I was watching a program where six women were interviewed about the Women’s March. The Pro Life women complained bitterly about not being allowed to participate in the march. “That’s right,” declared the Pro Choice Progressive Party representative. “You’re different from us and not invited to our march.” How sad. When there are so many issues facing all women today, regardless of their position on abortion, their political affiliation, their race, culture, or religion, why, oh why, are we fighting each other instead of banding together?
I grew up during the 60’s and 70’s when women began to assert their independence. Did we work together to break the stereotypes of women’s lives and professions? No. Working women criticized stay-at-home Moms. Stay-at-home moms criticized working women. Really? This rivalry has been present forever, keeping us apart rather than bringing us with our power, intelligence, and industriousness together. I always believed that the Women’s Movement was about allowing all women (and men) to set their own unique courses for life and knowing that other women would support them.
What if Sarah and Hagar had raised their sons together? Would we have the strife between the monotheistic religions we are experiencing today? Or what if Madame Defarge had joined forces with Queen Marie Antoinette to solve the hunger issues of the people? Maybe the French Revolution would have been avoided. (Unfortunately, we wouldn’t have had the Tale of Two Cities, either!)
Back to the ProChoice/ProLife conflict. It is a definite and serious issue. But couldn’t we take some time to set aside our differences and work together to help women, especially very young women, to avoid pregnancy? And couldn’t we work together to make the lives of all children more healthy and safe? There are education, health, housing, and environmental issues that need work. Instead of speaking ill of each other, let us march together for the rights and dignity of all.
There is a story circulating on social media that goes something like this …
An attractive woman was sitting at a restaurant, waiting for her food to be brought to her table. A man stands over the chair across from her and asks, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing by yourself? Where’s the boyfriend foolish enough to leave you alone?” The woman smiles and says she just fine, thanks, but that doesn’t sink in.
He pulls out the chair and offers himself as a dinner companion, continuing to remark on her appearance and how she needs company. The woman is increasingly flustered, and while trying to be polite, clearly wants him to go away.
Suddenly another woman appears, throws her arms around the woman at the table, and cries, “Claire! There you are! I’ve been looking all over this place for you!” Under the guise of kissing her “companion” on the cheek, she whispers “Are you ok?”
The story goes on to encourage women to be aware and alert in social situations, ready to step in and distract an aggressive intruder. But I see this as a metaphor for our responsibility as people of Christ.
Every day, we see people who may be in trouble. The mom removing what seem to be essential items from the checkout line. The young man sitting stooped and alone at the back of the church. The dad trying to wrangle three kids, a cart and a shopping list at the hardware store. The friend whose eyes tear up for no reason.
We don’t really know if there is a problem. Should we get involved? Should we put ourselves out there, risk embarrassment or, worse yet, entanglement in a problem that is clearly none of our business?
Catherine of Siena said, “Do not be silent through fear. It is silence that kills.”
As people of Christ, it’s our responsibility to be alert to the signals of need … because sometimes, that’s all we see. Some people are too proud, too distressed, or too afraid to ask for help – or maybe, they don’t even see the problem themselves.
Let us look with the eyes of Christ to see their need, reaching beyond our fear to wrap our arms around that person and to ask, “Are you ok?”
January has sped by taking with it all my good intentions of making New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Well, Lent is coming soon—this year on Valentine’s Day! So, I’m turning my attention a week early to consider what I want to and will do as my 2018 Lenten practice. It is a second chance at my New Year’s Resolution(s). Who knows, it could flower into a practice for the whole year.
As long as I can remember, for most Catholics Ash Wednesday always signaled a time to give up sweets and desserts as the usual Lenten penance. But the question: “Why not consider other kinds of Lenten practice(s) that might be more transformative in our lives and in the lives of others?” challenges us to take our Lenten Penance to the next level, giving it more thought and meaning.
In case the imagination goes sluggish on this topic, a quick search on Google provides plenty of ideas for what one can do for Lent. Here are seven practices I am considering–maybe I’ll choose just one to do everyday throughout Lent, or do a different practice each day of the week.
Resolve to do a random act of kindness to/for someone [Sunday]
Spend an extra 15 minutes in prayer: no agenda, just soak in God’s love [Mon.]
Mindful portion reduction; take less for dinner and savor more [Tues.]
An extra 10-15 minutes of spiritual reading from an inspirational book; perhaps partner with someone to mutually share what is reaped [Wed.]
Practice loving an ‘enemy’— pray for someone who seems especially annoying and ask God to bless them [Thurs.]
Plan or spontaneously do a WORK OF MERCY [Fri.] (see List)
Declutter your house, your closet, your bedroom, your office – by choosing one thing to give away, discard, recycle, donate [Sat.]
Number seven, declutter—cries out to me every time I open my closet. Even after doing this practice for Lent last year—40 days, ridding my space one day at a time of 40 things I did not really need—I realize how easy it is to fill it again one thing at a time. Gifts, bargains too good to pass up, things I thought I needed but did not after all. Fasting from getting more unnecessary things, combined with donating gently worn clothes –as almsgiving–could not only transform my closet, but touch other lives positively.
To do numbers one through six on the designated day, could add more ‘Spirit’ and mindfulness to my spiritual life. Plus doing number seven every day of Lent (not just on Saturdays), could become a good habit—a resolution for the rest of the year. I would be moving in the direction of one of my goals: to live with greater simplicity. And I’ll be grateful I chose this Lenten practice the next time I pack to move.
There is a website that gives a daily creative idea for decluttering (not just closets, but also desks, offices, refrigerators, handbags, and more). It might be a fun incentive for anyone who takes this on as a daily challenge. [Search: 365 less things.]
Every day my ministry brings me into contact with immigrants. Some are citizens or legal residents, others have immigration cases in process, and still others have no realistic hope of regularizing their situations under our current laws. I listen to their stories, their worries, their dreams and help where I can.
One special group of immigrants is those we know as Dreamers or recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). About 800,000 young people are currently enrolled in this program. An estimated 1.5 million more could qualify but did not enroll for various reasons, including the fear that enrolling would jeopardize the status of relatives in the country without documents.
Many of us have already written numerous letters and made many phone calls on their behalf. But now, even if we have already done so, we must take action again and write or call our representatives in Congress, or better yet do both—and urge them to protect these youth who were brought to this country illegally as children.
Dreamers have grown up in the United States. Many of them remember no other country. They’ve been educated here and speak English fluently. The youngest are still in high school. The rest have enrolled in college or are employed. Some are PhD candidates, doctors, attorneys, scientists, teachers and mechanics. About one thousand are members of the US armed forces. No one who committed a crime could even apply for DACA.
These are exactly the sort of people we can be proud to call our neighbors and friends. They have long lives ahead of them, lives with which they can make substantial contributions to our society. Leaving aside all the moral and ethical reasons why we should protect the legal status of these young people, for economic reasons alone DACA makes great sense. It is estimated that during their lifetimes these Dreamers have the capacity to add $329 billion to the US economy.
Recent non-partisan polling indicates that more than 75% of US voters want protection for Dreamers. More than 55% also want them to have a pathway to citizenship. Yet these young people are being used as bargaining chips in the larger debate on immigration.
I know some of these DACA recipients personally. They speak of feeling like they are on a seesaw, one week with hope, the next with despair. Their lives are on hold, waiting to see if they will ever receive a favorable response to their dreams. They wonder what they will do if no action on their behalf is forthcoming. Should they return to their country of origin? Or try to blend back into the shadows of the undocumented, losing their work permits, drivers licenses, and their right to be here as students?
I try to put myself in the place of Sylvia (not her real name), who is studying nursing at a state university. The new semester has begun, and she wonders if she will be able to complete it. Even more she wonders what her life would be like if she had to return to Mexico, especially since she only has distant relatives living there and has not been out of this country since she was too small to remember.
Or Jesus (also not his real name), who dreams of specializing in immigration law when he graduates in the next couple of years. Now he interns with a non-profit helping low-income workers protect their rights. What future awaits him?
Or Angel, a high school junior who never enrolled in DACA because he didn’t realize he could. His marks place him in the top quarter of his class, but he realizes he may not be here to graduate unless something changes.
DACA expires on March 5. Right now, before it’s too late, our members of Congress need to hear from us. We need to tell them that we care about Dreamers and want the DACA program renewed. As important, we want – and our faith demands – a pathway to citizenship so as not to uproot the lives of so many young people who’ve made enormous contributions to our communities and our economy.
In the words of the US Catholic Bishops Conference:
DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth. As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.
If you would like to advocate for the Dreamers, please click here to send a letter to your government representatives.
If one day, you are called to become a sister, what will you do? Deny, ignore, or pursue what you believe is a call. But first, how do you know God is calling you?
God’s invitations can come in many different ways. A call is unique for each person in each circumstance. This invitation may start within you when:
a voice within you keeps calling you to be a sister.
you experience a hunger for intimacy with God.
an inspiring quote, a sister’s story, or the works of a religious community touches you deeply and leads you to consider becoming a sister.
you dream of working with the poor or working for justice and peace.
you experience something missing in your life and you want to work for something bigger than yourself.
In some cases, the invitation can be unexpected:
a thunderbolt hitting your ears when someone says: “Have you ever thought of becoming a sister?”
a joke you may really hate; “You act or look like a nun, why don’t you be one of them?”
a bet between you and someone encouraging you to contact a religious community.
God’s invitation can also seem confusing or unsettling. For example:
Your fiancé hands you a retreat registration; “I registered you for a retreat. You should explore your call before we get married.” Don’t feel resentful towards him.
You often don’t feel peaceful, but have a sense of emptiness while dating, or even one or two weeks before getting married. Pay attention to that sign.
Remember “For humans, it is impossible; but for God, all is possible.” (Matthew 19:26).
As I mentioned, this invitation may scare you, making you resist, even deny it. Not everyone is called by God to become a sister, but why not at least explore the possibility? So, if you are experiencing a call or a nudge from God, contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will walk with you to help you discover what God is calling you to . . . and we promise, no strings attached.
If you’re ready to take the next step to explore your call and our community, we invite you to join us for a Come and See retreat at our Columbus Motherhouse, March 9-11, 2018. For more details, contact Sr. Pat Dual at email@example.com or call or text her at 614-216-7688.