It's been awhile since I last "mused" with everyone. How subtly time passes and seasons change, and one day we notice that the slant of the sun has shifted and the thinning leaves of the trees point to time moving on "ready or not." Every morning and evening on my way to and from Espiritu Santo, I cross a railroad track and am reminded of what I learned as a child: "STOP, LOOK, LISTEN"! And I wonder:'Does anyone do that anymore?' Not just for railroad crossings, but for life. I still catch myself at 74 walking too fast...zipping by what is around me...even when I walk in Philippe Park it's for exercise, not for "wonder". Only if I stop to sit on a bench at the top of the Indian ceremonial mound and look out over the bay, does the "STOP,LOOK, and LISTEN" take over and I find my whole being grow quiet and still before the Divine beauty of it all.
I've spent this weekend now in our Parish Center celebrating our annual Festival of Gifts, engaged in conversation with our parishioners, listening and enjoying everyone's company. At first, I was disappointed that very, very few people took the time to STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN at each display to absorb the spirit of our vibrant parish...most seemed to pass by without looking closely at anything...Then I realized that this "Festival of Gifts" weekend is not about the colorful booths and organizations and ministries in themselves, it's about YOU, the members of our parish family. We are celebrating YOU! YOU are the gifts. YOU make it all possible. Everything that was in the Parish Center is the expression of your spirit and the gift of yourself. So, to each person who is reading this I say, "Thank you" for the Gift of You...we could not be the community that we are without you. I wish you moments to STOP, LOOK and LISTEN in the days ahead.
Until next time, Be Blessed!
Do you ever feel spiritually saddened...feel that your witness to Christ is futile in our contemporary world? For some reason I have felt that way more than usual this Advent/Christmas season 2011. I think it all started with Black Friday and the blind greed that drove people to violent behavior over "hot items" they wanted for Christmas. Driven by everything but love, the human heart can lose all sense of dignity and meaning. And then of course, we have wars, poverty, disease, despair, homelessness, (and the list goes on of events and conditions in this world) that tempt us to lose hope. We forget that Jesus was born into a world as inhuman and violent as our own...into a culture that did everything it could to destroy him, silence his message of God's love, hope, mercy and peace. His Spirit, his message, however, have prevailed for over 2,000 years! Even a brutal death could not eliminate him. Jesus lives!!... how visibly depends on you and me.
Merry Christmas! Until next time, blessings and peace,
I know I haven’t written for awhile, not for lack of material…rather too much, but there is something that I feel compelled to share with you today.
Last night our community gathered in the Main Church just a little before sunset to remember our friends and relatives who have gone home to God since November 2010. Their passing is still fresh in our hearts…we remember them…the love, their laughter…their unique personalities…their eyes and smile…their voice…their presence…their manner…all that they were to us and we miss them.
If one can speak of a “favorite Mass”, this one is mine. The rituals, prayers and music are so filled with hope and promise, comfort and peace; the assurance of our faith in Jesus Christ. And though none of that can wash away the grief that remains within, we hear over and over again that life is “changed, not ended” for them and for us. They are with God and we are not alone. In the Gathering Procession, each mourner bears a vigil light, alive with dancing flame to remind us all of the new life each soul now has in God…the incense rises, bells are tolled as names are read of those called home, the altar steps shimmer with over 100 vigils, their living flames lighting up the darkness; vibrant and alive as are our loved ones now with God…and we remember them…together we remember them…together, we grieve and at the same time we believe…we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are with God and still with us too…the prayers, the scriptures, the songs… so full of hope…the words seem to seep into our hearts and we carry them with us.
The Sending Song at the end of the Mass was strong and free…voices and words resounding into the rafters: “We will run and not grow weary, for our God will be our strength, and we will fly like the eagle…we will rise again!!” We were all there in support of one another and that’s exactly what happened…love, care, support …another grace-filled experience of our dynamic community of faith! Thank you and God bless us all!
Until next time, Prayers always,
and Peace…Sr. Paula
The "footprints" of the Twin Towers haunt me. From an aerial view they appear like two great open wounds, and I wonder if they will ever be healed. They speak of so much deep, searing loss that is still felt today. They speak of so many innocent lives brutally and senselessly snuffed out a full decade ago. The vacant spaces have been memorialized with cascading waterfalls, gardens and the names of those who died that day. And so these are sacred spaces. The night views are stunning. The absent towers become vibrant beams of light stretching from gound zero into the heavens and back again, and in these unwavering streams we are reminded that God was there, that God is there and that God will always be there, shining against the darkest of nights, reminding us that yes, there was immense loss, but there was also immense love. Etched in my memory are scenes of first responders bathed in a toxic dust that would eventually claim some of their lives, leading strangers to safety again and again, digging through broken steel and stone with their bare hands, searching...so many going in and never coming out...so much loss and so much love. "There is no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for others." (Jesus) And above it all the great steel cross rose from the ruins with our flag nearby. We grieve still, but we have hope and life because we have God. And is this not what our ministry is all about. We "become what we receive" in every ministry, we give the Life and Love of Jesus Christ to every person. Today at a memorial Mass for Kevin McQuade, who lost his life because of the toxic dust he breathed week after week at ground zero, we will sing in the Responsorial Psalm 23: "You have set me a banquet of love, in the face of hatred, crowning me with love beyond my power to hold." May we rise together in love. Be-blessed this day and always! Until next time. Sr. Paula
Today is the First Friday of August. I just returned from being away most of July in Kansas with my family, and Ohio with my community. This morning while I was praying in our convent chapel, I wrote the following and decided to share it with you. You may think it's too poetic to be realistic, but here it is for whatever it's worth:
Rain is once again fiercely pounding the newly painted deck and soaking our already drenched flower garden and filling the pool which is ready to overflow again, and I find myself thinking, "Don't get me wrong, Lord, I'm grateful, but will this ever end? Enough already!" Then I watch a tiny slice of sun at the horizon struggling to rise up in spite of the downpour and darkness. The sky above is split: black and pinkish white... thickening mist and relentless rain together make a misty veil with indistinguishable shapes of bushes, trees and houses beyond...nothing is clear, but I do know what's there...just can't see it right now. The barely visible sun continues to rise and break through...time passes, the rain slows and stops, stillness settles over the landscape. I look for a rainbow. There is none, but the sky is glowing with brilliant light. A new day! And I believe that once again our good God has spoken his never failing word of encouragement, hope and promise to each of us: "Behold, I have overcome the world, and I am with you all days until the end." God is faithful! Rejoice!
Until next time! Sr. Paula (it's good to be home)
Tomorrow we welcome Father Joseph Musco to our parish family! I was thinking about that as I lit the oil lamp before my meditation in our little chapel at home this morning. As the flame grew, fed by the oil soaking into the wick, my thoughts "wandered" to the unique "light of Christ" that each of our Parochial Vicars have brought to our family of faith over the years of my ministry here. I smiled to think of each of them...how different they all were...how God blessed us through them...how God revealed something of himself through each of their unique gifts...how the "flame" of their love and dedication to Jesus Christ lit the path for us and encouraged us on our journey. So we welcome Father Joseph and anticipate with joy the ways that God will bless us through his ministry among us and the ways that God will bless and support him through each of us: our prayers, our presence, our commitment to the life and love that Espiritu Santo Catholic Community is.
Rejoicing in God's goodness...until next time...Be-blessed! Sr. Paula
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ...the most profound mystery of love...how can we ever grasp it? I awoke this morning to a merciful rain drenching the parched ground around our house refreshing everything. And I thought about how often our souls can be like that earth...hungry and thirsty...but then refreshed, restored and strengthened by the Body of Christ. The relentless rain carried my thoughts to those parts of our country experiencing great extremes of weather...flooding and immense material loss; devastation from tornadoes and great material loss; droughts and fires and great material loss, and in all of it, good people coming to the aid of those in need. So what does this have to do with today's feast? What is it teaching us? Maybe that the loss of material resources allows our greatest resource to emerge...God's family coming to the aid of our suffering brothers and sisters...the visible Body of Christ...and truly, who are we if we are not the visible Body of Christ? Until next time...Be-blessed. Sr. Paula
Today is the official first day of summer, the beginning of a new season! Happy summer to everyone! I was thinking about seasons this morning and about how they are one of God's gifts for "starting over". Seasons bring newness...expectations...plans...possibilities. Last night's FAST meeting here at ES did just that! What a meeting it was! It brought together people of wide diversity to accomplish one goal. For a couple of hours we were a true community...Muslims, Jews, Christians of all denominations, all ages, all walks of life, all levels of physical vitality. We were a community because we shared ONE vision, ONE life-giving purpose rooted in the mission of Jesus to "lift the burdens" of our suffering brothers and sisters. The whole experience felt llike another Pentecost! God's Spirit setting us all on fire to make Pinellas County a place of hope...to give individuals and families another chance at life. And you know, even after the meeting ended and everyone returned to their own homes, that sense of community lingers in my heart. I am so grateful for every man, woman and child who was there last night. The evening was a living testimony to God's love...a great witness to the Kingdom of God, alive on this earth. We could have most appropriately ended the meeting with: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another!" Until next time...Be-Blessed! Sr. Paula