Reality full of God #1 – 4 patrons of Advent

Together with fr Piotr Kropisz SJ we are starting a new series – “Reality full of God”. We will be looking for God in everyday life. Especially for you – English subtitles!! 馃檪

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There is need of only one thing

What seems to be important today, is knowing how to choose wisely from what the world gives us. I still remember the times in Poland when a good present was anything you managed to get聽for dollars in a Pewex shop. Today, for people who have everything, nothing seems to be a good gift. Maybe that is why hand-made things are getting more popular. It’s something that cannot be bought – the spent聽time and given heart are worth more than shopping in an expensive store.

These lat years, there have been a lot of retreats and inspirations for Advent and Lent. These are usually very valuable initiatives and we would like to try everything, listen to everything, be everywhere and not lose anything. Unfortunately Advent is so short –聽 this year exceptionally. I think that the words of Jesus spoken to Marta are valuable at this moment: “There is need of only one thing”. They say, that聽plenty is no plague, but I think it can be a big one.

Joseph became my “one thing” this year, thanks to a retreat at the jesuits in Pozna艅. The guardian of Jesus, as the patron of the spiritual warfare (sorry Ignatius, he was first 😉), is an excellent helper for everyday choices. He, at the crucial moment of the history of salvation, wanted to secretly escape from Mary, having the best intentions. But this was not God’s plan, and Joseph, when he recognized it, changed his mind. He is a man who, though hidden in the background, played a key role, teaching God himself…

There is need of only one thing. Let’s find our unique path, an Advent niche, which will be ours – hand made. With no noise at the shopping center, no hurry, no more ideas. Just us and the one chosen space where we can meet God. This is probably the biggest challenge at this time of waiting for Christmas.

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Saint without high heels

Recently, looking for images in the internet for the word “holy”, I found something very interesting – this shoe! It’s a shoe that has a heel and has no heel at the same time.

I am full of admiration for the designer who was able to look at footwear in such a brilliant way, and although it may look like its only connection with sainthood is the name “Saint Laurent”, I am convinced that it tells us a lot about holiness.

Saints are ordinary people like me and you, but they can see more in life. They are those who walk in the world, but they are not from this world, because they loved God and their neighbour so much, that it affected all their decisions. Like the creative shoe, they have a strong foundation – so they firmly step on the ground and look upwards at the same time, but they do not need a heel to connect them with the world.

In order to wear such an elegant boot, we not only need lots of money (almost 1000 鈧), but also a decent dose of trust. The lack of a visible heel makes it not easy to believe that the narrow base will be enough to hold our weight. But if we trust, we can do great things. If I had to choose one characteristic of someone who could count on being pronounced a saint, I would have no doubt. A saint does not have to be perfect and sinless, nor does he have to do miracles and great works, but he must trust in the power of God, who can overcome all sin and weakness.

Who knows, maybe in Heaven we will be walking in such shoes? 馃槈

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Laughing to death

Yesterday, we buried Sister Maria Kosi艅ska in the cemetery in Warsaw. Around the time of her death, I experienced a number of graces, which are for me a smile of the Lord. I wanted to see her before she died, because lately I did not have time to say hello, and it happened that I managed to visit her at the hospital on Thursday and she died on Friday morning. Jesus knew exactly when to take her with Him – On October 20 we celebrated the feast of Mater Admirabilis, and during the weekend we held meetings of various working groups in Warsaw and our meeting of PTVs. There were many sisters, friends and family. Adding to all this, one of the general councillors visited us and also Isabelle from France could attend the last farewell. The ceremony was beautiful and inspiring!

Sister Maria was warm and smiling. In the last months of her life there was little contact with her, but there was smile constantly on her face despite the suffering she was experiencing. She laughed a lot. Probably not hearing much, she reacted with laughter in situations that were not funny at all. It is very possible that the stroke that led to her death was the result of her laughing too much!

On Sunday we were together with Ala in a student chaplaincy in Warsaw and met with young people who were looking for their way of life. Today I would tell them one important thing. Find such a place in the world where you will laugh to death.

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The Word

Today I had the opportunity to be at a lecture at Vinea clinic (jesuit spirituality and psychological help) and I learned that there is something like logotherapy. This is a trend in psychotherapy, based on the search for meaning in life. It allows people to discover that they are valuable and an important part of the world. The creator of this therapy, Viktor Frankl, survived the concentration camp, which in itself is a powerful testimony to the importance of meaning in life. The term logotherapy comes from the Greek word logos. So the word, or even the Word gives sense…

In today’s homily I heard again about the word. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Happy are those who have understood that the word of God is not a fleeting word that will be forgotten or shattered by many other voices. It is so powerful that it is much more trustworthy than the material world, which seems to provide our protection in life. If we put our trust in the Word and the God’s Promise, there will be miracles in our lives.

Logos – the Word that has become flesh – inspires me today to simply read, be touched by what God says and trust that this Word really gives meaning to everything.

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An angel’s perspective

Yesterday I had the opportunity to read an incredibly good article about “taskoholism”. It’s an addiction to making everything in your life a task on your todo-list. With every sentence I was more and more convinced that it was about me and I needed treatment. In particular, I stopped at the statement which said that by turning each of our actions into a task, we gain efficiency, but we lose the depth of life that can not be measured.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says some very important words: “You will see even more than this.” It’s a promise that shows how God’s goodness is immeasurable. But in order to see it, you have to have eyes and ears open to reality, not fixed in the todo-list. The ignatian magis invites us to never be content with what’s on the surface, but to keep looking for what’s deeper and what has taste. You don’t need any special abilities. You just need to be. Unfortunately, being “here and now” turns out to be very difficult.

Today we are celebrating the feast of the Archangels – Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. This is an important day for me, because exactly 5 years ago I entered the doors of my Society for the first time and in some way this trinity accompanies me through my religious life. It is also a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the reality which we will not see and hear if we only stop on what is material.聽 The angels invite us to discover the spiritual world that surrounds us, which makes life mysterious and makes it “something more”. May we give ourselves enough time and space to see it.

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In search of harmony

One of the first places I was able to get involved in after my arrival in Pozna艅, was the choir, which is being founded in our parish. When it turned out that the young people want to sing Dominican songs, I was not thrilled. I have not sung in parts for a long time and many of the melodies were just not known to me. I must admit, however, that this unique harmony of the choir impressed me again and, without betraying my Jesuit soul, I became completely convinced!

Harmony is also the most beautiful thing in life. We see it perfectly in nature, but we can also see it in our relationships. The ideal is not that everyone is equal, but that in their diversity they complement one another. What do we need to achieve harmony? I see two things.

First, each voice must sing purely on its own. If we are looking for happiness in life with the hope that someone else will provide it, then there is a good chance that it will not happen. I have talked about it with students recently and this is confirmed by research – happy marriages are usually relationships between two people who are happy on their own and were happy before marriage. They are able to create a good couple, because each of them shares with the other what they already have. Very similarly in religious life, if I myself am a happy nun, I share the joy of live with the community I am creating, and I do not expect that I will receive this joy from my sisters. This change of perspective makes a big difference!

The second thing needed to achieve harmony is to appreciate diversity. If someone sings out of tune as bass, we do not tell him that it would be better if he sang tenor. A choir composed of tenors alone is not ideal. We must help the one who is weaker, who is not able to play his part, to become more and more himself, so that he can make a unique contribution to the whole community. It is not easy at all, because we would often prefer to convince the other to do the same as us and make everyone think like we do.

The hardest thing to accomplish is achieving inner harmony, because it means taking care of those parts of ourselves which we would like to drown. But it is those parts which complement the musical depth of our soul. We can be sure that the best conductor and composer, who is the Creator himself, will create a unique melody with all the sounds.

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A tool in God’s hands

Over the last few days I had heard two good sermons on yesterday’s Gospel. Both from Dominicans. One was at the end of our internation meeting in Pozna艅, which you will hear more about soon, the second one was yesterday. The main thought was based on Peter’s statement, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” This is the culmination of his faith. Never before and never in the future had he became so capable of entrusting his life to Jesus, as at this moment when in the midst of a raging storm he decides to leave the boat and go towards his Savior, not even being sure that it’s Him. Then through his hands (and perhaps even his feet 馃槈 ) miracles happen. He does not walk on water with his own power, but by faith he allows himself to be a tool in the hands of the one who has infinite power.

Many times I have experienced miracles happening through my hands. If I allow God to act, He not only makes me deeply happy, but also changes the lives of the people around me. Sometimes quite unexpectedly. There is no greater joy for me than the thought that I can fulfill God’s dreams. Of course, these miracles do not make suffering disappear and everything settle the way we want. On the contrary, they very often happen among the greatest storms, showing that there is no such wind, which He has no power to silence.

I remembered the prayer of Sts. Francis, who in a certain way expresses our charism too – being the Heart of God in the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant
that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

I have not started my new mission yet, but I love it already, because can there be something more beautiful than helping others discover that they can also be women of His Heart and walk on water?

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Moving

Dear English-speaking readers! I know I have been really bad at translating things lately, but you can imagine how the end of the school year looks like…

The big news is that I am leaving school and Gdynia – at least for a while – and I will be in charge of our vocation ministry! Apart from closing things in school, I am also moving to Pozna艅. That means a lot of packing…

Packaging is a well known thing for me. I am moving for the third time since I joined the Society and I have done it countless times before. The sound of tape and paper boxes reminds me of the different stages in my life. This year, however, I paid special attention to a temptation that comes up. When I take out a pile of papers from my shelf and find things, that I didn’t even remember I had, a silent voice says to me: “There is nothing to look at here, pack everything.” It seems like an innocent thing, because even a few extra boxes would fit into the car and I would transfer them to Pozna艅. Then while unpacking, I would probably here the same voice: “There is nothing to look at here, put everything on the shelves.” The problem is not that I would have less space on my shelves, but the fact that I would have dismissed myself from answering a very important question:聽 what do I actually need in life – as a woman, a Christian, and finally a nun. What will I need for my new mission, and what can I leave behind, without unnecessary sentiment. What will help me in following Jesus more closely, and what makes me turn quietly away from Him.

It seems worse, if such voices come up in our spiritual life. It may be that God will discover areas in us that we have not known before, and we will find it easier not to look at them. We are able to carry a heavy bag of unresolved issues, unexplained quarrels, undetected desires and unknown grievances for long years. But for what?

Perhaps that is why I like packaging – if I do not listen to unkind voices in my head, it is a great opportunity to get rid of what, instead of giving life, has become an unneeded ballast. Will I have enough courage? After all, they might always “come in handy”.

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Caricature of God

Recently I heard a sentence that hurt me very much: “Islam is a religion of Satan.” It is even more difficult for me, because it was not said by any of my rebellious students, but by a Catholic priest. Paradoxically, at the same time, Pope Francis was meeting in Egypt with the imam Ahmad al-Tajjib, and together they reminded the world that there is no place for violence in any religion.

Last week our bishops wrote a really nice letter about the fact that true patriotism has nothing to do with nationalism. Meanwhile, on Saturday the nationalists walked through the streets holding the cross and shouting “death to the enemies of our nation.”

Why are there still people who turn around God’s teaching so much, that instead of preaching the Good News, they make a weapon out of it? They are showing people a caricature of God. All I can do is pray for their conversion, and hope that when they come face to face with the true God, they will be able to forgive themselves all the evil they have done. As for the mercy of God, fortunately I have no doubt.

In this sad reality, however, there is a little spark of hope. It shows up gently and whispers, that you and I can build good everyday by showing that the one that is different is not our enemy. We can remind everyone, that every human being is a child of the same God, who created the world as good.

During the long weekend in Poland I have the opportunity to participate in a Ignatian retreat for students and witness how they meet with the living God and experience his love. My heart is smiling at such a sight. A few days earlier I heard that Christians in Egypt are organizing something in the form of spiritual exercises, but for the followers of Islam. The Muslims come out of them uplifted, saying that they never felt so close to Allah. That is powerful! That is the Church and the world I want!

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