God is Watching Us…From a Distance?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Bette Midler sings the song “From a Distance”, seeking to make the point that the world and God’s view of it are much larger than our differences, disagreements, and divides “here below” look to us; that we are one with a shared humanity in a world community, and if only we could see ourselves as part of that  bigger harmonious reality, as God does, we would stop the hating and the warring.

There’s one problem in the refrain, one which we who have been celebrating the Incarnation and the Manifestations of Jesus can notice right away: God is not distant. God is not distant. God is ineffably “beyond”– so much larger than our hearts and our limited relationships, and far surpassing our capacity to grasp—but God is also ineffably near. The consoling and challenging truth for Christians is the “hereness” of God, a reality that permeates the world and our most intimate selves.

St. Nick and Santa Claus have had their season of seeing our good and bad behavior and judging our worthiness for presents. So we return to ordinary time, when parents and teachers and various moral authorities warn people that God sees and knows all and is tallying our vices and virtues for the day of our final reckoning. This may be momentarily effective in curbing bad behavior, but as we all know, this particular version of God has only limited successes and for the most part, very little to do with the conversion and ownership of our hearts.

We are in the midst the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the free choice of God to enter the heart of the world and the stuff of humanity, in mercy and love beyond our ken.  We are also in the midst of a pervasive darkness that spans homes and schoolyards and city streets and brutal prisons and the rubble remaining where towns once bustled with human activity, their inhabitants now refugees in camps where as the psalmist put it, “My tears are my food day and night.” And that is only human cost, also borne by the rivers and forests and innumerable and precious species threatened and poisoned through human ignorance and greed.

“The Word became flesh and made a home among us.” This is not past tense. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.  Present tense. Future tense. These are the lines we are given to speak, the words of witness we not only give voice to, but invite to grow in us, welcome in our own flesh. What good is it, asked Meister Eckhart, for Mary to give birth to Jesus if we do not bring him to birth in our lives?

God is not distant. And God is not just watching. There are times we might prefer a bit of Divine disinterest, when daily we’re bumping into or tripping over Jesus who calls to us in human need, slight as a mere bother, or vast as a starving nation.  As the story goes, he began his journey in poverty, bore his own and others’ humanity, lived in trust, responded to the needs of those around him, preached fearlessly, and gave his entire being over for love. That Love carried him and lifted him up, and abounds and multiplies, invades and possesses, impels and energizes us in a thousand ways for the needs of our brothers and sisters. And sometimes we notice, and are amazed, so small and needy and distant we seem to ourselves. But God—distant? No, God—Emmanuel!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word


Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

Today is the feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, both from Cappadocia in Turkey.  Basil and Gregory were best friends from the time of their initial studies in their early 20’s.  In their later lives they were pivotal in defending the Church against the Arian heresy.  I would suggest in honor of their feast today it might be a good time to thank God for our best friends.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who has helped me believe in myself and accept myself as I am,
Who has helped boost my self-confidence.
Who has been unswervingly encouraging
And has fostered my personal growth.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who has taught me how to respect differences
And to honor still my own beliefs.
Who has been my best sounding board and listener
And a place where honest opinions about anything can be shared.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who has been a shoulder to cry on, providing comfort,
Yet open to being needed in a mutual way.
Who is understanding
To the point where many words need not always be spoken.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who connects me to a world wider than of my own devices
And who has taught me to live more intentionally,
To laugh more deeply,
And to love more profoundly.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who is always loyal and protective,
And yet who has taught me new things by a challenge of my status quo.
Who always has been, is, and always will be available,
For unconditional love and support, which reveals to me the face of God.

I pray I have been a best friend to you too!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Women Who Glow

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

On Saturday, I drove from Columbus to Dayton in a wicked rainstorm, the kind that involves giant blinding sprays of mist flying off tractor-trailer trucks; and cars that whizz by as if they were speeding to a hospital. It was a tense white-knuckle trip.  I had hoped to spend some easy quiet time in the car to contemplate my blog topic that was coming due.   Instead, I kept reminding myself just to breathe.

I safely arrived at a clay supply shop— a heaven for potters, offering every tool, gadget, glaze, clay, book, or equipment you can imagine. A small Home Depot for potters. My mission was to purchase clay (200 pounds), find a liner brush I needed, and talk about a project I am thinking about with Erin, the owner, who stood behind the counter.

We talked about brushes and underglazes, and a workshop I might attend, and the subject turned to her due date — I realized Erin is pregnant, due in April. Then I saw it. Her glow.  You have probably seen this in pregnant women too, or maybe you have experienced it yourself as a mother.  Women who glow have a wonderful and mystical light within them. Erin was glowing as she anticipated the day she would give birth. I felt gifted by her light. I thought of Mary: My being proclaimed the greatness of God and my spirit finds joy in God, my Savior. Joy, the authentic expression of God with us. That is what I experienced in Erin.

Frequently in religious art, this glow is depicted with Mary surrounded by light. This special glow, this captivating energy and light, accompanied Mary and Elizabeth as they shared a precious few months together. Mary came to visit and to help Elizabeth in her pregnancy. What did they talk about? Did they smile together as they described to each other the reaction of Joseph and Zachariah to the news of their pregnancy? Mary probably did the heavy lifting of firewood, or carried water from the well for her elderly cousin. Did she milk the goats for Elizabeth? Elizabeth might have shared with Mary some of her kitchen secrets. Two pregnant women— whose life inside was mysteriously given and known to be of God—talking about herbs and spices.

When did Zachariah notice the glow in Elizabeth when her pregnancy began to show? Did the innkeeper see the glow in Mary when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem looking for shelter?

Would we be here if it were not for the power of the relationship between these two women centuries ago? Would Mary have had the courage and capacity to be the mother of Jesus if she did not have the companionship and wisdom of Elizabeth? Elizabeth, who, in a much more hidden and secondary way, was pregnant by the same kind of miracle. An old woman, who probably had given up on having children thinking to herself —what had she done that God would give up on her? Then she felt her child kick when Mary appeared at her door. Joy!

Two women —who glowed with inner light, basking in the joy of knowing God with them —two women who changed the world. So a word for this Christmas Season could be: never underestimate the transformative power of these two women, whose trust in God reaches across centuries inviting us to the same faith, the same trust that God is with us.  May you glow this Christmas.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Advent: Seeing Promise in the Meanwhile

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

An amazingly long time ago, in high school, I began learning guitar. For us starry-eyed “boomers”  there were a number of folk songs that were relatively simple chord-wise so could be learned quickly—and had social messages: “ Where have all the flowers gone,” “Blowing in the wind.” One I loved playing (three easy chords) was ”I can see a new day, a new day soon to be/where the storm clouds are all past/ and the sun shines on a world that is free…”

It was, like our Advent scriptures, a presentation of a vision. And the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets and the psalms, are replete with hopes rendered in concrete images. The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb—or as the painter Rousseau rendered the Peaceable Kingdom—a host of God’s creatures, predator and prey,  lying serenely together, surrounded by verdant jungle. More images: valleys made high and mountains made low, the crooked ways straight. The people streaming from East and West to God’s holy mountain, the shining city and the bountiful feast of rich foods and choice wines.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see….many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:24)

Sometimes, in the increasing toxicity of the world we inhabit today, we’re tempted to close our eyes to all but the small safe havens we’ve built for ourselves, or to surrender to the endless battering from a world of troubles, and view the future as threatening darkness and use the present for simmering in resentment;  abandon our capacity for envisioning  peace and reconciliation, or the coming together of enemies—sheep and wolves, Palestinians and Israelis, Saudis and Yemenis, Republicans and Democrats….

But the truth is, we can and must see.  Our widening, deepening vision is a gift and task of our Baptism and our Dominican profession.  We see the weapons, the rubble, the starvation, the pollution and ruination of earth. But our Christian vision allows us the perspective of hope, that capacity to see beyond, to see more deeply, and recognize that even now, as we wait, Christ comes to us, among us, through us, in simple shimmerings of Incarnation and Redemption—small graces in words and actions of love and mercy, everyday kindnesses, contrition and forgiveness, a bandaid, a kleenex.  We view life with “gospel-tinted lenses.”  And we announce the Good News.

Advent is longing and yearning, hunger and thirst, darkness expecting sunrise, the mystery of “already and not yet.”  A Holy Interim between the First Pentecost and Last Advent, the dawning of creation and the dawning of New Creation. Advent bids us to preach God’s promised future, and to bring hope and joy to voice, even as we contemplate our own weak faith and eroding patience. Advent bids us not to turn away from the world but to trust that light can be found there, and to stand firm in our common human struggle for truth, take it to heart, and preach it from the housetops.

 Come Lord Jesus, come Compassionate Lover, come, Spirit who makes all things new. Come, be incarnate in us, among us and through us, stir up our hearts, prepare the feast, sing the song of salvation, and  shine through our expectant faces as we wait the day when “kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace will kiss.”  When sorrow’s chains are broken, and the sun shines on a world that is free.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

This past Sunday began the new Church year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

In Advent, we do the dance between waiting and activity, between what has been & what will be, between tradition and innovation.  How to know which will take the lead and for how long?

Wisdom and openness—we pause, we ponder, we pray, we proceed.

I would suggest during this time of Advent, we pause this first week: just slow down a bit. I know this will feel like going upstream in our Christmas-present-buying-crazed culture, but maybe it’s time simply to step out of the stream, at least a little bit each day!

Next week when we’ve slowed ourselves down a bit, perhaps we can take in the view of ourselves and of our world around us.  You know, just like when you walk somewhere instead of driving.  I know I notice much more when I stroll then when I drive….

In the third week, then, we will have paused and pondered enough to know what is in our hearts.  Then we can offer it in prayer to God…all of it, the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and the defeats, the love and the loss, the unexpected surprises and the great disappointments.

And then, eventually we’ll know how to proceed, but we will not be alone.  We will have caught up not only with God but with ourselves!




O come O wisdom, from on high,               PAUSE

Who orders all things mightily,                   PONDER

To us the path of knowledge show,          PRAY

and teach us in her ways to go.                  PROCEED

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word