I know you’ve seen it – the holiday merchandise on display in retail stores.
(Yes. I know, it’s been out for weeks – even in the same aisle as the Halloween merchandise).
Those displays have given me an idea: what if we shift our thoughts from presents to presence during the Christmas season of gratitude and giving by sharing gifts that reach beyond store-bought trinkets?
There are countless ways we can share gratitude, support, and love. Here are a few:
Spend time with those who are lonely.
Listen to someone who needs to be heard.
Write a note of appreciation to family and friends.
Volunteer at a local food pantry.
Donate supplies to a school.
Bake a treat for a neighbor, co-worker, or friend
Prepare/share a meal for/with someone who lives alone.
Devote quality time to family and friends.
Go caroling at a nursing home.
Rake leaves/shovel snow for a senior.
Relax with loved ones.
Let’s remember why we celebrate this glorious holiday in the first place: Almighty God decided to give an undeserving humanity the truest and most precious gift that has ever been given in His Son Jesus.
And while we’re making the most of this holiday season, let’s remember that there are always opportunities to give throughout the year!
What are some ways that you can give of yourself this holiday season?
I want to be a sign of courageous hope in the world. How about you?
The reason for my hope is Jesus Christ. One way I live this is as a Dominican Sister of Peace. I believe that by accepting God’s call to be a religious sister and living my life faithfully, I am already showing others a sign of God’s hope.
In Jeremiah we read, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jer. 29:11-13) This scripture was given to me on the day I was waiting to hear if I was accepted into candidacy as a Dominican. I was at work on a cold day in January 1991. As I settled in for the day, I turned my page-a-day scripture calendar to the new page. The reading from Jeremiah was written in bold italics. I read the scripture, closed my eyes and sent up a quick prayer, “Please let it be a yes. God, please let it be a yes.” Later that day, my phone rang and Sr. Anne told me that I was accepted into candidacy.
At many major milestones in my journey, that scripture has shown up just when I needed it–on the day I was accepted into novitiate, made my first profession of vows and the day one of my best friends died. This scripture reminds me of God’s presence and the promise of hope and life.
When women and men hear the call of God to consecrate their lives in love as religious sisters, brothers, priests or as lay ministers, it is an affirmation of belief in and a sign of courageous hope, which was reinforced this past weekend at the Religious Formation Congress. Fittingly, it was entitled, “Being Signs of Courageous Hope.” It was a gathering for young religious and those who walk with them as their mentors, teachers, and guides. In the course of the weekend, I witnessed great care, joy, wisdom, courage, discernment, and encouragement between the participants in small and great ways. It was the kind of weekend that keeps us going amidst the difficult times. It reminded me that God is still calling men and women to religious life and that in answering that call we are witnessing to the Hope that Jeremiah prophesied so long ago. He did not say it would be easy, but he did say that we are called to a, “future full of hope.”
Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
ROMANS 6:8:26-30 LUKE 13:33-30
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for I many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
What is keeping each of us from entering through the narrow gate? Is it the stuff we have? Yes, we have given our lives to God. But if we look around us, we do have a lot of material goods. Some of them may be pictures of family, memories of past ministries, mementoes that we cherish. For example, I have a small statue of Mary that my Dominican aunt gave me when I was a child. At some point it will be time to let go of it. I can pass it on to a family member with its story. Or else someone who doesn’t know its history will discard it. There are other things we have that don’t have a lot of meaning. My guess is that we don’t use many of them. They just take up space in our room and offices.
Maybe the stuff we carry isn’t material. What about our attitudes? It is so easy to continue to let ourselves fall into the same old patterns of reacting to situations. What about that person I am still holding a grudge against? Maybe that grudge is that taking up a lot of space in my heart.
Then there are my good intentions – the ones I never seem to be able to carry through. They take hold me back from being challenged to grow.
When we do muster the courage to let go of those things – material or not – we believe that the Spirit will guide us. Then we won’t need to worry about whether the gate is narrow or wide. We will be living as God, who loves us intimately and without hesitation, has called us to live.
Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, OH, hosted the 2019 Education Sponsorship Meeting on October 24 and 25.
This annual gathering brings together the presidents, board, chairs, delegates, and other representatives of our sponsored educational ministries: Albertus Magnus College (New Haven, CT); Ohio Dominican University (Columbus, OH); Dominican Academy (New York, NY); Our Lady of the Elms School (Akron, OH); St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School (Memphis, TN); and St. Mary’s Dominican High School (New Orleans, LA).
The meeting included opportunities for prayer, community building, and networking among our educational ministry leaders.
This year’s guest speaker was Dr. Kathy Lechman, Associate Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. Dr. Lechman’s topic, Equity and Inclusion: The Missing Pieces, addressed issues around diversity, equity and implicit bias.
During the event, outgoing Albertus Magnus Board Chair Jeanne Dennison, ’78, was presented with a special painting of New Haven’s beloved East Rock by former Albertus Magnus professor Sr. Thoma Swanson.