April 4, 2021
Jesus is Risen. He is truly Risen! These words each Easter resonate with me in a special way.
We come through six weeks of Lent, concentrating on Jesus’ life and death and we arrive at Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We feel the deep pain of Good Friday and then the tomb, and we often know the emptiness when we don’t feel God’s presence in our lives. We want more and Easter Sunday brings us that wonder, hope and joy.
The disciples of our Lord went through those days of Holy Week – from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning. They had been with Jesus for three years and believed in him and what he preached. Yet they didn’t really understand what he was telling them about God and why he came to save us, even to his death, and how much we are loved.
The readings for Easter Sunday all point to Jesus becoming man to forgive our sins and reminding us that we are called to be with God forever. The responsorial psalm calls all of us to cry out: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” We sing this response other times of the year, but, for me, on Easter it has special significance as Easter is the feast that gives us the promise of eternal life with God forever. A real reason to rejoice.
The women came to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. They were concerned about moving the stone from the entrance, but it was already moved, and they learned that Jesus had risen. Can you imagine their joy and hope? Pope Francis tells us:
On Easter we acquire a fundamental right that can never be take away from us: the right to hope… It is a gift from heaven, which we could not have earned on our own… All you have to do is open your heart in prayer and roll away, however slightly, that stone placed at the entrance to your heart so Jesus’ light can enter.
I wish you a Happy Easter. May you know the hope and joy of the Resurrection!
Sr. Joanne Callahan, OSU
Sr. Joanne Callahan, OSU, is Province Leader for the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk. She is retired from serving as Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY.
March 28, 2021
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:1)
At long last, we enter into this most holy of weeks, remembering Jesus’ last days and attempting to walk in his footsteps. We remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem with acclaim, to become our messiah, and free us from all that binds us. He came not at the head of a conquering army, but riding on a lowly donkey. He came not to play the hero and wreak his power on others, but to “empty himself and take the form of a slave.” He came to provide an example of humble, loving service. He came to offer himself as food for us, allowing himself to be broken and taken, even by those whom he knew would betray him, and deny him, and torture him and abandon him. He came to face unbelievable suffering, and endure an excruciating death on a cross, a punishment reserved for the most reviled criminals. At the end, there were no adoring crowds, no group of faithful disciples, no gathering of friends, not even the hint of God’s comforting presence. There was simply his long-suffering mother and torturous experience of abandonment and pain: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This year, Jesus’ passion resonates with an immediacy for us, because of all we have suffered throughout these anguishing (unending) months of the pandemic: more than 2.75 million have died worldwide and nearly 550 million in the U.S. In our country alone, 10 million people are unemployed, and 42 million (one in eight) are food-insecure, including 13 million children (one in six). An estimated 35-40 million people are at risk of eviction due to the COVID crisis. In addition, racial hatred and gun violence continue to tear us apart: in this past week alone, we lost eighteen more lives due to two mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder. The magnitude of all this suffering can overwhelm and even paralyze us.
Yet Holy Week calls Christians to understand even more deeply the centrality of the cross and its meaning in our lives. We are called to be with the crucified Christ and reverence our common humanity and utter vulnerability. We are challenged to see in his suffering all those who hang upon crosses of illness, indifference, rejection, hunger, isolation, joblessness, racism, oppression, homelessness, violence or pain of any kind. Even more, we are invited to ponder how Jesus made peace and mercy and healing possible by his own suffering and dying. It is a mystery that to this day confounds me. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that Jesus showed us that we build the reign of God by embracing vulnerability and compassion – opening ourselves to the paradoxical mystery of emptiness – through our willingness to suffer and die for others.
Too often, we may simply resist picking up and carrying our cross(es); it is just too hard. We have no energy to address the enormity of the tasks before us. Or we have run out of hope and faith and trust in those who lead us. Or we believe that the suffering confronting us – which reminds us of our fundamental powerlessness over many of the circumstances of our lives – indicates that we are inadequate, deficient or “less than.” Yet the scriptures today remind us that suffering is an integral part of the very essence of our human condition; and it has much to teach us: patience, generosity, compassion, understanding, acceptance, inner strength, and solidarity with one another.
Throughout this last year, the numbers of people seeking help from our Food Pantry increased alarmingly. Families came from outside our parish boundaries because the pantries serving their communities were closed. Many more of our families needed the food to be delivered because they were vulnerable, due to age or co-morbidities, to the virus’ contagion. And most of our families needed more food than we had ever provided. We needed to respond with compassion and grace, even when we were unsure of whether we would have enough to feed next week’s recipients, even when we were exhausted, even when we lost volunteers to the disease.
What I have learned through this whole, long, challenging year is that if, like Jesus, we can accept – and even embrace – our suffering, we can be transformed, and become a source of transformation and mercy and healing for our world. We can learn what the poor and powerless already know (and continually have to teach me): that our suffering can draw us closer to the One in whose Love we are held, and bring us closer to each other. By enduring the suffering that life visits upon us, we can deepen our connection with God, and allow the richness of God’s Love to flourish even in the most difficult of times.
It is in taking up our cross and accepting humbly the suffering that is part of our human condition that we come to the fullness of life – that is, life in abundance. May it be so.
Sister Lisa Bergeron, OSU has been an Ursuline Sister of Tildonk for more than forty years. Currently, she is Director of Parish Social Ministry at St. John Nepomucene Church, Bohemia, NY, where she oversees more than 300 volunteers in 21 different ministries.
March 21, 2021
By Sr. Denise Farrands, OSU
Who would have thought that, as we progress through the Lenten season, we’d be more than one year into coping with a worldwide pandemic? For many of us, COVID 19 has created a world of fear, pain and anxiety. We have seen so many deaths.
It’s been a year of isolation in so many ways, of masks and hand sanitizers, of seeing schools, churches, restaurants and stores closed, of friends and family members losing jobs, of receiving our ashes at the beginning of Lent sprinkled on our heads so the priest would not have to touch our foreheads!
But there have been glimmers of light and hope too…so many people reaching out to alleviate some of the trauma…which brought me to the image of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry the cross.
What has occurred this year has reminded me that, rather than giving something up for Lent, we need to consider something more positive…how we can be a Simon to those who cross our paths…the people we live with and those who are in need. How can we be a living sign of hope and love? What can we do that is life-giving? Where will we meet Jesus this Lent?
…We all need to find our safe places, where we can re-energize, let go of our anxieties, and pray.
…We need to find ways to stay focused; it will be different for each of us. I find holding a ceramic “My Lord’s cross” gives me strength and comfort during prayer time.
…We need to see whose cross we can help carry…perhaps donating to, or assisting at, a food bank, reaching out to someone with a phone call, a text or note, driving someone to an appointment or picking up groceries for them, praying for each other.
…We need to increase our trust in Jesus.
I have two prayer cards from my uncle, Father Tom Ahern, that are short in thought and well worth sharing.
…Pray! Trust! Don’t worry!
…Do not let your hearts be troubled nor be afraid. I will walk the journey with you always!
When we reflect on our crosses, we need only remind ourselves of the horror and pain of Jesus’ cross…His willingness to suffer for our redemption. He is our beacon of hope in these trying times. We need to take the message of Jesus, live it and share it with others.
Love conquers all!
“Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather, look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things, and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.”
St. Francis de Sales
Sr. Denise Farrands has been an Ursuline Sister of Tildonk for more than 60 years, making God known and loved through her life of ministry and prayer.
Today’s readings give us pause to reflect on our humble humanity and God’s expansive love. The readings remind us that we are sinners. So often we revert to the base urgings of our humanity. So often we ignore the promptings of the Spirit. So often we turn from the God who loves us and has already forgiven us. Are we willing to turn and face the God who loves us with an everlasting love?
In the first reading (2 Chronicles) Zedekiah refuses to repent and return to God. The Temple of Jerusalem, “which the Lord himself made holy” is defiled. After many warnings by the prophet the Temple is destroyed and the people are banished to Babylon, where they live a life of slavery.
But does God abandon his people? No. God has already forgiven them. But it takes the people many years to face the God who loves them. Finally as Chronicles tells us, “In the first year that Cyrus was emperor, the Lord directed the Emperor to build a temple in Jerusalem in God’s honor”. And so it is done. Once again God’s people gather in the Temple, and the Lord is with them. Once again our humble humanity is redeemed by God’s expansive love.
In Ephesians Paul’s expression of God’s mercy and love is so great that, despite our turning away, God willingly brings us into a life with Christ. Despite our faults, God unites us with Jesus. Despite our selfishness, God raises us up to be one with Jesus. St Paul shouts at us saying “God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” God is waiting for us to turn to him so he can pour his grace upon us. Once again, our humble humanity is redeemed by God’s expansive love.
Finally, in the Gospel, John reiterates that we are already redeemed by God’s expansive love. He proclaims: God loved us so much he gave us Jesus, so we might live not die; so we might be saved not condemned; so we might be light in the dark; so we might have eternal life.
What more can you ask? God is waiting. How will you respond?
Sr. Geraldine Conklin, OSU, now retired, is an Ursuline Sister of Tildonk who served as an educator for 55 years, at St. William the Abbot School Seaford, NY, St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hartford, CT, St. Gregory the Great in Bellerose, NY, and Queen of All Saints, Brooklyn, NY, and Our Lady of Fatima, Queens, NY.
March 7, 2021
At first glance, the readings for this Sunday seem to cover many disparate themes: The 10 Commandments; the goodness and perfection of God’s law, Christ crucified – God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength and the purification of the temple. After some reflection, a unity appeared around the words: law, Word, deliverance, and temple purification.
The concept of law is prominent in the 1st reading, which describes the 10 Commandments of the Covenant, the Responsorial Psalm focuses on the perfection of God’s law. St. Paul tells us that Jesus is the “New Moses” who brings the new and everlasting covenant with the new law – the Law of Love.
According to St. John, Jesus is the Word of God. In Jesus, God speaks to us. When we hear the Word commandments, we think of laws. Yet, what we translate as commandments are “The Words” as written in Hebrew, our Psalm Response is, “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” (the promise of redemption in the Messiah)
The 1st reading speaks of the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. The 2nd reading proclaims the paradox of the cross, which is the primary Christian symbol of our deliverance from slavery to sin and the redemption won by our Savior. The Gospel presents the purification of the temple, which, according to the prophets, is a Messianic sign of God’s deliverance of his people. The money on the tables Jesus overturned came from payment for animals to be sacrificed for expiation of sins, and was, therefore, called a “redemptive tax.”
The Gospel of the purification of the temple has Jesus speaking of the destruction of the temple and his rebuilding it in three days. This is a foretelling of his own death and resurrection. The new temple will not be a building where God resides. Our relationship with God depends on the indwelling of the Trinity. Our worship of God comes from God within us.
At three weeks before the Holy Week, we are asked to shift our focus from guilt for our sins to the scope of salvation through the lens of Christ’s Passion. We are to look forward in gratitude for the gift of our redemption, in order to live this time well, “our only recourse is to find our refuge at the foot of the cross.” Although it appears to be a sign of humiliation and weakness, it is the sign for us that self-surrender, the giving of ourselves fully for the life of others, is our Christian call.
May we live our call as Ursuline Sisters and Associates of Tildonk to follow Jesus by our self-gift. Our world is so divided by facts and alternative facts. Let us work to bring “union and concord” by living in the footsteps of the true Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. We can take comfort and support for this endeavor in the refrain of the praise song, No Longer Slaves: “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”
Linda Siani is an Ursuline Associate who is a retired public school teacher and parishioner of Our Holy Redeemer Church, Freeport, NY. Her ministries have included serving as Director of Religious Education and in the RCIA Program at her parish.
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.
Sr. Catherine Talia, OSU is a former Provincial of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk. 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.
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.”
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!
Sr. Margaret Golub, OSU, is a retired school librarian and children’s book author who enjoys contributing encouraging spiritual reflections that inspire others to pray and trust in God.
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
Sr. Joanne Callahan, OSU, is Province Leader for the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk. She is retired from serving as Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY.
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
Sr. Laurentine Morgan serves on the Leadership Team of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk
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
Respect in her heart
For each one—the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the well, the incurable
How receptive a heart.
Fire in her heart.
For each one—the rich, the poor, the educated, the well, the incurable.
How loving a heart.
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.”
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