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Meister Eckhart, OP, Priest, Theologian, Philosopher, Mystic

By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate
Presented by: Sr. M. Francis Clare, June 10, 2017

Our Associate Day began with the prayer Oneness of Mind is All. It's from the book 'God Awaits You' based on the classic spirituality of Meister Eckhart by Richard Chilson, C.S.P. The prayer was a good introduction to Meister Eickhart as well as an overview of his philosophy.

Meister Eckhart (1260 - 1327) was a German theologian, teacher, philosopher and mystic. Meister Eckhart’s passion was writing sermons and preaching. He was known as a thought-provoking teacher. Near the beginning of the presentation, we learned that Meister Eckhart was accused of heresy. There doesn’t seem to be an official conclusion to the question of heresy. However, Pope John Paul II quoted Meister Eckhart so it’s probably safe to say that Eckhart was not a heretic.

As a mystic, Meister Eckhart had a deep relationship with God. Topics we explored from Eckhart’s philosophy talked about connecting with God and offered suggestions how to improve our relationship with Him.

  • Divinity of man - There’s a spiritual connection between man’s soul and God.
  • Receptive mind - Make the mind quiet to be receptive to God
  • Detachment - The responsibility of a seeker is to detach themselves from earthly distractions, such as desire.
  • Omnipresence of God - Believed that God is present in all living things, but there is an absolute God and manifestations of God in the world.
  • Selfless Service - If the ignorant (unlearned) are not taught, they will never learn the art of living and dying.

The quote that jumped out at me from this part of the presentation was related to detachment. To be full of things is to be empty of God; to be empty of things is to be full of God. It speaks to me about not putting too much value on "stuff." Putting time and energy into things means there is less time and space for God in one’s life.

We also looked at some of Eckhart’s spiritual and theological themes. Eckhart intuitively knew that God was greater than the universe, but God isn’t just “out there." God is also in every person and everything we encounter.

  • Awe and Wonder - Everything praises God... the world in its grandeur is full of spiritual radiance.
  • Goodness - They must love God alone for his goodness. And for the goodness of his nature and all things he has in himself.
  • Tasting -Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
  • God is Being - God loves all creatures equally and fills them with his being.
  • Sublime Mystery - God is mystery. Some things we just can’t understand. The important thing is that God knows us.

About halfway through the morning, we were given reflection time with about a dozen quotes from Meister Eckhart. I hadn’t realized that Eckhart was the author of one of my favorite quotes: If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. For me, this quote is a reminder to be grateful for the many blessings in my life.

A couple of quotes made me smile because of the way they were written. One example is the quote: God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk. God always loves us the same. It’s we who move closer or further away in our relationship with God.

It’s fascinating to me to learn that someone who lived about 700 years ago believed and taught ideas and philosophies that are very relevant to people today. The prayer from the beginning of our Associate group day, Oneness of Mind is All starts with the line: Keep hold of God in everything and train your mind to keep God always in your feelings, thoughts and desires. From Meister Eckhart, I have become more aware of the awesomeness of God in the world around us. Meister Eckhart speaks to me about how to stay connected with God.

Spiritual Zumba Workout: Keeping Your Faith Life Fit - May 27, 2017

by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate
Presenter: Friar Johnpaul Cafiero, OFM

On May 27th, we met in Marian Hall after Mass for our Associate group day. The presentation topic caught my attention. After becoming physically out of shape, Friar Johnpaul got himself back on track by eating right and exercising. And yes, he actually does attend a Zumba class.

Physical fitness requires motivation, hard work and ongoing dedication. These same qualities can be applied to keeping one’s faith life fit. First, we need to picture how we want our spiritual life to look. A good place to start is with role models, faith-filled people we can look to for inspiration.

Friar Johnpaul went around the room and asked who our role models were when we were growing up. My parents were and still are good models of faith. They sacrificed to send all four of us children to a Catholic grade school and high school. We attended Mass every weekend as a family, prayed before meals and at bedtime. Even when we were on vacation, we always found a Catholic church so we could attend Mass.

Besides our own personal role models, we also have the Saints to look to as models of faith. One of my role models is Mother Mary. She completely trusted God’s plan for her life when she said “yes” to Him.

After we have an image of how we’d like our spiritual life to look, we will most likely realize that we have a desire to deepen our faith life. The next step is figuring out how to do that. One way to grow in holiness is to practice attitudes that imitate Christ like those listed below.

  • TRUST: Trust that God has everything under control
  • OPENNESS: Be open to change in yourself and recognize that others can change too
  • SPIRITUAL POVERTY: Remember that everything we have is a gift from God
  • COURAGE: Stay true to your faith and act from your heart
  • COMPASSION: Feel the pain and suffering of others. Live a life of faith with passion.
  • FORGIVING HEART: Let go of hurts from the past
  • SACRIFICIAL LOVE: Love without conditions

These are definitely values to strive for. Even as I look to Mary as a role model, it’s difficult sometimes to trust that God has everything under control. When I hit a rough patch in my life, my first instinct is to try to do something about it, not pray for guidance. One value that has become less difficult is spiritual poverty. As I’ve gotten older, it has become easier to let go of “stuff”.

Just like we need a program when we set out to improve our physical health, we also need a plan for enhancing our spiritual life. A program to keep our faith life fit includes prayer, fasting, giving alms, doing works of mercy and participating in the sacraments.

Having help and support on our journey to becoming spiritually fit can be very beneficial. We look to Scripture and to the Church and her teachings for assistance. We can find a spiritual director to guide us or have a spiritual companion to pray with and to share our spiritual journey.

We need to make sure to give our spiritual life ongoing attention. Some ways to maintain a
spiritual life are through days of recollection, adult education, spiritual reading, retreats and parish missions.

One very important way to keep our faith life fit is by keeping Sunday holy. Sunday is a day of rest and relaxation. It’s a time for faith, family and friends. Keeping the Lord’s Day holy energies and recharges us for the week ahead.

As an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, I appreciate that my faith life has grown through the presentation and reflection days we attend during the year. Inspired by Friar Johnpaul, I’ve noted several things from his presentation that should benefit my faith life.

Finding God Everywhere / ALL is Gift
Saturday March 25, 2017
Presenter: Sr. Janice Kennan, OSF
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

On March 25th, we met in Marian Hall after Mass. At the beginning of our Associate Group day, we heard a reading from Thomas Celano's Life of St. Francis. Referring to St. Francis, Celano wrote, "In every work of the artist he praised the Artist, whatever he found in the things made he referred to the Maker." St. Francis of Assisi saw God everywhere and in everything and gave praise to Him.

We had time to reflect, write and share with the people at our table about where we have experienced God in His creation of nature, in other people and in Scripture. Several examples came to mind when I was thinking about experiencing God’s presence in another person. A couple of weeks before our group day, my parish held its reconciliation service. The priest who heard my confession took a few minutes to talk to me before giving absolution. His message about forgiving myself and starting over stayed with me. It reminded me of how loving and forgiving God is to us.

Sr. Janice showed us a presentation of images corresponding to the reading of A Good Day by Brother David Steindl-Rast. It was a helpful reminder of how many gifts we receive every day starting when we open our eyes in the morning and are able to see the beauty of the world around us. When I think of gifts in my life, being able to flip a switch for light or turn on a faucet for water don’t often come to mind. The presentation reminded me of things I take for granted that people all over the world are lacking.

We were given quiet time to reflect on and write down our gifts. The obvious gifts came to mind quickly...family, friends, good health and so on. As I sat reflecting and writing, other not-so- obvious gifts came to mind. My littlest niece’s upcoming First Communion reminded me how much joy there is in the celebrations of our faith. The presence of the young people in my life gives me opportunity to share new experiences. Writing articles for the Sisters’ website allows me to exercise and improve upon my writing skill...plus, it’s something I enjoy.

Sr. Janice asked how we felt when we were writing about the gifts in our life. Two words from the group were gratitude and blessed. Also mentioned were things we don’t normally think of as gifts. Sadness, tragedies and difficult times in our lives sometimes bring about growth and other blessings.

At the end of our group day was a short prayer service, including the intercessions below. It was a good way to conclude our day by praying that we continue to recognize the gifts in our life and reminding us that we are gifts for the people around us.

  • Give us a joyful simple spirit in our journey of faith as your companions finding signs of
    Your love and presence everywhere.
  • Deepen in us a prayerful dependence on God that we might grow in our awareness that
    “All is Gift”, and all gifts from You are good.
  • Free us to witness Your compassionate love for Your people in generous hospitable response to their needs.

Woman at the Well: Stories of the Women in Scripture
Article by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate
Presenter: Dawn Mayer - Saturday February 25, 2017

On February 25th, we met in Marian Hall after Mass to begin our Associate Group day. The topic of the presentation was Woman at the Well: Stories of the Women in Scripture. From the very beginning, Dawn caught my attention. She said that Scripture is a window into the story and it’s a mirror back at us. This wasn’t just going to be a presentation about women of the Bible. I might learn something from these stories.

First Dawn explained the familiar story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaria wasn’t the kind of place you’d want to travel through. Often people went across the Dead Sea so they wouldn’t have to travel through Samaria. Being a good Jewish man, Jesus made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, traveling through Samaria.

At the well in Samaria, Jesus revealed him himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman. As Jesus helped the Samaritan woman, sometimes we need to seek the wisdom of others when we need help. After talking to Jesus, the woman left behind her water jar and went to tell the people in town about Jesus. The Samaritan woman leaving her water jar behind is the part of the story that stayed with me the longest. When we follow Jesus, we are asked to leave something behind. What does Jesus ask us to leave behind as His followers?

Next, Dawn explained the stories of some of the women who appeared in Jesus’ lineage. Women didn’t appear in genealogy of that time, but in the book of Matthew, there are women in Jesus’ lineage. They may be there to show us that God works through brokenness. One of these women is Tamar.

Tamar’s story was interesting. Joseph’s brother Judah had 3 sons. The oldest son (Er) married Tamar, but died without having any children. As was the custom, Tamar married the 2nd son (Onan), but he also died without having children. Tamar was supposed to marry the 3rd son (Shelah) who was too young to marry. Judah banished Tamar thinking there was no way he would allow her to cause the death of his only remaining son.

Tamar dressed as a prostitute found out where Judah was going to be. Not recognizing her, Judah requested her services and promised her a goat as payment. He gave her his staff, cord and ring to secure his payment. When Tamar’s pregnancy was made known Judah planned to have her killed, but she had proof that he was the father. Tamar had two sons of Judah’s lineage. Tamar was willing to die to get what she was owed. From Tamar we learned that sometimes we need to seek out justice.

Another familiar story Dawn explained to us was the parable of the lost coin. Jesus told two other parables with this one. One is the parable of the lost sheep. The other is the parable of the prodigal son. These stories are about making things whole.

I can relate to the story of the lost coin because I lose things in my house fairly often. However, the story isn’t just about losing things. Sometimes, the missing piece in our lives is another person, like a brokenrelationship among our family or friends. At times, the only thing we can do is pray and hope that someday, the brokenness will heal. As with the woman who found her missing coin, we see that it’s good to share the joy when something lost is found and everything has been made whole again.