Stripped of Everything Except Love

Jesus CrucifiedThere is Jesus upon the Cross, “stripped of everything except His love”, as our Foundress, Saint Magdalene of Canossa would say. The dipiction of Christ is what compelled me to take my vows, wanting to follow in the footsteps of the Crucified One. This past Sunday we celebrated much more than Superbowl; in the Church we commemorated Jesus being presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, and their meeting of old Simeon and the prophetess Anna, and the astonishing things they said about the child. The Church shares this day with all men and women who have taken vows of consecration: chastity, poverty and obedience. It led me to reflect on my own consecration and a prayer:

In my consecration I gave all to Mary and I stand before Jesus stripped bare. No merits to show. No clothing to make me attractive. Nothing by which to hide my flaws. All is revealed. This applies too to my daily life. All the graces I experience are from God. All successes in my ministry is from God. Any signs of love I demonstrate is from God. I have nothing. All belongs to God and I entrust it to Mary. All I hope for, I pray, is God’s grace and that I may love with a heart like Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

UntitledFather,
You willed that Mary
be at the Foot of the Cross
sharing in the Sacrifice of Your Son.
Grant us, through her intercession,
to bear within ourselves
the image of Christ
Crucified and Risen,
and to spend ourselves
with untiring Charity
for the good of our brothers and sisters. Amen.

(Said every morning before Lauds by Canossian Sisters around the world).

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A Request for Prayer

Every six years, the Canossian Sisters convoke a “General Chapter”, a formal body comprised of our Sisters from all around the world. The Sisters nominated, will meet this coming spring in Rome. Prior to that, each of our 19 provinces is conducting their own Chapters through which they feed issues for discernment into the preparation for the General Chapter. The Sisters of the North American province of Cristo Rey will be meeting from November 11-19, during which we will review our journey and plot the course for the next six years. We will also elect from among us a Chapter Sister who will represent the Province in Rome at the General Chapter in the spring.

All is done with the words of our Mother Foundress Saint Magdalene of Canossa in mind: “see to it that the spirit of the Institute is handed down in all its entirety and perfection to those who come into it after you.”

It is a time of intense prayer and discernment. Will you join us?

Icone St JosephI invite you to join us in prayer as we continue our preparation, using this beautiful prayer to Saint Joseph:

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me.

[I ask for the success of the Provincial Chapter of the Canossian Sisters of North America (November 11-19, 2013), may the Sisters be open to the Holy Spirit and have courage to speak the truth, for the good of the whole Institute and for the poor they serve.]

Saint Joseph, Pray for us!

Saint Magdalene of Canossa, Pray for us!

Saint Josephine Bakhita, our Universal Sister, Pray for us!

Venerable Fernanda Riva, Pray for us!

Saint Francis of Assisi, Pray for us!

Saint Cajetan, Pray for us!

 

Related Posts:

All the Saints Pray for Us

Patron Saints

Seven Sundays Remembering St Joseph

Ash Wednesday – A Prayer

Sr Josie, Canossian Sister, distributes ashes during Ash Wednesday service.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Amen.

(collect – Ash Wednesday)

Helpful Lenten posts:

Father Zuhlsdorf breaks down this powerful prayer/collect for us here.

Fasting and Abstinence – Some gentle reminders and scripture passages for the season.

Join the conversation – what is your Lenten practice?

The Month of Mary – A Prayer for the World

During this month of May, my community is praying from “A Guide for the Canossian Community in Prayer”, a recommended prayer of intercession through Mary.

We’ve had a growing awareness over the weeks, as we pray, of the echo these words contain with the reality of what is happening around us. I wanted to share it, offering the prayer for the world, and for the many who find themselves living what these words contain. Perhaps, you may wish to join us in the last days of May praying this prayer with us.

___

Look down on us, O Mary

Look down on us, O Mary!
We are united before you in prayer, as you wished us to be:
daughters of Charity, the queen of virtues.
Look down on us with the benevolence of a mother.
We ask your help and protection, peace and pardon,
apostolic zeal and fidelity to the Church,
for ourselves and all who work in society
with an upright heart and good will.

Many are the afflictions of the world,
the miseries of the poor,
the violence performed by those who do not know how to love,
and are carried away by brutal passions.
And we do not know how to see the warnings from heaven
in the calamities that are increasing
and the sacrifice of defenseless and innocent victims.

But you, Mary, are the Mother of Mercy and Forgiveness.
Ask grace for us! Ask God for us and for all,
an increase of faith, the comfort of Christian hope
and the communion of evangelical charity.
May the Father grant the Church unity and testimony of life;
to society, a fraternal spirit,
understanding of every need, sorrow and aspiration;
to Religious families newness of life in your light, O Mary,
in the Spirit of the love of your Son Jesus, our Savior.
Amen.

___
linked at New Advent (5/25/11)

Do Not Let Your Hearts be Troubled

These words from the Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 1, present the theme for the young women’s day retreat hosted by the Canossian Sisters of Sacramento (my community) on Saturday, May 21.

Details about the retreat are available at their website.

If you are a young woman in the Sacramento area, consider coming, reflecting on the Word of God, and getting to know us!

We’d appreciate very much your prayers, so like our April retreat, this too may be successful!

God bless!

A New Life in Christ

As we begin our Easter Season, we call to mind that the ‘new life’ we enjoy is because of the Lenten sacrifice and passion or our Lord Jesus on the Cross. The notes are up over at the Canossian Sisters of Sacramento, of a Lenten reflection given to young women. Still very appropriate for our season of the Resurrection:

The reflection was based on the Gospel of John11:1-45, and the reading from Ezekiel 37:12-14. We discussed how, to understand the Gospel, and the raising of Lazarus, we must reflect on the first reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent. The two readings go together. There are four key points in this short reading, promises of God:

1. I will open your graves;
2. I am the Lord;
3. I will put my Spirit in you; and
4. That you may live.

First, the promise of God that He will ‘open our graves and have us rise from them.’ We considered what can be meant by ‘grave’. Of course, there is the physical grave, or place of burial. Here, there is nothing left. The person who is buried ceases to live. There is no breath; only darkness. We have no control over death; it is a part of our human existence. But physical death is not the only way we stop living. We also considered that the ‘grave’ can also be metaphorically used to consider the ways we block ourselves off from living as God intended, through our sin. Sin, such as when we choose to put ourselves first before God, and put ourselves first before our neighbors, block us from living in God’s grace (the abundant gifts of His help) when we shut Him out, and turn our back on our brothers and sisters in their need. God wants to free us from the grave of sin – to unbind us from the things that keep us from loving. Some of these ‘blocks’ seem very small: when we refuse to take out the trash when we’re asked; when we say things to others knowing it annoys them; when we forget to say our prayers. But, what happens if we do the opposite? What happens when we do not hesitate to help when asked; when we see someone who is alone and befriend them; or when we are attentive in our prayers, and our time with God. These small acts of love work in us, to open our hearts to God’s grace. The more we do these kinds of things, we find our hearts grow to love, more and more like the heart of Jesus…

Go read the whole thing.

Our lovely participants:

The Sisters all wish to thank the many of my readers who prayed for the success of this retreat. “We couldn’t have done it without you!”

Next Retreat is scheduled for May 21, 2001.

If you’re planning to be in the Sacramento area and would like to come, contact us!

Please pray for our community, that has been serving the Diocese of Sacramento for 39 years, and hopes to keep on serving. We need more hands to make the work lighter.

Join us in praying for holy vocations to our Institute. Thank you!

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Thanks goes to Elizabeth of Startling the Day for the mention in 7 Quick Takes Friday.

And, don’t forget to go look at Bright Maidens, a writing project by young Catholic women about young women and faith.

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Related Posts:

Sister Elisa, Passing on the Faith

Prayers for Japan

Naturally, many of us have been raising our prayers for the people of Japan so severely hit by earthquake, tsunami, aftershocks, potential nuclear disaster, and now an erupting volcano. It is not a time of festivity, as this Japanese doll suggests. It is a time of solidarity with the suffering. This photo was sent to me from one of our Sisters in Japan, after her return there some years ago. I post it as a reminder of hope, that again the Japanese people may have their mourning turned into dancing (Psalm 30):

“I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.

O LORD, my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.

LORD, you brought me up from Sheol; you kept me from going down to the pit.

Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful; give thanks to God’s holy name.

For divine anger lasts but a moment; divine favor lasts a lifetime. At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing.

Complacent, I once said, “I shall never be shaken.” LORD, when you showed me favor I stood like the mighty mountains. But when you hid your face I was struck with terror.

To you, LORD, I cried out; with the Lord I pleaded for mercy: “What gain is there from my lifeblood, from my going down to the grave? Does dust give you thanks or declare your faithfulness?

Hear, O LORD, have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper.”

You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.

With my whole being I sing endless praise to you. O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”

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Houses of our Canossian Sisters

Our Sister’s houses in Japan are scattered from Tokyo to the south. With one in proximity to the latest volcano eruption. I sent a communication to the one who sent the photo of the Japanese doll, letting her know we are praying for them and the people they serve, since all of Japan is suffering. And so do others from around the world.

After Mass, I met a woman who is not yet sure about the whereabouts of her uncle, who was on one of the bullet trains at the time of the tsunami. She has not yet heard as to his safety. And so, I offer this page for prayer. Feel free to add a prayer for them in the comments section. And my community and I will be adding them to our evening prayer in our chapel.

God bless you all!

___

Economics and Resiliency of Japan via Ed Morrissey at HotAir

Catholic Relief Services ready to respond. Needs your financial help.

Google set up a Crisis Response page with how to help Red Cross in Japan, and Emergency Services Information.

Messages from Our Lady of Akita

That “V” Word – Vocation

A young friend of mine tweeted: “ahh that “V” word! Scary! Lol”. Yes, the V-word. I had just tweeted to her that St Magdalene of Canossa tells us, “God has given you a great gift by giving you a vocation…such a big grace!” Scary, to be sure.

I dedicate this post to her, and to all young women like her who are seeking to do what God wants, but with so much information and opportunity it really does get confusing along the way to hear closely what it is exactly God has in mind. I promised her I would write on the subject, and so, I wish to share my reflection of my own vocation that I shared with my Volunteers back in 2006 following my perpetual vows.

Reflecting on my vows three words come to mind that encapsulate the whole of my religious vocation: ‘here I am’. This is the response I gave at the celebration of my final vows on the 3rd of December 2006 when then General Superior, M. Marie Remedios called out my name before the Bishop Domenico Sigalini and the assembly at the Church of St Magdalene Canossa in Ottavia – Rome. It was my response to a call by God to participate with Him in His plan of salvation. God called my name and I responded.

All of us are called by God but in various ways. Our Christian life is a life of learning to respond according to the state of life we live: some of us are single; others of us are married with children; others of us are religious and priests. But all of us have the same duty of learning to respond whole heartedly to God.

When we open the Bible, we find stories of many who have been invited to follow God, and how they responded. Abraham responded to God with these very words – here I am – in Genesis 22,1 when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his faith, and in his faithful obedience he became the Father of Nations (Rom 4, 1- 17). Moses too received an invitation by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and when called, responded the same way: ‘here I am’ (Ex 3,4). And so also with the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord asked ‘whom shall I send?’ (Is 6,8) Isaiah’s response was ‘here I am, send me’. What is it then to be ‘called’ by God?

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call, to summon, to invite’. Our vocation then – to the religious, singular or married state – is an invitation to live according to the will of God. And how do we know the will of God? This is the journey of each person to discover what God wants for him or her, but it is always tied to the mission of Christ who said, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4,34). The ‘work’ of the Father is redemptive, bringing about liberation for all humanity bound by sin from the time of Adam and Eve. Christ came to fulfill this plan of salvation through His life, death and resurrection. All Christians are called to collaborate in this redemptive work by bringing others to know and love God the Father through Jesus Christ. We too are called to hunger for all to know God through fully living out his will through our love.

We learn to share our faith through our experience of God; an experience that is manifested in our life of prayer. Prayer, then, is the key to knowing the will of God. A comedian in the United States was keen of saying ‘you can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to.’ In other words, you can’t have a relationship with God without making time to talk to Him and listen in the silence for His Word. I like to look to Mary as an example: the young girl from Nazareth who listened to God, and her listening prepared her heart to respond when God called her to be the Mother of our Lord, Jesus (Luke 1:28-38). In her example we see the fruit of prayer – a receptive heart ready to do whatever God asked.

When I entered as a postulant with the Canossian Sisters in 1998, I began to respond to God in my prayer where I found a desire in me to dedicate my life to service of God. Although the desire existed in me to want God’s will, I struggled constantly with my own desire and wants; I struggled with fears of letting go and failure. These are the struggles of humanity that each of us grapple with. St. Paul spoke of this struggle when he said in his letter to the Romans: “for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (7,19). One of the most important things I have learned in all my years of preparation for my final vows was that despite my sin – doing the things I don’t want – God continues to love me. Our humanity is so used to judging people based on what they do, or in religious circles, how good one is. My experience of God has taught me that despite my weakness, my failure, my small capacity to love as Jesus loves, Christ still loves me and desires me to belong fully to Him. I have found that I will never be perfect or worthy to belong to Christ Himself; but I have also found that God wants me anyway. He takes me as I am and I find that it is His love that perfects me. And slowly, with His grace which flows always through the Sacraments, I am being transformed to be more like Him and more able to love like He loves. This new awareness has prepared me to choose a life of belonging to the One who is Love, with a desire to live my life so to make Him known.

During my preparation for my vows, I discovered in myself this readiness that dares to give everything to fulfil God’s will. In my Bible the words ‘here I am’ are translated as “ready” (NAB). I had to ask myself, ‘am I ready to do this – to give everything I have, and everything I am – to give myself to God forever?’ I found within my prayer the answer: an unhesitating ‘yes’. It is a response that has taken time to mature through the years as I have discovered for myself the vastness of God’s love. I was happily surprised in the days before my final vows that I was ready, and could hardly wait to stand before the world to say, “Yes, Lord, I am yours forever.”

My word to my friend, and to all who are in the hunt for God’s will: take up the example of Mary, who ‘pondered these things in her heart’ (Luke 2:19 and 2:51). Eventually, all these ‘ponderings’ (our praying over daily events) will come together and help you know what is the path for you. And you will find that the Lord has lead you all the way.

Prayer for a Generous Heart

Father in Heaven, you have blessed us with many gifts.
You chose us before the world began,
To be your adopted sons and daughters,
And to live through love in your presence.
Give us wisdom and insight to know your purpose;
Give us courage to follow where your Spirit leads us,
Give us generosity to serve you in our brothers and sisters.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

DVC – Based on Ephesians 1:3 ff.

—Other Helps—

You may find these links on vocations helpful:

vocation.com

Canossian website

Stay close to God in His Word and in His Sacraments. These are great tools which prepare the heart to be ready for what God has in store. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament helps too.

Find a good listener to let you ponder out loud, so that you can hear the movements in your heart reflected back to you through conversation. This could be either a spiritual companion or a spiritual director.

Read the Bible daily. Let God’s word speak to you, and be attentive to the people in the scriptures that appeal to you.

You are not alone on your journey. Praying for young people in discernment is one of my favorite prayers!

___

Thanks, Sophia, for the cross-post at Always Catholic. Grazie mille a te!

Wasted for Love – A Vocation

Today, as I celebrate nine years of consecrated life, I am posting a reflection I gave on the eve of my final vows in 2006.

Reflecting on my vows three words come to mind that encapsulate the whole of my religious vocation: ‘here I am’. This is the response I gave at the celebration of my final vows on the 3rd of December 2006 when the General Superior, M. Marie Remedios called out my name before the Bishop Domenico Sigalini and the assembly at the Church of St Magdalene Canossa in Ottavia – Rome. It was my response to a call by God to participate with Him in His plan of salvation. God called my name and I responded. All of us are called by God but in various ways. Our Christian life is a life of learning to respond according to the state of life we live: some of us are single; others of us are married with children; others of us are religious and priests. But all of us have the same duty of learning to respond whole heartedly to God.

When we open the Bible, we find stories of many who have been invited to follow God, and how they responded. Abraham responded to God with these very words in Genesis 22,1 when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his faith, and in his faithful obedience he became the Father of Nations (Rom 4, 1- 17). Moses too received an invitation by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and when called, responded the same way: ‘here I am’ (Ex 3,4). And so also with the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord asked ‘whom shall I send?’ (Is 6,8) Isaiah’s response was ‘here I am, send me’. What is it then to be ‘called’ by God?

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call, to summon, to invite’. Our vocation then – to the religious, singular or married state – is an invitation to live according to the will of God. And how do we know the will of God? This is the journey of each person to discover what God wants of him or her, but it is always tied to the mission of Christ who said, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4,34). The ‘work’ of the Father is redemptive, bringing about liberation for all humanity bound by sin from the time of Adam and Eve. Christ came to fulfill this plan of salvation through His life, death and resurrection. All Christians are called to collaborate in this redemptive work by bringing others to know and love God the Father through Jesus Christ. We too are called to hunger for all to know God through fully living out his will through our love.

We learn to share our faith through our experience of God; an experience that is manifested in our life of prayer. Prayer, then, is the key to knowing the will of God. A comedian in the United States was keen of saying ‘you can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to.’ In other words, you can’t have a relationship with God without making time to talk to Him and listen in the silence for His Word. I like to look to Mary as an example: the young girl from Nazareth who listened to God, and her listening prepared her heart to respond when God called her to be the Mother of our Lord, Jesus (Luke 1:28-38). In her example we see the fruit of prayer – a receptive heart ready to do whatever God asked.

When I entered as a postulant with the Canossian Sisters in 1998, I began to respond to God in my prayer where I found a desire in me to dedicate my life to service of God. Although the desire existed in me to want God’s will, I struggled constantly with my own desire and wants; I struggled with fears of letting go and failure. These are the struggles of humanity that each of us grapple with. St. Paul spoke of this struggle when he said in his letter to the Romans: “for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (7,19). One of the most important things I have learned in all my years of preparation for my final vows was that despite my sin – doing the things I don’t want – God continues to love me. Our humanity is so used to judging people based on what they do, or in religious circles, how good one is. My experience of God has taught me that despite my weakness, my failure, my small capacity to love as Jesus loves, Christ still loves me and desires me to belong fully to Him. I have found that I will never be perfect or worthy to belong to Christ Himself; but I have also found that God wants me anyway. He takes me as I am and I find that it is His love that perfects me. And slowly, with His grace which flows always through the Sacraments, I am being transformed to be more like Him and more able to love like He loves. This new awareness has prepared me to choose a life of belonging to the One who is Love, with a desire to live my life so to make Him known.

During my preparation for my vows, I discovered in myself this readiness that dares to give everything to fulfil God’s will. In my Bible (New American Bible – NAB), the words ‘here I am’ are translated as “ready”. I had to ask myself, ‘am I ready to do this – to give everything I have, and everything I am – to give myself to God forever?’ I found within my prayer the answer: an unhesitating ‘yes’. It is a response that has taken time to mature through the years as I have discovered for myself the vastness of God’s love. I was happily surprised in the days before my final vows that I was ready, and could hardly wait to stand before the world to say, “Yes, Lord, I am yours forever.”