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Tiny Retreat #2: Hildegard of Bingen

9 Jul

Hildegard of Bingen: Patron saint of green and growing

Hildegard was only five years old in 1098 when her parents brought her, their tenth child, to the monastery of St. Disibode. A holy woman named Jutta took the little girl in and taught her Latin and music so she could sing the psalms with the monks and nuns. Jutta also taught Hildegard everything she knew about herbal medicine. At age 15, Hildegard decided to follow the Benedictine way and become a nun. When Jutta died, Hildegard became the prioress of the community.

Hildegard was a mystic, a person who experiences extraordinary communion with God. Hildegard wrote down her understandings of God in vivid pictures. Many women were attracted to her teaching about God and came to join her monastery, which grew so large that Hildegard started another monastery near Bingen, a nearby city. She continued to write and teach. Here is one of her poems.

Again I am in turmoil.

Should I speak, or must I be silent?

I feel like a gnarled old tree, withered and crooked and flaky.

All the stories of the years are written on my branches.

The sap is gone, the voice is dead.
 


But I long to make again a sacred sound.

I want to sound out God

I want to be a young juicy, sap-running tree

So that I can sing God as God knows how.
 


O God, you gentle viridity

O Mary, honeycomb of life

O Jesus, hidden in sweetness as flowing honey,

Release my voice again.
 


I have sweetness to share.
I have stories to tell.

I have God to announce.

I have green life to celebrate.

I have rivers of fire to ignite.

Hildegard make up the word viridity. It means greening, the life power of God that is in everything. For Hildegard the Word of God is greening; it has the power to create Christians. A tree growing and branching out is greenness in motion. Love is green. Jesus is greenness incarnate. Sin is not green. Sin is drying up, losing one’s ability to create.

• Read the first two verses of the poem again. When have you felt your sap is gone, your voice dead? What or who helped you know you could sing again?

• Does Hildegard’s way of calling on God, on Mary, on Jesus resonate with you? Can you read the last verse of the poem as your own song?

If Hildegard were alive today, she would sing about God’s work in the unfolding of creation in evolution. “O Holy Spirit” she writes, “you make life alive, you move in all things, you are the root of all created being, you waken and reawaken everything that is.”
 
For her teaching, Pope Benedict named Hildegard a Doctor of the Church. This means she is one of the Catholic Church’s greatest teachers. There are four women Doctors—St. Hildegard, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

• Make a resolution to see the Holy Spirit greening the earth around you. Pray a thanksgiving prayer each day for one beautiful thing you see.

 

 

“I am a feather on the breath of God.”

 

 


 

 

Each of the Cosmos Cards has a fact about one of God’s creative moves and a blessing. These cards are ready to mail as a postcard for someone who needs a regular reminder that God is with him or her. $15 for all 25 cards.

 

 

An Amazing Journey is a discussion guide on the Universe Story. The book features 50 articles by leaders in this field. Click here to view the Table of Contents. Only $20!

Order online at goodgroundpress.com or call 800-232-5533.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

When Joseph didn’t know what to do about his pregnant fiancée, he slept on it. In his dreams, an angel eased his doubt and gave him courage to act. Pray to Joseph today to fill your heart with hope and with the willingness to see God at work where you never imagined.

 Joseph is patron of the Universal Church. Ask him to bless Pope Francis’s efforts to dream a more merciful church into being. The Sisters of St. Joseph share one of their favorite prayers below.

Joseph most ordinary, on this your feast,

help us listen to our dreams with compassion and openness as you did.
Help us stretch, hold, and deepen our relationships.
Open our embrace of the future as you opened
your arms to a child not your own.

In these hard times may we, like you, dream compassionately,
provide wisely, and build community that can hold us together.
We ask this through Jesus, whom you claimed and named. Amen.


Visit our website—goodgroundpress.com—for Lenten reflections and activities.

Gospel Reflection for October 29, 2017, 30th Sunday Ordinary time

25 Oct

Scripture Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40

“Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?”  – Matthew 22.36

Love God and neighbor without distinction. This is the distilled version of the mission of the  Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious community to which I belong. The mission calls us to act—to love and form relationships. It makes love of God inseparable from loving people in our lives—indistinguishable. The words “without distinction” also call us to reach out to people without sorting who we like best or who is worthy but with openness. All are welcome: immigrants, GBLTQ, people in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in vigor.

Our mission originated in 17th-century France, where 90% of the people lived in poverty and famine and plague devastated the country. A Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, worked with a small group of women who experienced God “seizing” them to respond to their neighbors’ needs. They divided the city and began doing all of which they were capable for and with their neighbors.

Actually our mission originates far earlier.  It is Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question in Sunday’s gospel, “What is the greatest commandment?” What is basic is the verb love, a call into relationships and community. In answer, Jesus quotes two commandments long on Israel’s books: Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Seldom have people in our country and our world needed to live these commandments more than now, to make love of neighbor our firm foundation across all that divides us.

Who have you seen exploited? For whom are you feeling compassion? To what work of justice do these experiences call you?


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or request a free sample. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Image 15 Aug

Merry Christmas!

22 Dec

merry-christmas

Jesus makes incarnate the heart of God, full of creative and merciful love that never stops calling us into the communions of family and church. We make a gift to you of the creative work of two of our sisters who taught and inspired us. Blessings on you and yours.


The Ox and the Donkey’s Carol
poem by Sister Alice Smith, CSJ ~art by Sister Madeline Schimanski, CSJ

ox-and-donkey-001The Christ child lay in the ox’s stall
The stars shone great
and the stars shone small,
but one bright star outshone them all.

The cattle stood in the cleanly straw,
and strange to them was the sight they saw.
The ox and donkey watched with awe.

The shepherds ran from the uplands wide,
the sheepbells tinkled, the angels cried
joy to the dreaming countryside.

The three kings bowed at the stable door,
their raiment trailed on the dusty floor.
They saw the sign they had journeyed for.

The kings came last in a lordly throng.
The shepherds ran in the space of a song,
But the beasts had been there all night long.
Noel     Noel     Noel

An April Sonnet

1 Apr

As spring makes its way even into chilly Minnesota, we share this poem written by a favorite teacher at the College of St. Catherine. May you be blessed by the beauty around you.

April Sonnet

Poem by Sister Alice Gustava Smith, CSJ.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

St.-Joseph

Lent encourages us to slow down so we can recognize what drives us and to fast from food and fashion that consumes us. As Sisters of St. Joseph we celebrate the feast of our patron on March 19 and take a break from Lent for festivities. Joseph is also the patron of the universal Church, so March 19 is a feast we can all claim. Joseph gives us an example of an ordinary husband and father who faces extraordinary challenges. Here is a prayer to him.

Joseph, most ordinary, on this your feast,
help us listen to our dreams with compassion and openness as you did.
Help us stretch, hold, and deepen our relationships.
Open our embrace of the future
as you opened your arms to a child not your own.
In these hard times may we, like you,
dream compassionately, provide wisely,
and build community that can hold us together.
We ask this through Jesus, whom you claimed and named.  Amen.

Refugees Are Dear Neighbors

19 Nov

Good Ground Press is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  Our congregation has published the following public statement in regard to Syrian refugees:

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are heartbroken and outraged by the recent violence perpetrated around the world in places like Paris, Beirut, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

As we join the world in grieving those killed and injured in these attacks, we refuse to allow the actions of radical groups to push us to respond with anything but love and mercy. We urge people around the world and their governments to embrace the refugees fleeing violence and hatred and welcome them into the sanctuary of our countries. Syrian refugees, fleeing a brutal civil war, are themselves victims of ISIS.

Certainly, preventing any future attacks is of utmost importance, but refusing the deserving, carefully-vetted Syrian refugees who are in the process of being resettled in the United States is not the answer. These refugees go through multiple layers of interviews and rigorous security checks. These measures ensure that we can both welcome these refugees and ensure our national security.

We were challenged by Pope Francis in his address to Congress on September 24: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. … We must not be taken aback by their numbers but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation in ways that are always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

Our charism calls us to love God and love the Dear Neighbor without distinction. We will not distinguish people by religion, color or creed when they cry out for mercy. Let us all respond to our Dear Neighbors with love in their hour of greatest need.

The sadness of so many killed in the terrorist attacks spreads through families and coworkers and touches us all.  In response to our expression of solidarity with our French colleagues at Bayard-Presse in Paris, we heard today:
“Thank you for your message which provides warm thoughts.  The week has been quite chaotic.  One of our freelance editors has been killed in the concert hall Bataclan.  We keep hope that peace will recover but the middle east is fully at war and we pay a very high price in front of this situation.”

War brings with it so much to mourn on every side.

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ
Good Ground Press

Joy in Jesus’ Good News

23 Jun

by Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

via flickr user Catholic Church (England and Wales)

via flickr user Catholic Church (England and Wales)

Joy brims over in our circles of sisters and associates that gather on Wednesdays to talk about Pope Francis’s exhortation Joy of the Gospel.  Spreading joy is his intent.  Its source―“a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” or at least opening ourselves to let Jesus encounter us.  His writing infects us with hope, Catholics and Protestants alike in our groups.

What is so infectious?  Francis writes out of his real life, what he prays and lives daily.  God loves us.  This is what Pope Francis wants us to experience and teach our children.  No one can take way the joy that God loves us.

The cross he wears images Jesus as a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders, a lost sheep.  Francis identifies with the lost sheep.  “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking mercy.  Time and again Christ carries us on his shoulders.  No one can strip us of the dignity of God bestowing boundless, unfailing love” (3).

Francis wants an evangelizing church that shares the joy of God’s love for us, a Church that is poor and for the poor.  Sharing our joy is really how Francis defines evangelization.  Joy attracts others.  It bubbles over into love of neighbors.  It infects us with hope.

“The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.  That is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people” (23).

God excludes no one, which is why Francis goes on to call for a global economy of inclusion.  “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh Christ in others” (24).  Francis wants us to smell like the sheep.

If you want to start talking about Joy of the Gospel, just type in the title online and print a copy or buy a book copy at your local Catholic bookstore or on Amazon.  Here are the questions we used to talk about paragraphs 1-49.  This blog will continue with other chapters.

1.    What joy do you experience in the Gospel, in your relationship with Jesus?  How does your experience compare with Francis’s description?  (paragraph 3)

2.    What does Francis think threatens our capacity for joy?  What threats do you experience? (2)

3.    What call do you hear in Francis’s urging us to become evangelizers who “take on the smell of the sheep?”  What sheep do you or should you smell like?  (24)

4.    How have base communities or small Christian communities helped sustain your commitment as a Christian?  How can parishes contribute to renewal?  (28)

5.    What message is “most essential, most beautiful, most grand, most appealing, and most necessary” in your mind? (35)  What communicates the gospel today?  What burdens people?

6.    “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.  …The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (47).  What changes does Francis want to inspire in the church?

Feminism in Faith

12 Mar

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, I wanted to promote Buzzfeed’s article Feminism in Faith: Four Women Who Are Revolutionizing Organized Religion.

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ

The article highlights four women working within their faith community to bring about change:

Sara Hurwitz: the first publicly ordained Orthodox Jewish Rabba

Kate Kelly: an attorney getting the issue of ordination of Mormon women in the public eye

Elizabeth Johnson: a Catholic feminist theologian, nun and professor working for female ordination

Zainah Anwar: a Muslim journalist and advocate working to reinterpret the Qur’an’s verses that lead to taking multiple wives and beating wives

The article asks:

Why bother? Why fight? If you’re an educated feminist who was born into such a religion, why not convert to another that doesn’t relegate women to a second-class status? For each of these women, the answer relates to not only her devotion to her own faith, but to her community. This is no small thing: By a rough estimation, there are nearly a billion and a half women on Earth who are Orthodox Jewish, Mormon, Catholic, or Muslim.

Take a moment today to learn more about these women who are working for equality in their faith communities.

Who would you add to the list?

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