Tag Archives: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet

50 Years as a Sister of St. Joseph, by Joan Mitchell

20 Mar

 Joan Mitchell, CSJ celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a Sister of St. Joseph this week. She gave this reflection to her fellow Jubilarians on St. Joseph’s Day.

Fifty years ago when our reception walked down the aisle at St. Kate’s Chapel in wedding dresses and left in black with new names, we committed to serving a Church that cloistered its women and kept us apart, but it was also a Church awakening with John XXIII to the modern world.  In 1959 he had written his human rights manifesto Pacem in Terris to the people of the whole world, and less than a month after we entered, the Second Vatican Council began in October 1962.

Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Joan Mitchell, CSJ

The work of the liturgical movement came to fruition when the Council in its first action turned our altars around for dialogue between priest and people and gave us worship in English so we could participate fully, actively, and consciously.

The Council recognized the whole people of God as the Church and called every person to holiness, “God does not save us as individuals without any bond or link between us,” it said, “but as a people to serve God in holiness.”

In 1965, Council ended and in its final document called us into solidarity with the human family: “the joys and sorrows, griefs and anxieties of the people of this world, especially the poor and afflicted, are the joys and sorrows, griefs and anxieties of the people of God.”  The theologies of Vatican II formed us irreparably as they rolled off the press.

That same miraculous year, 1965, the Civil Rights Voting Act passed.  The someday the Civil Rights Movement sang about, “We shall overcome…someday,” came at last, freedom came at last.  We were in the laundry when we heard President Kennedy had been shot.  When we heard Dr. King had been killed in April 1968, cloister was gone and we went out and joined the African American community to mourn this gifted leader.

We were still protesting the Vietnam War, but the 60s were a decade of dreams—of a modern Church and an America without racism.  It has left us perennially hopeful and ultimately at odds with the Church in retreat from the world our leaders often label secular but which we claim as our own.  Whoever thought Rome would investigate us for doing too much social justice, for speaking out and stepping up to help people who are poor have health care?  As Sisters of St. Joseph and Consociates, we are people of dreams.  Like the universal Church we have as our patron Joseph the dreamer.

Joseph is uneasy with the obvious when he finds his fiancé pregnant with a child he knows is not his own.  Joseph doesn’t want to expose Mary to the law or the stoning it could require.  He is a just man, used to doing the right thing.  So Joseph plans to send Mary away quietly—until he sleeps on his decision.

I sleep on my side, so when I hear this gospel passage and picture it in my mind, I see Joseph lying down and turning over on his side, leaving the day of his disappointment in Mary behind and turning toward a new day.

His going to sleep is a contemplative act, entrusting himself to rest in the midst of personal turmoil.  In his sleep Joseph’s relationship with Mary draws him into relationship with the child.  He dreams he will name and claim the child as his own.  His turning toward sleep results in changing his society; he disregards its laws, alters conventional expectations for marriage, and finds the living God acting not in the temple but in the young woman he cherishes—the power of relationships to transform the world.

Who would think sleep could change the future of the world?  Who would think 50 years could bring so much change?  In 1964 when we were still novices and Paul VI spoke at the United Nations before the third session of the Council, the Hubble telescope confirmed that all these galaxies and stars that light up our nights are moving away from each other—the cosmos is expanding, the big bang.

All that is bursts forth out of nothingness from a single seed of energy, A flaring forth so powerful the cosmos is still becoming more.

We live in a story that we cannot flip to the end and find the conclusion.

We live in this story among its characters.

We live in a vast pregnancy 13.7 billion years long and counting.

It turns out that Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and the magi were right to see promise in the stars and hold this promise in faith.

Right now the Large Hadron Collider is smashing protons together at nearly the speed of light, looking for traces of the god particle, what gives matter mass and joins everything together, the secret to how our unfolding story began.

In the world of the tiny, the quantum world, cause and effect go out the window.

Waves become particles when we measure to determine where they are going, and yet over time they dance into patterns, self-organizing into new wholes.

As Sisters of St. Joseph and as Consociates we find this dance deep within, this persisting desire for more, for communion, harmony, justice, this openness to God.

We live not only in an infinity of vastness and an infinity of smallness but in an infinity of relationships, the web of life.

Everything that is wants to become more.

Within our bodies we hold this story of our evolving, this drive toward greater, more complex wholes.

Our blood runs red with the iron forged in the super novas of stars.

The bacteria that first awakened to life 4 billion years ago are our ancestors.

The microbes that learned to eat oxygen 2 billions years ago live on in our mitochondrial DNA and fuel us within every cell.

We inherit our eyes from bacteria that first moved toward light, our backbones from the fish, our erect two-footed posture from the apes that left the trees for the plains.

We humans are the universe become conscious of itself, become its singers and healers.

Then in Jesus Christ Holy Wisdom finds a prophet, God becomes one of us.

We live in a fourth infinity—the horizon Jesus’ resurrection sets in our sights, a future in our hands and hearts—a dream of all that love can give life and make new.  We participate in the creative power that Jesus reveals at the heart of God: love.

All of us come here tonight suspended in mystery, challenged to do justice on earth.

How did the years pile up so fast?  What is my future and our future?  Will Pope Francis like his patron rebuild our Church to benefit the poor and heal the abused?

In this mystery that is vastly big, infinitely small, and complexly diverse, we stand together buoyed by faith and challenged to use our power to love and give life, inspired by the Spirit who breathes in our breaths and dances in our heartbeats to cocreate the future, inspired by Joseph’s small act to keep turning toward every new day.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

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 also 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.

2012 is the Year of St. Mark

15 Feb

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Mark is the focus of 2012.

The year 2012 is the year of Mark, Cycle B, in the Church’s cycles of scripture readings. The first to be written and the closest to oral traditions, Mark’s gospel originates in the watershed year A.D. 70, the year the Roman 10th Legion destroys the temple in Jerusalem, leaving not one stone upon another, the clue to the time of its writing (Mark 13.2).

Forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, many eyewitness disciples have grown old, died, or been martyred—Peter and Paul in Rome in the mid 60s, James in the 50s. These disciples can no longer proclaim Jesus’ good news face to face orally. To hand on these traditions about Jesus’ teachings and actions, Mark writes them down so they can travel through time and call new generations to faith in Jesus.

When Jesus receives the baptism of John the Baptist, the heavens split, the Spirit comes upon Jesus and drives him into the wilderness for 40 days of closeness to God. When Jesus hears Herod has arrested the Baptist, he goes to Galilee and begins preaching, “God’s kingdom is at hand.”

On the 3rd to the 7th Sundays of Ordinary Time, the gospels describe the first dynamic days of Jesus’ ministry. On a Friday Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him and fish for people. On Sabbath he teaches at the Capernaum synagogue, calms a man with a disruptive spirit, and raises up Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. She becomes his first woman disciple. In the evening Jesus heals all the sick that gather at his door and on Sunday morning leaves to preach and heal in other villages.

Jesus’ reputation spreads widely when a leper who begs for healing can’t keep secret that Jesus touched him and made him clean. This is the first of many times Jesus asks those he heals to keep secret who he is, a theme scholars call the messianic secret.

By the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time we expect Jesus to heal those who seek him, but instead he forgives the sins of a paralyzed man. With this shift controversy enters the narrative. Scribes hear blasphemy in Jesus’ words. Who can forgive sins but God?

Who continues Jesus’ dynamic ministry in our world?

The dynamic Jesus in Mark’s gospel, from author Joan Mitchell, CSJ is readily available in Mark’s Gospel, the Whole Story.

In worship, Christians read and hear the gospel narratives in small bits and bites rather than the whole story. In experiencing the gospel in bits and bites, we seldom reflect on themes across the whole narrative or notice the strands of oral storytelling Mark’s gospel uniquely preserves.

Sister Joan’s new book, Mark’s Gospel, the Whole Story is for individuals, bible study groups, and small Christian communities that want to use its simple tools, become active bible readers and explore the revealing patterns of the whole. Jesus becomes written word in Mark’s gospel and travels through time as story to us.

Read a sample chapter from Mark’s Gospel: The Whole Story for a fuller picture of the dynamic Jesus.

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