Christmas Podcast: Discerning a Religious Calling and Violin Part II

Two Franciscan Sisters reflect on discernment, drawing on learning the violin as an analogy to prayerful understanding. Merry Christmas! Enjoy our violin performance!

Click here to listen.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas Season! As we listen for the voice of our own vocation, may we trust that God calls us all to come and be ever near to Him.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Feast of the Holy Family

Blessings on this Christmas Season! The Feast of the Incarnation is followed closely by the Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Today we are grateful for families as we share a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection December 30 2018 . You will find both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and various Christmas excerpts. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photos: Christmas with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity

Luke 2:41-52

Each year his Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

Background

For Luke, the author of this Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles, Jerusalem is a significant place. His gospel begins in Jerusalem, with Zechariah entering the Holy of Holies and learning of the future birth of John. Luke’s gospel ends in Jerusalem with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jerusalem is where the disciples receive the Holy Spirit and are sent out into the world.

In this gospel text Luke notes that Jesus is twelve years old. The Law of Moses requires that every male child at this age make the trip to Jerusalem for Passover. This then is the first time Jesus would have been allowed to make the journey with the other adult members of his community, and read the Word of God in the temple. It marks his standing as an adult within the community and a time of transition for Jesus.

Traditionally twelve was the age when boys left the world of their mothers and the other women, and they entered the much harsher world of their fathers and the other adult males. The women of the extended family had been exclusively responsible for the raising of the children. Sons, because they were more valued, received special attention. When the boys left the protection of the women, the fathers and men of the community believed it was their responsibility to prepare them for the harsh realities of the world, where they would be responsible for the survival and protection of their family and community.

The caravans of pilgrims, like the rest of society, were segregated. Women and children traveled separately from the men. Because Jesus was just twelve, he might have traveled with either the men or the women. Therefore, Mary could have reasonably presumed that Jesus was traveling with Joseph, and Joseph assumed that he was traveling with Mary. Apparently, when the caravan stopped for the night, each learned that Jesus was not traveling with the other. Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem, perhaps without the benefit of traveling with a group.

They found their son involved in a discussion with the religious teachers of the temple. Luke seems to portray Jesus as one of the learned religious wise men of the day. But at the same time, Jesus is also shown as an irresponsible member of his family. He has been the cause of great stress and perhaps imperiled Mary and Joseph in their return to Jerusalem. His response to them in verse 49 adds to his poor behavior. (The form of verb that is used in “don’t you know” is plural, indicating he is addressing both Mary and Joseph.) While the text does not include Jesus’ recognition of his lack of responsibility, or an apology to Mary and Joseph, it does conclude by stating that Jesus returned with them and remained obedient to them, again plural. In the last verse of the text, Luke states that Jesus advanced in age, wisdom, and favor before God and men.

By including what might be looked upon as a humiliating story about Jesus’ shameful lack of consideration to his parents, Luke is making a theological statement about who Jesus’ true Father is. In responding to his parent’s concern about his absence from their caravan, he tells them he has been in his Father’s house (verse 49). Jesus is not only living between the worlds of men and women of his day, but he is also living between the world of his father Joseph’s house and that of his Heavenly Father. Just as Jesus has not fully made the transition to a responsible adult of his day, neither has he completely made the transition to God his Father at this point in the gospel. Therefore, he returns to Nazareth, and in doing so he advances before God and men.

Reflection Questions

1. When you think of your own transition from adolescent to being an adult, some of the things that come to mind are…
2. When you think of Mary and Joseph stopping at the end of a day’s journey and discovering that Jesus is not among them…
3. When you imagine Jesus getting caught up in a discussion with the teachers of the day…
4. When you hear Jesus respond to his parents’ concern for him, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”, what feelings and thoughts are most present to you?
5. Can you take some time now to talk with God about the image of Jesus that Luke presents here, or about your own experience of becoming an adult, or your struggle now to live both in your real world and in the world of God?

Franciscan Sisters’ Memories of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Novice Sister Cecilia Joy shares some memories of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 2018.

“Buenos días, Paloma Blanca, hoy te vengo a saludar. Saludando tu belleza, en tu trono celestial.” These lyrics began our morning as Sister Concepción and I (Sister Cecilia Joy) joined Sister Francis, Sister Marie Kolbe, and Yazmin in singing during morning prayer on the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. Who knew they were also going to be some of the closing words we would sing in Mass at the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois later that day!

Sister Concepción and I joined Sister Elaine and Sister Julie Ann on this blessed pilgrimage. We arrived just in time to see the Shrine almost completely adorned with roses and candles. More pilgrims were walking along with us on the fenced paths to present their candles and flowers as well. It was truly a sight to behold. I never knew it was possible to see so many flowers in one place. Celebration of our Lady was in the smiles of joyful people, the flickering candles, and even in the movement of dancers in the square.

After spending some time at the Shrine, we proceeded to St. Joseph Chapel where a Spanish Mass was going to be held. This chapel was truly unique as it used to be a gym and was recently remodeled. Roses created an impressive border around the altar space. Musicians were practicing as we knelt to offer a few prayers. Mass was truly the climax of the day. Sister Concepción and I both agreed it was one of our favorite Spanish masses. The homily was inspiring, the songs were uplifting, and we enjoyed being a part of such a special celebration.

If you would like us to meet you at a Spanish mass in your area, please feel free to contact Sister Julie Ann through our website.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Advent is here and close behind is the Feast of the Incarnation! We share a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection December 23 and 25 2018. You will find both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and various Christmas excerpts. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photos: Holy Family Convent Advent tree wreath, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Christ the Light Parish, Cambridge, Ohio

Luke 1:39-45

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Background

The Gospel for this Sunday follows immediately after Luke’s description of Mary accepting the invitation to be the mother of Jesus. Some have suggested that Mary went to visit Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, in order to help Elizabeth. But Luke reports that Mary left Elizabeth before John was born. “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son.” (Luke 1:56-57) Therefore Mary would have left Elizabeth during that period when she would have needed the most assistance.

Luke does not indicate a precise location from which Mary left, nor the town to which she went. This would seem to indicate that it was both an insignificant place and not important for what he wants his community to know. But what Luke’s community would notice is that Mary seems to be traveling alone. Women in this culture were always in the company of other women, children, and/or a male protector. For Mary, a fourteen-year-old girl, to travel alone would be enough to accuse her of being a shameful character. Yet the text calls Mary “blessed” three different times: twice in verse 42, for her unique role in God’s plan, and lastly in verse 45 for her faith in God. On one hand, the details that Luke includes seem to cast Mary in a rather suspicious light, yet he strongly asserts that she is blessed.

One explanation is based in the people’s understanding of procreation at the time. Men were believed to implant a full but miniature human being within a woman. The woman’s role was to nurture the minute human being within her body until it was ready to be born and begin its independent life. With this understanding, the pregnant Mary was not traveling alone but with a male protector who is so powerful that even the unborn John the Baptist leaps within Elizabeth’s womb when Mary enters their presence.

Reflection Questions

1. What is your experience of women telling you that they are pregnant? What happens within you when you hear their news?
2. When you hear in today’s gospel that Mary set out in haste to visit Elisabeth…
3. If you too had been visiting Elizabeth when Mary arrived at the house, you would have said to her…
4. Luke’s portrait of Mary emphasized her faith and her willingness to do things that might cast her in a poor light before others. How does this view of Mary fit with your image of Mary?
5. When you think of people who you consider truly people of faith and trust in God, do you find that they do things that might be considered out of character or even scandalous?
6. Can you talk to God now about how he used Mary to bring Jesus into the world, or about your own desire to be an instrument of God’s presence in your world, or about some other thought that this gospel raised within you?

Imperial’s St. Patrick Hosts Catechist In-Service

Franciscan Sister Rochelle Kerkof shares on a recent Catechist In-Service at St. Patrick, Imperial, NE.

Grant Deanery recent Catechist’s’ In-Service Gathering focused upon the Communion of Saints and one’s personal Call to Holiness as outlined in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: Gaudete et Exsultate. Catechists from the nine deanery parishes assembled at St. Patrick Parish Hall in Imperial. A meal provided by the deanery and local Altar Society members provided relaxing time in fellowship and sharing for all Catechists and presentors. Each of the four deanery pastors provided a personal witness of one of their favorite Saint’s life and apostolic activities including reflection questions or comments for the catechists to reflect upon and discuss.

  • Fr. Matthew Eickhoff presented St. Therese of Lisieux-The Little Flower and asked how her childhood experiences helped to form her spirituality as an adult.
  • Fr. Thomas Bush spoke about St. Anthony Mary Claret expressing that Saint’s personal ‘recognition of the gift of salvation’ and realization that one is to ‘share the stewardship of God’s grace…humbly’.
  • Fr. Lothar Gilde shared one of his favorite Saints which is the Egyptian Saint of Alexandria, St. Athanasius. He pointed out to the group the contemporary challenges of St. Athanasius and how bravely and persistently he remained steadfast in the apostolic doctrine of Jesus’ nature against all odds thus preserving our Catholic identity and heritage.
  • Fr. Christopher Miller took up a more modern Saint to showcase and that was St. Josemaria Escriva who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. St. Josemaria Escriva’s mission was to awaken within the laity their baptismal call to personal holiness in daily life.


Chapter 1 of the Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete Exsultate, was highlighted and distributed to each catechist for their own personal review and prayerful study at their leisure.

The evening program concluded with the sung ‘Litany of the Saints’ let by Father Eickhoff, Dean of Grant Deanery region.

St. Francis of Assisi Stars in Christmas Pageant

When a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity music teacher writes her own Christmas program, St. Francis takes a starring role. The program, “The Prince of Peace and St. Francis,” was written and directed by Sister Carol Juckem.  St. Benedict’s School children performed the script twice with an audience at St. Benedict’s Church, Cambridge, OH.

The program tells the story of how St. Francis wanted the people to know the true meaning of the Birth of Jesus. There were 12 narrators, six angels and six shepherds, St. Francis, Pedro, John, a nobleman, Rosie, his wife, a merchant and his son, Mary and Joseph.


Some of the songs composed by Sister Carol and sung by the children were: “The Prince of Peace,” “The Legend of the Little Donkey,” “Small, Small Shepherd,” “Angels in the Skies,” “The Last Shawl,” and “Joseph’s Dilemma,”
The audience joined in singing some of the traditional songs: “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Go, Tell It On The Mountain,” “Silent Night and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”


The Program ended with everyone singing: “The Prince of Peace is here. Welcome Him in. Welcome Him in your heart. The Prince of Peace is here. WILL YOU LET HIM IN?

Franciscan Sisters Convoke General Chapter

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Natalie Binversie, OSF,  convoked our General Chapter on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We share apart of this official announcement.

We are all in this journey of deepening our Franciscan call and mission in the world. These past days the Delegates and Alternates began the more immediate preparations for Chapter. While we are grateful for Francis’ final words to us, “I have done what was mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours to do,” we know his words call us to the responsibility that is ours in praying for blessings on the work of the Chapter.

According to our Constitutions, the primary purpose of the General Chapter is:

a. to protect the intention of the foundresses concerning the nature, purpose, spirit and character of the Congregation ratified by the Holy See, as well as wholesome traditions of the Congregation, all of which constitute its patrimony;

b. to promote suitable renewal in accord with this patrimony;

c. to elect the Community Director and her Council;

d. to treat major business matters;

e. to publish norms which all are bound to obey.

With the deliberative vote of the Council, as Community Director, I formally convoke the 2019 General Chapter of Elections and Affairs of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. The Chapter will convene at the Motherhouse, Holy Family Convent, Manitowoc, Wisconsin on Monday, June 17, 2019. It will be preceded by a Day of Prayer and Recollection on Sunday, June 16.

United in prayer and support, we ask that from December 8, 2019 until the close of Chapter, all members of the Community participate in the following…May our Blessed Mother, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, intercede for us that our 2019 General Chapter will be pleasing to her Son, Jesus.

Note: Sister Natalie asked that we remember the intention of the Chapter at Morning or Evening Prayer in the intercessions. Each local mission will have a monthly Mass offered for the intention of the Chapter from December 8 to June 2019. Each local community will also pray together daily a special General Chapter prayer. Individually and communally all are to spend prayer time before the Blessed Sacrament asking for the graces needed to “Pray with Faith. Listen with Hope. Respond in Love and Trust.”

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Third Sunday of Advent 2018

This Third Sunday of Advent, we rejoice with great expectation in the Lord’s coming to each of us now and forever. We share a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection December 16 2018. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photo: St. Peter Mission, Bapchule, Arizona; Immaculate Conception Convent, Yuma, Arizona

Luke 3:10-18

And the crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Background

John is associated with preparing for a messiah, and the expectation at the time was that a messiah would come to bring a political transformation. John, too, looks for a Messiah who will come with the Holy Spirit and fire. He would bring judgment, and usher in a new age that would be free from Roman rule. But as Luke records John’s message, he keeps John’s message that the Messiah would lead Israel to throw off Roman rule and become a great nation very subtle. Perhaps this is because he does not want the Roman authorities to look at the early Christians as a threat to their authority.

Three times the question is asked of John, “What should we do?” John is calling everyone to repentance, a repentance that is demonstrated by a change in how one lives daily life. John does not suggest that people join his austere life in the desert; but that they live with concern for others, honestly, and with integrity. Each time John is asked “what we should do,” his response indicates that they should live out their given role in society faithful to their responsibilities, considerate of others, and not taking advantage of their position.

Verse 12 begins with “even tax collectors…” Luke is making sure his audience is aware that even tax collectors and soldiers were responding to John’s call to conversion. The fact that John was instructing them as to how they should behave also suggests that their conversion had awakened in them a sincere effort to live differently. The tax collectors in verse 12 could be likened to toll collectors. Often, they could not find other types of work, and they were forced to collect tolls as people were crossing roads or bridges, or entering ports or city gates. The soldiers mentioned in verse 14 were guards who were assigned to protect the tax collectors. Both the tax collectors and the soldiers would be Jews who were despised by others because they were looked upon as aiding an occupying Roman government.

Reflection Questions

1. Luke states in verse 15 that the people were filled with expectation. When you think of being filled with expectation…
2. When you think of people who need to be invited to live with a sense of expectation…
3. If you were to ask John what is it that you should do to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, you suspect he might say something like…
4. Of all the people who were coming to John for baptism, why would Luke single out soldiers and tax collectors?
5. John seems to know himself and who he is not. He also asks people to live within the limits of their life. Can you talk to God about you desire to live authentically your own station in life, or some struggle you may be having to live beyond yourself, or some other awareness that arose within you from this gospel?

St. Juan Diego and Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

As we anticipate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity share a cherished image of a young Juan Diego painted for Sister Mary Ann Spanjers in gratitude for her ministry at Universidod M. Champagnat, Lima, Peru.

Juan Diego was a native of Mexico. In 2002, St. John Paul II canonized him as the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas.He was granted an apparition of the Virgin Mary on four separate occasions in December 1531 at the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City. Our own Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is dedicated to the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We remember your intentions as we anticipate our pilgrimage on December 12, 2018, to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine Des Plaines, Illinois. Say hello if you see us there.  “Día bendito y viajes seguros.”

 

Franciscan Sisters Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are preparing to make a pilgrimage with many others to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Des Plaines, Illinois. As we anticipate this moment of grace, we pray the words of St. John Paul II in 2002 on the canonization of St. Juan Diego in our prayer today. We share them with you.  If you see us on December 12, say hello – “Día bendito y viajes seguros.” (Photo of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Midland, Texas)

Blessed Juan Diego, a good, Christian Indian, whom simple people have always considered a saint! We ask you to accompany the Church on her pilgrimage in Mexico, so that she may be more evangelizing and more missionary each day. Encourage the Bishops, support the priests, inspire new and holy vocations, help all those who give their lives to the cause of Christ and the spread of his Kingdom.

Happy Juan Diego, true and faithful man! We entrust to you our lay brothers and sisters so that, feeling the call to holiness, they may imbue every area of social life with the spirit of the Gospel. Bless families, strengthen spouses in their marriage, sustain the efforts of parents to give their children a Christian upbringing. Look with favour upon the pain of those who are suffering in body or in spirit, on those afflicted by poverty, loneliness, marginalization or ignorance. May all people, civic leaders and ordinary citizens, always act in accordance with the demands of justice and with respect for the dignity of each person, so that in this way peace may be reinforced. Click here to read more.

Facebook link to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Plaines, Illinois.