Saturday, July 31, 2010

Impressive Episcopal Motto

I love the Episcopal motto chosen by Bishop David O'Connell, the newly ordained bishop of Trenton, New Jersey.  Bishop O'Connell, CM is the former president of Catholic University of America. Bishop O'Connell will assist Bishop Smith for now and succeed Bishop Smith as the 10th bishop of the diocese, after Smith retires. I read Bishop O'Connell's ordination remarks and I was impressed by what I read. The ordination took place in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton on Friday. Over 1,000 people attended, including 50 bishops and over 250 priests.
These are the remarks that I liked, "The other day someone asked me how long it took to come up with my Episcopal motto, Ministrare non Ministrari-to serve and not to be served to which I responded 'about two seconds.' When I was first ordained a Vincentian priest--(and I am so happy to see so many of my confreres here)-the gospel reading for the ordination Mass contained those words of Jesus Christ in Mark's gospel. I was struck with the phrase then as being a perfect description of how to follow the Lord as a priest: 'to serve and not to be served and to give my life as a ransom for the many.' This was how I wanted to live out my life as a priest. This is how I want to live out my life as a bishop and how I hope to exercise that responsibility."
To serve and not to be served will be a great challenge for Bishop O'Connell. To remain humble and a servant of the people will mean renewing that pledge and promise every day he's bishop. Servant leadership is Christ-like and imitating Christ should be how every bishop serves the people of God. Administrative decisions and the many tasks of a bishop can, at times, make it difficult "to serve and not to be served", so it will take continual self-reflection, evaluation and self-knowledge to stay the course. I wish him well. It's a beautiful motto and I was moved by it. I pray he can live up to it. 
I pray all bishops try to serve God's people with great humility and with a servant, Christ-like, compassionate attitude. It's what the Church needs at this time in history, in my humble opinion.

A bishop serves his people by teaching truth.....The bishop is called to be a servant of the empty tomb, not of the status quo. He leads his people to holiness by bearing witness to what the empty tomb means: joy, hope, the promise of new life.
Bishop David O'Connell-7/30/10

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Picasso Exhibit

One of the many things I love about living in New York, not far from the city, is easy access to Manhattan. I love museums, most especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has great art collections and the building itself is awesome. On a recent afternoon, I was happy my family accompanied me to the museum. Some extended family members came as well, so we were a big group.  The main purpose of the outing was to see the Picasso Exhibit. It is a landmark exhibition by the Spanish artist and genius, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). It features 300 works of art-paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics. Picasso was a "multi-sided genius." He had a long and successful career as an artist. 
 The museum was very crowded and so we each viewed the exhibit at our own pace. While waiting right outside the exhibit for everyone to finish viewing it, I found myself surrounded by magnificent works of biblical art. The Annunciation, the Assumption, the suffering Christ (a personal devotion piece), all deeply moving pieces of religious art. The museum has a stunning collection of religious art. Just sitting, waiting for the others, surrounded by magnificent works of art.....a great aspect of living in New York. (I didn't sit for very long, naturally religious art interests me too!)
A book I'm reading about the craft of writing suggests that self-enrichment is important for writers (and everyone else too).  Julia Cameron, the author, suggests you make an "artist date" with yourself. (You can bring others along as I did.) Making time to view good art, or visiting a new park, or a cathedral,  listening to a good piece of music or walking on the beach,  helps creativity to flourish.  What's interesting is that it doesn't have to relate to a project or writing piece you are working on. A variety of cultural or natural experiences is good for the soul and good for developing creativity. This is obviously something I'm very curious about.
I'm spending a few days on retreat. I love being on retreat, praying more, focusing on being calm and relaxing more. It's also nice being around people who are looking for the same thing, people who are willing to spend the time to grow closer to God, to get priorities in order, to reflect on what's really important in life.
Family time, viewing art masterpieces, The MET, self-enrichment, prayer, Mass, walking in nature, going on retreat, eating frozen yogurt, charity work, meeting friends for lunch, reading and writing....these are the things that make my life fulfilled. Having a spiritual life has made all the difference in the world.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Vanity of Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers (anyone born between 1946-1964) are a vain bunch. I'm a baby boomer myself. From what I've read most baby boomers (or a lot of them) have an aversion to aging. If they have to succumb to growing old, they don't want to look old or elderly. Baby boomers are expected to live longer than any previous generation of Americans. They make up approximately 26% of the population. Many want to stay active, which is great for overall health. Our culture is a youth obsessed culture. It's hard not to get caught up in it.
Losing weight is a great way to look younger and it also improves your health. It doesn't cost anything. Something as simple as incorporating a walk into your daily routine can make a big difference in your health. (A recent study claimed that women who walk regularly are less likely to get a stroke.) Walking has psychological benefits too, which is probably why writers suggest walking, as a way to get clarity of thought and inspiration.  
According to an online article (Business Wire), "Those born between 1946-1964 have found that there is a recipe to increasing longevity, combating aging and most importantly feeling younger than their true age, according to the 2010 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey.....Many Baby Boomers are 'fighting' aging by being engaged in a variety of activities that keep their minds sharp, their bodies strong and their social life robust." According to the article, baby boomers have found their own fountain of youth. 
Baby boomers want it all. They want to stay young looking and keep their good health. And who can blame them. To be perfectly honest, I'm concerned with those things too. However, my "soul health" is extremely important to me too, as is my prayer life and my relationship with God and others. For me, having it all is being in right relationship with God and nurturing that relationship through all stages of my life. 

Also, if you want to do some interesting reading on the "Future of Catholicism," there are good articles at Patheos, being promoted by some well known Catholic bloggers--

Friday, July 16, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

As a lay Carmelite I can't let this special Carmelite feast day pass without mentioning Mary and the origin of the devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I quote from the Lay Carmelite Formation Guide-Phase Two, by Thomas Zeitvogel, T.O.C., which I had to study (along with the Phase One book), in order to become a professed lay Carmelite. 
From the beginning, the entire Carmelite Family has been specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Indeed, we have always been known as the Brothers and Sisters of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Therefore, all Lay Carmelites shall honor our Lady with a special love and devotion. She is the model of all that we desire and hope to be. Carmelites have always put themselves under the maternal care of Our Lady, invoking her as Mother. The Order enjoys her special patronage and the Brown Scapular is a sign of her protection-a symbol of one's interior life of devotion to Our Lady. 
(Lay Carmelite Statues, Part I, Chapter 6, Marian Dedication)

As a lay Carmelite, I have a very large brown scapular that I wear to Carmelite meetings each month and also when Carmelites meet to pray together. It was because of my love and devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower and the Blessed Mother, that I began the journey, in the late 1990's to join the Carmelite Order. At the time, it was a sacrifice to go to formation classes and meetings, while working and raising my sons. But it was something I had to do. And I thank God that I did it. I wrote an article about my "Call to Carmel," which was published in a Carmelite journal many years ago. I belong to a wonderful chapter that meets monthly at St. Luke's Parish in Whitestone, Queens. 

From the beginning the hermits on Mount Carmel had a special devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The brothers had a simple chapel at the center of their cells dedicated to St. Mary, the Lady of the Place, or the Lady of the Manor-Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
(From the Springs of Carmel-by Peter Slattery, O. Carm.)
Mary, full of grace, hear my plea,  along with your Son, Jesus, watch over me and protect me, on this special feast day and always. Amen. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Creative Thinkers Needed

I read part of a fascinating article which I will go back to finish, because it's definitely worth reading in its entirety. According to a recent article in Newsweek (7/19/10), titled Creativity in America, psychologists who specialize in studying creativity and collect data about it, state that since 1990, "American creativity scores have been falling." Very interesting.  Apparently, enriched learning environments are making children smarter, yet young children especially those in grades kindergarten through 6th grade have shown a decline in creativity. According to the article, "To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result)." 
How sad that creativity is declining in America.  Both America and the global community need creative, innovative thinkers to solve major problems. Those problems include the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico, (which is mentioned in the article),  finding creative resolutions to conflicts and war and helping to find solutions to other problems that burden humankind.  
When I started thinking about it, I realized it's a problem in the Church as well. Don't we need creative thinkers to help with evangelization, to improve the Church's image in the world, to promote vocations?........The list goes on. 
Greater creativity is definitely needed in the Church, in its leadership, both lay and ordained. The Church has the added advantage (the divine advantage I call it) of using human ingenuity and creativity and combining that with the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer makes things happen. Developing and promoting creativity and innovative thinking and combining that with the power of prayer, would be dynamic.  The possibilities are endless. That's something to think about while on vacation. 
By the way, listening to classical music stimulates creativity. I've learned to appreciate classical music and to listen to it, in the hope it stimulates my creativity. That's an easy enough way to get started.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Writing, The Heat and Celestine

Today I did something I've always wanted to do, but was too busy to make time for. It was the first day of a creative writing course I'm taking at a local university. The last time I took a creative writing course was in high school. I'm hoping to deepen my creativity and get motivated to spend more time writing each day. The classroom was air-conditioned or it would have been unbearable. It was a hellish day in New York City and the suburbs. Was it really 104 degrees? It certainly felt that hot. 
I read with interest an online article by David Gibson at Politics Daily titled, "Pope Pondering Resignation? Benedict Visits Tomb of Pontiff Who Stepped Down." Everyone knows Pope Benedict would never step down (unless God suggested it, which is highly unlikely). The Pope has no reason to step down in my humble opinion, but I read the article because it's an interesting question. And I was fascinated to read that Pope St. Celestine V was canonized a saint, even though he did resign from the papacy in the year 1294. He was Pope for only five months.  Pope Benedict visited his tomb recently in central Italy, on the 800th anniversary of Celestine's birth and spoke about his holiness and his love of silence, before a crowd of 25,000 people. He didn't mention that Pope Celestine resigned from the papacy.
Pope Benedict did mention the following which I think is very important, "Silence became the element that characterized his daily life. And it is precisely in external silence, but above all in internal silence, that he succeeded in perceiving God's voice, a voice that was able to guide his life."
I love quiet and solitude, I've developed an appreciation for it, over the years. It's a great vehicle to holiness as many spiritual writers suggest.  Christian meditation and contemplative prayer are deep, fruitful and healing forms of prayer. 
I can see why Celestine didn't think the demands of the papacy were for him. It's a very demanding position as is being a Cardinal or Bishop. I'm glad the Church canonized Celestine even though he resigned from the papacy. Sometimes we have to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and walk in "darkness" for a while and then God lights the way. Celestine had previously been a hermit, he probably spent many hours in contemplative prayer and quiet, and I would guess he yearned to go back to that peaceful life.