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FSC Associate Articles

 The Lessons and Blessings of Lent: Embracing a Spirituality of Ripening - Sr. Mary Ruth Broz, RSM

Saturday, February 10, 2024

By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

At the beginning of her presentation, Sr. Mary Ruth asked each of the Associates and Sisters in Marian Hall to introduce ourselves, share the reason why we enjoy coming for Associate group days and, also to share something about our plans for Lent. 

 

After I introduced myself, I explained that our Associate group days give me time to slow down and reflect. The weeks leading up to our February Associate group day had been busy for me, so Lent snuck up on me and I hadn’t made any specific plans.  

 

Sr. Mary Ruth had a bowl of apples sitting on a small table in the middle of our U-shaped formation of chairs and tables. The apples were a useful visual aid to illustrate Sister’s presentation title.  Apples ripen by sitting in the sun.

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Sister Mary Ruth used apples as a visual aid during her presentation. 

For people, ripening is a transformation.  We ripen and grow by our life experiences.  Undergoing a tragedy can speed up the ripening process.  The different seasons of the year and what each season symbolizes can also be a part of our growth. For example, the feeling of hibernation in Winter can lead one to periods of reflection. The hope of Spring can lead one to seek out new opportunities. Being open to what each season of one’s life is trying to teach can be helpful. 

 

Along with external influences that help with one’s ripening, sometimes changes come from within oneself.  These changes can be facilitated by making time for reflection.  Sr. Mary Ruth posed a couple of questions to the group for more thought.  She asked what changed in our life during the past year.  Sr. Mary Ruth also asked if there was anything in our life currently that was in the process of ripening.

We did an exercise where we answered two questions about our experience in becoming and growing as religious Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.

 

The first question was: How was the seed planted in you to become an Associate?  The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago taught at my grade school. After I graduated, I stayed in contact with one of my former teachers. She was the first Sister to mention the Associate program to me. During a visit to the Sisters’ Motherhouse, I met up with another of my former teachers. She was the second Sister to mention the Associate program to me. When I visited my two former teachers, I got to know other Sisters and a third Sister mentioned that I might enjoy the Associate program.  It took a while, but the seed was finally planted!

 

The second question was: How did the seed grow and ripen?  After I became an Associate, I started to attend the Associate group day presentations. Those presentations help me to learn and grow in my faith.  I also began putting my gifts and talents to use helping with the Sisters’ ministries, baking for our Associate group days, and writing articles for the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago website.

Sr. Mary Ruth gave us two handouts with quotes, poems, song lyrics and Scripture verses with references to ripening.  One that jumped out at me was a quote by Henry David Thoreau: God gives everyone the grace and courage to ripen.  I liked this quote because it says to me that everyone has the opportunity and the ability to grow and mature.

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Henry David Thoreau

The back of the one handout was scattered with names of inspirational people.  These people were moved to act or to speak out after their message had ripened in them. Some of the names included on this handout were: Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Richard Rohr, and Francis of Assisi. Sr. Mary Ruth asked the group to think about the people who inspire us.  We didn’t share our answers, but the first thought that came to mind was the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.  All the way back to my grade school days, the Sisters inspired me with their faith and dedication.

 

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Rosa Parks

Malala Yousafzai

Richard Rohr

St. Francis of Assisi

The world we live in is concerned with getting things accomplished and producing results.  Some might say that nothing tangible is produced from our Associate group days, but I would disagree.  Our Associate group gathers to ripen; to learn and grow in our faith.  We use our gifts and talents to share in the mission and ministries of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.  After reflecting on the day’s topic, I decided to take a cue from the apples.  Once a day during the remainder of Lent, I would try to shut out as many distractions as possible, and either read one of my Lenten reflection books or sit and pray in the quiet.

Saturday January 20, 2024 - Presenter: Johnpaul Cafiero, OFM:  Eucharist 
By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

At the beginning of his presentation, Friar Johnpaul read two passages from Scripture related to the Eucharist. One was the story from Luke 24: 13 – 35 where two disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, but they did not recognize Him until the breaking of the bread. The other passage was from the Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47 which talked about how the early Christians gathered to listen to the teachings of the apostles and for the breaking of the bread.

 

Jesus’ disciples knew Him and remembered Him in the breaking of the bread. When we gather for the Eucharist, we also are remembering Jesus. Friar Johnpaul explained the historical evolution behind some of the practices we see and experience around the Eucharist at Mass.

 

To avoid persecution, the early Christians gathered for about 200 years in secret. They shared a meal and collected food and clothing for the poor.  After St. Helena became a Christian, her son, the Emperor Constantine wrote the Edict of Milan which permanently established religious tolerance for Christians.

Once the edict took effect, Christians could worship freely and spread their faith. They no longer needed to gather in secret. One place they gathered was the emperor’s palace, called a basilica, which could hold thousands of people. The presbyter presided over the service. Deacons were appointed to help pass the communion bread out to the people.

 

As Christianity spread, heresies emerged questioning if Jesus was truly the Son of God and truly divine. It was also questioned if Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. Because of the heresies questioning the divinity of Jesus, the Nicene Creed was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 as a statement of faith.

 

During the middle ages, out of respect and reverence for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, communion rails were built to keep people at a distance from the altar. Because most lay people were aware of their own sinfulness, they did not participate regularly in the Eucharist.

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This Icon depicts  the First Council of Nicea.

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 Pope Innocent III as depicted on a fresco at Sanctuary of the Sacro Speco in Italy.

Pope Innocent III called the Lateran Council in 1215.  A rule called the Easter Duty was created which required people to receive the Eucharist and to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation at least once a year.

 

The Second Vatican council emphasized that the Eucharist was an essential part of our relationship with Jesus. Catholics were encouraged to take part in the sacraments frequently, particularly in the Eucharist. Prior to Vatican II, Mass was celebrated in Latin. As a result of Vatican II, changes to the Mass were made. The celebrant was turned to face the congregation. Mass could now be celebrated in the language of the people and cultural music could be used at Mass. After these changes took place, people participated more during the liturgy.

 

Friar Johnpaul also explained the history behind some of the actions we see and experience when we celebrate Mass.

 

When early Christians gathered to break bread, they also collected food and clothing for the poor. These days, when we celebrate Mass, there is usually an offertory procession where bread and wine along with the monetary collection from the congregation is brought to the celebrant. 

Before touching the bread and wine that is to become the Body and Blood of Christ, the celebrant washes his hands. For the early Christians, it was necessary for the celebrant to clean his hands after touching the offerings. Today, the celebrant washes his hands to show respect for the Eucharist.

 

When a priest adds water to the wine, he says the following prayer, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity”.  In the time of the early Church, there was a practical reason for adding water. Wine was strong and thick so there was a need to dilute it. After the need to dilute the wine was eliminated, the water took on symbolic meaning for Jesus’ humanity.

 

After the bread and wine are consecrated, the priest drops a small piece of the host into the wine. This practice dates back to the early Church when a piece of the Bishop’s host was taken to all the area churches as a sign of unity.

 

Learning some of the history around the Eucharist was enlightening. Although I don’t take the Eucharist for granted, I know I’m not always 100% present during the liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass. During his presentation, Friar Johnpaul reminded us that we are encountering God when we receive the Eucharist. I can’t think of a more convincing reason to try harder to be present at Mass.

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