Friday, April 12, 2019

Summer Sisters 2019

Once again this year, I would like to extend the invitation to join in building community with me here in St. Louis, for a period of time during the summer. It can be the experience you seek: Retreat. Sabbath Time. Vacation. R&R. Embodied Commitment to Sustainability. Emersion in an Urban Ecovillage. Nurturing body, spirit, the future of religious life.
We'll have to work around the house schedule which is a little crazy this year - but then when is life not crazy. Let's do what we can.
Here's a link to a prior invitation. If you're interested, drop me a line and we'll talk more.
ALSO - if any women discerning religious life would like to spend several weeks in a live-in experience, let me know and we will see what we can arrange for that too. We have several houses where you might be able to join us.
Amy
www.ahereford.org

Friday, April 5, 2019

Garden of Relationships

In my local community, we have space for a good-sized urban garden. Often, in the cool of the day, my footsteps  take me to the garden to plant and water, tend and harvest the good things of the earth. This is a quiet space, populated by nature’s abundance, wildflowers and berry bushes draw a plethora of activity. Birds and butterflies and all manner of critters share the space. And I do believe that God also strolls in this space in the cool of the day, a witness to the ongoing unfolding of creation and once again pronouncing it “good”.

As we tend the good things of the earth, God is tending us, tending our spirits, watering here, trimming there, mulching abundantly. We are blessed by the blessing we give, we share abundantly in the abundance we plant.

Religious life too is a garden, and in community and in ministry we are called to tend gardens that are not our own. We enter into a rich ecosystem of communities that share the work of filling the earth and stewarding it into that abundance that God called us to be. We are not an isolated species, living out our lives for ourselves. We never were. Today more than ever we are called into relationships of mutual blessing and enrichment. These happen in local communities that are themselves in relationship with other communities in a vast network, a mutually enriching ecosystem of blessing. These overlapping circles of relationship are a characteristic of twenty-first-century society. The resilience of a community comes not from large size and vast wealth but from the depth and breadth of relationships that it nurtures.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Triumph of Tenderness

There is no cathedral so grand as a city bus.
You danced with abandon at the birth of each child of grace.
You sent us forth to wend a way through Eden and through Gethsemani.
And here we gather, each on our way, burdened and blessed,
In this cathedral, cloaked as a city bus.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Life Without Artificial Sweeteners

Many processed foods are sold on the basis of those things that they do not contain: fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc. Fat, sugar and gluten are natural nutrients that are contained in natural foods. They have gotten a bad rap over the years as our collective waistline expands and we try to limit our food intake. They taste good, but their nutrient value is questionable.
Studies are beginning to show that the substitutes found in processed foods also have negative health effects. So now foods are being sold on the basis of yet more ingredients they don't contain: no artificial sweeteners, no MSG, etc. Take a favorite of mine: no sugar added, no artificial sweeteners, fat-free, gluten-free, no MSG. It's an apple, or a carrot, or any one of a host of naturally occurring foods. Or we could look at the advertising slogan: the incredible, edible egg.
Now let's talk about spirituality. There are lots of artificial ingredients: things, thrills, and superficial relationships, drugs and alcohol. Sure these things will make me happy for a time. But spiritually, they are artificial sweeteners; they taste good but lack nutritional value.
Micah has a recipe for natural, organic, no artificial additives spirituality: Do justice, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God. Again, our CSJ motto: Community, Spirituality and Justice. This needs no artificial sweeteners and delivers simple, wholesome nutrition for our spirit.

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Lifetime of Prayer, Service and Compassionate Encounter


I believe that the ministry of presence, this ministry of encounter, is one of the great gifts of our elder sisters in religious life. With quiet joy after decades of dynamic and faith-filled service, they remind me of the poem the New Collossus by Emma Lazarus (1883) that is cast in bronze at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
[They cry] with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
These our sisters, walking each other home to heaven, also lend us their gift of a listening ear, a comforting word, a compassionate heart. Hearts formed through a lifetime of prayer, of service, and of compassionate encounter.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bloom Where We Are Planted


In nature, plants grow and are nourished by their interactions with the climate and the ecosystem. Some species will thrive, despite occasional challenges and stresses. Others will not be able to make it in that particular ecosystem, in that micro-climate. For me, this is an image of vocation. God calls us by creating us in Love to be persons who thrive in the vocation we call religious life. The climate of the life, its vows, its ministry, its spirituality all conspire for our growth. The ecosystem, our sisters, our community, those with whom and for whom we serve, support and challenge us to become the best of God's dream for us. As we grow in our vocation, our roots sink deeper and deeper into the soil of God, community and mission. We grow more resilient to face the inevitable challenges that come.
The journey of vocation discernment and of initial formation is a time to find that place God has called us and to learn to "bloom where we are planted." Once we are permanently professed, we have a certain groundedness, yet life continues to unfold and challenge us. May we be a blessing to one another on this journey.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Pondering the Journey

I've been pondering the journey from outside a religious community to inside a religious community.
Vocation discernment is the name we generally give to the stages of inquiry and getting to know the community and eventually deciding to join.
Formation is the name we give to the process of entering a community, in continued discernment, through a series of stages (candidate, novice, temporary profession) becoming a member of the community.
The whole process of vocation/formation usually takes about a decade. It may be a little longer for some and a little shorter for others. There's no prize for finishing earlier or later. It's just a matter of each person getting what she or he needs, and the community coming to know the person. Increasingly both the candidate and the community see one another as part of the same group or tribe, part of the same community.
Along the way, there are various people and experiences there to facilitate the process. In my community, we've been pondering how this happens in the most holistic way. As more and more people in the community play roles in the vocation/formation process, we have had more conversations about the new model we are trying to develop.
In prayer this morning, pondering our conversation, I came to this. Each of us is a Sister of St. Joseph, and each of us is a sister in a unique way, though we share the common call and charism. The candidate is who she is and she would like to become a sister too. The candidate brings a lifetime of experience in being the best of herself. We bring our experiences of being the best of ourselves, and our commitment to accompany others into the community.
I am reminded of the poem Two Roads Diverge in a Yellow Wood... In the case of vocation/formation journey, two roads converge in that yellow wood.
As I ponder this journey, I wait in joyful hope that we can balance these elements in a holistic and life-giving way.
Amen,
Amy