Jesus Speaking from the Cross: a Lenten Retreat Experience

crucifixI have been coming to Oldenburg Franciscan Center for about 5 years now. The first time I came, it was at the invitation of S. Olga to attend a workshop on “spiritual tasks” for our journey with God. I learned so much that weekend, and the experience was powerful enough that it broke loose something inside of me that wanted to be freed. So I came back, again and again, seeking that wholeness, that liberty.

So much happens in five years, as any of us might know. After several months of absence here, I returned last night to make a ‘silent retreat’ of my own. It was a brief visit – just a moment I stole for myself to repeat a journey I’ve taken many times here at Oldenburg – an evening walk through the Sisters’ cemetery under a starlit sky. I love the dark, peaceful expanse of the cemetery, so far from city lights, so warm with prayer, and so populous with stars at night.

It was pretty cold outside, so I didn’t stay out as long as I might have liked. But it was a nice night for a stroll in the cemetery, and for all the walks I have taken there, I found myself pausing to do something I had never done before. I sat in front of the large crucifix in the middle of the cemetery and quietly pondered the image. It struck me that I’ve carried many a prayer through this cemetery, whispering prayers under the stars. So much of my life has changed since the first time I did that… and yet, I have new doubts. So, sitting under the crucifix, I placed my lenten confession: I don’t know whether I’m finding my faith or losing it. Where am I with God?

I recognized all the life-giving graces that have come into my life since the first time I walked this cemetery under the night sky… it’s been an amazing journey, full of God’s presence. So I just prayed for the grace to know what I need now to calm and direct my uncertainties. What’s next?

And, oh, for a moment my blurry eyes worked a spiritual blessing – as it seemed Jesus leaned forward and his arms came down from where they were pinned to the cross. What a true and beautiful prayer – to feel like I could be there to help Jesus down from the cross – to imagine how exhausting and deathly it is to remain there.

Suddenly, I imagined myself walking up, letting his arms fall around me to finally come down off that cross. What it really said to me is that it’s time to come down from the cross. Jesus, and me. And I relaxed into a dream of comforting rest, with that role reversed. The crucifixion has passed. I’m coming off my self-imposed cross into the arms of a comforting Jesus. It is time for life after death.

As for the question of finding or losing my faith, that seemed so simply answered with a thought of John 12:24.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls upon the ground and dies, it remains a single grain with no life.”  Belief as I have known it may have died. But my faith hasn’t departed. It’s just sprouting up through a new seed, a new gift of God’s love and incarnation.

With new peace, my life continues forward – and with such gratitude for the presence and ministries of the Sisters in Oldenburg. What a gift they have to bring new life to others through the living of their Franciscan values and the sharing of that through Oldenburg Franciscan Center. Here I have truly learned: God is Good, God is Love, God Gives Life.

— W.B.C., Indianapolis

Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Lent, by OSF Associate Marty Kollstedt

joyFirst Reading: 1Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Second Reading: Eph 5:8-14
Gospel: John 9:1-41

Reflection
Imagine for a moment that you were born blind as is the central character in the Gospel reading for this week. Consider the following questions. How did you live day to day in blindness? Did you long to see? Who or what did you most want to lay eyes on? How have you viewed your parents for the legacy you have grown up with? Did you consciously or unconsciously adopt the cultural belief of attributing a child’s disability to parental sin? How did this affect your relationship with your parents? Did you experience loneliness, social isolation or dehumanizing feelings? Did you hide away from the world to avoid the challenges of daily living? Did you, or how did you envision your world differently if miraculously you did gain the ability to see?

As the gospel narrative proceeds Jesus enters your life. He transforms your world giving you sight for the very first time in your life. Good News to be sure? Imagine how grateful you must feel toward Jesus for such a wonderful and transforming gift? How do you see you life differently now? How are you living a transformed life? Before you can fully comprehend your new reality, Jesus, the one responsible for your “cure” is challenged for bringing sight to your life. And you find yourself drawn into the fray? You too are challenged and threatened as a result of your new vision. Would you too question the authenticity of your new and perhaps frightening world? Would you hide in the shadows? The gospel relates that you refuse to reject your new sight despite not completely understanding and are yourself rejected. Then Jesus returns to present you “follow up” questions to more fully open your understanding of his role in your responsibility for being given sight. Do you echo the blind man of the gospel responding: “I do believe, Lord.”

Prayer
Lord God, giver of sight and insight, guide us toward embracing a vision that more clearly gives witness to our belief in your vision for our world. Help us to see beyond outward appearances seeing into the hearts of our sisters and brothers. Help us live in goodness, righteousness and truth with each other and our world so that works of God may be made visible.

Marty Kollstedt, Associate

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent, by S. Lorraine Geis, OSF

2ndSundayFirst Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

Reflection
Is this MY Transfiguration Day?

How much time, every day, do I spend remembering news that was said to me, or about me!  Many thoughts, during the course of the day, find me remembering what was said on TV, or from friends by phone, Skype or cell phone.  How does that remembering time compare to remembering the Word of God, spoken directly, personally, to me?

In the Reading of Genesis, God says, “Go forth (put your name), to a land that I will show you.”  Already, my daily schedule is planned for me by my Creator God!  All I have to do is follow.

My name appears again, at the beginning of Timothy: “(put your name), bear your share of hardships for the Gospel.”  The needed strength, to be transfigured by these words, come from God.

Matthew’s descriptive Gospel, also, includes me!  “Jesus took (put your name) up a high mountain.”  Where is it that Jesus takes me so we can be alone?  Then, how often do I proclaim “Lord, it is good for me, (put your name), to be here.”  Jesus touches me and says “Go, (put your name), and do not be afraid.”

Prayer
Thanks, God, for the invitation and grace to be transfigured. Thanks for calling me by name. Lord, it is good to be with You.

S. Lorraine Geis, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Washing of Feet, by S. 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.

***

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.

Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent, by S. Jean Marie Cleveland, OSF

2ndweekReflection for February 24, 2013
Second Sunday in Lent
First Reading: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Psalm: 27:1, 7-9, 13-14
Second Reading: Philippians 3:17- 4:1
Gospel: Luke 9:28b-36

Reflection
In reading these passages, I am struck by the number of lines which apply to our lives.

“Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can.” How many times have we gone outside late at night and gazed up at the sky! How many millions of stars there are! How many fireflies light up the night! How great is God who created all this for us!  God promised Abram, “To your descendants I give this land.”  What a great gift we have in our world!

But Paul tells us, “Our citizenship is in heaven. God will change our lowly bodies to conform with His glorified body.”  Not only do we have the world to enjoy, but we have the promise of heaven if we follow Him.

As Peter and his companions were, we “have been overcome by sleep.”  We have this Lenten season to look at our lives and to the voice the apostles heard coming from heaven, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.”  How will we respond?

Prayer
Let us pray that we remain open to Jesus and His message this Lenten season.

S. Jean Marie Cleveland, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Lenten Series: The Prophet Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah by Michaelangelo (public domain, Wikicommons)

Christians throughout history have defined the word “prophet” in biblical terms as those who have been chosen by God and gifted by the Holy Spirit to share God’s message with the world.

To hear how people today understand the word “prophet,” Oldenburg Franciscan Center manager Angela Nevitt (Roesler) recently asked a multicultural audience on Facebook what comes to mind when people hear the word.  The first response that came in was, “Hope. [Prophets] are human, too.  They sin and doubt, too.  Yet, they were chosen and filled with Wisdom.  So Hope… The word gives me hope.”

Other responders provided names of prophets, including Kahlil Gibran and Thomas Merton, and still others defined what they understand prophets to be, including: teachers, oracles, messengers of God.

Scripture lover and educator, Lois Jansen of Indianapolis replied that a prophet is “one who listens to the times, hears the heartbeat of God in the ordinary, and speaks of God’s tenderness and justice.”

Beginning on Thursday, February 21st at Oldenburg Franciscan Center, Sister Barbara Leonhard, OSF will be facilitating a four week series on the Prophet Jeremiah and the role of prophets in our world today.

Sister Barbara explains, “Biblical prophets had two fundamental roles.  They were truth tellers, calling people to wake up to their responsibilities, to whom they were called to be.  They were also people who offered hope in times of great conflict and disillusionment.”

In this OFC series, Sister Barbara will use the Prophet Jeremiah as an example to encourage participants to look anew at the dual role of a prophet.

Sister Barbara explains, “Exploring the nature of the critical time in which Jeremiah lived invites us to face the questions and express the honest prayers that might come from our own experiences of loss.  One cannot read Jeremiah without also being mindful of the violence, loss and suffering that surround us on a global level.”

Topics for each week include:

February 21st: The role of a prophet: the difficulty of being open to the prophetic message.

February 27th: Jeremiah: a prophet in a time of crisis.

March 7th:  Jeremiah: a prophet who gives expression to the shock and grief that accompany great loss.

March 14th:  Jeremiah: a prophet who expresses hope in the midst of crisis.

When we begin to understand ‘being a prophet’ in terms of being truth tellers and advocates for social responsibility, it can help us to identify our own unique opportunities for prophetic living – particularly when it comes to addressing issues in local healthcare, education, community development, and simply being a good neighbor.

Individuals of all faiths and professions are invited to attend this series.  Community & business leaders are encouraged to participate!  For additional information, please contact Angela Nevitt Roesler at aroesler@oldenburgosf.com, 513-543-5368, or visit the OFC website: http://www.oldenburgfranciscancenter.org.  RSVPs may be directed to Annette at center@oldenburgosf.com or 812-933-6437.

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.

***

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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Making Bread, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Image linked from http://www.delallo.com

This is the story of a lady known and admired for her gentle spirit and manner.  She had several children, and the family kitchen was a gathering place for her children, family, neighbors, and friends. It could be noisy when the children came home from school, but snacks were always ready and waiting, and the chatter lasted for some time as the jelly sandwiches were eaten.

Saturday was the day she found time to bake bread for her family and the others who came by.  One Saturday her son, Bob, came to sit in the kitchen.  He was so surprised to see his tender, gentle mother as she prepared the dough for the oven.  She pounded the dough, twisted the dough and threw the dough down on the floured table.  She picked it up and repeated the violent treatment of the dough.

Seeing this other side of his mother, Bob asked her why she pushed and pounded the dough so much.  Did she not like to bake bread?  She said she delighted in baking bread, and had to do what she did so that the bread would bake smooth and without holes.

Bob grew up to be a priest and told this story in one of his homilies. He said it has a parallel to what we need to experience to become smooth saints with souls that do not have holes in them.  We do not even have to go anywhere or plan the “violence” for ourselves.  It almost always happens that something occurs to pummel our complacency.  If we look at it as a way of preventing holey souls, we could be on the way to becoming holy souls.

Also we certainly do not want to be the source of hole making in others or ourselves. We might emulate the gentleness and tenderness of the mother and save the violent reaction for when it is needed “to make smooth bread without holes.”

My thanks to the late Fr. Bob Drewes for sharing his mother’s story.

Peace, joy, and everything good to you,

S. Sharonlu

*************************

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.

*************************

Of St. Francis & Brother Ruffino, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Oldenburg Franciscan Center

photo: Oldenburg Sunset

Of St. Francis & Brother Ruffino

Brother Ruffino was so absorbed in God he noticed nothing external.  He seldom spoke, and even when he did, he never had a gift for speaking.  Even though this was true, one day St. Francis ordered him to preach to the people.  Ruffino, surprised, asked that another friar be sent in his place.

To this St. Francis answered, “Because you did not obey immediately, take off your mantle and habit.” (This left Ruffino in his underwear!)   “Now go to Assisi and preach to the people in the church.  Do this out of holy obedience.”

Ruffino obeyed, and when he entered the church and went to the pulpit, people laughed at him saying, “These men do such penance that they are out of their minds.”

Seeing how quickly Ruffino, one of the noblest men of Assisi, obeyed the harsh command, Francis reproached himself, saying: “How could you, a humble son of a merchant send the distinguished Ruffino to preach as if he were a madman?  You shall do the same thing you have ordered him to do.”  And immediately he took off his mantle and habit, and went to Assisi, carrying his mantle and Ruffino’s with him.  People, seeing him in his underwear, believed he and Ruffino had truly lost their minds through too much penance.

Ruffino was preaching when Francis ascended the pulpit and began to preach on holy penance, on voluntary poverty, and on the nakedness of Christ and the shame of his Passion, so that all began to weep and were edified by the action of Ruffino and St. Francis.

✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝  ✝

If you have ever “punished” someone, and realized how out of sync that was with the insult or mistake or… (fill in the blank), you might think how Francis inflicted himself with the same punishment he doled out!

Lent is here. We are asked to find that within ourselves that hampers God’s growth in us, and resolve to erase, scrape or cut it away to make more room for God.  Don’t make the mistake of judging your worth by looking at others who have done less. Remember, of the one who has been given much, more will be required.  And let the cross of ashes put on your forehead on Ash Wednesday be a proclamation to the world that you are getting rid of anything that keeps you from fully relying on God.

Peace in your penance,

S. Sharonlu, OSF

*************************

Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF has a background in education, child development, and family ministries.  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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Take a Lenten Journey with Us!

Join the Oldenburg OSF Sisters in our upcoming Lenten series at the Oldenburg Franciscan Center:

March 1, 8, 15, 22 (Thursdays) 6:30-8pm
Lenten Series: Four Contemporary Stories of Discovering One’s Way
with Sr. Barbara Leonhard, OSF

Re-discover your call to discipleship!  During this Lenten series, we will look to four very real people who were drawn to discover and re-discover what discipleship was calling them to do.  Hearing their stories and the questions that would not let them go can prompt us to listen more closely to the call of discipleship in our own lives.  We will focus on one example per week:

March 1: Howard Thurman – a black minister, teacher, and mystic who established the first radically integrated intercultural church in the United States.

March 8: Edith Stein – a Jewish teacher, scholar, and mystic who became a Catholic and entered a Carmelite monastery.  She died in Auschwitz in 1942.

March 15: Thomas Kelly
– a Quaker teacher and seeker who discovered a mystical depth within himself and set about drawing others to their spiritual depths.

March 22: Jean Vanier
– Canadian founder of L’Arche Communities who has dedicated his life energies to creating homes and sharing life with those with developmental disabilities.

$15/session or $50 for the complete Lenten series. 
Or, come one evening and bring a friend, 2 for $25.
RSVP to Annette at center@oldenburgosf.com or 812-933-6437.

We hope to see you soon!