Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another Nun Blog

A Sister friend of mine in Rome is from Singapore. We have been friends since she spent four years in Boston for her initial formation as a Daughter of St. Paul.
Here is her blog spot address:

Cast Your Nets

A Good Day for Fishing
Today was a beautiful one weather-wise in Toronto. I hope it was the same for you who are reading this. A few young women spent the weekend with us. Yes, there are still some women who see religious life--being a Sister--as a valuable, viable option for their life's choice. Today's gospel reading from St. John tells of a miraculous catch of fish. That came after a hard night of no fish at all. Then the Lord said, "Cast your nets to the other side of the boat." The net was filled with 153 fish. After Peter hauled the fish ashore, all by himself, the Lord had breakfast ready and waiting. Then came a moment of decision for Peter. Three times Jesus asked him: "Do you love me." Each time the answer was "yes." After each affirmation Jesus gave Peter a task--really layers of responsibility: "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep." Peter's love would have a price. I recently saw the film called "Peter" so the characters in the gospel were vivid in my imagination today. (Omar Shariff portrays a convincing Peter in the full length feature DVD.) Love is freely given, but it requires sacrifice. That's what Peter would find out soon enough.
So all of us find out that love has its own costs, yet the rewards beat out the costs any day! The young women who came this weekend were discerning if this life of ours is where God is calling them to pour out their love.
Today during our hour of prayer before Jesus in the Eucharist, we were asked to present a symbol of ourselves at this moment. I brought up a map of Toronto and the surrounding area--the GTA as it is called--along with a lighted candle. The symbolism lay in the candle light representing the light of Christ in the Word we distribute as Paulines in this area; plus the light of my own life which is burning out slowly for the Lord. Years ago my sister had a prayerbook for young women. I would borrow it sometimes. I still remember a poem in it which started like this: "Rabboni, when I am dying, how glad I shall be, that the lamp of my life has burned out for Thee." An old, seasoned missionary priest once said, "There is a fire in everyone. It can be the fire of love of God, or the fire of love for self." So I hope this "fire" is the right one--for God!
I have a poster in my office with the words: "We have believed in love!" That epitomizes one who gives his or her life in love. I think of that 76 year old professor and Holocaust survivor who died saving his students at Viriginia Tech. He certainly proved his love for others.

The late Pope John Paul loved the expression taken from the gospel of today: Cast your nets into the deep. That expression would take the space of an entire blog. Yet, there are times when God asks us to take a leap of faith, and cast into the deep. May we be ready for that when the time comes....
May you have a wonderful, Jesus-filled week of peace.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The "Sea of Peace"

For many families and individuals, this has been a painful week. I am referring especially to the shootings at Virginia Tech. The young perpetrator was obviously mentally disturbed. As one TV commentator remarked, "Hindsight is 100% surer than foresight." As we look to the past of that young man, then we see a trail of abnormal and disturbing behavior. Let us pray that in the future any such individuals will be helped long before they reach a point of no return.

The Presidential Prayer Team website gave an opportunity to sign a cyber "wall" for the victims and their families. When I responded to the PPT website, I thought of the words of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). She lived in unsettled times in Italy when the opposing parties--Ghibelline's and Guelph's--were antagonizing each other, and the Pope was living in Avignon, France, rather than in Rome.
Catherine learned a ot from prayer. Even though she had not gone to school, she was fearless when she felt it was God's will to act in a certain way. That certainty of being anchored to the Will of God gave her the courage to go to the Pope and respectfully urge him to move back to Rome. Despite her lack of academic skills, Catherine became a spiritual leader, and a mystic. One of her writings describes Jesus as "a sea of peace." I pray that the Lord will plunge the families of the deceased and wounded into this Sea of Peace, so they will be consoled in this time of grief and sorrow. May Jesus grant his peace to each of the deceased as well as to the survivors. May his strength and love console those who grieve.

On a much brighter side, it was a delight to be in our book and media center today to witness how many young people are approaching the sacrament of the Eucharist as they make their "First Holy Communion" this weekend or very soon in May. Many youngsters are going to have a Jesus-filled day when they receive the Body and Blood of the Lord for the first time. The graces of the Holy Spirit will anoint many young people as the Bishops of the Archdiocese confer the sacrament of Confirmation on many young people, and some adults in the Archdiocese. We pray that the remembrance of Who jesus is, his teachings and the examples of the Saints will help to prolong the spiritual effects of these two sacraments.

Today was one of unmitigated sunshine and mild temperatures in Toronto. It's amazing to watch how faces brighten too when the sun comes out. I thank the Lord for giving us good weather, espcially for all the young childen who will be receiving the Lord for the first time in Holy Communion.

In Jesus,

Sister Mary Peter

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Amazing Grace--the Movie

Recently our Toronto Star newspaper had front page articles on the 200th anniversary of Great Britain's abolition of the slave trade. The USA took almost 50 years to follow suit.
Today three of us went to see Amazing Grace the new film that depicts the struggles of William Wilberforce to end his country's slave trade. His pastor was the ship captain turned preacher who wrote the song "Amazing Grace." Because slavery was part of the underpinning of the English colonies economy, few members of parliament were willing to vote against it. With dogged perseverance Wilberforce finally won. His story reminds me of St. Paul's advice to preach the gospel "in season and out" of season. Wilberforce's did that. Of course he made enemies, and he ruined his health. Yet he won in the end. The acting is top notch, and the action keeps moving. The movie focuses on William Pitt also. Pitt was a lifelong friend who served in Parliament with Wilberforce. The producers and screen writers came up with a good blend of friendship, subdued romance, Christian commitment, and hsitorical fact to make for a fast moving two hours. The emotional impact was strong--at least for me and my companions. So bring the Kleenex if you go!
Have a great continuation of Easter Week!
Sister Mary Peter

Monday, April 09, 2007

Little Easter

Happy Easter!

Today is Easter Monday. In the Church each day of Easter Week is a new Easter day. The psalms of Morning and Evening Prayer are the same each day of this week. Some of Christianity's best hymns are reserved for this time of year.

I hope that all of you readers were able to connect with family and some friends yesterday. I spoke with family members in Utah, Ohio, and South Carolina.

The weather has not been cooperating here in the north country, and apparently down in the USA too. Despite snow flurries and cold temperatures, Easter is real and Christ is truly risen. Of course we hope for the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. Yet there are daily resurrections that can bring us joy, and radiate peace to those who live near us. The first of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary is that of the resurrection. Blessed James Alberione's reflection on this mystery goes something like this: "Jesus resurrection also represents our resurrection from the 'grave' of sin and defects. Let us ask the grace to rise from the tomb to new life in Christ."

Have a wonderful Easter Week!

Sister Mary Peter

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Our chapel bathed in the Easter morning sun.
Happy Easter to all who read this! We rejoice in the reason for our faith--the rock foundation being the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was so uplifting to be present a the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. The pastor from Blessed Trinity Church where we attended Mass last evening explained the history of the Easter Vigil to all of us present. Keeping "vigil,", waiting up at night to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord, goes back probably to the second century of Christianity: People read Scripture and prayed all through the night in anticipation of the Lord's resurrection. So we read the Scriptures and pray for various intentions. Then the Alleluia is sung three times before the Gospel is proclaimed. All through Lent the alleluia was silent. In fact, in some places a ceremonial "burial of the alleluia" takes place on Ash Wednesday. It resurrected again last night as the alleluias were sung. I felt very happy to be a Roman Catholic--to be connected with all these centureies of belief and practice; to all the people of every culture who worship the same God with the same sacrifice and the same teachings from Scripture. It was good to see about 15 adults baptized or received int o full "Communion with the Roman Catholic church.
I want to pass on to you an Easter homily from Hong Kong. It is very upbeat. HK of course means Hong Kong.
Please enjoy it.
Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, April 7-8, 2007 by M. Sloboda (Father Michael Sloboda, a Maryknoll priest serving in Hong Kong.)

Happy Easter!
I’ll begin and end with words of joy from the ancient Greek Church:
[Tonight] Today we rejoice in the salvation of the world.
Christ is risen; let us arise with him!
Christ enters new life; let us live in him!
Christ has come forth from the tomb;
Let us shake off the chains of evil!
The gates of hell are open,
The powers of evil are overcome!
In Christ, a new creation is coming to birth,
Lord, make us new,
Alleluia! [St. Gregory of Naziansus, 330-389]

Let’s look at those exclamations.
“[Tonight] Today we rejoice in the salvation of the world.” Jesus and all of his first disciples were Jewish. But the Good News has gone out to all the world. In this congregation, there might be several people with Jewish ancestry, but I see faces from every part of the world. St. Anne’s is a cross section of the human race, part of a universal church open to everyone, and the Greek adjective for universal is “catholic.”
“Christ enters new life; let us live in him!” Speaking of new life, tonight [last night] we will baptize a baby [name]. His mother was baptized at the Easter Vigil in the USA a few years ago, and his grandparents are visiting HK now. The Easter Vigil is the best time of year to baptize. In all the Catholic churches in HK, a total of 2550 adults and children will be baptized tonight. “Christ enters new life; let us live in him!” So after I baptize baby N, we will renew our baptismal promises.
This baby is one of the youngest residents of HK, but HK also has the oldest priest in the world. Fr. Nicholas Gao is a monk at the Trappist monastery on Lantau Island. Born on Jan. 15, 1897, he recently turned 110. The oldest citizen of HK has been thin all his life. He says a Rosary every day, and advizes people to “keep moving, keep praying, keep working, and never get angry, never get angry.” He is alert and can still take care of himself. He goes to bed early and rises when they ring the bell at 3:30 AM. He throws on his alb, ties a cincture, that is, a rope belt, and shuffles to the chapel for the first prayers of the day. Actually, he started slowing down at age 104 and now he does not have much energy. So some people are now whispering that Fr. Gao’s best days are behind him. On the contrary, I say that his best days are ahead of him, the endless days of eternal life.
As most of you know, I was seriously interested in astronomy years before I became seriously interested in the Gospel. I read a book review recently. An astronomer [Marcus Chown] wrote a book to explain the frontiers of science and the latest news in astronomy to the general public. He tackled big qns, like the origin of the universe and its long-term fate, in non-technical language and without a lot of math. Next, he needed an attention-grabbing title to entice people to buy his book. So he titled his new book The Never Ending Days of Being Dead. The Never Ending Days of Being Dead? That doesn’t sound like an attractive title to me. I’d rather read about the Never Ending Days of Eternal Life. Because Jesus triumphed over death, because he rose from the dead in a glorified body, the laws of physics will not have the final say over the universe. The Son of God will have the final word. Whatever our problems, there are better days ahead for us, and so we have hope.
Looking at the parents of baby N, they seem fully qualified to give their son an excellent start in life, a nice house, good medical care and first-class education. We all wish that N will grow up wise, loving and strong, and make a contribution to the world. We hope he will be in this world for a long time. When N turns 110 in October of the year 2116, the world will be a different place. On second thought, asking for 110 years on this earth might be overly ambitious. But the hopes of his parents and grandparents for N are not limited to this world only. They are bringing him into the church to ask for faith for him, and faith will give him eternal life, a share in the eternal life which Our Lord won for us by his death and resurrection.
They will be the first teachers of N in the ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers by what they say and do. Setting a good example is the hard part. But in Christ a new creation is coming to birth, and Christ can make us new, alleluia!
Candles are the most noticeable feature of the Easter Vigil. So what? Today we take bright lights for granted. Everywhere in HK there are lights, too many lights, which are brighter than any candle. The city of Sydney recent turned off its downtown lights for an hour to demonstrate saving energy. However in this church a few years ago, the electricity stopped before the 6 PM Mass. It was late summer, so we still had some daylight. But by the time I got to the altar, it was growing dark, and those candles (plus someone standing next to me with a torch [flashlight]) gave me enough light to read the book. We take light for granted, but it is precious. Not everyone can see the sun at noon, and many people are blind to the light of truth.
I’ll end with an ancient Greek invitation, an invitation for all of us to rejoice at Easter:
Let everyone who loves God rejoice in this festival of light!
Let the faithful servants gladly enter into the joy of their Lord!
Let those who have borne the burden of fasting now come to celebrate the feast!
Let those who were inwardly dead now rise and dance with Christ, the Lord of life! [St. John Chrystostom 347-407]

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Waiting for Easter

I am writing this on the night of Good Friday. In Toronto, the streets were quieter than usual--even quieter than Sunday's. People have the day off so they can go to church. I took the subway to the downtown cathedral of St. Michael. I was edified at seeing lines of people waiting at each confessional to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Other folks were devoutly praying the Stations of he Cross on their own. Some people had stopped to pray at the Pieta' statue of the Sorrowful Mother in the entrance way. When the prayer service began, there was standing room only. Since the weather outside was very chilly, it was OK to be squeezed into a pew. I held my coat most of the time, since it is so thick it takes up the space of another person when I rest it on the bench.
Tomorrow, Holy Saturday, is as Henri Nouwen put it a time for "the rest of God." It is a day of silent waiting for Christ's promise to be fulfilled. The Word of God lies silent for a short time--waiting for Sunday morning when the joyful alleluias sing out around the world.
May your Holy Saturday be serene and to the extent possible, a day of silent waiting for the Lord in company with Mary and the disciples.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

Before I went to Mass this morning, I saw a glimpse of Pope Benedict beginning the Palm Sunday liturgy in Rome. St. Peter's Square seemed overflowing with clergy and lay people packed into the Square.

Yesterday a woman came into our centre asking for The Liturgy of the Hours. "What does liturgy mean anyway?" she asked as I lead her to the area where we have books to assist in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. The Greek origin of liturgy comes from the words "letus ergon" meaning work of the people. The Roman Catholic Church has only two "official" liturgical prayers or forms of worship: the Mass or the "celebration of the Eucharist," and the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours is really a way of sanctifying the hours or time of each day. Morning prayer, which is also called Lauds, and Evening Prayer, or Vespers, are the "hinges" or mainstays of the hours. Monks, priests and many nuns (that is vowed religious women) pledge to pray this form of prayer every day. Lay people are strongly encouraged to pray the hours, especially morning, evening and night prayer.
In some communities the prayers are sung. They can be put to music because the prayers are from the Psalms which were written to be sung at temple worship by the Jewish people. Yesterday someone was surprised that we pray with prayers from "the Old Testament," or, as it is often referred to: "the Hebrew Bible." Usually morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours is a form of praise and thanksgiving to God expressed in two Psalms and a canticle. By a canticle we mean a prayer taken from another book of the Bible, Isaiah, for example. Then there is a short reading from Scripture followed by a few lines of response. Then an antiphon, a line or two giving a theme, is recited before we pray the "canticle," Zechariah's words praising God from Luke's Gospel. Then the antiphon is repeated, and an intercessory prayer follows which presents needs of the church and the world. All our prayer intentions are gathered up as we pray the Lord's Prayer and a concluding prayer which sums up that "hour" of prayer for the day. Before we leave the place of prayer we end with an invocation: "May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen."

Sometimes the psalms used are those of "lament." In a psalm of lament the writer or original pray-er is complaining to God, at times even asking God to wreak havoc on "my enemies." Yet in the same psalm of complaint, the writer usually never fails to interject praises to God for all the good he has done in the past. The "enemy" in those psalms can be our own unruly inclinations, our stubbornness, our faults and sins, our temptations. Even though the words were written a few thousand years ago, the emotions we feel today can be transferred into the words we pray from those psalms of lament and praise.

When someone prays the Liturgy of the Hours he or she can be confident that he is praying with the whole church. We are praying with the same Word of God that Jesus used. In fact, among the last words Jesus spoke on the cross were, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" from Psalm 22. At first it looks like a terrible lament: God forsaking his loved one. Then the psalm returns to the fact that God does deliver his beloved: "You who fear the Lord, give praise!...For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of the poor." In Jesus' case, God the Father allowed him to suffer for us, but he vindicated him through the power of the resurrection.

There are many translations of the Psalms available. But, for the Liturgy of the Hours, an official translation is chosen so people can pray easily together. To find a copy of he liturgy of the Hours, check out the Daughters of St. Paul website:
Best regards for a peace-filled and blessed Holy Week.

Let's pray today too for youth, since Pope Benedict addressed young people today. It's become a tradition initiated by John Paul II that the Pope give a talk to youth every Palm Sunday.

Sister Mary Peter