Sunday Reflection, by S. Jane McConnell, OSF

Reflection for September 30, 2012
 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Numbers 11:25-29
Psalm: 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14

Second Reading: James 5:1-6
Gospel: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Reflection
Today’s Scripture readings call us to pause and consider where the possible “blind spots” may be in our lives.  How and when do I decide which people around me have wisdom, worth and valuable gifts to be shared, and which persons do I judge do not?  What criteria do I use to determine this?  If we ask, God will help to clear our vision, cleanse our hands, and guide our feet away from circles of bias and narrow judgment…freeing our hearts, refreshing our spirits, and giving us wisdom to see others as God sees them as we journey through life each day.

 

Prayer
God of Wisdom and Truth, open our hearts and our spirits, clear our vision, so that we may more clearly see others as you see them, recognize the dignity and worth of each person we encounter, welcome and value the gifts of those around us who seek to serve with grace and humility in your name. Amen.

 

Jane McConnell, OSF
Author of Daily We Seek You
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Curiosity, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

So many things can arouse our curiosity, and for just as many reasons. Look at the picture of the little miss and the goldfish. She seems just as curious about the fish as the fish is about her. Both are gaining information that will be stored and used as the occasion arises.

We too can be curious about what we do not know and want to receive more information. Such curiosity is beneficial and as we grow can increase until we shut it off. Closing it down is when we lose some of the spontaneity of newness. Seeing things as children do keeps the wonder in us alive.

The picture of the other pair shows a very different kind of curiosity.  One is a predator and the other the prey.  The kitten is focused on the fish, not to learn something but to satisfy hunger. The fish is as far from the kitten as possible and facing away as if not seeing the predator would make the danger less. And danger it is.

We also run from or try to ignore danger, while it creeps closer to us.  Most dangers we have in our daily lives are not life threatening as far as our physical life goes. But the danger to our spiritual life can be in jeopardy. It is necessary to be on guard against things that seep into our souls and undermine the link between our patient, loving God and us.

Those things are as unique to each of us as our DNA. We all have our weak spots and the dangers we face will surely aim for those. It may be the books we read, the movies we watch or the interaction with people who soon have a greater influence on us than we thought. Be on guard then. Flee if you must, or at least put up barriers between you and the anything that weakens you. The strongest barrier is Prayer. Nothing is stronger than the mind and will at prayer.  If we cultivate that, we will have enough curiosity about God’s place in our lives that danger will fall by the wayside.

This is not an easy task. The mind can easily determine and decide what is best. The will, that wishy-washy will-o-the-wisp takes much bridling if we are to tame it into following what the mind sees as good. Bit by bit we can do it, especially if we rely on the strength of our Brother Jesus, who wants to help us so much he died trying!

Peace and courage!

Sharonlu OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Missing the Point, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

If you have ever visited the Oldenburg Franciscan Center, you have probably passed by the door of our office. I would guess that you did not see the magnet on the doorjamb as you passed by.  I only notice it once or twice a year, and I am in and out a dozen times a week.  Check it out down below.

Even so, I am struck by its message each time I see it. Perhaps it is because I have such an attitude of ME FIRST.  I am not concerned about things others have that I do not, but ideas, MY ideas, always are the best in my eyes.

A tender nerve pops up when something I have done or said or written is negated by others.  HOW COULD THEY??? Never mind that what is proffered instead is much better, gets the job done more effectively, or says in different words what I tried to say. Why do I put myself in a position of grandeur?  Have I decided that what I want is more important than what God has in mind?  Foolish Sharonlu!  Follow the advice on the office magnet.  Not every message from God is in the Scriptures.  Sometimes it is a simple statement from an unknown writer, or a remark from a co-worker, or perhaps an insight from something in nature, like the beaver or the ant who go about their work no matter what.

You have heard the saying, “God takes care of children and fools.”  I do not qualify for the children category any more, but as for being a fool, I qualify very often. Thank you Lord for my rescue by means of a simple office magnet.

Watch yourself! Let the work of God take precedence over anything you want to do.  It is the only way to Joy! May God grant you insights, and may your eyes be wide open to catch them.

Peace,
Sharonlu OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Sunday Reflection, by OSF Associate Marty Kollstedt

Reflection for September 23, 2012

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Psalm: 54:3-4, 5, 6-8

Second Reading: James 3:16-4:3

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

Reflection
As today’s gospel reading from Mark opens, Jesus presents a sobering message to his followers.  These devoted ones who have just witnessed Jesus performing marvelous healings and wonders now hear: “The son of man will be delivered into the hands (of those) who will kill him…(however) after three days he will rise.”  How did Jesus’ followers respond to his proclamation?  The gospel indicates that in their confusion and fear the followers eventually land into discussion of a hierarchy among one another.  How do we hear and respond to that same message about suffering, death, and resurrection?  Can we, do we, truly take in all that might mean and what might then be asked of us?  Or like Jesus’ followers do we consciously or unconsciously avoid applying them to our lives and world?  Do we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others in order to compensate for our weaknesses or enhance our self-esteem?  What does that say about our regard for others?  How do we implement Jesus’ call for service and humility in our dealings with one another?
Prayer
Grant us the wisdom to understand how your words impact our lives.  Strengthen us with courage to apply your words to our daily life.  Inspire us to live out these words with a spirit of service and humility. Amen.
Marty Kollstedt, OSF Associate
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Italian Night Under the Stars!

Dear friends,

Thank you to all of you who supported our 2012 fundraiser: Italian Night Under the Stars.  We had such a wonderful time with our guests on one of the most beautiful, cool nights of the summer!  S. Norma Rocklage entertained and inspired us all with her portrayal of St. Clare, and our raffle winners were thrilled with their prizes!

Here are a couple pictures from the evening.  More may be found on our website at http://www.oldenburgfranciscancenter.org.

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Thanks for all you do to support our growing ministry!

Blessings on your week ahead!
The staff at OFC

Crawfish holes & plans, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Joseph Cornell writes for children and adults about a deeper knowledge of nature. He quotes a friend, Steve, who was leading a class of young children on a walk.

“When we got to a stream crossing, I started to show them crayfish holes, as I usually do. With a great deal of enthusiasm, I said, ‘Let’s kneel down and find out who lives in these holes along the bank.’ None of the children responded. While still kneeling, I glanced behind me and could see that they were still standing, so with even more enthusiasm I said, ‘Let’s all get down and look closely – these are crayfish houses!’ The children still didn’t respond.

“Because the children were clustered so closely and I was kneeling on the ground, I could only see the lower halves of their bodies. When I turned around and looked up I saw all the children, perfectly motionless with faces turned upward, gazing at a large owl perched on a branch just six feet above us.”

Steve laughed and said, “I’d become so used to showing children those crayfish holes, that I didn’t even notice the owl.” I learned the importance of letting go of plans and of being more receptive to what’s going on around us, –like children are. From: Listening to Nature by Joseph Cornell

An old quip says, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” That is not always the case, but we have all either been glad we had a plan B, or lamentably wished so.

Being ready to scrap plans is not easy. We put time and talent into our preparation, having it wiped away is painful. The Great Planner knows this but also knows what is best. Humbling as it is, we must admit God’s wisdom. Maybe we cannot take disappointments with a smile, but without rage is a good start!

Peace to All,

Sharonlu, OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Sunday Reflection, by OSF Associate Joan Caldwell

Oldenburg Sunset

Oldenburg Sunset

Reflection for September 16 2012
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm: 116:1-6, 8-9

Second Reading: James 2:14-18
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

 

Reflection
I love today’s readings in James.  How comforting to know that we are not saved by faith alone. We are not merely passive observers of our salvation. We are partners. United mystically with Christ, we incarnate Christ for others. We share in his divine life when we live as he lived and unite our Charity to his. We cannot do these good works that we are called to do and be justified on our own. We are not saved by faith alone and we are not saved at all without faith.

 

It is this unity with Christ through grace that also enables us to pick up our crosses and follow him. On our own we would react the same as Simon Peter did when Jesus told the disciples that the Christ must suffer at the hands of those he tried to save, that he would die and after three days rise again. No, God forbid. I don’t want you to suffer and die. We don’t want anyone we love to suffer and die. We don’t want suffering for ourselves either. We’re only human. We all have crosses that come and go or that we carry throughout life. How do we find the strength to deny ourselves, pick up and carry those crosses? How do we make our suffering redemptive? How do we live our lives as he lived? Go back to the beginning of the Gospel reading. Mark’s Gospel is always centered around the question, “Who is this Jesus?”.  Peter answers for all of us with utter assurance, “You are the Christ.”  We can do what we must, suffer what we must, because we are not alone. He is in us and we are in him, united in faith.

 

Prayer
Almighty God, I thank you that my faith is not in myself but in you. How great you are, how wise and wonderful! You love me so much that you allow me to be a partner with Christ in my own salvation. To give back in some small way for what I have been given. To pass it forward. I want to do good to others because you have been so good to me. Christ lives in me and I have the ability to good because you are good, I can be strong because you are strong and when I suffer I am not alone because you are with me. Keep me always in your graces, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

OSF Associate, Joan Caldwell
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Sunflowers, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

I had planned to give you an account of my impressions of this showy flower, and did a bit of research so that my account would be accurate.  Well, I found out so much that I am sharing with you some really interesting (to me) facts about this marvelous plant.

First of all what we call the flower is not really accurate.  The flower is the dark brown part, and the yellow petals only protect the true flower.  And there are hundreds of small flowers in that dark center.  What we call the flower is known as the head of the flower. The mass of hundreds of flowers, all growing individually, are where each sunflower seed will originate.

The sunflower seeds are edible and delicious.    The seeds can be pressed to extract sunflower oil which is used for cooking and in the manufacture of cosmetics and machinery lubricants.  Sunflower oil can be made into plastics and has the potential to create fuel for cars and other machinery.

What does that say to us?

  1. The showy stuff is expendable!  What is extra we do not need, and probably belongs to the poor!  Showy is only to protect the valuable.
  2. The true flower is not one but hundreds and they are packed together like sardines!  So much togetherness would be disastrous if each flower were not concerned with growing as an individual flower. Although they are crammed together, their development is individual.
  3. The value of the sunflower comes from the dark center.  Maybe our dark days are sources of growth!

While I was working on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake Minnesota, I was often called to the diocesan center in Crookston for meetings. The trip took just over an hour and as I neared the meeting site I would drive though sunflower fields. These tall waving heavy-headed beauties seemed to be looking at me as I drove west for the meeting.  I knew it was the sun that attracted them, but to see those bright blooming “faces” was lovely.

I had imagined that the view home that afternoon would not be so lovely.  I would be seeing only the backs of the flowers, and a sunflower’s back is not very intriguing.  I had forgotten that sunflowers follow the sun.  So to my delightful surprise those sunny faces greeted me again as I drove east to get home.

Sunflowers always face toward the sun as they are developing the true flowers which are found in the dark brown center. After making the 180 degree turn they wait for the sunset and then begin the return to face the east and wait for the dawn. As soon as the dark center has developed fully, the plant faces east and does not move with the sun.

What do I make of that?  If we keep our face toward the SON, and follow the path taken by the SON we will be in good company.  However, dark times like the night may quickly follow.  Learn from the sunflower and keep turning back to the Son source  It may take a while but the shadows will lessen and the brightness of the morning sun will shine.

We need to listen and read and follow the teachings that are presented to us by so many sources.  As we develop in our spiritual life, we feed on information and example.  Once we are grounded, we need to face the source of all good.  For the sunflower it is the east.  For us it is the face of God, of Jesus.  The sunflower does not move once the center is mature.  Our life in the spirit may require less “movement” and more contemplation. In prayer, quiet time to bask in the face of God gives God the chance to talk to us.  We just listen.  Many things can happen during the time of prayerful quiet.  If you haven’t tried it, give it a chance.
Peace and Shh!

Sharonlu OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

The Tolling Bell, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

More frequently than usual, the bell in our tower will begin tolling. We all know what that means. A tolling bell means someone has died, or occasionally, help is needed.

We toll the bell each time an execution takes place no matter where it is happening or to whom.

Why would a small town like Oldenburg Indiana, population just under 700 people, toll the bell for a convicted criminal in Texas, for example? There is most likely not one person in Oldenburg who knows the individual, or the crime committed. All they know is that there is a person whose life is being ended.

Prayers for the salvation of that person’s soul are sent heavenward when the bell tolls. That also includes prayers for the end to the death penalty.

Every person is entitled to have someone praying for him or her, especially at the time of death. The bell gives us the chance to know at a specific moment, the time some person’s life is being ended.

In classrooms, we taught children to pray every time they hear an emergency vehicle, fire truck, ambulance, police car. Someone needs help. To pray that the help will arrive in time and alleviate the situation seems to me to be one of the great acts of charity. It takes little time, costs nothing, and connects you to a brother or sister in need. Who knows, next time it may be you! If so, I will be praying for help to arrive in time.

Peace and Prayers,

Sharonlu OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Sunday Reflection, by S. Andre Burkhart, OSF

September 9, 2012
 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Is. 35:4-7
Second Reading: James 2:1-5

Gospel: Mk. 7:31-37 

Reflection
If my memory serves me well, this is the only miracle of healing where props are used by Jesus in the Scriptures.  Wine, bread and fish are different than the physical touch in other passages.  It also appears that the “groan” is a prominent part of the healing.  As I sat with the readings, I saw the fact of my own deafness and speech defect at times.  I sometimes only hear what I want to hear!  My ears are closed to others when they remind me of my short comings.  My speech is halted and defective when I fail to defend the truth, when I know a wrong has been dealt to someone.  I must get all the facts and then after that–not pass judgment.  However, I should “woman up” and help guide and listen to others.  To groan and not seek truth and faith is surely not the Gospel way.  Spit out evil and step into the light of believing!  Yes, even if it hurts!

 

Prayer
God, Creator of all.  You created us and said, “It is good!”  Strengthen our faith, increase our desire for justice in our daily lives, and heal our “halted” speech.  Let joy be our weapon to conquer evil and help us live days of happiness and fullness of life.  As we “groan” into change and grace in our lives keep us Spirit-filled with wisdom and a desire for peace.  Aid us as we constantly long for the “real” life–an eternity with you.

 

Andre Burkhart, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg