A Tiny Plot of Holy Ground

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Last weekend we held our annual Mission Immersion Weekend for women discerning religious life and/or service in the Church.  It was a weekend of prayer, laughter, service, reflection, eating, playing, and living together as a community.  I came away from the weekend with a sore back and a full heart.

We did several different types of service during the weekend.  Before and after each event, we had time for input on service, social justice, charity, and how to reflect on our experiences (theological reflection).  At the end of each day, we reflected on our day, the prayer, time together, service, and anyway we were aware of God’s presence with us during the day.

One of the big lessons for me was that the soil in which we planted tomatoes and potatoes was truly holy ground.  It is holy and it is also “holy mystery”.

You see, for one of our service projects we went to Shepherd’s Corner Ecology Center for a presentation by Sr. Diane on the center and on the care of creation.  Afterward, we worked with Leslie, the resident farmer.  Leslie taught us how to prepare the soil and to plant potatoes and tomatoes.  In fact, we planted 50 pounds of spuds and around 60 tomato plants in the process.  It was hard work and it was also a time of reflection and prayer.

This planting process all came into clear focus as I was preparing the hole for a young tomato plant – a Roma variety to be exact.  The craters we prepared were two feet apart and each received a nice sized scoop of fertilizer (don’t worry I’m not going to get specific here).  Then, before placing the tomato plant into the ground, we needed to mix the fertilizer into the soil.  As I knelt to do this, I dug in with both of my hands.  Pulling my hands up and out, turning the soil, I stopped mid-motion, transfixed on the soil pouring between my gloved fingers.  I was overwhelmed with the realization that this soil, or at least all of the elements present in the soil, have existed since the beginning of time. This soil has supported life before.  It has grown vegetables, grass, served as a bed for burrowing animals, and perhaps even the foundation of a tent or a place where person or animal slept for a while.  Many people and animals have walked across it and in doing so have left their footprints for all eternity.

Lifting the soil and allowing it to flow through my gloved hands also reminds me of God’s Grandeur.  In Gerard Manly Hopkins poem we read:

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 crushed.
Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
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.
God created all and is present in all.
We are intimately united with the soil in that we are made of the same elements.

This Holy Ground will nurture the tomatoes and will then lie fallow until we once again turn its dark, moist humus and once again life will spring forth crying out God’s Grandeur.

Posted in God Calling??, News

It’s the Simple Things That Matter

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

STOP.

LOOK.

LISTEN.

BE PRESENT.

Simple words. Yet, they hold powerful messages that can have a life-altering impact on our relationships with each other.  How often do we stop our busyness and give our undivided attention to another? How often do we look at each other and truly see the other person?  How often do we hear beyond the words and listen with our heart?  How often are we present to the moment, not letting the moment slip by and missing the gifts we can not only give to each other but also receive from each other?  How do you feel when someone looks you in the eye and extends a simple hello, a smile, a nod that acknowledges your being?

Life doesn’t have to be complicated if we remember the simple things to stop, look, listen, and be present to ourselves, to each other, and, in turn, to the Divine.

Sometimes I think we forget how important we are to each other. Or how we impact each other when we forget the simple things like acknowledging each other and listening to each other’s stories or reaching out with an affirming word or touching gesture. We can become so absorbed in where we are that we forget to see and hear each other. In so doing, we can miss an opportunity to be Christ-like with each other.

So let’s make it a practice to STOP what we are doing on occasion and spend time being with ourselves and with each other.  Let’s LOOK more often to where we are and BE PRESENT in the moment to ourselves and to each other.   As we STOP, LOOK, and are PRESENT to each other, we might delight in LISTENING to God’s Spirit within us and around us.

Keep it simple. Wisdom comes from simplicity.

Posted in God Calling??

Encountering the Holy… from a Different Perspective

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

I’m a “city girl” raised in the Tidewater area of Virginia surrounded by waterways and on the coast of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Looking out over a lake, bay or ocean was a peaceful meditation on the Holy for me.  I definitely encounter the Holy One in the Eucharist, through scripture, music, and people. However, there is just a different kind of encounter with the Holy when I face the immensity of waters stretching beyond the horizon.  Many people may encounter a sense of the Holy through nature walks through beautiful paths in the woods.  For me, an encounter with the Holy was a coastal view of a beautiful sea meeting the sky in a distant horizon…until I met the Rockies.

Recently, I visited Denver, CO for the first time.  The view of the Rocky Mountains was stunning. While we only had time to explore the foothills of the Rockies and to admire the mountains from a distance, it was an experience allowed me to encounter the Holy from a uniquely different perspective. Being surrounded by the majesty of the Rocky Mountains was a “WOW” moment with God.  It was, for me, a new encounter with the Holy. In what ways do you encounter the Holy One?  Have you had a recent “WOW” moment with God?

Have you recently had an opportunity to experience God in a new way or through a new experience, or from a different perspective?  Why not consider joining the Dominican Sisters of Peace to experience a few days of prayer, volunteer service, and theological reflection during our Mission Immersion event on May 18-21, 2017!   Space is limited.  You can find more details here. You can also check out some of my pictures from the foothills of the Rockies here.  Enjoy!

Posted in God Calling??

Am I toxic and/or part of a toxic religion?

Blog by Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP

Recently I was in Denver for the Dominican Sisters of Peace West Mission Group meeting.  Sisters Pat Dual, June Fitzgerald and I presented a session on intercultural living to our Sisters there.  Since we had an extra day on Sunday, Pat and I went with Sister Adeline for a drive in the mountains where we also stopped to eat at a locally owned restaurant.  As we entered the restaurant, the owner came over to greet us at our table, curious to know who we were since the restaurant is off the beaten path and his most frequent customers were likely the folks in the area plus motorcycle riders out for a Sunday ride.  When Pat told him that we were Catholic Sisters, he said, “I am non-religious, but I try to watch people, see what they need and treat them well. “  He said again, “I try to treat people well.  The only problem I have is with toxic religions which damage people.”  We talked a little more with him and then as he left our table, he asked the waitress to give us soup and salad on the house.

His words stayed with me.  Am I toxic in my zeal to preach the living and loving God?  Do I offer to others the love, mercy, and forgiveness which I hope to receive from God and from others?  Am I part of a religion which is toxic to certain groups of people, divorced and remarried Catholics, women, LGBTQ+, Blacks, Muslims, those economically challenged?  Some of our teachings ostracize people, some of our practices keep people from sharing their gifts and talents to their full potential, some of our practices keep people at a distance because of how they look, and sometimes, issues like racism are not treated with the urgency required at this time.

And while, as a religious group Catholic Christians are some of the most generous, work consistently for justice, work to break down walls, and help to provide economic opportunities for those living in poverty, we have to continue to grow in our understanding of people who are different from ourselves and what we have always known and believed.  We are challenged to listen anew to the many different needs of the many different people in our world so that we are not toxic to anyone in our teachings and practices.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, we heard the story of the martyrdom of Stephen in our liturgy.  Stephen proclaimed Jesus as the Son of Man who was seated at the right hand of God.  Stephen, like the One he followed, died for his proclamation and beliefs.  The people covered their ears and rushed upon him to throw him out of the city and to stone him.  How often do I close my ears and try to shut out what is challenging to my beliefs, practices, and values?  How open am I to hear the new, to look for the true bread that gives life to the world, true bread which might take the form of a restaurant owner in the Rockies?

We are reminded in our Easter season readings that Jesus is our Bread of Life.  In Jesus we will never hunger or thirst, but will be given what we need to live in love.  As we become bread of life with Christ and with each other – willing to be blessed and broken—may we, too, become true bread for the life of the world.  May the Holy Spirit lead and guide us.

If you are interested in pondering questions related to mission, service, prayer, and justice, you might want to check out the opportunity “Pray, Serve, Reflect” from May 18-21, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio with our vocations team.  Click here for more information and to register.

Click here for a few photos of the Rocky foothills close to Denver!

Posted in God Calling??

God Calling – or Texting?

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

These days maybe it’s “God texting?” instead.

And just what would God text?  Perhaps:

  • Are you awake?
  • Thinking of you today! Just want to let you know I’ve had you in my mind and in my heart.
  • Love you!
  • I’m coming into town next Tuesday for a few days. Any chance we could get together for coffee?
  • Thanks so much! I really enjoyed being with you at the party yesterday.
  • Are you back in town yet? Let me know when you get back, OK?
  • What have you been up to today?
  • Saturday morning is the best time for me. Glad it works for you!
  • Got it! Hang in there!
  • I’m so proud of you. See you soon!
  • Great! Thanks for the update and for touching base!
  • Any day is great! Just let me know…
  • Safe trip…see you soon!
  • Let’s Facetime!
  • That’s great news! Let’s celebrate!
  • Sleep well! Tomorrow morning I will text you from the train. Really looking forward to seeing you again!
  • Have you ever thought about following me?

And one text you’ll never get from God:

  • Sorry, I can’t talk right now!

Isn’t it wonderful that God is available 24-7-365?  And that every moment is now!

God is closer to us than we’ll ever know.  And that means we are closer to God than we’ll ever know too!

Just sayin’!

God is eager to hear from you!  Why not find out if God is calling you to a life of service as a religious sister or lay minister?  We’re hosting a mini-service and retreat weekend May 18-21, 2017 at our beautiful lake house in Blacklick, Ohio for single Catholic women between the ages of 18 to 45.  It includes prayer, service, community, and fun!  Click here for a copy of this event flyer.  Call, text, or email Sister Pat Dual, OP at 614.216.7688 or pdual@oppeace.org for more information.  Or visit our website at https://oppeace.org/pray-serve-reflect/ to register.  Come spend time with God!

Have a great week!

Posted in God Calling??, News