Lent - Related Content

Commitment doesn't emerge overnight

Thursday, March 30th 2017 12:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This is the fourth week of Lent; a time to re-examine the intentions you held at the beginning of the season. Have you followed through with your objectives? Have you formed a new habit that has drawn you closer to God, or has the challenge of your desired practice made it permissible in your mind to let the goal go rather than work through the obstacles to achieve it?

Today’s first reading, from the Book of Exodus, serves as an illustration through which to reflect the depths of our own individual behaviors; mannerisms that may lead to the construction of your own molten calf, drawing you away from God and back into comfortable patterns of living. Discovering an idol in your life can be disturbing, but also an opportunity to courageously face the truth of what lies at the core of the issue.

Idols don’t emerge overnight, nor does commitment to continually behold them. Examining the first moments of a dream in which you summoned up your own molten calf may offer insight into how to dispel such symbols. You don’t have to become imprisoned in behaviors that are not life affirming. It is possible to turn your life in all its complexity towards God. God celebrates each time we turn around and begin again, whether it is the first or the 309th time. Transformation is not just a Lenten devotion—it’s a life practice.

mountain-desert-courtesy-Amy-Taylor

In the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona, by Sister Amy Taylor

Discernment is a time of testing and choosing. It is a time to determine the values that will guide you not only in your decision, but also throughout your life. Are you ready to make good on your commitments allowing God--not a stagnant statue of your own creation--to be the form you follow? In times of difficulty will you call to mind God’s unfailing faithfulness and provision, especially when you walk in your own desert moments?

This week, look for the beauty that transformation offers.

Shake off statuesque habits that bind you.

Stretch into the new life that God calls you forth to this Lenten season.

Hearts and ashes

Wednesday, February 14th 2018 8:25 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

There are special occasions we all look forward to in life; days that we want to mark by dressing up and celebrating with a nice meal. As this Valentine’s Day coincides with Ash Wednesday (the beginning of the Lenten season), the upscale steak house dining reservation will be canceled for many. And in our Catholic tradition, we don't just choose to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday but every Friday during Lent too. Such discipline is a call to remembrance, not a punishment; not a means to spoil one’s heart-filled holiday plans.

 

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Image courtesy pixabay.com

 

This break from romanticized tradition holds within it an opportunity and invitation to reflection as we gaze upon the image of Jesus on the cross. Can you see beyond the destruction of a life to forethought of unconditional love? Franciscans believe it is out of love that Jesus came to Earth in human form. Love is the motivating force from all eternity. What better time than on Valentine’s Day, when secular culture focuses on the idea of happily-ever-after love, to look into the depth of what love calls us to in its truest form. Can we see the ashes we choose to receive on our foreheads this Ash Wednesday to be a commitment to love like Jesus? As we hear the words spoken, as we receive the ashes, what does it mean to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”? Does it mean to do more than avoid evil? Does it also call us to love and act justly? What does it mean to truly love another or a world full of others?

 

san-damiano-cross

San Damiano Cross

Jesus leads the way, showing us how to love. The Gospels are full of examples of reaching out, going further, and giving one’s all. They are lessons that show us love is not trite greeting cards but courageous, transformative action. Choosing to love another is more than an idea or an ideal situation.

I am reminded of Peter’s journey to learn to love like Jesus. Remember what you know of Peter — his call to discipleship, his accompaniment on the road with Jesus, his promise of faithfulness that he soon denies — to his post resurrection conversation with Jesus. Love was present in each experience, even in the most trying of circumstances. Peter is transformed in the action of learning and loving like Jesus and being loved by Jesus. It took courage, honesty, humility and grace to continue walking his own journey. Peter did not give up. His perseverance is an example for all of us.

As we begin Lent, let us call to mind moments in our own lives in which love for another or others stretched our hearts and offered wisdom for life. Recall the times, perhaps in your own discernment, that you became aware of the many ways our world is in need of generous people ready to love like Christ, discovering along the way that imperfections can be transformed when desire to be of service is present.

How do you choose to love like Jesus?

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

Temptation and transformation in the desert

Thursday, February 22nd 2018 10:30 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent makes me imagine a movie trailer for a film directed by Mark. He sets a pithy scene in the desert, features a cast of characters that include Jesus, beasts, angels and Satan. Jesus is on the cusp of an encounter with temptation as the teaser abruptly ends. The scene that fades to black is literally and figuratively bleak, leaving viewers to anticipate a film with a gut-wrenching ending.

But of course we are met with a plot twist when the rest of Mark’s story comes out: the desert doesn’t really lead to nothingness, it’s actually lined with steppingstones to discovery. His time in what seems like a wasteland strengthens him and, in a surprising turn of events, leads to emergent momentum of his ministry.

desert-trail-by-sister-amy-taylor

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

Discernment of religious life invites each of us into our own metaphorical and perhaps even physical desert experiences. It’s a place of quiet austerity and simultaneous beauty, calling for revelation, commitment and creativity in a setting assumed to be isolated and daunting. Desolation can allow too much space in which temptation and deprivation can be found, but also make room for grace and gift.

As I prepared for my final vows, I found the desert was the perfect place to go on retreat. Walking in the dry climate, I was invited to be present in each step; cognizant of where my feet fell; watchful of snakes, scorpions and other desert wildlife that I don’t encounter in Wisconsin. Slowly, as I pondered the spectrum of colors that at first I only perceived as beige, the desert revealed some of its bright secrets. My fear of such “beasts” was transformed as I learned how these creatures help sustain the environment. Beauty of life, like the tiny flowers I discovered, flourished in what appeared to be a hostile climate.

desert-rocks-flowers-by-Sister-Amy Taylor

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

Jesus demonstrates that God guides us to explore the depths of a vocational discernment even in the most dreaded circumstances; is with us as we confront the temptations that threaten our fidelity to live in communion with God.

How is your fear or preconceived notion getting in the way of intentional discernment?

How has God surprised you and provided in your own “desert times?”

 

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

Mary and our "Yes" to mystery

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

 

This Saturday is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. As I prepare for the celebration I’ve contemplated the Gospel we'll receive that day and thought about all the announcements made over the intercom I hear at St. Rose Convent in the course of a day. From the speaker just outside of my office I hear receptionists paging employees and sisters; reminders about Mass, committee meetings (even exercise class) and other activities beginning soon. I’m able to block out most of this background noise as it’s rare such announcements are personally meant for me. On the sporadic instance it is, I have a community filled with helpful sisters who diligently make me aware of what I may have inadvertently tuned out.


microphone-freeimages.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

In the Gospel, Mary encounters and responds to a life changing annunciation. This is not a vague message. It is specific. She is called by name, reassured of her goodness, provided with initial details of what is to come and given an opportunity to respond. Finally she makes a choice. She says ”Yes” to be the mother of Jesus. No instruction book is given, no promise of happiness, yet she says ”Yes.” When we say "Yes" to vocation we—like Mary—must walk the road, learning as we go, trusting God is always there.

This is one of several call and response stories we have in our Scriptures but Mary, in particular, is a model for discerners. Mary’s experience is a snap shot of what most of us experience in discerning religious life—movement towards making a choice. Gabriel may not be the one delivering the invitation but in many ways—when our worlds are changed in an instant—we can feel like Mary. The potential of the trajectory of our lives is laid before us and God waits for our "Yes."

God knows our hearts and understands how to communicate with us. The magnitude of our circumstance may draw messengers—delivering personal, divine requests—directly to us. The longer I live the more I doubt there are mere coincidences.  

Through the season of Lent we have been following the journey of Jesus to the cross. The annunciation story reminds us where and how it all began. Each decision about and response to God’s invitations has bearing on the future. Both stories convey the love God has for us. Love in action; in different moments of the unfolding narrative beginning with the very first moments of being through the maturation and insight into life choices made. Mary and Jesus choose love no matter the consequence for their lives.

This reading in the middle of Lent invites me to ponder loving more and worrying less. How can I let go of the need to know what to expect when love has a different answer? Always provides a way?

Is your discernment journey leading you to a “Yes” to love like Mary?

How does your life announce to the world your commitment to God?

Kindness: we are all called to be Esther

Thursday, March 9th 2017 12:45 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

In a spirit of collaboration, we enter into the celebration of National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8 through 14). There are over 45,000 women religious in the United States, and FSPA is a member of one of the organization’s partnering groups—the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. They have come together in a campaign called “Kindness: Get in the Habit.” Billboards and advertisements as well as a school curriculum for the week are all aimed at encouraging individuals to find ways to be kind to one another.

Kindness-handshake

Kindness is a basic human value that’s often lost amid a world filled with competition and sometimes questionable motivation. As we walk through the second week of Lent we recall that the tenets of the Lenten season include prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Kindness easily supports each tenets. We are invited to open our eyes to our own actions and reflect on the ways in which we are attentive to the invitation of the season.

The readings placed before us today are like a glowing neon sign along the Lenten road of spiritual growth. The words flowing from the lips of Queen Esther are those of intercession on behalf of her people. Choosing to give voice to the concerns of her heart, she pleads for wisdom and courage to have eloquence of speech to persuade those who can protect and champion her cause.

How many times—in the defining moments of your life where everything is on the line and God is your advocate—have you prayed like Esther?

 

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Eileen McKenzie, FSPA, deep in the tenet of prayer (image courtesy of Vendi Advertising).

There are many Esthers in our world today as prayers of refugees, immigrants and others displaced pray on behalf of their communities for safety, food, water and asylum from the horrors they have fled; to be heard in their suffering and feel the presence of caring from God and all of us who walk in humanity by their sides. What does the season (and not just during Lent) call us to but the obligations of being Catholic Christians?

Esther bows in prayer and supplication to God. She aligns her interior and exterior reality of life situation as queen, advocate, subject and co-creator. She has not walled herself into the security of the palace. She knows the struggles her people face as it was once her own experience. Her actions have a direct impact on others. She is accountable for what she chooses and she holds God accountable to guide her.

Esther is a model for all who discern. She exemplifies the courage, strength and perseverance that is indispensable to remain rooted in Gospel values as you make a choice for your own vocation. Challenges are a part of life, and how you choose to move through them speaks volumes of who you are.

How can the choices you make in your life alleviate the pain and sorrow of a hurting world?

How does your vocational discernment bring relevance to humanity at this time in our history? 

These are our own Meribah moments

Thursday, March 8th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

It’s common for many people to run away, hardening their hearts to a possible call to religious life. Fear, anxiety and worry are sometimes overwhelming and leave little room for joy, wonder, curiosity and trust. The invitation to discern may come as a surprise — perhaps in a comment from a friend or coworker — leaving you reeling at the possibility. This happened to me. Or, maybe you are sensing an emerging awareness in the stillness of prayer. It can be a confusing time. More questions than answers may swirl in your head like...what does this all mean? Why me? What will others think about me? Will my friends still hang out with me?

rocks-heart-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Each of these questions has implications not just for those who choose religious life, but for all life. At some point everyone finds themselves asking
“Who am I and what do I want to do with my life?”

Today’s psalm is a great reminder about the attitude we carry when we enter into a time of discernment and how each of us choose to respond when the way forward is confusing or challenging. This passage recalls a time of discouragement for our ancestors in faith, a time when they put God to their own test. Sometimes in discernment we also test God in attempt to know exactly what life would be like if we made one choice rather than another. An attitude that says in its own way “Prove it to me God!” 

These are our own Meribah moments.

What better time of year than Lent to turn once again towards God, asking for guidance and courage to prayerfully consider all of the vocational choices that are possible. Considering, researching and exploring are not in and of themselves acts of commitment. There are many steps in discernment and there will be time to say yes or no along the way.

How can the invitation to discern help you develop your own heart of flesh?

What do you hear in the words of today’s psalm?

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week (which begins today), Show me a sign will feature a series of reflections by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration surrounding the question "What inspires you about religious life today?" throughout the week. 
 

Discerning action, new adventure in Lent and religious life

Thursday, April 11th 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Lent: 'making space for the new adventures God is inviting us to.'

movie-clapboard

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

In every action and adventure movie I’ve seen, the main character finds themselves in a seemingly impossible situation. All protagonists, like Wonder Woman, face choices that will impact life in ways not yet imagined, result in consequences that bring blessings and challenges. Each decision impacts experiences to come.  

Discernment can feel like you’re living in such a film. New challenges arise, cause confusion, overwhelm and sometimes make your next move feel impossible. Potential movement for discerners of religious life can be literal: am I open to exploring a community far from home, away from my family and friends? How does one not get stymied in indecision and find a way to move through the experience?  

There is wisdom offered for all who reflect and pray with the readings from the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Isaiah reminds us of the point of peril that the Israelites faced as they fled Egypt, the charioteers hot on their heels and water looming in front of them. The scene was bleak but God acted, parting the water. The Israelites escaped and the army met their watery grave. Who would have seen that coming … water transformed into dry land just long enough for the escape? When it is least expected, God often provides a new route on the horizon. 

The Gospel from John also carries the theme of life on the brink of disaster. The Pharisees posed a double threat — attempting to trick Jesus into misinterpreting a law and endangering a woman’s life (in death by stoning) in the process. Neither ploy works. Jesus stops the advancement of the Pharisees and the woman is spared. Just when all seems lost, a saving grace arises. 

Sometimes what looks like the end is actually the first step of a new beginning, but it takes commitment to prayer and reflection to discern what is happening. It means asking the hard questions: to where am I being called, led, invited? It may also require adjusting your perception of a situation. There will be times of heartache and pain; when one moment ends to give space for a new time to arise. The Israelites had to leave Egypt, the woman had to choose to move beyond her former choices. The new way forward will bring change and challenges along with new blessings.  

Lent is a season in which we are invited to deepen our commitment to God, to see the parts of our lives that need to change and make space for the new adventures God is inviting us to. Letting go can be a way of letting God in.  

What adventure God is offering for you to consider?

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!


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