Spiritual Reflections

29, January, 2021Posted by :Andrea Morale

February 28, 2021

Today’s readings bring us in touch with transformation– the transformation of Abraham and the transformation of Jesus.  You might say that Abraham was already transformed—he had said yes to a covenant with God.  But this was a bigger “yes”.  In his listening to God call his name, Abraham’s eager response of “Here I am Lord” demanded of him an acceptance of the mandate of God to sacrifice his son, Isaac.   Indeed, a difficult request! Abraham trusted enough to obey and the result was a double blessing, the life of his son and countless blest descendants.

In the transfiguration Gospel, the apostles are dazzled and want to remain on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah but instead were advised to listen to the beloved son.  They wanted to remain but had to go on to something greater even though it would be more difficult before they got to the final end, resurrection.

We have all lived through a transformative year.  A year ago perhaps we were content with ourselves and wanted life to go on as it was.  COVID 19 said “no,” and we had no choice but to change or to die.  Hopefully, the change was for good in our values and in our perception of the world.  This Lent is our opportunity to reflect on our transformation.  As Catholics we are already transformed by our Baptism.  Lent gives us an opportunity to look again into the crevices of our lives to see where we can be better.  Perhaps we can be kinder, more attentive to others or whatever else our personal transformation calls us to.   Let’s hope that on Easter Sunday we also will be resurrected to our new life.    

February 21, 2021

Today’s reading from the gospel of Mark is very short:

                      “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

                      After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15

Last year the reading was from the gospel of Matthew.  It had only the part where Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and was tempted.  It included many details and went from Matthew 4:1-11. 

Pope Francis wrote a homily for this first Sunday of Lent, and here are some of his reflections on the passage. “’Repent, and believe in the gospel,’ that is, believe in the Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our lives, we always need to convert—every day! …

Lent is a time of repentance, but it is not a time of sorrow!  It is a time of penance, but it is not a time of sorrow, of mourning – it is a joyous and serious commitment to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our “old man” and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism.”

At this time the important thing for us is not what Matthew, Mark or Francis wrote but how is God speaking to us today?  Where is the Holy Spirit leading you, leading me?  How will I respond and convert?

Have a grace-filled, joyous Lent!

February 17, 2021

Today we begin the season of Lent.  Ash Wednesday has special significance for us as Catholics.  Traditionally we are signed with ashes on our forehead.  This year because of COVID we will be sprinkled with ashes on our heads.  This seems so strange to us, but it has been the custom of many countries in Europe.  We have been through changes with the words used imposing the ashes over the years.  For me growing up the priest would say: “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  In more recent years they say: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” 

It seems that the Advent and Christmas seasons were only a short time ago.  If you are like me, thinking about the six weeks of Lent can be overwhelming, like it will never end, and that Easter is so far off. 

The Church, in her wisdom, gives us the many seasons of the Liturgical year so that we have the time to look at the life of Christ from many vantage points, all of which are meant to bring us into a more intimate relationship with God.  This past year I have really been focusing on the feasts of the Church year and how I encounter Jesus in each one.

Lent calls us to fast, pray and give alms.  This can be challenging, but it helps us to recognize God in a new way and guides us in reflecting on where we are in relationship with the God who loves us and is always with us. 

I encourage you to take a little extra time each day for prayer, to read scripture or to say the Stations of the Cross.  Maybe it is time to go to Mass or watch it on TV.  You may decide that just looking at the crucifix and meditating on the love that God has for you is a good prayer time. 

Knowing that God died on the cross because He loves you, and that He calls you to do your best every day gives us a great deal to reflect on.  Knowing that He will be waiting for when you pass from this world to the next is an unbelievable discovery when we know it in our hearts, not just our heads.   

In the end, it’s the revelation of the Paschal mystery – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – which we contemplate during Lent, that leads us each year to the deeper understanding that we are only pilgrims on a journey, and it is in the end of this life that we will be welcomed home for eternity.

May we come to know this at a deeper level this Lent.

Sr. Joanne Callahan, OSU

Father John Lambertz

 Founder of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk

February 8, 2021

In January we celebrated the feast of Saint Angela Merici, our beloved “Madre”, founder of the Order of Saint Ursula, also known as Ursulines, in 1535 Brescia, Italy. On February 8, one Congregation of Sisters within the great family of the Ursuline Order celebrates the birthday of the Reverend John Lambertz, founder of the Ursuline Sisters of the Congregation of Tildonk.

John Cornelius Martin Lambertz was born in Hoogstraten, a town in the province of Antwerp, on February 8, 1785. At the time, the place we now know as Belgium was not yet a country, but a territory under the authority of Holland. This was a turbulent time leading to hostilities, great financial burdens, religious persecutions, deep hatreds, and great moral decay, a result of the aftermath of the French Revolution that permeated much of Europe.

In 1812, as a newly ordained priest, John Lambertz was appointed as the parochial vicar at the Tildonk parish of Saint John the Baptist. Thus began his lifelong journey of service, not only to the local people of the village of Tildonk, but in time stretching across the neighboring countries of Holland, Germany, England and eventually across the globe.

As a priest, John Lambertz was an exemplary example of simplicity, humility, and kindness with unfailing faith, qualities that attracted others to him and therefore to his mission – to make God known and loved. This became his life’s work. Recognizing the extreme effects that this tumultuous time had on his parishioners, Father Lambertz set about helping to improve the conditions that touched their lives. He started simply. The needs of the parish were such that he discerned it would be best to begin by doing something for the youth of the parish who were badly in need of both nutritional and spiritual nourishment. With the simple, humble assistance of three young women, Father Lambertz embarked on a mission to nourish the young members of the parish with what was needed for the health of both body and soul: providing food and spiritual instruction to assist them in moving forward with their lives. Thus, the embryo of what was to develop into the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk was conceived.

John Lambertz was a man with a contemplative heart. He searched for God by seeking him through his prayer, through his work and through his relationships with others. His spirituality founded on “Love” grounded in simplicity, humility, and kindness while energized by prayer, fasting and sacrifice was profoundly genuine. His personal experience of coming to know God as “Love” generated an inner desire to share that experience with others. This compelled him to spend his entire priesthood in maintaining his union with God, while the divine energy of that union carried the experience of God’s love to others. This became his life’s mission – making God known and loved as he had come to know and love God.

Father John Lambertz, after laboring untiringly for more than 50 years as a priest and pastor of his little parish, died May 12, 1869 in Tildonk, Belgium.  His life, spirituality and charism continue to inspire, influence and challenge who we are as Ursuline Sisters and Associates of Tildonk today.

Laurentine Morgan, osu

Feb. 8, 2021

Father John Lambertz praying before the statue of our Blessed Mother.

Saint Angela, Woman of Love

A Reflection on the History and Spirituality of St. Angela

For the Feast of St. Angela Merici – January 27, 2021

By Sr. Catherine Talia, O.S.U.

Angela Merici was born around 1474 in Desenzano on Lake Garda in northern Italy.  She began her life in a loving, pious family but at a young age she and her brother were left orphaned and sent to live with an uncle in Salo.  We might assume that her parents and sister died of the plague that was afflicting Italy at the time.  After the death of her sister, Angela had a vision while at prayer of a ladder going to heaven with many virgins ascending the ladder.   The vision showed her that she would one day gather a group of virgins in Brescia. This was the foundational moment for the creation of the company of Saint Ursula many years later in Brescia.

   Let’s put Angela Merici’s life in the context of her own history and culture.—Renaissance Italy was at a time of political upheaval, experiencing growing respect for the glory of humanity together with increasing moral decay.  Religious life as well as families seemed to be falling apart, regional wars were common and brutal. Disease destroyed both human dignity and the bonds of community.  It was a time of war, violence, disease, political rivalry, and inequality—not unlike our own.  Angela lived in the midst of this and spent most of her life trying to respond to it in a relational, loving, bold and just way. While in Salo, Angela became a Third Order Franciscan.  This led her to accept an assignment in Brescia to console a wealthy woman, Caterina Pentagoli, who had lost her husband to war.  During almost 40 years Angela was a pilgrim to many holy sites, Venice, Milan, Rome, the Holy Land and Varalo while working with the poor, sick and needy in Brescia especially women and children.  Angela saw a need and responded to it.  In the Prologue to her Counsels, the words she directed to her local leaders of the Company, she writes, “Act, move, believe, strive, hope, cry out to God with all your heart, for without doubt you will see marvelous things, if you direct everything to the praise and glory of God’s majesty and the good of souls.”  One of the key words all through her life was “harmony”.  In her Last Counsel she says “My last word to you, by which I implore you even with my blood, is that you live in harmony, united together, all of one heart and one will.  Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, esteeming each other, helping each other, bearing with each other in Jesus Christ.  Imagine what our world would be like today if we strived to put these words into practice in our own local circumstances.

Angela’s spirituality reflected a great openness to the inspirations of the Spirit, which guided her life and her work.   In chapter 8 of her Rule she states, “And above all:  to obey the counsels and inspirations which the Holy Spirit unceasingly sends into our hearts, the Spirit whose voice we shall hear all the more clearly as we have our own conscience more purified and clean.  For the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us all truth.”  Angela’s open personality attracted people to her.  She was like a piazza.  If you have ever been to Mexico or to Italy you know that a piazza is where people gather to share life.  Angela was that piazza to all who came into her life.   In her Second Legacy she writes, “And it will be impossible for you not to cherish them day and night, and to have them all engraved in your heart, one by one, for this is how real love acts and works.” She encouraged everyone to be a piazza.  Several years ago, reflecting on this aspect of Angela as a piazza I wrote this: 

Engraved on her heart

Each one—the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the well, the incurable.

How large a heart and hospitable a woman

Siate Piazzevole

Respect in her heart

For each one—the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the well, the incurable

How receptive a heart.

Siate Piazzevole

Fire in her heart.

For each one—the rich, the poor, the educated, the well, the incurable.

How loving a heart.

Siate Piazzevole.

Am I willing today to allow life’s circumstances to keep stretching my heart, so that my love might expand beyond my present circle to include people that I don’t especially like?  Those who have hurt me.  How broad is my capacity to love?  Can I be open to all who step into my space?  Angela’s life was totally relational—to God, to the members of her Company and to all people and circumstances that came into her life.  She spent her night in prayer in relationship with her Spouse and her days in acts of love to people.  In the Seventh Counsel Angela offers this timely advice, “For in these perilous and pestilential times, you will find no other recourse than to take refuge at the feet of Jesus Christ.  Because if he directs and teaches you, you will be well taught….”

 Today, we, the Ursuline Sisters and Associates of Tildonk, in our Vision Statement, say that we are dedicated to radical gospel living. Energized by the spirit and example of St. Angela, we dare to effect change in ourselves, our church and in our society by standing with the economically poor, especially women and children.  We have done this in the US for 96 years.  Our numbers may be small, but our spirit is great.  Our world still needs us, perhaps more than ever, and we look to our mother, Angela, for continued guidance.  Her parting words to us were, “So persevere faithfully and joyfully in the work you have begun.  And take care, take care I say not to lose your fervor, for every promise that I make to you will be fulfilled for you beyond measure.” Happy Feast day!

Sr. Catherine Talia is a former Provincial of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.   She had the opportunity to spend extended time in Brescia and Desenzano over the years studying the history and spirituality of St. Angela. She currently volunteers with Pronto, a community service agency in North Bay Shore, and is community liaison for the Ursuline Sisters who reside at Maria Regina Residence.

THE LONG RETREAT By Sr. Margaret Golub, O.S.U.It will be one year in March since we have been in some stage of quarantine and lockdown. During this period I have had much time to think, read and reflect. For me it has been like a long retreat.An interesting study during this time has been to read how other people spent their time in isolation, in hiding, in prison, in a hospital or in other situations where there was much time for prayer and reflection.One person whose writings have become quite famous is Anne Frank. She wrote her memorable book, ANNE FRANK, THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL while her family with another family were in hiding during World War II.Another person is Saint Ignatius. He was a soldier and his leg was wounded in battle. While recovering in a hospital he read the lives of the saints, composed the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES and later founded a new religious community of men, the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits.Saint Paul wrote some of his epistles while he was in prison.Walter Ciszek, the Jesuit, was detained for twenty years in prison and concentration camps. Later he wrote the story of his experiences in WITH GOD IN RUSSIA and HE LEADETH ME. There is also Lawrence Jenco, another American priest who was mistaken for someone else and spent 564 days in captivity before his release and return to the United States of America. He wrote of his experiences in a book called BOUND TO FORGIVE. Years later when he spoke at Saint John’s University in Jamaica, NY the priest who introduced him thanked him for his presentation and said that Father Jenco was the best speaker the school ever had.Victor Frankel found himself studying human nature during his confinement in German concentration camps. He composed his great work MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING based on his discoveries.All of these people are great sources of inspiration for us during this time of prayer and reflection, silence and separation.

Now retired, Sr. Margaret Golub served as a librarian in several Catholic schools, including Holy Family High School in South Huntington, St. Anne School in Garden City, and Our Lady of Victory School in West Haven. As a resident of an assisted living facility, Sr. Margaret has spent much of the past 10 months on lockdown. We are blessed to share with you her positive outlook on this time as a “long retreat.”

Sr. Margaret Golub, OSU

Blessed, Merry Christmas!

“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”

Advent has come to an end and we rejoice, once again, that Jesus is born. There is so much to reflect on as we enter the Christmas season. I thought I had completed this reflection and then I heard our pastor’s sermon this morning and my reflection took a different turn. He spoke of the “essential characters” of Advent and Christmas…

Zechariah, who becomes mute when he questioned God’s power to have Elizabeth conceive and bear a son. When Zechariah writes “His name is John,” he can speak once again. How often do we ignore God or say “no” to his plans for us? Joseph and Mary are the “essentials” of this story. They leave home, come to Bethlehem, have no place to stay and end up having Jesus born in a stable. They don’t complain.

Jesus is the “most essential.” God comes to earth as a baby because he loves us so much. Every reading of this Christmas story shows how the people waited for the Messiah. We know as we reflect all year that some didn’t accept Jesus and continue to wait. Are you excited this Christmas that the Savior is born? It isn’t the same old story to reflect on because we are different than we were a year ago. Each of us has been changed because of the pandemic, loss of job, grief over the loss of family or friends, financial worries, wondering where God is in all of this.

Next weekend we will listen to the passage in Luke about Joseph and Mary bringing Jesus to the temple to be circumcised. Enter two more “essential” people to our story – Simeon and Anna. They are two of my favorite people in the scriptures. They have been praying and waiting for the Messiah. When he saw Jesus, Simeon said: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

Anna, who was a prophetess, never left the temple. She prayed day and night. When she saw Jesus, she gave thanks to God and told everyone around her waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem about him. Do we tell everyone around us about our intimate relationship with God? Do we need to pray more? Read scripture?

This season is a season of grace. The Church, in her wisdom, gives us Advent and Christmas to pray and reflect on the great gift of the Incarnation, Jesus becoming man, becoming like us. Take the time during this grace-filled season to reflect on one of the essential people in the scriptures that will be read at daily and Sunday masses. Which one speaks to you? Which one is God calling you to know better?

May these days of great excitement give us the peace that God promises. May you and your family find time to discuss the true meaning of Christmas and the “essential” people that are part of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

~Sr. Joanne Callahan, U.S. Province Leader – Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk

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