"Silk" (Samuel Hayes Johnson)
October 20, 1946- September 14, 2016
Silk died, early on the morning of the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. I appreciate that to most people that sentence probably seems funny, like a typo or a strange grammatical error. It isn’t. Silk was my friend, and more than that – he was Christ for me, in a very unique way. For over a year, I had the privilege of caring for him by shopping for him each week. The last year or so, this also meant I brought his groceries to his apartment, as he had become too weak to carry anything of any weight. I was not there when he died, though I was quietly awake, wondering why I was awake at 4:30 in the morning. But my sister was there, was able to be present to him at the end. She, like the wise virgins of the Gospel, kept vigil for the bridegroom as he came to bring Silk to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Who was Silk? This question has plagued me for my whole time in community, but extends even further, to my time as a student at Franciscan University. I used to see him at St. Peter’s Church, where he attended 8:00 Mass every day for more than three years without an interruption (he was quite proud of the statistic, and actually knew the exact number of Masses in his “streak”). In those days, I knew him without knowing him – he was the shabby, skinny guy with a wispy gray ponytail who wore cutoff jean shorts and a blue sweatshirt every day and always waited until the end of the line to receive communion. He was a mystery to me then, but not a personal mystery – more like a curiosity. I think I would have been afraid of him, had he ever come up to me to speak.

I got to know Silk the summer of my first year in community, when I first spent some time at Samaritan House, our thrift store. He was a regular volunteer at Samaritan House, where he was a perpetual nuisance – arguing with and occasionally frightening other volunteers, insisting that he ran the place, and often keeping us late at the end of the day as he would insist on praying for the dead (especially dead celebrities! I have a sharp memory of praying for Shirley Temple when she died a few years ago). Actually, we all thought that we were doing him a favor, letting him come in to close the store. We realized when he first got sick and didn’t come in for a few weeks that we actually relied on him to remind us of many of the little tasks involved in closing up: every day something would be forgotten, whether it was cleaning some area or emptying the till or cleaning out the coffee carafe. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we still forget the coffee sometimes.

I’m not really sure how I started shopping for him, but that’s the way it was with Silk – only after he’d talked you into doing something did you realize that you’d been roped into it. And the fact is that he just didn’t seem to have anyone else he could rely on. He had great charm beneath his rough demeanor and vague, cryptic language, and a way of bringing you into his world. After time with Silk, I would find myself referring to things in his special lingo, where sisters all had nicknames, St. Peter’s was “the basilica” (it’s not a basilica!), and any activity – however mundane – was a “run” (as in, “we need to run on this one!). Shopping for Silk was totally mortifying for me. If that seems like a funny statement, allow me to paint a picture for you: imagine a lone religious sister, shopping at Walmart. In her first order, she has typical “nunnish things” – frozen vegetables, generic cereal, and discount meat. She quietly pays with her debit card. In her second order, she has chocolate donuts and milk, a variety of candy bars, Hostess cupcakes, and two or three large containers of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. She pays with a hundred-dollar bill. Do you see now why it was an awkward experience? Afterward, I would bring Silk his things and chat with him for a few minutes about whatever was on his mind: usually something related to his car (he always had a car that was on death’s door); to the sisters and their assignments (he truly believed that his opinion about these things carried great weight with Mother Mary Ann and the council and was deeply grieved when sisters were moved away or when he felt they weren’t in jobs they liked); or the Blessed Mother, who was the great love of his life. We would sometimes pray for the dead, but Silk did not think I was an especially good pray-er, so he usually omitted prayer time if I was the only one there, sometimes adding commentary about the excellence of Sr. Carrie Ann and Sr. Magdala Marie’s prayers.

My time with Silk was usually exasperating, frustrating, and totally heart-warming. He was intractable and impossible to reason with: I’ve often modified Paschal’s quip to refer to him, “Silk has reasons of which reason knows nothing”. He was like that to the end, scheming about how he could get a new car the last time I saw him, a week before his death. I guess he was his usually querulous self even in the hours before he died. When the sisters saw when they stopped to see him that he was dying, one stayed with him. Apparently, he kept telling her to leave. But she stayed, waiting like the wise virgins for the coming of the Bridegroom. In a sense, though, she was also waiting with him. Silk was Christ for us all in so many ways, so as Sister sat by his side, she kept watch not only with a lonely old man, but with Jesus himself. There is no way to explain this mystery, but it is the truth: Silk was Christ’s presence for us, and Jesus gave us so many opportunities to love him in Silk that I am overwhelmed by the privilege I had in knowing him.

And I can’t believe he is actually gone, now the object of my (apparently mediocre) prayers for the dead. Perhaps, then, I will borrow Silk’s prayers. Please join me in praying for my friend with the prayers he used each time he prayed for the dead:

Mary’s gonna take him for a ride.

Gone but not forgotten, forever in our heart.
-Sr. Agnes Therese Davis, T.O.R.

A couple weeks ago my cousin had a heart attack while bicycle riding. Praise God there was a nurse biking by him and she was able to perform CPR until the ambulance came and the defibrillator was used. His heart stopped beating for ten minutes! The doctors later told him that with the type of trauma he endured statistically there’s a 5% survival rate. But God is greater than any statistic- Jim survived…miraculously – thank you Jesus.

Just like we need our human hearts to beat so we can live, there is another heart that is needed for us to live – eternally. This is the heart of Jesus! “The designs of His Heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death and to keep them alive in famine. “(Entrance Antiphon for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus)

We should meditate on the beating, living Sacred Heart of Jesus. How His heart beats for you, me, the whole world! Do you know about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? “The term ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’ denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being and his person…Devotion to the Sacred Heart…calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion and reparation of love and gratitude …” (Directory on Popular Piety and the liturgy #166, 172)

The Lord is Love and He desires to be loved in return. He gave himself up for us when he died on the cross because He loves us. His heart stopped beating when He died…but as he gloriously rose from the dead, triumphant over sin and death, His Sacred Heart beat again and it continues to  beat victoriously signifying His eternal Love.

"The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5) He desires that our hearts beat in unison with His heart and look like His heart. “My daughter, I desire that your heart be formed after the model of My Merciful Heart. You must be completely imbued with My Mercy.” (Diary of St. Faustina #167) When we lose sight of His love and mercy, our hearts begin to “stop”. Jesus rushes to our side, sends us a nurse (the Holy Spirit) to perform CPR and to revive and bring new life to our dead and cold hearts.

May your heart be united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, beating in unison with His heart which is love and mercy itself.

Happy Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

“Sacred Heart of Jesus, my light, my love, and my life; lead me to know you and to love only you. May I live to you alone, in you, by you, and for you.”
~St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!

 
Franciscan Sisters TOR Samaritan House

This year's mission shirts say, "Discover the Beauty," printed boldly under a silhouette of the skyline of Steubenville. Looking back at the week I spent with Franciscan University students spending their spring break in prayer and service for Steubenville, I think the choice of motto was prophetic. I, for one, feel I learned a lot about vision and beauty. As I worked alongside the students and introduced them to the town and people I love, I came to a clearer understanding of what Jesus meant when he told his disciples, "Blessed are your eyes because they see."

The fact of the matter is that our eyes don't always see the truth or the full reality of a situation. A few days into our mission this year, a student came to me. "Sister," he said, "can I ask you something? Isn't it like totally depressing seeing this stuff every day? Doesn't it get heavy?"

I had to think about that for a minute before answering. How do I feel about seeing so much suffering every day? Does it get "heavy"? Of course, there are moments that are just plain sad, like when you learn that a young woman has chosen to abort her child, or when you hear that a job opportunity fell through, or when the volunteer you've spent hours with doesn't come in to work because he's drunk again. But that's not what I see when I look at my life.

"No," I answered the student, "It's not totally depressing." And I went on to explain about the beauty I have discovered in my life living and serving in downtown Steubenville. Actually, we who live at our mission house downtown like to say we are "living the dream" because we are blessed to spend our days with the same sort of people that Jesus chose as his friends. If you read the Gospels, you will notice that most of the time Jesus was completely surrounded by people in need. He was followed by crowds of the sick, he sought out a tax collector of ill repute to be his apostle, and he did not shrink from inviting beggars to follow him or the demon-possessed to be his missionaries.

In other words, Jesus did not flinch from any aspect of human reality, no matter how raw, and in every person he saw something beautiful, something precious, and something worth saving.

Our relationship with Christ begins when we allow him to look at our particular human reality and discover the beauty there, hidden though it may be under sin and suffering. And as we learn what love is from Love Incarnate, we, too, begin to have eyes to see the beauty hidden in others. That is why any life involving contact with the "poor and marginalized" is far from depressing and heavy. Such a life is a privileged encounter with hidden beauty. When I listen to people's sorrows and share their pain, it is like I am receiving a precious artifact covered in dust and grime. My listening and sharing are a kind of dusting and polishing, whereby the beauty of the person is revealed once more. This is living the dream.

In this year of mercy, may we all have eyes to see the beauty of our neighbors, near and far. May be all discover the beauty stamped on each heart and be willing to give of ourselves to reveal that beauty to others.

Sr. Agnes Thérèse Davis, T.O.R.

Our sisters have been trying to visit Helen at a local nursing home for a while now.  Recently our perseverance paid off and she agreed to talk to Sr. Sophia Grace and I about a month ago.  We found her to be a lovely, though slightly confused, woman.

When the time came to offer her communion we found out that Helen had a resistance to more than our visits; she was resisting the Lord's love.  She refused the Eucharist because she didn't feel worthy to receive it, although she had no serious sin on her conscience.

Suddenly, I got it: the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, the message of Divine Mercy.  It all made sense. This is what our Lord means when He speaks of souls rejecting Him.  My heart was pierced in the tiniest way by the pain of His Sacred Heart.

Here is just one example of what Jesus told St. Faustina:  "The flames of mercy are burning me.  I desire to pour them our upon human souls.  Oh, what pain they cause Me what they do not want to accept them!" (Diary of St. Faustina 1074)

Another time Jesus pleaded with her to spread the message of His mercy: "Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace." (1074)

While my puny human expectations settled for months of working with Helen to overcome these feelings of unworthiness, Jesus decided to reveal the miracles of His mercy to us.  Just one week after our first visit with Helen we saw her again.

When it came time to offer her communion, I have to admit my expectations were low.  Once again, she began to protest, saying she wasn't sure she was ready.  Unlike last time though, she asked me directly if I thought she was worthy to receive.  I looked her in the eyes, and with confidence, allowed Jesus to speak His mercy and love into her broken heart.  She believed me and I rejoiced with all of heaven as Helen received the Blessed Sacrament that day!

The Lord cannot be outdone in generosity so we continue to see the Lord's grace operate in Helen.  I truly believe that once she received communion once He was able to pour oceans of grace into her soul.  The next time we visited her, there was no hesitation when we asked if she wanted to receive communion.  When I held up the host and said "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world..." she looked directly at it and her fact lit up.  I swear she was seeing Jesus...Helen is blind in one eye and can't see well in the other!! Now in Mass and adoration I ask to see what she sees.

I tell this story because this is an illustration of the graces that are available today.  If we open the door just a crack for Jesus, He will flood our lives with the ocean of His mercy.  In fact, as the gospel illustrates today, Jesus can even walk through locked doors!  The message of Divine Mercy tells us that Jesus longs to pour out His mercy on all, especially the most hardened of sinners.

Here are some of the graces that Jesus promised would be available on this day and what He desired this Feast of Mercy to be:

"My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy.  I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners.  On that day that very depths of My tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.  The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.  On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened.  Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet...The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness.  It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.  Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy." (Diary 699)

Perhaps like Helen, you feel too unworthy or too sinful to approach the Lord today.  This could be a lie of the evil one.    It is because of our sin that we need His mercy and the more sinful, the more broken you are, the more you deserve His mercy!  He longs, desires to love you, to pour out His mercy upon you.  The Sacrament of Confession is the Fount of Mercy and this is where we find healing, grace and peace.  If you have been afraid of coming to the Lord this is the first step back.

So have mercy on Him, on our dear Beloved Savior, relieve the suffering of His heart, snuggle close to Him and allow the "waves of His infinite tenderness"(St. Therese) to overwhelm you.

Sr. Magdala Marie Clarizio, novice
Why the Wild Goose?

Because there is a wildness about the Holy Spirit.  Fr. Dave Pivonka, one of our T.O.R. brothers, in a new video series called The Wild Goose, tells how the ancient Celts used to call the Holy Spirit the Wild Goose, precisely because of this wildness.

The Spirit blows where he wills! (John 3:8)

I can attest to this in my own life.  I grew up living the life of a faithful Catholic.  I went to Mass on Sundays, served my parish in different ways, and was even beginning a prayer life towards the end of my College career.  But I was just going along with life, until I went to a Steubenville Youth Conference as a chaperon.

At the retreat they talked a lot about knowing God's personal love, having a relationship with Him and living a life in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  I was hesitant because I hadn't heard any of this before.  But at the same time I saw in the speakers and most of the teens around me something that I didn't have and I wanted it!  They had a zeal for life, and love; they had the Holy Spirit!

The Saturday night of the retreat I told the Lord that I was going to give him one chance to show me this Holy Spirit and if nothing happened that was it, I was done, and I would stay content with the way I was living my life.

I opened the door of my heart a tiny crack and he absolutely flung it open!!!  I experienced His love pouring into me.  I didn't just know in my head but knew in my heart that I was personally loved by God.

 It was so overwhelming.  I was filled with His peace and joy!  His presence was so deeply personal and so intimate.

I can honestly say that from that day, from that moment, my life has never been the same.

He has taken me on a great adventure that I never could have imagined.  It has been a journey into greater freedom as I have come to know my identity as a beloved daughter of God the Father, and with many unexpected turns it has even led me to the convent!!!

Have you experienced the Holy Spirit?  Do you desire more of the Holy Spirit?

There isn't a better time to ask for this Experience and for more of the Holy Spirit than in these next 50 days between Easter and Pentecost (May 15th).

Join us in preparing for Pentecost by taking part in a Video Novena.  Over the next 50 days we will post 9 (of the 14) Wild Goose videos on our Facebook Page, that's about one every 5 or 6 days.  Each one focuses on a different aspect of the Holy Spirit and how to live a life led by Him.  Each one is only about 25 minutes but they are packed with powerful teachings and testimonies.  And they even have subtitles in Spanish!

In between each video spend time reflecting on Fr. Dave's challenges and invitations (resist the temptation to binge watch!) and begin to experience the wildness of the Holy Spirit for yourself!

Check out the trailer for the videos below:



As part of the novena, join us each day in praying the prayer below:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you shall renew the face of the earth.  O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,  Amen.
-Sr. Sophia Grace Huschka, T.O.R.
The following is a poem written by one of our sisters, fitting for today's mysteries.

"Gifts"

The Father poured gifts on his Beloved,
     his Son,
As he slumbered on the Cross
     and in the tomb.

I am one such gift:
     the Son's waking dream
     the child of his heart;
     bone of his bone
     flesh of his flesh,
He clings to me.

I am my Beloved's
He is mine.

I am the Father's gift to his Son.
Christ is the Father's gift to me.
Never has possession been so sweet;
Never has dispossession been so welcome.

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.
When you look at the cross, what do you see? I see a Bridegroom. You might be thinking, "Of course you see a Bridegroom, you're a bride of Christ!" It's not just me that sees this, though. I've recently inherited a tried-and-true obsession of many sisters before me. This new interest has to do with Jewish wedding customs and seeing how Jesus acts like a Jewish Bridegroom. 

 He reveals His deep, spousal love for us especially in His passion and death which we are now entering into as we celebrate the Sacred Triduum, where he reveals in full His marital covenant.

So, if Jesus is the Bridegroom and, as we know, the Church is His bride, then I'm sure you are dying to ask the question every couple gets asked: How did He pop the question??

"...the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood."
1 Cor 11:23-26

While this doesn't sound like a very romantic marriage proposal to us, it would sound very different to Jewish ears. When a Jewish man proposed marriage to a woman, he would pass her a cup of wine. If she drank from it, that meant she accepted the proposal and they were betrothed.

Even more importantly, Jesus is establishing the New Covenant in His blood. Throughout the Old Testament, God promises to make a new and everlasting covenant with Israel, and this is always spoken of as a marriage covenant. For example, in Hosea the Lord promises: "I will make a covenant for them on that day... I will betroth you to me forever: I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment, with loyalty and with compassion; I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know the LORD."

Jesus came to make this new covenant with us! This covenant is not sealed with the blood of animals, but with His own blood.

"In the Last Supper, [Jesus] was as much enacting a Marriage Feast as keeping the Passover. Essentially the Passover itself was nuptial. The foundation of the Marriage between Yahweh and his People was the Covenant between them ... It is therefore no playing with words, but the sober truth, to say that Jesus, if not enacting a marriage at the Last supper, was solemnizing the marriage between himself and his Church in this, the New Covenant." - Jesus the Bridegroom - Brant Pitre

A couple of years ago Fr. Boniface Hicks, O.S.B. was preaching about the blood and water flowing from Jesus' side, which "speaks more eloquently than that of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24). He asked: "What does the blood say? It says: 'Will you marry me?'"

Not only on Holy Thursday and not only to His Apostles does Jesus propose this marriage covenant. He asks each of us to marry Him, to become more closely united with Him, to let Him into our hearts at each communion. Each time the priest repeats the words, "This is my body ... This is my blood ..." Jesus is asking, "Will you marry me?" As we celebrate the Lord's Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist this night let your "Amen" mean, "Yes, Jesus, I will marry you!"
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