Wednesday’s Word

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


 

Progress by the Inch

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, it came to my attention that I am no longer six feet tall. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost two inches because of gravity, aging, and spine surgery some years ago. I have fallen from that lofty height I was so fond of in my youth. It was fun being so tall, it came in handy when picking sides for basketball and when someone short needed something from the top shelf. People liked to comment on my height and the attention was mostly, but not always, enjoyable.

Five feet ten is still respectable, but this fall from being six feet tall got me thinking about how much we look at life with a measuring lens. Football is a game of progressive yards and sometimes inches. Cooks count in teaspoons. Accountants count in decimals. Weather forecasters in probabilities. We focus on small things.

It’s notable that the Gospel story about Jesus feeding thousands of people mentions that a few fish and seven loaves of bread  were on hand. From this small number a great miracle happened. Someone in the vast crowd came forward with this little pittance of a lunch and said, “Here’s something that might help”. And God made something small something great. Something small gave hope.

In other places in the Gospel, other small things mattered. “If I could only touch his cloak…” a small gesture that leads to healing.  A sower sows some seed. Think about how small seed is. It can feed millions. Jesus sought just one lost sheep among 99. God cares about even one sheep.

So why is all this worth writing about? Because small steps matter. A few inches of progress toward greater fairness can keep us from being discouraged. Small steps can be subversive acts of prophetic faith when the world’s pain and suffering can be deafening to those who are listening. (And I think you are listening). I suggest that we should never underestimate the value and importance of noticing that small things can lead to progress on our way to making the world better for someone else.

A small moment when I stop what I’m doing to hear about someone’s personal struggle. A phone call to a public official supporting important legislation, voting in an election. Sharing dessert at lunch.

These days when we are facing daunting and seemingly almost insurmountable problems, small steps matter all the more to keep us from loosing hope. So this is a reminder that small things matter. Sometimes small is just the right size to move a mountain. Hope lies in seeing the way small things make a difference.

Oh, and just to say, one of the advantages of loosing two inches of height is that I notice my slacks fit better. They cover my ankles better now.  Small is beautiful.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

A Reflection

Associate Larry Vuillemin

“How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?”

About 30 years ago I spoke at a Kiwanis club dinner.  Essentially I spoke of the difference the Lord was making in my personal and professional life as a lawyer. I also spoke of the work Fr. Norm Douglas and I were doing in Heart to Heart Communications and its focus on the spirituality of everyday life, including our work.

After the dinner, an 18 year old young woman, a foreign exchange student named Christina from Latvia, came up and thanked me for my remarks. She was all smiles and animated—I was moved by her presence and asked her why she was thanking me, and why her excitement?  “I love to hear about God!”

She was involved in a bible study group and was sharing her spirituality with other high schoolers and young adults—and she also wanted to be a lawyer one day, go back to Latvia, and help her country rebuild its government. Intuitively, Christina connected the work she wanted to do in the world with the God she wanted to serve.  And she lifted me up!

No one has ever accused me of having beautiful feet—but in the words of Paul’s letter to the Romans, on that night “how beautiful were the feet of Larry the Lawyer, who brought the good news!”  Christina renewed in me a commitment I had made to the Lord when God put on my heart, “Speak of me Larry, speak of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

I was walking this morning with a friend, a counselor who himself was marking over 30 years of sobriety. I asked him what the word “commitment” meant to him. He smiled and said that in his younger years the word had the connotation for him of being trapped.  What if?  So many doubts and uncertainties….  But my friend went on to say that the word “commitment” now means “Liberation” for him. His faithfulness to the spiritual disciplines of A.A. was liberating, freeing him from his powerlessness and self-destruction.

So what are we doing when we make our commitment as Dominicans, as associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace?  Pondering this question, I noticed on the window sill my OPA block– reminding me to Be Peace, Build Peace, and Preach Peace. That’s what we Associates are committing ourselves to—being, building and preaching peace in a world which is becoming increasingly hostile, divisive, and hateful.

So what does that mean, practically, for each of us?

“Be Peace:” Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “above all else, guard the condition of your heart because everything you do flows from it.” What we think, feel, and believe expresses itself in the world in which we live and work and communicate. Our “preaching in the world” involves our interior life, what is in our heart.  We might ask ourselves what has been disturbing our peace lately? What spiritual commitments might we make or renew in order to experience the peace of the Lord that is beyond all understanding—even in the midst of difficult circumstances?

“Build Peace.” We may think that Commitment is “another thing to do” in the midst of all that we are already doing.  As a lawyer, and after experiencing quite a spiritual awakening in my life, I struggled with the question “What to do? What to do?”  The Lord answered that question for me as I was reading Pope John XXIII’s Diary of a Soul.  As a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, Angelo Roncalli often struggled with why he was there, what he should be doing. God broke through his questions with the response “ Do what you are doing.” As I read that, God also said to me, “Larry, do what you are doing.” Proclaim the Good News, build peace, Larry, as father, husband and Lawyer.”

The issue is not so much what we are doing as why and how we are doing it.  “Bloom where you are planted.” The Lord worked in, through, and with Angelo Roncalli, as he did what he was doing on the spiritual journey toward the Papacy and sainthood.

Preach Peace.  We are called  to preach peace, to proclaim the good news according to the gifts we have been given and the circumstances of our daily lives. We can preach the good news of Jesus our Lord in any number of ways, from many different pulpits.

I believe it all starts with a willingness and courage to share our own stories of that time in our lives when we fell in love with God. As is inscribed on the tombstone of my dear mother: “Make of your life a prayer.”

 

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

CANTICLE OF THE UNIVERSE

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
Fermions and bosons, bless the Lord;
Electrons and all fundamental particles, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you protons and neutrons,
All you subatomic particles, bless the Lord;
All you atoms, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you molecules that share electrons,
All you atoms that transfer electrons to form new compounds, bless the Lord.
All you metals, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you liquids and solids,
Those with London dispersion forces, bless the Lord,
Those with dipole-dipole forces, bless the Lord,
Those with hydrogen bonds, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God above all forever!

Bless the Lord, all you biomolecules,
Proteins with your many-layered structures, bless the Lord,
Carbohydrates that supply and store energy, bless the Lord,
Nucleic acids that replicate and provide energy, bless the Lord,
Fats with long chains of carbon, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you organelles,
Membranes and cell walls, bless the Lord.,
Nuclei and centrosomes, bless the Lord,
Smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum, bless the Lord,
Vacuoles and lysosomes, bless the Lord,
Mitochondria and chloroplasts, bless the Lord,
You Golgi apparati, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you organisms,
With your cells, bless the Lord,
With your tissues, bless the Lord,
With your organs, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you collectives of plants,
Flowering plants, bless the Lord,
Evergreens and deciduous plants, bless the Lord,
Ferns and horsetails, bless the Lord,
Mosses and liverworts, bless the Lord,
You algae, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God above all forever!

Bless the Lord, all you collectives of animals,
Herds of deer and giraffes, bless the Lord,
Swarms of bees and butterflies, bless the Lord,
Flocks of geese and sheep and birds, bless the Lord,
Clouds of gnats and grasshoppers, bless the Lord,
Prides of peacocks and lions, bless the Lord,
Schools of fish and beds of oysters, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you collectives of peoples,
You families, bless the Lord,
You neighbors, bless the Lord,
You townspeople, bless the Lord,
All you people of the same nation, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you ecosystems,
All you producers, bless the Lord,
All you consumers, bless the Lord,
All you who decompose, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you biomes,
Forests, temperate, boreal and tropical, bless the Lord,
Deserts and tundra, bless the Lord,
Grasslands and savannahs, bless the Lord,
Waters, marine and fresh, and ice, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God above all forever!

Bless the Lord, Our Gaia Earth,
You lakes, rivers, and oceans, bless the Lord,
You air currents and clouds of the sky, bless the Lord,
You lands that emerge and subtend from below the crust, bless the Lord,
You partner moon that drives our tides, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, all you planets,
Mercury, Venus, and Mars, bless the Lord,
The Great Asteroid Belt, bless the Lord,
Gaseous giant outer planets, bless the Lord.
You Oort cloud of icy comets, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, you great Milky Way,
All you stars, bless the Lord,
You innumerable other planets, bless the Lord,
You black holes and supernovae, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

Bless the Lord, you Great Universe,
Clusters of galaxies, bless the Lord,
Playground of the Divine, bless the Lord,
The home of all creation, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God above all forever!

Glory to God throughout all the ages,
Three in One and One in Three
Now and in eternity!
Amen! Amen!

–Sr. Patricia Connick, O.P.,
written Sunday, July 29, 2018; inspired by the second psalm of Morning Prayer

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

My Kind of Town

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

A friend of mine called the other day to make arrangements to get together. She told me to meet her on the corner of Nuns and Religious. Any place besides New Orleans and I would have thought she was just joking around. But, sure enough, down here such streets exist along with Ursulines and Dominican.

To the Northerner, New Orleans is another country, seductive and disorienting. To the Southerner is part of the family; a little eccentric; French and very Roman Catholic even in the midst of a very Anglo-Saxon culture.

New Orleans is celebrating its tri-centennial this year, and the connections this city has with all things Catholic are legion. Beginning with the arrival of the Jesuits in 1725, Ursulines in 1727, the Daughters of Charity in 1820, the Dominicans in 1860 (and many others) and continuing to the present with the many religious orders that joined in the recovery efforts after Katrina, the city has maintained a Catholic culture that might be hard to find in a lot of places. The people living in the neighborhood around the Peace Center are always telling us stories about the Sisters who used to live in the area and visit with them before Katrina.

Many saints and blesseds have ministered to the people here: St. Frances Cabrini, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Blessed Henriette Delille. They have left schools and medical facilities in their wake that continue efforts to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Xavier University is a Catholic all Black institution of higher learning founded by Saint Katherine Drexel, and the Peace Center has the honor of working with many students from there who volunteer in our After School program.

Even Mardi Gras has tried to honor the role of the Catholics in this town. In 2017, in honor of their 175th Anniversary, the Sisters of the Holy Family had their own float in one parade. In 2018, in honor of the tri-centennial, the Krewe of Rex provided floats decorated with figures of Blessed Henriette, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the Ursuline Sisters and St. Louis Cathedral.

In his reflection during our celebration of Consecrated Life in the Archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond shared that recently someone had said to him that religious women were a total part of the history of this city. He responded no; they had actually written the history of this city.

Is this a super holy city? Nope. Is it a city filled with evil? Nope. But it is filled with folks who have been helped by Sisters, Brothers, Nuns and Priests for 300 years and more. God is good! All the time!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Joining the Dance for the First Time

Blog by Public Relations Specialist Dee Holleran, who spent more time taking video than dancing at the Assembly.

As a “newer” member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace Communications staff and a relatively new convert to Catholicism (I entered the Church in 2010), I was asked more than a few questions about my reaction to last weekend’s Assembly.

The word that most describes my feelings after my first Dominican Sisters of Peace Assembly is not “different,” or “refreshing,” or even “spirited.” From the view of my own religious and life background, the word I would apply to the ceremonies and the discussions would be “inclusive.”

A little background – I grew up Pentecostal in rural West Virginia. Dancing in the spirit, delivering prophecy, speaking in tongues – these “charismatic” events were a regular part of our worship service. Seeing people dance as part of a Church service is rare for me now, but not unknown in my faith history.

Scripture study, however, was often less study and more memorization (my dad was a champion at “Bible Baseball,” where the leader read the beginning of a scriptural passage and the players complete the verse), without much analysis and application to the problems of everyday society.  The book of Revelations was a study focus at least once a year, and I grew up terrified of being left behind in the rapture we expected at any time.

I often compare the faith of my youth to the faith that I chose as a woman in my forties. And I find comparing those two faiths very much like comparing our recent Assembly to a Pentecostal tent service.

The application of Scripture within the two events is vastly different.  In a standard tent meeting, Scripture was literally quoted chapter and verse, stated as black and white regulations to be followed in fear of a vengeful God.

As a Catholic, and most notably, through the eyes and minds of our Sisters, I have learned to view Scripture more like the law in the hands of a well-educated and thoughtful jurist – a jurist who views everything through the lens of Christ’s love. Our discussion Friday, where Sisters and Associates of different races, cultures and even sexual identities, were given equal weight in a discussion of multicultural living, was eye-opening and, to me, the definition of loving inclusion.

The thoughtful application of current events to our charism presented in the opening ceremony moved my heart. We acknowledged to God that our world is broken – we looked to the Saints for ways to repair it – and we pledged to each other to make that happen. It was sad and hopeful, all at the same time.

And the dancing! Oh the dancing! As I said earlier, dancing in the spirit was a relatively common sight for me growing up, but it was completely different than what I experienced as part of our Assembly. In addition, to me, the dancing was a metaphor for the openness that was evident throughout those four days.

In the past, when I have watched a fellow worshipper dance in the spirit, it was a joyful but very personal experience, as though God were speaking to just one person and the rest of us were to observe. But as a participant in our Assembly, it seemed to me that dance was performed as a glorious gift to God, planned in such a way that, like so many other parts of Mass, everyone could take part in the offering of joy.

As Ana and Margaret danced into their profession ceremony, I watched Margaret’s brother dance on the edge of the aisle, offering his happiness to the occasion.

Sisters, associates, family and clergy twirled scarves and napkins to celebrate our new Sisters – and Ana’s brother literally boogied through the procession with his flowing banner. Others followed behind, maybe clapping, maybe just walking, but all with a look of joy and thanksgiving.

For every offering made – preaching, teaching, Eucharist – everyone was given the opportunity to participate in her or his own way. Whether we danced in the aisles, swayed in our chairs, clapped our hands or simply smiled, we were all part of the dance. And I was happy to be one of the dancers.

 

 

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word