We are called to live in joyful hope as Pope Francis said. Our joyful hope will be a beacon of light to those who long for hope, those who look for hope. Will they find hope in you?
In a recent America Magazine article, theology professor Paul Waddell said: “We minister hope through acts of kindness and attentiveness. We minister hope when we help people find healing for hurts… We minister hope when we affirm the goodness in a person that they may not yet see in themselves. We minister hope when we ask another how she is doing and take time to listen to what she says. We minister hope when we forgive and allow ourselves to be forgiven. We minister hope when love is called forth from us and we gladly give it away. And we especially minister hope when we affirm the dignity of every person who passes in and out of our lives, celebrate their existence and let them know how poorer the world would be without them.”
So today and every day we mission you to go forth in hope and with hope. May your hope be a light for others. Live in joyful hope.
The following is a reflection that Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU, gave at the Jubilee Mass on Sunday, August 29, 2021 in the Motherhouse Chapel, celebrating the 2020 and the 2021 jubilarians.
Who of us was not in awe of that young girl with the yellow coat and red hat who stood before the country, before President Biden and Vice President Harris and recited The Hill We Climb.
Since then, I have read and reread especially the last part of the poem: “For there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it.”
And more recently I have substituted love for light. Yes, there is always love if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it. And in 2021 we need to be brave enough to both see and be the love we profess.
Our readings today tell how us this is so.
Hosea, prophet of the Northern Kingdom, contemporary of Amos, relied on his own experience to understand and then reflect the experience of God with Israel. While many of us have used passages from Hosea for retreats, reflections, and more, feeling the call of a loving God to go into the desert where we might hear God’s message, we need to be reminded that Hosea’s words came from a painful love relationship with his spouse. And his message is one of fidelity in spite of, forgiveness even while knowing, healing relationships over and over again.
“We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be.” Says Amanda Gorman, in The Hill We Climb.
When the countless and unending wars in all parts of the world hit the news; when racial prejudice shows its ugly face over and over in our cities, our grocery stores, and on our streets; when we too often hear he/she is not an American because of the color of her skin or the accent in her voice; when our prison system is used to punish and discriminate rather than look for equitable solutions to economic disparities, we need to be reminded of Hosea’s message.
“I will wed you to myself forever, I will wed you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love, I will wed you with fidelity and you will know Yahweh, you will know God. “
Because of that experience, of betrayal, deception, rejection, you will know the possibilities of love. Acts of love, yes, but also the cosmic reality of love that is, love that is God.
And so, we can better understand what John tells us in the Gospel, we can “remain in”—breathe in, live in, abound in, stay in forever … LOVE. Because it is not just an accumulation of acts of love, but a way of being. It reflects a way of understanding who God is and who we are. Love, it is that simple. It is a being rather than a doing, but it is doing so that we can be.
It is being caught up in that first love affair that we heard as novices being called into the desert. And it is the embracing of the different, reaching out to the men and women who stand on the exits of the interstate saying they are homeless, loveless, hungry, and without family.
It is in the recycling, and the planting of trees, using less hot water and fewer plastics that we are taken from the acts of love to the being of love itself. It is in buying from the local farmer, rather than paying for the transportation of huge quantities of food, that we love the earth and remain in love.
And so, we read and reread from the Gospel of John: Remain in my love. Joy to be complete. “No greater love.” We remain in love when we are conscious of love as being.
I sometimes wonder if it isn’t time that we changed some of our vocabulary when dealing with the enormous divides within our country and world. Naming the political affiliation does not identify you.
Bipartisan does not describe the multiple positions on an issue. “On the other side of the aisle,” is not your geographical identity.
We are never too old nor too few nor too limited to Be in the love of God, to be in the God of love, to embrace that way of being that is love’s communion.
When John said “God is love,” he was speaking from the experience of the foot of the cross, finding the empty tomb, sitting at Jesus’ side. Love was a way of being and being with.
It was because Jesus had experienced in his lifetime communion with the poor, the stranger, the outcast, the men, the women, the children, that Jesus knew what “remain in love” meant.
It was because Jesus had fed thousands, healed lepers, learned carpentry, sat at Mary’s side that he knew what it meant to “remain in love.”
So, when Jesus invites us to “remain in love,” he is talking about a way of being: collective, communal, attached, one to another. In jubilee we discover this. Over and over again. Remain in this global, suffering, non-partisan, multi-lingual, intercultural way of being.
And I return to Amanda Gorman: If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.
For there is always love, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history
Do you remember? I remember. Do you know where you were? I know exactly where I was. Can you recall your feelings? I can.
I am not talking about the day you made your first vows or the day you got married or your first day on a new job or ministry. No, I am talking about Sept 11, 2001. I am talking about that beautiful day of bright sun and Blessed-Mother-blue skies. That beautiful day of a soft morning breeze and a day when we felt secure as we sipped our coffee or drove routinely to our jobs.
I am talking about the day the United States first realized in a new and real way that it was vulnerable. The first day that it realized that while it was a superpower, it was not loved and respected everywhere in the world.
It was the day that we all knew that structures of glass and steel reaching far into the skies, (just like a ship of opulence and beauty that raced full speed ahead into the night,) could be penetrated and brought down in a matter of minutes.
It was also the day we saw the bigness of the human spirit, the day we saw hundreds helping one another, some trained professionals, others ordinary people doing extraordinary things for their neighbors.
This was a day when there were many good shepherds searching for lost sheep in rubble and under stairways and in blocked office buildings. This was the day when many women searched for lost coins in the form of ID tags or watches or rings or anything that would identify a person.
The Gospel calls us not to remember the tragedy of loss…the expensive sheep, the valuable coin…but to remember the joy of the generous shepherd who came back and found the one lost sheep, and the absolute glee of the woman who found the one coin and how both of these folks had to tell their neighbors. The Gospel calls us to be happy for the little lost sheep and for the little lost coin.
And while we will never forget those who were lost in the tragedy of 9/11, we will always rejoice in those who were found because some people, in their generosity, came back to search and to help in any way they could.
But generosity works like that doesn’t it? In the Hebrew scripture we find the story of how, God, with a little persuasion from Moses, decides to be generous and not destroy the Israelites even though God was really ticked at them. And in the letters of Paul, we see him bragging about how generous God was with him even though Paul admits he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and arrogant.
This day…This 20th anniversary of 9/11…calls all of us to be generous with our forgiveness as hard as that might be—this day calls us to remember to pray for our enemies who felt that the only way they could be heard was take the lives of more than 3,000 innocent people and destroy our symbols of wealth and power.
Since Sept 11, 2001, nothing has been the same in the life of our country and in our personal lives. That day left us outraged, afraid, and saddened. Prayers for those killed and for their families came readily to our tongue that day, while prayers for those who did this stuck in our throats and may still be stuck there 20 years later. But pay attention to this Gospel verse that we sometime hear sung. It is so fitting:
“God was entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
Today we remember to pray again for those lost and those grieving and yes, for those who used airplanes as weapons against us that day and changed our lives—for Jesus tells us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’, but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your God in heaven.” What better message of reconciliation?
And on this day of remembering strife among nations, let us also remember the greatness and hope that comes from generosity—that comes from working across national boundaries.
This day of remembering, forgiveness, and prayer reminds me of some of the words of John Lennon’s famous song, Imagine:
“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
If we could imagine this, then we would not have to remember days like Sept 11, 2001…20 years later.
At the sight of them, his heart broke open [with compassion]… —Mark 6: 34
As the tragic events of yesterday begin to settle into your heart, take a moment to ponder what yesterday must have been like for all the families of the service men and women who are currently stationed in Kabul. Use the gift of your imagination to put yourself in their shoes. Get a sense of their worry, anxiety and fear. Then allow yourself to touch the hem of their grief and loss. Once you have a sense of that, do the same for the remaining service people who are going back to work today to ensure the safe passage of innocent women, children and men. Try to imagine what they might be experiencing as the take up their posts – perhaps fear, anxiety, anger, sadness.
When you have a sense of what they might be going through, turn your attention to the Afghan people who are trying to escape their worst nightmare, who fear for their lives and those of their children, who desire what we often take for granted – safety, security, a hopeful future. Try to imagine the experience of being bombed, your ears ringing from the explosion, seeing bodies torn apart by the blast, and then hearing people crying out for help, crying out in pain. Try to imagine the experience of not being able to find family or friends in the chaos afterwards.
Now comes the hard part, allow what you have imagined, all the feelings to enter your own heart and embrace them as your own (as much as that is possible). Allow your imaginings to break open your heart with compassion, then hold all of them – the service women and men, their families and the Afghans – in your heart filled with compassion. Pray for them as you will with the trust that God’s own heart is also broken open with compassion.
Finally, remember Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who do you harm.” Pray too for the Isis-K, the Taliban and other terrorists who want to do us and others harm.
Now, breathe, release it all to God and rest in the heart-knowledge that the Lover of us all holds you, and all those you pray for, in infinite love, compassion and mercy.
Thefollowing is a reflection given by Sister Janet M. Peterworth at the funeral Mass for Sister Mary Brendan Conlon on July 26, 2021.
Many years ago, our congregational leaders asked all of the Ursuline Sisters to plan their funerals and wakes. So being the good Sisters that we were, Brendan and I sat down one night in our living room (somewhere among our two dogs and six cats) and started doing that. She asked me to do the homily at her funeral. I said, “No way, Brendan, I would be a wreck.” So, I thought that was that. When I took her funeral plans out of her file a few days ago, there was my name in the homily line. But I am ready to do this now because aging has not been kind to Sr. Brendan and pain has caused both her and me to ask God to, as she said the other day, “Take me home.”
I have been smitten with the new media series on the life of Christ, “The Chosen.” There is something about this media event that has really appealed to me. So, I have tuned into both seasons. In the last episode of Season two, Jesus is about to give the biggest talk to his life in Capernaum to one of the biggest crowds He has seen. In preparation for the talk, he takes Matthew off with him so that Matthew can take notes and give him some hints about the talk. So, the scene opens with Matthew, his notebook and charcoal stick in hand, and Jesus nervously pacing about. Jesus wants this to be really good. So, He starts with “You are the salt of the earth etc.” and Matthew says no, that won’t get their attention. Then Jesus tries the one about, “You are the light of the world” and the basket thing. Matthew says no again.
Then Jesus says, “Matthew, what I need is a map. I need a map so people will know where to find me.” And Jesus goes off alone and prays. When He returns, He says, “Matthew, write this down. Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers. What do you think, Matthew, is this better?” And Matthew smiles and says, “This is a perfect map. People will be able to find you in the people in this map. Now you can end with the salt of the earth and the light under the basket pieces.”
Now you may not know this, but Brendan loved maps. We never left home without them. We had maps of West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland (the whole East Coast) tucked into the pocket holder of the passenger side door of our white Escape.
So, it is fitting that Sr. Brendan picked the Beatitudes (as we have come to call them) as her Gospel reading, because she has embraced them as her lifelong map. It is through these original teachings of Jesus that Brendan has found Jesus…in the poor, in those who mourn, in peacemakers and in the gentle, in those who have actual hunger and thirst, but those who hunger and thirst for justice as well, and in those who were persecuted in the cause of right. These were hers maps. These people showed her the way to Jesus.
She found Him through teaching young people in their simplicity how to write and love literature with a passion and a purpose. She found him in rescuing helpless and abandoned animals and loving them with gentleness and tenderness. She found Jesus by demanding peace in Vietnam and protesting the wrongs in Central America. She mapped her way to Jesus by way of Nicaragua where she stood in solidarity with the persecuted. These beatitudes, this map, propelled her to West Virginia where she served the hungry, the poor, the mourning, the simply pure of heart. This map led her to arrest and even to jail in the cause of right.
But what about the other readings that Brendan picked for this day? Just as the Gospel reading was appropriate, her choice of Isaiah and Revelations fit her, too. While I don’t think Isaiah knew Gerard Manley Hopkins, I am sure that Gerard Manley Hopkins knew Isaiah. However, Hopkins take a bit of a different approach to the cloud of gloom and how it will be removed. He says, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out like shining from shook foil. It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil.” Hopkins goes on to end his poem “God’s Grandeur” with these lines, “Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
And then Revelations tells us that those who die in the faith of Jesus will rest from their toils and trials for their good deeds follow them into Heaven. This leaves me with the image of Brendan having the gates of Heaven opened to her on July 16, (the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) but I think that these gates are not closed yet. And you know why? Because all the good deeds that are marching behind her are not through the gates yet. They are still coming in on two and four legs and the gates must stay open until they are in. Do you think the gates will ever close?
I want to end with the line from one more poet, Mary Oliver. It is a question that Brendan and I asked each other many times, sometime in jest and sometime seriously, after we read it.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
The following is a reflection given by Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU, at the funeral Mass of Sister Dolorita Lutsie, OSU on July 21, 2021.
Did you know that the Appalachian Mountain range starts in Canada and ends in Alabama? And of course, the two most beautiful places it runs through are Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Mountains are majestic, and beautiful, and they can also be dangerous and daunting. They are safer to look at for their beauty instead of climbing them. We can see the grandeur of God in the mountains, as well as the destruction by humans because of strip mining. And we know Dolorita appreciated and loved the mountains.
The image of mountains is used in many places in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures—in the reading from Judith, we find a hymn where Judith praises God for God’s faithfulness to her so that even the mountains will be shaken because of God’s saving love. God is so faithful that God will work wonders to make sure the people are protected from the enemy.
The Book of Judith explains that this was an uneasy period for the Jews. Its message is teaching the people about what true faith looks like, holding fast to God’s time of salvation even working in a surprise move, through a woman, gentle in her love, strong in her faith, and deep in her courage. God will triumph, strong and steady as the mountains. In the passage chosen by Dolorita, the phrase “fear of the Lord” is mentioned twice, and the Hebrew meaning is awe and wonder of God. It is not a fear of God, but an awe and wonder of God’s fidelity and friendship as majestic as mountains.
Again, a feminine model of God’s wonders is expressed in the Book of Wisdom. The people are seeking hope and mercy during hardship. God rewards the just; God’s plan is beyond our plan and our control; God’s plan is a gift, and we are called to embrace it. Those who trust in God will understand truth and the faithful will abide with God in love because of God’s grace and mercy. The relationship between God and each of us will be as strong as the mountains, unshakeable.
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches by parables, he speaks of nature and farming, and Jesus speaks on the shore, at dinner or on a mountain.
Today we hear about how the seed does or does not take root. What is the level of relationship with God? Some days it may be rocky, some days the relationship may not be as deep as desired, some days the relationship or faith may be blown away or shaken because of a situation or an experience. We know that as we strive to be rooted in God’s love, God’s love is always rooted in us no matter how rocky our faith may be. Remember, God never abandons us no matter what.
So, God uses a woman, an unexpected person, Judith, to protect and save the people. Wisdom tells us to have faith and trust and be steady. Jesus tells us to be rooted so we are able to bear fruit in our lives.
Dolorita, a steady, unassuming person, faithful to her call and her God, steady as she lived her life, focused on God and others, always generous and giving. Her ministries were as varied as her talents- teacher, librarian, bookkeeper, drama and athletics, seamstress, treasurer
She knew a good cup of tea served only in a china cup, and she pursued hobbies and stayed with them—making quilts and dresses for children, and she spoiled us with her pizzelle baking. She knew what she was about, focused on what she was about, because her faith took root, her relationship with God was deep and she bore fruit by her kindness, sharing her gifts for others.
Brother Lawrence, a Franciscan mystic said, “If every moment I am consciously practicing love, doing all things for God’s sake, then I don’t need to worry about different spiritual methods.”
We know Dolorita did all things for God’s sake. Practicing love, she bore fruit, she was rooted in God and now she sits on the mountaintop with her loving God.
And Judith sang:
“Strike up a song to my God with tambourines,
sing to the Lord with cymbals;
Improvise for him a new song,
exalt and acclaim his name.
For the Lord is a God who crushes wars;
he sets his encampment among his people;
he delivered me from the hands of my pursuers.
“The Assyrian came from the mountains of the north,
The following is a reflection given by Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU, at the Mass on June 10, 2021 in the Motherhouse chapel to celebrate the lives of Sisters Lorraine Maginot, Isabel Lehmenkuler, Jane Stuckenborg, Bernadine Nash and Jamesetta Defelice, who all passed away during May and June, 2020.
My great nephew Zachary was born in February during Covid and a snowstorm. Life broke through. When he came home to meet his brother and sister, he was crying, as all newborns do. His 4-year-old sister, Claire knelt down and said to him, “Don’t worry Zachery, it is going to be okay. You are home now with your mommy and daddy and big brother and big sister.”
As I reflected on today’s readings and this Memorial Mass for Sisters Lorraine, Isabel, Jane Bernadine and Jamesetta, Claire’s comforting words to her little brother came back to me.
We know the storms that Job had to endure as he struggled to try to understand his relationship with God during his trials. How does one come to know God when there is silence? In Job’s journey, he comes to terms with the awesome mystery of God and proclaims, “I know that my redeemer lives.” An act of hope; life breaks through. He hears God say, I am with you, it is ok.
In Romans, Paul wrote this letter as a basis for Christian hope, a recognition of the love of God made manifest in Christ Jesus. God is on your side; no trouble of life could make the Christian forget the love of Christ. The question is always, “Where is God? The conclusion is always the same. God’s plan is clear. God is always faithful, on our side.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God—nothing, not Covid, shutdown, isolation, distancing or masks or the fact that five of our sisters died and, we could not be with them in their burial. We know they did not die alone; we know and believe our faithful God was right there with each one of them. Life broke through.
In our loss, we were united, struggling to find meaning and yet strong in our faith for nothing ever will separate us from the love of God. We have the assurance that God welcomed Lorraine, Isabel Jane, Bernadine and Jamesetta. God welcomed them and said, “It is going to be ok—you are home, right here with your loving God.”
In the gospel, Jesus invites and welcomes, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, for in God’s house are many dwellings,” and we know we are all welcomed. John’s gospel was written to maintain belief during troubled times, reminding us of wherever we are, God is with us. We are always in God’s home now or when our earthly life has changed.
“I am the way, truth and life.” The “I am” statement connects with the Old Testament proclamation of “I am who am,” translated as “I am for you.” Jesus reminds us, “I am for you,” reaching out to us individually and communally in an intimate way. We are in the company of our God right here, right now. And even though we could not be with or celebrate the lives of our Sisters when they died last year, we are assured they were and are in the company of our God and the love of Christ.
From “Life’s Lessons Learned” I read, “When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them, but we must live with the love they left behind.” And we are assured that Lorraine, Isabel, Jane, Bernadine and Jamesetta left love behind because they were faithful to their Ursuline life and faithful to their loving God. And God says, “It’s ok, you are home now with me, for nothing can separate you from me.” Life breaks through.
The following is a reflection given by Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU at Saint William Church in Louisville on Sunday, June 13, 2021.
I live in the Chatsworth Apartments just off Frankfort Avenue and Ewing in Louisville. Frequently, as I am waiting for traffic lights to change, I see men and women who are partially sighted or completely blind walking along Frankfort Avenue, or crossing that street, using either a white cane or holding onto a harness that is attached to a Golden Retriever. And I marvel at the confidence and trust that these partially sighted or blind women and men have in a cane or a dog. It must take remarkable courage. It must take remarkable faith in their guides. Truly, they walk by faith and not by sight.
As I have gotten older and have read more and have had more of life’s experiences and perhaps have gotten more cynical, I have come to appreciate the wisdom and value of that phrase from Paul to the Corinthians: “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” Now, I hear it as an admonition, ”Janet, walk by faith and not by sight!”
As I have tried to understand the great mysteries that we have all just lived through in this liturgical year—A resurrected dead person? A body being taken up into a cloud as people watched? A Spirit coming upon human beings in flames and winds, and then those same people being understood by all present in their own native tongue? A God that is three yet one? Simple bread and wine being a real body and blood of someone who said, “Do this in memory of me” centuries ago? A church that was once a tiny mustard seed, but is now a huge bush full of strange and different kinds of birds?? And I must say to myself and to anyone who will listen to me, “I must walk by faith because I am too blind, too dense, too stubborn to grasp it all in my sight. It is all—all about faith for me.
And faith means I do not understand and that I do not need to even try to understand. And that reminds me of a story —whether legend or fact I do not know—but it is a story of the famous St. Augustine, that Bishop of Hippo, who for better or for worse influenced the theology of our Church for a long time. The story goes that one day Augustine was walking along the beach, and he was trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity. He was deep in thought and frustrated because he could not unravel this idea of God. As he walked, he noticed a young boy running back and forth from the ocean’s edge with a pail full of water and emptying the water into a hole that the boy had dug in the sand. Augustine watched as the boy did this over and over. Finally, Augustine said, “Lad, what are you doing with the water you are getting from the ocean?” The boy looked at Augustine with some disdain and said, “Well, I am emptying the ocean onto this hole.” Augustine said, “Son, you cannot do that. It is just not possible.” Then the young boy looked at Augustine and said, “Then neither can you, Augustine, understand the Trinity.” And the boy vanished.
We walk by faith and not by sight.
Over the last 30 or so years, I have been a farmer of sorts. However, unlike the farmer in today’s parable, I do not scatter seed. No, I plant the seeds exactly as it says on the package. If the package says six inches apart, then six inches apart the seeds will be. But scattered or deliberately planted, the outcome is the same. Just like the farmer, I go to bed and get up and go to bed and get up and you know what? The seeds sprout! First a little bit…and then more and more and then there are peas or beans or onions…and I don’t know how that happens.
Do you remember “The Color Purple”—either the book or the movie? As Whoopie Goldberg is walking through a field of purple flowers, her character, Celie, asks the question about purple flowers, “How it do that? How it get that way?” I find I ask that same question every harvest season. “How do those seeds do that? How do they get that way?”
And then when I read today’s Gospel passage, I ask “How can one man, named Jesus, take a kingdom and turn it upside down into a kin-dom and have so many strange and different birds like you and me live in the branches. Well, I guess I just must just walk by faith and not by sight. How about you? Are you with me in the walk?
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
The following is the reflection written by Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU, for the funeral Mass of Sister Raymunda Orth, OSU.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
The wisdom of The Little Prince opens for us an understanding of time. And of relationships.
The scripture today tells us there is time for everything. But neither the scripture nor the Little Prince is talking about “chronos,” the chronological time. No, what we are hearing is “kairos,” that “aha” moment when we know we are connecting, we are with the other. And the Other is with us.
With chronos there is never enough time. And who among us does not carry a calendar so that we can get everything done in “the time that we have.” And how often do we hear or say, “There is no time for ______________ .” fill in the blanks.
With kairos, there is always an abundance of time. It is the time you have “wasted” for your rose that makes your rose so important. Kairos is not measured by the clock, but by the quality of our relationships.
Jesus was good at wasting time. On the hillside with 5,000. In the home of Martha and Mary. On the road to Emmaus. Wasting time was what Jesus did well, and in every piece of bread shared, in every Word broken open, in every step taken, there were more roses that became important.
It is always interesting to me to discover the readings that someone chooses for their departure ceremony. There are clues into the person’s life, their hopes and dreams, their beliefs, and the purpose of their life’s journey.
I was a young student at St. Raphael’s when I took piano lessons from Sister Raymunda. We were given a half hour once a week to slip out of class and go over to the convent for the music lesson. It was a special time. Not earth-shaking. No award-winning performances. But I knew it was my time. Somehow, even as a young girl I knew that Sister Raymunda was “wasting time” with me.
And much later in my life, when I was 18, and when I felt pretty sure that I wanted to explore an Ursuline vocation, I went looking for Sister Raymunda who was then at St. Elizabeth’s. She “took the time,” even into what was then night silence for the Sisters, and she listened.
Over the years there were gaps in our connecting. At one time, she let me know that she never chose “music,” but she loved playing the organ for community liturgies especially in Marian Home. She never chose special education, but she loved working with people with special needs at Pitt Academy.
She credited Sister Regina Marie Bevelacqua’s inspiration and example in that ministry and recalled her influence at Regina Marie’s vigil.
And even beyond her oficial ministries, Sister Raymunda took the time with those who needed to feel like a special rose.
Sister Raymunda was so sure of her relationship with God that, as Isaiah says, “You are precious to me and I love you,” that she wanted everyone else to feel the same. So, she set out to do that in her own quiet, attentive, and grateful way.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
As we remember Sister Raymunda, let us renew our commitment to take time, to waste time, to do as the gospel says, “Do for others what you want, need, hope for them to do for you.”
Pentecost – What a fantastical story! There’s a mighty, rushing wind that is localized in one building in Jerusalem where tongues of fire just happen to hover over the heads of those “praying and waiting” in one room of that building. Jews from sixteen countries miraculously hear the story of God’s wonderous works and revelation through Jesus Christ in their mother tongues, spoken by a ragtag, mostly illiterate, group of men and women from the little backwater territory of Galilee.
“What’s going on?” they ask.
Not much, just the risen Christ fulfilling a promise to send the Holy Spirit to comfort, counsel and deepen the knowledge and wisdom he had revealed to his apprentices while he was with them. This Spirit, the very breath of God, does so much more. She enlivens and energizes, to the point that some of the people who witnessed the events of the original Pentecost laughed it off, accusing the first followers of being “drunk on cheap wine.”
This is the same Spirit that “brooded like a bird above the watery abyss” (Genesis 1:2) before the Creator spoke and brought it all into order and form. It is the same breath of life with which God animated Adam and Eve. It is the same life force that drove Jesus into the wilderness and then back again to proclaim the good news that God’s ultimate reality is right here, right now if we only have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Just as the breath of God enlivened Adam and Eve, this same Spirit came rushing in as a mighty wind and tongues of fire to bring to life a new body, the body of Christ. We are that body of Christ who continues to fulfill the mission of Jesus: to proclaim the good news to the poor of every ilk, to release those chained by oppression and compulsions of every kind, to give sight to those who have eyes but do not see and to heal those “burdened and battered by life.” (Luke 4: 18-19)
Like Christmas and Easter, Pentecost is not a one-time event, but continues in us today. As we remember and celebrate that first Pentecost, let us pray with the body of Christ:
Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of Your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.