News and Information

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

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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Blue Dove for PentecostBreathe in me, O Holy Spirit

that my thoughts may all be holy;
Act in me, O Holy Spirit

that my works, too, may be holy;

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit

that I love but what is holy;

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit

to defend that is holy;

Guard me then, O Holy Spirit

that I always may be holy.

St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)

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