One Sunday Morning

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Sunday morning, August 29, the storm really was coming; not a direct hit but worse than we wanted it to be. Just as we thought we really should leave, the mayor makes the announcement that “if you are gone, stay away; if you are still here, do not leave your house.” Thus we stayed. About 1:00 PM or so, we were watching TV to get the latest updates, and then we weren’t. All power went out and stayed out for four days.

The curses? No air conditioning with a heat index sometimes around 108 degrees; charging the phones in the car and hoping there was enough gas; seeing lines for a good mile around the one gas station that could open; lines, lines and more lines, at the few grocery stores  and the ice machine stores open; cleaning out refrigerators and freezers into garbage bags which then sat for almost three weeks before any trucks came into the neighborhood to take them away, and in some areas still have not been picked up at all; seeing the debris, not just tree limbs and roof shingles but refrigerators and furniture.

The blessings? Being with people who cared and wanted all of us to be safe; wandering around the neighborhood to check on neighbors who did not evacuate; receiving a phone call from the 97 year old matriarch in the neighborhood who had evacuated with her daughter and just wanted to check on us; having a car with gas in it so the phones could be charged; being physically able to stand in lines to wait for grocery stores to open and enjoy the air conditioned interior while shopping; waiting in lines for boxes of food that we would deliver to the neighbors still here.

In the midst of it all, we all felt the hand of God each time some church or organization was able to reach out in any way with food or gift cards or donations of cleaning items. But we also felt the hand of God in the mere fact that we saw each other and could share stories and know that we were so blessed! Did not see an actual rainbow in the sky, didn’t have to. They were all around us.

Posted in Weekly Word

Ida Recovery from the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center

Of the 11 staff members of the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center, none of us had electricity or internet for some time during IDA.  Some evacuated. They are returning to NO gradually to assess damage and begin repairs. The ASC had no electricity or internet until Friday. Our office is opening on Monday – not all staff are able to return because they are in recovery mode.

Here are some stories from the hearts of spiritual directors.

  • One religious woman sits with a dying member of her community who was in leadership ministry with Jeanne, Dot and Sue
  • One directee looks at the home of her parents – a religious article hanging on an inside door frame is all that is left of the home
  • Watching the water over roads in Grand Isle, other parts of the Houma Diocese is heart rending for those of us who ministered in those small bayou dwellings
  • Listening to the story of a priest who ministers in one of the River Parishes is OH so very sad.
  • A Jesuit from New Orleans drives to Baton Rouge until students can return to Loyola – they have been bussed to Springhill College and other colleges
  • An elderly directee evacuated to stay with her children In Baton Rouge, her husband has dementia and kept asking when are we going home and when they returned home he was still asking when we are going home; her house was intact inside but her beautiful prayer garden was destroyed. At the same time, she received news that her son was at MD Anderson and his cancer was not improving and his home in Laplace took in water. She continues to pray and stay strong through it all.
  • A younger married directee now has to relocate from her Metairie apartment because it took in water and is growing mold which, she is severely allergic to, a ministry she has grown attached to and has been an instructor for has now gone totally virtual and she will no longer be needed. She is putting their things in storage and are thinking where to live and start over. Yet her faith is strong.
  • Reconciliation, an evacuation to her brother’s house in Texas allowed for healing of their fractured relationship while staying with him.
  • A few days prior to the storm my directee had a major surgery, while recovering from home she had to evacuate to Lafayette to her sister’s home, thankfully she returned to Kenner yesterday, her home is intact and she has power. She is the most resilient 72-year-old.
  • A widow directee broke down on the phone with me when she was trying to file a claim and her computer would not work, she never had to handle these things, she feels alone. A tree fell on her property and learns because it is in her yard she must handle it, water came in one bedroom, together we prayed and cried. Then her generator went out, for a while and she needed help from neighbors to get it going. She is alone in her home. She took valium just to calm herself this week from all the stress. She is missing her routine of morning prayer, mass and adoration.
  • A religious sister went without power for almost 2 weeks but yet when we talked on the phone she was very optimistic, she stayed strong through support of the sister’s living with her and the rosary. Thankfully, power has been restored and the cleanup continues of many trees down on the property.
  • A Pastor’s own residence was damaged but he continued to be there for his parishioners, and the community. But he has limits too.
  • The gift of being a Director during this time is the gift of listening to others, it takes us out of our own worries, and expands our vision of things. It makes prayer fruitful because we can pray for them, and even when it is dry it becomes purposeful.
  • Another directee has damage to her home and rental properties, but shares I am grateful on one hand and my heart broken on the other, trying to find the peace, I have my moments both ways.
  • As a Director myself, lots of thanksgiving for how much has been accomplished in two weeks, and accepting going home eventually to a town that looks like a bomb went off, sadness for the many neighbors and friends that are hurting. I pray we can come back from this, many are leaving the area permanently. It was always our plan to do so, but for many it was not, Laplace was their home. I pray for the businesses who will be affected for a long time, our church community which has taken a heavy hit, our archdiocese of New Orleans too. I pray I can find a little light in each day, so I can provide a glimmer of hope to my directees who are suffering from this storm in their lives.
  • Many directees shared stories of the statues of Mary standing tall through the storm when everything around her was damaged.
  • Listening to a Directee talk about how bad he felt for those who experienced so much storm damage, while he did not.  He knew what they were experiencing because he lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.  He knew what they are going through, so he could relate to their feelings.  However, this time he only lost power for a few days; but even then, had a generator, so, as he put it, he and his family were only “slightly inconvenienced”.  As we talked, he began to realize, that because of the “survivors’ guilt” he was experiencing, he forgot to be thankful for his experience this time of being only slightly inconvenienced.
  • I have heard from directees and I hear it inside myself, “Somewhere inside me, Katrina and IDA live together and clamor for attention.”
  • An intern in spiritual direction training said that after she and her son weathered the storm together in one of their halls knowing the roof would be lifted off their house, spent the day after the storm clearing their yard and the yards of two neighbors. When they could no longer take the humid heat, they went to a motel only to find that their VISA card had been compromised and their cards were now frozen.
  • From a directee,“I do not know if I can go through this another time.”
  • Being with our Assisted Living Sisters during the two days when the generator didn’t work, was the most painful moment for me. Such a blessed time in our lives yet how delicate and fragile we become.  As the second day without power, water, etc. was coming to and end and not expecting the propane delivery until the next day, God’s promise, “..that God always hears the cry of the poor…” was fulfilled.  The propane arrived and you could hear our joyful thanksgiving through the entire property. Sr. Gloria Murillo, STJ  (staff member)
Posted in Weekly Word

A Root in Each Act and Creature

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

By Hafiz, Sufi master

The sun’s eyes are painting fields again.

Its lashes with expert strokes
Are sweeping across the land.

A great palette of light has embraced
This earth.

Hafiz, if just a little clay and water
Mixed in His bowl
Can yield such exquisite scents, sights,
Music – and whirling forms –

What unspeakable wonders must await with
The commencement of unfolding
Of the infinite number of petals
That are the
Soul.

What excitement will renew your body
When we all begin to see
That His heart resides in
Everything?

God has a root in each act and creature
That He draws His mysterious
Divine life from.

His eyes are painting fields again.

The Beloved with His own hands is tending,
Raising like a precious child,
Himself in
You.

This poem was a central message of a retreat I made years ago. Now it speaks to me again, just as we enter the time of autumn where the leaves will know the great palette of light from the sun. And His eyes will be painting fields again.

The poem opens me up to know in a deep and penetrating way that God resides in me. I hear God say, “I made you.”  This never gets old, never loses its energy.

I just wish I could give attention to it more often.  What would it be like to always know that God resides in me? In each act? In all my feelings, aspirations, hopes, and wondering? What would it be like for me to so deeply realize how much I am rooted in God, rather, that God is rooted in me? And that, like this poem, God draws divine life from me, from you, from every human being and creature on earth?

I hope I see what God sees in other people, what God sees in the world around me. I hope the divine life that resides in those who hate, those who are angry, can one day be disarmed. I hope that the hearts of those who are angry and fearful can break open into peace. I’m thinking about that because we just marked 20 years since the September 11th attacks. And I’m feeling very helpless about the recent explosion of violence in our world these days.

God is rooted in every act and creature, in the leaf that turns to fiery red, in the painted fields, in the hearts of those who suffer. God is somewhere buried in the hearts of those who hate so intensely they can commit such violence. I can only wonder about it. It is mysterious to me — such capacity for hate— and I wonder how we can hold at the same time, such beauty in one hand and such darkness in the other.

Only God. Only God.

Posted in Weekly Word

What More Can I Do?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

The sunlight was new and all the greens were soft when I woke up this morning. This day was a gift. It needed appreciation, before all the harshness of the world came weaseling in, before I started feeling lost in the “cloud of non-doing.” I wanted Mary Oliver to be my prayer partner in noticing, she who has such fine craft in words about seeing, about receiving the natural beauties and the surprises and delights of creation. We prayed together, I using her words to fill myself again with praise and tender gaze toward the simplicity of the days spent by trees and flowers, as they enter this next phase of nature’s turning, leaves wilting, flowers parching and going to seed.

I know my being in this world cannot be reduced to appreciation of the beauties of nature, but a morning of contemplating the lilies of the field “heals the sin-sick soul.”

And, oh, I am sick of sin. And fires and floods and droughts. And rage. So much rage, so much despair. And the most outrageous lies drifting in on polluted air. And I am oftentimes wrought with my own guilt over the very small efforts I make, being more, doing more, wanting some concrete and easily applied answer to the question “What can I do?”

Jesus is the answer. (I know: Oh Really?)  But I have been watching him in the daily readings from Luke, this poor traveler from Galilee, this young man wandering his small world and growing aware of his difference, perhaps even surprised by the healings he does, the words he offers. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….” I have been watching him live a step at a time. Step by step, moment by moment, meeting by meeting, he is overturning the meaning the world gives to “Glory.”  We Christians of these latter days have some sense of that subversion, which we translate into “Paschal Mystery,” that impossible coalescence of life, death and resurrection, of service and suffering and salvation.

Right now, Jesus is walking, meeting, conversing, healing, responding to whoever, whatever is in front of him at the moment—lilies or lepers– sharing what he knows of the loving mercy of God, both giving and receiving a deep awareness of that Presence, and his purpose.

This is what God is doing in and through him.  Taking each moment, each exchange as a fresh burst of Creation, with fullness and openness of mind and heart.

Can we do more? Rabbi Abraham Heschel says, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” And that defines what a creature of God does: receives the gift of the holy moment, gives the gift of the holy moment.  Mary Oliver asked me this morning, at the end of one of her poems, “Tell me, what is it that you plan to do /with your one wild and precious life?” (The Summer Day)

Glory.

Posted in Weekly Word

Right or Wrong – I’m Right

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Walked into a restaurant the other day. Had my mask on, held my vaccination card out for the hostess and proceeded to a table. Boy, did I feel like a child!!! NOT! Boy, did I feel like a kid who had to get permission to do what I was doing!!! NOT!!!!

I did, however, feel as though I was contributing to the well being of my city. And the servers heaved a sigh of relief that there would be no drama. It is not even a hard thing to do. So many people are refusing to do at least one of the things that would help us get back to a sane world. Most of them just moan about all of the events being cancelled or postponed and creating such an inconvenience for us.

When we get into our right-fighting mode, it would be nice to think we have done our homework so we are not just talking from only a feeling base or a heard-it-once-before-from-a-respected-source-so-it-must-be-true-base. Most times we just have to be right no matter what.

If all we want to be is right, then there is no room for conversation. In the true American way, it will be every person for her/him self. Not only will everyone get an opinion on every topic; everyone will be right. Now, there is an interesting optic. Who will get to be more right? That is an easy answer! Me, of course. Right?

Posted in Weekly Word