Vocation: Confidence and Endurance

“Do not, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10.35-36

These two verses from scripture caught my attention. I see them as speaking to each of us in our call to live out our vocation. Regardless if we are married, single, a religious sister or brother or a priest we need a confidence to endure the journey of a life and stay in tune with God’s will. All of us are consecrated at our baptism. This gift is embedded with confidence and endurance to “run and not grow weary” (Isaiah 40.31), to “shine our light”(Matthew 5.16) and “bear much fruit” (John 15.5). Each of us are called forth in baptism to be heralds of the good news and the way we live our lives is the greatest witness of this. I am mindful of my baptism as I reflect on my life as a religious brother. It is in this being incorporated into Christ at baptism that then calls me to live my vows and vocation in this specific way.

February 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and also celebrates World Day for Consecrated Life. This year being the 25th Anniversary of this designation. A day marked in the Catholic Church to pray for and be mindful of women and men religious – sisters, brothers, priests and hermits along with those who belong to secular institutes and those who make private vows. It is in professing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience that we live out the promise of our baptismal call in these specific ways.

In living as a religious brother, I am constantly called back to not abandoning the confidence which is mine. This is not about being prideful and boasting, it is rather an anchoring in Christ. My confidence is found in Him whom I pattern my life after by living the gospel. It is this same confidence in which St. Francis trusted when he heard his call to go and rebuild the church. He didn’t set out to become a founder of a religious order rather he was expressing this confidence and living with an endurance the will of God the best he could. St. Francis is quoted as saying near the end of his life, “I have done what is mine to do, may you now do what is yours.” This conviction is established in a confidence that Christ was at work in him, that he was a vessel of the Holy Spirit for his time and place and that the promise of life eternal was at the heart of how he strived to live his consecrated life.

As I continue on in this consecrated religious life, I like St. Francis, continue to adjust my focus to see and profess more clearly “My God and My All” in my daily living. If I make my vows and not live them out well, they become empty promises. If I squander the confidence I have in self-sustaining ways, then I am forgetting that my vows call me into relationship with others. If I trust in my will forgetting that God is at work in me, I am out of step with my heart. These are the challenges I face as a religious in making my living authentic, honest and true. The reward is not earthly treasures – although tempting. The reward is not even in trying to live like St. Francis. The reward is in listening and being present to God who dwells in me. It is in doing this that I can live my vows well, walk forward in confidence with endurance knowing that God’s will is at work in me and the promises God makes to me are always kept.

How do you see yourself as consecrated?

Who calls forth this gift in your life?

“The life of the body is the soul; the life of the soul is God.” – St. Anthony of Padua

Reflection by: Br. Michael Perras, ohm

Tiny Home Takeout Anyone?

By: Toby Collins, CR

We’ve all read the story about our true home in heaven being like a mustard seed or the yeast we add to dough. In both cases things grow exponentially and everyone is provided for.

Recently at St. Mary’s Church in downtown Kitchener a Tiny Home Takeout window was opened for everyone in the community to “Grab a bite, and give if they can.” The idea was planted 2 years ago when leadership and lay people at the parish saw a need for quality food in parts of the community that were struggling to pay rent and eat well – if shelter was even possible. Fundraising lead to hiring an outreach coordinator, renovating a kitchen, and adding a chef. All of which have given the leaven to the the dough that provides an average of 140 personal pizzas per night. And if pizza isn’t your thing there is always a meatless soup, chili or pasta on the menu.

It is with gratitude to God for the scriptures from which this seed was planted that we at St. Mary’s give thanks. And, of course, we also give thanks for the opportunity our charism of hope has given to the 3 Resurrectionists who live here to remind everyone that with God’s love things grow exponentially and everyone is provided for. For more information please visit tinyhometakeout.com. Photo by: Michael Messner

Seeking Emmanuel in the Traffic

When I was a child, there were a couple of times that I found the waiting time of Advent to be too much to bear.  I had to know the identities of the colourful packages and so I found time, late in the evening, to secretly and carefully pull at the scotch tape holding the wrapping paper together on each of my gifts.  Knowing the trouble I’d get into if the presents actually disappeared, I returned them carefully re-wrapped to the Christmas tree, and so there were a couple Christmas mornings that held no surprises for me.

I’d like to think that I’ve improved in my ability to wait as an adult, but I’m regularly reminded that I’ve a long way still to go.  There are occasions when I’m sitting at yet another red light on my way home from a long day at work that I find myself bemoaning why it’s so difficult for city workers to synchronize the lights on a street when humanity has managed to put a person on the moon!  In other words, waiting is not always my strength.  As I see the struggles that we as a province and country are living through these days of Covid 19, I know that I am not alone in this.

Perhaps the toughest struggle in the waiting is the inner dialogue that happens, dialogue that illustrates to me how the truths of my Catholic faith sometimes sit up in my head as “interesting” knowledge, without somehow making the trip down to my heart to transform and permeate the way I live.  The interior moaning might go something like this:  “Why me?  What have I done to deserve red light after red light?  I mean, yes, I could have been more generous to this colleague and I was a bit sharp with that student today, but really, does that really mean the world has to be against me now?”

Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people were having a similar dialogue with themselves and God.  They had a fair amount more to concern themselves with than city traffic:  a Roman occupation that many Jews struggled to abide at the time.  “Why us?” they asked themselves.  “Why should our region be run by the Romans?  Yes, we could have obeyed the laws of our God more faithfully, we have been untrue and thoughtless at times.  But is Roman rule really justified?”

The birth of a child was God’s response to years of agonized waiting.  The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, is also God’s response to me today. It is a truth that is simple to know, and yet utterly profound to understand and live.  Emmanuel, God is with us.  

Every frustrated encounter with a traffic light can serve as a call to me from the depths of my heart, a reminder that I need God’s grace to help permeate my very being with this truth:  God is with us! God is with me!  It is God saying: “Red lights can’t take away from your worth.  Unkind words and acts, pandemics, corrupt politicians, these can neither add nor take anything away from your preciousness to me.  I give you your worth.  God is with you!”

As we hear the Christmas story again at Mass this year, let us pray that its wisdom moves a little more from our heads, working its way ever deeper into our hearts.  We are extraordinarily precious.  We are profoundly loved.  God is with us!  Let us know it, live it, and breathe it!

Written by: Michelle Langlois, fcJ

Teacher: “Why me? Why now?”

9 months into this pandemic and we have given birth to fear, isolation, sorrow, and frustration. Rewind! 9 months ago in the world of education we left school on March 13 (A Friday!) thinking we were getting an extended March Break and we would come back to our students a little more refreshed and ready having had extra days to catch up on sleep. Fast forward to 9 months later and our lives, as teachers and students have been turned upside down.

As a primary teacher I returned to the classroom after doing Special Education for seven years and I was a little excited to have my own class, do my own thing with them, giving them a home away from home experience. The kids were excited to come back to school and get back into a routine they so desperately needed. Whoop! Check! When we returned we entered a whole new realm- masks, visors, desks a metre apart, tape on the walls to show where you stand in line, walking with zombie arms is the new “lips and hips”- What in the heck is this? I can’t teach like this. I can’t have fun with my students because I can’t even take off my mask to read them a story and show my goofy faces while I read it to them. Insert Charlie Brown voice, “Why me! Why now!”

Ok! I said to myself, enough whining! While I often steer clear of “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” (I don’t believe that! She has given plenty of over the top situations that required way more of me than I was willing to give). I did try to reframe my thinking. The pandemic is here to stay. I made a choice to pray for patience and peace.

This thinking/ praying developed into COVID- Care Of Very Important Disciples. We are these disciples and all those we live with, serve with, and encounter are the VIDs in our CO. Now, in an effort to get through this together, my staff, sisters, friends and family continue to feed the poor, my classroom is a safe zone and we play, “Noodle Tag”, so we can “touch” each other, our zombie arms have become “spacers”, and the class is our home.

With the birth of Jesus just weeks away, our preparations centre on making Christmas special for struggling families. Approximately 50 families in my small school will receive a Christmas package this year. The advent wreath made from traced hands will grace the bulletin board. The Elf on the Shelf will show up hanging from the ceiling of the classroom. And together we will wait in joy for the coming of Christ and the end to a pandemic that together calls us to be better.

Take a page from this student who found her own pace in the craziness of a lunchtime chaos.

Article and picture by: Connie Harrington, SNJM

Finding God in the Little Things

This past year, the pandemic and its’ restrictions have been challenging for most, not always for the same reasons.  My heart goes out to all parents and families, and maybe especially business owners, for whom these times have been especially difficult financially.  I can only pray that they will receive all the help they need to survive and live in dignity in spite of all the hardships they have endured.

Our local parishes have been challenged: will they come through this pandemic in one piece?  Will church buildings need to close?  How long can they survive if the pandemic and restrictions stretch out for another long period of time?

Many countries’ and provinces’ health care systems have been tested.  How long can our front line workers withstand all this pressure, working short staffed, trying to care for the sick and protect their own selves and family members at the same time?

On a more personal level, many of us have elderly parents; some we can visit, others have been inaccessible since the beginning of the pandemic, living in nursing homes where restrictions are strict in order to keep them safe, or they live in another province and travel restrictions make it difficult or impossible to go see them.

And all of us have elderly sisters or brothers in our communities.  Some have been kept safe but have suffered from isolation, some may have died.

And now, we are in the second wave of the pandemic…

In my lifetime, I have never experienced such a general deep need for hope.  We all need to look after each other.  Seven months into this pandemic, how are we?  Have we kept enough ties to the important people in our lives and a strong link to God that we are able to say, “I am OK.”?

Having been a social worker in the Mental Health field, I learned early on that in order to survive as a Crisis intervention worker and then a Psychiatric Unit worker, I couldn’t take on all of my clients’ troubles and sufferings on my shoulders.  It was a hard lesson and it took me a few years until I was better at it.  It was never perfect.  We are all human and some things hit closer to home than others.

I guess the purpose of this little article of mine is simply to remind people to enjoy the small things in life.  Take a break once in a while from the suffering in the world in order to reconnect more fully with God, with creation, with yourself.

For me, the pandemic has allowed me to reconnect with nature: longer walks, more bicycle rides, sharing some hiking time with friends.  I even had the joy to participate in a Cycling With Sisters event on PEI on October 3rd (shout out to Sue Kidd, Libby Osgood,CNDs and Laura Kelly, CSM!).  It was a nice opportunity to be out in God’s creation, praying with others in our pilgrimage stops.

I wish all those who will be reading this blog a deep peace, the kind that flows from God, sometimes directly to us, sometimes through nature, sometimes through friends, but always bringing us back to His heart and His love.

Blessings,

Céline Belliveau, ndsc  – author and photographer for this post.

 

 

Cette dernière année, la pandémie et ses restrictions ont été difficiles pour la plupart, pas toujours pour les mêmes raisons.  Je suis de tout cœur avec tous les parents et les familles, et peut-être surtout avec les chefs d’entreprise, pour qui ces temps ont été particulièrement difficiles sur le plan financier.  Je ne peux que prier pour qu’ils reçoivent toute l’aide dont ils ont besoin pour survivre et vivre dans la dignité malgré toutes les épreuves qu’ils ont endurées.

Nos paroisses locales ont été mises au défi : vont-elles traverser cette pandémie en un seul morceau?  Les églises devront-elles fermer?  Combien de temps pourront-elles survivre si la pandémie et les restrictions s’étendent encore sur une longue période de temps?

Les systèmes de santé de nombreux pays et provinces ont été testés.  Combien de temps nos travailleurs de première ligne peuvent-ils résister à toute cette pression, travaillant en sous-effectif, essayant de soigner les malades et de se protéger eux-mêmes et les membres de leur famille en même temps ?

Sur un plan plus personnel, beaucoup d’entre nous ont des parents âgés ; certains peuvent leur rendre visite, d’autres sont inaccessibles depuis le début de la pandémie, vivent dans des maisons de retraite où les restrictions sont strictes afin de les garder en sécurité, ou bien ils vivent dans une autre province et les restrictions de voyage rendent difficile, voire impossible, d’aller les voir.

Et nous avons tous des sœurs ou des frères âgés dans nos communautés.  Certains ont été mis en sécurité mais ont souffert de l’isolement, d’autres sont peut-être morts.

Et maintenant, nous sommes dans la deuxième vague de la pandémie…

De toute ma vie, je n’ai jamais ressenti un besoin aussi profond d’espoir.  Nous avons tous besoin de nous occuper les uns des autres.  Sept mois après le début de cette pandémie, comment allons-nous ?  Avons-nous gardé suffisamment de liens avec les personnes importantes dans nos vies et un lien fort avec Dieu pour pouvoir dire “Je vais bien” ?

Ayant été travailleuse sociale dans le domaine de la santé mentale, j’ai appris très tôt que pour survivre en tant qu’intervenante de crise, puis en tant que travailleuse dans une unité psychiatrique, je ne pouvais pas prendre sur mes épaules tous les problèmes et toutes les souffrances de mes clients.  C’était une dure leçon et il m’a fallu quelques années pour la maîtriser quelque peu.  Ce n’était jamais parfait.  Nous sommes tous humains et certaines choses nous touchent plus que d’autres.

Je suppose que le but de ce petit article est simplement de rappeler aux gens de profiter des petites choses de la vie.  Faites une pause de temps en temps pour vous éloigner de la souffrance dans le monde afin de vous reconnecter plus complètement à Dieu, à la création, à vous-même.

Pour moi, la pandémie m’a permis de me reconnecter avec la nature : plus de promenades à pied, plus de balades à vélo, le partage de temps de randonnée avec des amis.  J’ai même eu la joie de participer à un événement “Cycling With Sisters” à l’Î.-P.-É. le 3 octobre (mention spéciale à Sue Kidd, Libby Osgood,CNDs et Laura Kelly, CSM !)  C’était une belle occasion de me retrouver dans la création de Dieu, de prier avec d’autres personnes lors de nos arrêts en pèlerinage.

Je souhaite à tous ceux qui liront ce blog une paix profonde, celle qui vient de Dieu, parfois directement à nous, parfois par la nature, parfois par des amis, mais qui nous ramène toujours à son cœur et à son amour.

Que Dieu vous bénisse,

Céline Belliveau, ndsc  – author and photographer of this post.

God at Work in the Pandemic

When I celebrated my 1st Anniversary of Ordination on February 9, 2020 (which feels like a lifetime ago) I was revelling in the joys of the first year of Priesthood, and looking forward to all the great things in store- continuing to minister at a thriving Parish, continuing to build our Campus Ministry program at the University of Windsor, going on a tour of Italy with a choir I used to sing with while I was in Formation, and much more!

Little did I know that within a month of that anniversary- everything would change, and so many of the things I was looking forward to just wouldn’t happen. Instead, I’ve learned all about how to set up and manage a live stream, how to edit videos, how to manage Social Media… and a whole host of other things I never would have even dreamed of doing- all in an effort to continue to spread the Gospel during the shutdown. As we’ve come to terms with the reality of pandemic shutdowns, physical distancing, changed ways of worship, restrictions on travel, and so many other things, one quote from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has kept coming to mind:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time;” said Frodo.
“So do I” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

It’s easy to wish, with our dear friend Frodo, that none of this had ever happened- that the pandemic was not a thing. But Gandalf’s words are wise, and remind us that when the circumstances of life are out of our control, all we can do is choose how we respond to the situations we are faced with.
Throughout the Pandemic, my biggest question has been “How is God at work in all of this?” Answering that question has helped me to keep things in perspective, and helped me to remember that God is still with us, even in the midst of so much suffering and loss. It was a great joy to read an earlier post on this blog, in which so many of the younger religious throughout Canada expressed the ways in which they were finding grace in the pandemic. I’ve seen many examples of God’s grace at work myself: from parishioners who have aided elderly members of our community by picking up their groceries and prescriptions for them, to the massive, community organized food drive that took place in Windsor and Essex County, which collected over 2 million pounds of food!

May we continue to be aware of the presence of God’s grace in our lives, as we continue to navigate the uncertainty of this Pandemic, and seek to continue to bring the Gospel message into the world.

Fr. Steven Huber, CSB
Assumption Parish, Windsor

The Resurrected Life

One of the many reflections that were being offered at the recent online Young Religious Retreat:

Zoom retreat-day four

Honestly, at one time I did not like eagles. I used to dislike them because they are so strong; they look more scary than cute. I like the gentle little birds that do not harm anyone. However, my opinion changed after I enjoyed a Bird Show in the Philippines. Strange! I noticed the Eagle… then, I started to learn about it.

Everyone probably knows how great the eagle is at leadership and parenting. However, I noted another aspect of its life that few people probably notice, “Resurrection”. An eagle can live up to 70 years if it goes through a painful experience. After it has lived for 30 to 40 years, an eagle must go through a painful time to be able to live for another 40 years; otherwise, it will lie there and wait to die. It depends on its choice. The brave eagle will pluck out its own feathers, smash its beak, and peel off its own claws so that all will grow again and it will continue to live. Many eagles cannot overcome the pain and simply lie there waiting to die. If it bravely suffers, after reviving it will become even stronger than before.

There was a time when I went through great pain; I felt uncertain about how to continue living. For a long time I searched for “life in the pain of death”. This time of darkness was so long, sometimes a month, sometimes a year, and sometimes the whole childhood. Had I just lain there waiting to revive, I would have died in that pain and been unable to escape. I had to pluck off the feathers of the hard shell that I thought was a safety coat. I had to smash the fearful inferiority that prevented me from stepping out of myself. I had to strip off the claws of the wall of defense I had built for myself.

“Resurrection” is an experience of pain and fear but also an experience of hope and future happiness.

“Resurrection” requires courage to smash the fears and so transform into a new life.

“Resurrection” requires time to accept the truth and to listen to the Lord speaking through the experiences of each day.

“Resurrection” requires a new spirit even in the face of returning to the original path “From Emmaus back to Jerusalem.”

Reflection and painting “Eagle” by Giang Pham RNDM

Our Lady of the Missions

 

The Body of Christ Online

The following was written following the celebration of the Eucharist as part of the 2020 Young Religious Retreat:

The body of Christ gathered at our screens looking on as the priest,

our brother took the host in his hands and holding it to the screen,

reminding us Christ, our brother is here: “this is my body broken for you”

In the same way with the chalice, the reflection of our faces from our screens

caught in the silver of the chalice the community gathered,

the priest, our brother holds the chalice out to us,

close again to the screen, reminding us of our mission:

“do this in remembrance of me.”

As amazing as technology is we could not fully partake in this Eucharistic Feast

yet we were together and united and awakened to our call,

a sign of the Eucharist indeed. Although we were not gathered around an altar

we were gathered at the altars of our lives during this time of pandemic,

while on retreat together being transformed as the Body of Christ.

July 2020

Written by: Br. Michael Perras, OFM