joy - Related Content

Sister Helen's Six Word Story

Tuesday, August 16th 2016 10:13 am
Sister Helen Castner, FSPA


express-my-true-joy-to everyone-Helen-Castner

 

What's your six word discernment story?

One Word. Gratitude.

Monday, August 15th 2022 1:59 pm

This is my humble attempt to tell you about the incredible and joy-filled time of my 50th birthday, but words are inadequate sometimes to express the depth of my feelings, so know that this time was absolutely precious to me and will live deep in my heart for all time.

One word continues to spring up again and again as I reflect on my celebration - gratitude.

My birthday began with a tidal wave of greetings from around the world in my inbox, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, and probably some places I forgot about!

At 5:30 a.m. morning prayer, I was greeted with a note on the altar that said the day's prayer intentions were for "Sister Meg and her community." During the Prayers of the Faithful, Madre Martha prayed for me and my community, full of love and well-wishes.

The dining room was decorated for my birthday with fifty birds for fifty years. Birds were everywhere! They were on the wall, in a "tree" that was created from branches and flowers and tucked away in flowers decorating the tables. A special candle was lit for me at my place setting during each meal. The tables were decorated especially beautifully.

As I entered, each sister greeted me with a hug and a "felicidades!" Faces were bright with smiles and quiet blessings were spoken.

At breakfast, songs were sung (including a specific reference to BIRDS in one), and empanadas were served. Homemade empanadas con queso (with cheese)! And I received more prayerful blessings at the meal prayer!

At lunch, there was music and more singing, more prayers, and at the end of the meal, the biggest cake I have ever seen was brought out while the Bolivian version of "Happy Birthday" was sung.

Tucked away at a table were gifts from the community. Some were personal gifts and others from the group as a whole. They waited for me until the end of the day when I opened them in the quiet of my room as I reflected on the day.

The following day, Santa Clara (the nutrition clinic) group got together for lunch of pica machu, a little more cake, great conversation and dancing.

While there, Sister Yanira quietly gave me a few more wrapped gifts. When I opened them later, I was surprised to see amazingly thoughtful gifts including a handmade card with special photos, scripture and a tree filled with birds. A true work of art. She also hand-painted a bed cover -- some of the birds I've seen here in Bolivia -- and a beautiful pillow with birds accented with my favorite color of purple. She is an amazing artist.

So many other expressions of celebration and well-wishes were had on my birthday. I am sure I am forgetting some really important ones! Needless to say, my 50th birthday will remain burning brightly in my heart for all the love and joy. I have had an overwhelming sense of gratitude ever since. Perhaps that is the biggest gift I received for my big 5-0!

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The Gift of Memories

Sunday, May 15th 2022 6:20 am

Blessings to you from Ascención! Today, I pray for everyone who reads this reflection. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and I appreciate all of your support and encouragement.

In my reflections this week, I realized that I have been blessed by the return of memories. I didn't realize I wasn't having them, but once I began to again, it became evident. I wonder why there weren't memories until recently? Was it because everything has been so new? I think that would make sense since things are very different here. I have also been feeling more settled here. Perhaps that has something to do with it. For whatever reason, my memories are bringing me joy as they connect my earlier life with life here.

Last weekend, when I was in Yaguarú, there was a confirmation of over 60 young men and women. It was filled with the Spirit and joy and incredible music. The young people sang so loud it was almost more of a cheer than singing, but their enthusiasm pulled you into the song. The energy in that church was just incredible. It brought me back to the different choirs, groups and churches I have been in where I felt that same energy and Spirit. It reminded me of what faith, love and joy in community feel like, and what a blessing it is. I was also reminded of my own Confirmation when I felt the Holy Spirit ignited in my heart at the moment of my confirmation. It's a beloved spiritual memory in my life. I am very grateful for it.

The second memory of mine is a little bit embarrassing! It was "Completas" (end of the day prayer) here at the convent and there were only four of us praying that night. A little like Mass, there is kneeling, standing and sitting during the prayer. Normally I have it down pretty well, especially because there are people sitting around me to cue me, but not this night. The leader of the prayer stood up to read scripture. I hopped up because she was standing, but I wasn't supposed to. I was totally oblivious until I looked over at the aspirant and saw her motioning for me to sit down. I slowly sat down. All was good until I tried to say a response with the others. Out of my mouth came a loud guffaw! Pretty soon I was trying to hide my face as uncontrollable laughter rippled through me. You know the kind, right? Tears streaming down my face, I kept thinking I had it back under control, only to fall apart as soon as I tried to join in the prayer. What was even worse, is the effect I had on the novice and aspirant. Soon, they were laughing uncontrollably too! Luckily we only had about 5 minutes left, which I spent laughing, and exited as soon as the prayer ended.

The experience brought back a vivid, happy memory of my mom. We used to have experiences like that often. It was a great time, one of us would set the other off and we would laugh so hard we couldn't breathe. I remember standing in the kitchen trying to stay upright as we laughed. What a wonderful time to remember. Considering that Mother's Day in the United States had been just a few days before, I wonder if she might have had something to do with my episode of hilarity in prayer. I wouldn't be surprised. Thanks, Mom!

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Feliz Dia De la Amistad - Happy Friendship Day!

Saturday, July 23rd 2022 1:20 pm

As I spend my time coloring a special little something for one of my friends here in Bolivia, I have been reflecting on my many friendships, past and present. It has been a joyful opportunity to spend time in many precious memories, dwelling in gratitude for the abundance of blessings my friends are to me and praying for those, old and new. God has blessed me indeed!

New and old,
near and far,
young and old,
some who are no longer here.

My friends have been
gamers and goth,
business and birders,
artists and scientists,
rich and poor,
all holding a special place in my heart.

Blessed with family who are friends,
and friends who are like family,
some were brief encounters,
others long-lasting deep connectedness,
and many that are somewhere in between.

Whoever you are,
wherever you are,
know this,
I share the love I have found in God's embrace
with you today.
May you feel friendship deep in your spirit.

One of my special joys is my gift of seeing "friend" in everyone I meet. Know that even if I haven't met you, you have a friend in me. (Cue music for Randy Newman's "You got a friend in me.") I will be spending today praying for all of my friends, past, present and future. If you would like a special prayer today or whenever you read this, know that I would be blessed to pray for you. Send in a comment and know that your intention will be in my prayers. After all, what are friends for?! (Be sure to mark it private in some way if you don't want it shared with the others who read this.)

God bless you on this special day - and always!

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Sister Jean's Six Word Story

Wednesday, December 7th 2016 7:50 am
Sister Jean Kasparbauer, FSPA

 

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What's your six word discernment story?

Rediscovering the Beauty of Hospitality

Tuesday, August 23rd 2022 7:01 am

I have been doing some intentional discernment lately about who I want to be in the world. Within me, there is a mix of personality, experience and skills, and central to all of that is my spirit. Although these parts of me are permanent, how I bring them to the world is my choice. Maybe a good way to say it would be my choice of presence.

In my discernment, the phrase that most calls to me is “Radiating Christ’s Love”. This beautiful sentiment speaks to not only my personal acceptance of Christ’s love and how it lives in my heart but suggests that this same love goes out from me into the world.

As I ponder this peaceful sentiment, I can’t help to wonder what that radiance might look like. I’ve noticed that, like Francis, I am drawn to simplicity, and while working with the people of Bolivia and Sister Yanira, I have rediscovered a simple and powerful expression of this radiance in hospitality.

There are countless examples of hospitality I have received, especially the simple kindness of offering chairs and conversation to two sisters walking through a neighborhood. As I have mentioned previously, I find this simple act of hospitality to be a great gift of love and acceptance.

There are five stories that quickly come to mind regarding hospitality that have both surprised me and helped me to grow in my appreciation of this gift.

Chicha: Last week, we were walking through a barrio (neighborhood) and stopped at a house to ask if there were any young children living there. If there were, Sister Yanira would have talked to them about nutrition and offered the help of Santa Clara Nutrition Clinic if the kids needed it. In this case though, there were no kids, just an older gentleman. Like most other families, he brought out two chairs so we could sit down and take a little rest from our walk. Next, he found a couple of cups and filled them with Chicha, a traditional drink in Bolivia made from different starches like corn, yuka, soy and even peanuts. It was both cold and refreshing – and extremely appreciated. Soon, his wife joined us and we visited for about 15 minutes, during which we learned that they had been married for almost 50 years. As we left, I got the impression that both we and they had made a couple of new friends.

Pina: I am fortunate to be here now when pineapples are in season. They grow sweet and juicy here. I even eat the core it’s so good! Sister Yanira showed me how to make pineapple refresco by boiling the outer parts of the pineapple. With a little sweetener, it’s really delicious! As we finished up one of our workshops and were preparing to leave, a mom brought out a pineapple, freshly harvested, as a gift for us to take with us. It probably would seem to some like a small gesture, but for me, I understood the value of the pineapple to that family. Their generosity was gigantic that day.

Musaca de Platenos (Plantains): A couple of weeks ago, we visited a home to teach them how to make things with soy, specifically soy milk and Canapé de Soya, a bread made with soy meal, butter, eggs, a bit of flour and plenty of cheese. When we got there at about 8:30, they were in the process of making breakfast. The family all worked together to make the traditional dish popular in the area. It consists of frying plantains in oil -- green plantains specifically. Because they aren’t yellow yet, they are more firm and not as sweet. After they finish frying, they put them into a large mortar and pestle, pounding them and grinding them until they are in small pieces. I will admit at that part of the process I got busy with our parts so didn’t see the end of the process. Almost two hours after the breakfast was started it was finally time to eat. I expected to wait for them to finish and continue with the workshop. I should have known better though. Here in Bolivia, I have found the hospitality to continue to surprise me. This day was no exception. A few of the kids sat down at the table where we were working and then two plates along with some cinnamon tea were brought for Sister Yanira and I! After all that work, I really appreciated being offered some. I was even more appreciative when Sister Yanira explained that it is a popular dish for breakfast because it is something that is nutritious and filling, especially when families can’t afford simple extravagances like bread, the most popular breakfast here. I realized how much I had assumed it was a choice to prepare a traditional dish, not realizing its popularity stemmed from poverty. We ate it with our fingers by compressing the little bits together. We laughed and talked as we enjoyed this generous hospitality.

Armadillo: “We haven’t gone to the store today, I don’t know what I can offer you.” A kind mother said as she, her husband and her little girl welcomed us to sit with them on a walk through a barrio one day. Although both Sister Yanira and I assured her it was fine and that we didn’t need anything but conversation, she disappeared as we chatted with her husband. Soon, she returned beaming with a big smile. She had found a great bit of food to share and presented to us a roasted armadillo, complete with outer shell, claws and head, to enjoy as a gift of hospitality from her. Especially because I knew that this was likely, literally, all they had to offer us, I enthusiastically accepted it telling them how I had never eaten armadillo before. I think I heard Sister Yanira whisper “Aventura!” right before she instructed me how to dig in under the shell to extract some rib meat, sprinkle it with salt and eat it with my hands. This was a stretching experience for certain, and I felt honored to be a part of it. For those who are wondering, it tasted a lot like pork.

Dried Meat: One thing I noticed somewhat regularly on our walks, were slices of meat either hanging on a clothesline or barbed wire around properties at the homes of people here. I am sure the barbed wire is for security, but it’s not ominous like it is in the United States. Sometimes people dry clothes on barbed wire. One day, as we were finishing up a workshop and preparing to leave, Sister Yanira began laughing because it just so happened that I was standing behind some drying meat and as she looked at me, it looked a bit like a bonnet of meat! As we laughed, we talked a bit with the family about it. I soon realized that it was a lot like beef jerky when it was done drying. It lasts a long time and has lots of flavor. When they heard that I had never tried it there, they quickly tore off a generous portion of the dried meat and threw it directly into the glowing embers of the fire we had used to make the food in the workshop. They then pulled it out and handed it to us. Through my American culture lens, I would never have considered meat dried in barbed wire and then thrown into ashes. Luckily for me, I have been here long enough to gently place my culture’s sensibilities on the side. As I chewed on the warm meat, I was surprised by the delicious flavor. It was better than any beef jerky I had ever tasted. I was so grateful that another family who needed our help was so willing to be generous with the little they had.

As I think more about these stories of incredible hospitality, I wonder how these experiences have changed me. I wonder how it will be when I return to the United States. Before this experience, I wouldn’t have thought twice about ignoring a doorbell when I hadn’t made plans for friends to visit. I would have assumed it was a salesperson or possibly someone wanting something from me. I have reserved my hospitality for those who are close to me or who I want to get to know better.

As I consider my core desire to radiate Christ’s love, these ideas no longer apply. I begin to imagine a broadened sense of hospitality that doesn’t exclude or have limitations. For now, I will leave it to my imaginings and know that this new perspective will be a gift that I will bring with me upon my return.

Discernment: clothed in your own uniqueness

Thursday, October 19th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Before I entered elementary school my favorite color was orange. It is a fact of my life story that I haven't recalled in years until I noticed my lunch today — cheddar peanut butter crackers, Cheetos and orange Crush  soda — consisted of mainly orange-colored food. I smiled as I happily ate my lunch and remembered the stories I’ve been told about a time in my life that was filled with joy and creativity: the preschool era in which my sense of fashion included mixing plaids, stripes and interesting colors (with orange ever present). In those days I ventured out into the world to preschool, the grocery store, the park or wherever else the daily routine led, clothed in my own uniqueness. And my parents have photographic evidence in our family albums to prove this early display of my personality.  

multicolord-socks

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

Over 35 years later, this early lesson of creativity and boldness my parents fostered in me are two of my continual guideposts. There is always more than one way to look at a situation and often, boldness is required to be a prophetic witness in our world today. I am continually inspired when I read stories of challenges resolved by creatively thinking outside of the box: everything from clean water projects, new objects made of recycled materials (read about FSPA's Lady Jacoba Greenhouse, built from top to bottom of reused materials, on page 8) and innovative nonprofits meeting more needs with less revenue. 

Discernment, like religious life, is not always comfortable. It will require that you answer honestly with yourself about how far you are willing to go following in the prophetic footsteps of Jesus. Like Jesus you will most likely face judgement and ridicule for your beliefs or for those you choose to stand with. It will require the inner reserve that you have been nurturing since childhood to be your own person. Once again, remember your own holy stubbornness to make a stand when you see injustice. Call to mind the boldness of wearing orange when the world encourages blending in. 

This week I invite you to ponder ...

How do you creatively respond to the ever-changing world around you?

What life lessons from your own childhood guide you in discernment?

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

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 25th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Merry Christmas to you from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

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Image courtesy pixabay.com

May the joy of Christ's birth be in your heart today and throughout the year.

World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

Thursday, February 2nd 2017 2:56 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Katie Mitchell and Laurie Sullivan share their "Called" experiences.

Around the world today the Catholic church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It’s also the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. In the time of Jesus, infants were presented in the temple and a traditional sacrifice was made on their behalf. This action marked their consecration to God and welcomed them as members of the faith community. Today's Gospel recounts the story of Jesus presented by Mary and Joseph. In our times it is through the sacrament of baptism that we become members of the Catholic church.

As a pastoral associate working in two rural Wisconsin parishes one of my favorite ministries was preparing parents for the baptism of their child. The goal of the meetings was to discuss the commitment they were making on behalf of their child. I would also ask what dreams they had for the child, and how they planned to share the Catholic faith with their son or daughter as they grew. These were inspiring conversations as the love they had for their child was so strong, even if the baby was just a few weeks old. They were already dreaming of school concerts, dance recitals and far-away wedding days for their infant. It was amazing to see the hope and pride the parents had, holding their baby as the priest poured the blessed baptismal water over the child's head in the name of the Trinity. Some enjoyed the water and others cried. I always thought that was symbolic as experiencing the call of the Gospel contains moments of joy and moments of startling revelation, just like the cold water trickling over their heads. At the end of each baptism the priest would hold the baby up high, proclaiming an introduction to the gathered faith community. Applause would erupt from the congregation and the proud parents, godparents and family members beamed with joy. In that moment many dreams came to fruition and many more—as to who the little child would be—began to take shape in their hearts.

If we listen to the ritual language of baptism we hear that we are all called to a life of service. Discerning religious life comes from the very root of the first sacrament you received—baptism. Choosing to make religious profession is an intensification of baptismal commitment. It is to dedicate all of your life to the service of others and to share the good news of the Gospel in service of the church and the world. It’s choosing to fully consecrate your life to God. It’s making God your primary relationship and commitment. It’s a joy-filled choice.

How does your baptism shape how you live your life?

Will you be a part of the next generation of consecrated life?

Live into this World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life with FSPA's "Called: the future of religious life" and National Religious Vocation Conference's "Why We Love Our Vocation."

Merry, joyful and bright

Tuesday, December 25th 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

Merry Christmas!

christmas-tree

Image by Graham Soult, courtesy pixabay.com

May the joy of the Christmas season fill your heart all through the year.

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!

Sister Antona: comfort, joy and security in prayer

Tuesday, October 24th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Antona Schedlo, FSPA

 

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Image courtesy of freeimages.com
 

Prayer is very personal — it depends upon individual relationships with God. My prayer life changes as I get older. I don’t need so many prayer leaflets. Prayer has become a part of my daily life. Jesus is my constant companion. I speak to Him, question Him, thank Him, ask Him for pardon all day long no matter where I am or what I am doing. It is a tremendous feeling of comfort, joy and security. My life would be dull and lifeless without Him. I thank God daily for His companionship and love.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Katie: ordinary day, invitation to pray

Tuesday, August 29th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Katie Mitchell, FSPA

 

One of my most cherished ways of praying is eucharistic prayer, but lately I’ve been challenging myself to turn the seemingly ordinary routines of daily life into moments of deep prayer. 

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Recognizing and encountering God in my daily life helps me see that intimacy with God is not separate from day-to-day life. Moments of deep contemplative prayer are accessible each moment of the day! The warmth of sunshine, going about my daily ministry, accepting disappointments, listening attentively to another, forgiving someone, experiencing joy and accepting what ought not to be, (as well as experiences of community, family life and friendship) are some of what I’m seeing as places of grace where God communicates in the deepest center of my being. For me it has also meant rereading my past with wonder and new eyes and seeing how God has been there in even the difficult moments. The most difficult of situations, the most humble of tasks, and the most ordinary of days are an invitation to prayer and to knowing the mystery of God at work in my life.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Celebrating the work of making room

Tuesday, December 3rd 2019 4:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

"Each moment that God is at our sides, the light grows."

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Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash

As millions around the world observed the lighting of the first Advent candle on Sunday, hope and change are in motion. It’s an invitation to a season of preparation that we receive every year. How will this year be different for you? How will we all see that this year is ripe with opportunity to cultivate the best in all of us? How will we become the light of joy, hope and love blazing against the darkness of violent death, famine, war and destruction. 

Throughout the season of Advent, we have the chance to encounter God and encounter one another. By opening our minds and our hearts we can:

  • Look for opportunities to risk the unknown and discover the light that some will try to snuff out. 
  • Start conversations of depth with the commitment to taking action.  
  • Risk comfort for the sake of reaching out to another. 
  • See our differences not as liabilities but as avenues of learning and appreciation of diversity.  

As we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, it will mean not just going through the motions of another season, leaping forward to celebration, but making room.

Isaiah sparks our call to imagination by sharing a vision of unity and peace with God as our leader and loving one another as the litmus test for action. Do you see his vision?

Each time we encounter the light of God we are changed. We choose to be open to risking the known for the unknown, to take action when it would be easier to maintain a routine, to be a witness in times that try our souls. Each moment with God is at our side, the light grows. Preparation for the kingdom of God is not confined to four weeks on a calendar but continual. We are meant to be light all year long! 

The wisdom of Scripture continues in the first week of Advent in the words from the Gospel of Matthew. Time is short, we cannot afford to be lazy or to be lulled into a false sense of security of endless days. We are called to keep our eyes on God. To remember that we will one day be asked how we loved. 

Discerning religious life will pose hard questions for you. Advent is a great time to ask yourself if you’re willing to make room for Jesus and the world in your life Are you called to the prophetic life as a vowed religious?  

Advent in action:

What are you noticing in the world around you?  

What are you committing to do for the good of another this Advent season?
 

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.

Joy in the waiting

Sunday, December 15th 2019 9:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

What experiences in your life inspire trust and new discernment steps?

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Image courtesy freeimages.com

Joy is contagious. Ask a child you know, “How do you feel with Christmas just two weeks away?” Their eyes light up; they dance in place as joy beyond words escapes their little body, their whole being. It’s a jubilance that many of us share on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice! The rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath casts a warm reassuring glow as there is joy in the waiting.

And it’s a joy that can also fill discernment of religious life.

The prophet Isaiah exuberantly expresses the providence of God in our first reading. With lavish care, God shows his great love with not just one small example but with expansive artistry that transforms the parched, scorched, barren spaces in our lives to be places of great beauty.  

Pondering the magnificence of this image, I can’t help but recall the photos of the super bloom that happened in California this past March. The images of the flowers I saw online were captivating, the colors amazing. They gave me a sense of hope amid continual snow showers still occurring in Wisconsin at the time; thoughts of spring sure to come encouraged me every time I had to pick up my shovel. Signs of hope in the midst of trial aid the cultivation of resilience and patience.

James, in the second reading, reminds us that waiting produces maturity and bounty. Patience also generates endurance. While we desire the days leading to celebration to pass quickly, time moves at the pace of its own wisdom. In discernment, you may be waiting in joyful anticipation for a sign revealing to you where you see yourself living fully into the person God calls you to be, to the congregation in which you can best fulfill your gifts. Visiting and praying and pondering are actions, investments, essential for finding your future happiness. 

As we turn our attention to the Gospel, to John the Baptist, all of these gifts  — joy, patience and endurance  —  come to fruition. He has been faithful to his prophetic mission and the world rewarded him with imprisonment. He dared to speak the truth to power. You may ask, where is joy in prison? John did not lose all hope: he took action by sending his disciples to learn more about Jesus.

Can you imagine the joy his disciples carried as they rushed back to share the good news of the growing belief in Jesus with the man who inspired their own choices to follow Jesus? The joy of good news is contagious.

Perhaps when you share the good news of your discernment, others may also be inspired to consider religious life.

Advent in action: 

What are the joys you celebrate in your discernment on this Gaudete Sunday?

What experiences in your life, those that deepen joy and your relationship with God, inspire trust and new steps in discernment?

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.

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.

Christ has risen!

Sunday, April 12th 2020 9:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Happy Easter from Show me a sign

cross-colorful-sky

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

May the joy of the resurrection of Jesus fill our hearts this day and throughout the Easter Season.

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.

Discernment and Advent: called to new life

Thursday, December 6th 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

"God creates ways to fill in the holes we're convinced might swallow us up"

two-red-lit-candles

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Life, as well all know, includes instances in which things don’t work out the way we plan and dream. It could be an important exam that, despite long hours of study, garners a bad grade; disappoints and shatters your confidence. Or, perhaps it is the sudden end to a relationship that breaks your heart. It is in these raw, emotionally exhausting and vulnerable experiences that we stand before God, mourning our losses and grappling with what feels like the worst time in life — one leading to doubts and questions of our own motives, goals and identity.

If you’ve ever sunk to the depths of such despair — your own rock bottom — you will understand this week’s first reading as we hear the words from Baruch. The people are in agony; separated and lost with thoughts that they have been forgotten. But this is not true. God calls them to new life; reminds them that all is not lost. They will be happy again. They will have all they need. They are called out of mourning, reassured and given a renewed sense of purpose. With God’s encouragement, the fading light of what looks like the end can actually reveal the footholds of a new beginning — not only survival but hope and happiness.

God‘s light and love never dissipates. Friends and family pray you through, even if silently; under the guise of leaving you to find your own way through grief or challenge. They, like God, have not abandoned you in your time of need. 

The Gospel is yet another source of encouragement, reminding us all this Advent season that every experience in life can be a stepping stone as we move into the future. God creates ways to fill in the holes we’re convinced might swallow us up.

As we reflect on the second week of Advent let us consider …

•    How has God guided you along a treacherous path to restore your joy?
•    How are you paying it forward and helping a friend or family member who may be suffering?
•    How have you experienced disappointment or loss on your discernment journey? 
•    How has God been with you … every step of the way?

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!
 

 

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).

Advent-wreath-week-3

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?

Discerning, igniting a revolution of peace

Thursday, October 5th 2017 12:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

The first thing I do each morning is check the news app on my phone. Before my feet even touch the floor I become conscious of the violence that has occurred while I slept — horror has erupted in our neighborhoods, wars continue to rage throughout many nations. I say yet another impassioned prayer for peace as I get up to begin my day.  

Yesterday, I rose with the anticipation of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis, known to many as a peacekeeper and the patron saint of animals, woke to his own journey of life almost 800 years ago that was not filled with roses and rainbows. He lived in the middle of warring papal and city states where the feudal system was breaking down. Chaos ruled and many found themselves destitute, starving, and unprotected from the violence around them. I imagine that if there had been 24-hour world news coverage or instant, streaming internet video in his time, his world would in many ways mirror our own.   

St-Francis-statue

But Francis did not stand idle, watch the problems from a distance or hide from the world around him. God called him to go right into the heart of the system that was crumbling, urged him to move quickly to action. The invitation to “rebuild my church” was not some trite, easy task. It was an epic journey that would take Francis the course of his lifetime to navigate. For good or ill, he learned from success and I imagine much more from his failures. Perhaps in his early days, when he physically rebuilt churches stone by stone (as that is how he first interpreted God’s invitation), his isolation from social pressures and experience of quiet moments allowed him to discern how to be all of who he was before God. Eventually, as the story goes, Francis discovered that he needed to help people around him and started with the group he perhaps feared; the lepers.

Sister Eileen McKenzie reads a reflection of St. Francis by Brother Ruffino during an FSPA Transitus celebration in Mary of the Angels Chapel: "I remember how knowing Jesus and following in the footprints of Jesus was the one passion of his life."

Francis is a model and a light for our world today. He reminds us to reach out to help everyone in need, even those who make us feel uneasy, who we don’t understand and who we’ve previously chosen to ignore. He challenges us not to wait around hoping someone else will respond to the chaos around us. Light is even more contagious than darkness. What else could explain the thousands of silly, tug-at-your-heart animal videos on social media that so many of us tune out the troubled world to see? We are all looking for laughter and joy.

What would happen if, around the globe, we woke up to news stories filled with such love and happiness? A world in which individuals cultivate peace and positivity rather than fostering greed, hate and possessiveness?

Perhaps we could all begin our own revolution of peace.

Our collective wakeup call is here. How is your discernment beckoning you to be a light in our world today? How will you ignite a revolution of peace and joy in your corner of the world?

Where will your journey take you?

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


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