Strength of a Mountain

Strength of a Mountain

Strength of a Mountain

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it … Dad

– Author Unknown

Remembering

Image result for images of memorial dayHeavenly Father,

On this Memorial Day, we pray for those who courageously laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. May the examples of their sacrifice inspire in us the selfless love of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bless the families of our fallen troops, and fill their homes and lives with Your strength and peace.

In union with people of goodwill of every nation, embolden us to answer the call to work for peace and justice, and thus, seek an end to violence and conflict around the globe.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

From the Archdiocese of Providence

 

 

Grief, Graduation and the Empty Nester

Maria Farrell For SCC calendar

Maria Farrell, Director
GriefWork: A National Servite Ministry of Compassion

It’s May, and for many families, that means graduation! It’s a happy time. A time of excitement and anticipation for the graduate. A time to plan out one’s life journey, to step out and become an adult.
And yet for parents, it can be a time of sadness. A time of nostalgia, looking back on how quickly the time has gone by. As a parent, I remember feeling very excited for my boys when they graduated. Both eagerly looking forward to the next exciting chapters in their lives.

I remember my mom telling me that it was hard on her and my dad as each of their six children moved out. It became quieter at home. Fewer voices, the phone didn’t ring as much, friendships that were forged because you had children in common began to dissolve. Mom and Dad missed having our friends come over and getting to see them and talk to them.

My husband and I became empty-nesters at the age of 44, well before any of our friends. Excited? Yes!… Uncertain? Yes!… Sad? Absolutely! Everything my mom had said was true. The house became quiet, no longer were the boys and their friends hanging out at our house, and some friendships did dissolve. Our friends were envious because we no longer had all of the running around to do. No more frantic schedules. We only had to worry about the two of us. We could go on great trips, do whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it. All true. And we would get to that point. But first we grieved our losses.

We so missed the days of running around and the friends. Our roles as parents changed. The way we supported our sons changed. Cooking for two wasn’t nearly as fun as cooking for four plus any unexpected guests that showed up. Sometimes, I would think of the boys after they moved out, and I would get a bit teary. Although I was excited for them, I was sad for me. At the time, I didn’t really think of this as grieving, but I have come to realize that I experienced a loss. Grief isn’t reserved only for the death of a loved one. Grief can come upon us at different moments in our lives.

It’s ten years later now. The empty-nester grief moments have gone away. Our oldest has been married for 5 years and has a beautiful 2 year old daughter. Our youngest is getting married in just a few weeks. Over those years, my husband and I found new interests together, have traveled, made new friends, enjoy our life-long friends, and look forward to all of our new adventures.

By taking the time to grieve our loss and acknowledge the changes in our lives, we were able to enjoy our new lives and our new roles. Take the time!

The Seven Sorrows

screen-shot-2015-03-16-at-11-18-21-amThe Seventh Sorrow: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

John 19:41-42
“Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden, there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

This sorrow is what I call a time of “Holy Darkness.” Holy Darkness often invites us to open ourselves up to being in the living embrace of the Holy One in complete and utter silence.

After embracing the lifeless body of Jesus into her loving arms, Mary was faced with the reality of letting go of him once again. She knew what it was like to say the final goodbye to someone she loved. So much of her life had been devoted to her son. She had been the one to ask him to work his first miracle at the wedding feast of their friends. Knowing this would change their lives forever. Through all those years she had questioned, pondered and wondered about all that happened. But placing the lifeless body of her son in that tomb had to have been her most painful goodbye. Her yes, to the Angel Gabriel had lead her from the cave to the grave. Mary’s faith in the Holy One did not keep her from suffering. Many of us have experienced the tomb in our live.

Standing at the side of the casket of someone we love, watching them lower the lid, never to hear, see or touch them again. An emptiness fills our soul. There is no where to go. We sit in the grief and silence of our loss.

I remember when my brother Kevin died. He was just a year older than I was. He had been my stronghold, my support, my go to person when I needed someone to help me walk through the muddle of my life. It happened so quickly there wasn’t time to prepare. All of my siblings were going through their own grief process. Who could I turn to that would understand where and what I was feeling without saying a word?

Whom did Mary turn to for comfort, compassion, support and love? It wouldn’t come from those around her, for they were lost in their own darkness and disappointment. She needed to be strong for them. Jesus had taught Mary to know the Father. How many times had she heard him say; “To know me is to know my father.” “The father is in me and I am in the father and we are in you.” In the darkness of her own inner tomb Mary knew that she was not alone, that the Father was there with her. Holding her close to his own heart.

After my brother’s funeral, I returned home, which at that time was in Oshkosh WI. I was living alone and working at a Jesuit Retreat House. I knew I was alone in my own grief and loss. No one there had known my brother. No one knew the emptiness and devastation I felt. I remember going to the chapel and sitting down in the chair where I usually prayed. Like Mary, I needed to be alone in my own time of “Holy Darkness.”
I remember looking of at the corpus of Jesus hanging on the wall. As I prayed I threw my arms around Jesus’ neck and begged him to hold onto me and not let go. That was my prayer for many months. Then one day I said to him, “Okay I am going to let go just a little so I can stand on my tiptoes, but don’t’ you let go.”

Mary’s sorrow at the death of her son shaped the rest of her life. Each sorrow we encounter also molds us into the person God has called us to be.

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM

The Seven Sorrows

screen-shot-2015-03-16-at-11-18-21-am

The Pieta

The Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives the Dead body of Jesus

Matthew: 27: 57-61

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in the tomb that he had hewn in rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdala and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.”

As I look upon the image of the Pieta in silence with Mary, there are no words to express the grief, loss and sorrow that her heart is experiencing as she holds the tortured body of her son in her arms. At that moment, the words spoken to her by Simeon thirty some years ago, in the temple, must have spoken loudly in her heart. That her child would be a sign that will be opposed by so many and that a sword would pierce her own heart.

The Pieta is a powerful expression of love, life, death and hope. Pieta means loyalty and devotion. Both Mary’s strength and immense love are portrayed through the face and posture that Michelangelo gives her. In the Pieta, Mary has large, broad shoulders and a wide, generous lap on which the dead body of her son rests. The Pieta is a powerful reminder of how much strength love can have and how much pain it can evoke. The Pieta is a strong image of compassion. The figure of the sorrowful mother reflects all those who weep and grieve as they hold their great loss and pain close to their own hearts.

Most of us here understand the Pieta as a posture of our own hearts, especially when we are tending to others who are suffering grievously. Mary receiving the dead body of her son is every parent, of any age, who has suffered the loss of a child. There are many images of the reality of the Pieta happening in our world today. Those whom Mary stands with as they receive the tortured bodies and/or distorted bodies of their loved ones due to bombings and useless killings, or the ravages of an illness that drains away the life of the person they love.

An important aspect of this sixth sorrow is that Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. Everything she had known and cherished about her son, all the love they had shared, the trials and tribulations they had experienced, each hope and dream she had for him, all this Mary held on her sorrowing lap. Suffering is a mystery that we will never fully understand. The Jesus of the Pieta is each suffering person who enters our lives.

When I was in my late thirties, I was asked by my community leadership to be the Coordinator of our Motherhouse. Now I knew nothing about health care. I was a first-grade teacher. However, we had a wonderful R.N. who helped me to learn the ropes.

I remember so clearly the first time I was with one of our sisters as she died. Her name was Sister Francisca. She was unable to speak but understood every word you said to her. The night she died I was with her. It was an experience I will never forget. Once sister stopped breathing I was so aware that she was no longer present in that room. The essence of Sister Francisca was no longer in the room with me. Her Spirit had moved on.

I had the privilege over five years to walk with many of my sisters in community as they prepared to make their final journey home. Some I knew well and some I didn’t know until they had return home to die. One of the women I cared for was Sr. Emily Palmer. Emily had been married before she entered the community and at the time of her death she had three grown daughters. Emily stayed with her daughters in Florida until the doctor told her if she wanted to return to our motherhouse before she died she would have to go soon.

I will never forget the night I went to pick up Emily and her daughters at the airport. We transported her to the motherhouse in a van by wheelchair. As we pulled up to our back door, I looked up at the window on the second floor where our healthcare wing was set up. I could see someone looking out the window. I knew it was Sister Ligouri who also was living with cancer. She and Emily were good friends. When we got off the elevator to the second floor, there stood Ligouri bent over holding onto her walker waiting to see her friend.

It was one of the most sacred encounters I have ever experienced. Both sisters met each other eye to eye and heart to heart. Ligouri leaned over and said, “Welcome home my friend.” They both just held each other’s hands for a few moments in silence.

When we hold the suffering of our loved ones in our lap of compassion, we can put our own agendas aside and receive them as they are.

In her book, Your Sorrow is My Sorrow, Sr. Joyce Rupp, OSM states: “Compassion requires that we allow the lap of our life to hold the suffering of others. We can do this only if we act from a center of love deep within ourselves. The Pieta is an intensely vivid reminder of how much strength this love has and how much power this love gives to do what needs to be done.”

May we receive those who come into our lives and are suffering with compassion and love.

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM

The Seven Sorrows

The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.

screen-shot-2015-03-16-at-11-18-21-am

 

The Fifth Sorrow: Mary Stands beneath the Cross of Jesus

John 19:25

“…standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.”

There is so much suffering in the world today it’s hard to imagine that there is someone who has not been asked to stand beneath the cross of someone they love.

Each cross is unique and it invites all those who are impacted by its presence to go deep inside oneself to find the faith and strength to accompany those we love. Whether it be physical, mental or spiritual suffering.

What I find reassuring is that Mary did not have to stand beneath the cross of her son alone. Her sister Mary wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John were there at Mary’s side. Mary found comfort in the presence of those who loved her and loved her son. She knew they felt her son’s pain as well as her own. No words were needed.

After I completed my job as the Coordinator of our Motherhouse. I moved to Sioux City to be closer to my mother. A few years earlier she was diagnosed with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. The first two years, mom managed okay on her on.

The summer of her seventy fifth birthday, we decided that we would have a big celebration for her. She seemed to be getting fragile. Shortly after her celebration in June she got shingles, which were very painful for her. I remember one day helping her with her shower. She was in a lot of pain. So, I said to her, “Tell to God to knock it off, enough is enough.”

She looked at me a said you can’t say that to God. I told her she could because God knew she was thinking it anyway. Besides her favorite saint, St. Therese, was known for this quote; “If this is how you treat your friends no wonder you have so few.”

From August 19th to Oct. 19th, was an extremely difficult and emotional time for all my brothers and sisters. Not only was my mother critically ill. My sister-in-law, whom I mentioned earlier, was also fighting for her life from breast cancer.

When I think of Mary’s sister, John and Mary Magdala being there for both Mary and Jesus, it makes me grateful that there were nine children in my family. We helped each other get through the difficult times and we tried to care for and be present to my mom and my sister-in-law in whatever way they needed us.

It’s hard to let go even if you don’t want them to be suffering, however the time does come when you admit to yourself your own powerlessness and let go. This was a painful time for my family. Each of us in our own way had to go deep within ourselves and meet God face to face, heart to heart to realize there is something much more meaningful going on here that we have no control over.

Mary knew, in the depth of her own heart, the time would come when she would have to walk with her son Jesus in whatever suffering would come into his life.

I am always fascinated by the fact that Jesus spent only three years teaching and preparing his apostles. While he spent thirty years living quietly with his mother. I believe during those thirty years Mary had much to teach Jesus. Allowing him to experience what it meant to be marginalized and poor.

Jesus also helped Mary to grow in her own wisdom and grace, so she was able in faith and courage to walk with her son to the cross. Can’t you just imagine the dinner conversations they had.

Are you walking with someone who is suffering? Are you carrying your own cross of suffering? Like Mary who do you need to stand with you during the difficult times of your life?

By Sr.Kerry Larkin, OSM

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.

screen-shot-2015-03-16-at-11-18-21-am

The Pieta is a key icon for the Servants of Mary

The Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus Carrying His Cross

Luke 23: 26-27
“As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.”

When I reflect over my life, this fourth sorrow is the one I can identify with most strongly and in a personal way. One of the key words in this sorrow is the word “meet”. Mary meets Jesus carrying his cross. The Cross is a symbol for suffering. Suffering is not something we choose most times, it chooses us or someone we love. The first time I experienced meeting someone who was suffering happened when I was Coordinator for our Motherhouse.

I was in my late thirties. Up to that point, I had been working with and teaching first graders. So, coming to the motherhouse and being responsible for the care and welfare of sisters who were much older than me was a challenge. We had just started setting up a health care unit for the sisters who needed extra care and nursing care. I knew nothing about the medical field. I was grateful for the nursing staff we had who taught me a great deal over those four years.

What I remember the most which changed my life in ways I didn’t understand at the time, was that most of the women I was carrying for just wanted me to walk with them as they lived and faced whatever illness or suffering that they were experiencing. All they really wanted form me was love and compassion as they lived and died.

The last year and a half of being the Coordinator was an extremely difficult and draining journey of walking with twelve different sisters who were living with serious illnesses and preparing for their deaths. Each one of those women graced me with their willingness to trust me and allow me to companion with them to the end of their lives.

Mary was a faithful companion for me during those four years. Many a time I would go to her in my prayer and ask for the grace and the wisdom to know what I needed to do or when to get out of God’s way.

Mary in her own life experienced a great deal of suffering. She walked with her son from the stable to the cross. Mary knows what it means to suffer. Even in my own life when I am faced with personal suffering or that of one of my family members, Mary is always at my side. I have had many family members deal with life threatening illness and some have died from these illnesses. One of those was my sister-in-law Linda, who at the age of 34 was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage four. This illness changed her life and the life of my brother and their four young children forever.

When she was first diagnosed, she believed in God, a kind of distant God who was there when you needed him. By the end of her life, God was front and center. There was no fear or anxiety. She knew to whom and where she was going and so did my brother.

None of us know with whom or when suffering will be part of our journey, but it will come and I pray that you will have someone in your life, like Mary, to turn to who will be at your side every step of the way.

I don’t have the answer to the question why is there so much suffering in our world, but these words from Fr. Richard Rohr help me to accept suffering is a part of our lives as much as joy.

“Until we love and until we suffer, we all try to figure out life and death with our minds. Love, I believe, is the only way to initially and safely open the door of awareness and aliveness, and then suffering for that love keeps the door open and available for ever greater growth. We dare not refuse love or suffering or we close the door to life itself.”

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Third Sorrow: The Loss of the child Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:43-49: When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, and all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw, him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

This third sorrow is a challenging one to understand, because Jesus himself is the one who has caused his parents this anxiety and suffering. We might be thinking to ourselves, why didn’t Mary and Joseph make sure Jesus was them before they left the city to return home?
For them to travel with a caravan, the women would be in one group, the men in another group and the children would be with other children their own ages.Once they realized Jesus was missing, they searched for him for three days in the city of Jerusalem.

I think all of us can identify with the words in this passage spoken by Jesus’s mother, “Son, why have you done this to us.? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Even after Mary lets Jesus know how fearful they felt he doesn’t seem to comprehend what they have been going through. He simply asked them “Why are you looking for me, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Not only would this be painful for them to hear, but cause both Joseph and Mary more anxiety along with a great deal of confusion.

When we look back at this event in the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it would be easy for us to say they should have understood who Jesus was, after all didn’t the Angel Gabriel tell them both he was the Son of God?

When Mary felt deep sorrow her way of coping was to sit quietly and ponder the words that she held close to her heart. I would think the experience of not knowing where your child is would be the most difficult suffering a parent could go through. How many times have we had Amber Alerts taking place in different towns and cities in our own country because a child is missing or has been taken, or a child has run away on their own.

Jesus was a twelve-year-old boy who felt drawn by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Temple. He was caught up in the conversation he was having with the High Priest. In a sense, he had lost all track of time. You can hear that in the way he answered his mother’s question. He wasn’t showing her disrespect. He didn’t understand the impact his choice had made. However, once he did realize what his parents had been going through, he went back home with them. It wasn’t time for him to begin his ministry.

So, what can we learn from this third sorrow? Who are the Mary and Joseph’s in our world today who have lost a child for one reason or another?

How are they able to keep on living not knowing where their child is or what has happened to them?

One of greatest challenges our world faces today is that of “Human Trafficking.” The Human Trafficking of young children being sold as part of a sex trade. May we as people of faith stand with Mary and Joseph in pondering this third sorrow that families face today.
Are you being asked to walk with parents, friends and family members who are living with the sorrow of not know whether their child is alive and safe?

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.

screen-shot-2015-03-16-at-11-18-21-am

The Pieta is a key icon for the Servants of Mary

The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

Matthew: 2; 13-15

When the Magi had departed, behold, the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod.

Fear, and sorrow entered Mary and Joseph’s life soon after Jesus is born. They find out from three strangers that the life of their child is threaten by a powerful king. Joseph, having trusted God the first time when God revealed to him in a dream that he was to take Mary as his wife is now faced with the challenge of how to protect both his wife and child.
Once again, in a dream, Joseph is told by the angel to leave all that is familiar to them. They are to go to Egypt to live until it is safe for his family to return home. The distance that Joseph and Mary would have traveled from Bethlehem to Egypt was around eighty miles.

This would not have been an easy journey through desert terrain. I am sure at different times during their journey they would have tried to join a caravan for safety. They are being asked in faith to turn their life and family over to the care of their God in a strange place without the support of their family.

Letting go of control is never easy, especially when we are asked to place our children, a family member or a loved one into the care of strangers when they are ill. I remember when my sister-in-law, who at the age of thirty-four, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Not long after she was diagnosed it was determined by her doctors that she needed to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico for special treatment. Even today it is painful to remember. There are no words to express the grief and sorrow that her mother and father, their five children and my family went through as we went through such a painful, scary time. For them to have to leave behind their children, her mom and dad and my mom took a tremendous amount of courage and faith.

Loss and grief can come into our lives in many ways, especially when we are faced with letting go of all we are familiar with and where we feel safe. There are many people in our world today who have been forced out of their homes and countries to find safety. Their experiences are extremely difficult as they are faced with uncertainty, their very lives being threaten. Our world can be a hostile world at times. Our world is filled with refugees. In truth, we all are refugees. We are a pilgrim people walking this journey of life together.
I often think of this quote when I am faced with uncertainty in my life.

“We often say we are human beings on a spiritual journey. When in truth we are Spiritual Beings on a Human Journey.”

How can we reach out and help those, who like Mary and Joseph, are seeking safety, security and home for their family? What grace do we need to ask God for so we can open ourselves up to and be attentive in the ways God reveals himself to us, whether that be through our dreams, through each other or through strangers who come bearing gifts?
Gifts that may also bring a sense of loss, sorrow or sadness into our lives.

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM