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The OP after our names stands for “Order of Preachers,” the formal name of the religious order founded in 1216 by St. Dominic. As Dominicans, we preach with our lives—in both word and deed—guided by a search for truth (veritas) and a commitment to contemplate and share the fruits of our contemplation (contemplate et aliis tradere).
Our Dominican lives are shaped by the interconnecting movements of study, prayer, communal life, and ministry.
Dominic so firmly believed in the importance of study to the preaching mission that he provided a rule of “dispensation” from other responsibilities in the event they interfered with study. We are women committed to study. Through prayer and contemplation we interiorize our learnings and enter into communion with the Source of all truth. Our communal life orients us to the common good of the whole Earth community. And in ministry, our preaching takes effect.
As women of the Gospel, our preaching is also expressed in word. Read reflections on the Word of God posted by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates on the Praedicare Blog below.
December 26, 2021
1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28
The Feast of the Holy Family is an essential part of the Christmas Season. It makes clear that the Incarnation means not just that the Divine Word assumed a human body, but entered into every aspect of human life.
Today we hear the stories of the awakening of two prophetic leaders to their Divine Call.
The first reading recounts an old story of Samuel, the prophetic leader who anointed David as king. The Old Testament story is a legend that serves as an introduction to a collection of historical traditions in which Samuel plays a key role. Well, one of the interesting things is that in Jewish tradition – not the Bible, but in Jewish tradition – the boy Samuel was 12 years old when he went into the tabernacle and was called by God, heard the voice of God, and began to prophesy.
What some scholars have suggested is that one of the reasons Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old is because he wants to reveal to us that Jesus, likewise, is coming into his own and into his role as priest and prophet and king. What Luke offers is a glimpse of Jesus beginning to make the break from his family life in order to commit himself more closely to God. Jesus is bringing to light his divine vocation. He has found his voice and taken his place. That voice and place is “in his father’s house.”
The setup for Jesus’ coming out and entrance into the religious community is a family trip. On this particular trip, the twelve-year-old and his parents became separated. Since children in ancient times transitioned into adulthood around the age of thirteen, the disappearance of Jesus may not have been all that traumatic, young as he was. It would have been typical for a twelve-year-old boy, who was coming of age, to be with the men of the group, rather than his parents. It would have been natural for Mary and Joseph to believe that he was with relatives or friends elsewhere in the caravan returning home. Entire villages were known to make the pilgrimage together.
When the Mary and Joseph finally realized he was not in the caravan, they went back in haste to Jerusalem, and after three days, were astonished to find Jesus in the midst of the temple rabbis. When Mary speaks to him, there is great distress in her voice: “Son, why Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."
Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary struggles to make sense of her young son’s response and just as she pondered in her heart the inspired events of Bethlehem, Mary chooses to keep these temple events in her heart as well. In this, we recognize the ongoing fidelity of Mary, as she came to accept and identify with the response of her Son, as the first of all his disciples. She begins to know the ‘sword’ Simeon foretold would ‘pierce her soul.’
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. Is this story the reason for the feast? Or is it that Joseph, Mary and Jesus each possessed a unique identity, but together they experienced God’s eruption into their lives? Opening their hearts to God interrupted and changed the course of their lives radically. Mary became a contemplative at heart. Joseph became deeply attuned to the silence within. And Jesus incarnated the presence of the compassionate God-with-us.
Jesus fully enters into the human experience, with all its peaks and valleys. And a part of that human experience, with more than its share of peaks and valleys, is family. The Gospel story ends with these words: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God.” Jesus discerned, understood and embraced his divine vocation as he lived each day with his family.
St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians reminds us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Pope Francis wrote in Gaudete Et Exsultate, “The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts. Like Jesus, how many of us discerned our own path in life and the most personal gifts that God has placed in our hearts in the environment of family?
So on this day, I invite you to pause and think about the “Holy” families that have been an integral and precious part of your life. For me this list includes my Family of Birth, my Family of Faith, my Family of Choice, the Adrian Dominican Congregation, my Family of Dominic, my Multi-cultural Family in our world, and my Family of Earth. I also include the families of friendship and support that were part of my life during my many years in ministry.
In each of these precious families, I discovered and grew in my unique identity and call in life as God’s chosen one, holy and beloved.
In these families, God was and continues to be revealed to me through the heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness of my parents; my siblings; you, my religious sisters; my friends and co-ministers; the people of other nations, especially South Africa; and my family of Sacred Earth. I am also thankful for the times and ways I offered these same gifts to those in each of my families.
So on this day I invite you to reflect on the list of “holy” families you have come to treasure in your life. Give thanks and praise for the many ways God was revealed to you in each family and for the many ways you revealed God to them. Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and our Holy Families. Let us rejoice and be glad.
December 25, 2021
Good Morning and Happy Christmas Day!
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” These are the opening words of today’s Gospel and the opening words of the Gospel according to John. Scripture scholars indicate that the author was probably embellishing an old liturgical hymn of the day in order to awaken us to something new: that God, the Creator, from the beginning, was becoming one with humanity.
John continues, “What came to be was life and this life was the light of the human race.” Theologian Elizabeth Johnson commented in an interview that this unimaginably gracious Creator God was not confined and that we human persons were the recipients of Christ, the light. And, for me, to think that the Creator chose a woman, Mary, to be a partner in this endeavor is a gift in itself.
We use lights in many different ways. And I propose to you on this Christmas Day: Who is Christ the Light for you? Is your Christ light the one that guides you out of the dark into new insights that enable you to live a life focused on the other, as Jesus learned from the Samaritan woman? Has the Christ light turned on and awakened you to a new appreciation for the other?
Is your Christ light the one that is bright and shiny and multi-colored, that enables you to bring joy in the simplest of ways as Jesus did at the wedding in Cana? Or is your Christ light the more natural one that awakens you in the morning and gently puts you to sleep in the evening? Has this Christ light awakened you to be less stressed and as beautiful and trusting as the birds of the air or the lilies of the field?
Or perhaps your Christ light is like those little emergency lanterns that enable you to bring healing of body, mind or spirit by your listening or reaching out, as Jesus did with the lepers or being with Martha and Mary as they mourned their brother or as he welcomed Zaccheus.
I know that our experiences of Christmas are different with words like nostalgic, heart-warming for some, heart-wrenching for others, joyful or sad, crowded with people – or alone and lonely. But, on this Christmas Day, we are together in this chapel, in these buildings, on our livestream. We are a community unique to this day. We celebrate, as John wrote, that what came to be was life and this life was the light. Let us be true gift-givers this season as each of us shares our unique Christ light with those who most need to see it.
December 24, 2021
Again, a Merry Christmas to each of you! As we gather in the midst of Christmas lights glowing here in Chapel, and hopefully in your homes, we are mindful of the opening verse of tonight’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shone.”
This feels particularly fitting tonight, after a year of so many different kinds of darkness and shadows pervading our lives. Again, as Isaiah promises: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shone.” May this be so as we remember and celebrate the simple birth of Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph. This child, who revealed to all creation that it is truly incarnated with Divine Love and Light, called himself, “the Light of the World.”
Luke’s Gospel tonight also speaks of light: the great light that the shepherds saw while “keeping their flock by night.” Interestingly, Luke adds, “and the shepherds were terrified” by this light, wondering what it could mean, yet decided to follow the light of the Star leading to the stable where the babe lay. Perhaps there are times when we too are fearful when we experience Divine Light shining in our and through our lives. We wonder, what does this light mean for me?
As we lean into the Light, we discover that we can trust it and live by its light providing guidance and inspiration. Sometimes we see this light shining in others. Other times it shines through us and others can see by our light. We become, like the child of Bethlehem, humble light-bearers in times of darkness and joy.
Christmas is a time of many lights, and has many specific cultural expressions across the world. For example, I remember being in the Philippines during Advent a few years ago the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, was filled with colorful lighted “lanterns”; there were neighborhood and regional competitions for the most beautiful lantern displays.
Jesus identified himself as “the Light of the World.” How we hope that this “light of the world’ continues to shine in and around our fractured world. Tonight we are mindful of so many who are spending Christmas in the midst of grieving loved ones who died due to the global coronavirus pandemic. We remember that last year at this time we were just beginning to experience the deluge of COVID-19 cases that took place right here on our own campus. We continue grieving the ongoing consequences of a devastating, disturbing, disrupted democracy in our nation as we approach the first year anniversary of the insurrection in Washington, DC.
So people may rightly ask, where is the Light of the World in the midst of such political and physical violence? Where is the Divine Light of the World in the midst of ongoing racial, gun and immigration violence?
I submit my friends that the Light of the World shows up and shines in and through people like you; people who are unknown and unseen, yet care about the well-being of others. People who are humble, vulnerable, ordinary folks like our families and ourselves. Anyone who has the quiet courage to be a beacon of light as they care for others in need, like the frontline medical personnel. Truly, they are at the forefront of our shining lights. Plus the teachers who work so diligently to keep a love of learning alive among our children. They are our beacons of light and hope for so many of us.
Indeed, our world is filled with ordinary light-bearers and at times like Christmas, we celebrate and honor their many gifts of light. This is what Christmas, the birth of Divinity as human child, has done for us: It makes all of us into lights for the world. We are each to give birth to the Divine Light that is uniquely ours to radiate.
As I conclude tonight, I want to mention two symbols that are glimmering light here in Chapel tonight. The first, behind me on my right, is the stunning panel of green and purple hues that our dear INAI artists, Sisters Barbara Chenicek and Rita Schlitz created for St. Patrick parish near Dallas, Texas many years ago. That church has since been dismantled and we now have some of the beautiful panels that Barb and Rita designed and sewed – along with the prayers and stitches of those parishioners. Tonight this beautiful panel shimmers its light for all of us to see and appreciate on this beautiful feast.
The other symbol is behind me on my left: the simple, unadorned Christmas tree with its host of tiny white lights providing a warm mantle light. As I looked at it early this week, its flickering lights reminded me of the 213 sisters whose lights have gone out on Earth over these past 5 ½ years since our team took office; yet they remain shimmering as light-bearers, providing light, wisdom and guidance to those of us who remain behind. Their lights, along with the lights of all of our beloved Sisters who have gone before us, continue to provide light to all of us. Despite death, their inner, divine light did not go out. Rather, they are now like the stars in night sky – pouring forth their light upon all of us and cheering our weary world onward!
We give thanks to these light-bearers for their star-studded lives, and for their faithful following of the babe of Bethlehem, the Light of the Christ. On this Christmas 2021, let us rejoice in the ongoing birth of Divine Light in our midst. May we each radiate a ray of light that shines uniquely through us, and rejoice as we say, O Come, Light of the World!
April 4, 2021
Acts 10: 34a, 37-43
Corinthians 5: 6b-8
John 20: 1-10
Here we are on this glorious Easter morning! And yet the Gospel passage the Church gives us for reflection today is, well, not quite so glorious.
It is not one of the scenes of the risen Christ, like the passage that immediately follows where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalen as a gardener whom she recognizes as soon as he calls her by name. Or the passage after that when Jesus appears that evening to the disciples, entering the locked house where they hide in fear, showing them his wounds and breathing the Holy Spirit on them. Or the passage after that when, a week later, Jesus appears to the doubting Thomas and blesses those who have not seen yet come to believe.
No, this passage holds no such beloved familiar scenes, no such epiphanies. This passage leaves us suspended – perplexed, in confusion, not knowing.
Something significant has happened: The stone on the tomb has been rolled away. The linen cloths that were wrapped around Jesus’ body, with a mixture of myrrh and aloes that weighed about a hundred pounds, are lying in one pile. The cloth that had been wrapped around his head was rolled up in a place by itself. The new unused tomb was once again empty. The body gone.
The disciples did not understand and returned home. And we know from the next passage that Mary Magdalene remained standing outside the tomb, weeping.
Is this not where we so often find ourselves? Knowing that something significant has happened but not yet able to make sense of it? Not yet knowing what it means or what comes next?
Is this not where we are right now with the coronavirus pandemic? It feels like we have reached a threshold moment, with so many of us vaccinated. Yet rising cases with new fast-spreading variants are keeping us suspended, still apart from one another. No fullness of new life just yet. There is still great weeping in the land.
As I reflect on this passage, I realize that one of the things it does allow is for us to linger a bit longer in the reality, the crushing reality of the immense suffering that our ancestors in the faith – Mary, Peter, John and other very real women and men – were experiencing on this day, some 2000 years ago. As a people living under the yoke of a terrible oppression, with its daily indignities and constant threat of violence, one of their own was hung from a tree.
And this one among them, Jesus, had given them hope for a new order where hatred, deception and fear would give way to a radical freedom and love that he himself preached and lived. This one among them, Jesus, preached a powerful liberating spirituality, as Black mystic Howard Thurman, PhD, wrote in his prophetic book, Jesus and the Disinherited.1
What do you preach to a people in a world where you are despised – as the occupying Romans despised the Jews, as white segregationists and supremacists despised Black people and other people of color – to this day? In Jesus, Dr. Thurman writes, we discover someone who issues a profound call to each and every one of us to live out of our “inward center” – out of the depths of our heart and soul – as he himself did. This profound liberation of heart and soul leads to an inner freedom, the kind the world witnessed in Nelson Mandela, when he walked out of prison “in graceful triumph”2 after 27 years of incarceration.
As we rightly celebrate the great joy of this day of new life, let us also accept the invitation to linger long enough by the tomb to remember how Jesus lived this new life, during his life, as one among the disinherited. Jesus calls us all to fulfill our own high destiny through a liberating spirituality of dedication and discipline, practiced daily in our current reality, living out of the inward center of our hearts and souls where we are all one in the Spirit.3
And for the gift of this new life, we give great thanks and sing, alleluia, alleluia!
1 See Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996).
2 Vincent Harding, Foreword, Jesus and the Disinherited, xvi.
3 Thurman, 99.
April 3, 2021
As we hear the words from Mark’s Gospel, we find ourselves walking along with Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, as they approach the tomb where Jesus is buried. It is dawn, with the new day’s light breaking around them. They have just spent the Sabbath in darkness and anguish. They were present at the foot of the cross and witnessed the soldiers putting the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, crucifying him, their loved one. They saw his side sliced open with a sword and witnessed the taking of his body off the cross and being laid in the tomb they were approaching now. They had to wait until the Sabbath was over before they could come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with the aromatic spices they carefully carried with them, as was the Jewish custom.
We can hear them discussing their concern about how they will get into the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for they know it was sealed closed by a huge stone set in front of it. With heavy hearts they discuss, “Who will roll the stone away for us?” Their hearts are heavy with grief and powerlessness at not being able to stop the brutal crucifixion of their loved one. No doubt, they worry about what will become of their vulnerable, remnant community without the Teacher being with them. However, they cannot speak of that right now. Instead, they worry about who will roll away the stone for them so they can lovingly anoint the body of their loved one.
The question, “Who will roll away the stone for us so we can enter into the space where Jesus is present?” resonates within each of us. Who will roll away the stones that allow us to be reunited with our loved ones in the midst of a year-long pandemic? Who will roll away the stones of grief and isolation at not being able to have been present and at the side of loved ones as they died – and were buried without us and other family and friends to grieve them properly during this past year?
Our hearts ache at the stones that continue to block our doors to receiving dear friends, family and favored guests. We anticipate the days when we can once again enter the doorways of our friends and loved ones freely, without any stones blocking our ability to eat together and touch those we love.
Mark’s Gospel does not tell us who removed the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb; that is no longer important because the stone is no longer blocking contact with the Beloved. Stunned, the women enter the tomb, and are astonished, as they no longer encounter death. Rather, an angel sitting there tells them that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. In addition, he tells them, “Do not be amazed.” Really? Don’t be amazed at Jesus not being dead and lying in the tomb? One can almost hear the small glimmer of hope awakening in them. The words of the angel are strong and clear: “He has been raised; he is not here. Go and tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you on his way to Galilee.”
Dare they believe this? Dare they believe that suffering, rejection, even death are not the last word? Dare they believe in the transformative power of God to raise up new life even out of death? Dare they believe in a new trajectory, a new pathway in the mystery of evolutionary time, that life transforms and continues, even after death?
So the women set forth in amazement – and puzzlement – to tell the others that they have just experienced a new awakening, a new surge of hope. Their joy and belief deepens as they tell the other disciples of their experience, “the teacher now lives and goes before us into Galilee. We can catch up with him there."
The Risen One goes before us too. We can travel with the Resurrected One as we go into the many Galilees of our daily lives. The Risen One stirs our imaginations and awakens us to the transformative changes lying before us, individually and as a community.
In our beautifully resilient, yet fractured and broken world, we are drawn towards becoming women and men awakened to resilient hope, compassionate truth telling and transformative action. Called to join with all our sisters and brothers of good will who are also awakening to a new consciousness, we commit to remove the stones and boulders that block access God’s ways within our church and society. We particularly commit to removing the stones that block the fullness of life for all, especially the stones of racism and white privilege that are deeply buried within our institutions.
We go forth filled with hope and joy, and perhaps a little trepidation, as did Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome. May Easter joy ignite our creative fires of love and inclusion and burn through any stones that block our joy in the experience of abundant life of divine presence – and spring – rising in our midst!
April 2, 2021
Good Friday is the best love story we can ever imagine.
Love is total self-giving.
And Jesus showed us the perfect example.
He gave himself up for us: “There is no greater love than for one to lay down their life for another.”
Pope Francis, during his very first general audience said, "Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life. This is love extravagant.”
Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Passion and the Cross, uses the image of a prism as he reflects on Jesus’ death on the cross. “If light is shone through a prism, the prism refracts the light, literally breaking it up so that we see inside it. And the result is exquisite.”
The cross we adore today is a prism that refracts the breadth and depth of God’s love. We see right into the heart of God, and what we see, like the colors in a rainbow, is stunning and spectacularly beautiful. We see and learn who God really is, a God of unconditional love.
The mystery of the Passion of Christ is the mystery of God’s power and love transforming evil to good; darkness to light; despair and disbelief to hope and faith; and hatred to love.
May the the cross we reflect on today be a prism that sees right into our very being, that helps us refract the spectacularly beautiful and unconditional love of God to those who suffer from racism, discrimination of any kind, poverty, climate change, COVID-19, despair, and political divisions.
We are a living prisms of God’s love. Through our words, actions, and our very being, God’s love is made visible in our world.
Through our lives may we reflect the colors of the rainbow of God’s love and color the world beautiful.
Good Friday is truly the best love story we can ever imagine.
April 1, 2021
The Gospels and letters of St. Paul are narratives of the life of Jesus and the life of disciples accompanying Jesus, learning what commitment to Him and his mission meant. This evening we enter into the narrative of the Last Supper as written by John. We remember how Jesus poured water over the disciple’s feet — pours water over our feet. Today that water has changed into tears. Today we look to our world asking us to embrace its pain, a pain of loss and suffering.
In the play Hamilton written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miranda sings, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” This evening let us enter a contemporary story of the Last Supper written by Madeline to her friend Taylor while at the border in 2021 with thousands of immigrant children. It is a story of love and friendship that has no boundaries nor borders. It is our faith in the Eucharist.
This is my last day of volunteering at the border. There’s always a last time isn’t there? You and I never were good at saying good-bye, were we? Especially our last year in college. Our calendars were filled with a lot of last times! The day I left for the border I remember you saying, “Here you go again… your idealistic self, part delusional and part a fool for Christ’s sake. You always wanted to do more with your life, restless adventurer that you are. While I am quite content to live my uneventful rather limited life.”
I suppose you are right Taylor, but our friendship has been strong and true all these years. So let me tell you the story of my days here with the immigrant children.
Most of my days were filled with welcoming hundreds upon hundreds of children and washing their rough yet sweet touch of blistered, sweaty feet having walked the terrain of this earth for many miles. The faces of those children have left their imprint on my heart. Activities can vary day to day as we comfort some, play games with others, and help the social workers do an intake on each child. At night we bend over cot after cot tucking each child into their small space. This is my last night to do that and I wonder, how will I remember the life lessons I learned as I walked, worked, laughed, and cried with God’s little ones.
Now we sit at a very long wooden table waiting to eat what is my Last Supper with the children as I leave tomorrow. I cannot take my eyes off of these young faces…
Some staring into space and silent, a few have tears running down their faces, others have eyes wide open but are sightless, lost in their own thoughts. Some are so tired their heads nod up and down. One child leans forward hands cupped under his chin staring at me. Their expressions are all variations of despair.
Our meals are simple. Tonight, we are having bread with butter before the volunteers bring the main plate of food to our table. Juan sitting next to me takes the bread out of the basket, breaks in in two and says, “Here Madeline, take and eat.” Dearest Taylor, the Eucharist, the gift of Christ’s body and blood to us will never be the same for me in the years to come. This is the celebration of the Last Supper.
John Keats wrote, “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections.” Jesus’ affection for the disciples, for you, for me, for these children is made real as I begin to understand those words of Jesus, “Do this in memory of me.” I now understand what the “this” means.
I have learned much from the children. They have shown me what it means to be humble in weakness, to be confident in difficulties, and to accept hardships with love and in a mysterious way they have revealed the face of Jesus to me. I have been able to cross the language barrier, but we know that love and kindness need no language. However, I have been able to use my halting Spanish which has brought peals of laughter at times. So, Taylor, let me end this letter and say,
“Todos tenemos alguien por quien llorar. Todos tenemos alguien que recorder”
“Everyone has someone for whom they cry. Everyone has someone who they remember.”
These children, Clari, Yomaris, Joselito, Juan and the many other children are my someone.
Sending you warm greetings and wishing you peace Taylor.
Your friend forever,
March 28, 2021
Good morning. Today begins a week rich in liturgical significance. Participating in the re-enactment of Jesus processing into Jerusalem reminded me of recent pictures of Pope Francis entering into the holy cities of Iraq. People were so happy to see him, as they were so happy to see Jesus. But for Jesus, sentiments changed quickly.
In this long and complete passion narrative, Mark introduces, or reintroduces, us to a number of people: the woman anointing Jesus, the guests at the Passover celebration, the Garden of Gethsemane and those who fell asleep or the one who betrayed Jesus, or the young man who ran away without his clothes, Peter’s denial, Simon the Cyrene, the trial with Pilate and the Sanhedrin members, the crowds who chose Barabbas, the soldiers under the cross, Jesus seemingly abandoned on the cross, Jesus’ mother, the faithful women and Joseph of Aramathea.
In this strange year, at this beginning of Holy Week, with which of these people do you identify? May your answer be an opportunity for graced reflection during these next few days.
Written by Sister Attracta Kelly, OP
Proclaimed by Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP
Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh go léir! Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!
And happy feast to all the Patrick(s), Patricia(s), the Patty(s), the Pat(s), the Patrice(s) among us.
I cannot think of any other national patron saint whose day is celebrated so widely or might I even say so wildly as that of St. Patrick.
As you are probably aware Patrick, at about age 16, was kidnapped – today we would say trafficked – into slavery by Irish raiders and brought to Ireland where he lived as a slave, by himself, on a mountain, in County Antrim looking after sheep – no one to talk to, no one to care about him, far away from home.
During this past year as I’ve reflected on the effect COVID has had on all of us, some more confined, more isolated than others. I’ve thought quite a bit about Patrick, except for Patrick there was no Task Force, no secret Santas, no letters, no parodies, no visiting, no TV, no phone calls, no entertainment, no Fireside Chat! And his isolation lasted six years!
So how did Patrick survive? Patrick, I believe, survived after a great period of alone-ness by finding God in creation around him. It took some time. Maybe it was in the sheep or the lambs or the sheep dog, or the bright starry night, or the morning sun, or eventually in the barren mountains, or the awesome beauty of the coastline, or the turning of the seasons. For whatever reason, Patrick learned to treasure the beauty of the land and all its creatures, and realize that God was very near. And then for Patrick, nature became the sacrament of God’s presence.
After six years, Patrick was able to escape back to his home in Britain. In his writings he tells us that a voice he believed to be from God, told him to leave Ireland. After his return to Britain another revelation told him to return to Ireland as a missionary.
Patrick tries his best to plead his way out of that call just like Peter in today’s reading pleads: “Depart from me for I am a sinner.” Patrick pleads: “I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful.” And just as Jesus assures Peter that he will indeed be able to respond to God’s call, Patrick is assured in a similar way. After some years of training, Patrick returns to Ireland to, as we prayed in our Responsorial Psalm, “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds” to the Irish people.
So we might wonder how was Patrick able to proclaim the good news so successfully? Ireland, as Patrick had learned from his time as a slave, had a strong belief in many kinds of gods. Celtic peoples worshipped the sun with shrines. In the Celtic religion wells and rivers were associated with goddesses.
Patrick tapped into these beliefs and, using those Celtic symbols, taught the people about God. Patrick’s great shrine at Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, which is a great place of pilgrimage to this day, had previously been a shrine to Lugh, the god of the sun.
The Celtic lighting of the Spring-fire on the Hill of Tara always performed by the Ard-Ri (the High King), became with Patrick the lighting of the Easter fire of Holy Saturday. (Easter was always celebrated in Ireland on the first day of Spring from the time of Patrick until the Synod of Whitby in 665 decided Ireland needed to be more Roman).
Patrick honored the culture of the people, and helped them to see God in all people, in all creatures, in all Creation.
The shamrock was the sacred plant of the Celts and legend (some say it is true) tells us Patrick used it to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Patrick baptized people in the holy wells, and there are many holy wells named after Patrick in Ireland today. Patrick superimposed a sun, a very important symbol in Celtic culture, on the Christian cross, creating what we now know as the Celtic cross.
In our reading today, Peter tells us: “Let your love for one another be intense … Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another.”
Clearly Patrick’s love for the people of Ireland was intense. How else could he have the courage to return to the land where he had been a slave to bring the Mission of Christ to a people who had enslaved him?
From the moment Patrick arose in the morning, he dedicated himself to the Holy One. And from that place of energy and belief he prayed that Christ would be his identity throughout the day: Christ above me, Christ below me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left.
Patrick also clearly shows us that not only is God known through people, but God is also known through all of Creation. Patrick delights in all Creation around him: The starlit sky, the sun’s brightness, the moon, the power of lightening, the massive sea, the rocks, the singing of the birds and bleating of the sheep …
Patrick prays that God’s voice is there in all: in the heart of everyone who thinks of us, the voice of everyone who speaks of us, in every eye that sees us, in every ear that hears us.
So for all of us, on this feast of St. Patrick, no matter our ancestry, let us pray for each other so that, like Patrick, we may recognize in our lives the presence, the power and the light of Christ. May we realize we are never alone, for Christ is always with us.
“And so for all of us, until we meet again, may our God hold each one of us in the palm of God’s hand!”
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
In this Second Sunday in Lent as we make our journey toward the Passion of Christ, we, along with three of the disciples, climb Mount Tabor and are given a glimpse, a foreshadowing, of the Resurrected Christ – a dazzling vision of Jesus transfigured.
The disciples are awestruck, terrified and confused. Probably as each one of us would be in the face of such a startling vision.
On either side of Jesus are two significant figures in God’s journey with the Jewish people: Moses, who led his enslaved people to freedom and received the Commandments; and Elijah, a revered prophet whose return foretold the coming of the Messiah. As Peter speaks of constructing a tent for each of them, a cloud descends, obscuring the dazzling vision and a voice declares, “This is my beloved son, listen to him!”
Only Jesus emerges when the cloud lifts. The mystical moment gone.
As they climb down the mountain, the disciples know that something extraordinary has just happened but Jesus orders them to say nothing about it, until “the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” And that language, about rising from the dead, only confuses them further.
Two images come to me as I have been sitting with this passage.
The first is an image of Teilhard de Chardin, writing poignantly in the last year of his life, about having been dazzled by insights on what he came to call Christogenesis and the Divine Milieu and the radiance of love drawing us forward in evolutionary time – toward the Omega.
Teilhard wrote of this “wonderful ‘Diaphany’ [a diaphanous epiphany] that transfigured everything for me.” And he expressed his hope that a “re-born” Christianity would provide the driving force in evolution “through the double power, at last fully understood, of its Cross and Resurrection.” 1
The double power – at last fully understood – of the Cross and Resurrection.
I got a glimpse of that double power through a second image that has been with me. It comes from an old video interview I recently watched of Dr. Howard Thurman. In the interview, Dr. Thurman, a leading 20th century African-American religious leader and mystic who inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others, tells the story of being invited to meet with Mohandas Gandhi in the mid-1930s when he and his wife and two other African-American couples from his church were visiting India. This was at the height of Jim Crow in the United States. 2
When the car in which Dr. Thurman was driven pulled up to Gandhi’s abode – a bungalow tent in a large open field – the Mahatma came out to greet Dr. Thurman. Gandhi’s secretary was astonished. The Mahatma never came out to greet visitors; he waited for them to come greet him.
The next unusual thing was that Gandhi spent the three hours of their meeting asking Dr. Thurman questions. Usually, it was the visitors who asked the Mahatma all the questions. Finally, as the time was drawing to an end, Gandhi apologized for being the one to ask all the questions and invited Dr. Thurman to ask any he might have. Dr. Thurman inquired about nonviolence and nonviolent resistance and they spoke of that for a while.
As the conversation drew to an end, Gandhi said, “Before you go, I want to ask you to do me a favor.” Dr. Thurman said, “Oh, anything.”
“Will you sing a song?” Gandhi said. Dr. Thurman confessed that he didn’t sing, but he would try if he knew the song. He then turned to one of his companions saying she was a musician and could probably do it.
Gandhi said, “It’s one of your own songs.”
Dr. Thurman said, “Which one is it?”
Gandhi said, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
That song, Gandhi said to Thurman, “in essence provides the meeting place where all of human suffering and misery is touched by something that lifts it and redeems it and makes it whole.”
“So, we stood in this bungalow tent in a large field,” Dr. Thurman said, “and we sang this song while Gandhiji and his little group sat in prayer like this [bowing his head with palms in prayer].”
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
“When it was over,” Dr. Thurman said, “there was a long silence, seemed like a thousand years. And then he gave a prayer in his own language and we were readied to go.”
The double power – at last fully understood – of the Cross and Resurrection.
On our Lenten journey toward the Passion of Christ, we are given a glimpse today of the radiance of divine love, ever-present, ever-near, lifting us up out of the deepest anguish, making us whole.
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvJVxsezAwc at 43:00.
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