Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas ~ X Marks the Spot ...

CHRISTMAS ... An every day celebration of the Heart!

Some of you might think I am a little late for Christmas with this post ... and you might be right if you are thinking of Christmas day. However, I am a firm believer in the 12 days of Christmas. We are at the last day of December ... and at the 6th or 7th day of Christmas. How good it is to continue to celebrate!
Many years ago on a bus ride home for Christmas when I was in college, I saw a painted sign in a store front window that read. "X marks the spot where Christ is taken out of Christmas! " I have never forgotten that ...
We must not let that happen ... Let us celebrate Jesus, Emmanual, God-with-Us ... a baby born in a humble stable and the God who came to share humanity with us.
May the blessings of Christmas fill your heart with the gifts of peace and love! ... and may we in turn bless others as we journey into a new year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Hope of Advent Waiting

HOPE comes in little ways,
it only takes one shining star, one faithful friend, one wisp of inspiration,
one touch of creation's beauty, one deep sip of love,
to keep the illumination alive in us.
~ Sr. Joyce Rupp

So many times over the past few days the theme of HOPE has jumped out at me! I stumbled upon Sr. Joyce Rupp's wonderful quote a week or so ago and just loved it ... Then hope came to me during my Saturday morning walk through "one touch of creation's beauty" as shown in the picture above of the frost covered holly branch. Over the past few days I keep bumping into the word ... on a car bumper sticker, during the homily at Mass yesterday, in the lines of the psalm that I prayed during morning prayer, in several reflection prayer books I have and even on an ad on my e-mail page .... Hope is the word of the week for me! I do believe that this is what Advent and the beautiful season of Christmas is all about!

As I went for my walk this past Saturday morning it was very cold, a bit of fog was hanging and everything was frosted over ~ it was really quite beautiful. At first I couldn't get that Christmas song "... frosted window panes ..." out of my my head. However, as the sun started to peak through, the frost on the trees and bushes started to melt. My Christmas carol turned into a mediation....

Here we are in a very dark time of the year. For me, certain things in life have been on the bleak side. Three significant people in my life died within 6 weeks of each other a few months ago, and a short time later a friendly neighbor died. I've also been dealing with some health issues and the concern of an ailing Mom. All those things can start to drag a person down ~ or at least stress me out a bit. Seeing the beauty of the frosted holly branch touched me with refreshment and I felt a sense of hope. As the sunshine began to hit each branch, the frost disappeared and water droplets were left glimmering in the sun. That is what the light of Jesus, our Sonshine, does to our sometimes cold and frosty hearts. God's love can melt away so much if we can just bask in the warmth for awhile. Advent gives us that time ... time to be still, to ponder the mystery of the Incarnation and the wonderful gift of Jesus to us ~ Emmanuel ~ one with us! Let us light that third candle of Advent with joyful expectation and hope!

As Sr. Joan Chittister says so well, "Hope sends us dancing around the dark corners trusting in a common tomorrow we cannot see."
What brings you HOPE? How and when does hope find a way into your heart and mind? ... Please share ....
May the God of hope fill you with all joy, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

Thursday, December 3, 2009

...Advent Advantages...

O Radiant Dawn,
Splendor of Eternal Light,
Sun of Justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness ...

It is that beautiful season of Advent already! Although this season came all too quickly for me, I am happy for this time of the year. Yesterday I spent a little time in my office trading out items from the Fall and Thanksgiving seasons and putting out reminders of Advent for myself. The lovely card in the picture above is one of those items. It is a piece of artwork done by Sr. Mary Southard, CSJ entitled "Madona of the World", and the quote next to the picture are the words that grace the card. This Advent Season gives us a time of preparation for Christmas, not in the consumer sense, but in the spiritual sense!

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas .... and that is the advantage of these four weeks in our Church! Hopefully we all can STOP briefly each day, take a little time, pull ourselves aside from all the busy shopping and decorating of the season, and ponder the gift of Jesus that was born as one of us!

Perhaps these words from St. Francis of Assisi will give you something to think about as we begin this Advent time ... Francis used to tell his brothers: "As you announce peace with your mouth, may you keep it in your heart, thus no one will be provoked to anger or scandal, but rather to kindness and gentleness. For we have been called to this: to cure the wounded, to bind up the broken, and to recall the erring."

As our Gospel reading this weekend says, "Prepare the way of the Lord." Wishing you many blessings as we journey through this Advent Season!
Oh, I almost forgot ...The United States Catholic Bishops have a great site with an advent calendar. Check it out at There is a door for everyday of Advent that opens up when you click on it and gives some Advent thoughts. Does anyone else have a good Advent preparation tip to share?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It is Good to Give Thanks and Praise

Happy Thanksgiving!

.... No, I really wasn't at the beach today, but it is a good Fall picture
for the end of my day ....

Ahh ... I come to the end of this Thanksgiving Day ~ it was a good day!
Although everyday should include thoughts of thanksgiving, how good it is to have a special day to remember our abundance and to give thanks! As a Catholic, I feel so blessed that I was able to begin this Thanksgiving holiday by attending Mass this morning! I am grateful that all the parishes I know always have a special Thanksgiving Liturgy ...
I share with you the opening prayer from Mass this Thanksgiving Day.

"Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite. On Thanksgiving Day we come before you with gratitude for your kindness: open our hearts to concern for our
fellow men and women, so that we may share your gifts in loving service. We ask this through our
Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen"

Later on after church, breakfast, and a quick walk in the rain for me, my local community of four sisters busied ourselves preparing a feast of turkey and all the trimmings. We had another sister over to join us and had a most enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner! During our community prayer after dinner we had time to share and pray in thanksgiving for an "abundance" that has blessed our life.
So, as you think of this harvest time and of Thanksgiving, for what abundance are you most grateful?

For all that we have ... For all that we have had ... For all that we will have ...
We thank you, bountiful God.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On the Road ~ Reflections on Community pt 2

It is high time I catch up with part 2 of my reflections on community!
How did November descend upon me so quickly? In any case, today
(Nov. 9th) is a good day to add to this because we are celebrating the
Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran - the wonderful Basilica in Rome that is considered the "Pope's Church". According to a writing on this church, St. John Lateran is the spiritual home of the people who are the Church ... It is also very important to Franciscans! A few years back I had the opportunity to visit this holy place in Rome while I was on a Franciscan Pilgrimage to Assisi and to soak in the beauty and the history that is a part of the basilica.
Fr. Roch Niemer, O.F.M. who was my pilgrimage leader writes in his book,

In the Footsteps of Francis and Clare,

"... In 1209 Francis and his first companions came to Rome to have their way of life, their dream approved. Innocent III gave verbal approval to the brothers, tonsured them and commissioned them to preach penance. This fact is so vital because if Francis had not come to Pope Innocent III there would be no Franciscan family today. For this reason St. John Lateran is also called the baptistery of the Franciscan movement, the place where the Franciscan family was born ..." And many years later in 1855 my own Community - followers of Francis - began. The picture of the stained glass was not taken in Rome, but in the Chapel of my Motherhouse where my community has so often gathered in the Franciscan tradition to pray, to share Eucharist, to celebrate, to bring the needs of our world before our good and gracious God!

Now, those thoughts are not exactly what I was going to write about, but I coul
dn't let the feast slip by without some comments. I also want to share with you a few reflections that came to me a couple of weeks ago. I was able to travel to the Oregon coast for a few days with two other Sisters in Community - actually the other two-thirds of the Formation team that came out from the east coast for meetings and some planning time. Believe it or not, we really were working hard during those days! In community, like in a family, it is important to go away once in awhile, to have a change of pace & spend time together ... sometimes, when there are important things to discuss, a lovely setting and salt air helps the brain to be more productive.
The first evening we were at the beach we had a beautiful sunset! Rain was predicted for the our whole time, but God is good and provided us with some sunshine. We were able to take a quick walk on the beach before the rain came in. I was taken with the seagulls. They were clustered together on the beach, pretty much all facing in the same direction~somewhat protecting one another from the impending storm. St. Francis use to preach to the birds, but this particular evening the birds were preaching to me! They spoke to me of community. Each gull was unique, but similar. They were together as a group. I have come together with others who share similar values as me and desire to work within the Church to make a difference in the world. We are all unique yet we draw strength from each other. When difficulties come we rally around one another with care and support.When I came home I found quote that I wrote down a long time ago. It was buried in a bunch of other papers. It is a good reminder for me as I share life with others .... and to all of us as we strive to build up community wherever we are.

"So, it's the sameness that brings us closer, but it's the newness that will keep us together. Be wise, be stimulating, be exciting, share new ideas, grow, develop. Don't ever be predictable!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

On the Road ~ Reflections on Community pt 1

The past couple of weeks have been busy ones for me - I've "been on the road" a fair amount traveling north and south on well as a few other roads. As I traveled to and from Tacoma, WA one day last week I was very aware of the weather because it was a blustery autumn day... fairly rainy, but with the sun was ducking in and out revealing rainbows at different points. The wind was blowing leaves around and as I journeyed along I saw a few flocks of geese in the sky flying south in V formation. It reminded me of a handout I got years ago called "A Lesson From The Geese" which is comprised of 5 lessons learned from observations of geese. I'm not exactly sure who wrote it and need to investigate that. It is quite profound and started me thinking about community.
The first observation and lesson is: As each bird flaps its wings, by flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% flying range than if each bird flew alone. Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Like the leaves that were blowing about me over the freeway and the beautiful ones with multiple colors still on the trees along the road, members in a "community" are diverse with many different individuals and yet we share a common direction. I am often reminded of that in my religious community of Sisters. We certainly are each unique, but we share our many different gifts and talents to enhance the group as a whole, to help each other along the way, and to make the world a better place. Together we can do something beautiful for God that I/we might not be able to do individually!

I leave you with a quote from Mark Morrison-Reed:
~ The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen. Together, our vision widens and strength is renewed. ~
So, whether in a religious community or a faith community may we unite (fly) together to bring about the Kingdom of God!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

...October Opulence...

"The course of Nature is the art of God."
~ Edward Young

Here we are, into the second weekend of October already! So far we have been having a beautiful October. The colors of the trees have been very pretty and the days are having a crisp feel to them. The autumn season is definitely upon us and the harvest days of October are here!
October brings another abundance to us as well ... The other day as I came to the end of the evening office of prayers in my local community, I was looking through the back of my prayer book at the Feast days of this month. I already noted that we celebrated St. Francis Day on the 4th, but for some reason I was also more aware of other feast days during this month. What a rich month of celebrating holy men and women as well as a few other feasts!
October ...
1: St. Therese of Lisieux - the little flower
2: Feast of The Guardian Angels
4: St. Francis of Assisi
7: Our Lady of the Rosary
11: Pope John XXIII ~ St. John XXIII
15: Teresa of Avila
17: Ignatius of Antioch
18: St. Luke
23: St. John of Capistrono
28: Sts. Simon and Jude
Of course there are others too ... I bet you might be able to name a few I forgot ... The point is though, October has an abundance of beautiful feast days to celebrate! What a rich heritage we have as Catholics ... and so many models of faith!
One that I would like to highlight briefly since we are on the eve of his feast day and I personally think he was a very good and holy man is Pope John XXIII. A new realization I had recently is that he was a Secular Franciscan making his profession at age 16. He was truly a man of faith and vision, with a quick wit and a strong sense of care and relationship for all people. As I come to the end of this writing I want to close with words from "good Pope John" :
"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."

The learn more about Pope John XXIII, convener of the Second Vatican Council go to ...
Also, a book that I am interested in reading, one that Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, OR suggested as "book worthy of your attention" is Journal of the Soul - the diary of the late Pope's spiritual reflections. I bet it has some gems for reflection! Peace and All Good!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let's Celebrate!

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

It is a grand day to celebrate ... to celebrate the saint, to celebrate the Franciscan Spirit in our world today after 800 years, and to celebrate
the gifts and legacy that Francis left us to follow Jesus more closely
and to walk gently on our earth as brothers and sisters!

As I celebrate this feast day I am able to recall some wonderful memories of being able to make a pilgrimage to Assisi several years ago. What a wonderful experience that was to spend time in many of the holy places where St. Francis walked and prayed! If you ever have a chance to go to Italy, be sure to add a visit to Assisi - preferably for more than a day! There is so much to soak in there ... a beautiful spirit that will bless your life immensely!

So, today, with Franciscan men and women throughout the world, I celebrate! I must get busy now though, because company will be arriving shortly. There will be seven of us here for a nice St. Francis Day dinner ~ a time to be together as community, share a meal, visit with each other and pray. It should be a most enjoyable evening.

As I close off on this entry though I leave you with a "Franciscan thought" ... There is a little book - Francis: The Journey and the The Dream - that Murray Bodo, OFM wrote many years ago that has really become a classic. It is a wonderful, poetic book that is a good introduction to the life of St. Francis. As I read it many years ago I was touched by many things, but a couple of the lines that Fr. Bodo wrote that have really stuck with me over the years are:
"... Francis wanted more than anything else to leave behind in all men and women an attitude of celebration. Union with God and with every person and with every thing was love and love brought joy, not gloom ..."
So, let's celebrate
.... celebrate this day and all the wonderful gifts of our God!
Pace E Bene! Peace and All Good!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's a Wide, Wide World Out There!

I just returned from a five and a half day "road trip", mostly for my vocation ministry with meetings and connecting with some of my Franciscan Sisters, but also with a side trip to Southern Oregon to visit with my 96 year old mother. I traveled many miles during those days across LOTS of open space from the west side of Oregon, to eastern Washington, on to eastern Oregon, and down through central Oregon before getting back to Portland. I saw a variety of scenary as I traveled along - all beautiful in it's unique way ...

I was alone, but not lonely. Traveling often becomes a prayerful, solitude time for me as I soak in the beauty of the surroundings and contemplate God's presence in the world! It's a great thinking time as well. I sometimes travel for miles without the radio on or music, but since this trip was so long I was also listening to a "book on tape" (it was really a CD) ~ "The Restless Heart" by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser. A quote that Fr. Rolheiser made reference to was from St. Augustine, "...You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you ..." I think that is why I really do not feel lonely or restless when I am driving down the road ~ when I see the vastness of our world and the beauty of nature and creation around me, I feel close to God!

Like St. Francis I say:
"Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name ... Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs... Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It helps now and then to step back and take the long view...

The past couple of days I was involved in the annual regional meeting for Region 12 of the National Religious Vocation Conference. There were about 15 Sisters present from various congregations and 2 Religious Brothers ~ a Holy Cross Brother and Maryknoll Missionary Brother. We got together to support one another, share ideas, pray together and discuss ways that we might collaborate with each other in our ministries. It was a great couple of days! We were able to enjoy part of a day during our time enjoying God's creation in the beauty of The Columbia River Gorge.

At our closing prayer this afternoon we prayed with some words of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The spirit does move in amazing ways as I thought back to the scenes we saw in the gorge the day before and connected those images to our prayer which had been planned days before.

Archbishop Romero wrote in a piece that was entitled ..."We Are Prophets of a Future Not Our Own"...
"It helps now and then to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do somethig and to do it very well ..."
So in this brief writing I leave you with these thoughts!
Peace and Blessings!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Many Hands Make Light Work!

The weekend quickly disappeared as they often do! It was a full and busy one for me, but good ....

Saturday was moving day for several of our Sisters who were moving from one house to another. Although I arrived after the packing up of the one house, I was there for some of the unpacking in the new house. It's amazing how quickly a move can happen when there are many helpers. Several other sisters from the Portland area were around to help, as well as some friends and a number of our Franciscan Companions (Associates of the Community) who live in the area.
I think that the three sisters that moved will be quite happy in their new abode. Because many parishes have either sold their convents or are using them now for parish offices, it sometimes can be hard for local communities to find a suitable place to live. Many of our sisters do need to rent apartments or houses to live in. This has been the case for quite a few yeas now, especially on the west coast. I live in a rented house with three other sisters on a fairly quiet street. Over the years as I go out for my walks though, I have discovered that I have developed a little "neighborhood ministry" with several of the folks that live up and down on my street. We have nice conversations and they are often asking for prayers .... and in a very unchurched area of the country, that is really something - God works in many ways!
Peace and Blessings! Sr. Patrica

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beauty All Around Us

"Justice is the restoration of beauty to all that is broken." ~ St. Bonaventure

Lately we have been having some gorgeous days in the Portland area! I love these days of blue sky and sunshine with a tinge of autumn in the air ... A couple of weeks ago I was able to enjoy some days away for my annual retreat. How wonderful it was to get away and have time to soak in a great deal of "beauty" that is in our world! The Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lafayette, Oregon provided a perfect setting - check out the photo!
With that image before me I am reminded of the quote from St. Bonaventure that I have included in this posting. If we all were more aware of the beauty that is within us first, see the beauty in each individual person we meet, and reverence the beauty of creation that is all around us, I suspect we would have a very different world ....a more just and peaceful world in which to live in.

Take a little quiet time today and reflect on your life and the world you move in. May
each one of us strive to restore beauty to that which is broken!

Friday, September 11, 2009

It is a Fine Day to Begin a Blog!

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." St. Francis of Assisi

As I begin this Blog all of a sudden at am at a loss as to what to write first ... I had all these great thoughts in my head this morning, but what first?!? So, I guess the best way to begin is to start with a brief introduction of myself.

My name is Sr. Patricia Novak and I work in Vocation Ministry for my Franciscan Community, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. I am not from Philadelphia, I'm from Klamath Falls, Oregon, but that is where my Congregation began in 1855 and where our Motherhouse still is.
Our history in the "west" began within thirty years of our founding, in 1885, when Sisters were asked to come out to Eastern Oregon to minister to the people. Quickly the Community was involved in education and health care and we started spreading out from Baker City to other parts of this vast area of the country. We still serve our brothers and sisters on the west coast ministering in a variety of ways in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Wyoming, Hawaii as well as the east coast.
Anyway ... I am from Oregon, I graduated from Gonzaga University way back when, and have been a Franciscan Sister for nearly 30 years, teaching 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade for many of those years, but also having the chance to serve the poor for brief periods in Wyoming, Appalachia and Haiti.

As I begin with this initial writing I am aware of several things that mark the beginning of September:
1.) For over 21 years I was a teacher in Elementary School, so I note the beginning of a new school year with all the energy and excitement (and moans & groans sometimes too) that a new school year brings. What a wonderful time though - to start out fresh in a new year of learning and growth!
2.) Yesterday, September 10th marked the 31st anniversary of my entrance day into the Sisters of St. Francis. That was an exciting day for me for sure! I had made a huge vocation decision as a twenty something young adult and there I was, arriving at the convent, open to where ever God was leading me ... there is something very freeing about making a decision/choice and following through on it. God is good
3.) And then today is September 11th, a day we remember with great sadness in the history of our country. For me it is a day to stop, reflect on my life and freedoms, and to pray ... pray for our country, pray for all those who lost their lives on 9-11, for all those who still mourn the loss of those they loved, and pray for peace in our world.

St. Francis is often attributed with the words, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace". May we all strive to have peace in our hearts, peace on our lips and peace in our homes!
Pace E Bene!
Peace and All Good, Sr. Patricia