What is Love? by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Flower blooming near our Fatima Shrine on the convent grounds of the Oldenburg Sisters of St. Francis

What is love – really?  If we look at TV’s take on love we will not find it in our own lives except occasionally and briefly.  So it would be well for us to look at what the Scripture has to say about love.

Love is patient.  When the muddy footprints are on the freshly waxed floor or the guy next door returns your mower, damaged.

Love is kind.  To the telemarketer who calls at the worst possible time or the woman whose strident voice grates.

Love is never jealous.  Not even if everyone on the block has a new car or boat.

Love is not boastful or conceited.  Not even when you are the only one on the block with a new boat.

Love is not rude or selfish.  Even if you are snubbed or someone won’t share.

Love does not take offense and is not resentful.  Even when a good friend does not include you in an invitation.

Love does not take delight in others sins.  Not even in a joking way.  Love speaks the truth.

Love is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to take whatever comes.  Even if the whole world is out of step, Love does not come to an end. Not now, not IF, not ever.

You know, love like this is wonderful and beautiful, BUT NOT EASY!

Yet this is how God loves us!

Wishing you God’s peace and love,
Sharonlu, OSF

Stained Glass Windows by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Oldenburg Sisters of St. Francis - Stained Glass in the ChapelCallie was one of the most admired women in her parish.  Her presence was so calming and gentle, and she spoke with a voice that was almost beguiling.  Every one spoke of what a charming, sunny disposition she had.  And she had such good ideas and creative thoughts, her position in the Ladies Club gave her the freedom to set the pace and tone for most of the social events planned.  No one bucked her because she was always right, and she would shine with that knowledge.  However, outside the church Ladies Group, Callie lost her shine.  She did not fit in with other social groups, and the church group was her only high point.

About three years after Callie became a fixture on the Ladies Club roster, Mabel entered the picture.  Mabel was a rather plain person, who did not push her ideas, but very often caught some snags in Callie’s plan.  Never in the front of things, Mabel shone behind the scenes and when things seemed to fail, she would be the one to bolster up the group and keep things going. She could find something to say no matter in what group she found herself.  Quiet, but a pleasant, positive addition to most any group, Mabel was always a plus.

These two women were like stained glass windows. If you are IN the church and the day is sunny, the stained glass windows glow.  You can walk to various places in the church and have their colors reflect on your clothing.  But if you are OUTSIDE the church and the day is sunny, the stained glass windows look dark.  It is even hard to see the picture or design there.  Callie was like that.  While she is in a place where she can be forefront, Callie shines.

If the day is dreary and rainy, and you are OUTSIDE a church whose candles and lights are ablaze, you will see, in spite of the darkness of the weather, the most beautiful array of colors.  This is Mabel who glows when things are dark.  It looks dark INSIDE the church, but the radiance outside goes far.

We all have our bright and dark days.  However, keeping our interior light glowing will allow the beauty we have inside to spill out on others.  On the other hand when we allow our interior light to fade, we cannot be a beacon for others.

Sustaining our interior light is a constant task, but we have so many aids.  Daily prayer and meditation are a big help.  Remembering the do things for others strengthens our interior life, much like exercise strengthens the muscles.  Smiling a lot is so beneficial and it is free!  See how many smiles you can draw from others you encounter during the day, And, guess what!  The more you smile the happier you will feel!

Be a person like a stained glass window with an interior light radiating your beauty.

Peace and Joy to all you beautiful people and that means YOU!

Sharonlu OSF

100,000 Miracles, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Quite a long time ago a movie came out that became and has remained one of my very favorites.  The title is: The Flower Drum Song.  The song says, “A hundred thousand miracles are happening every day.”  It reminds me that when we are attentive, everyday miracles are present to us and give us much joy.  Here is one way this has happened for me.

Outside my window there is a small tree.  It is not much to look at; in fact it is very easy to miss.  The branches are spindly, and the trunk is almost too small to call a trunk.  Frequently, I close my shade so I do not have to look at it.

In the basement there are several boxes of things from the past.  I seldom pay attention to them except to shift them around when I need to reach something that is stored beneath or behind them.  The top box holds many things, and not all of them draw my attention, but there is a rusty looking cup I often find myself picking up, wondering where it came from.  It is so crusty-looking, I always always return it to the box, but for one reason or another, on one particular day, I set it on top of the boxes.

Soon after that, my young nephew Joey came to me for the nth time to have his shoes tied.  As I helped him again, I wondered how his mother could do that so many more times than I and still keep her patience.   I decided to show Joey how to tie his shoes himself.  (We had done this 45 times before.)  Shoes tied, he spied the cup and asked if he could play with it.  Getting a nod from me, he dashed out the door to his adventures.

My thoughts soon turned to my niece Danielle and her husband who have been trying to conceive a child for the past seven years of their marriage.  The doctors finally told them it was not going to happen.  It was a sad finale for a wonderful couple.

As my mind pondered this sadness, Susan, a neighbor child, came by with her cousin and began exploring the back porch where they found a bucket with dried up bulbs in it.  “Can we plant them?” she asked.  I was not sure if the bulbs would germinate, but I told them they could use the flower bed near the walk.

Now, that day was not despairingly low, but it was certainly not a whiz-bang day!  But the things I have mentioned showed their miraculous side just a few weeks later.  I noticed it at first when I opened the shade in my room where the spindly tree grew and was welcomed with a burst of color.  That tree was beautiful!

That same morning, Danielle called and told me they planned to adopt, and Catholic Charities told them they were short of couples and had already put them on their list.  Next, they had to be interviewed and write something about themselves and their marriage.  The two of them were so happy and excited, I was smiling when we ended the conversation.

Not long after that, Joey came over to show me that he could tie his own shoes now, which he did slowly and with care but accurately.  I gave him a hug of approval. “You showed me how real good,” he said, “and look what I found.”  He then handed me the once crusty cup, now sparkling silver inscribed with the name: John F. Kennedy. “I took it to preschool to show them, and my teacher said it was probably a hair loom”.  I knew Joey was a greater treasure than that cup.

I swept the kitchen after Joey left and was emptying the trash outside the back door, when I saw them: six little green shoots popping out of the flower bed.  I still was not sure what they would be but those little green heads gave my own heart such a lift, I smiled most of the afternoon.

Miracles? Well, not the big kind, like the Resurrection of Jesus, but little reminders that in the ordinary things of life, miracles happen every day.

May your day be blessed and filled with the joy of miracles both ordinary and extraordinary!

Peace, Joy, and Everything Good,

S. Sharonlu

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S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF has a background in education, child development, and family ministries, and her wisdom is now at work at Oldenburg Franciscan Center.  She has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and as Director of Family Life Services for two dioceses.  Sr. Sharonlu has long been an advocate for children and puts her heart into helping parents build and sustain healthy family relationships.  One of her most memorable ministries has been with the people of Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, where her heart still lies.

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Washing of Feet, by Barbara Leonhard, OSF

Photograph © Margaret Lois Jansen

Don’t be afraid to let me love you just as you are.

I know the journey you’ve been on.
Every step of it is precious to me.

As I wash your feet, I acknowledge and bless steps taken with courageous stride;
slow, hesitant, barely inching forward steps, and even the dragging of feet.

Your feet tell the story of your journey,
how long you have been on the way; the stumbling blocks you’ve tripped over;
the moments of slip-sliding down some hill you thought you’d climbed once and for all;
and the determined digging in of toes as you learned to begin anew.

In the washing of your feet, I hold your inner journey as well.

Don’t be afraid to let me love you just as you are:
exhausted or exuberant, anxious or peaceful, discouraged or hopeful.

As I bathe your feet, I bless you for every step you have taken,
the ones others have seen and the ones only you know about –
those costly steps toward forgiveness, understanding, or softening of heart.

I honor even the steps that you thought of as missteps
or walking in circles, or meandering in confusion.
Every step you have taken is precious to me.

I bless you for the journey that is still yours to make.
Each step you take, whether bold or limping,
dancing or stiff,
is sacred.

As I wash your feet
and hold in my hands all the stories that they tell,
I silently pray that no matter where your journey takes you,
you will remember that I am with you
loving you
just as you are.

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Washing of Feet © Barbara Leonhard, OSF

Barbara Leonhard, OSF is a theologian, spiritual director, and retreat leader at Oldenburg Franciscan Center.  She is a lover of scripture and loves to share the Good News with others.

Please contact center@oldenburgosf.com with any requests for permission to reproduce Washing of Feet.
Please visit http://www.smallsmallacts.com for information on licensing of images or purchase of prints by Lois.

Resurrection, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Resurrection of trees at Springtime

Most of us, when we hear the word “resurrection” will think of Easter and Jesus’ return from the dead or the final judgment when all will rise from the dead.  Perhaps it is because at the time a person dies, grief at the loss of someone dear blocks out other emotions. To find a way of keeping our focus on the resurrection each of us will experience would be, in my opinion, a great way of seeing beyond the bodily death.  Our beloved parent, child or friend lives on.

Death is like birth.  A baby spends 9 months in the mother’s womb developing a body that will be able to thrive on the earth.  Then with much pain and trauma to both baby and mother, the child is born.  We spend 50, 70, 99 years on this earth developing a soul that will be able to see God.  Then with varying amounts of pain we will be birthed into the heavenly atmosphere leaving the people we loved and who loved us still in development.  These people have been part of our spiritual development, and they will grieve at not being able to see us.  But if the thought of the resurrection were daily reviewed, grief can be lessened.

Take look at the trees. In the winter the trees seem dead.  In fact, a visitor from New Guinea remarked about how fortunate we were to have so much firewood at hand!  She could not imagine these trees coming to life again in the spring.  Happily she was still visiting in the spring and could see the “resurrection” of the trees.

We humans cannot see the resurrection of our loved ones, but we would do well to remember they will rise.  They have spent their lives developing a spiritual life, even if they are not cognizant of doing it.  We are here to prepare for heaven.  Most of us will do a pretty fair job of it.  Some of us will do a magnificent preparation.  Others may not do so well.  But what you end up with when the spiritual birthing time comes is what you have been developing all your life.

Some people have lived in an atmosphere that nurtured the spiritual development day by day.  Maybe your home of origin was like that.  Some people did not get conscious of the need to nurture his/her spiritual nature until adulthood.  And there are some who never caught the need to nurture it.

Please note that I did not say religious life.  The spirit, the soul, can be nurtured in many ways, sometimes without religion.  If you equate religious with spiritual, you may have a different definition of spiritual.

I have heard of young persons who heard nothing of God or Jesus, but grew up with a strong sense that there was something more to life.  Their way of living could put me to shame.  Their sense of the spiritual was alive and strong, and that sense developed their souls even though they knew nothing of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, redemption.  I often think if we could bring that knowledge to them, they would be saintly giants.

Reflecting on what our life is all about and how we are nurturing our souls for heaven will bring us to thoughts of our resurrection and will probably help strengthen our spiritual life.

Peace and Joy to all as we approach the magnificent resurrection of Jesus. It is because of HIM that we are assured about our own resurrection.

S. Sharonlu

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S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF has a background in education, child development, and family ministries, and her wisdom is now at work at Oldenburg Franciscan Center.  She has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and as Director of Family Life Services for two dioceses.  Sr. Sharonlu has long been an advocate for children and puts her heart into helping parents build and sustain healthy family relationships.  One of her most memorable ministries has been with the people of Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, where her heart still lies.

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