In this week between Thanksgiving and Advent, I thought I would share with you part of a Thanksgiving reflection given by our Sister Maria Goretti Browne, OP, that focuses on the sometimes hard work of practicing gratitude. Suffering is an unavoidable part of life and at times we need to lament and share our grief with others and with God. By embracing suffering in this way we can grow in our ability to love life unconditionally.
Sometimes, however, we may choose to intensify the difficulties of life by incessant complaining, stirring up resentments, nursing grudges and basically being a walking wet blanket. There is another more healthy option: gratitude. Research tells us that if we learn how to appreciate life in all its dimensions, we will feel better, be less prone to stress and sickness, sleep better, and live longer and healthier lives.
Sister Maria Goretti challenges us to give thanks in all circumstances of life. She recounts a rather extreme response of giving gratitude in the unbearable circumstances of war. She writes:
I read one time that during the war in Southeast Asia, there was a young Vietnamese boy who would sing as he worked in the rice fields, even as the bombs burst all around him. He explained that he could not stop the war, but he could keep the fear of death from overtaking his heart; he had to fight to be peaceful and happy inside while the horror and sadness of war swirled around him.
Maybe gratitude is an attitude. Most of us take very good care of our bodies, even try to walk – what is it – 10,000 steps? We practice each day, and eventually we will get to the 10,000 number. How about us practicing gratitude – Each day being more grateful than the day before, being more and more conscious of the blessings in our lives. Just look around. Thank God for our vocation, be it religious life, or married life, or single life; we are blessed with wonderful spouses or companions, wonderful co-workers, blessed with beautiful families, blessed with talents too many to enumerate, blessed with the ability to spread God’s love. Everywhere we look we see where we can spread that love and gratitude.
We know the account in Scripture of the three young men who were thrown into a fiery furnace. What’s the first thing they did? They broke into a song of praise and thanksgiving for all that God had made. Theirs was such an attitude of gratitude that their suffering was secondary. They danced among the flames unharmed (Daniel 3).
What about us? Do we find ways to give thanks to God in all circumstances?
The unexpected voice of Advent has the power to set people on a wondrous path of new life. Advent tells the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who are childless in their old age but give birth to a son, John, because God fulfills impossible dreams. Mary hears the angel’s voice, “Do not be afraid, O highly favored daughter, you will give birth to the Savior.” She responds wholeheartedly, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” And in a dream the unexpected voice of an angel consoles the brokenhearted Joseph, encouraging him to change his plans and take Mary as his wife. They give birth to a son and they name him “Emmanuel,” meaning God is with us. All of these Advent figures listened and trusted the unexpected voice of God. As a result, their lives, and ours, have been transformed in miraculous ways.
This unexpected voice of God still speaks today in the story of Ted Shawn, a young divinity student who was suddenly stricken with polio. From somewhere deep within him came a most unlikely voice calling him to, of all things, dance. So, with great difficulty, he quit divinity school and began to dance, and slowly and miraculously, he not only regained the use of his legs, but went on to become one of the fathers of modern dance.
This Advent recall a time in your own life when the unexpected voice of God came to you, perhaps in a time of great vulnerability, and showed you the way to new life and happiness. Give thanks to God and ask yourself: Am I still listening?
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Katherine Frazier, Adrian Dominican Sisters Candidate.
When a very pregnant Mary and Joseph set out on a journey to Bethlehem, they did not know what the journey would hold for them. Taking a journey implies transformation. Not only is there the physical change of being in a new place, but there is also the spiritual changes that take place when we meet new people and see new places. Mary and Joseph were transformed by their journey, as they became a family with a newborn son. Taking a journey also means taking a leap of faith, in allowing ourselves to be open to whatever the journey brings us, no matter how surprising. For Mary and Joseph, they had to take a leap of faith that they and their expected child would be cared for once they arrived in Bethlehem.
This story of Mary and Joseph speaks deeply to my own process of discernment. Certainly, my discernment has taken me to new places, where I have been able to meet many new people. However, more importantly, I am finding that this journey is challenging me to think in new ways, whether in learning how to be a better community member or pondering how God is active in my life. And there is a leap of faith to the discernment process once we embrace our decision, even if the consequences are surprising. Finally, I come back to the fact that Mary was pregnant with the Word of God as she traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem. As a woman discerning a vocation with the Order of Preachers, I see in this image an example of my calling to carry the Word of God to the world, and the image gives me hope that my vocation can be carried out in ways that I have not yet imagined.
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Sister Dot Dempsey, OP, in Chicago. Sister Dot serves on our Vocation Outreach Awareness Team.
So much is happening as we celebrate St. Andrew the Apostle, this 1st Week of Advent and at the beginning of the Dominican Family’s 800th Jubilee! So much to think about, celebrate and thank God for.
Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “come after me.” We too have been called to the Order of Preachers. The motto for our 800th Jubilee is “Go and Preach.” Jesus sent the Apostles and we too were sent by Saint Dominic to find new ways of preaching.
As we begin this liturgical year, in this jubilee year, we invite you to “come and see”, to share the joy in following Jesus. We want to open our hearts and open doors, as we praise, bless, and preach the good news.
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Sister Dusty Farnan, OP.
I’m writing this reflection on the eve of Advent. Advent invites us into two important actions: to be alert and to be awake. What does any of this have to do with me or especially those of you who are pondering what path to take in life. Maybe you are wondering like Elizabeth how is it that the “Lord should come to me?"
I think it has a lot to do with you and me. Luke’s Gospel for the Last Sunday in Advent reminds me of when I felt the call from God to pursue religious life. I believe I felt like Elizabeth when Mary visited her. I had just witnessed the beautiful reception of a classmate of mind from high school who had become a Novice in Adrian Dominican Congregation. I was so moved by the ceremony and the giving of total self that my friend had made that it stuck with me for a long time. It was as if Jesus” leaped inside me” in a way I had never experienced before. I became alert and aware that Jesus was calling me to follow him more closely. And so I wrote to the Prioress of the congregation asking for admission. It’s now fifty years later.
Perhaps this advent you might be awakened to God’s voice calling you to a deeper relationship. May Advent awaken you to the God life already dwelling in you as a result of your Baptism. May you become more alert to the prompting of God’s call to you this Christmas season.
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!