Still Watching

December 24, 2012

 

He is coming! He is coming! As we watch for the coming of Jesus Christ our Hope, we are reminded this morning of God’s faithfulness.  The Lord through the prophet Nathan tells King David, “I have been with you wherever you went.”  In every day and moment our Lord is with us.  He knows our joys, sufferings and desires.  He wants to be known to us in the daily events and people in our lives.  He will reside in our hearts if we but let him enter.

O Lord, let our hearts be a manger where you may sleep.  Let us cherish you there and gaze upon you, hold you close and hear our hearts beat with yours.  We are joy-filled with your presence and live in the confidence of your love, for thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.

Our joyful anticipation of Jesus birth this night strains against the constraints of time.  We still watch, but can no longer be still and silent.  We desire to burst into the song of the angels “Glory to God in the highest”.  Joy to the World our Lord is come to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy convent, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.  Marana thá, come Lord Jesus.

manger

Watch

December 3, 2012

“And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch.” (Mk 13:37)

A small child is fascinated with the world around him.  He is curious about every object he sees and repeats every word he hears; alert to the sights, sounds and smells that fill the day. With high energy, he grasps at each new wonder that captivates his mind.  In the midst of the constant attentiveness to this new world, he suddenly stops. He goes to the front door and, placing his tiny face to the glass, he stands still, waits and watches.  All that the world offers around him is no longer of importance.  He turns his back to his immediate world, ignoring even the voices around him as he stands silently looking out, tense with anticipation, watching and waiting; no coaxing can draw him back from his sentinel urge.

Suddenly the person he waits for appears, dancing up and down with joy, he calls out ‘Daddy’.  Arms outstretched, he shrieks with glee as he is lifted up into an embrace full of love, security, and warmth.  His watching is rewarded with the presence of the one he loves. His joy is complete and full in a way that his toys and daily preoccupations can never produce.  He inherently knows that it is the person he loves and trusts and the person who loves and cares for him that brings the deepest joy.

Can we follow the example of this child and turn our attention away from the distractions of the world, as attractive as they might be, and place ourselves where we can be watchful? Can we turn our gaze away from the latest ‘gadget’ and silently wait and watch for the face of the One who loves us fully and faithfully?  Simply, can we turn off the television, walk away from the internet, postpone the texting, and ignore the barrage of ads that promise happiness in the ‘greatest whatever’ – to be still, to be silent, to be watchful for the coming of Christ?

The child knows it is the presence of the loved one that is the most important and nothing will distract this faithful young sentinel from watching at the door.  It is the appearance of ‘Daddy’ that breaks the silence and draws forth the shouts of joy.  In this season of Advent, let us learn what this child knows; let us wait at the door of our hearts: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come.” (Mk 13:35a)

Marana tha,

aspirants and advent 005

Renewal of Vows

November 26, 2012

Yesterday, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, I knelt before Bishop Alvaro Corrada in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and renewed my vows of evangelical poverty, chastity, obedience and of fidelity.  Bishop Corrada, our Apostolic Administrator, seated in the sanctuary before the altar, received my vows on behalf of Holy Mother Church and as the shepherd of all those who were present during the most joyous celebration of the Holy Eucharist.  As I humbly knelt and slowly said my profession, savoring each word as I offered myself through them to our Lord, I was profoundly aware of the great Love that has brought me to this day.  A sweet memory of my beloved husband, Deacon Bill, kneeling in this same place during his ordination 16 years ago, came to mind and I knew of his prayers for me and the Daughters of Divine Hope and I experienced a great affirmation that we are people of the Resurrection, as Bishop Corrada spoke of in his homily.

After the profession of vows, Bishop Corrada offered his hand and gently helped me to my feet.  We went to the altar, where I signed my vows in the company of the ministers and then I received the crest, which is the insignia of the Daughters of Divine Hope.  Bishop Corrada blessed this sign of office, beautifully created in silver by a local jeweler, with a prayer written by our chaplain for this occasion.  This insignia, a visible reminder of the responsibility of office, will be handed on to future superiors of the community.

Four years ago, Bishop Alvaro Corrada, Msgr. Joseph Strickland, Rev. Gavin Vaverek and I went to lunch at a restaurant in Tyler.  During this delightful and unassuming lunch, Bishop Corrada articulated an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, when he asked me if I had ever considered being a foundress.  At this lunch he encouraged me to consider this and asked Fr. Vaverek to ‘stay with me and see where this goes’.  Yesterday, Bishop Corrada, now Bishop-elect Strickland and Fr. Vaverek, our Chaplain, and I were together again, but this time at the Table of our Lord.  Thanks be to God for his generous love and mercy that brought all of us to Him to celebrate the Holy Mass and to serve Him in His Holy Church.

Many friends and family were present yesterday to share in the great joy of this day.  Together we continue our pilgrimage of faith, trusting in Jesus Christ our King and Savior to be with us in all things and giving Him thanks for the hope that saves and sustains us until we are with Him forever in the heavenly Kingdom.  Thanks be to God for this day of great rejoicing in our Lord and King who is to come.  Marana thá, come Lord Jesus.

In Christ our Hope,

Mother Susan Catherine, DDH

 

 

 

 

Persevere in Hope

November 8, 2012

There are many ways to interpret the results of yesterday’s election.  Our federal government administration has worked openly and unashamedly for the culture of death; through its pro-abortion support and advocacy, same-sex union support, and the rationing of healthcare services under Obamacare, just to name a few examples.  Plus, they have overtly misused the power of office to attempt to silence voices to the contrary by their assault on religious freedom. A majority of voters have spoken that they are in favor of this government leadership philosophy.   How easy it would be for those who fight for life and religious freedom to become discouraged; but this we must not do.

As people of faith, we persevere in hope, for we know there is a loving omnipotent Power and Authority, whose ways are not our ways and who has promised to be with us until the end of the age.  So let us be renewed in commitment to be faithful to the gospel of life and proclaim life and freedom without ceasing.  Let us find in these recent events the zeal and fervor to tirelessly work to eradicate this culture of death.  With the help of God’s grace, let us be a hopeful people, working to reestablish the culture of life.  Let us pray for our Lord to bring about the conversion of hearts of all elected and appointed officials that they will strive to work for the dignity of all human persons.  Let us pray for all who voted contrary to life, that they may be open to the grace of conversion and seek to promote a culture in which life is welcomed, embraced, nurtured and sustained in freedom.

We are not alone, nor are we asked to stand up for life in isolation.  We are the Body of Christ and a part of the communion of saints.  We hear St. Paul’s words today just as they were given to the early church:  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him. (Rom 8: 24b-26, 28a)

The Blessed Virgin Mary is a wonderful model of hope, trust and courage.  As patroness of the United States under her title of Immaculate Conception, we can look to her for encouragement.  Imagine a young pregnant woman, traveling in response to a government edict, who gives birth to a son in a manger and then flees to a foreign country to protect the life of her son.  Then when her son is grown, she stands by him as he is falsely accused, publicly ridiculed, beaten, whipped, spat upon, and crucified.  In her we can see the potential for each one of us to be faithful, to be courageous, to be trusting, to be hope-filled.  Mary, Mother of Divine Hope, pray for us that we may persevere in hope, diligently work to reestablish a culture of life in our nation, and faithfully proclaim the truth of the Gospel of life. Pray that your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, will grant his mercy upon us and send his Spirit to bring about the conversion of hearts for those who hold public office and set public policy.  Amen.

In his recent weekly column, Archbishop Charles Chaput, spoke of public witness and Catholic citizenship.  This is obviously timely and well-placed right before early voting begins in our nation.  He ends his column with this encouragement: “In the end, the heart of truly faithful citizenship is this: We’re better citizens when we’re more faithful Catholics. The more authentically Catholic we are in our lives, choices, actions and convictions, the more truly we will contribute to the moral and political life of our nation.”  The whole column is relatively brief and worthy of a few minutes to read it fully. It can be found at: http://catholicphilly.com/2012/10/archbishop-chaput/weekly-message-from-archbishop-chaput/public-witness-and-catholic-citizenship/

In his column, although highlighting the upcoming important election, he reminds us that being Catholic is a way of life, not just a position on a political issue or candidate.  Our faith calls us to transform the world, to ‘go and make disciples’ by making Jesus Christ known wherever we work and live.  This is particularly true of the lay faithful.  In this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us of the richness of our Catholic faith found in the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In the Decree On The Apostolate Of The Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, solemnly promulgated by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, on November 18, 1965, we read: A vast field for the apostolate has opened up on the national and international levels where the laity especially assist with their Christian wisdom. In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations, Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that the civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good. Catholics skilled in public affairs and adequately enlightened in faith and Christian doctrine should not refuse to administer public affairs since by doing this in a worthy manner they can both further the common good and at the same time prepare the way for the Gospel. 50 years ago, the Council Fathers began the encouragement of the laity’s involvement in the public square, telling us that this is our call to service of Christ and His church.   In this Year of Faith, let us prayerfully study our faith, renew our baptismal commitment and be salt of the earth.

 

 

 

More on Year of Faith:  http://www.vatican.va/special/annus_fidei/index_en.htm

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/year-of-faith/

http://www.dioceseoftyler.org/newsletter.php?id=4

 

 

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Eccle 3:1)  Please enjoy our newsletter for the third quarter of 2012:

beauty in the convent rose garden

I have discovered that the saying ‘lazy days of summer’ does not apply to a nascent religious community!  Our Lord has been lovingly generous to us in providing opportunities to serve Him and His Holy Church during this third quarter of the Year of Grace 2012.  In August we began celebrating a monthly Mass for priests who have ordination anniversaries or birthdays in that particular month.  (See here for the remainder of the newsletter: http://www.daughtersofdivinehope.org/sept2012newsletter.pdf )

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1, RSV)

All that we are and have comes from God; our very being, our intellect, our will, our abilities, all that we possess comes from God – the resources and talents necessary to make the things in our lives are His.  Our relationship to God and His creation should be one of great gratitude.  It is a matter of justice that we give to God grateful hearts and acts that show our gratitude.  Our freedom is one of those gifts from God.  Gratitude for that gift demands of us that we stand fast and fight to stay in freedom, to hold on to this precious gift from God.  To not stand fast, to not demand this freedom be honored and respected, is to be ungrateful to the Creator of this gift and is a willful submission to the yoke of slavery created by a civil authority.

Gratitude also asks of us that we be people of hope; for gratefulness is not angry, frustrated, sorrowful, or despairing.  Gratitude is joyful, light-filled, positive, confident, trusting, enduring and courageous.  Next week begins early voting.  Let us exercise our right and duty to vote with hearts full of gratitude for what the Lord has provided for us in this nation.  Let us decide that these weeks will be a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving for our nation.  Consider fasting from political news and ads during this time and enjoy the resulting peace with family and friends.  Pray for the voters that they may have the courage to vote in accord with a well-formed conscience and consider giving alms those nonprofits and charities that have filed law suits against the HHS mandate.

Gratitude to our most generous and loving God will give us the grace to be people of hope and courage; and will give us the grace of fortitude to resist the yoke of slavery.  God Bless America.

Gloria and praise to our Lord God Almighty!  He has given us one of our own, Very Rev. Msgr. Joseph Strickland, JCL, as our new bishop.  Bishop-elect Strickland generously tells the events of the past two weeks on his blog: http://therunningpriest.blogspot.com/2012/09/it-all-started-with-phone-call.html and more can be found at the Diocese of Tyler website: http://www.dioceseoftyler.org/

Bishop-elect Joseph E. Strickland, JCL and the Holy Father Benedict XVI

We give reverent and joyous thanks to our Lord for this gift to our diocese, to Holy Mother Church, to East Texas and to the Daughters of Divine Hope.  Our merciful Lord, in his Divine Providence, has chosen and called forth a faithful servant who was present when Bishop Corrada first articulated the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that lead to the formation of the Daughters of Divine Hope.

In the early years of his priesthood, Bishop-elect Strickland was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Nacogdoches, TX, which was my home before the establishment of the Daughters of Divine Hope.  Our paths crossed in various diocesan ministry activities through the years.  In the spring of 2008, he was present at the luncheon with Rev. Gavin Vaverek, Bishop Corrada and I when Bishop Corrada asked, “Have you ever considered being a foundress?”  This question, an echo of “Do you love me?”, brought us to the formation of this nascent community.  Bishop-elect Strickland has continued from that day to be a part of the discernment and formation process.  He knows who we are and what our gracious Lord has entrusted to our care. We ‘walk in faith’ and continue on the path laid before us.

We pray that Bishop-elect Joseph Strickland will abide in deep joy, confident in the graces of ordination and our Lord’s mercy, and will be blessed with courage, strength, wisdom and right judgment.  We pray that as he becomes our shepherd and receives the authority as a successor of the Apostles to teach, to govern and to sanctify, we will be a humble and faithful flock, offering our gifts in working with him to build the Kingdom of God.

Bishop-elect Joseph Strickland

All honor, glory and praise to our God for His faithful care of His people.

In Christ our Hope,

Mother Susan Catherine

30 September 2012

26th Sunday Ordinary Time

“ …but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:20b-21)

Today we are in somber remembrance of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  Our hearts are heavy with sorrow for those who died on this day and in the subsequent war and also for those who mourn them.  But with this sorrow is also the ever-present hope of freedom, the everlasting freedom promised in the love of God and encapsulated in a patriotism that calls each person to sacrificial courage in the defense of freedom.  Our very actions give testimony to this desire for freedom, sought for in hope and defended in courage: on the day after this tragic event, we as a nation came together in prayer – even the leaders who would now want to restrict religious liberty, gathered to pray on that day.  President George W. Bush’s Proclamation declaring Patriot’s Day, speaks of a nation of prayer:

Patriot Day, 2002

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

On this first observance of Patriot Day, we remember and honor those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We will not forget the events of that terrible morning nor will we forget how Americans responded in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania — with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope. We will always remember our collective obligation to ensure that justice is done, that freedom prevails, and that the principles upon which our Nation was founded endure.

Inspired by the heroic sacrifices of our firefighters, rescue and law enforcement personnel, military service members, and other citizens, our Nation found unity, focus, and strength. We found healing in the national outpouring of compassion for those lost, as tens of millions of Americans participated in moments of silence, candlelight vigils, and religious services. From the tragedy of September 11 emerged a stronger Nation, renewed by a spirit of national pride and a true love of country.

We are a people dedicated to the triumph freedom and democracy over evil and tyranny.

(The full text of the proclamation can be found at  http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/blpatriotsday.htm )

In our national history, we see a continuum of the profound understanding of the providence of God, the source of our freedom, and the duty of the citizen to courageously defend this freedom.  The 56 patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence all made the solemn declaration “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President, stated: ” All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ results in the purest patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best teaching of citizenship. Those who manage the affairs of government are by this means reminded that the law of God demands that they should be courageously true to the interests of the people, and that the Ruler of the universe will require of them a strict accounting of their stewardship. “(from The Purest Patriotism)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his 1939 State of the Union address said: “Storms from abroad directly challenge three institutions indispensable to Americans, now as always.  The first is religion.  It is the source of the other two – democracy and international good faith.

Religion, by teaching man his relationship to God, gives the individual a sense of his own dignity and teaches him to respect himself by respecting his neighbors.

Democracy, the practice of self-government, is a covenant among free men to respect the rights and liberties of their fellows.

International good faith, a sister of democracy, springs from the will of civilized nations of men to respect the rights and liberties of other nations of men.

In a modern civilization, all three – religion, democracy and international good faith – complement and support each other.

Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from sources opposed to democracy.  Where democracy has been overthrown, the spirit of free religion has disappeared.  And where religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force.

There comes a time in the affairs of men when they must prepare to defend, not their homes alone, but the tenets if faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments and their very civilization are founded.  The defense of religion, of democracy and of good faith among nations is all the same fight.  To save one we must now make up our minds to save them all.”

Courage and fortitude come from the same virtue of charity. Charity is the love in God and of God that transcends all human selfishness and calls us to give our lives to a purpose greater than ourselves.  On this day we remember the innocent lives taken in an assault on freedom.  And we give them honor by pledging our sacred duty to defend this freedom, including the free exercise of religion, sustained at such a high cost throughout the history of our nation.

God bless America. Amen.

 

Edith Stein, known now as St. Teresa Benedicata of the Cross, died at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.  She was a Jew, who converted to Catholicism and then became a Carmelite nun.  She was a brilliant philosopher and promoter of women’s issues of the time.  She tells in her diaries, that her awakening to Christianity came about in this way: While she was an assistant of Professor Edmund Husserl at Gottingen University, she went into Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. “This was something totally new to me.  In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited, people simply went to the services.  Here however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation.  It was something I never forgot.”  From her we can see the power of simply living our faith in the daily circumstances of our lives; acknowledging that God is present and due our gratitude and praise.

Eventually she did convert to Catholicism and after a length of time teaching, she was allowed to enter the Carmelite order.  In 1938, when the Nazis began their persecution of the Jews and those of Jewish descent, she was smuggled across the border into Netherlands to the Carmelite Convent in Echt.  On August 2, 1942 she was arrested by the Gestapo and along with her sister Rosa (a convert and nun) and other Jewish Christians were transported to a transit camp at Amersfoort.  This was an act of retaliation against the letter of protest written by the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of the Jews.  Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: “Come, we are going for our people.”  She and her sister Rosa died at Auschwitz 7 days later.   How much are we willing to give to stand up against injustice and oppression?

In 1938, the year of her perpetual vows, she wrote: “I understood the cross as the destiny of God’s people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody’s behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery.”

Edith Stein is a model for us today.  She shows us how to stand for human life, how to stand for truth, how Christians are to embrace the Cross of Christ as a witness to love and how to live courageously in a time when a political regime tried to remove the religious freedom from the individual.  St. Teresa Benedicata of the Cross is a testament to fortitude for freedom; the freedom that is given to all human persons by our Creator.

More about St. Teresa Benedicata of the Cross can be found at:

http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_19981011_edith_stein_en.html