When the earth shatters seeds grow

This past weekend we learned of a terrible event that happened back in late November, when Ethiopian Orthodox Christians gathered for a festival along with others seeking refuge from the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region. Eritrean soldiers arrived at the monastery and opened fire, killing over 70 people. Other recent news including the killing of 18 protesters in the military crackdown in Myanmar.

And then I read a third article, in which I learned that laboratories across Africa and Southeast Asia stand ready to manufacture vaccines to meet a global shortfall—but the patent holders are unwilling to share crucial information that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

I have to tell you this, my friends: I read all these stories and my Lent just broke open. What can I think, or say, or even pray in the face of such pain?

I have to take refuge in the cross, in Jesus on the cross, at that execution place where this season is leading us. Jesus knew. Jesus knew what would be in the hearts of all these victims. Even more than that, he knew what would be in the hearts of all these perpetrators. And his heart went out—to all of them.

I’m not a gardener, but many of my sisters are. What I have learned from them is that when the earth shatters—a little bit—seeds can find soil in which to grow. When our humanity shatters, when our hearts shatter, then there is a place for God’s love to enter and take root and flourish. It’s difficult not to focus on the wound that shattered the heart, even the wounds that shattered Jesus’ body, but behind all the pain is God’s intentionality. We are wounded, we are suffering, we are victim and perpetrator, but we can all be redeemed. We can all enter the Kingdom. Jesus knew all humanity’s cruelty and selfishness—and died for us anyway.

That is where Lent is headed, where Lent has always been headed: to the cross. The world is just making it a major point, this week, to remind us of that.

Sr Kathryn

God at the Center: Guest Post

I want to talk about a journey, our journey to God. In some ways, that’s what Lent is: a journey through 40 days of anticipation to the cross and then through to the resurrection.

In the early Middle Ages Christians were encouraged to make a special journey, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the reasons for the Crusades was to protect pilgrims. But most people didn’t have the means or the ability to make such a difficult journey, and so a substitute had to be found.

That substitute was the labyrinth.

In 325 A.D. Christians placed a labyrinth on the floor of their church. Although Christians must have been using the labyrinth earlier, this is the first historical record we have of the Christian use of the labyrinth. Since that time labyrinths have been prayed, studied, danced, traced and drawn as Christians sought to use this spiritual tool to draw closer to God.

Using a labyrinth involves moving one’s body and opening one’s heart to Jesus. All you

have to do is follow the path and you will find the center. A “typical” labyrinth experience involves preparing oneself at the threshold, following the single path to the center, spending time in the center, following the same pathway out the threshold, and then responding to the experience.

Maze or Labyrinth?

We often use the words “maze” and “labyrinth” to mean the same thing, but they’re very different. A maze is a puzzle filled with dead ends, with the idea you’ll get lost a few times; a labyrinth has one circuitous path that brings you unerringly to the center.

A labyrinth is the ideal metaphor for our journey. It presents a long, sometimes frustrating path but if we stay on it, if we persevere, we reach the center. We reach God.

Why do it now? Just as on Monday we talked about incorporating fasting into our spiritual lives, so too can we incorporate labyrinth prayers into our prayer lives.

There are many ways to pray with a labyrinth. We’ll talk about them after the video.

Even if you don’t live near a full-sized labyrinth, you can still use one for prayer by simply printing it out on paper:

You probably can think of ways you can use this design in prayer. I’ll suggest a few more:

1)  Ask God a question as you enter the path. Then, as you walk slowly through the twists and turns, listen for an answer. Let your steps and your silence invite the presence and guidance of God.

2)  Start your journey to the center with confession (you may want to visualize your sins being left behind with every step you take). When you reach the center, journey out with affirmation (perhaps visualizing yourself picking things up or putting things on–like the righteousness of Christ, the smile of the Father, the purity of the Holy Spirit, etc.). Pause at the exit and give thanks for your cleansing journey.

3)  Recite a breath prayer as you navigate the labyrinth, perhaps praying a different prayer on each leg or quadrant of your journey. (Breath prayers are short phrases that lend themselves to repetition: Lord, have mercy. When I am afraid, I trust you. Not my will, but yours. Say the word. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Holy Wisdom, guide me.)

4)  Lay down your burdens as you walk to the center of the labyrinth (perhaps marking your labyrinth with the symbols of what you’re letting go). In the center, pause to thank God for taking your burdens on himself. Then count your blessings and give thanks on the journey to the exit.

The word “labyrinth” isn’t anywhere in the Bible, but themes of following God’s way,

spiritual journeys, and enjoying God’s presence—all central to labyrinth experiences—are throughout Scripture. Two additional verses that can be used while praying the labyrinth are, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy”

(Psalm 16:11), and Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:16).

Has anyone here ever had an experience with a labyrinth? Is it something you might like to try?

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Image Credit: Bas Gerring at Pexels

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. 

Quote for the Week: Everything

The Scriptures of my life’s history is a salvation story from beginning to end. There is nothing that is not salvific. Everything belongs to the story God is writing in my life, the deed of salvation God himself is bringing about.

From my journal: God is

God isGod is actingGod acts in a nucleus of fragrant silence in the storm, fire, earthquake. Only stand and listenat the entrance of thecave to the Word of Silence. where God reveals…. we only witness worship witness to others martyrdom… die to all else.

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