Just Gospel: Called to Follow Mary’s Example Part II

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy continues her reflection on Pope Francis’ monthly intention.

Yet so many young people are surviving in unjust societies. They lack education, support and opportunities for their futures. The Holy Father warns us to avoid becoming a “single-issue Christian”, but to prefer the stance of a whole-hearted follower of the Lord who seeks out a Gospel justice in every situation. He writes, “We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in our world. We often hear it said that the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us?”

In closing his document, Pope Francis again turns to Mary. We join him at her feet as we consider his words, “She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. Our conversation with her consoles, frees, and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. All we need do is whisper time and time again: ‘Hail Mary…’”

In our prayers for the youth of Latin America, we can call to mind the lovely words of a Spanish hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe:
Look, for I am Mexican
and for that I am yours
And I search in vain in the world
for another who loves you more than I.
Awaken, Mother, awaken
look, the dawn has come
Look at me as I lay at your feet
and give me your blessing.

Just Gospel: Called to Follow the Example of Mary

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy shares on Pope Francis’ January prayer intention.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis bids us keep our Blessed Mother before us during this month. His prayer intention for January is “that young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.”

This intention does not stop at praying for greater youth devotion to Mary. Our prayer should be interceding for the grace of joyful evangelization among Latino youth. This involves youth having the vision to recognize their own call, their mission in the Church. In Gaudete et Exsultate we read, “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification.’(1 Thes. 4:3) Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.”

Notice that Pope Francis is referring to each of us living saints when he says we are each a living mission. Who could understand this monumental challenge better than Mary? She perceived the greatest call to mission, the most amazing call to holiness, the most unexpected plan of the Father when she was only a teenager. She truly is the ideal one to inspire today’s youth in growing into their unique mission, their singular call to holiness.

Just Gospel: A Closing Thought for 2018

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy offers a reflection based on Pope Francis’ December prayer intention.

While still in this season of gift-giving and receiving, we consider a story by Alice Gray.
The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. “Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!”
“If you really want them, you can save enough money to buy them for yourself.” Mother replied. “Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”
After counting the pennies in her bank and doing many extra chores to earn money, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill, and at last she had enough to buy the necklace.
Jenny loved her pearls. She wore them everywhere—Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night he would come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?” Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” “Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess—the white horse from my collection. She’s my favorite.” “That’s okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss. About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?” “Daddy, you know I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” “Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday.” “That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.
A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed. He noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. “What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?”
Jenny just lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, Daddy. It’s for you.”
With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a stand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

Pope Francis’ intention for this month is: “that people, who are involved in the service and transmission of faith may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time.”
Since we are all involved in the transmission of the faith in some way, this is a challenge for us all. We have a great treasure to transmit. We have an incalculable gift to bestow. God, the Giver of all Gifts entrusts us with the privilege of giving this gift that truly is His to give. It is ours to help those we meet and touch to loosen their grip on the lesser objects that fill their thoughts and cross their thresholds. The Pope not only calls us to challenge our hearers to carve out an empty space in which to welcome the faith. He asks us to dialogue with culture in a way that is effective both to that unique way of life, but also to our own time. This implies that we will take the time and effort to learn about other cultures and the ways to touch their hearts.

This seems to be quite a daunting project! In Gaudete et Exsultate Pope Francis gives us encouragement and direction as he writes: Look at Jesus. His deep compassion reached out to others. It did not make him hesitant, timid or self-conscious, as often happens with us. Quite the opposite. His compassion made him go out actively to preach and to send others on a mission of healing and liberation. Let us acknowledge our weakness, but allow Jesus to lay hold of it and send us too on mission. We are weak, yet we hold a treasure that can enlarge us and make those who receive it better and happier. Boldness and apostolic courage are an essential part of mission.”
We surely have the “pearl of great price” to share with the world. Let us pray for the words and ways to bring this great gift to the People of God everywhere

Just Gospel: Call to Be in the Service of Peace

“…Peacemakers truly ‘make’ peace; they build peace and friendship in society …And if there are times in our community when we question what ought to be done, ‘let us pursue what makes for peace.’ (Rm. 14:19)”

These words from Gaudete et Exsultate harmonize with Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month which is a call to be in the service of peace. He asks us to pray “that the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.” In the document on holiness, Pope Francis makes his call to be peacemakers very practical as he writes, “It is not easy to ‘make’ this evangelical peace, which excludes no one but embraces even those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, different, beaten down by life or simply uninterested. It is hard work: It calls for great openness of mind and heart, since it is not about creating ‘a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority.’”
The prayer intention focuses on language, on our words. We can ponder the way in which we speak to and about those who are odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, beaten down or uninterested. If we can use this language of love and dialogue with one another in our day-to-day interactions, we can begin to create an oasis of peace in our lived experience and plant some seeds of peace within the locales where we minister by our work and/or by our presence. Yet, we may wonder what effect this little step can have on the world scene where wars of words often lead to wars of nations. Perhaps a little fable will help us to consider action on this level.
This story comes from New Fables—Thus Spoke The Caribou by Kurt Kauter.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a mouse asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the mouse said.
“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow-not heavily—not in a raging blizzard—no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch—nothing more than nothing, as you say—the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the mouse scampered away.
The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace , thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
Could it be that yours or mine would be that one voice that could tilt the balance toward peace in any situation? Pope Francis writes, “We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill.” Let us strive to hone our use of these qualities in crafting peace.

Just Gospel: Gaudate Et Exsultat and Pope Francis October Intention

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy continues with a series of postings that link Pope Francis’ Gaudate Et Exsultat with his special prayer intention of the month.

This month we once again try to link the thoughts in Pope Francis’ Gaudate Et Exsultat with his intention for the month. That intention has special significance for us as religious. It states, “That consecrated religious men and women may bestir themselves, and be present among the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no voice.”

There are a couple of concepts that stand out in this intention. First, the word bestir. The verb implies that we need to be moved, to be stirred out of complacency. We are confronted by our Pope with his perception that we may be collectively in the wrong place at this juncture of history. That may mean that we are physically living and ministering in areas where we are not present among the poor or it may mean that we are not mentally and/or physically sharing with the lot of those who are marginalized or who have no voice. There are many needs in the Church and all of God’s children need the presence and witness of religious. However, Pope Francis is giving a preference to the poor. If we are not in a position to pack up and bestir ourselves to a poor place, to a home with the marginalized or to become a voice for the voiceless, then we can still bestir our hearts to pray powerfully for these little ones in need. We must bestir ourselves to make the effort to be informed about the plight and poverties of those on the edges of society.

In Gaudate Et Exsultat Pope Francis writes, “Although Jesus’ words (in the Beatitudes) may strike us as poetic, they clearly run counter to the way things are usually done in our world. Even if we find Jesus’ message attractive, the world pushes us towards another way of living. We can only practice the Beatitudes if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride.” These challenging, yet disturbing words don’t allow us to simply think about the plight of those mired in poverty. We are to practice holiness by changing our way of living.

Along those same lines we note in this month’s intention that Pope Francis asks us to be present among the poor. He doesn’t simply ask us to remember the poor, to consider the poor, or even to fight for the poor or to stand up for the poor. He distinctly asks us to be present among them. This even differs from being present to the poor. We must be among them and we must be fully present there. For many of us this seems impossible.

How are we present among the persons of the Trinity? Do we not enter their Presence through prayer and contemplation, through study and exploration? We can be present to many distant realities through the power of our mind and spirit, if not by the strength of our limbs or the validity of our passport. When we see one who is poorly dressed or unattractive in some way at a doctor’s office or in a store, do we shy away, ignore or show disapproval? A kind word or even a smile can make us present to such a one in a holy way. When we have a choice to read a novel or an informative article on some aspect of the existence of the voiceless, what do we choose? When we have an excess of possessions, do we just throw them away or take the trouble to find a way to share? Do we share things that are not worthy of the dignity of the poor?

As we consider ways we can live out this challenge of Pope Francis, we may benefit from repeating his words from Gaudate Et Exsultat, “Being poor of heart: that is holiness.”

Just Gospel: Called to Holiness and Pray for Africa’s Young People

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical Gaudete Et Exsultate and his monthly intention of prayer that young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.

Our Good God has given us all another year and other seasons in which to reflect on and challenge ourselves individually and communally in the practice of justice. This year, our reflections aim to bring together thoughts from Gaudate Et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, and concerns raised by Pope Francis in his monthly intentions given to the Apostles of Prayer. Many may wonder how the spiritual theme of a call to holiness may relate to the often considered political nature of the practice of justice. This will be our journey for the year—linking these two challenges.

An old African tale goes…

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to grow.

This story speaks to us of Pope Francis’ intention for September, namely, that young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.
Though there are undoubtedly huge and difficult obstacles in the way of obtaining an education in many parts of Africa, our prayer is that there will be many young people with the spirit spoken of in the tale above. We pray that young people will have the motivation and strength needed to desire to overcome obstacles, and then the opportunity and energy to actually do it. Thus, the riches of education can enter their lives and aid them in their own journey to the Kingdom.

As Pope Francis writes in Gaudate Et Exsultat, “Life does not have a mission, but is a mission”. We are called to accept the mission of our life. We can wander through life, we can charge ahead through all our days, or we can choose to employ our gifts and talents in the light of God’s grace to plot our mission of life. This is where education intersects with holiness. We are created in the image and likeness of God with the ability to reason. Our likeness to our Creator deepens with the opportunity to employ the gifts given us. Trevor Noah, a comedian from South Africa writes, “The generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use their skills and education to move forward.” These Children of God have been denied the chance to live in a just society, and have also been limited in their journey to holiness. As St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

Let it be our prayer that “beautiful feet” of many sizes and hues will answer the call to open the minds of the youth of Africa and indeed, of the world, so that they might become forces for justice and examples of holiness in our world community.

Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ March Intention

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ March intention “that the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.”

…Spirit of faith, rise above our doubting. Make us your own, now is the time… Tom Kendzia continues to challenge us in the words of his hymn. In our minds we know that certainly God in all his might is quite capable of rising above our puny doubts. However, in the daily round of living we can lose perspective and our little doubts trade places with God’s mighty Spirit and that Spirit becomes distant and small in the blur of our vision which focuses on the doubts that beset us. Now is the time to put things in order, to see clearly, to take on the focus of God’s vision.

Pope Francis, in his intention for the month leads us to the tool most needed in sharpening the focus of our inner vision. He asks us to pray, That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels. There is much for us to pray about here. We know the term “formation”. It is good to be reminded that the discernment Pope Francis speaks of cannot be simply taught or learned or even caught. Spiritual discernment requires formation, long term openness to the Hand of the Master and his instruments. And what is spiritual discernment? Spiritual discernment is calling on the Holy Spirit to lead or give direction on a matter. It is how the Spirit shows the church and its people what God wants them to do and be. So we are to pray for ourselves, the Church and the whole world that all may be open to being formed in ways of calling on the Spirit to lead in our decision-making. What a different world this would produce!

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada invokes Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle. He writes, “The image of the church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty, poetic metaphor. Field hospitals by their very nature indicate a battleground, a struggle, suffering, confusion, emergency; and they foster dialogue and encounter, conversion, accompaniment, consolation, compassion and the binding of wounds. Each of us who serves on the front lines in the field hospitals of the Church is also a wounded healer. The power to heal comes from a spiritual source and each one of us has the potential to connect with that source.” So, if we are to serve the People of God as healer, teacher, or leader, we must be in touch with the source of all healing and life, that is God. This implies an ability to discern the working of his Spirit among us.

This challenge of spiritual discernment finds a place in our life through the living of our charism. Our Core Value statement reads, “We believe that our Charism both identifies us and influences our decision making as we become more faithful followers of Jesus and Francis.” There’s that mention of decision making. The context for our discernment has to be our Franciscan and uniquely Catholic Charism. This month should find us praying for guidance in our spiritual discernment, for inspiration among all of God’s people that they might discern authentically, and that we might worthily participate in the formation of others in finding the workings of the Spirit here and now for now is the time!

We invite you to visit us at a time that works for you or consider one of our other discernment opportunities. Click here.

Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ Intention to Resist Corruption

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy continues Just Gospel post highlighting Pope Francis’ monthly intention that those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption and Tom Kendzia’s song Now is the Time.

…Spirit of truth, save us from our lies. Make us your own, now is the time…Tom Kendzia’s lyrics again lead us to reflect on some themes for this month. Notice that the words plead to be saved from our own lies. We do not ask for protection from the deceits of others. What is more insidious than our own deceptions and corruption of the truth? If we are truly to belong to God, we need to make His truth our own and be set free from lies.

In a similar vein, Pope Francis asks us to pray, That those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption. The word corrupt comes from Latin and means to be broken apart. When we break the truth apart and appropriate only what suits us, when we break the truth into parts small enough for our personal comfort, when we break the truth apart and reorder its parts to make it more palatable we are guilty of corruption. Our power level may not be great, but we all have power in some measure and thus we need to examine our use of that influence and our faithfulness to the truth given us.

Once again Father Federico Lombardi has something to say to us on this topic. As he reflects on his experiences with Pope Benedict XVI when he served as papal spokesman, he writes, “It was necessary to recognize the truth even when it was extremely painful, to go deep into the truth before God and people. To not be worried about the image first or concerned about saving face. Benedict has always insisted on the primacy of truth and the search for truth.” We must be aware of our call to be speakers of the truth, but also as ones called to pray for those in positions of power that they might have the strength of character and the dignity given them by God to speak the truth and to act with integrity.

Values Speak to Truth

Personally, we are often held in esteem due to our vocation in the Church. Our Core Value statement reminds us of the responsibility we have to truth as it says, In joyful acceptance of poverty, we, as vowed women religious, affirm the need to honestly evaluate how we use material goods so as to become a ‘disturbing presence’ in our materialistic culture. This statement has many applications, but for our purposes here, it is good to consider the aspect of honest and truthful evaluation of our use of material goods. This is a part of our life that is evident to those who live and work with and among us. If we are not honest in our living of poverty, then the rest of our living, speaking, witnessing and evangelizing can be called into question. Let us use the power given us by the privilege of our calling in an honest and forthcoming way. Truth must characterize our living for, now is the time!