gifts - Related Content

Love beyond measure

Thursday, February 16th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This week I have witnessed traditional signs of love with Valentine’s Day as flowers were delivered to St. Rose Convent for employees; their spouses taking time from their busy lives to pause and send a symbol of their love. From my office window I’ve seen many women, fighting the strong breeze with smiles on their faces, carrying blowing balloons and other gifts from their jobs at the hospital where every day they show their love and care for each patient in pain. Viterbo University students have also drifted by, proudly toting tokens from their significant others (or those who long to be).


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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

It is the time we are reminded, especially commercially, by the idea of love in our world. But this impression must also exist beyond the gifts, outside these celebrations, in the reality of everyday life. From moments of elation to those heavy with grief, love is present always.

Do we see it in all its forms?

Today I sit from another vantage point inside our convent—the Adoration Chapel—watching as adorers (who pray forward the FSPA ministry of 24/7 adoration that began in 1878) offer their love to a hurting world. Each one allows the intention to move beyond their earnest eyes and folded hands into the recess of their hearts. The love poured out desires healing over injury, common ground over fighting, friendship over division. This kind of love requires laying down one’s own preconceived notions and personal agendas to allow the heart to awake to needs far beyond the doorway of the chapel.


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A candle, made by FSPA hands with lard, lights perpetual adoration in the chapel. 

It is this Gospel love for others that is at the very heart of discernment. Are you willing to allow the needs of others to enter your heart? Are you willing to choose to be an advocate for your brothers and sisters who are in need? Are you willing to allow the encounter to stretch your heart, open your eyes and grant you new vision? These are the transformational questions at the core of discernment. 

There is a story from the Gospel of John that is circling in my heart as I write this post; just as it did when I imagined what my own religious life could feel like. It is the pinnacle of Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches; Jesus’ request to love others. Love is what it is all about. It’s also what discernment—and religious life—are all about.  

What is in your heart this week full of Valentines?

Who, or what, are you in love with?


 

Images of discernment: what's missing?

Thursday, January 17th 2019 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

Discernment ... can sometimes be inspired by reflecting on what is absent

 

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Image courtesy pixabay

Have you ever been flipping through a magazine and come across a “spot the difference” image puzzle — two photos that appear to be identical yet contain slight dissimilarities for you to find? Perhaps a chain in the first picture is missing a link in the second image, which, if you thought about it before moving on in the puzzle, would make the metal implement less structurally sound, less effective.

What if the missing piece to the puzzle — the lost link in the chain — is you? The support and the strengths and the gifts that only you can give? Discerning what is next in your life can sometimes be inspired by reflecting on what is absent. You may have a fulfilling job and comfortable home; a car in the garage and loving friends and family by your side, but also a nagging feeling that something to make you more complete is missing.

Sometimes, choosing to volunteer and reach out beyond your comfort zone can help you identify an absence in your life and also spark new insight to the greater needs in your community. Who are the people lined up outside of the brick building you pass every night on your commute home? What is human trafficking and why is there a billboard bringing awareness to it in my city? 

What is lacking in these images depicting such great human need?

Are you discerning a call to service beyond volunteering  — perhaps religious life? 

Are you that missing link? 

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!

Imagination inspires vision in discernment

Thursday, September 7th 2017 3:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

I appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to plan new experiences in my life. Preparation, for me, sparks imagination to envision what each new season as a religious sister — like the shift from summer to fall that we are living in right now — may bring. I trust that God will be with me each day (as we know from Jeremiah 29: 11-13), whether my plans come to fruition or unexpected events put me on a completely different route. 


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Image courtesy freeimages.com

Such imagination, in fact, reflected light upon a particularly uncertain time in my life — during my discernment. I was in graduate school at the time and had spent my spring break visiting FSPA in La Crosse, Wisconsin. While spring was in full bloom at home it was definitely still winter 500 miles north at St. Rose Convent. The windows of the train I was riding frosted up and, wishing for a warm blanket, I tightened my jacket closer around my shoulders. How do people survive with so much cold and snow and ice?

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St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Later, while sharing my positive experiences with FSPA with my spiritual director, I also launched into my seemingly ordinary yet significant concern (to me) about the weather. She challenged me to engage my imagination. In addition to her ministry as a spiritual director she was also an artist and knew that imagination can be an essential tool. “What would it be like to live in a colder climate, where winters are longer and more severe? What would you need to live there?” She then asked me to reflect on my visit: was there heat in the building? Would I be warm and comfortable should I choose to discern there? Well … of course. 

Her questions helped me envision navigating a big change which surfaced as weather but, in reality, was also about experiencing a cultural change. That transition (which I wasn’t sure I really wanted) became a gift of God’s grace.

I’ve now survived several Wisconsin winters. I’m still not a huge fan of the cold and the snow but weather conditions have faded into the background of life (not at the forefront). And I now also know, in addition to visiting and learning about each community you consider, how important imagination can be in discerning religious life. It allows us to ponder life choices in a variety of contexts and consider exploring the invitation from God. Imagination is a tool that can help move us from fear to freedom.  

Who do you imagine you will be tomorrow, next week, next year? Who will you live and work with? What would it be like to move across the country, or internationally, to pursue your vision? What is the adventure stirring right now in your heart?

How is your imagination a tool in your discernment?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link and join the conversation at www.fspa.org/showmeasign.

Distraction

Thursday, May 11th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

mind-full-or-mindful?

Some days are filled with fragmented energy: my attention is pulled in many directions and lacks the clear focus and interior motivation necessary to complete the tasks at hand. Perhaps it’s the fickleness of the weather or the simple fact that I’m daydreaming of the near future when I will take a break from my office and go on retreat. It is a challenge for me to keep both feet planted in the now and not run towards a time that is not yet here. The irony is that once I arrive at the retreat center, part of my time will be spent settling into the quiet and letting go of the work I left behind. The quiet is often disrupted as I laugh at myself and recall that no matter the location, I am who I am. Time passes in the same way; the difference is the means at which I move through it.

I believe what I’m describing is a universal experience. Most of us feel anticipation as we get closer to vacations and get-togethers without realizing it can overshadow the present day and appreciation of the gifts it offers.

There are lessons in distraction. Sometimes distractions can serve as light to the deeper questions in my life easily overlooked in everyday busyness—why am I distracted? What does distraction teach? We are taught from an early age to be productive, but what if the pathway to greater understanding is to accept and immerse ourselves in the times of interference; to welcome discovery of the creativity that can surface when we ask a different question of ourselves. There are times in discernment where distraction will be part of the journey; when the idea of exploring a back road to see what is out there rather than continuing on the well-worn highway may lead to insight. Perspective is gained when we allow room for newness of the experience to unfold and evolve over time.

And perhaps it is the influence of the Holy Spirit that gifts us with days of distraction so that ultimately we settle into the present.

Where did you experience diversion in your discernment?

What did you find within it?

Advent light and joy: the vocation that may shine from deep inside you

Thursday, December 15th 2016 3:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Can you feel the energy in the air as we continue our journey of Advent towards the celebration of Christmas? It reminds me of dragging my feet across the carpet and experiencing a small shock of static electricity when I touch another object or person. These little jolts serve as tiny wake up calls to the present—where I am and what I’m doing (which is laughing or shrieking, depending on the intensity of the charge).

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The Scripture passages for the Third Sunday of Advent are powerfully charged too. We hear from Isaiah (35:1-6A, 10) encouragement to rejoice all that we have been waiting for because it’s here. Put on your party clothes, play your favorite song and dance out of the pure joy of being alive today! Shake off any remaining fear and let it permeate your soul! Sure, you may get a few curious looks but who knows—maybe a spontaneous, two-minute dance party can reignite delight lost in the piles of paperwork, emails and texts. After all, joy is contagious.

This week, in the words of the Gospel of Matthew (11:2-11), concern is transformed into joy as Jesus sends John the Baptists’ disciples back to him with good news. I imagine them with effervescent excitement, in animated conversation, rushing their way back to tell John. But let’s stop and take a breath for a moment. This stretch along the road of Scripture is a great place in which to pause; to reflect upon and rejoice in affirmation you’ve received for endeavors you’ve poured your life energy into. How did you feel? Did you bubble over with excitement? I did, when I ministered as a pastoral associate. Each week during Advent, we invited parishioners to come through the doors and breathe; to take time to connect with God and set worry, the commercial hustle and bustle, aside. I’ll always cherish the witness to such joy I was so fortunate to experience.

The searing questions we hear on the lips of Jesus are held in tension with this sense of Advent joy. Caught in this whirlwind of emotions from somewhere deep inside there is opportunity for “Ah ha” moments. One can imagine the faces of those gathered around Jesus curling into smiles as they realize the joy of the divine secret revealed, and their own discovery of what this news means for their own lives. The gift and the receiving and the rejoicing already existed before them, just as it is for us over 2,000 years later.

We know that the joy we feel radiating from the illuminated candles of Advent can be found at any moment, all around us. Each ecstatic experience has the power to reignite the hope that lies—sometimes dormant—within us, and encounters of the divine can be conduits of discernment.  Stop and feel the current that powers your heart as you visit congregations and explore possible mission-motivated ministries—the vocation that may shine from deep inside of you.

So this week, as you take in the reflection of the light of Advent, let it illuminate all the joy in your life.

Where is the joy in your heart leading in discernment?

Can you see what triggers that eternal spark?

This day of thanks and giving

Thursday, November 23rd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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Image courtesy freeimages.com

May this day be a time of contemplation as you gather with family and friends and recall the many gifts God has blessed you with throughout the year.


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