“They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection”

The following is a reflection written by Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU, for the third Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2022.

“It is something within us that doesn’t let us sleep,
that doesn’t let us rest,
that won’t stop pounding
deep inside. . .

No, brother,
it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep. . .

Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!” 1

Julia Esquivel

These words “threatened with Resurrection,” are the title of a poem written in 1980 by Julia Esquivel, a Guatemalan poet-theologian and peace activist. These words were written during the persecution of peasants, human rights activists, and church workers. The image evokes what David Weiss calls “a holy irony.” He says in his blog “for Christians, to live under near constant threat of death is to be “threatened with Resurrection.”2

And while Julia Esquivel’s words were written 42 years ago, it seems to me that today, right now, we Christians gathered here and around the world are “threatened with Resurrection.” For do not we, too, live under near constant threat of death?  A worldwide plague, a dying planet, wars raging in Europe and Africa, senseless death by guns, racial tensions, you can add your own concerns here. I will wait.

But we do not see death as the end of our story. It was not the end of Jesus’ story, nor was it the end of Peter’s story, nor John’s, nor any of disciples. And so even in our times—times like these— it is not the end of our story. “We go on loving life” (these five words are drawn from Esquivel’s’ poem as well.)  We go on in this “marathon of Hope” because we believe in resurrection, we hold fast to it, it calls us forward. She says:

“Because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.”

In the readings we have just heard there are several people who have been threatened with resurrection. The High Priests are certainly threatened with it—in their own way. Peter and the apostles are threatened with resurrection to the point of flogging because they will not stop speaking about Jesus and His works. And the disciples, who returned to the only thing they knew how to do, were threatened with resurrection—being caught unawares with 153 fish and a charcoal fire and the servant-Jesus offering not a last supper this time, but a first breakfast on the beach—another Eucharistic meal.

And Peter, dear embarrassed Peter, was threatened with a forgiveness that echoed his betrayal. The three questions and Jesus’ response were not lost on Peter, and he was threatened with resurrection, with hope.

And so, we too who have been threatened with resurrection—we go on “loving life,” go on living this “holy irony.” We are threatened with resurrection every time we act when God’s law and human-made-law collide…when we write letters, or send emails or make phone calls, or carry banners in protest…we are threatened with resurrection. Every time we repent of having white privilege, or male privilege or clerical privilege or nun privilege or every time we kneel and ask forgiveness of Mother Earth for polluting her oceans or raping her mountains, we are threatened with resurrection. Every time we ask forgiveness of a life partner or a community member or a business associate, we are threatened with resurrection because we are trying to go on living life. We are running in this “marathon of hope.” And again, as Esquivel says:

“In this Marathon of Hope
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.”

But…who are those others who will relieve us?  They are the young ones who run around this church when we gather, who go out for children’s church to learn the Word as they can. They are the ones who come to our summer peace camps, who are presented for baptism in this sanctuary, who live at Casa Latina, who come to the clinic in our sister parish in Esquipulas. They will relieve us; they will have the strength to reach the finish line which lies beyond our death.

            But, I wonder, can we accept Esquivel’s challenge now when she cries out:

“No, brother,
it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep. . .

Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!”

  1. Julia Esquivel, Threatened with Resurrection: Prayers and Poems from an Exiled Guatemalan (Brethren Press, 1982)
    https://muse.jhu.edu/article/41552
  2. Threatened with Resurrection David R. Weiss – May 16, 2019, The Gospel in Transition #25
    https://davidrweiss.com/2019/05/17/threatened-with-resurrection/

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jn 21: 1-19

Holy Thursday: Lessons in Love, Peace and Joy

By Ginny Schaeffer, director of the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality

…love one another as I love you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.
I have told you these things so that my joy might
be in you and your joy might be wholly mature.

John 15:12, 14:27, 15:11

Jesus was not blind or stupid. Unlike the religious leaders he once busted for not being able to read the signs of the time, Jesus sees the horrific storm that is about to break over him. He has become too popular with the people. He has evaded the traps set by the Pharisees and embarrassed them for the last time. He has become too much of a threat to their authority and what little power they believe they had. The High Priest even talked himself, and the others, into believing that Jesus must die to save Israel.

Jesus must also have been certain about how he would die. The Jews did not have the authority to execute anyone. They had to go to the Romans. Too many times, as he entered a town or city, he had witnessed the horrors of crucifixion. The Romans wanted to make sure everyone knew the fate of whoever crossed them; so, they would line the roadways with those they crucified for everyone to see and hear their cries for mercy, to beg for death.

Jesus saw what was coming. What did he do? He did not run away in the night, back to the hills of Galilee. He did not try to form an army of believers to fight off the threat. He gathered with those he loved the most and remembered how God, his Abba, delivered the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. He ate. He drank. He heard the story of deliverance. He instructed, consoled and promised.

It boggles my mind that one who believes they are about to suffer so horrifically can speak of love, peace and joy but, that is exactly what Jesus does.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises his followers a peace that surpasses understanding, a peace that is not fragile like the peace that governments and societies promise. The word Jesus used is shalom and means much more than the absence of conflict. “To wish someone shalom is to wish him or her the blessing of wholeness and integrity.”[i] To experience shalom is to live an undivided life, to live from your true self, authentically. There is no struggle between the facets of who we are. We are made whole. This is the reason the peace that Jesus offers is so different from the peace the world offers, it is not dependent at all on external circumstances.

He also promised joy. Joy! He is about to be betrayed, tortured and executed and he’s talking about joy.

Once again, this is not joy like the world offers, a fleeting happiness that comes from the purchase of something we have convinced ourselves we need, the achievement of some imposed goal or the victory of our hometown sports team. The joy that Jesus offers is an exuberance for life that is whole, mature and complete. Like shalom, it is not dependent on external events or experiences. Neither is it a pseudo-joy some seem to exhibit in difficult times as a defense against disappointment and pain. The joy that Jesus promises runs deep. It flows from within even when we suffer and grieve.

The promises of peace and joy that Jesus offers are wrapped up in his command to love one another. For three years he has been teacher and Master to his apprentices and now he is leaving them with his final instructions:

Make yourselves at home in my love.
Love one another the way I have loved you.
No greater love has anyone than to lay down their live for another.

John 15:9, 12, 13

Time and again Jesus demonstrated that the love he spoke about is much more a verb than a noun. Not dependent on how we feel, it is all about how we treat one another, what we do for one another, even when it requires sacrifice. It is made real through acts of kindness, generosity, inclusivity, acceptance, forgiveness, patience and sharing what we have so others have what they need.

When we choose love, peace and joy take root in our live. When we make ourselves at home in the One who is LOVE we allow ourselves to heal into wholeness, grow in integrity and allow an exuberance for life to blossom within us.


[i] Harold S. Kushner, Living a Life That Matters (NY: Anchor Books, 2001), p. 89.

Connecting Generations

Tandem, an organization founded by twins Arianna and Lorenzo Martinelli of Louisville, matches and facilitates interaction between seniors and high schoolers. They are currently developing an app, Tandem, that will have its third release in April. They state that their mission is to create a safe and accessible environment for high schoolers to benefit from seniors’ mentorship while seniors stay connected with the younger generation. Several Ursuline Sisters of Louisville are participating in the program, and Arianna, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, was recently honored with the Ursuline Education Network Service Award. The following is her essay submitted to the Ursuline Education Network, and published here with her permission.

It was a Saturday evening in May of 2020 when I swiveled around in my black desk chair, my earbuds cord tangled around my forefinger and my phone resting on my knee. While it appeared that I was stuck inside, quarantined with the rest of the world, I was instead listening to stories from decades past. My 90-year-old grandmother was sharing her experience sheltering from the Louisville Flood of 1937. Her story captivated me: a 6-year-old girl fleeing from her home as it was overtaken by the turbulent waters to the safety of the Ursuline Sisters’ East End campus. Just as vividly as the devastation and loss of the flood, she fondly recalled the kindness and love of the Sisters. 

Over our frequent calls, I began to understand not just the facts and figures of my grandmother’s life, but the vibrant stories that constructed its rich tapestry. She passed on to me moments full of life and wisdom, and we both found great joy in companionship. Yet, as the pandemic raged on, my lively grandmother became isolated. Church services, family dinners, and bridge games were canceled, and on our calls, my inquiries about what she had done that day were met with vague answers such as “not much” instead of her usual description of community events and new learnings. This change in my grandmother made me wonder: was she the only one? 

My grandmother was not the only one. Elderly loneliness, an enduring plague among the aging population exacerbated by the pandemic, was touching the world. In Louisville, assisted living home residents eat alone in their rooms, seniors forget the sound of their own voice, and the elderly even die from health complications brought on by loneliness.

Tandem, a fiscally sponsored nonprofit, works to emulate my meaningful relationship with my grandmother through the connection of senior citizens and high school volunteers. From Sacred Heart Academy and Saint Xavier High School (my co-founder and twin brother’s high school), I found eager high school volunteers, many of whom had elderly relatives and deep compassion for senior loneliness.

Since June, Tandem has facilitated weekly 30-minute phone conversations between 12 pairs, enabling over 200 hours of connection. While Tandem high schoolers earn service hours through Tandem, they continue to come back after fulfilling their service requirements for the meaningful relationship with their senior, intergenerational connections driven by shared wisdom, gratitude, and empathy. Seniors including Ursuline Sisters and Xaverian Brothers recount their stories and learnings from life, and high schoolers share their aspirations and different perspectives. 

As Tandem grows, we have big dreams. Our team is working to develop a mobile application to facilitate the connections, and we hope to expand to high schoolers and seniors across the nation. At the end of October, my grandmother, Tandem’s first senior and cheerleader, passed away. She leaves behind a granddaughter, forever grateful for her love, support, and Saturday conversations.

More on Tandem:

https://spectrumnews1.com/ky/louisville/news/2022/01/04/louisville-teens-developing-tandem-app-to-connect-their-generation-with-their-grandparents–generation

The Annunciation and Listening

By Sister Ruth Ann Haunz, OSU

In a Face Time visit with my niece, she shared her frustration with her 3-year-old daughter, Ellie. “She doesn’t listen,” she exclaimed. In response to her dad’s attempt to talk to her about her aversion to listening to her parents, she declared that her batteries were dead! She just could not hear. In further conversation, she admitted that her imaginary batteries were turned off.

Ellie’s story urged me to recall Mary’s deep listening to the angel Gabriel and her trust in God’s voice experienced in Gabriel’s’ words. Mary also trusted God’s voice in her cousin, Elizabeth, and in Joseph, her husband. In every life experience, she recognized God’s voice and presence. Her ear batteries, more appropriately her heart batteries, were fully charged.

Ellie has yet to learn about keeping her imaginary batteries charged. What about us? How much charge is in our batteries? Are we listening for God’s voice in our life experiences, in the COVID-affected world, in family members who are ill, in the cries from Ukraine? Perhaps God’s invitation in Lent 2022 is to recharge our heart batteries and contemplatively listen for God’s voice in the refugee, the suffering poor, the lonely aged, the racist. God’s voice is in every encounter.

Mary was incredibly surprised by the angel’s message. Will our attempt to genuinely listen for God’s voice in our life events inform our hearts? Let’s check our batteries for their heart-charge and be attentive to the surprises we may hear. Maybe we will be as surprised as Mary was with the unimaginable virgin birth.

Artwork by JenNortonArtStudio.com

Could We Start Again, Please?

By Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU

Fourth Sunday of Lent

“Could we start again, please?” You may recognize this line as a title of a song in the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. Mary Magdalene and Peter want to start over with Jesus and His mission. They were both having second thoughts. It had gone too far for them. They were not sure anymore. I suggest that the title from this song could be the takeaway line of this Sunday’s scriptures. “Could we start again, please?”

We read in our first reading that the Hebrews now had a new leader in Joshua. Because none of the men and boys of Israel who had been born during the time of the Exodus from Egypt were circumcised, that ceremony had to be done again before the Hebrews entered the Promised Land. They were true Hebrews now. Their reproach had been removed. After 40 years—give or take a few—they had crossed the Jordan River and were getting ready to settle in the land of milk and honey. The Hebrews are now asking, “Could we start again, please?” Could we start being our own people, our own nation?” “Could we be free of Egypt and desert living and manna and now eat of the produce of the land?” Are they saying to each other and to their God, “Could we start again, please?”

And then there is Paul who says, “We are all new when we start again with God through Christ who has reconciled us to God.” And there we stand asking, “Could we start again, please?” And if we ask God if we can start again, how must we become ambassadors who go among others asking—when things don’t seem to be going so well— “Could we start again, please?”

And can’t you hear all three characters in the Luke’s gospel say, “Could we start again, please?” There is the youngest child (who was a snarky kid) asking for an inheritance even before the parent was dead. That young adult child comes back—an absolute wreck—asking tentatively, “Could we start again, please?” And, then there is the older child, full of resentment, manifesting sibling rivalry at its best, pleading in a hidden way, “Could we start again, please? and maybe this time with some recognition for me…a party maybe?”

And the parent pleading with both adult children, “Could we start again, please?” I didn’t know that I was taking on ‘the hardest, most complicated, anxiety-ridden, sweat-and-blood-producing job in the world.’” (Virginia Satire, Peoplemaking, 1972) “I just did not know.” And so, it is the parent who asks, “Kids, could we start again, please?”

“Could we start again, please.” I have said those words many times in my life. I have said them in my family life, my professional life and certainly in my 67 years in community life. How about you? Have you said them to a family member, a child? a life’s partner? To a business colleague?

 And don’t we want to say those words now to our Mother Earth whom we are destroying? To capitalism and an economic system gone awry? To those who were captured into slavery those many years ago? To our indigenous siblings whose culture we wrecked? “Could we start again, please?”

And is that what Pope Francis is saying when he speaks of a synodal church? “Could we start again, please?” Could we all reexamine the call of Vatican II? Could we all take special care to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, LGBTQ people, divorced and remarried Catholics, abused persons? Is the institutional Church saying to those excluded, “Could we start again, please?

And so, what do you think? Could we start again? I am reminded of the responsorial psalm we sang on Ash Wednesday. The psalmist said, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.” And we sang that mournful refrain “Be merciful, O God, for we have sinned.” In other words, O God, “Could we start again, please?”

The LORD said to Joshua,
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”

While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho,
they celebrated the Passover
on the evening of the fourteenth of the month.
On the day after the Passover,
they ate of the produce of the land
in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain.
On that same day after the Passover,
on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased.
No longer was there manna for the Israelites,
who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.

Jos 5:9a, 10-12

Brothers and sisters:
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

2 Cor 5:17-21

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”

Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Returning… Regresando…

Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU, left, holding gate door for students returning to in-person classes at Saint Angela Merici School in Callo, Peru, March 7, 2022.

On March 7, Saint Angela Merici School in Callao, Peru, reopened to in-person learning after TWO YEARS of being closed due to the pandemic.

The Ursuline Sisters of Louisville founded St. Angela Merici School in 1965, which currently serves students preK-high school. Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU, serves as the mission promoter at the school. The following is a reflection by Sister Sue on March 7, opening day.

Since December, we were all telling each other that when we return to school, things would be different. We were not just returning. We would be engaged in a listening and welcoming  effort unlike any other. Our students, our families, and our faculty had lived through the pandemic, or better still, survived the pandemic.

Many lost parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, siblings. Many lost work and were challenged to redefine “providing for their families.”

And even for those who survived those losses, there was still the experience of isolation, separation, fear, boredom, uncertainty.

And we were not just returning to what had been. After two years of little more than Zoom contact, we were “returning” to something new and different. No hugs, no embraces, a distance of a meter between us, handwashing before entering the classroom, alcohol wipes at breaks. No, this was not a returning to, but a re-creating of something we had known.

But March 7 came, and at 7:30 a.m. doors were opened. Little by little, with the staggered scheduling of return, students entered the school grounds. Some were indistinguishable because of the masks, some because they were a lot taller, a little heavier, but the smile that was hidden by the mask was clearly visible in the eyes.  

Parents waited outside until they could see their sons or daughters move out of sight and up the stairs to their classrooms. My heart beat faster and louder as I received  their greetings, and their fist-to-fist “hello.” Parents waved from a distance. Teachers and staff personally welcomed each one and assisted with the handwashing.

There was a sense of “it is good to be back together,” even though all of us are aware that nothing is the same.

Teachers are still struggling with hybrid education. All of us are learning new routines. The challenges are still felt. But as many of the parents repeated to me, “Saint Angela is not just a school, it is a family.” And that remains “the same.”

Colegio Parroquial “Santa Angela Merici” #Bienvenidos

A Different Kind of Lent

By Ginny Schaeffer, director of the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality

What if we view this desert time of Lent as not just a time to reflect or

to lament or to confess or to fast, but a time where we learn to be free.

Megan Westra

Two years ago, we lived through a different kind of Lent. In order to keep ourselves and each other safe from a virus that humanity had no natural immunity or a vaccine against we stayed safe at home. Restaurants, bars, all non-essential businesses and even churches were shuttered, closed to prevent the spread of a novel virus that killed efficiently and prolifically. We watched refrigerated trucks pull up behind hospitals and act as temporary morgues because hospital and city morgues were overwhelmed. Our nursing homes became killing fields, not through any fault of the staff; it seemed this virus had an affinity for the elderly and others with certain pre-existing conditions.

That Lent was a lonely season. There were none of the usual rituals and trappings – no fish fries, no Stations of the Cross and even the Triduum and Easter were observed in the privacy of our own homes via Facebook and television. Families did not gather for a great feast in order to protect each other, especially grandma and grandpa.

We have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. We have lost loved ones and grieve their passing. We have lost months of being together celebrating birthdays, weddings and graduations. We have lost dreams and plans for the future. Deep, old wounds have erupted, and we have lost our ability to be blind to injustices, inequities and deep divisions.

After two years we are in a much different place thanks to vaccines, treatments and the natural immunity of those previously infected. We were all looking forward to getting back to our old normal with spring, Lent and Easter with fish fries, Stations-of-the-Cross, dyed Easter eggs and family feasts. Yet, like two years ago, we face another existential crisis.

Just days before Ash Wednesday, the president of Russia did the unimaginable and invaded a sovereign country, bringing war to the European continent for the first time in over 75 years. The Russian army is now indiscriminately bombing civilian targets: apartment buildings, suburbs, hospitals and schools. Over 1.5 million Ukrainians have become refugees, seeking asylum and safety in neighboring countries. Those who chose to stay behind are hunkering down in basements and subway tunnels. Teachers, lawyers and housewives have created makeshift assembly lines to build Molotov cocktails. Civilians are taking up weapons to protect their homeland. Western countries, including the U. S., have imposed crippling economic sanctions against Russia and are providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. In reaction to the resistance against his invading army and the united response of much of the world, Russia’s nuclear forces have been placed on high alert.

Once again, we are experiencing a different kind of Lent where suffering and death are front and center. The virus we face this time is not new to us. It is a pathogen we know all too well – hatred, greed, power, revenge and fear. It is a virus that infects all of us at one time or another whether we are willing to admit it or not.

In light of this “different kind of Lent,” how are we to respond? Do we simply observe Lent as we always have, or can we really engage with it? Do we just go back to our old normal that we have all been yearning for or is there another invitation—to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and face our own demons and temptations?

During Lent we are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. What if we looked beneath the surface and took these spiritual practices to heart? Perhaps, instead of “saying our prayers” we might actually dare to sit quietly and honestly before God and allow God to reveal God’s self to us. Instead of “giving up” candy or beer, we might take a look at what blocks us from deeper relationships with God, ourselves and others and fast from those things. Instead of dropping our extra change in the church basket we look for ways to give of ourselves, our time, energy and talents to those in need; or, at least, choose kindness and understanding. We are living through yet another “different kind of Lent.” It is up to us what we will make of it.

#prayforukraine #Lent #giving

Challenging Ourselves This Lent

By Sr. Agnes Coveney, OSU

By this time in Lent, Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday are past. We are settling into the pattern of Lent—the Scripture readings, the spareness of this liturgical season, and the Lenten practices that we all do our best to adopt in these weeks. I remember a friend who worked with me when I was a newly vowed Ursuline Sister. My friend asked, since I was a Sister, if it was true that I could no longer eat candy bars or succumb to any other rich, favorite food whenever I wanted. I told my friend that, the hard thing was that we could eat candy bars, chocolate, and other good foods. Those kinds of rules weren’t set for us. Instead, the more difficult thing was setting my own healthy, temperate practices.

I still think of that question when I begin my human approach to Lent, working out what will be my Lenten practice. Will it be giving up some flavorful food as my friend imagined—always a good way to be mindful of those who don’t have food options?

Or will I challenge myself and ask what can I, in my daily interactions, do to be generous or kind or an advocate for social justice?

The readings for Monday of the first week of Lent call me, call all of us, to go the distance in Lent. First, there are the fundamental, essential commandments of God (Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18). As Lent begins, God’s rules for a faithful life are set before us to ponder quietly, to read to ourselves, to pray again.

Then, the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 25: 31-46) puts before us Jesus’ description of the judgment time, and the utter, stark question: When did we see our sisters and brothers hungry, ill, ostracized, ridiculed, isolated, or imprisoned and do nothing to help?

God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings. Let’s contemplate these Scripture readings. Let’s be like St. Angela and sit at the feet of Jesus and let him teach us our Lenten way this year.

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,

and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,

naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Mt 25: 31-46

Following in the Steps of Jesus through Lent

By Ginny Schaeffer, director of the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality

You are my beloved.

—Mark 1:11

We spend most of Advent preparing for Christmas – decorating, buying gifts, baking, wrapping gifts. We spend most of Holy Week preparing for Easter – shopping, coloring eggs, baking. All of this for just one day. Granted, these are the two great feast days of the Church and should be celebrated with rituals, remembrance and loved ones gathered around a table laden with food.

Have you ever thought about preparing for Lent? That’s a whole season – forty days. You might think, “Yeah, but what’s there to prepare for? It’s just forty days of giving up something I enjoy – candy, beer, Facebook, meat on Fridays.”

There is, of course, much more to Lent than what we “give up.” But I am getting ahead of myself here.

We base Lent on the “40 days” Jesus spent in the wilderness, tempted by the evil one, without food, alone, with only wild animals to keep him company. How did Jesus prepare for this “retreat?” He didn’t pack any bags. He didn’t seem to make any arrangements. We don’t even know if he said goodbye to anyone. The scriptures tell us he was driven by the Spirit – and we are not talking Uber here – into the wilderness.

So how did Jesus prepare? Perhaps the better question might be “How was he prepared?”

The scriptures tell us that just prior to Jesus’ leaving everyone and everything behind to enter the wilderness, he had a profound experience that was literally life changing. He was baptized by his cousin John; and, as he came up out of the water “…he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, he heard a voice: ‘You are my son, chosen and marked by me love, pride of my life.’” (Mark 1: 11)

How might Jesus’ experience in the wilderness been different had he not been rooted and grounded in the absolute, infinite and unconditional love of the One he called Abba? Hunger and loneliness can leave us in a very weakened state. What empowered him to go toe-to-toe with the evil one and not cave? Is it possible that Jesus’ power was the deep heart knowledge, not just head knowledge, of God’s love and his identity as the beloved son of Abba?

And, what if Jesus’ experience of God’s unconditional love and the words he heard claiming him as God’s beloved, chosen and marked by Infinite Love aren’t also meant for each one of us? Not that we must have the same experience as Jesus. I’ve never had that kind of experience. I have never seen the sky split open and God’s Spirit alight on me like a dove. I have, however, known God’s love through the actions, the kindness, the words, the presence of other human beings, the beauty and grandeur of nature and even in the stillness of my own heart.

It is the experience of knowing in our heart-of-hearts that we are each loved unconditionally by the One who is love. It is knowing in our heart-of-hearts that each one of us is a beloved child, a direct descendant of the Source of all that is, was and ever will be. It is knowing in our heart-of-hearts that each one of us is chosen and marked by the Lover of us all and that each one of us is the pride and delight of the Eternal.

As we enter this season, this journey that is Lent, let us do so grounded and rooted in the reality of who we are, remembering that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s love and that we are, indeed, God’s pride and joy.

Invitation

  • Each day recall an experience of being loved. Remember it in as much detail as possible. Allow the feelings of love you experienced then to well up again within you. Then, remind yourself that God is the source of all love.
  • Begin each day writing these words in your journal or on a piece of paper you will carry with you throughout the day:

I am God’s child, created in the image of and reflecting the nature of

the Divine.

I am chosen and marked by the love of God.

I am the pride and delight of God.

         Allow yourself to ponder these words, soaking in their reality like you would

         a hot bath, relaxing and giving into the truth of who you fundamentally are.

  • Do something kind and loving towards another. It doesn’t have to be big, and it wouldn’t hurt if it was anonymous. Remember, “It is in loving that we are loved.”

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him,
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
“I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written
            You shall worship the Lord, your God,
                        and him alone shall you serve.
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
            He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
 and:
            With their hands they will support you,
            lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says,
            You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.

Lk 4:1-13

Prayer for the People of Ukraine and Russia

We ask you to join us in praying for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia. If you do not pray, then please join us in sending thoughts for peace, reconciliation and healing.

Lover of us all,

Our hearts are so heavy and breaking with the news that Russia has invaded Ukraine.

We come to you as your children praying for our brothers and sisters, holding them with love in our hearts.

We pray for the people of Ukraine whose nightmare has come true.

May their desire to live independently, as a self-governing people in peace be their guide.

May their resolve to face this threat be strengthened.

May those who suffer injury, loss of life, loved ones, livelihood and property be comforted and healed.

May their leaders be guided by wisdom, without animosity and the desire for what is good for all.

We pray for the people of Russia whose nightmare has come true.

May their desire to live in peace be their guide.

May they stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people who, like them, yearn only to live their lives as best they can.

May those who suffer injury, loss of life and loved ones be comforted and healed.

May the hearts and minds of their leaders be transformed from hostility to peace, from conquest to familiarity and guided by a desire for what is good for all.

We pray for world leaders and ourselves.

May the desire to live our lives in peace be our guide.

May we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, providing support however we can.

May we hold the people of Russia in our hearts “with malice towards none and charity for all.”

May the leaders of the world be guided by wisdom, without animosity and a deep desire for the good of all.

May we face the future willing to sacrifice what we have so that others may have what they need.

We pray in the Spirit that calls each of us to love one another as we have been loved.      
Amen.


—By Ginny Schaeffer, director of Angela Merici Center for Spirituality

#prayforpeace #PrayforUkraine #PrayForRussia