Thursday, April 30, 2009

A New Spin on Creation Spirituality

by Michelle Kroll

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col 2:1-3

These Hands

These hands are the hands of those before me
The hands of generations past
Ones who taught me about needles, yarn and thread
Skills of old that are built to last.

What do they make for me?
What do they make for you?
Is this my spirituality?
Will it help me to find You?

How can it be that You are my thread?
Weaving together the times of my life?
How will You help me,
Through happiness, sadness, strife?

Embroider, knit or even crochet,
These crafts get me through my day.
They bring about a sort of calm,
Soothing to me, like a psalm.

Something inspires these hands to work,
They always need something to do.
Ever searching on their quest,
To find the everlasting You.
-- by Michelle Kroll

As long as I can remember, someone in my family has been doing needlework. It has changed from generation to generation. My great-grandmother (aka Granny) was an accomplished embroiderer. Many of her works are still floating around the family. But, she was a woman-of-all-trades. She also did latch-hook rugs and crocheting too! My grandma has done mostly crochet work over the years. My mom taught me to cross-stitch, crochet and knit. While it took a few attempts -- I was learning this as a teenager -- the love for it remains! Over the course of my life so far I have dabbled in all of the aforementioned crafts. I think I am like my Granny in that way. I always need to be crafting, creating works with my own hands. I feel that being a creative spirit and crafter is what defines me and therefore defines my spirituality.

For most projects there is a rhythm. It is that rhythm that creates the comfort and calmness that for some is provided by prayer. I believe that each project could be considered a prayer for the person receiving it. That is definitely the case when the object is created with specific intention for that person, making the exchange all that more delightful!

I invite you to consider what your form of prayer is. Prayer can be found in many non-traditional activities. As we learned from Mary Erickson’s entry it could be walking, mine is crafting and needlework. What is yours?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Francis, Our World and You

By Joy Wallace

If St. Francis were alive today, he would be an active leader of the environmental movement and he would be celebrating Earth Day … maybe every day. He is a wonderful example of someone who loved all of creation and mindfully cared for his environment. He chose to live simply and to use only the resources necessary for his austere lifestyle.
The Franciscan Spiritual Center is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia who believe that Jesus Christ came as brother to all created reality and acknowledge the oneness of the universe. They call themselves to proclaim in a viable and tangible manner their belief in the Cosmic Christ. Therefore, they commit themselves:
• To reverence all that exists
• To preserve the integrity of the land entrusted to our care
• To dialogue and explore with others the implications of eco-spirituality
• To promote positive environmental behaviors
• To celebrate our oneness with the universe

On April 25, the Franciscan Spiritual Center co-sponsored “Cool Congregations: Climate Change and the Common Good” at St. Anthony’s Parish Hall. This event afforded teams from parishes the opportunity to gather to learn strategies to address the issue of climate change. The goal of the event was to encourage individuals and parishes to change behaviors in order to better care for the environment.

It is important that we all look at ways to increase simplicity in our lives … to live more sustainable lives. It is only by analyzing how we live and how we can change behaviors to preserve our environment that we can become one with the universe. I challenge you to consider:
• Ways to reduce solid waste, both garbage and recycling;
• Ways to reduce the use of water;
• Ways to reduce the use of hot water;
• Ways to reduce furnace and air conditioning use;
• Ways to decrease car driving; and
• Ways to reduce the use of electricity.

As a first step, select one of the items above and come up with a plan to change a behavior for one week or one month. For instance, in order to reduce solid waste, one might only buy food items that can be purchased in bulk, or that have packaging that can be recycled. Or, one might decrease the number of showers taken in a week or decrease the time one takes in the shower in order to reduce the use of water.

Each small step you take is important. Each small step taken by a faith community is important. The earth is counting on us. God is counting on us. Please do your part.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Celtic Spirituality -- God’s Presence and Protection

by Sr. Mary Lonergan

We meet today in the Presence of the Trinity. I greet you in the words of an ancient Celtic rune:

“In the name of the Father, Chief of Chieftans, who loved us into being. In the name of Mary’s son, the Christ, who longs to bring us peace and the fullness of life. In the name of the Spirit, the Holy One, the Breath of wind that enfolds us and fills us with life. Reveal to us, O God, the truth of your PRESENCE, Father, Son and Spirit, Unity in Trinity.”

Celtic Christians truly believed in an all pervading PRESENCE of a benign and merciful Creator God -- a God immediate, accessible, loving, tangible, approachable and visible in the work of creation. Their vision was not perfect but their faith and desire to see God in all things was profound and inspiring.

During the last four years I have been privileged to meet many good Celts (and not a few great non-Celts!) through our Celtic Spirituality programs and outreach activities. And indeed, quite a few of us -- whether Scots, Irish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Bretons or Cape Bretons, with roots anyplace from Gallicia in Spain to Galatia in Turkey -- carry Gaelic or Brythonic DNA in our genes. Even President Obama’s great-great-great (ever so many greats!) grandmother is reputed to hail from a townsland in my native county!

Different Christian communities throughout history have each made their distinctive and enduring contributions to the ongoing life of the universal church. From its Judeo-Christian beginnings, the early church has given us a rich treasury of scripture, doctrine and ritual. Desert fathers and mothers enriched us with an abiding aescetical and mystical tradition. Medieval Catholicism embedded principles of Canon Law and philosophical theology. The reformation churches re-ignited scriptural emphasis along with accentuating faith experience. Methodist hymns of enthusiasm and a gospel of interconnectedness, social awareness and service outreach speak especially to our time.

But the legacy of our Celtic forebears is much simpler and more direct and very, very personal. Celtic Spirituality, the Celtic Way of being Christian, asks us today, as it asked our Celtic ancestors, to look into our hearts, and the hearts of all created beings, to find God’s abiding and enduring presence. For the Celtic Christian, the awareness of God’s PRESENCE, PROTECTION and PROMISE was like breathing in and breathing out -- filling and receiving, emptying and giving. It reminds us that to get to Heaven we have to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. Our God, while transcendent, must also be an “Everyday God.”

The Celts saw God through everything and turned to God for everything. God accompanied them through the shadow times of sickness, the thin times of death and mourning, the moon times of love and romance. The whole self was inserted into the rhythm of prayer, the cycles of days, years, seasons, tides. Prayer was inseparable from work, song, music, dance, hymn, blessing, story -- even curses! There was no separation of work and worship. They walked with God. They were, in the words of an early writer “intoxicated with the Spirit.”

Perhaps for a world that has sometimes (often?) forgotten the Presence of Francis Thompson’s “many splendored” God, and created a God to fit our narrow spiritual vision, Celtic Prayer and sense of God’s awesome presence in a world full of sacredness, can help us hear again “the echo of God’s longing in our souls.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Solidarity With Those Suffering Brings Good Friday Grace

by Marilyn Kirvin

Good Friday arrived a week early for me this year – through no effort on my part, which is usually the way grace works. Last Friday, three of my colleagues and I attended the “Personal Poverty Retreat” at The Downtown Chapel in Portland. This was a day to work with the marginalized in Old Town Portland, to learn more about the agencies that serve the poor there, and to reflect on the experiences of that day and of our own inner poverty.

On Good Friday, we are asked to be with Jesus at the cross… to simply be with, pray with, stand in solidarity with the One who suffered not only severe physical pain, but all of the other pains -- misunderstanding, humiliation, betrayal, and abandonment -- that were heaped upon him that day. Good Friday is a day when we can’t do anything; we can’t undo or make up for what was done. All we can do is be: be faithful, be compassionate, be powerless, be trusting in the God who went all the way to be love for us.

At the retreat last Friday, my “work with the marginalized” (handing out toiletries, socks and blankets to people who were homeless) was so meager. In truth, it was simply an opportunity for me to be with people who also suffer physical pain, misunderstanding, humiliation, abandonment every day of their lives. I sat with a young man who told me that although he’s grateful for the new apartment to which he’d just moved, he preferred to live in prison because he was safe there from the evil on the streets. I laughed with an older Hispanic man as he finally resorted to showing me the elastic band of his boxer shorts because I was just not getting the Spanish word for “underwear.” That morning I felt sad, and powerless, and silly (where did my seven years of studying Spanish disappear to?), and yet also connected to other people at the level of our shared humanity.

Feeling the need to “do something,” to alleviate the suffering of others (as if I could), has always been a temptation for me – in my work as a spiritual director, as a mother, as a friend. Sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed by the immensity of the world’s problems that I can’t fix has kept me away from opportunities to be with or work on behalf of those suffering in the wider world. And yet, last Friday I was given the grace to simply be there and be with -- as a witness, as a companion, as a human being who shares the same loving God, the same Spirit within us.

That was Good Friday grace: the grace not only to be at the cross with Jesus in his suffering, but also to be with those who are the Crucified Christ to us today; to be at the places of human suffering in our world. And it is Easter grace as well, for we already know that God’s love is more powerful than any force of death in our world, and that, ultimately, this is all God’s work. We are simply called to stay awake, to stand with, and to give the gifts that we are prompted to give by the Spirit at work in us.

And so, on behalf of our staff, we wish you every blessing of this Holy Season.

(For information on the Downtown Chapel, and the Personal Poverty Retreat, go to )

Friday, April 3, 2009

Integrating Body and Soul is Valuable

by Sr. Emma Holdener

I greet you, dear friends, with Namaste’ -- I honor the Divine within you and honor the Divine within me -- and we are One. Alternatively, I could say, as we greeted one another in my early convent days: Laudetur Jesus Christus, Praised be Jesus Christ. For today, it is Namaste’ to keep reminding myself and all whom I meet of the wonder of our being: Eternal Sparks of the Divine in human form.

I’m writing this blog to share with you my ministry of Bodywork here at FSC. You may ask, “What and why is a nun doing Bodywork?” Well, what do you think is the most prevalent cause of disease in all aspects of life? Did I hear you say, “STRESS!” Yes, and how does one get rid of it? Again, you could probably give me hundreds of ways of reducing or even eliminating stress. Would any of these be on your list?

• being conscious of the breath
• calming one’s mind
• centering in the heart
• becoming aware of body tensions
• receiving bodywork: Massage, Reflexology, Reiki
• practicing Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong
• going to the gym---calmly!
• getting sufficient rest
• eating healthily
• taking TIME for activities that nurture your soul
• enjoying and being grateful for the simple events of the day

To assist folks with relaxation, help them become more aware of their bodies and the connection with their spirits, and because of my deep interest in healing, I do bodywork. My ministry consists of offering full body massage, chair massage, Reflexology, and sharing Spring Forest Qigong which consists of eight simple movements followed by a guided meditation. I view bodywork as the gift of compassionate, caring, sacred touch offered with deep respect and reverence for the body, the home of the Spirit. Truly, massage can be a blessing. When was the last time you gifted yourself with such a blessing?

Next time I’ll share more about Spring Forest Qigong with you. Peace and Joy!