Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Where Was God at Your Thanksgiving Table?

Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend for us. Honestly, I don't remember ever worrying about the political talk at the dinner table any other year. Over and over I saw blogs and news stories and all manner of social communication telling me how to avoid conflict at the dinner table.

I don't know about your dinner, but mine was just lovely. Uneventful even. No drama. And for that I am most grateful.

We are a big, warm, loving and loud Italian family that gathered at my sisters house this year. Three big kids were home from college and we couldn't wait to hear their stories and smother them with hugs and kisses. There were elderly aunts (myself included now I guess...) sisters and cousins. We all just enjoyed each other. (alright, for the most part...) And for that I was grateful.

When I asked folks afterwards about their Thanksgivings and where they might have found God in it all (because that's what we do in RCIA after all right?!) folks had simple tales of seeing how much they've grown because of rugby, practice parenting with younger siblings and what that felt like, HS reunions and welcoming old classmates, gratitude for studio apartments and life after 15 years of cancer wars, and friends at thanksgiving meals. In all our gatherings and in the coming home to quiet, we could find God. In weddings and lunches and small business Saturdays we found God. (I think God avoided the black Friday craziness...it's hard to find anything or anyone in those crowds!)

Finally, at church on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, in the routine of the prayers and the music, with this congregation I love, there was a very real quiet breeze that gave me goosebumps, and helped me see how very grateful I was for how I absolutely know God is with us here, in this place, in all our crazy humanity, as we await his coming once more.

If you're wondering about that photo on top, that's my Goddaughter Olivia. She gets frustrated with me when I don't remember to snapchat or instagram as many times as she teaches me what to do. Where do I find God? Look at that smile of hers! Look how her face lights up!! She reminds me all the time to be more loving, more patient...she makes me my best self. I find God in her!!

As we move into Advent, take time to look around you and see where God is for you today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Where Have I Been?

Dear Friends,

Honestly, I have no idea what has kept me so busy since the summertime, that I have not been able to find a few minutes for a weekly reflection. As I think about all that has happened in our lives, in our parish, in our world since June, it is overwhelming.

Where have I been? While I'm tempted to say: "at work"! I must admit I blew the budget this year on two very special vacations: a week long cruise with the family, a chance to be with the nieces and nephew with little or no cell phone reception. What an amazing week to discover again why those kids are so absolutely amazing to me. Now that half of them are away at college I realize more than ever how important they are to me. I am so excited to see how they will grow through their college experiences.

The second vacation was a trip to England and Ireland with some friends. A chance to visit a land I have always heard about, dreamed about and absolutely loved seeing with my own eyes. I am grateful for the chance to relax and discover more of the beauty in the world around me.

I must acknowledge too, that being in this parish, St Francis de Sales is always, always such a treat. People here really are so good to be with. I love my Sundays on the porch greeting folks for Mass. As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this parish, my family, my friends.

The world has changed a lot since the summer. The elections are finally over and we begin to move on. I can't remember a time when emotions over an election have been so deeply felt. It saddens me to see a map of this country that looks so divided. How did we get to this place where we can't listen to one another? I have found the quality of my prayer has changed dramatically of late. On Thursday, at church, when we sing America the Beautiful, I think there might be tears in my eyes, in my voice. I will continue to pray for God's blessings on this country. Dear God, be with us please!

As the church begins another new year we ask ourselves, as we always do, what are we called to do? How are we to be followers of Christ in our day and age? I find myself remembering what I learned so long ago. I offer it here, if it helps you as you contemplate your "New Church  Year Resolutions".

We are called to listen. Where is God calling to us? Are we willing to hear his voice?

We are called to look at the signs of the times. What is going on around us? How are we to be witnesses to the Gospel in the midst of our world?

We are called to see, to judge (in the best sense of the word, not each other...but to judge what must be done in a situation) and to act as Jesus would.

As our days get darker I can't help but long for the light to return. The very darkness around me reminds me that we are all called to be light in our world. How will you do that? To whom will you be light?

Lots to pray about as we step into this Advent of our lives. Thank you God for this new year. Please guide us and be with us in it all.

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Advent. See you in church!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cling Fast!

I'm so sorry I missed the last few weeks of blogging...I didn't realize how busy the days could get when you start planning and catching up on stuff that got put to the side while you were doing the actual things you spent last summer planning for! Yikes!

I took a look at the readings for this weekend. I really could not get passed Psalm 63...I think I love every word in this Psalm, here are just a few that call out to me:

You are my God whom I seek
my flesh pines
my soul thirsts
I gaze toward you
your kindness is greater
my lips glorify you
I bless you while I live
I lift up my hands
I call upon your name
my soul shall be satisfied
You are my help
shadow of your wings
I shout for joy
my soul clings fast to you.

Now you have to read the whole psalm to appreciate that I just took out the words that make my heart sing. When I wonder why these words in particular speak to me, I need look no further than the daily realities of our lives.

New births, new loves, graduations and vacations are all causes for great joy. Illness, loneliness, difficulties with family or colleagues, the tragedies in the news are all the things that make me want to hide in the shadow of God's wings and find my comfort there. And I do...it is from the very embrace of God that I find the comfort I need when things get hard, where I find the courage to pray and ask for the blessings and strengths that I need to go forward one more step into the unknown.

How about you? How do you find the courage you need to move forward day by day? Where do you find God when it seems like the world is crazy. The cross of Jesus is never very far away is it?  Some cultures really seem to be way more comfortable with or are much better at accepting sorrow and suffering as a part of life. Then there are those cultures (like my Italian forebears) who look to celebrate and rejoice as often as we can. Both have their place.

June brings Grads and Dads...warm weather and vacations...May we be able to celebrate all the good, even in the midst of the daily crosses. Hold on tight to God. Cling fast!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Does God Love Us?

Happy Trinity Sunday. All I can ever remember is my 6th grade teacher speaking of the Trinity in terms of a great mystery. I must admit, it hasn't gotten much clearer for me these last 50 years or so. But if I think of the Trinity within the concept of relationship and love I can find some kind of light in the midst of the mystery.

Relationship is at the heart of all our ministry isn't it? We try to be present to others, pastoral, caring. We teach, we sing, we preach, along side our sisters and brothers. It is only in the mystery of our relationships with one another that we find a glimpse of the love God has for each of us. Our small human minds and hearts cannot truly understand the scope or magnitude of the love the Creator has for the creature. When your heart swells with love for another, when you are touched by the honesty of someone's conversation, when you are privileged to witness the devotion between a couple, or between a parent and child...then you come to know a little bit of what God must be like.

Look around you today for examples of love, of faithfulness, of devotion. Look around you to the ones you love today, the people who touch your heart and remind you of how much more the Creator cares for you than you can even imagine. Tell someone you love them today. I hope that you get to hear that you are loved by another too.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Church!

I love Pentecost Sunday. It was the very first time I was a lector I think, as a 14 year old in my home parish. Those were a lot of tough words to get through...the names of all those foreign places. I smile every year as I listen to the lector of the day make his or her way through Phrygia and Pamphylia and so on. "You can do it!" I silently cheer....and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they get through it all.

We teach that the Holy Spirit offers each of us many and varied gifts. Each Confirmation student tries to learn and remember: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of Lord...(I know they have different names now, right Olivia? But these were the ones I struggled to learn...Olivia is the next Confirmandi in our family....) As I sit here just now, I wish one of the gifts involved being well rested or getting enough sleep. However...maybe that falls under the category of being wise enough to take care of one's health.

So...my question to myself today is which gift of the Spirit will I ask for on Sunday? What gift do I need most in my life? They are all precious and all important. One is not better than the other. I don't know which to ask for as I pray during Pentecost Mass. I do so appreciate 'awe' (I think that was "Fear of the Lord") because I am so grateful for the ability to recognize God's presence in the world around me, through people, through events, through nature and music...

I am mindful that God knows me better than I know myself...and so maybe my prayer on Sunday will be to ask God for the gift God knows I need most...and for the vision to recognize how God is gifting me, so that I may be grateful.

What gift of the Spirit do you need most? What will you ask God for? Isn't it good to know that when all is said and done we will be gifted with peace as well as those precious gifts we need to live the life God calls us to?

Happy Pentecost to you. Happy Birthday Church! Celebrate Well!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Leaning In -- to love...

Wow. Not for nothing but if Jesus really said the words attributed to Him today in John's Gospel, I don't know how anyone understood what he was talking about. There are a heck of a lot of pronouns in this passage...and I had to read it out loud to my self to try and follow it...and was exhausted before I finished. 

Here are my "take aways" from today's Gospel:
God loves us even as he loves Jesus...(wow!)  and
We are God's gift to Jesus...(again...wow!!)

I'm not sure how this makes me feel...I know I don't feel worthy of this immense love...but at the same time I am very grateful for it. I did nothing to deserve it, but I am so glad to know that I exist within the reality of God's love for me.

Which, as I write this, makes me think of how appropriate this is for Mother's Day. I can recall as a smart mouth child in the midst of some argument with my mom yelling the words "Oh yeah, well I didn't ask to be born..." and in fact I didn't...(and I was, at times, a brat)...I exist here because of the reality of my parent's love for each other and for me. I did nothing to deserve that love. At times I am the most unworthy of that love, and yet, my parents, my mom continues to love me in the best way she knows how. And today, I am grateful that somehow, this confusing Gospel reminds me to be grateful for all she has given me, done for me and loved me.

We talk a lot about 'leaning in' as a way to grow in skill and proficiency. Somehow today I'm thinking I need to pray for the grace to 'lean in--to love' to learn how to be more grateful for the people in my life who love me the best way they know how...my mom, my aunt, my family my friends...and to be grateful that even though some days I don't deserve their love...they continue to love me in spite of my self.

So, Happy Mothers Day to all who love us with a mother's heart...and let us all lean in a bit to love one another better.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where Do You Find Peace?

In Sunday's Gospel Jesus speaks very clearly about PEACE...and just as clearly states that the peace that he will leave with us is not at all what our world would recognize as 'peace'. Which makes me wonder what the difference might be.

In these pre election months in our country it is often very disturbing to watch all the news coverage of those who would be running for office. It is very unsettling to me to listen to them, hear their speeches and ponder what kind of world will I be living in if this one or that one gets elected. Will they work for peace? Exactly what is their idea of peace?

This past Monday evening in our RCIA group we had the opportunity to learn a bit about "centering prayer".  After an explanation of the process we sat quietly for 20 minutes in silence.

For some of us this was a great challenge...especially when we are so used to the noise and busyness of our lives, taking care of our children, running for the train, multitasking on our smartphones...20 minutes of sitting still, thinking about nothing, trying to listen to what God might want to reveal...well, none of us came out of the experience saying it was easy. Some felt rather anxious about the whole thing.

Can I feel peaceful in the midst of the chaos of my life?
How does God share God's peace with me?
Where do I even begin to look for that peace?

Look at the cherry blossoms while I'm walking down the street. The sun on the water as I try to get that walk in around the reservoir. The little one talking to their mom on the train or bus. That elderly couple walking slowly hand in hand. The sun setting over the river. (cause I'm not up early enough to see the sunrise!!) Sitting on the stoop watching folks on their commute home from work. The feeling of gratitude I have that I get to 'work' in a field I love, that I am so lucky to be in ministry at St Francis de Sales. Gratitude. Gratitude for family and friends who will help me keep it together when chaos threatens to overwhelm me.

That's where I find peace-- In gratitude. When I can pause to be grateful for all that God has blessed me with, that's where I find God's peace. The world doesn't have to be perfect around me, I just need to remember to say Thank you for the good things that are a part of my life. When I recognize the goodness, I find God's peace within me.  What are you grateful for today?