Wednesday’s Word

Be inspired and encouraged with a weekly reflection on God’s Word and every day life.


 

Blowing It: The Mystery of Vocation 

Here we are at Jubilee, rejoicing and marveling at 10 years, and 25 years, and 50 years, and God’s boundless faithfulness.  I’ve been thinking about vocation, and call and response, so here are some stories, of us and of God, that might plumb the mystery, which of course does not promise us more clarity….

A friend of mine, young in religious life and struggling with community and her ministry, came home from teaching Saturday catechism class and was dutifully attending to her charge, the community bathroom. She was putting newspaper down on the floor, and the page opened to the wedding section. She immediately recognized a friend from high school, looking beautiful in her bridal finery, walking out of the chapel at West Point arm in arm with her spouse splendid in his dress uniform, under an arch of swords.  And she said to herself, “I really blew it.”

Much later in life, she had a chance to see two old friends, long separated by time and space, and my friend told them this story.

They all had a good laugh, and one of them said, “O My! Well wait till you hear this!

It was four years into our marriage, and life was so hard.  My husband lost his job, we had 3 children under 4, and bills were piling up, we were falling behind in our mortgage payments, and I was totally a quivering mess. One evening the parish had a potluck supper in the grade school cafeteria, with all the kids and the noise, and the metal chairs scraping, and I glanced over and in a room off to the side I saw the sisters from the grade school around their table, and they were talking and laughing and enjoying their meal and  one another, and I said to myself, “Oh, I really blew it!”

Would this possibly resonate at all with you, in various moments of your Dominican life? Moments when your heart was just not so set on “Be it done unto me…”?

Have you said to yourself or a friend or an (often) shrouded or opaque God, after making a tough decision, or a loss, or changing a ministry, or losing your “cool” in a meeting, or saying something hurtful to someone dear—

“Oh, did I blow it!?”

In these  dark and confusing times when  the country and the world are  beset by hatreds and wars and so many little ones are suffering, and –well, you know the never-ending litany of woes—when we see how we have despoiled and poisoned Earth our Mother in this time being called the “sixth extinction;” when we see genocide and forced migration, and we are outraged and saddened and feeling both guilty and helpless amid this oh so huge and daily and casual evil – we can yield to cynicism and the temptation to withdraw from the words and actions of protest and healing.

When it is so obvious that humanity has blown it—we start asking ourselves about the best way to be faithful to our Dominican charism, and wonder whether we’re choosing the right path  as witnesses, as women and men of right action and truth-speaking, and ask again the nagging question: “Are we truly faithful individually and corporately, or have we missed something crucial somewhere along the line? Have we blown it?

Are we responding to the dual call of our OP roots and the call of the future?”

These are all moments of our vocation, an ongoing medley of call and response—God’s call to us, ours toward God, God toward us— and we learn (again and again!) that whatever surety we thought we had—however confident we are that God agrees with us– eventually get blown!

But our wrong turns and illusions are themselves paths to growth, however painful.

I did say growth.

And here is the reason: We blow it and  GOD BLOWS BACK!

As Isaiah 55 puts it: God’s word is faithful. “It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I sent it to do.”

And the breath of God—Spirit, Ruah—still hovers over the deepness, the darkness, the unknowns—some 13 billion years since the exploding of creation. And the Spirit continues to breathe life and promise and memory and strength and the fire of love.

The Spirit: who is still Sophia, Wisdom, playing before God in creation, and who is still and always a surprise, and provides another learning for us that “God’s ways are not our ways” and that we are painfully prone to keeping God at our size and manageable or agreeable to our dictates.

We have the Word, the Breath, breezing among us, and steadily growing us, enlarging our hearts, making of every ”We really blew it” a profound occasion for becoming what we receive—Words of God— very human, very flawed, but more and more identifiable with and hospitable to every human being who like us, “Blows it”–.

Becoming, each of us, a breath of the Spirit– imperfect Words, incomplete Love, yes, but through whom Christ never ceases to pour himself out, and in whom the Spirit never ceases to simmer.

And we are Words of memory and promise that God is faithful, and as Catherine of Siena wrote,” Mad with love for your creatures.” All this as we go on blowing it and giving God great delight in blowing back, blowing holes in our hearts, making space in our lives even as we might be mourning our failure, our confusion, our barrenness.

Here is the Mystery: that in our turns and tumbles, massive and minor, we are actually helping God form us in “The breadth and the length and the height and the depth of the Love of Christ which is beyond all understanding that we may be filled with the utter fullness of God.”

And in ways we don’t understand or notice, become preachers, become lovers, become Living Words.

So we gather as we grow, and celebrate together in wisdom and grace and joy and jubilation because as we “blow it”

God’s breath, Ruah, Spirit blows back –and in and around and among and through us, blowing all God’s people toward unity in love.

GLORY to God whose power/love/breath/ Peace

working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine

Posted in Wednesday's Word

FROM THE “BIG BANG” TO PROTONS, NEUTRONS AND ELECTRONS—PARTICLE PHYSICS

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

BEGINNING PONDERINGS:

Beginnings can be rough, and the start of the Big Bang is a reminder of that:

  • Have you ever been so “hot” (angry) that you can’t see straight? Calming down can make a big difference and allow things to literally settle, right?  There is an interesting parallel with the production of the fundamental particles and subsequent generations of matter from itself…
  • Similarly, have you ever felt “crowded” in a space, or backed into a corner? Again, if you can get a little space (a.k.a. experience a little expansion), things won’t seem so dense and jumbled.  Matter needed space to come emerge from energy and organize itself into more complex structures!
  • Yes, the order of matter came in stages. With particle physics, the building blocks did come together, creating exciting possibilities along the way, provided there was enough space and relative calmness (in terms of temperature)!
  • Reflect on how your unbridled anger has prevented your consideration of community!

 

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE PONDERINGS:

FROM THE “BIG BANG” TO FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLES—PARTICLE PHYSICS I

https://3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn.net/newman/gfx/news/hires/2017/5970d3cba1db6.jpg

In the 1920’s scientists were working out the implications of Einstein’s work on general relativity from the previous decade.  In 1929, Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, observed the light from newly-discovered galaxies and discovered it was red-shifted, that is to say, the observed energies were less than expected, shifted towards the relatively lower energy red and away from the higher energy violet light. (This is essentially a light-version of the more familiar Doppler effect associated with sound.  Think of a passing ambulance who siren sounds higher-pitched as it approaches you and then lower-pitched after it passes and is receding away from you.)  These observations are consistent with an expanding universe, which Belgian astronomer and mathematical (theoretical) physicist George Lemaître had proposed in the year 1927 when he obtained his Ph.D. from MIT. (Independent parallel work was done by the Russian mathematican Alexandr Friedman around 1922.) Einstein was cautious about the consequences proposed from these works.

A few years later Lemaître proposed his “hypothesis of a primordial atom” as he began to consider the consequences of reversing the timeline to ask, “What might cause an expanding universe?” Today we know this idea popularly as the “Big Bang” theory, originally a disparaging name given by an early critic of Lemaître’s theory, fellow astronomer Fred Hoyle.

In the beginning according to science was the “Big Bang.”  Now this idea may sound like it is against or opposes theology, but I can assure you it does not.  Did you know that George Lemaître was also a Jesuit priest, who saw no conflict between science and religion?

The beginning of the Big Bang was necessarily hot.  Consider all the known energy (and future matter) of the universe confined to an extremely small space.  We don’t know what the very beginning was like, but we can work out what probably happened once things started.  The production of fundamental (a.k.a. elementary) particles happened in the first millionth of one second as the universe cooled down to 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000 = 1012) Kelvin (K).

Reader’s Note:  Based on our current though necessarily incomplete understanding, there are two types of fundamental, or elementary, particles in physics: fermions, associated with matter itself, and bosons, associated with the interactions between matter.  These later particles are associated with the more familiar gravitational and electromagnetic forces, and the perhaps less familiar strong and weak nuclear forces.  The Higgs boson is related to the idea of mass…

http://palaeos.com/cosmos/primordial/images/birth_of_Universe.jpg

  • Planck Epoch: At the start all 4 forces (gravity, electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear) are assumed to be combined by the yet unconfirmed supergravity theory. The initial temperature was around 1032  There was only energy and no matter yet.
  • Grand Unification Epoch: At 10-43 s, gravity split off from the other three forces, making the Grand Unified Force and gravitons.  The universe was still unbelievably hot, 1029
  • Inflationary Epoch: At 10-36 s, as the initial temperature dropped to only 1028 K, a second fundamental force, the strong nuclear force, separated from the others, leaving the only electroweak force in a unified state.  Consequently, from 10-33 s to 10-32 s, the known universe expanded, by a factor of 1026 (!), to the size of a grapefruit.  The first particles, quarks and leptons were produced at this time. Remember E = mc2.
  • Electroweak Epoch: At 10-12 s, as the electroweak force split in the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces, it made numerous W and Z bosons and Higgs bosons, mediating the weak nuclear force and mass, respectively. The fundamental particles were a plasma of independent quarks in a sea of gluons which was distributed through the “grapefruit” universe. Leptons split into electrons/positrons and neutrino/anti-neutrinos at this time.  Temperature: 1014
  • Quark Epoch: Shortly after the electroweak epoch until 10-6 s, that is in most of latter part of the first millionth of a second, two types of leptons, electrons and neutrinos, were formed as the temperature continued to decrease to around 1012  At this relatively cooler temperature, the electromagnetic and weak forces finally separated forming now a total of four separate forces.  The energies are still too high for the quarks to combine into hadrons like protons and neutrons.
  • By the end of the first millionth of a second, there were
    • 24 types of fermions
      • six are called quarks: up and down, charm and strange, top and bottom.
      • six are called leptons: the electron and its neutrino, the muon and its neutrino, and the tau and its neutrino.
      • six more are anti-quarks.
      • the last six are anti-leptons.
    • 4 types of gauge bosons associated with each of the forces in the universe
      • (The graviton associated with gravity is proposed but is yet to be found.)
      • gluons (strong nuclear force)
      • W bosons and Z bosons (weak nuclear force)
      • photon (electromagnetic force)
    • and 1 scalar boson, connected to the concept of mass

You Big Bang of glorious energy, bless the Lord,
Particles and antiparticles, bless the Lord,
Quarks and leptons, bless the Lord
Bosons associated with the four fundamental forces, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

FROM FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLES TO PROTONS AND NEUTRONS—PARTICLE PHYSICS II

The electron, the third part of an atom, is also a fermion, but not of the quark type.  It is from a family called leptons which differ from quarks in that leptons do not interact with the strong nuclear force the way fermions do.  To date, quarks and leptons are the smallest particles of which we are aware.

TIMELINE AFTER THE BIG BANG

https://phys.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/University_Physics/Book%3A_University_Physics_(OpenStax)/Map%3A_University_Physics_III_-_Optics_and_Modern_Physics_(OpenStax)/11%3A_Particle_Physics_and_Cosmology/11.7%3A_Evolution_of_the_Early_Universe

We continue with our timeline of the early universe from the end of the millionth of a second to 380,000 years!

  • Hadron Epoch: In the remaining time before the first second had elapsed, as the universe cooled to a mere 1010 Kelvin, quarks began to combine into hadrons.  These include the proton (2 up quarks & 1 down quark) and the neutron (1 up quark & 2 down quarks).  This is an instance showing the power of community on the smallest known scale of matter of which we are currently aware.  Neutrinos were formed when protons were hit with electrons forming neutrons; some of these neutrons and neutrinos reverted again to electrons and protons.  These hadrons and antihadrons annihilated each other to a great degree, leaving only a slight excess of hadrons (matter) over antihadrons (antimatter).
  • The limit of energy currently attainable by the Large Hadron Collider leads us to believe that quarks are fundamental particles in our own time only, mainly because at this time we cannot create temperatures higher than this within particle accelerators! We believe this is the reason the quarks of quark-based fermions have never been observed separately from the fermions of which they are a part.
  • Lepton Epoch: Now just after l second as the universe cooled down to just 109 Kelvin, leptons and antileptons dominated the universe.  Leptons and anti-leptons took up to 200x longer (until about 3 minutes) to annihilate one another, leaving again a slight excess of leptons (matter) over antileptons (antimatter).  Specifically, as electrons and positrons (antielectrons) collided and annihilated each other, photons were created and vice versa.
  • Big Bang Nucleosynthesis: Now that the stage was cleared a bit and as cooling continued down to 107 Kelvin allowing the strong nuclear force to take hold, protons and neutrons were finally able to form simple nuclei (no atoms with electrons), from 3 to 20 minutes:
    • [Protons by themselves make up hydrogen-1. This is not a “combination” nucleus like the others that follow.]
    • Deuterium, hydrogen-2, a combination of 1 proton and 1 neutron, the simplest “combination” nucleus
    • Helium-3, a combination of 2 protons and 1 neutron.
    • Helium-4, a combination of 2 protons and 2 neutrons.
    • Lithium-7, a combination of 2 protons and 4 neutrons.
  • Until about 380,000 years from the Big Bang, expansion and cooling continued to just above 4000 K, the universe now consisted of
    • atomic nuclei: roughly 75% hydrogen-1. The fusion reactions made most of the remaining 25% as helium-4.  Much smaller amounts, on the order of 0.01% were made of deuterium and helium-3.  A smaller amount of lithium was also made.
    • free electrons, unbound to nuclei.
    • energy, in the form of photons.

Protons and neutrons, bless the Lord,
Atomic nuclei, bless the Lord,
Free electrons, bless the Lord,
Photons of energy, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God above all forever! 

REFERENCES—Timeline of the Big Bang:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdPzOWlLrbE  National Geographic Video

www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_bigbang_timeline.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe

https://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/astronomy-terms/big-bang-theory4.htm

https://web.njit.edu/~gary/202/Lecture26.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang_nucleosynthesis

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Blog by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

Treasure buried and dug up; pearl of great price found and bought. In both cases, there is something of great value that is hidden. It is up to the astute searcher to find this thing of value. Isn’t that what our lives are all about. We have found our treasure in our commitment to the gospel.  We have uncovered the pearl and have sold all we have to buy it. That’s why we live a Dominican life.

But then stuff gets in the way. We get busy with the daily-ness of life. Life becomes hum-drum. Then something catches our attention. We search again for that buried treasure, trying to remember where we buried it for safekeeping. Then we see that that pearl is right in front of us. We cherish it. We let go of some more of the stuff of daily life in order to possess that pearl. We again commit ourselves to deepening our relationship with the God we love – the God who loves us. Over and over throughout our lives we find our treasure, we bury it so we will always have it, then we forget, we search again and find it. The life journey of spiritual consciousness becomes our journey.

If we completely embraced the treasure of the Gospel, we would be like Moses. The skin of our faces would become radiant. It would be so radiant that like Moses we would need to veil our faces. But we are still on the journey. We still lose that pearl and then find it again. In another way,

Just a word about Ignatius of Loyola who we honor today. The motto of the Jesuits is “Contemplation in action.” I am struck by its similarity to the Dominican focus: “contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere (to contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of our contemplation) So similar. We are all about the same thing – only in slightly different ways. We all are on the journey of finding the pearl, letting our lives show the wonder of the treasure and sharing it with others.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Split-Second Surprises

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Well, here’s another adventure in the back yard —one of my favorite places.  A mother bird built a nest on the upper curve of a downspout outside the back door. An ingenious spot that provides shelter overhead from the roof eaves and added protection because it is up high.

We’ve been watching her movements and trying to sort out what’s going on in the nest. We concluded she was incubating some eggs because for the longest time she would sit there for hours and hours without leaving. It’s almost impossible for us to see into the nest because of its location.  There was just no way for us to get up there and look inside. It was killing me.

Sure enough, after a few weeks of keeping vigil, she had some babies. We think two.  We figured that’s because she was fussing in the nest, going back-and-forth and poking at whatever was in there. Her behavior definitely changed and there was a lot of activity going on. One day, by some little miracle I was looking out the kitchen window, trying to get a better glimpse of the nest.  At just the right angle, in a split second, mother bird shows up with a worm in her mouth and up pops the big mouth of a tiny baby bird. Without hesitation, the mother dropped the worm into the baby’s mouth.  I was startled by it and could hardly believe that I happened to be in the right place at the right time for a half a second to witness this amazing thing.

I still feel the shock of it, the startled jolt that went through me is still so real, even as I wonder if I could have imagined it. But it happened. A split-second surprise, when nature astonishes. How does she know how to do this? Nature instinctively and with intelligence finds what is needed for life. No one told her how to build a nest or why she needed to sit and warm the eggs. No one told her to find food and feed her young. She just knows. A mere sparrow.

 And He said to His disciples, “For this reason, I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single [hour to her life’s span? (Luke 12: 22-25)

So what’s the message for today?  Don’t worry and stay ready – be alert for surprises.  At a moment’s notice, God can break into an ordinary day and surprise you. Be on the lookout for it. Through nature, the smile of a stranger, the words of a child. Any minute, in a split second, you might get a visit from the divine.

It takes paying attention. Be ready for anything. I think God is just behind the door, around the corner, poised in a hidden place, waiting for us to notice something wonderful.

Stay alert. Try not to miss it.

Posted in Wednesday's Word

Summer. Savor. Stop. Slow. See. Some Stories.

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Story One. I was  second in the line in the express (12 items or less) checkout at the grocery store. Ahead of me for a much longer time than I thought possible, was an elderly, thin, obviously confused person who kept fumbling with the money required for payment. I will never be venerated as the most patient of saints, and well, an express line is an express line, so I leaned forward to see if I could help, kindly saying “Ma’am, could….” And stopped right there. I realized first, that she had a beard so I got that one wrong. But I also saw more clearly what was happening in the transaction, and noticed the kindness and patience shown to him by the young grocery clerk, gently, not exasperated, going step by step with him to help him figure it all out. I stopped, and saw clearly, and was touched. And taught.

Story Two. Some years ago, in a motherhouse community that shall remain unnamed, there was a disagreement about the pace at which the Office should be recited. There were two camps. One group wanted the psalms to be  prayed at a contemplative pace, and the other felt that Dominic’s encouragement of his brethren to sing the office “breviter et fortiter” meant to keep up a brisk pace. And there were days when there was both pulling and pushing, speeding up and slowing down, the louder faction seeking to make its will known , sure evidence of the lack of accord. One day, the “fast” faction was definitely pushing the pace. And when the last notes of the “O Lumen” were sung, a member of the community who was known for her clear assessment of situations and her lack of hesitancy in naming them, approached one of the leaders of the “breviter” group and said to her, “And what exactly were you going to do with the two minutes you just saved?”

I imagine that question as a part of our life’s end dialogue with God at the Pearly Gates.                       What exactly did you gain from all your impatience and the efficiency you required of yourself and others? How exactly was the Reign of God served, the people of God better loved, the face of Christ manifest to the world by your rushing about, always in the passing lane, getting things done? And we could have, perhaps, another billion or so years—or there being no time in God, a very long “now”—to come up with an answer.

Summer flowers among us. The light of Christ, the breezes and streams of the Spirit call us to attention and contemplation of the flowering of all that is so precious to God. We want to be there, don’t we, present to that endless moment, to share and to celebrate the sight of “all creation groaning in one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8).

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word