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Annunciation: Trusting in God’s Promise thumbnail

Suzanne Pearson

For God so loved us that he humbled himself, emptied himself, and took the form of an embryo, fetus, and infant, becoming dependent on a woman’s “Yes” to be conceived, carried, and birthed, and humanity with him, into new life.

This woman risked everything she had to bear this child, including her comfort, her security, her relationship, and even her life.  Reason told her she’d be abandoned by her betrothed, stoned, and left to die for her choice, yet her faith, greater than her fear, in her God’s promise, encouraged her and she rejoiced.

God knew her better than she knew herself.  Troubled at first, he’d surprised her by entrusting her with this gift of new life and she was as close as his own heart.  In a moment of profound vulnerability and intimacy she responded, “Let it happen to me as you have said.”

First born in her heart: her consent to conceive, bear, and mother the child who would grow to bear the world, became flesh.

Worldly curse gave way to divine blessing and she rejoiced that God had “looked upon her humiliation” and yes, all generations since have called her “Blessed.”  It was her faith that opened the way to make us whole.

Mary, our mother in faith, first shared her good news with her aging cousin Elizabeth and found her also blessed, as had been promised.  Elizabeth’s child leapt for joy within her in recognition of the One who was to come and his mother affirmed for Mary the song in her heart, “Blessed is she who believed the promise made by her Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary sang her song out loud. The Church, throughout the ages, rejoices as Elizabeth did, in the coming of Mary, the Mother of our Lord and Mary’s song has become our canticle.

Faithful women, centuries later, still called and entrusted with the birthing of God’s kingdom in adverse circumstances, continue to rejoice in the faithful love of the Almighty for us and in the power of His mighty arm which has routed the arrogant of heart, pulled down princes from their thrones, and raised high the lowly.

Woman knows and trusts her God’s promise because of one woman’s yes to bear a Child.  Continuing to believe, she waits for history to catch up.  A joyful yes still echoes in the hearts and bodies of women everywhere, blessed forever with divine inheritance.

From North Eastern Seminary Blog (2013)


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Walking Straight on the Road to Heaven thumbnail

St Jane Frances de Chantal

Happy are those who walk straight on the road to heaven without losing their time in thinking whether or not they are advancing. Go forward always and make no reflections on self. God leads you by the hand. Be quite confident that if you persevere you will make a happy journey. Continue to live joyously. Your fears are nothing but temptations….

When the time for placing ourselves in the presence of His Divine goodness to speak alone to Him alone is come, which we call prayer, the sole presence of our spirit before His and of His before ours, forms the prayer, whether we have good thoughts and good sentiments, or whether we have not. It is only necessary, with all simplicity, without making any violent effort of spirit, to keep ourselves before Him, with motions of love and the attention of our whole soul, without any voluntary distractions….

We think not enough of this truth, that God is present with us, that He sees our thoughts, even long before we have them. That He knows what we think and shall think better than we ourselves, that He sees the folds and recesses of our heart and of this other truth, that nothing happens to us but by the order of Providence. We should all be saints if we well apprehended these truths. And truly, it is a great consolation to know that God sees the bottom of our heart….

Here is a little model of what we should do when we are taken by surprise as we row peacefully in our little boat. When all our emotions arise to stir up a great internal storm that seems certain to overwhelm us or drag us after it, we must not wish to calm this tempest ourselves. Rather, we must gently draw near the shore, keeping our will firmly in God, and coast along with the little waves; by humble knowledge of ourselves, we will reach God, who is our sure port. Let us go gently along without agitation or anxiety and without giving in to our emotions….

Tell me, if you were mothers of families, would you send your servants and your children to work in the fields or prune the vines without providing them with the tools necessary for doing what you wanted them to do? Are we to think that God asks us to do something and does not at the same time give us the assistance necessary for carrying out His commands? No, God is never wanting to us….

From “On the Go with St Jane Francis de Sales” www.oblates.org (2007)

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Joseph, the Man of Dreams thumbnail

Carl Gustav Jung

God has fallen out of containment in religion and into human hearts— God is incarnating. Our whole unconscious is in an uproar from the God who wants to know and to be known….

The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends….

We have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions.

From Collected Works (1953) and Man and His Symbols (1964)


Larry M. Toschi OSJ

In the New Testament, only the Gospel of Matthew explicitly presents dreams as a means of revelation. Matthew relates six instances of divine communications in dreams, five of which are in the infancy narrative, one to the magi and the other four to Joseph. Of these five revelations, two are reported in the same abbreviated form “being warned in a dream” (Mt 2:12,22), while the other three (Mt 1:20-25; 2:13-14,19-21) are described according to an artificial pattern with the following elements:1) an introductory description of the situation;2) with very minor variations, the phrase “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying;”3) the message of the angel, containing a command with a form of the same Greek verb for “take,” and a reason for the command;4) faith response of obedient execution of the command;5) a Scripture citation containing a form of the same Greek verb for “call” and a title of Jesus.

These three stereotyped formulas and one of the abbreviated forms all center around Joseph and regard, respectively: 1) taking Mary as wife and naming the child “Jesus;” 2) fleeing to Egypt to rescue the child and his mother; 3) returning from Egypt to Israel with the child and his mother; 4) withdrawing to Galilee and establishing residence in Nazareth….

While rare in the New Testament, dreams are rather common in the Old Testament, and a variety of significances accompany them…. In righteous Joseph’s dreams (and not in that of the magi), it is the “angel of the Lord,” who appears to him. This exact phrase is found repeatedly and consistently in the Septuagint as a translation for “the angel of Yahweh,” who is sent with most important messages to Hagar (Gen16:7-12), Abraham (Gen 22:11,15), Moses (Ex 3:2), the people of Israel (Jgs 2:1-4), the barren wife of Manoah (Jgs 13:3-5), Elijah (1 Kgs 19:7; 2 Kgs 1:15), and Joshua the high priest (Zec 3:1-10)….

Of all the Old Testament recipients of dreams mentioned here, probably none is more important than the patriarch Joseph. He not only interprets the dreams of Pharaoh and his court, but first of all is himself the recipient of divine communications in dreams, regarding his role in the history of the chosen people (Gen 37-50). Though Matthew’s infancy narrative also contains other resonances and is by no means a systematic allusion to Genesis, there are many significant parallels between the two Josephs….

Matthew’s portrayal thus communicates the multi-leveled truth that Joseph has a patriarchal role to play in connection with the prophetic mission of Christ. As a privileged recipient of multiple, combined forms of divine communications, and as a perfectly obedient man of faith who collaborates with all that is commanded him, he recapitulates the history of salvation of Israel, which has reached its definitive culmination in the child he names, protects and raises. The man of dreams who took the child and his mother to Egypt and back is the last of the patriarchs, who receives revelations about the promised descendence in the style of the Old Testament shared by no one else in the New Testament or thereafter.

From http://osjusa.org/ (2014)

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“Ultimate truth Ultimate love Ultimate life”

The Uniqueness of the Living God thumbnail

Elizabeth Johnson

Dawkins, and also Hitchens, … deny up and down that this God in the sky, whom they imagine as an old, omnipotent man who intervenes in the world at will, to create evolutionary changes and things like that. Then they say there is no such God, but Christians don’t believe in God that way so it doesn’t compute. Their argument doesn’t go anywhere….

The phrase “the living God” comes from the Bible. It’s found in the Psalms and the prophets. It strikes me as a very wonderful, engaging, enticing adjective to describe God as alive, as on the move, as opening up a future, as full of beans, so to speak, as compared to the old, monarchical notion that is rather static. In scripture, they often compare the living God to a spring of living water or a well where the water is running clear.

Most times it connects with life, so the living God is the one who gives life, and all of the blooming, buzzing ideas that go with life are connected with that notion of God. So I was trying to make God seem interesting to people in general who think they know who God is, or they’re told who God is, and it sort of shuts down then….

God is an ineffable, incomprehensible mystery and we can never wrap our minds around the fullness of who God is, simply by virtue of God being God and not a creature….Since no single name or word is ever sufficient, we need many words, many names, many images, many adjectives for God. Even added up all together, they wouldn’t deliver the fullness of God, but each one adds to the richness and texture and the greatness of what we mean when we say that three-letter word, “G-o-d”.…

Karl Rahner was trying to avoid the word “God” because it seemed too settled and too narrow, in common usage, so he begins with the notion of how we can come to understand a little bit about God by asking us to reflect on ourselves and our mental capacity for asking questions. As we get an answer, then we ask the next question and the next one. That is, in a sense, endless in us, the same with our hearts, our desire for love. We love and then we love further and then we’re capable of even more love and that too seems like an endless capacity and dynamism in the human spirit. He raises the question, “What’s at the other end of that? What’s the vis-à-vis—toward what are we tending as we think and ask questions all our life long, or as we love?” He comes up with the notion of a horizon. We’re going to toward something vast and great, which obviously he thinks is going to be God, and he calls God “ultimate truth, ultimate love, ultimate life,” but it can’t be confined in an image or a concept….

God is the one to whom all of us are tending in our quest for knowledge and our loving and our imaginations for life. God is the whither, therefore, of all these things by which our own spirit goes forth.

From National Catholic Reporter (2009)

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Many respected persons made it a practice to rise in the night or in the quiet hours of the morning to seek inspiration that comes in silence.

Feb 27, 2015

pixabay-bench-in-meadow-silence-featured-w740x493A prayerful, meditative silence is the mother of truth.

God cannot be found in noise and agitation. His true power and love are revealed in what is hardly perceptible, in the gentle breeze that requires stillness and quiet to detect. In silence, God listens to us. In silence, listen to Him. In silence, God speaks to our souls and the power of His word is enough to transform our very being. We cannot speak to God and to the world at the same time. We need the sacred space that silence creates in order to turn our undivided attention toward God even if it is only for a few precious moments of our day.

Many respected persons made it a practice to rise in the night or in the quiet hours of the morning to seek inspiration that comes in silence, Plato, Einstein, and even Jesus Himself. We all should find a time and a place to be in silent prayer. In the Carmelite tradition, the spiritual life is said to have two aims: the first is about our love of God and the second is about God’s love for us. The practice of silence facilitates both of these aims.

The experience of God’s love for us

We are meant to taste in our hearts and experience in our minds, not only after death but in this life, something of the power of the Divine Presence and the bliss of heavenly glory. From this point of departure in faith, silence becomes more than a practice. It is a form of prayer—a prayer of listening, waiting, and receptivity. It is a prayer that anticipates and expects intimate communion; it believes in the possibility and holds in high esteem the value of being in relationship with God.

The value of this type of prayer is difficult for our productivity-oriented culture to grasp. It is hard for us to see that a prayer in which “being” predominates over “doing” and that a prayer in which nothing happens is a prayer in which everything happens. It is in silence that we make the interior transition from darkness to light. We become more aware of God’s presence within us, of Him speaking to us, of the hidden things which He wishes to reveal to us.

Through silence we become more deeply aware of the beauty, unity, goodness and truth all around us and within us. Through faith our whole outlook on life is changed. What used to appear as ordinary, temporal events, become reflections of these four attributes of God. These happenings become messages through which He speaks intimately to our hearts; moments of sublime personal contact with Infinite Love Itself.

Listening to the word in silence, faith and love, we hear the secret to our happiness and authentic personal fulfillment. Only in this do we truly begin to fill that deep void and satisfy the longing that consumes us as human persons.

The gift of love, however, only comes to complete fruition when it is embraced by our response of love. God gives Himself entirely to us without reserve. His one request is that we return His love in like manner. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt 22:37-39, NASB). This is also expressed in the Carmelite tradition through the first aim of the spiritual life that we offer God a pure and holy heart, free of the actual stain of sin, accomplished both with God’s grace and our own efforts of virtuous living. The human heart in its brokenness tends to cling readily to those things among which it habitually finds itself. Our thoughts feed our emotions and our desires. So if we are placing ourselves most frequently in the noises of the world that speak to values contrary to God’s way, our desires will easily be lead astray. Ensnared by these misled desires, we cannot be free to love God with our whole being. The person who persistently seeks noise and diversion betrays his own insecurity. When we do not possess the changeless One, we seek constant change. The person who has encountered God, and seeks after Him in love, will return to the quiet places of silence where the sweetness of His presence still lingers.

“The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

With this in mind, however, we must grow to that point of spiritual maturity where we do not seek silence primarily as the setting for an exalted spirituality or for the purpose of obtaining something we want for ourselves, even if it is as good a thing as contemplation or consolation. While these may very well be the supernatural results of fidelity to the practice of silence, to make them the end goals would be to get caught in the snare of self-seeking spirituality and this is quite opposite of God’s desire for us. Silence must eventually be sought in the first place as an expression of our total gift of self back to God. It becomes a response of love and an attitude of reverence for the One who has taken the initiative to love us and give Himself to us first. “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

Listening is an important expression of love. It’s a holy thing to listen, both to God and to our neighbor. Yet in order to truly listen, we must be silent. Do we have the ability to listen in authentic silence without interference from our own prejudice and self interest? When someone is speaking to me, when God is speaking to me, am I immediately thinking of my response to what they are saying? Am I thinking about the soup that is on the stove that might be burning? Am I wandering back to the events that happened in the day that still interfere in my mind? Or can I be totally present to the other…totally aware and receptive of what they are bringing to me? I would like to share a true story to illustrate this point.

* * * * *

It was a dark, cloudy evening in mid-October. The perfect prelude to a night of thunder and rain, not unlike our nights lately here in Southern California. I was with my friend Lori at her old white farmhouse. Lori and I had been friends for a long time, since second grade. And ever since I can remember she loved to go out in the evening on the veranda to wait for her father to come home.

This particular night was not an extraordinary night, no different from the others. We had both grown beyond the age of playing jacks and pushing each other on the porch swing to pass the hours as we waited for the old Ford to rumble down the driveway. These days we had grown accustomed to sitting quietly on the front porch steps, sharing our dreams and our disappointments until we could see the dust in the distance as Lori’s father made his way down the old farm road. She would immediately spring up to her feet as soon as she saw the car and squeal with joy, hardly able to contain herself until she had her arms wrapped around her father’s sturdy neck and a joyful kiss planted firmly on his cheek. The ritual always fascinated me, and I always felt blessed to witness such a genuine expression of love.

Yet this particular night there was an added depth of meaning. You see the night was already dark and this meant that we could not see in the distance to detect when the smoke and the dust from the car would be coming. Not only that, but it was also difficult to hold a conversation on the dimly lit veranda. Lori was almost completely deaf and relied heavily on lip reading when the other person, such as myself, was not proficient in signing.

Comfortable with Lori’s limitations, we sat contentedly on the steps as usual but with very few words passing between us. We waited patiently, peering out into the darkness, exchanging an occasional insight or observation, mostly from myself as my mind continually wandered from one thought to another. Suddenly, out of the blue, Lori jumped up and squealed with her familiar recognition of her father’s car coming in the distance. I strained into the darkness but I couldn’t see a thing. “Lori,” I said, “Sit back down. I don’t see him coming yet.” In her excitement it took me a while to first get her attention. I repeated myself, but Lori was convinced that her father’s car would come into view at any moment.

Just then a pair of dim headlights rounded the corner and the old Ford pulled up next to the white-washed porch. Lori ran down the stairs and the usual greeting took place. I was dumbfounded. How did she know her father was coming? Not being able to contain my curiosity I asked her later that evening as we sat on the floor of her bedroom. Her response was, “I felt him coming.” “You felt him coming?” “Well yes,” she replied, “Over the years I’ve learned the feel of the vibrations from the ground as my father’s car approaches. When I’m very still and quiet, it is easy for me to tell when he is coming.”

* * * * *

A profound lesson etched itself into my soul that evening. When we truly love, we make every effort to block out all that distracts us, all which can be an obstacle to anticipating and receiving the one we love. Lori’s life of silence had taught her to be sensitive to the vibrations that daily announced her father’s arrival. My friend, who had hardly heard a word in her life, knew what it meant to truly listen, to set aside her own expectations and make her whole being available and receptive to the approach of another.

How deep is my love? How much do I long for the arrival of my heavenly Father? Enough that I’m willing to wait in silence so that I may learn the signs of His gentle approach and relish His loving touch? God has given us a very eloquent example of this attitude in the witness of St. Joseph. Silence for him was not just a matter of mortifying his speech, but by it he made his own posture of extreme surrender and abandonment to God’s will and expressed it in his daily life.

Three times, we are told in scripture that an angel came to him with a command from God. “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife” (Matt 1:20, NASB). “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt” (Matt 2:13, NASB). “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead” (Matt 2:20, NASB). To these three commands, only one response is recorded: immediate fulfillment of the task in silent, loving solicitude. His complete surrender was the interior disposition from which all the signs of true love flow: patience, kindness, gentleness, unselfishness, and uncomplaining, unresentful obedience. Silence keeps us close to the loving, providential presence of God and fits us to meet and respond to it without hesitation in total and loving generosity to God’s will.

Silence can become the single, most powerful source of true love for man when it is God-centered, because through it we become aware of God’s profound love for each human person.

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20, NASB).

Love of God cultivated in silence must take on the prophetic and missionary dimension of proclaiming and showing his love to his neighbor. A prayerful, meditative silence is the mother of truth in which we not only surrender ourselves to God but also nurture our love for our neighbor while we are apart from them. Conversation with God, sustained in silence, strengthens us in grace so that when we come together as family, as community, as friends, or even when we come into contact with strangers, we are able to temper our broken natures and wills with the result that our interaction leads to growth in virtue. However, without this quiet rootedness in God, we instead perpetuate and can even further the weaknesses of each other through empty interactions. Silence can become the single, most powerful source of true love for man when it is God-centered because through it we become aware of God’s profound love for each human person.

Every aspect of our Christian lives must be pervaded by this joint love of God and neighbor. A true test of the genuineness of our love and our grasp of the wisdom of silence will be the manner in which we speak to one another. “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:25, NIV). Since the purpose of speech is to share with others, our aim as Christians should always be to speak in a way that communicates love and preserves the dignity of all people.

Our current culture lays assault on the nobility of language by consumerism, irresponsible journalism and the everyday deluge of words. Speech is one of the greatest powers in the world. When used to its full potential, it can form alliances, sway opinions, make or break reputations of people and nations. It can build up or tear down walls of resistance and defense. It can create or destroy relationships among men. Yet the most powerful of all words is the one spoken in integrity, and it is silence that is the generator of this word. Without silence, the spoken word loses its power and its meaning. It becomes the empty gong and the clanging cymbal of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

This following passage is taken from the Book of Sirach 20:5-8, “There is one who by keeping silent is found wise; while another is detested for being too talkative. There is one who keeps silent because he has no answer, while another keeps silent because he knows when to speak. A wise man will be silent until the right moment, but a braggart and a fool goes beyond the right moment. Whoever uses too many words will be loathed; and whoever usurps the right to speak will be hated.” In silence, we learn the right moment for our words and how to speak them in truth and in love. God himself is the prime model of this truth. Psalm 12:6 explains that “The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure. Silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” The innocence of God’s word is so full of love and so powerful that what He speaks comes into being. He has merely to breathe forth the thought of His heart and a new creation ensues.

And so it is that God’s promises, His words, are always true and He is always faithful to them. If He were not, His creation would cease to be. The ultimate and most perfect manifestation of this was His promise that He enfleshed. It is in the eternal silence of God that is spoken the eternal Word, His son, the only means of our promised redemption. Created to be imitators of God, made in His image and called to be molded into His likeness, we too are people of our word. What is in the very depths of our hearts is what forms the words on our lips. So the question we must ask ourselves is “What words?” If we are to be true imitators of God, faithful to our proper goal of union with Him, we must imitate Him in our words: holy purified and free from sin, free from selfishness, arrogance, vanity, competition and gossip. On our lips must be words that speak of both human and divine wisdom that build up our neighbor and encourage conversion. How will this transformation of our speech come about? Through silence. In silence, we commune with the One Whose first language is silence. And when we have sufficiently learned this language, we will have facility of speech. We will no longer speak words that distract, create noise, or vanquish good. Our words will contain in them something of the power of God. They will be words that truly influence others and participate in bringing to completion their redemption and our own. They will be words of healing, growth and love. And they will be spoken at the right moment.

Sister Mary Clare, O.C.D.

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

We encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and planned giving. Click here to learn more..

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Faustina, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa’s doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: – A life of prayer and union with God – A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – Devotion to our Blessed Mother – Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church – Praying for priests – Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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1 Comment

  1. Very good article. Although the first line says “we cannot speak to God and the world at the same time,” this article is actually about HEARING God. We cannot LISTEN to God and the world/ourselves at the same time.

    Without listening to God, we mostly speak at Him. When we listen to Him, we are more able to respond to or speak to Him–sometimes without words at all.

    The world is noisy on many levels. It intrudes electronically, in our busy thoughts, in our reading materials, even by listening to Catholic radio or internet extensively. I

    Although this article is longer than some, it is worth the read. I want to read it again, more slowly, and ponder it to digest, not for information.

    Brava to Sr. Mary Claire.

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Am I good enough to be a Sinner? thumbnail
Pope Francis

I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.

From America (2013)


Richard Rohr OFM

The absolute religious genius of Jesus is that he ignores all debt codes, purity codes, religious quarantines, and the endless searching for sinners.  He refuses to divide the world into the pure and the impure, much to the chagrin of almost everybody – then and now.  Unlike most churches, he is not into “sin management.”  He is into transformation.

Jesus is shockingly not upset with sinners! He is only upset with people who do not think they are sinners.  In most of history, religion thought its mission was to somehow expel sin and evil. As if it could.  After Jesus we find out that the real sin lies in the very act of expelling.  Jesus knew there is no place to expel it to.  It only hides underground.

Either we carry and transform the evil of human history as our own problem, or we increase its power by hating and punishing it “over there.”  It will eventually come back to bite us.  Jesus taught us how to hold, absorb, and transform the human situation, not to deny it, punish it, or project it elsewhere.  He then dramatically illustrated this pattern on the cross, and it became resurrection!

Adapted from Hope Against Darkness (2001)



Henri Nouwen

God’s mercy is greater than our sins. There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but rather to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and our failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says, “I am too sinful to deserve God’s mercy.” It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride.

Lent is a time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord. The question is: “Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy any longer … or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?” The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.

From A Cry for Mercy (1983)

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God is a gardener

The gardener supports total reconciliation and the possibility for all creatures to live together:

God is a gardener thumbnail


Christophe Boureux O.P.

Christ appears as a gardener to Mary Magdalene. He assumes the figure of God who established a garden when the world was being created, a garden that was later entrusted to human beings. At these two fundamental moments of the creation and resurrection, humankind was therefore put in a garden and it is there that we were first called to respond to God. In a way, humankind first responds to God as a gardener.

A garden is a place of universal friendliness. When you’re working in a garden, people stop and start up a conversation. Gardeners exchange plants. More fundamentally, the gardener’s task is to enhance this friendliness. In the garden, the gardener sees to it that each plant has its own place, that it has enough space, shadow and nourishment. The gardener is a one-man-band who is responsible for this arrangement. In the process, the gardener also announces the union of all things in Christ, the ultimate organization of all creatures. In contact with the Earth, the gardener supports the prophecy of Isaiah, announcing total reconciliation and the possibility for all creatures to live together: “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat” (Isaiah 11, 6-9).

Why were Adam and Eve driven out of the Garden of Eden? When they ate the forbidden fruit, they short-circuited the time required for work, maturation and production. They rejected the slow rhythm of plants. God had asked them to watch over the garden, in other words, to respect the essential temporality of nature. Gardening does just that: it restores a better-adjusted relationship with time. As does the liturgy, by the way, which presents us with a different rhythm. It helps to free us from the fast pace that monopolizes our lives.

Thinking about creation also means thinking about the type of space in which we live. I am especially sensitive to this as I live in a place that is visited by many “professionals of space,” namely architects. Space is a place to think about and organize in order to promote conviviality. All too often we think of space as a neutral place, as a place that is not determined by the creatures that inhabit it….

Broadly speaking, from the 17th-to-20th century, thought was dominated by a theism inherited from enlightenment philosophy. God was conceived of as a strict, almost impersonal principal, without any subjectivity and far removed from any figure of Christ. Here again, one of the goals of my work is to rediscover the path of Christological creation that one encounters in the fathers of the Church. I’m thinking of the medieval miniatures showing the seven days of creation, in which we clearly see Jesus presiding over everything. For the illuminator, the figure of the visible God mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians (1:15) was the figure of Christ, “first-born of all creation.” It is only through Christ that Christians can truly enter into the mystery of creation.

From La Croix (2015)

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