Thursday, March 25, 2010

Feast of the Annunciation - "Yes" Day

I think of today, the Feast of the Annunciation as a "Yes" day - a day of renewal and recommitment to God.  The Gospel for the day reminds us of Mary's "Yes", in spite of initially needing to ponder why an angel visited her, and how her "yes" would be fleshed out.  And that "Yes" was absolutely wholehearted and to be carried out for her entire life.  She certainly did not know what her life would bring.  And, I am convinced, that when Jesus was two years old, she needed to help him change his two-year-old "No" which must have been part of his growing self-identity, into the "Yes" he had always said to his Father, his Abba.  And, the more both Mary and Jesus said "Yes", the deeper their faith and trust and hope in God's promise of fidelity grew.

I was thinking today of Sr. Letizia Pappalardo, my friend, who returned to her God on March 6th.  I am sure that when she first said "Yes" to being an RSHM, she did not really know that she would be a teacher, a principal, a person who helped persons with drug addictions to return to productive lives, a provincial, a person who helped to empower trafficked women, etc.  From living with her, I suspect that her initial "yes" evolved from the love of her family, and her personal desire to love and respect all people.  This was, I believe, a great gift that she shared with many as they desired to say their own "Yes" to what they slowly or quickly perceived to be the call of God.  And, in her last days, I know she said "Yes" to returning to the Lord.

I pray that more and more people, especially myself, spend this special day and time renewing their "Yes".  It might have started with becoming a religious, or falling in love with another wonderful person, or spending a single life in service to others.  There are so many calls and so many gifts, and our "Yes" grows as we grow in our gifts and respond to the needs we see around us.  No one ever said the "Yes" is easy to continue after the 'honeymoon' stage.  However, reflecting on my own "Yeses", I am so grateful for the calls to which I have responded, as well as the hope to be faithful to those that come as my life evolves.

P.S. it is a photo of me at the top of this posting.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

From Winter to Spring during Lent

This has been an amazing season.  The last time I wrote on this blog, the robins had arrived on a warmish day in February.  And then it was snowing and snowing and snowing... I never liked snow, and I was almost horrified to look out the window and to see, not only our trees, but also our power lines, thickly covered with snow.  The snow was relentless  for almost three days.  During this time, we lost power for about 26 hours, and I found myself filled with gratitude to God.  Yes, when the power went out, the house was very cold, and the local roads were impassable, but my community members and I were all safe, and we had running water.  In addition, though we could not cook, (our stove is electric), we had plenty of edible food in the refrigerator.  Lastly, we had  warm clothing we could wear in layers, as well as blankets; and we had the day off!  It was amazing to be stuffed in several sets of clothing, thankful for it, and to think of and pray for those who were outside without food or shelter, or those who were risking their lives or their health, plowing roads, clearing railroad tracks, and fixing problems with electric power.  So much for which to be grateful. So many who are needy and powerless who need help.

The morning after the snow stopped, it was hard to believe that the sun was shining.  I took this photo shortly after sunrise, and I could not really capture the incredible awe I experienced as I viewed a sky turning blue and shining on trees in the background, while the trees in the foreground were still dark.  After all the darkness of the day before, and in spite of the fact that it was Lent, I found myself reflecting on the wonder of the Paschal Mystery.  How the light of Jesus can transform the darkness of this world, if only we allow this to happen. I could feel some of this within myself as I reconfirmed one of my  goals of 2010, which is to make greater efforts to see what is positive and hopeful in others - i.e. to try a new form of judgment, namely, to try to recognize the blessings before me.  And, I think that for the first time in my life, I felt a freedom as I looked at the snow-laced beauty in front of me. Yes, it is possible to recognize the beauty in those I just tolerate, rather than really respect, if I seek to recognize the gifts.

Then I heard the news - Chile had experienced a monstrous earthquake.  I prayed for those who had died, those who needed hope as they found themselves trapped in destroyed buildings, those who were injured and terrified and now homeless - all in a few moments time.  I could not imagine the horror, except for seeing the news reports from Haiti.  And now there was another country with suffering people.  I looked at the beauty around me in the sun of a new day, and begged God to take care of the living in Haiti and Chile, to inspire the doctors and rescue workers, and to give great wisdom to those who know how to raise funds.  And, we, as a local and provincial community did what we could, and watched the graced response of those who contributed finances, clothing, food and great talent to help those living the Passion of Jesus in the midst of more and more earth tremors.

During this month, I also shared the tremors of pain experienced by some of my acquaintances who had agreed to accept treatment for patterns of addiction in their lives.  Acknowledgment of these problems is painful and involves fortitude and many new life style choices.  I pray for their strength, and I find myself respecting them deeply for the metanoia they seek.  New life is often hard to choose, and even more difficult to pursue with fidelity.  Let us all pray for one another to seek that real LIFE that we were summoned with in the book of Deuteronomy: "Choose Life, than so that you and your descendants may live".  My whole community is about life - we wear  it on cross we receive at profession: "Ut vitam habeant" - "That all may have life:"  We are all called to respect one another and ourselves and to share, to the best of our ability, the life we have been so freely given.  This thought leaves me with a big WOW!

After the experience of nature moving from darkness to light, I never expected another onslaught.  We heard reports of theheavy rainstorms that were coming, but never thought of the damage and havoc it could wreak. Following the rain, most of our neighborhood looked like this - downed trees, loosely hanging power lines and telephone lines, and the constant danger of more and more falling trees and branches. Here we were again, without power, this time for almost two full days on a weekend. However, the weather was warmer, and, though we could not really leave our neighborhood safely for one day, again it was a time of gratitude for warm clothing, food and shelter.

My main concern was for the sisters in Marymount Convent who were elderly, but it was the first time I ever thought of thanking Con Edison, for they got the power back there in about 27 hours. I was privileged to be able to walk over, help with serving meals in the dark, and visited some sisters with whom I shared some great laughs, especially the sister who introduced me to classical music with "The Merry Pranks of Till Eulenspiegel". It is such a gift to share remembrance of beauty and to have some wonderful laughter. We actually brightened up the corridor that day with gratitude for music and some memories of the gifts of the past. My most profound experience was witnessing the generosity and caring of the sisters in charge of Marymount Convent and the members of the Convent staff as they created a safe and loving atmosphere for all our elderly who have witnessed that spirit of service to us in the past.

As if the snow and rain weren't enough of a mess, our roads have had constant signs of DETOUR.  The village is finally putting in the pipes for the fire hydrants in the area.  One lane of the two lane roads has been dug up and the huge pipes installed by skilled construction workers.  The means of getting in and out of driveways during this construction have been challenging, often requiring the workers to stop what they are doing, and move backhoes or huge metal plates to let us and our neighbors gain access to our homes.  I have been really impressed with these men, most especially when they have been working for 12 hours, when they listen to our needs with great respect and do what they can to make a very messy road condition into one of human understanding and compassion.

All of this month has been, in a sense, a DETOUR for me - experiencing the unexpected, and finding gratitude for moments I would not have considered gifts in the past: safety and shelter without electricity in the winter, incredible gratitude for the beauty of sun on snow even without heat in the house, the compassion of construction workers in a situation which called all of the neighborhood to change our usual routines.  Maybe this is what the call of Lent is all about.  Maybe we all need a DETOUR to find the good in what, at first, looks unacceptable to us.  I am very grateful for the experience of the past month.  It has not been one of merely tolerating my environment or the people in it.  It has been a time of gratitude for all.

In the midst of all
Spring with lighter days
has arrived!