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Adding Yeast to the Dough...Believing in What is not Yet Apparent

Saturday, March 24, 2018 - FSC Associate Group Day
Presenter: Sister Mary Ruth Broz, RSM

By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall. Sr. Mary Ruth asked us to introduce ourselves and explain why we were there. She wanted to know what motivated everyone to attend the Associate group day.

As we went around the room, each Associate or Sister explained why she or he was there. Several people mentioned the group day as an opportunity to prepare for Holy Week which started the next day. Other reasons given were to grow closer to God, to nourish one’s spirituality, for faith sharing and to be with like-minded people. My favorite answer was from one of my fellow Associates who said he comes for the food. Of course, that was only part of his answer, but we enjoyed the laugh.

After graduating from a Catholic high school, I felt like I stopped learning about my faith. As an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, I continue to learn about my faith. Yes, I also enjoy the food, but the best part of attending the Associate group days is growing in faith with my fellow Associates and with the Sisters.

Sr. Mary Ruth gave us a hand out with quotes, poems and short readings that related to the day’s topic. A quote that caught my attention was...

"...Saving the world may be a matter of sowing a seed not overturning a tyrant,
...we do what we can!” (May Sarton)

Sr. Mary Ruth talked about Rosa Parks as an example of someone who had no idea of how her small action would have a ripple effect on the world. Something came over Rosa Parks that day when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger.

We broke into small groups to talk about the reflection questions from the hand out. A question related to the above quote was: What gives you courage to rise up and speak out? The answer from my group is that we get the courage to speak out when we experience or witness injustice. One of the people in my group told us that she asks herself; "What’s the worst thing that can happen if I speak up?" She also said that she knew God would be with her regardless of the outcome.

A second reflection question that the groups discussed was: What small acts have left you with hope? In my small group, we talked about different ways people have reached out to us when we were ill or needed a lift and ways we’ve reached out to others. We felt hope when someone reached out by sending a greeting card, making a phone call, providing comforting words or a gentle touch.

A poem from the hand out echoed our answers from the reflection question. These small acts of kindness or “crumbs” are food for the soul and should be noticed and cherished.

Be careful with the crumbs.
Do not overlook them.
Be careful with the crumbs:
the little chances to love,
the tiny gestures, the morsels
that feed, the minims. Take care of the crumbs:
a look, a laugh, a smile
a teardrop, an open hand. Take care
of the crumbs. They are food also.
Do not let them fall.
Gather them. Cherish them.
- from Becoming Bread by Guinella Norris

Sr. Mary Ruth gave some suggestions for taking our reflections on the day’s topic and turning them into actions. For example, making time for a special cause, reconnecting with someone we haven’t spoken to in a while or making an effort to be kinder to the people around us.

Just as one doesn’t see the yeast acting in the dough until the dough rises, we often don’t see the Spirit working in us or in other people until there are visible results. Reflecting on this topic made me realize that it’s possible for something thought of as insignificant to grow into something life-changing. After this Associate day, I’m determined to pay more attention to opportunities for action that could lift someone’s spirit or speak up against an injustice.

At the end of her presentation, Sr. Mary Ruth gave each of us a packet of yeast to take home.

What’s Your Decision? An Ignatian Approach to Decision Making
Saturday, February 24, 2018 - FSC Associate Group Day
Presenter: Elaine P. Lindia, FSC Associate

By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate group day. Elaine showed a couple of video clips to provide background on the man who would become St. Ignatius. Ignatius participated in many battles until he was struck in the legs by a cannon ball. He endured surgery without anesthetic to repair his injuries. Ignatius recovered, but his military career was over.

While recuperating in the hospital, Ignatius became intrigued reading about the lives of the Saints. As he reflected on how the Saints lived, going back to his former way of life became less appealing. In the video, Ignatius questioned how St Francis of Assisi could give up everything he owned. Ignatius envisioned himself in the time of Francis of Assisi and came to the realization that Francis gave up everything for God and to serve Jesus by serving others. This began Ignatius’ spiritual awakening.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices to help people deepen their relationship with God. The choices we make can take us closer to God or away from God. We are influenced by internal factors such as our hopes and fears and by external factors like cultural norms and family expectations. To discern, one needs to sort through the various influences to determine what is the best path to take to follow Christ.

Elaine asked us to look at our lives as a road and to think about the major decision points. She passed around paper, pens and crayons and asked us to draw a map, marking our milestones. We were asked to think about these decisions, how we made them and if we invited God into our decisions.

The major decision points on my map were college, career choice, each of my jobs, joining the school board at my parish, buying a house and joining the Associates. I can’t remember inviting God into any of my life decisions, but I can look back and see Him at work in my life. One major decision was joining the Associates. Three Sisters at different points in my life suggested that I join the Associates until I finally acted upon the suggestion.

After a few people shared and explained their map, Elaine walked us through several techniques for making decisions following St. Ignatius’ methods. She also explained how to determine if a choice moves us towards God or away from Him. A couple of the methods that caught my attention are below.

One is Ignatius’ first method for discernment using reason which uses the following steps:

  • Put the matter before yourself clearly. What are you trying to discern?
  • Remain open and objective about the possibilities.
  • Pray to God to move your will so you know what to do.

Ignatius then suggests making a pro-and-con list of the choices. Examine the list and "see to which side reason more inclines". Try to put aside feelings or imagination as much as possible. The final step is to take the conclusions to God in prayer. With an open heart, ask for confirmation or guidance that the discernment is correct.

Ignatius second method of making a good discernment uses imagination to explore the options. With each option, be mindful if the answer suggests growing closer to God or away from God. Then imagine three different scenarios.

  • Someone comes to you with the same dilemma as you are facing and asks your advice.

What questions would you ask and how would that imaginary person answer?

  • You are on your deathbed looking back at the decision you’re now trying to make.

What path do you wish you had chosen?

  • It’s the final judgment day. You are face-to-face with God who loves you and is reviewing the choices you’ve made. Which path of this current choice would bring you into a deeper relationship with Him?

It fascinates me that someone who lived over 450 years ago could provide instructions and advice that would be relevant in our time. The methods above aren’t new to me. I’ve used the pro and con method before and made lists of my options. I’ve also used my imagination and asked myself "what if" when I’m in the process of making decisions.

One difference between these methods and what I’ve done in the past is that I haven’t invited God into my decisions, prayed for guidance or asked myself if a specific choice would bring me closer to God or away from Him. After this Associate group day, I’ve realized that it’s a good idea to invite God into decisions and try to determine if what I’m doing brings me closer to Him.

The Transformative Power of Dreams - An Introductory Workshop
Presenter: Sr. Mary Ellen Ryley, SCMM - January 27, 2018

By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate group day. We went around the room and introduced ourselves to Sr. Mary Ellen (Sr. Mel), explained what motivated us to come to Lemont for the day’s presentation and mentioned if we had any prior knowledge or interest in dreams.

When the introductions were complete, Sr. Mel talked to us about recalling and recording dreams. She gave us tips to help us remember our dreams and some possible ways to record dreams.

When I introduced myself, I mentioned that I've woken up in the morning knowing that I had been dreaming while I slept, but the dream disappeared quickly from memory. After our workshop on dreams, I moved a notebook by my bed so I could write about my dreams as soon as I woke up. As Sr. Mel suggested, writing down even a fragment of the dream helps one to remember other pieces of the dream.

Next, Sr. Mel explained how the Jung Circle Association worked. Each of us followed the steps for the exercise. We chose a dream symbol for the center of the circle. A dream symbol is a person, object, place, color, sound, animal or activity from a dream. Around the dream symbol we wrote whatever came to mind that we thought was connected with the dream symbol. Next, we reflected on the dream symbol and our associations to that symbol. During our reflection, we focused on any of the associations that felt right to us, maybe something that reminded us of an issue or event happening in our life.

One or more of my recent dreams took place at my childhood home. As an adult, I lived with my parents before I moved into my own house. I used mom and dad’s house as my dream symbol. Some of my associations were: parents, childhood home, parents retired to North Carolina and dad could fix anything that was broken.

After writing my associations to my childhood home, I realized that these dreams were happening when things were breaking in my house. My parents were not traveling to Chicago for Christmas so dad wasn’t able to help fix some of these things for me. I would have to work on getting things fixed without dad’s help. I didn’t know if that was the correct interpretation, but it felt right.

After our exercise on the Jung Circle Association, Sr. Mel explained the Gestalt Dream Process. With this process, you become the dream symbol. In theory, every element in the dream is an aspect of the dreamer’s personality. As the dream symbol, you are to describe yourself...your qualities, characteristics, function and purpose using "I am" statements.

Sr. Mel gave us time to do this exercise. I used the "I am" statements to describe my parents’ house, but it didn’t lead to any additional insight. When people in the group shared their thoughts after this exercise, they noticed that the statements made as the dream symbol were more positive than the previous exercise. If the dream symbol was from a scary or negative dream, this exercise showed that maybe the message from the dream wasn’t meant to frighten the dreamer, but to help figure out a problem.

Another technique that can be used with any type of dream is Inner Dialogue. With this technique, you have a conversation between yourself and your dream symbol. The dreamer creates the dialogue for both participants. Dream symbols are part of us. With this exercise, we give voice to different parts of ourselves. As a few people shared the inner dialogue with their dream symbol, I saw how this technique could be useful and may lead to an interesting insight.

An important final step when processing a dream is to connect with God, to pray and reflect on the message of the dream and what I can learn from this message for my journey through life.

Dream interpretation was an interesting subject for an Associate group day. I wondered what I could learn by interpreting my dreams. I found out that dreams are sent to us by the Spirit to help us with problems and questions. By paying attention to and reflecting on the message of our dreams, we gain insight about ourselves and the events in our lives.

Associate Reflection Day
- Saint Francis, Pope Francis - A Common Vision

Elizabeth Pienta and Brian Nosbusch
By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate - November 11, 2017

After Mass, we gathered in the back of chapel by the sarcophagus of Mother Mary Theresa, the foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. Two Associates who were not able to join us for the recommitment celebration on October 1st made their recommitment after Mass.

Afterwards, we met in Marian Hall for our reflection day. The opening prayer was the song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.” It was the perfect song to start our day.

The presentation given by Elizabeth Pienta, an FSC Associate, was based on the book 'Saint Francis, Pope Francis - A Common Vision' by Gina Loehr with Al Giambrone. The authors talk about the commonalities between St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis in the following areas; humility, charity, church, peace and joy. Elizabeth expounded upon each of the five areas. She had also prepared a pamphlet containing reflection questions on each of the areas. Time was given at the end of each section for reflection.

Francis of Assisi lived a life of austere poverty. Even when the community he started grew in size and popularity, Francis continued to live a humble and simple life. None of the friars, including Francis himself, had a title in the community. Pope Francis models himself after St. Francis of Assisi beginning with the name he chose. We’ve all heard stories of Pope Francis’ humility and how he declined certain privileges to live simply. What I hadn’t heard before was that Jorge Mario Bergoglio - Bishop, Cardinal and now Pope Francis had taken a vow not to seek any of these offices.

Before he started his life of service, St. Francis of Assisi noticed a homeless man who came to beg in his father’s shop. Francis turned the homeless man away, but felt so bad that he ran after the man, leaving the shop unattended. When Francis found the homeless man, he filled the man’s pockets with money. Like the Saint whose name he chose, Pope Francis speaks out for the people society ignores. He also puts his words into action. One of my favorite stories about Pope Francis is about the showers he had built in the Vatican for the homeless of St. Peter’s Square.

St. Francis of Assisi went out and repaired the Church of his time. First, he was a living example of the Gospel and then he preached the Gospel message to others. Pope Francis thinks of the Church as a mother. He stays true to Church teachings and emphasizes mercy, forgiveness and compassion by his words and actions. Pope Francis is repairing the Church of his time.

St. Francis of Assisi lived with an inner peace. He was at peace in poverty, in prison, in sickness and in suffering. Pope Francis also lives with this same inner peace. When he appeared before the world as our new Pope, with all of the responsibility placed on him, Pope Francis was at peace.

St. Francis of Assisi found joy in all of God’s creation. He also found joy in his suffering and physical ailments. He praised God for giving him the stigmata. Pope Francis also found joy in his own personal suffering, knowing that in this suffering he was imitating Christ.

The presentation lasted an hour. Then after a short break, we met in chapel for the 2nd part of our reflection day. First we sang, "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" then Deacon Brian exposed the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. Along with Eucharistic Adoration, the service included three reflections.

The first reflection was a silent reflection on The Act of Faith. The second reflection was also silent, but on The Act of Hope and The Act of Love. The 3rd reflection was for the whole group to pray aloud - The Act of Contrition.

After reflecting on the common vision between St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, it seemed fitting that we continued our prayers and reflection with the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love and Contrition. The Acts speak of St. Francis of Assisi and of Pope Francis on their loyalty to the teachings of the Church and their dedication to repairing the Church of their time. Both men show us how to live the Gospel and are examples to us of loving God and loving our neighbors.