Prayer for 2023
This Third Sunday of Advent is familiarly known as Gaudete Sunday – a Latin word that means “rejoice” – the first word (in Latin) of the Entrance Antiphon at Mass: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” We mark Gaudete Sunday by lighting a rose-colored candle (in the Advent wreath) and the celebrant at Mass may wear rose colored vestments. The church rejoices because we are halfway to Christmas. I refer you to the First Reading from Isaiah: “The parched land will exult, will rejoice and bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” We are called to be a joyful people. The Promised One is approaching and is nearer at hand.
I get the impression, though, in today’s early post-pandemic world that “joy” is on the decline. The theme of joy is a rare commodity. When someone asks: “How was your day?” We might hear ho-hum tones: “It was OK” or “Could have been better” or “I’m just so tired of doing the same thing every day.” Or “I’m exhausted.” Or “Don’t ask me.” To have joy is to have a deep sense of delight. The Greek origins of the word “joy” literally means “for the heart, in its deepest place of passion and feelings, to be well.” That’s what it’s like to have joy.
So why is joy so rare? To experience joy in one’s life, four qualities must co-exist. First, joy takes time. Joy comes of living a “savored” life. Take the time, make the time to smell the roses, to observe the pace of a sandhill crane crossing the street or to glory in a sunset or moonrise. There is an old monastic saying that describes joy. “When you are sipping tea or watering a plant, or gazing at an icon, do just that.” Be present in the moment. Such moments are pregnant with God’s real presence, promise and providential care.
Second, to know joy requires acceptance – a “yes” to life – YES to the hand we’ve been dealt. You may have discovered at some point that the script we’ve been handed in the play of life is not the part we thought we were trying out for. Joy requires a deep willingness to accept that we are God’s creatures and that God is at work according to God’s good pleasure. Joyful persons do not live in a state of resentment for what might have been or what “used to be.” In God’s plan, there is a reason why today is not tomorrow. We need each of our todays to prepare us to receive the promise of tomorrow. Remember the phrase from our COVID prayer: “We live in full union with the God who loves us and wants only our good.”
Third, for a joyful spirit desire is required. We have to want joy. Joy is a gift, a gift of the Spirit. If you want the gift of joy, ask God for the gift with your heart open and ready to accept the gift in whatever way God hands to the gift to you.
And, fourth, to be joyful we need stability, patience and endurance. Maybe that’s why Jesus says: “Truly I tell you… you will have sorrow… but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
Life for most people is not picture perfect. But there is much joy to be found if we simply LOOK for JOY. Be on the lookout to SEE and REFLECT the JOY that is right before your eyes waiting to be seen. The more we dwell on our everyday blessings, the more joyful moments seem to multiply in our lives. And by experiencing more joy in my own life, I have more JOY to give away. To quote Henri Nouwen: “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” JOY is a beautiful gift to embrace, celebrate and give away at Christmastime.
~by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
This evening I’d like to share with you excerpts from Pope Francis’ message for the 2021 World Day Prayer for Vocations. Back in December 2020, His Holiness Pope Francis declared Saint Joseph “Patron of the Universal Church” as he opened the Year of Joseph. His letter to us for today’s International day of prayer for Church Vocations is entitled “Saint Joseph: The Dream of Vocation.” Pope Francis writes:
God looks on the heart and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of “the saints next door.” At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.
Saint Joseph suggests to us key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream. If we were to ask people to express in one word their life’s dream, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: “to be loved.” It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Every “yes” bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. Our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice. Were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration.
Pope Francis continues: “I like to think of Saint Joseph, as the protector of vocations.” In fact, from his willingness to serve comes his concern to protect. The Gospel tells us that Joseph wasted no time fretting over things he could not control, in order to give full attention to those entrusted to his care. Such thoughtful concern is the sign of a true vocation, the testimony of a life touched by the love of God. What a beautiful example of Christian life we give when we refuse to pursue our ambitions or indulge in our illusions, but instead care for what the Lord has entrusted to us through the Church! God then pours out his Spirit and creativity upon us – he works wonders in us, as he did in Joseph.
Together with God’s call which makes our greatest dreams come true, and our response which is made up of generous service and attentive care, there is (another) characteristic of Saint Joseph’s daily life and our Christian vocation, namely fidelity. Joseph is the “righteous man who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and God’s plans.” At a particularly difficult moment in his life, he thoughtfully considered what to do. He did not yield to the temptation to act rashly, simply following his instincts or living for the moment. Instead, he pondered things patiently. He knew that success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions. This was reflected in his perseverance in plying the trade of a humble carpenter, a quiet perseverance that made no news in his own time, yet has inspired the daily lives of countless Christians ever since. For a vocation – like life itself – matures only through daily fidelity.
How is such fidelity nurtured? In the light of God’s own faithfulness. The first words that Saint Joseph heard in a dream were an invitation not to be afraid, because God remains ever faithful to his promises. Do not be afraid: these words the Lord also addresses to you whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself. They are words you will hear anew, at every step of your vocation, as you return to your first love. They are a refrain accompanying all those who – like Saint Joseph – say yes to God with their lives through their fidelity each day.
This fidelity is the secret of joy. A hymn in the liturgy speaks of the “transparent joy” present in the home of Nazareth. It is the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters: faithful closeness to God and to our neighbor. How good it would be if the same atmosphere, simple and radiant, sober and hopeful, were to pervade our seminaries, religious houses and presbyteries! Pope Francis continues…”I pray that you will experience this same joy, (my) dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving God through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of fleeting choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy. May Saint Joseph, protector of vocations, accompany you with his fatherly heart!”
Please pray for perseverance for our postulants: Marietta and Kathleen.
If it be God’s will, we pray: send vocations to our community.
God bless you! Stay safe – keep healthy and happy and never lose hope – believe that God has a plan that is unfolded for us day-by-day … which is all we need one-day-at-a-time.
For the full text of Pope Francis letter (cited in the attached reflection) click on the link below.Continue Reading
This third Sunday of Advent is familiarly known as Gaudete Sunday – a Latin word that means “rejoice” – the first word of the Entrance Antiphon (at Mass): “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” As you know, we mark Gaudete Sunday by lighting a pink candle (in the Advent wreath) and the celebrant at Mass wears rose colored vestments. I wonder why “rose”? Yes, it’s a “happy” color but I wonder if it might be because when you dilute the ‘blue-ness” with the red that makes purple, the red shades are left lightly tinged with blue which creates more of a rose color. The church rejoices because we are halfway to Christmas. The Promised One is nearer at hand. And, we are called to live as people of joy.
But in everyday life I get the impression that “joy” is on the decline. Often what is the response when someone asks: “How was your day?” My sense is that the theme of joy is something of a rare commodity. I hear responses such as “It was OK” or “Could have been better.” Or “I’m just so tired of so and so doing such and such.” Or, “I’m exhausted. Or “Don’t ask.” To have joy or – or as they would say in slang – to do joy – is to have a deep sense of delight. The Greek origins of the word literally means “for the heart, in its deepest place of passion and feelings, to be well.” That’s what it’s like to have joy.
So why is joy so rare? Well, it occurs to me (and not me alone), that for the experience of joy in one’s life, four qualities must also be found. First, joy takes time. Joy comes of living a “savored” life…of having time and taking time to smell the roses, to observe the pace of a Sandhill Crane as it crosses the street, to glory in a sunset. Joy needs time. There is this old monastic saying about living a joy-filled life. If you are sipping tea or watering a plant, or gazing at an icon, to do just that. We call this “being there” or being “in the moment.” We know – and more than that, we believe, that each moment is pregnant with God’s real presence and promise and providential care. Look for it; wait for it; savor it. Don’t just visit life; life needs time to be lived abundantly.
Secondly, to know joy requires acceptance – a “yes” to life – to the life we’ve been given. We may have discovered at some point that the script we’ve been handed in the play of life is not the part we thought we were trying out for. Joy requires a deep willingness to accept we are God’s creatures and that God is at work according to God’s good pleasure. Joyful persons accept the good gifts of life that actually are there. They do not live in a state of resentment for what might have been or what “used to be.” In God’s plan, there is a reason why today is not tomorrow. We need all of today to prepare us to receive the promise of tomorrow.
So, to be joyful takes time and acceptance. Third, it also requires desire. We have to want joy. Joy is a gift, a gift of the Spirit. If you want the gift of joy, ask God for the gift with your heart open and hands to accept the gift.
And, fourth to be joyful we need stability, patience and endurance. Maybe that’s why Jesus says: “Truly I tell you… you will have sorrow… but your sorrow will turn into joy.
Life for most people is not picture perfect, but there is so much joy to be found If we simply LOOK for JOY. Be on the lookout – SEE and REFLECT on the JOY right before your eyes. The more we dwell on everyday blessings, the more they seem to multiply. And by experiencing more joy in my own life, I have more JOY to give away. JOY is a beautiful gift to embrace, celebrate and give away at Christmastime. And, in doing so, increase our own joy.
The truth is that the Christmas season is unabashed about the purpose of the Christian life. “I am bringing you good news of great joy,” the angel says to the shepherds on the hillside outside of Bethlehem about the birth of a baby in a stable there (Luke 2:10). Good news of great joy, we learn at the beginning of the liturgical year, is what searching for the baby is all about. It’s how and where we’re searching that matters.
“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times,” the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote. But that’s wrong. Happiness does not require choice some of the time. Happiness requires choice all the time. It requires learning to choose between what is real and what is fleeting, what is worthless and what is worthwhile. But that does not make the effort either impossible or unacceptable. It simply requires discrimination.
It is discrimination, the ability to choose between one good in life over another, that the liturgical year parades before our eyes over and over again, year after year, until we finally develop enough maturity of soul to tell what lasts from what pales, to discern what’s worth having from what isn’t, to know what happiness is rather than what satiety is.
Meaning, we discover, has nothing to do with what is outside of us. It has to do with what we have come to see within our souls. It has to do with the vision that is within us rather than with the things we are heaping up around us as indicators of our success, our power, our status. Joy is not about what happens to us, the manger indicates. It is the meaning we give to what we do that determines the nature, the quality of the lives we live.
—from The Liturgical Year by Joan ChittisterContinue Reading