Come to me all who are weary: A Caregiver’s Prayer

In a night’s vigil of adoration in the shadow of the Eucharist, a sixteen year old seminarian was drawn into the silence. Into the invitation of God. Face to face. Heart to heart. The humbled awe of being seen, of being small in a divine plan still shrouded in mystery. The gratefulness at being known. Being called.

On the eve of 1901, this Eucharistic vigil changed the young seminarian James Alberione forever and gave birth to consecrated lives of thousands of women and men in the Pauline Family who would hear through him what he received that night from the Lord: “Come to me.” It was not just a Bible verse, but the cry of Jesus who silently extends his hands and opens his heart to the whole world every day and every night from every Tabernacle of the world.

“Come to me all who are weary.” The century that followed that call from the Eucharistic heart to James Alberione would be exhausting, a century bathed in the blood of the fallen in two World Wars and confused by the cacophony of voices claiming that truth was on their side.

“Come to me all who are heavy burdened.” It is the call of Jesus from the tabernacle to us today in a pandemic-stricken world, strangely now one in its search for wholeness and relief.

It is Christ’s invitation from the sanctuaries where he silently sorrows that so many walk by or walk away.

“Come to me.” Feel within yourself the sadness of the Lord who longs to wash away what troubles us and cheer us with his kindness. This Lent his heart longs for us more than we long for him. He hears and knows and sees us, even when our attention is elsewhere.

This Lent, Jesus knows the burdens you carry, the way of the passion that you walk and he doesn’t want you to walk alone. He sees you. He invites you into his divine and mysterious plan.

“Come to me.” Whatever are the tears that run down your cheeks, or those perhaps held unshed in the secret of your heart, go to him. Jesus is calling you from the Tabernacle and from the inner sanctuary of your own heart.

“I am here. Come to me. Tell me what you need.”

We just celebrated National Caregivers’ Day. How many of us have become caregivers, a heart-giving ministry of love for months or years that slip by uncounted, measured only by the sighs, the renewed energy to be there for another, the sleepless nights, the worries across the miles, the tears, the passion, His passion.

This Lent, Jesus knows the burdens you carry, the way of the passion that you walk and he doesn’t want you to walk alone. He sees you.

This past year how many caregivers have not been able to be near loved ones in order to care for them! This isolation and surrender too is the way of the passion, our hearts burdened with love as is the heart of Jesus. “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

This Lent, may our care for others resemble the care Jesus longs to give each person. Let us invite others with open arms to come and find rest in our presence, that they may discover his presence. May they feel heard. May they know they are seen. May they know they never walk alone, that through our hearing and seeing and walking they may find true rest for their souls.

To all who give care, blessed be God in the gifts he has given you and that you share with others.

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP - We just accompanied one of our sisters, as her caregiver in the last couple weeks of her life. This is the book that helps us sisters every time: Midwife for Souls, by Kathy Kalina. Caregiving can be easier when it comes to the practical things of what to do. We can learn those. But we often don't have a teacher for the spiritual wisdom that we want to be a part of this caregiving journey for both ourselves and the one we are caring for. Kathy offers years of qualified experience and spiritual wisdom that will inform and comfort caregivers and loved ones. This book provides insight, showing how the support of one s Catholic faith and the power of prayer can be a guide in ministering to a dying person. This book is essential reading for anyone who accompanies others to the edge of life and helps in their birthing to eternal life. 

God loves me, we each can say it (John 17:10-26)

God loves you. But I don’t feel God’s love. God loves you. But how could God love me when I’ve messed up? God loves you. But how can I know God loves me? Really know for certain? God loves you. But how could God say he loves me when he didn’t help me when I…

Caregivers give the only life they have

When I was a postulant in St. Louis, I noticed during the Eucharist at the time of intercessions at one particular parish, one parishioner would always ask help for caregivers. This happened every time, and so one day when I didn’t hear him, I immediately noticed he wasn’t there. I remember his practice as a continual reminder, not only of the importance of this mission of caring for others, but also that it isn’t possible to give our lives for our brothers and sisters without the grace of God.

When our first parents disobeyed God, the question he asked them was: Where are you? In the moment humanity broke relationship with God, the consequences of original sin began to influence their destinies; but even then God himself was always looking for us. We see it in the question he asked Cain: Where is your brother? And in these two questions we are touched by the eternal movement of the Father’s love, which always seeks us—and finds us, so we can also find our brothers and sisters.

“Where is your brother?” This reminds me of two sisters in my community in Portugal, blood sisters as well as sisters in religious life. The elder one has been extremely sick for a number of years and her care has fallen to the younger of the two, who has certainly brought her back from the brink several times through her extraordinary care.

None of us has reservoirs of life we can spare. Caring for someone is giving the only life we have—our own. When my caregiver sister gives her life, it comes with an immense personal sacrifice, with tiredness and pain (because she is not young, either), with giving up many things that she’d like to be doing in the apostolate and in community life. But she does it anyway, and does it every day!

This summarizes the immense beauty of caregivers—and also the immense weight of their mission. How many times do these people reach the end of the day and feel they gave their lives, up to the last breath? But also how beautiful is this mystery of life we receive from those we care for, because God dwells in each of us and he enables us to receive and give life until the last moment of our own lives.

The disciple is no greater than the Master. Jesus our Divine Savior gave his life for us, up to the last drop of his blood, to make us children of God, children of the same merciful Father. With the awareness that we are all sisters and brothers, let’s ask him every day to breathe his divine life into each one of us, so that in the different situations of our lives we can continue to look for our brothers and sisters in need, and give our lives for them until the end.

Sr Marta Gaspar

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

St Gertrude: Say YES! to the One who brings you salvation

I want to share with you the way St. Gertrude the Great has made me happy, surprisingly happy.

When I speak with people I usually hear myself. Satan has some pretty amazing yet predictable ways in which he trips us up. Of course, each one of us is unique, our relationship to God and our spiritual journey our own, yet there are some common tricks that ensare a lot of us and when you know about them, they are easy to spot. They are the ways of the Evil One hiding in plain sight.

St. Gertrude the Great has helped me find a biggie.

First, who is St. Gertrude?

St. Gertrude the Great was born on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1256 in Eisleben, Germany. At the age of five, she began to attend a Cistercian monastery school in Saxony called Helfta, which is why she is also known as St. Gertrude of Helfta. She was described as a lovable, quick-witted child by the nuns of Helfta. During her academic studies, St. Gertrude stood out for her intelligence and became accomplished in philosophy, literature, singing, and miniature painting.

St. Gertrude entered the Benedictine order at Helfta and continued to devote herself to her studies. In her writings, St. Gertrude recalls that she neglected her spiritual calling for the first several years in the monastery because she was so engrossed in intellectual pursuits. However, around the age of twenty-four, she began to find the daily routines of her community monotonous and experienced a lack of meaning in her accomplishments, as well as feelings of anxiety and depression.

In the year 1281, St. Gertrude had her first vision of Jesus, in which he called her to conversion and told her, “I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation.” By God’s grace, she dramatically reoriented her priorities and immersed herself in Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and theology. The rest of her life is the story of the priceless treasures the Sacred Heart of Jesus poured into her soul.

And that is where I discovered her secret.

When I experience moments of conversion, definite calls from God or even gifts from him, I immediately think about what I need to learn, to change, to improve because I have been so negligent up to this point. As I speak to others, I hear the same. God’s gifts precipitate a movement backwards.

I described it like this: It would be as if your spouse came home carrying flowers and an expensive gift. The bearer of flowers and love would call out, “My dear, look what I’ve brought you. I love you so much.” And the beloved would turn the other direction and start talking about the dirty spot on the wall that she didn’t clean and the dishes that weren’t done. And her husband would say, “Dear, I don’t care about those things. I love you. Let’s spend the night together.” And instead of receiving the gift, instead of turning to him in awe over his loving kindness, she spoke to him only about where she had failed. If the loved one doesn’t open herself with a smile, but stays enclosed in herself, the unifying act of love can’t take place. Isn’t this the perfect trick of the Evil One? We think we are practicing the virtue of humility. Repentance. Self-knowledge.

Oh how God’s heart must tire at the hesitancy with which we consider the gifts he extends to us with such hope for our love freely given in return.

Gertrude said a resounding YES at Jesus’ approach to her. She got interested in what he was giving. She asked him questions. She asked him if he liked her prayer. She offered him his own merits to glorify God and to repair the negligences in her life. It was a Marian yes that did not focus on herself, but solely on aligning herself with all that God was doing in her regard for the sake of his glory.

So say it.

Say “YES!” when you have an inspiration. Shout “YES!” when you are moved to conversion. Whisper “YES!” when Jesus comes to you in prayer. Always YES. YES. YES to the Lover who is coming to bring you salvation. Let your heart leap FORWARD.

If you have found this helpful, our full mini-retreat on St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus next week is all about this YES. Conferences and video meditations, exercises and prayer come together to help you live with the love and ecstatic intention of Gertrude. Stop looking backward and instead leap into the Heart of the Savior. We’re offering it at two different times and you can even make it privately at your own leisure. I hope we’ll see you. The first two Tabernacle of the Heart retreats were so blessed and we believe that this one will be even better.

Thanks for joining me on the journey!
Sr Kathryn

What are you doing for Lent?

Today I invited both Sr Julia Mary and Jeannette de Beauvoir for a conversation about Lent… Lent in a pandemic, doing penance when we feel like we’ve been doing penance all year, should we make resolutions for Lenten practice or is there something better, what are some secrets for a fruitful and grace-filled Lent. I hope you join us!

A Page from My Journal: Old bones…

You keep saying: our bones are dry, our hope is gone, we are done for….

“I am not going to open your graves;
I shall raise you up from your graves and lead you back to the soil of Israel.

And you shall know that I AM THE LORD.

I will put my spirit in you
you will revive
I will resettle you on your own soil.

You shall know that I HAVE DONE THIS.”

The days are tired, my bones ache. A barren branch surrounded by the cold, brittle in the frozen snow. Sorrow and death swirls around the news I read. Confusion. What can I do. What can I be in the midst of such pain borne by my sisters, burden carried by my brothers….

Nothing. Only the one who proclaims I AM THE LORD will be the one to save us. He alone will announce I HAVE DONE THIS. Then I shall know that I am not God. Then we shall know that we are not God. That we need our Father. We depend on our Creator. We are blessed to surrender to the One who wants for us nothing but his own holiness and joy.

My bones ache. My soul leaps for joy. My spirit sighs. My soul rejoices. Only a Christ-bearer can carry within herself, within himself this tension. Mary. you. me.

Sr Kathryn Hermes, fsp

HeartWork Practice: Dissolving Resentment

Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Allow your mind to settle and your body to relax.

Imagine yourself beside God after your death. Before you and God place the person you feel resentment toward. It could be someone in the past or the present, living or dead. As you and God are gazing at this person together, see good things happening to him or her. These could include the joy of God at the moment of their birth, God crowning them with crown of gold in heaven, beautiful things happening to them and their family on earth, successes in what they do, deep holiness and surrender to God, immense acts of charity done for others.

By imagining things such as this for that person, you move yourself to a greater love, you melt any resentment you may feel, and you take on the eyes of God for that person, for God only wants the best and holiness for each of us.

Wisdom for the Week: Giving our lives to the end…

The disciple is no greater than the Master. Jesus our Divine Savior gave his life for us, up to the last drop of his blood, to make us children of God, children of the same merciful Father. With the awareness that we are all sisters and brothers, let’s ask him every day to breathe his divine life into each one of us, so that in the different situations of our lives we can continue to look for our brothers and sisters in need, and give our lives for them until the end.

Sr Marta Gaspar

Image Credit: Vanesa Guerrero, rpm

Song of Quiet Trust: A Midlife Meditation

These past two weeks I have spent from 3 to 5 hours most evenings or early mornings sitting beside a dear sister-friend who was making her last great ascent. That final walk. The ultimate journey. The loving return.

Each breath of hers was precious and on that last night before she died God helped me to realize that in the end, really, that is all we have…our breath…our current breath. We are not promised our next breath. We already have kissed the last breath goodbye. We cannot cling to it, as we cannot hold onto the past.

And even that breath is a gift. A gift of total gratuitously glorious love from a divine Lover who is supporting us in his arms even as we breath.

On that last ascent, it will not matter what we have created or achieved or known or acquired. The fact that I have written a book, or started a company, or sold an astounding number of widgets, or even loved will not be mine as a monument to me..

I will have only this breath that is a gift to me right now at this moment.

Lent 2021: Jesus says “Come” and “Trust”

Here we are in our second pandemic Lent. Maybe we feel that we have been in Lent all through these twelve virus-riddled months. Maybe we’re dreading a season of greater penance when we’re longing to get loose from restrictions as they are somewhat lifted. Maybe we’re just numb and Lent isn’t registering at all. We’re just too tired to face it. Or perhaps the familiar rituals and practices of Lent offer comfort when we are so in need of something or Someone who understands and can do something. about what’s happening to us.

It doesn’t matter where you are. Come to Lent as you are, in whatever state you find yourself in.

This morning I prayed with the narrative of Jesus healing the leper found in the Gospel of Mark. In Leviticus 13 we find the regulation for those who have leprosy:

“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,

since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

Dropping down into my own heart, I found that there are many reasons why I, though I am not a leper, can cry out “Unclean!” before God. So many ways that I have not been all that I could have been, not given, or perhaps given what wasn’t needed and held back on what I wanted to keep. There is a blessed peace and a grace to acknowledge peacefully our “uncleanness” before our Maker.

St Francis de Sales encourages us to make our repentance moderate and peaceable, not anxious. He encourages us to learn to tolerate ourselves and others, to practice gentleness toward ourselves as well as others. To reprove ourselves without anger, bitterness, or impatience. Holding my own brokenness, gently calling sacred the past that more and more becomes apparent to me to be a place calling out for healing and new birth, I called out in a confident whisper to Jesus, “Unclean!”

I stood beside the leper in Mark’s Gospel who dared to approach Jesus and tell him confidently: “If you will, you can cure me!” Lepers by regulation, as we saw above, were to remain outside the camp so as not to infect others. This leper, however, risked everything by approaching Jesus who no doubt was surrounded by a crowd of people. In the two lines of the Gospel story it seems like it was an ordinary run-of-the-mill request. Leper shows up and makes his request. To his request, Jesus responds, “I do will it, be cured.” End of story. Can you imagine, though, the drama as people realized a leper was standing “inside the community space” right next to them. The leper was a threat to their health and survival. And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus didn’t run. He didn’t tell him to leave because he was a danger to him. He didn’t even call attention to how he was breaking the regulations. Instead he heard only the request. He saw only the leper’s heart. He was moved only by his most compassionate love that brought him to earth to save and heal a wounded race.

Holding my own brokenness, gently calling sacred the past that more and more becomes apparent as a place calling out for healing and new birth, I called out in a confident whisper to Jesus, “Unclean!”

Though I called out “Unclean!” and though I felt more sharply the uncleanness within, I stood with braveness beside the leper immortalized by the Gospel writer. “If you will, you can cure me! You can make me clean!” I felt his hand upon my head and let it rest upon me. “Be clean,” Jesus said with a firm yet quiet command. “Be clean!” It reverberated through the caverns of need and hope within me. Sometimes when we think of prayer, of Jesus, we forget that he interacts with us as we are in our humanness, our human need for human touch, our human need to know everything will be all right, our human need for someone to come and rescue us when we are overwhelmed or powerless in the face of something bigger than us. “Be clean!” Jesus’ outstretched hand steadying, strengthening, calming.

Many moments of taking in Jesus’ strengthening touch…. Heart opening to Heart, receiving the slow and subtle seeping of grace into the desert now turning into an oasis. “Clean!”

I am clean. Clean. Clean. Clean.

The experience of Jesus’ willingness to cleanse, to extend his hand in blessing and healing, means different things to each one of us. What has been the most powerful experience you have had with someone in your life who has been there to physically steady you with his or her hand, to bless or heal you? When have you experienced surprise and astounding wonder at what was done for you or given to you?

For me, the words uttered by Jesus and his strong yet gentle gesture are spousal words, the gesture of the Lover in the Song of Songs offering his hand to the beloved that they might be one. The Lover says in the Song of Songs 1:15:

Look at you, my dearest darling,
you are so lovely!
You are beauty itself to me.
Your passionate eyes are like gentle doves.

The King of kings and Lord of lords who makes clean even takes the leper’s place–while the leper had had to remain outside the camp because of his disease, after curing the man from leprosy “it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly, and he remained outside in deserted places.” Lent is about touching intimately and profoundly the reality that we have been made clean at Jesus’ own expense, at the cost of his life. He died that we might live.

Lent is about touching intimately and profoundly the reality that we have been made clean at Jesus’ own expense, at the cost of his life. He died that we might live.

The only response, so beautiful and yet so painfully common, is gratitude. The inner treasure of gratitude can be overlooked because saying “Thank you” is a reflex action for anyone with a good upbringing. Gratefulness’ inner sanctuary is not like the astonishment on winning the lottery. It is the created one whose hand is held by her Maker, to whom she bows to the dust in awe that she would be noticed by so great a King, desired, and crowned his Bride, invited to sit beside him. Psalm 45 expresses it this way:

Now listen, daughter, pay attention, and forget about your past.
Put behind you every attachment to the familiar,
even those who once were close to you!
For your royal Bridegroom is ravished by your beautiful brightness.
Bow in reverence before him, for he is your Lord!

The offering of royalty, from which arises the incredibly humble awareness of unworthiness in the sudden realization and joy that it doesn’t matter any more. You have been made clean!

May you come to Jesus this Lent like a trusting child in this way for it is to those who trust in him that the Father has planned to extend his kingdom (Matthew 11):

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.” Amen.

Remain safely tied to the Heart of Love

This week is National Marriage Week. The storms of the pandemic have stretched and frayed—and sometimes weakened—relationships between husbands and wives. The storms of having to work from home, homeschool children, and even just be together in new ways have overwhelmed the tiny boats of already fragile marriages and families tossed about in today’s society.

This morning in prayer, I imagined myself sitting at a table made by St Joseph in the tiny home of the Holy Family. I shared with Mary and Joseph what was capsizing my little boat, and soaked in the compassion of the three most beautiful people who ever lived. I imagined St. Joseph putting his hands on my shoulders, sharing his strength and stability that came from witnessing how the providence of Abba saved them, even as they found no room in Bethlehem for the Savior to be born, or as they had to flee from Herod for their lives. I felt Mary at my side, who as Mother par excellence knew the broken heart of one who could not save her child from humiliation and death, receiving him into her arms and sorrowing heart, and worshipping him as the King as he rose and ascended into heaven. I let Jesus comfort me as a child would. How delicate his kindness as he confirmed that life is indeed hard and sometimes filled with tears!

As I directed my vision and imagination to the images of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as I chose with St. Joseph to hold onto Limitless Love’s providential care for me, as I opened my heart in prayer instead of complaint, I felt my little boat was tied to the pier of the Kingdom of Love. I knew that even though the boat will still rock and be tossed about on the storms of life, it will remain safely tied to the Heart of Love by my desire to be of the Kingdom, and the King’s holding me safe in his arms.

Friends, I invite you to fill your imaginations and hearts with images of the Holy Family strengthening you with their wisdom, experience, and witness. Feel Mary reaching out to you to dry your tears, St. Joseph bracing you against the troubles of life, and Jesus holding your gaze with his eyes that say, “I have you. I won’t let you go. Hold on to me. Hold on to me.”

There is a line that frequently appears on social media when people post about their need and struggle. “You’ve got this!” people comment somewhat reassuringly. Instead, I invite you to remember that, even when your boat rocks in the storm (which it will), God has this. God has you. Hold on to him. Hear him whisper, “I have you. I won’t let you go. Hold on to me. Hold on to me.”

Sr. Kathryn