Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As Another Year Comes To a Close..

Dear Friends,
Here’s a prayer I found and then edited. Edit it more, if you wish, and use it as 2013 slips away:
Gracious God, father and mother of us all,
We thank you for the year that’s behind us and the year that lies ahead.
Throughout the coming year, help us to fret less and laugh more. Let us take time to teach our children to laugh and love, by laughing and loving with them.
Help us to hear your love song in every sunrise, in the chirping of sparrows in our backyards, in the stories of our old folks and the fantasies of our children.
Thank you for new chances every day and second chances when we need them.
We pray for peace, light and hope for ourselves, and that we might spread these gifts to others.
Forgive us for falling short this year that is passing.
We leave the irreparable past in your hands,
and  step out into the unknown new year  knowing you will go with us.
We rejoice that Jesus the Word Incarnate is with us.
We promise to follow the star.
We embrace the cross and the Risen One.
May You Spirit be welcome in our world of violence and greed.
In the year about to unfold, may we know when to say  Yes! No! Welcome! Enough!
Amen!  Amen!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Spirit

One of the characters in Joyce Carol Oates' work Heat was talking about an importnat historical moment: "I wasn't there,but some things you know"

It's true, isn't it?
We know in some mysterious way the import of Christ's coming
We weren't there.
But we are here.
And Christ is here.
In war ravaged Syria and with the homeless in shelters around our country.
Christ is here.
And Christmas continues to come
In the face of hatred and warring-
no atrocity too terrible to stop it,
no Herod strong enough,
no hurt deep enough,
no curse shocking enough,
no disaster shattering enough.
For someone on earth will see the star,
someone will hear the angel voices,
someone will run to Bethlehem,
someone will know peace and goodwill:
the Christ will be born!
someone will hear the angels

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hum A Happy Song to the Lord

Dear Friends,

Some spiritual writers have a honed ability to sum up the “big” aspects of faith in small packages. In two short paragraphs, the Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez helps us to understand the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke in terms of the adult dynamic of growth, change and suffering.

Matthew tells of Joseph magnanimously agreeing to divorce Mary
 in private rather than to press
Mary Visiting Elizabeth
charges, until an angel shows up to correct his perception of betrayal. Luke tells of a tremulous Mary hurrying off to the one person who could understand what she was going through: her relative Elizabeth, who miraculously got pregnant in old age after another angelic annunciation. Elizabeth believes Mary and shares her joy, and yet the scene poignantly highlights the contrast between the two women: the whole countryside is talking about Elizabeth’s healed womb even as Mary must hide the shame of her own.

Over the centuries, we’ve sanitized the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Gutierrez continues,

We observe a mellow domesticated holiday purged of any hint of scandal. Above all, we purge from it any reminder of how the story that began at Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.

In the birth stories of Luke and Matthew, only one person seems to grasp the mysterious nature of what God has set in motion: the old man Simeon, who recognized the baby as the Messiah, instinctively understood that conflict would surely follow. "This is the child destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against…” he said, and then made the prediction that a sword would pierce Mary’s own soul. Somehow, Simeon sensed that though on the surface little had changed – the autocrat Herod still ruled, Roman troops were still stringing up patriots, Jerusalem had still overflowed with beggars – underneath, everything had changed. A new force had arrived to undermine the world’s powers.

If you haven’t done so already, read the Infancy Narratives this year as speaking directly to adults trying to take the Holy One seriously in our lives which are entangled in cultural perceptions and values Which diminish the their meaning.

Hum a carol as you continue Advent,
~Joan Sobala, SSJ  

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Christmas Gift for Your Spirit

Dear Friends,

Are you steadfast? That’s a word we don’t use in today’s parlance, but it’s worth including.

Steadfastness means that we keep on keeping on. Sometimes, the word “patience” is used in place of steadfastness. The problem is that “patience” has overtones of “putting up with.”

When my high school friend, George, was voted the most patient in our class, he didn’t like it one bit. Patience is just not as rich a word as steadfastness. One ingredient in being steadfast is the capacity to work at seemingly impossible things. Isaiah offers us an array of surprising and impossible images: the wolf lying down with the lamb, the baby playing in the cobra’s den. Impossible! Get real! Everyone knows that a lamb in a wolf’s lair is lunch.

The steadfast are ready to live through seemingly impossible things. The steadfast also hang on when it is tempting to let go, walk away, cave  in. I think of hospice workers who tenaciously serve the dying who have no personal or familial claim, or government professionals who work behind the scenes preparing the way for peace accords and breakthroughs.

John the Baptist is certainly an example of steadfast love. His vision of God’s reign led him to preach and act with conviction. He would not be dissuaded, even though his words led to his death.

Being steadfast is no easy thing. Some days, we have no vision to draw on – only a glimpse, if that. In fact, some days all the steadfast person can do is to put one foot in front of another. We may think they don’t, but the steadfast need encouragement. On the day after Thanksgiving, the steadfast women and men camped on the National Mall in Washington calling for immigration reform. That day, they received encouragement from Michelle and Barack Obama, who came to sit with them, to  listen, and to talk. The president said to them: “Don’t ruin your health.” The fasting men and women then passed on the call to fast a day at a time to supporters.

There are many ways to be steadfast. Not every life situation requires us to be steadfast. It is not virtue to stay in an abusive relationship. Cut loose, for the sake of life.

You and I are not born steadfast. We become steadfast through practice. We learn the meaning of steadfastness from others, figures like Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist. Choose steadfastness among other Christmas gifts for your spirit. Priceless!

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, December 2, 2013

Is Jesus Knocking at Your Door?

Christ at Heart's Door, by Warner Sallman

Dear Friends,

By 5 pm on any given day, each of us has opened or closed roughly a dozen doors. To open or close a door is a natural, unthinking act- unless we have forgotten our key or our arms are too full to manage the door.

Doors are an integral part of life. They provide passageway to where we want to go. They offer us privacy or protection from unwanted elements. Doors are also instruments of power. We can shut people out or admit them.

Advent is a time for opening some doors and closing others. It’s a time to open the door to a deeper, stronger relationship with the Holy One, to open our hearts to new and renewed relationships with people, to open our minds to new attitudes, practices and ways of thinking that birth in us a future full of hope.

Maybe you can recall seeing the well known painting by the artist, Warner Sallman, which shows Jesus standing at the door and knocking? Jesus comes to the door of the human heart, knocks and waits for an invitation to enter. The outside of the door has no knob, which says that the human heart can only be opened from within. We have the power to welcome or refuse entry.

In order to hear Jesus’ knock, we need to be awake
 – awake to His coming here and now
 - awake to His coming birthday 
 - awake to His coming at the end of time.

Are you continually alert? I’m not. We get distracted by the sheer business of our lives.
Being busy is not a bad thing, unless it prevents us from doing the work of Advent, which is to welcome God into our lives in fresh new ways.

The knock comes, and we react to it in different ways. We may be cautious, curious to see who’s there, irritated to be interrupted, ashamed that our house is not in order. We may be curt at the door, guarded, fearful, elated – or we may ignore the knock completely. Go away, God! I don’t want to see you today.

You may think that this idea of opening some doors and closing others is a mild-mannered approach to Advent. But let’s think about two doors to close which require personal discipline and hard work.

Close the door to noise, even briefly everyday and welcome quiet to let the gifts of the season seep into our consciousness. Be with the silence. “Well. Ok,” you might say, “but then what do I say to God?” Say “Come, Lord Jesus!” or maybe say nothing at all. Let God speak to you in the silence.

Close the door to violence. Isaiah talks about beating our swords into plowshares, i.e. making peace with what could be the weapons of war. We are surrounded by war and violence in our culture, we find it in the words we say to one another, in our subtle lack of respect for people, things and ourselves. We need not support violence, participate in it, give it a place in our homes, encourage it or buy it.

As we move through Advent, two figures help us open our doors to Jesus knocking.

Mary, who did not let her hesitation keep her from extending a welcome to the invitation of God. Mary is every person who has stood at the door of an unknown future and said Yes.

Jesus is called the Key of David, in the ancient collection of Advent prayers called the O antiphons:
Jesus, Key of David, is the one who opens and no one shuts, the one who shuts and no one opens.

Jesus is the key to our future.

During Advent, let the physical doors we open and close throughout the day remind us that our comings and goings are opportunities to meet and welcome Emmanuel, to offer kindness, a cookie, a cup of teas to others.

The key is in the lock.
The divine visitor is at our Advent door.
Don’t open it a crack. Open it wide.

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, November 25, 2013

Savoring Sacred Spaces

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friend and reader!

We took a winding road up to a site overlooking the Sea of Galilee – an avid group of pilgrims and a wiry, knowledgeable, Israeli guide named Menahan Hefetz. This is the place, Menana Hefetz  told us, where Jesus fed the 5000. A hush fell over the group, each of us taking in every contour of the land, going over the text in our minds, moved by emotions of awe and joy that surprised us with their strength.

On that sunny day twenty- one centuries ago, the hunger of the people was satisfied and there were leftovers. Jesus had fed them all.  Since then, the spot had become a holy place – but unlike other holy places, no commemorative building was erected there. It was left as a meadow, a sacred space.

Sacred spaces are those places where something unique happened:  something unrepeatable, forever impressive and memorable. Before you read on, stop to think of your own sacred spaces.

People need sacred space like Plymouth Rock and the World Trade Center. People create shrines in places where people have died as victims of tragedy or accident. In times of great need, people go to sacred spaces, or we create them or recognize them buried within the ordinary.

One reason the nation’s highways and airways are clogged these days is because people are going home, going to be with loved ones. Home is a sacred space. We know the smell of it, the foods that are repeatedly served there, the couch that everyone claims, the old tree in the backyard that’s good for climbing.

The sacred space of home.
The sacred space of our hearts and memories.
The Christian sacred space on the hillside over the Sea of Galilee and the upper room in Jerusalem.
The sacred space at the table of the Lord in our own churches.

We need them to live and grow.

Today, let’s let our mind’s eye  rove among the sacred spaces of this earth and thank God for them.  Our  own  beloved sacred spaces – yes!  and the sacred spaces of others as well.

On Thursday, when we celebrate Thanksgiving I hope we embrace people all over the world savoring their sacred spaces, weeping as the Philippine people weep over the sacred spaces that have been destroyed. I hope we take time for Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day, which for us disciples of the Lord Jesus,  our  Savior and Brother, is the sacred space that is more important than any other. Here all are welcome with all their emotions, needs, sorrows and delights. 

My colleague at Nativity Church, Brockport, Father Ted Auble, says that the Eucharistic table is very long. It extends in both  directions, to the deep past and into the hazy future. All are welcome at this table.

 Are all welcome in your own personal sacred space?

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, November 18, 2013

Let's Talk About Family


Dear Friends,

On the Sunday after Christmas, the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family.  Looking out last Sunday over our parishioners at The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  Brockport, it occurred to me that the time to start talking about families is now (all the better to celebrate the Holy Family later this year.)

We are entering into a long period when families get together, remember people who have died or for whatever reason, won’t be with us this season: Thanksgiving, Advent, the whole Christmas season.

So let’s talk about families, which come in all sorts of sizes and shapes: traditional two-parent families, single-parent families, couples who have no children, families of choice, blended or adoptive families. Single people have extended kinships that are, for them, family. Religious congregations are families, so are intentional families, the families of our neighborhood and world.

Family life is precious- whether it is our own personal family, where our weaknesses are accommodated and our victories applauded or whether it is the family of the universe to which we belong. This is a time to consider the ones who are  alienated from our family and what can be done to restore that relationship.

As we gather over the next six weeks or so, I hope we can bear within us the consciousness of the companionship of God, who helps us deepen and treasure the many aspects of family life, and actively cultivate respectful, tender attitudes toward one another. God is our model in this, since God is a family. God loves families with a lasting love and wants our various families to be whole.

Here’s a helpful summary of the power and value of family offered by  the moral theologian, James B. Nelson:

    Each of us needs a place where the gifts of life make us more human, where we are linked with ongoing covenants with others, where we can return to lick our wounds, where we can take our shoes off and where we know that within the bound of human capacity, we are loved simply because we are. Because that human need will not die, the need for the family will not die. That human need and its fulfillment are one more reason for giving thanks on Thanksgiving Day.

    Gracious God, hold our family close to You. In our comings and goings, let our hands and hearts show welcome to all who belong to us. Help us to realize they belong to You as well. We pray in the name of our Brother and Lord, Jesus, and with the tenderness of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crown of Thorns..Is it Your Story?

Dear Friends,

This is a true story. It is also a version of our own stories, but first, the story.

My mother, Celia had a friend named Laura, who lived a few blocks away in Friendly Village, Manchester, NY. Laura’s deepening illness took her first to the hospital, and then to a nursing home. Laura never came back to her home again.

Celia and a few friends were hired by Laura’s lawyer to help prepare the house for sale. Laura had been away from the house for seven months, so the air was stale and dust was everywhere. The lawyer had provided a dumpster, so that the women could discard all the things that had no obvious value.

On an accent table in the corner of the living room was a pot with dried soil and in the soil what looked like a stick. Celia took the pot outside, but couldn’t make herself throw it into the dumpster. First she set in on the ground next to the dumpster. A few days later, she picked it up and put it on a table on the patio. Then she put it in her car. Celia didn’t know what this plant was, but it had taken hold of her and she couldn’t heave it away.

With  biblical care, she placed it in her living room where the bright morning sun could warm it. She watered it, and yes, talked to it. The stick  began to enlarge as water flowed through its length. Eventually, bright green leaves appeared and tiny pink flowers. The plant was … a crown of thorns. The year the crown of thorns came from Laura’s home to Celia’s was 1986.  Now, 27 years later, it thrives at a friend’s home, bright with flowers and stands almost seven feet tall.

You can probably see a variety of ways the story of the crown of thorns is your story as well. I certainly do.

Have we been neglected, unwatered. Have we been left to die? What God-figure has taken us home, watered us, talked with us, placed us in bright sunshine? Have we grown seven feet tall?  Have we been Celia for others?

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prepare Your Heart for Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

Miriam has just put enough cooked squash into her freezer for the eighteen people who are coming to Thanksgiving dinner at her home. The fresh turkey is ordered, all the phone calls are made to give others their assignments. Now, Miriam, our Nativity Brockport parishioner says she can take time to prepare her heart for Thanksgiving. “No sense celebrating on the surface”, she told me last Sunday. “Thanksgiving has to be in here (she tapped her breast) all year long, but now it is bubbling up.” What a remarkable realization wells up in this energetic senior woman.

Let’s join Miriam for these next several weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Let’s collect lists of the many people, things and situations for which we have a clear or emerging gratitude.

Sacred Spaces –
What are your own sacred spaces - places you have had or need to live and grow, survive difficulties and stand in wonder-  places you go to, create, recognize. Holy places. Maybe churches, maybe outdoors. Who knows where? Do you?

Meaning Makers -
Who helps us understand the roller coaster ride that is called life? Who inspires us? Who has challenged us to be satisfied and grateful for life and who has taught us to be dissatisfied and thereby to be and do more?

Consensus builders-
Who are the ones in your world (or the big world) who help the future happen because they value compromise over rigidity?  How do they do it? What lessons are in it for you?

Whole Makers-
The primary wholemaker, according to theologian Ilia Delio, is Jesus. “He brings together what is fragmented and divided,” she says.  Who stands in His shadow for you? Who creates unity while letting people be themselves?

This is not the usual  list of people, situations and things for which people are encouraged to be grateful. Got any more?
~Joan Sobala, SSJ


Here’s an invitation: On Wednesday, November 20th, our Fresh Winds conversation turns to our gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual brothers and sisters and how they are both church and received as church.  Originally, Bishop Clark was to lead our conversation. Regrettably  for him and us, he couldn’t be with us. Standing in for him are Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata , founders of Fortunate Families, and recognized national speakers about families of LGBT men and women.  Bring friends with you when you come to our motherhouse, 7 – 8.30 pm.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What's the Backstory

Dear friends,

Among the recently coined words that people are using is backstory as in  “ Here’s the backstory on this late-breaking news.”

We used to say “background”, but I think backstory is useful in a different way. Background  leaves people with facts but not necessarily with an experience to walk around in.

My friend, Bill Winfield, recently died on a Friday at Strong  Hospital. Two days later, his great-granddaughter was born at Strong. One backstory that allowed Bill’s funeral to have a measure of joy was the realization that God claimed Bill but gave the family new-born life as well.

Backstories of faith are not necessarily seen on the faces of people we meet.  We have to spend time with them. Listen to what emerges as they share their thoughts with us.

Next weekend, we’ll hear the biblical story of Zacchaeus.(Luke 19.1 – 10) Go read it for yourself. Even try reading it outloud. What's his backstory? How was he raised? Why did he become a tax collector? Was he a good one? Was he honest? Did he hear Jesus tell the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? (We heard that one last week.in Luke 18. 9 – 14.) Did he wonder if he was like that tax collector? The  text doesn’t tell us Z’s backstory. That gives us a chance to wonder, create Z’s character, walk with him. And then there was the day that Zacchaeus and Jesus met. Zacchaeus in the tree. Jesus gazing up at him. Did they take each other’s measure? Did they wonder where each had come from, why they were so aware of one another?

Jesus and Zacchaeus. Two stories. Two backstories. One shared moment of grace.

This week, find someone gazing at you. Meet his/her eyes. Respect the richness of that person’s journey. What drives him/her up his own  tree?  Here is our own Zacchaeus whose story and backstory intersects with ours. Be conscious of the connection. Be enriched and humbled.

Blessings on your week,

Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, October 21, 2013

Be Saintly

Dear Friends,

I know I did All Saints Day and All Souls Day last week, but this time of year the sweeping winds and swirling leaves and shortening days somehow keep before my mind’s eye the topic of saints and life beyond our known life. This week, however, I’ll be brief and offer for your delight some thoughts from a man named Matthew R. Brown. Though I can’t provide you with any information about the author, his words speak to us of the vastness of the great cloud of witnesses of which we will be a part when we cross over. Brown writes:

It is the glory of the Church that it cannot name all the saints.
It is the glory of the Church that it cannot remember all the saints.
It is the glory of Christ that we cannot count all the saints…
The faithful cling to the roots of the saints, growing up from the ground.

How many saints there are, with more becoming so every day.
Now go out and be sainted.
Be saintly. It is a daring adventure beyond imagining in God’s love story with people like you and me. 

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Celebrate the Saints ~ Be Connected with this Life and Beyond

Dear Friends,

Let’s think ahead a couple of weeks to when we will celebrate what our Hispanic brothers and sisters call The Days of the Dead – a harvest feast of those who have gone before us in the communion of saints. We begin our celebration on the holy vigil of All Saints, Halloween, and continue through November 1st (All Saints Day) and November 2nd(All Souls Day.)… indeed, on through November, when the earth itself, in these northern climes, seems to fall asleep.

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are ancient feasts. All Saints Day was originally celebrated during the Easter season. In 835, the feast of All Saints was moved to November 1st and connected with the harvest festivals. The remembrance of All Souls was instituted at the influential monastery at Cluny, France in the eleventh century. Before long, the whole church celebrated this feast, linked with the feast of All Saints and its vigil.

Even though our society has taken over Halloween and turned it into the second most lucrative holiday of the year, Halloween is a Christian feast. In earlier times, Christians would go out on All Saints Eve to await the first star of the evening. Then they would light a candle in a lantern to burn for the three nights of the feasts. Christ the Light scatters the darkness and shows people the way home. The light banishes the ghouls and the goblins that threaten to overtake us.

Then there is All Saints Day. In celebrating collectively all the saints we need to remind ourselves that “the true company of the saints is more numerous than the list of those who have been formally canonized. There are many anonymous saints  who nevertheless form part of the great “cloud of witnesses,” who surround us with their faith and courage and so participate in the communion between the living and the dead.” (Robert Ellsberg, All Saints.)  Kenneth Woodward, in Making Saints, says thatthe story of a saint is a love story of a God who loves and the beloved who learns to reciprocate this love – a story that includes misunderstanding, deception, betrayal, concealment, reversal and revelation of character” The feast of All Saints strengthens and encourages us to stay the course of our own love stories with God.

We all have our favorite saints: canonized ones as well as our family members, neighbors and friends.
The ones closest to us we remember on All Souls Day. But what do we do to remember them?
Here are some thoughts to use to spin off your own ideas:

  • Make a display in your home of beloved people who have died. Invite your family and friends to bring over their own pictures. One evening, light some candles, gather around and tell stories of these people’s faith, humor, courage, goodness. Toast them. Pray in thanks for them.
  • Visit your family graves in the cemetery. Thank the deceased for the good they were and did. Commit or recommit yourself to the values that made them special. Or perhaps, you may have to make up with your loved one buried there. Perhaps some issues have been unresolved. Why wait any longer to be reconciled? Speak words of reconciliation and love. Leave a little stone as a token of remembrance.
  • Tell the children of your extended family the stories of those who have died and what gifts of character they had.
  • Begin a winter’s worth of care for the lonely, the homebound.
  • Think of your own death and the deaths of your loved ones. How can you each die with faith in your hearts, touched in the reality that each of us will die one day? How will others know what is important to us to have read and sung unless we tell them?

Beginning October 31st, all three of these celebrations will either be part of our experience or we will ignore them- to our own loss. Here’s the “to do” list:

Celebrate the saints we meet everyday.
Take off our  masks and be who we are.
Hold up the holy ones who have gone before us.
Be connected with this life and beyond.


I’ve recently published a small reflective journal, Good Morning God, to help capture the reader’s daily and seasonal thoughts on a score of topics. I’ll be in the atrium of Saint Anne Church (1600 Mount Hope Avenue 14620) on Sunday, October 27th for a book signing. Come by to say hello between 1 pm and 3 pm. Books will be specially priced at $10.00. You can also get them at the front desk of our motherhouse (150 French Road 14618.)

~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, October 7, 2013

Satisfy the Hungry Heart

Dear Friends,

Hunger comes in many forms and we deal with it in many ways. We talk about the world’s hungers, dieting to control rampant hunger urges. At the end of their tether, people embark on hunger strikes to draw attention to a cause. Jesus surfaced in people the many hungers of the heart and found them to be of two kinds: the hunger for truth, love and clarity, justice and peace or the hunger for gain, the desire to be top banana. The greatest gift that Jesus offers is union with Him, His Father and their Spirit. Each week, when we participate in the Eucharist, we come to the one who “satisfies the hungry heart”, as the old  hymn goes.

Fr. Dan O’Leary has an article in the 24 August 2013 issue of THE TABLET in which he speaks the far reaching embrace of Jesus in the Eucharist through us:

“The utter humanizing of God in flesh, bread and wine sounds shocking. No other religion talks about its God in this incarnational and eucharistic way. We are not saved by doctrines, Scriptures religions, pilgrimages and rituals. God comes to feed us- people of the flesh- in the earthy and unique intimacy of food. And we do not just look at it and adore it. We touch, taste, eat and drink it…. When we sit at the table of truth, immediately after receiving Holy Communion, we hear the vital assurance: “I am the living food of your flesh. I am the vibrant wine of your energy, the power within you. In me you are made complete, and you are invincible even in your darkest winter. And when your heart is full, it will overflow into other hungry hearts.”

For now, welcome the  hunger for God developing in fresh ways within you. Treasure the hunger and learn to recognize the ways that hunger is assuaged in our daily life as we serve the hungers of the world.

Jesus, Bread of Life and Cup of our Salvation,

may our hunger for You mirror,

in our own searching way,

Your holy hunger for us.


~Joan Sobala, SSJ

Monday, September 30, 2013

Learning to be less in Remote Control

Dear Friends,
The news shows last week showed a pilotless F-16 streaking across the sky. It was being flown by remote control. A driverless car is on the drawing boards. We can already buy a vacuum cleaner that moves by itself. Motion detector lights have been available for some time. Drones, now used by the military, will have uses in daily life, but remote control in the spiritual life? It offers us nothing. 

The spiritual life, i.e., our life with and in God requires attentiveness, daily practice filling our lives with light, delight, awareness that God is everywhere we are and want to be. Certainly our work offers the world the best we can do, using our skills and education. Certainly, our hearts are full of empathy for people caught up in the world’s tragedies. Certainly we are breathless when we come upon beauty in nature and tenderness in human relationships. All of these are rooted in God’s active presence in our lives. Be sure of it. We are never alone or outside the embrace of our God.

God’s presence and love are not (I repeat) are not in proportion to our attentiveness, but our inner being takes on new depth of union with God when we are attentive.

So how do we learn to be less in remote control and more mindful of God and the gifts of God? Road work ahead.  Don’t continue to read unless you have the desire to draw closer to God.
1.       Carry around with you in your heart all day long one of the many short phrases Jesus utters in the Gospel. Chew on it. See how it lives uniquely in you. Believe it. Live by it.

A few examples:  If anyone asks you to go a mile with them, go two. (Matthew 5.40)
                                 Who do you say I am?   (Luke 9.20)
                                   Do you understand what I have done for you?   (John 13.12)
There are many more. Find them. Make a list.  Go over them often.

2.       The Celtic tradition encourages each person to have an anam cara, a soul friend, a person who has a very special place in our lives. A soul friend is a person who can share the ever deepening things of God with us and we with them. Be slow to name someone your anam cara.  This person is not just a buddy, a teammate, a spouse or a family member, although (s)he could be one of these. A soul mate loves God with you.

3.       The third part of growing in attentiveness to God is to allow yourself a retreat day with God away from home once in a while. Retreats often have a person who can help direct your thinking and praying. You could do a retreat alone or with a group. One such group retreat coming up is at the SSJ motherhouse on Saturday, October 19th. It’s open to whoever wants to come. Go to the SSJ website for details, time and fee.  It's called "Dive Deeper" under our Retreat Saturday programs.
Jesus. Be with me as I try to be attentive to You in my daily life. Amen

~Joan Sobala, SSJ