Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holy Darkness of Desire

Desire little in this world, and what you do desire,desire that very little.
Abandon yourself, surrendering gently, to the very loving Providence of God.
Maxim 17

In this season of minimal light, snow bright and wind chill, we are called within to sit with these gifts of nature. This morning I sat in the darkness, enticed by the tiny speck of the light from a full moon fading in the morning dawn. This being the time of shortening days, I will soon be at home, awaiting the dusk, then twilight and before long the moon rise of the winter solstice. Such moments invite Holy Communion.

This is one of the many gifts that come when I abandon myself and surrender gently to the loving Providence of God. Such moments usher in an awesome hush! Desiring little, I am graced with with an abundant awareness of the fullness of Life.

As I delight in the bright  snow and go out into the cold, I am grateful for the humanity I share with all in this world. I am grateful for the capacity to carry the suffering of many within the enlarged space of my heart that  has opened to their presence in the silence of prayer. My one desire is to be one with them.

God so loved the world….. Jesu Joy of All desiring….. Mary, Shadow of Grace…. Joseph, the one who desired little in the world. You surrendered to the loving providence of God. We honor and receive this Holy Communion. May we all recognize our capacity to embrace one another as you have embraced us.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moving with Grace

Never go ahead of grace by an imprudent eagerness,

but quietly await its movements, 

and when it comes to you

go along with it 
with great gentleness, humility,

fidelity, and courage.

October days beckon me to take a road less traveled. 

One of my favorite people is my "Little Sister" to whom I have been a "Big Sister" for eight years. She is sixteen. On an early October Sunday we took a ride to Pownal, VT and discovered a hidden road.  Most of our time was spent in silence. We were in the world of apple orchards, horses and beauty beyond our imagining.

This past Sunday we decided to take a little walk. The walk took us and we went along with it to the magnificent Natural Bridge State Park in North Adams.  

Here we were welcomed to spend time in the presence of a marble carved arch formed by the force of glacial melt 13,000 years ago. The area rests on 550 million year old bed rock marble.

Growing up is quite a challenge for my "Little Sister" and accompanying her has called forth from within me great gentleness, humility, fidelity and courage. We have discovered that walking in nature, often in silence, is providing a new way for us to communicate. 

As far as I am able, I will companion her through these adolescent years and quietly await the movements of grace that come to us.

I value the counsel of Maxim 84.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In Nature, Grace and Glory!

... in nature, grace, and glory for time and for eternity ...

Autumn in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts is glorious. As over many a country road I travelled these past two weeks, I was taken out of myself by the beauty, while invited from within to stop and take it all in. Are not earth, mountains and sky also neighbors that seek relationship with us?

I stopped to photograph this scene in Cheshire on my way to Mont Marie last week. Such presence speaks to me of nature, grace, glory and fidelity. It also speaks to me of time and eternity.Father Medaille tells us in Maxim 40:   "Love nothing that is not eternal."

Our Sister Andrea touched our lives in a glorious way this past week as she fulfilled to the end her promise to live out Maxim 73:  " Live out your life with one desire only: to be always what God wants you to be in nature, grace, and glory, for time and for eternity."

As we shared memories at her wake service we were brought into the beginning years of her life as a Sister of St. Joseph in Fall River. I was particularly touched in hearing that when she was anointed a day of two before she died, that she opened her eyes and told those present that she wanted to tell about her vocation. She spoke of how at age 5 she had heard God to speak to her heart saying, "You  are mine you belong to me." At age 12  she experienced God again speaking to her as she received Holy Communion saying,"You belong to me and I want you to be a Sister."  She entered religious life at age 16 and was a sister for close to 80 years! It was evident in the sharing that she influenced many people from her earliest days until the very last.

Like the autumn trees, Andrea's beauty, in the midst of much suffering and joy, caused us to stop and take in her life among us. It is a blessing to know that we are one, in nature, grace and glory throughout eternity.
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Glory Be!

GLORY is the Radiance of God! Each of us houses this glory. Sometimes it shines brightly. Sometimes it is overshadowed. Occasionally, like a rainbow, it suddenly appears drawing forth deep joy in the hearts of those who see it. We express appreciation for the honor and opportunity to experience it.

In late August our Community of St. Joseph blessed Sr. Linda Wilk and sent her on mission to Sheltering Wings orphanage in Burkina Faso, West Africa. There were tears of awe shed as we saw before our very eyes the wonder of this quiet unassuming woman radiant with a courageous response. In October she will cross the globe to be with children awaiting her return, having visited them for a few summers.

Sisters of St. Joseph have inherited a book of 100 “Maxims of the Little Institute” which was written by Jean Pierre Medaille to guide the inner lives of our early community in the seventeenth century. Sister Marcia Allen, CSJ, tells us that they offer at best a fleeting glimpse of a real life that is fundamentally mystical. They bear the shape of relationship with God, with neighbor and with self.

As I reflect on Maxim 25, I relate to the happiness that so many have experienced in the choice Linda has made. I am so happy to see God’s glory shining through her. She is a living example of something Thomas Merton has said.

“There is no way of telling people they’re walking around shining like the sun.’”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

“They shall come back rejoicing, carrying seeds to be sown”

Live out your life with one desire only...
In this year of my golden jubilee, I gifted myself with a study and retreat time at Manna House in Concordia, Kansas. Designed for Communities of  St .Joseph, “Bearers of the Tradition, Phase Three” has allowed us the luxury of returning to the garden where this Community of the Great Love of God was seeded. Through the guidance of two generous caretakers of these preserved seeds, Marcia Allen and Janet Lander, nine of us have spent concentrated time deepening our understanding and awareness of the gift we have been given in our vocation to embrace this charism of loving union with all that is.  
Through the films The Way, Avatar, Of Gods and Men, and I Am, our consciousness of the core elements of our spirituality were right there before us, inviting us to see how it is lived out in our present circumstances. Our mission today is to continue to join with others in unfolding this awareness that in God, We are all One. 
We spent our time in contemplative reflection and conversation on mysticism, our faith journey and the dynamism of desire. Our skilled guides broke open for us  Medaille’s understanding of the Trinitarian relationships of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Jesus, Mary and Joseph and our human response to living out of these relationships in our world today and into the future.    
During our retreat we are walking through the Maxims, focusing each day on one of these six precious relationships.
To be always what God wants you to be,
in nature,grace and glory
for time and eternity.
Maxim 73
This morning as I was walking the labyrinth here at Manna House, I entered, aware of having received these Maxims as a young postulant 50 years ago. We were told to memorize them.  I smiled as I pictured us walking side by side and behind Sr. Catherine Mary, our dear Kate, as she patiently listened to us recite them from heart. She was like a mother duck and we her ducklings. Daily, at meal time, we heard one of them recited. We were given a formulary of prayers and in the back were those 100 maxims.
As I walked, I became aware of how I have seen them lived out in myself and others. I forgave the many times we failed to live them. I recalled faces of sisters I have known, some alive and others deceased, who
image particular ones..
I came to the Center and paused a long while, giving thanks for the past 50 years and the gift of community. I hold as a treasure these 100 maxims and the potential they have for renewed love that is being called forth from us today.
As I turned, to return I was conscious that I still have some time left to live out my vocation and that I was once again offering my life to God. As I walked, I could hear myself singing, they shall some back rejoicing, carrying the seeds to be sown.
So I return carrying the 100 seeds of the Maxims.  

My intention for continuing this blog is to offer the seeds of these maxims. My hope is that you, the reader, will receive them and respond so that we can continue to nurture one another in living out our mission in the Community of St. Joseph, day by day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Welcome Summer

"And what is so rare as a day in June?"asks James Russell Lowell.

It takes a certain presence to notice that something rare is on the horizon. We notice a change from the ordinary way things have been. Our senses awaken us to this newness. We are invited to enter in to the emergence of the mystery of this call. Please take time to notice.

Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Every now and then there arrives what we call a perfect day. This last day of spring opens wide to welcome summer on this, the longest day of the year. We are invited not only to observe and absorb but to consciously participate in this awesome arrival. Notice the beauty of the new that is coming forth in your life at the threshold of summer.

Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
Listen to the music in the air. Take in the buzz of the bees and the lawn mower. Interpret the birdsongs and be prepared this year for the rare sounds of the cicadas. Ask yourself what heaven is trying to tune you into. Slow down and be surprised.

And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Summer lends itself to contemplative receptivity, once we find the rhythm and the pace. May you make moments this season to be still and receive the depths of your own beautiful being. May you discover new blossoms emerging from the roots of your vocational call. May you find the courage to let go of that which keeps you from experiencing the new. May you know the oneness of heaven and earth as they know you.

Whether we look, or whether we listen,

Our looking makes a big difference in the way things emerge. Our listening has more capacity than we could ever imagine. May you know this to be true from you own depths of perception.

We hear life murmer or see it glisten.
Please let us know what life is whispering to you and what you notice glistening in religious life these days. Something is being revealed through all of us and we need to hear from one another.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It has evolved for you. it has evolved for me. We are all one.
 I remember the first time I consciously used the word evolve.
It was at a community meeting and we were considering whether to allow sisters to live alone. At the time I was among a handful of people in our congregation who was living by myself.

“It has evolved for me” I said, meaning that over time, as I chose to remain in the Berkshires, and return to minister in North Adams, circumstances had led to me living singly in an apartment. “Yes” responded one of the congregational leaders, “I can see how this has evolved.” At the time we were discerning how to respond to the request of some sisters who were sensing a need to live alone for a period of time.

Fast forward 20 years and we voted in a Congregational Chapter, to allow the model of the Community of St. Joseph and the Agrégée form of membership to evolve. This unfolded as women and men expressed a desire to engage in life with us in a variety of ways. 25 years prior to this we responded to a similar request which had evolved our Associate form of membership.

Every thing take time to keep evolving.
 Time not only gives perspective. It also allows us to see how the seed of something, once it takes root and has the tending it needs, shows us what it is becoming. As we grow in our awareness that this becoming is actually part of us, we gain a perspective on consciousness. We recall the memories of how something started to attract us. We see how our choices helped this something to take shape. As we realize there is more to this yet to be revealed, there comes a moment of convergence. We know that we are one with this becoming. It needed us as much as we needed it! I am reminded a Rilke poem reflection that attracted me years ago. It is from his “Book of Hours” translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.

“All becoming has needed me. My looking ripens things and they come toward me, to meet and be met."

A vocation evolves. It begins with an attraction. Our choices and experiences help it to take shape. It continues to change day by day, season by season and year by year. All the while it is ripening. We are becoming one with it.

I invite us all to spend some time looking, as the spring season begins to blossom into a summer of ripeness. You may enjoy visiting a web-site of Sister Patricia Bombard: www.consciousevolutionmemoir.com. Here we are guided on a path to help us become aware of how our ripeness has evolved. Adapting the process to vocation will be exciting, especially when we share our discoveries with one another on this blog. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Signs of Hope

Marion Honors csj used with permission

Signs of Hope

Spring Dialogue  by Marion Honors CSJ

It is planting time.

The woman encourages her seedling to be strong and courageous.  

She asks the soil to be welcoming.

She promises them her vigilance for foes and the harsh weather.

She promises as well, an appreciative eye for their beauty.

April always speaks to me of birth. It is a month full of surprise. We are encouraged to participate in welcoming the new.

In her “Spring Dialogue” Marion Honors’ woman is deeply in touch with the realization that she is part of this garden. She is full of hope and confidence that each element is doing its part to support the growth of this seedling in her hand. Her bare feet are planted firmly on the ground. Her experienced hands know how to feel for just the right depth of soil to place this one. The pattern of her skirt is a visual of the field of flowers that will bring their beauty to that meadow over time. She wears what she is about. She is preaching without saying a word.

In late March, thirty two Sisters of St. Joseph who are engaged in Vocation and Formation ministry around the country met in Latham, New York. “Moving Forward in Hope as Sisters of St. Joseph” was our theme. One morning we prayed with this image and shared with one another new signs of hope that we are seeing in religious life. One person reflected that the roots of these seedlings would soon intertwine and grow to be a support for one another. This calls us to network more. We reminded each other that our charism is permeating what we do, working its essence through us and among us. It is helping us to see who we are and is calling us forward.

We asked ourselves and ask you to take the time this spring to notice what is emerging that is new. What is present though not visible? What has died? What is already being born? What does Resurrection look like? Where are the links?

We offer an invitation to pray in a new way with your signs of hope for new life among us. Making friends with the current reality, ask
Dearly Beloved Charism,
What does this mean? What is your guidance?

Quiet your mind and have no preoccupation with an answer.
What is the inner knowing?

Please share what comes forth from your place of wisdom.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

      March 15, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal: A Dialogue

“Moving Forward in Hope” is the name of the program Sister Carol and I attended last week in Latham, New York. This program of the National Conference for Religious Vocations (NRVC) was strategically designed for vocation and leadership personnel from congregations of religious women throughout the United States. Around our tables we began by sharing with one another what gives us hope in religious life today. As we dialogued together it became obvious that there is expectation in the air that something good is on the verge of showing itself. Someone at my table likened this moment to the song from West Side Story, “Something’s Coming”.

“Could it be? Yes it could...Something’s coming, something good….
The air is humming … and something great is coming…Who Know? It’s only just out of reach.”

Moving Forward in Hope as Sisters of St. Joseph” is the theme of the meeting I will be attending next week in Latham, New York. Thirty women devoted to vocation and formation work within the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation will have the opportunity to dialogue with one another about the hopes we see emerging in our congregations.

Two weeks ago I wrote:
“Our Church hovers in the realm of possibility as we await the selection of a new Pope.”

Last Wednesady, white smoke over the Vatican had the air a humming as millions of people awaited with the Catholic world the emergence of someone, just out of reach. The feeling of expectation was palpable as we waited with the thousands in St. Peter’s Square the emergence of the one who has become Pope Francis. We continue to hold great expectations and prayer for this new springtime in the Church.

We invite one another to dialogue about religious life emerging in this new environment. Our world is moving forward and spring is in the air. It is a time for nurturing and tending the new that is still in the realm of expectation. I choose to link all of the above reflections with a picture.

“Spring Dialogue” is the title of a print by one of our dear sister artists, Marion Honors, who has her studio on the campus of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Latham. It depicts a woman planting a seedling. I perceive the soil to be religious life and those who live it faithfully in today’s world. The woman represents those who hope in the future of religious life. The plants are those called to be the future of religious life.
Marion speaks of her Spring Dialogue in this way:

“It is planting time and the woman encourages her seedlings to be strong and courageous, and she asks the soil to be welcoming, as she promises them her vigilance for foes and harsh weather as well as an appreciative eye for their beauty.”

As we enter this season of Holy Week and begin preparing our seedlings may we feel the hope that springs eternal. Please share the signs of hope you see.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dwell In Possibility

A World within the Word

What a delight it is to listen to the everyday stories of people for glimpses of God shining through. Often a simple question can open up a whole new world for people. Through this blog, “The World within the Word,” I hope to explore new windows through which to look at the meaning of religious vocation today. This is designed to be an interactive space for you to enter a conversation that wants to happen. Dear Reader, I invite your response as I eagerly await the mystery that will unfold.

“I dwell in possibility”- writes Emily Dickinson and so do we.

Many years ago I attended a special evening at Genesis Spiritual Life Center at which I experienced a process called soul writing. The practice allows us to open our consciousness to the deeper meaning of a word that wants to engage us. You begin by writing the word in the center of a piece of paper and then circle it. Sitting with your word, you let emerge other words that are evoked. Drawing a connecting line from the center to each one, you write what comes to you using as many of the words as you can. Sometimes these words have become prayers for me; other times they have opened up new ways of seeing and other possibilities as to why that particular word surfaced.

As I sit with the word possibility, out radiate the words: new, awesome, pregnant, option, wonder, mystery, maybe, tip toe, selection, choice and possible.

Standing on tiptoe, I peer over the edge of a world disappearing. Maybe some of what has been will come back in a different way. Close to forty years ago our Sisters left St. Joseph’s School in North Adams. I recall someone telling the people that they would return in a new way.

Standing on tiptoe, I peer over the edge of world emerging.
I am in awe at what is appearing. I stand in wonder as I recognize the options that have opened for me. The choices I’ve made have been part of fulfilling that promise. It is mystery to me that I have found new life living and working side by side with and among the dear neighbors living in poverty, as I walk the very streets the early sisters walked. Though I do not resemble them in appearance, I am pregnant with the charism that they carried. This leads me to wonder at what will be born of the lives we are living.

In the next few weeks, our Church hovers in the realm of possibility as we await the selection of the next Pope. Who will the Spirit inspire? Will a new pope invite us to stand together on tiptoe and share what we see as we peer over the edge of our world? What will tomorrow’s sister look like as a result of our choices?

I offer an invitation for us to consciously dwell in possibility these days.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Good Pope John

The World within the Word

A few key words from last week’s blog that have manifested in my life this week are window, Pope John, and 50 years.

The image of Pope John the XXIII standing at the open window is etched in my memory. I remember my tenth grade religion teacher, Sr. Therese Marie, telling us that our new Pope was getting ready to open a Vatican Council that would have great impact on the world. She made us curious about it.

I remember the years of the Council when Bishop Weldon would come to Mont Marie and share with us what was going on. He talked about Brother Roger and the Taize Community. He brought Bishops from other countries to speak with us about the developing Church and how they adapted and integrated the customs of the people.  Those relationships paved the way for Sisters Vincentina and Immaculata to live with us for two years. I think they were from Korea. They gave us a window on their world.

This past week I reluctantly finished reading “The Good Pope” by Greg Tobin. The title of the Preface is “The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of a Church.” I recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning about the breadth of this man and what it was like when he was elected Pope. He died 50 years ago this June 3. 

Monday morning I turned on the TV to catch a weather report and heard: “Breaking news, the Pope has resigned.” I could not believe that I was hearing correctly. When I switched to the network channel, I heard that this was true and that there will be a new Pope by Easter. 50 years ago the Cardinals assembled and elected Pope Paul VI.

What do we see as we stand at the open window and look out?  It’s always a surprise. We are called to respond in some way. This week in the dark of the night as I looked out at the sky, I saw a fire coming out a chimney and made a phone call. I saw new fallen snow and took time to delight in it.

What are you seeing from your perspective as you look out your window on the world?  What memories are being evoked in you?  What is being stirred in your heart?  How are you responding?
Please share with us.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beginning a Blog

A World within the Word

What a delight it is to listen to the everyday stories of people for glimpses of God shining through. Often a simple question can open up a whole new world for people. Through this blog, “The World within the Word,” I hope to explore new windows through which to look at the meaning of religious vocation today. This is designed to be an interactive space for you to enter a conversation that wants to happen. Dear Reader, I invite your response as I eagerly await the mystery that will unfold. I am Sister Natalie Cain and I approve this invitation.

February 4, 2013

Beginning anything takes courage. As I begin this blog, I feel like a child opening a present. It has my name on it. The message says that I will have fun with this. It invites me to explore.

A number of years ago I spent a few years in an Expressive Arts program in Albany. One day we were directed to tape a large piece of paper on the wall, choose three colors and begin to paint.  I experienced utter terror. This increased as I looked around and saw my comrades apparently enjoying themselves. Eventually I began.

I’ve always learned new things about life when I was willing to take a chance and at least try something new. For over a month now I’ve prayed about this blog. What will I call it? What will its purpose be? How will I begin? 

Words fascinate me. It’s not so much the definitions as much as words that I see within words. They open up whole new worlds of meaning for me. One day, years ago, I looked at the word HEART. I saw EAR in the center. HEAR in the beginning and ART at the end. What emerged was learning the ART of HEARing with the EAR of the HEART. I developed a four week course on this which I called “Listening to God and Others.” So for now I have decided on the name “The World within the Word.”

My purpose is to provide a welcoming space for us to explore the meaning of religious vocation from many angles. This morning as I was praying about how to begin, I found myself in the presence Blessed Beloved Pope John the XXIII. In 1962 at the age of 80, he had the courage to open the windows of the Church, inviting all to look at the emerging world that Christ was calling us to shape. All of us who lived in religious communities through the past 50 years have been shaped by and have helped to shape this world in which we now live.

As we move along through this 21st century global world, it is our turn to stand at the open window. As we look out, what do we see? Who will be the shape shifters of the next 50 years? What is our role in inviting and accompanying other into new dimensions of religious life? Just as we do not resemble those who provided the foundation for us to grow into who we are today, so those who choose to live our charism into the future may not resemble us.

The conversation is open. The blog has begun. Do these thought evoke anything in your experience? Please come in and share your words within this world.