holy leftovers

Happy Halloween!! It’s the start of a triduum of sorts; three days of praising God for our mortality and the communion of saints.

In the video above, the wise young women on the streets of New York name a Truth that I will reflect on for three days. On November 2 we celebrate the leftovers!

We have nothing to fear. We are all children in God’s family and God’s mercy sets us all free.

Say some prayers, spread some joy and honor the dead. God’s power is greater than anything we might want to fear.  Remember that these days, like all days, are gifts from God and you can use them to give God glory. May it be so. Amen.

interdependence

Guest blogger: Amy Nee

Last week I was invited to speak as a panelist at the National Religious Vocations Conference in Franklin, Ill., and offered this prompt: “Could you describe two key aspects of your faith life right now? In what ways do you feel called by God?”

Directly following that event I joined my community-mate and fellow beekeeper, Regina, in harvesting our first batch of honey from the two hives of bees we’ve been tending since early spring.

Bee Boxes, by Amy Nee

The fact that I would be sharing in the bounty of the bees after responding to that prompt seemed a coincidence of the providential kind. It shaped my answer. My relationship with the bees is part of my relationship with a farm, which is part of an experiment that arose from a growing desire to participate in healthy food-systems. That desire grew from a slow wakening realization that what we eat can be life-giving or destructive to both our bodies and the earth. My well-being is dependent on the well-being of the earth. The earth’s well-being is dependent on the quality of my relationship with it.  Interdependence: a key aspect of my faith, and a calling.

I went to the conference with the egotistical assumption that I had a challenge for these religious men and women gathered to learn how to connect with youth. I would remind them of the gospel call to justice, attentiveness to the poor, relationships of nonviolence with neighbors, enemies and the earth.  Before speaking I had the opportunity to join them for lunch. I learned of their various missions and ministry which ranged from immigration to prison to spiritual direction. They tended to a broad spectrum of needs, and reminded me of how quietly some serve, how necessarily they narrow their focus in order to live in accordance with the calling they’ve received.

The harvest is great and the laborers are few. I often find myself dwelling on this phrase that Jesus shared with his followers – whispering it resentfully when I see the work piled before me – whether it’s dishes to wash, weeds to pull, corrupt systems to confront or guests to serve – entertaining the idea that because no one is tackling the same task I am they are not heeding God’s call, not laboring in the field. The harvest is great indeed, extending beyond my own vision.  If we all focused on the row of carrots, who would bring in the corn? If we all risked arrest to make a statement, who would prepare a meal for the hungry? If all were busy feeding, who would ask why they hunger?

Protest, by Amy Nee

I am almost painfully conscious of the way the many needs are weaved together: humanity’s poor health to the way we disrespectfully garner the energy of the earth; the accumulation of wealth to the deprivation of the poor; the obsession with security to the abuse of the other. I am conscious, too, that when I try to engage with every angle of these issues, I am stretched thin, little able to support the weight of each. Conversely, when I wear blinders that allow me to focus only on one angle, I am blinded from the intricate relationship between the part and the whole.

This is a lesson the Trinity is continually, quietly teaching – a whole is made of many parts – to be holy is to be whole.  We depend on one another and on other living things. Every action we take affects the earth and those who inhabit it. We are one mystical body of interdependent parts. Any time we isolate ourselves, any time I am only Amy, only human, then I am diminishing other people and living beings and I am diminished; then I am not holy. What is actually me, wholly me, is also you, is also the colony of bees we’re sharing honey with, is also men indefinitely detained in Guantanamo, is also the soil that gives and receives life as the bodies of plants, animals and people rise from and fall to it.

with my feet

A version of this post was previously posted here.

While I was in my early 20s and discerning sisterhood, I felt insecure about my prayer life. I envied people who were able to wake up at the same time every day and pray in the same way. I had some silly impression that that’s what made a Christian a good Christian – whether they were able to sit still with God before they did anything else. As I grew to understand and accept myself more, I quickly realized that God didn’t really make me to be a consistent creature. Every day is different, and my relationship with God is very on-the-go.

In fact, when I shut up and paid attention to God in the people I knew, I started to notice how God was telling me that I was OK just as I was. One of my dear friends, who knows some things about God, kept saying “Julia, you pray with your feet.” I felt affirmed, yet still doubtful. Then I met a young monk from an Eastern religion who taught me that within humanity there are two different dispositions to enlightenment. Some people are enlightened through meditation and others are enlightened through service.

I’ve always been compelled to serve. Giving and caring for others is a blessing, just as it is a blessing to allow others to care for me. When I teach youth about service I remind them over and over that service is not about doing something. Service is not about entering someone’s world and getting busy. Service is about building relationships with people who are different than you and providing a loving presence, like Jesus did. It’s allowing them to change you as you learn about their lives and their world.

During my first summer of working with the Peacebuilders Initiative, I accompanied some teenagers to a shelter for women (and their children) who are in recovery on the South Side of Chicago. There we participated in the music class with an organization called Harmony, Hope, and Healing. Aware that the women had been formerly homeless made the experience even more awesome. Diverse strangers crammed into a living room, we all sang our hearts out. I heard million dollar voices sing hymns of praise. I realized, in tears, that this was what I had been hoping for every time I prayed “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

Singing, praying and dancing with the children at St. Martin de Porres in Chicago

Later, we danced and prayed with musical instruments as we marched down the street to the park. Aware that it was a neighborhood of violence, I prayed with every step that the music we made blessed all of creation. The women told their stories and I told them how amazing they were and then we prayed, cried and hugged. It was one of the best prayer services I ever attended.

the prayer box

Guest blogger Liz Diedrich

Praying is hard. It is hard to find time to pray. It is hard to stay focused. It is hard to quiet one’s mind and listen for the subtle movements of God. It is hard when we feel far from God, and it is hard when God asks things of us that we do not want to hear.

I wish a prayer upon my little sister Molly. She has become an alcoholic. I love her. Amen

At André House one the most important things we do is pray for our guests. In the main dining room of the hospitality center we have a prayer table. Here we have paper, pens, and a prayer box where guests (and volunteers and staff) can write their prayer intentions. At our noontime prayer we pray the intercessions from the prayer table.

"Jesus of the Electrical Boxes" (In the main dining room at Andre House)

I pray Lord, please help me know where to live, where to start the journey, where to end the journey. Thanks. Amen.

It is very intimate to share the prayer intentions. A person’s prayers come from the silent longing of their hearts and are raw expressions of their deepest desires. We see prayers of hope, despair, joy, and thanksgiving.

I’m such a sucker. I get paid and throw it away on others. I am so tired. Death would be a welcome relief. Lord, help me learn to help me. Amen. -Nick

Sometimes, I find the hardest part of prayer is honesty with God. In prayer we are called to let go of the walls we put around ourselves and let go of our worldly self-consciousness. We are called to authentically and completely open ourselves to the grace of God.

Help, God, I am begging, I need to stay clean. Amen.

In prayer we are called to continually deeper our relationship with God and to become self aware of our shortcomings and our needs. We are called to honestly look at ourselves and humbly ask God for the grace to lead us according to God’s dream for our lives.

Dear most gracious father God I ask in your son Jesus name that my children come home to me and papa. Amen.

As we discover the areas of our lives where we fall short, prayer is an occasion to bring these things before God and ask for help.

I ask the Lord for a special anointing – the kind of anointing that whatsoever I touch or whomsoever I walk by, they would be blessed. Please also pray that God humbles me and makes me like Christ through and through. Amen.

Often when I am having a hard time with prayer, when I cannot stay focused or I am frustrated by my day, I turn my prayer into a prayer of thanksgiving. At the end of the day I work to quiet my mind by recalling the moments throughout the day that I am thankful for, the moments where God was present in my day.

Thank you God for everything, even the things I don’t see and help the little girl I saw on the bus today. Amen.

It is a blessing and privilege to share these prayers with our guests and in our community. This last prayer was a prayer left on the prayer table in thanksgiving for André House for all of those who pass help with our ministries.

A prayer for André House – may God find you in his mercy and his grace for all you have done for everyone. Amen.

cooking up the goodness of abundance

Did you know there is enough food in the world to feed everyone?  Yup, it’s true.

Yet, we’re in a major global food crisis and people are dying of starvation while others waste food and have health problems from obesity.  Certainly, a lot of what is wrong with the picture has to do with infrastructure, power, distribution, processing and policies.  Plus, we are not farming very well.  And our love for the game Farmville isn’t helping!

Unfortunately, if we don’t change our sinful ways, we won’t have enough food for everyone in just about 40 years.  This past week I learned from NPR what vices are causing us to run short on food.

The main problems, apparently, are due to the way we farm more than the way we distribute the food.  We need to remember, though, that our consumer culture influences the way things are farmed.  What we buy, cook and eat impacts what farmers grow and how they grow it.

No one wants anyone to starve to death.  Christians understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Eucharist is a Blessed Sacrament that unites us together as a body of Christ.  Farming, cooking and eating are very sacred, holy acts.  These basic, ordinary, life-giving acts are powerful and rooted in the Gospel.

We the people, have some good, God-given power. We don’t have to despair that things will only get worse for humanity just because some scientists have predicted that they will. The Gospel gives us great solutions (feed the hungry, share the loaves and fishes, pray, trust, listen, include everyone and invite others to our tables) and we are graced to be real instruments of peace while we live the Good News.

Plus, as stated in the NPR story, the scientists have suggestions too:

“First, stop cutting down forests to grow crops. Second, instead of that, focus on land that’s already being used to grow food but isn’t very productive… Third, use water more efficiently, also fertilizer. Fourth, in rich countries, don’t throw away so much food. In poor countries, keep it from spoiling before it gets to the people who need it. Fifth, and this may be the most controversial thing in this paper, eat less meat.”

I know I have written about all this food stuff many times before.  Food justice is something that is very important to me, however.  I even make it part of the curriculum in my teaching and work to connect my urban students with rural farmers.  My Eucharistic community works to educate and advocate for food justice.  And, today is a global Blog Action Day and bloggers all over the world are writing about food in order to encourage conversations and actions.  I am honored to participate.

http://blogactionday.org

Plus, it’s harvest season- the season of abundance- so we can be grateful for the great labor of farmers and how they bless us all.

I am excited to be spending some time on my younger sister’s farm this weekend.  She’s a great, young, organic farmer and food activist in Iowa who is modeling for all of us how we can work for change in these systems.  In celebration of her great witness, she has even been featured in the Oxfam World Food Day campaign.

When I return to the city from the farm on Sunday I hope to carry with me some good fruits and veggies.  I’ll be using my favorite cookbook, The More-with-Less Cookbook, to prepare meals for the next week and avoid buying any extra food.

I was thinking it might be nice, though, if we did a little recipe sharing right here on this blog.  What dishes are the rest of you planning to cook up using your fall  harvests?  What cooking tips do you have for me?  I’d really like a yummy, non-conventional way to cook up a big pie-pumpkin.

Sharing recipes is fun because it builds community.  For me, one of the great joys of eating is the experience of building relationships.  With every bite we can celebrate the relationships we have with other parts of God’s creation and with one another.  Together we get to work to create the world, the meals, and the unity that God intended.

While we do all this together, let’s remain mindful that we need to be able to live within all extremes and limitations.  We need to balance.  We need to love and help everyone- no matter how hungry they are- know the goodness of abundance.  As we eat, let’s be grateful and celebrate Life.

St. Paul did it quite well, and so can we:

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.  –Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20

coming home

Guest blogger: Sister Sarah Hennessey

Family life is messy.  If you are part of a family you probably know what I mean.  To be church is to be family.  To me this means that we are more than some institution or club to belong to; as family we belong to each other.  Our lives weave in and out of each other through birth and death, joy and sorrow, sudden tragedy and daily victories. 

I recently celebrated my perpetual profession as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.  My Franciscan sisters were joined by family and friends from across the country to celebrate a mass I had been planning in my head for years!  Secretly, I had been afraid that if my crazy quilt of a family and my FSPA community and my parish came together in one place that world war three would break out or at least a minor explosion. But instead it was an explosion of joy. 

My five year old niece carried flowers down the aisle with me as I carried a precious lard light.  My home priest presided in joy and song.  Friends sang a psalm I had composed.  I professed vows to the leadership team, received my blessed ring, and signed the official papers.  We processed out smiling and clapping to “This Little Light of Mine.”

To me the day was a homecoming.  As Sister Eileen McKenzie said in her reflection, in Jesus and my FSPA sisters I have found my home.  Home as you know is a complex place.  The people we love the most are often the people we hurt the most.  And as we come to forgive each other we love each other more. 

Henri Nouwen comments on this characteristic of home when he says:

                Community is characterized by two things: one is forgiveness, the other is celebration.   Forgiveness means that I am continually willing to forgive the other person for not being God- for not fulfilling all my needs…

                The interesting thing is that when you can forgive people for not being God, then you can celebrate that they are a reflection of God.  You can say, “Since you are not God, I love you because you have such beautiful gifts of his love.”

We celebrate the gifts of God in one another, while continually forgiving each other for not being divine and omnipotent.  My family, my true home, is this circle I know of the People of God.  It includes my birth parents and siblings, ninety-six year old nuns, and fourteen year old parishioners.  My family holds a place for the immigrant and the resident, children and prisoners, the suicidal and addicted.  Whatever label sticks to some part of our life, we are all children of God.  Day by day we learn to forgive and celebrate and forgive again.

surrendering

Lately my spirit has been contemplating what it really means to be poor and surrender all. If I admit that nothing at all is mine, and truly everything is God’s, then what will become of me?  If I give up my possessions and follow Jesus, certainly my life shall be transformed. But, what if I also give up my dreams, desires, hopes, pride, ideas, time, preferences, feelings and thoughts?  Nothing at all is mine, all is gift that is temporary and belongs to God. I am asked to pass the gift.

Maybe the the surrendering will  transform me.  Can I stop clinging from the outcomes that I desire too?  Can I truly be open and trust? Will I let Love lead the way?

power to the people

Jesus gave power to the people a long time ago.  The power is still with the people today.

People are uniting and speaking out and rising up working for the type of justice Jesus taught us about- the justice of love. They’ve done this since the time of Jesus.  Then and now the people use their power for the goodness of God.  The poor, the disadvantaged and the overworked have declared their right for fair pay, for human rights, equality, and justice. This is good because the Kingdom of God is with the meek, the poor and the peaceful. Jesus said so himself.

Today there are people who live in excess. They stutter justifications for their diamond cuff-links while the makers of their jewels scrape by for survival.  The poor must grow cash crops such as tobacco, cotton and corn then sell these things to the rich.  Or worse, they are forced to sell their landor sacrifice their clean water and air at unfair prices.  The poor can’t grow their own food to simply live so then they starve to death.  Meanwhile, in some countries people are getting bigger and bigger and more and more food is wasted–simply tossed away.

Has capitalism become another type of feudalism?

We’ve seen power and control mess things up for a long while now.  Jesus knew all about it, so he turned things all around.  Jesus  tried to warn the privileged that he wasn’t going to trust them with building the Kingdom anymore as they were doing a pretty horrible job.  Today, we still seem to be clueless about what this means.

I couldn’t help but to think of “Occupy Wall Street” and other revolutions when I studied the Gospel last Sunday:

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

It seems like an awful parable that could leave any person feeling confused and discouraged- like it did me.  Why would our great teacher of non-violence use so many images of violence to teach a point? What is the point?

We must pay attention to whom Jesus is speaking to really get the warning. He’s talking to the people of privilege- the people who think that they have some sort of divine right to control the poor, the dogma, the systems and the economics.  It seems to me that we are being told that violence , wealth and privilege aren’t the answers.

The answers live with the rejected.  The power is burning in the hearts of the powerless, in their peaceful revolutions and their voices that are united for change.  The answers are in the quiet fields where the poor labor for freedom.

The Kingdom of God is here now and not yet.  Power has been redefined.  The people of poverty experience redemption as they reject the systems that have rejected them.  The poor are creating the peace that Jesus teaches about when they do acts of mercy and refuse the acts of war. The rejected are powerful with they show God’s “kingdom come” and “will be done” as they love and serve one another.

I am not really sure where I fit in it all. I commit the sin of over-consumption and mindless cooperation with corrupt systems.  I feel powerless, yet overwhelmed and sick from my privilege.  I justify purchases of unnecessary and over-packaged treats because I hear the news radio preach about “consumer confidence” as the way out of economic dysfunction.  I pray for the kingdom of God, yet I keep looking in the wrong places for the answers to the questions that drive me.

I have a suspicion that if I truly heeded the words of Jesus and looked for the kingdom of God with the peaceful people of poverty, I would find myself poor and powerful.  I would probably find myself in the arms of our good, loving God.

Ode to St. Francis

Father

of feasting, fasting

and fun: your ecstatic love of God still

feeds us with inspiration, devotion,

commotion, communion, so we

gather up sticks and play

violins. we kneel

in the dirt praying

praising, remembering our mother earth,

our sister water, the fox our

brother Jesus a babe, born so simple

in a barn, poor- you

understood, the challenge of following

Love beyond limits, to great

extremes: mountain tops, battle

fields where we learn from lilies how to

just trust that God shall

provide. blessed are they

blessed are you

our father

our friend

our founder

Francesco!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy St. Francis Day everyone!! 

We’re rejoicing in the goodness of God today and hope you’ll join us on this special day.  May you be blessed with an abundance of joy and communion with God.

Peace and All Good, Sister Julia