News and Information

News and Information for members of and people interested in the North American Conference of Associates and Religious.

The Award Goes to...

You know them! Listen to the names: Emmy, Oscar, Grammy… not persons but awards conferred by various segments of the entertainment community during these first months of 2012. And it is common to hear the emcee say something like, "Let's give up for the producers of ______." Of course, the meaning is "give a round of applause" in recognition of their good work.

Lenten symbol of cross, palms, eucharist and plate Holy Mother Church asks us something similar as we begin this season of the Liturgical Cycle: "What are you giving up for Lent?" Fasting, one full meal supplemented by two smaller meals, obliges us to reduce our intake of food on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl) is a part of Church discipline not only on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday but also for all Fridays of Lent.

The faithful are encouraged to perform other acts of penance in union with the suffering of Christ. A custom has developed where some people make a sacrifice and "give up" something they enjoy for the duration of Lent: playing cards, chocolate, favorite TV shows, pre-dinner cocktails. Others do a positive act of penance: avoid complaining and criticizing, participate in daily Mass and/or the parish mission, do a random act of kindness for another ("…do not let your left hand know what your right is doing…") Matt. 6: 3

You know them! Listen to the names: prayer, fasting and almsgiving… each spiritual practice can draw us closer to Jesus and our personal call to holiness this season of Lent. And the award conferred… a life-time achievement that's out of this world!

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Aaah! A New Year is upon us! Some of us were creatively inspired, scribbling down our heart-felt resolutions for physical, emotional, financial or spiritual improvement. Others among us are already changing our minds and x-ing out those fervent plans for 2012 because they are just not working. The stick-to-it-iveness of self-discipline can be as slippery as black ice.

Flying Pig"If" can be a calculation that indicates the outcome of a situation or determines the choices that we make. "If pigs could fly..." is a way of saying that something will never happen! "What if...?," "If only...", and the rest of the "iffy" family translate into words like supposing, even though, whether, when or whenever. Periodically, I like to prayerfully mull over the British Nobel Laureate, Rudyard Kipling's poem,"IF," written in 1909. It reminds me of our common call as followers of Christ even as it depicts the complexities of human existence.

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Do you have a favorite crèche scene… one perhaps handed down to you by your grandmother… or maybe it's the corn husk crib you bought on vacation in Arkansas… or the Precious Moments characters with their big eyes and full cheeks? Does the religious congregation you are associated with have an enormous display of cribs from around the world where members have served? Personally, one of my favorite crib scenes comes from Haiti. The stable is a hollowed out coconut shell and all the figures are rolled-up balls of clay. Sheep and shepherd have a similar look except for a twig staff. It matters not the age or appearance of the crèche under your Christmas tree, in the nave of you parish church or even the plywood personalities in your neighbor's yard.

crècheWhatever the design, simple or extravagant, fitting in the palm of your hand or expanded live-action at the local park, the crèche is a reminder that the "Word made flesh and dwells among us." Not just on December 25, but every day you and I are called to incarnate Christ in our interaction with others. The great mystic, Meister Eckhart once said, "What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God… if I do not give birth to the Son of God in my time and culture?"

Do enjoy the artistic creativity and ethnic diversity you might see during this Christmas Season. Take time to pray to be an ambassador of Christ, emphasizing the charism of your congregation, as the New Year unfolds. Seek out ways and means to enflesh Gospel values in your daily life.

The first reading during daytime Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity proclaims from Isaiah 52:

How beautiful upon the mountains

are the feet of those who bring glad tidings,

announcing peace, bearing good news…

Reflection and Prayer: Pray with a favorite crèche. Consider journaling your thoughts on what the birth of Jesus means to you in your lived experience in the here and now.

Photo by Sr. Joel Miller, MSC

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Our trees don't usually wear colorful Fall dresses. You see, I live in the South and decorate the chapel or dining room table with orange, yellow and red leaves from the Dollar Store. Year after year I am amazed by the beautiful photographs of autumn foliage from the Chautauqua and Allegheny Country of Pennsylvania and New York or the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Having ministered in the Pacific Northwest I've been to the western side of the Cascade mountains and I've seen with my own eyes the Columbia River Gorge with its scenic beauty.

Fall of Freddie the Leaf book coverAnnually, I am made aware of the life cycle of leaves and jolted into cherishing the delicate balance of life and death in all human existence. I am reminded of a book The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia in 1982. What an inspiring allegory! Originally touted as a book for children "to explain death," anyone who has read it knows the offerings in the tale are ageless and timeless. It is warm hearted read and quite thought provoking as we listen in to the conversations of Freddie and his companions over the seasons - embracing death and ultimately new life.

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