It is Wednesday and I am sitting in my room in Rome. Outside are the sounds of trafﬁc and sirens and, I know without looking, that there are streams of people heading towards St. Peter’s Square. Later on, I will wander through the streets to be part of the crowd of people coming to be part of this historic event of the death and burial of Pope John Paul II. The line waiting to view the body was very long last night – 20-deep, mashed together, down the street from St. Peter’s Square for six blocks, around the block and all the way back.
It’s been cold. Winter cold. Yet with just a few hours of sunshine and warmer weather the tulip leaves are breaking through the dark, chilled ground. An unmistakable sign of spring. It is that time, each year, when I am surprised by the beauty of new life.
There must be something in the monastic gene pool that enables us to embrace Lent each year as a sure part of our journey to God. Benedict in his rule tells us, “The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent.” (RB49:1) He goes on to explain that few would have the strength for such a rigorous life, so we should, at minimum, use the season of Lent to our advantage. There are deﬁnite behavioral expectations: adding to our prayer, our reading, abstaining from food and drink, time in silence and lectio beyond the ordinary measure.
…all moments are key moments,and life itself is grace.
When I ﬁnd a penny on the ground, I pick it up as a sign of God’s blessings coming in small, everyday events. Sometimes it’s an actual penny, sometimes it’s a phrase that tips me into a new economy of grace. The penny I picked up before Christmas was a question posed by Don Goergen, OP, in the November InFormation newsletter – What or who is my center?
The New Year is, for me, an opportunity to remember and to anticipate.
Reﬂecting on the past year, I remember the opportunities and the challenges we faced as a conference. The challenges were many, some more prominent than others. I am sure each of us could list and comment on their importance from our own perspectives.
The Advent-Christmas season situates our life between memory and hope. In the scriptures we are reminded of how God has broken into our world and into our lives. God’s coming brings light where there once was darkness, ends captivity and sets a people free. Our monastic community gathers each Saturday evening in Advent for Vigil. Our chapel is almost completely dark except for the candles of the Advent wreath and a small light at the ambo where one of us will give a reﬂection. We sing the psalms by heart or repeat after a cantor. We listen to God’s Word.
Here in Minnesota, we cherish every nice day from May through October, knowing that winter will soon come. This state, which has one of the shorter growing seasons, is one that has very high sales of garden plants and supplies. We make the most of the beautiful days and enjoy the growth and color of plants more because we know they will pass away shortly.
Ours is a world of change and challenge. We have audaciously claimed by the title of our joint assembly that “we are no longer bystanders.” We can lament what is lost in our church and our world or we can be transformed by grace and become bearers of hope. By our willingness to name the sins of our times, we make a commitment to bring the Gospel and our voices to speak to the present moment with all its promise and poverty.
It was a cool Roman April this year with a bit of rain several days. Usually, the LCWR and the CMSM delegations visit in May. However, anticipating the InterAmerican Conference in Brazil in May (postponed until 2005), we scheduled our trip in April. So Mary Ann, Christine, Carole and I, along with the ﬁ ve CMSM ofﬁ cers, ventured along the cobblestoned streets to the Vatican ofﬁ ces sometimes jointly, more often separately. We shared prayer and liturgy, and enjoyed meals at small Roman trattatorias.
Easter “Alleluias” continue to ﬁll the chapel in this time between Easter and Pentecost. In the space of these days, the presence of the Risen Christ and his Spirit transformed the disciples. Scripture gives us vivid images of the disciples moving from despair to hope, from sadness to joy, from fear to freedom, from doubt to belief. This is a pristine moment for the Church to claim her identity as a communio of friendship of one mind and one heart.
Invariably Easter draws me into the company of Mary Magdalen. Like her, I am inclined to cling with a fierce tenderness to those I love dearly. And, like her, I know the liberating power of letting love spill out, without reserve, on a multitude of persons and situations. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me. . . but go to my sisters and brothers. And Mary Magdalen went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20: 17-18)
As the month of March comes this year, I am mindful of March 2003 when President Bush issued his ultimatum to Iraq. As I review these past months enmeshed in conflict, I question where we are a year later, personally, nationally, and internationally. Prior to the declaration of war,LCWR, nationally and locally, used every means we could to advocate for no armed conflict.
The political rhetoric is filling the air from the Primaries to the State of the Union speech. So many promises yet our society has a sense of having been betrayed and trust is withheld. Our faith is challenged by aworld filled with war and alienation, a world in which people are broken and enslaved by poverty and unjust structures. For people who believe, it is a call to engagement and commitment to bring hope to a people and to our time. Life does not have to be arranged so that a few prosper and many suffer.
January begins with a “star rising in the East.”What if we revisioned the story of theEpiphany in the context of the universe story and imagined the “star rising in theEast” as the sunrise really seen for the first time? Gazing at the rising sun-star,we are compelled to stay with it finding ourselves led into a place of consciousness so brilliant that it appears as dark asa cave.
It is November in Kansas, and the approach of winter surrounds us as winds and falling temperatures invade our days, and the sun slowly sinks earlier and earlier. We anticipate the Advent days of darkness and waiting.
More than 100 representatives of religious communities and organizations traveled on September 23 by car, bus, bike, train, plane and Metro to walk the halls of Congress and urge their congressional representatives to close the SOA/WHISC. In more than 200 visits, participants pressed the issue in conversations which many had started in their home district. LCWR, in the person of Marie Lucey, OSF, associate director for social mission, made five visits, the responses to which ran the gamut from skepticism, to lack of knowledge, to firm support.
At the invitation of Jim Wallis,founding editor of Sojourner’smagazine, Constance Phelps, SCL,LCWR vice-president and Carole Shinnick, SSND, LCWR executive director, joined an ecumenical group of 25 religious leaders to raise the plight of the nation’s poor to the nation’s lawmakers. For five years, Reverend Wallis has gathered a similar group in Washington in the week immediately following Pentecost to advocate for the most vulnerable US citizens who are impacted by decisions made inside the Beltway.
It gives us great pleasure to welcome Marie Lucey, OSF, to the National Office of LCWR where she will assume the position of Associate Director for Social Mission. Marie has just completed a sabbatical program at St. Stephen’s Priory in Dover, NH.
Iraq Peace Pledge and Pledge of Resistance Stimulate Non-Violent Action
As military forces are moved into position to prepare for a U.S. war against Iraq, around the world people hear again Christ’s quiet message of peace: love one another. It is a message shared by all our world’s religious traditions.
Editor's notes: LCWR President Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM, recently travelled to the Middle East as part of a delegation comprised of the leadership of CMSM and the Relgious Conference of Britain and Wales. She shares her experiences below.