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.  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 Poznań, 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 Poznań, 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 😉 ) 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 Poznań. 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 Poznań. 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:  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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What if you were not afraid?

The day after the attack in London, on one of the FB pages of my Society,  I found a picture with the words “we are not afraid”. I agree wholeheartedly, but not because I do not expect terrorists in Gdynia. I am deeply convinced that the worst way out and the favorite tool of satan is fear.

Recently in Warsaw, some students gave me a quote from their chaplain: “How would you live, how would you love, if you were not afraid?” My friend Romek claims that this was not the best he has said over the past few years, but it turned out to be the strongest message in the hearts of young people.

Today’s world is filled with fear, not just of terrorist attacks, but also of the uncertain future, commitments, risks… This fear also accompanies me every day. Not the one of losing life, but of something going wrong, of being judged or rejected. I’m afraid that I will not make it on time or just fail. And I do not even notice that it is this fear that paralyzes me and stops me from doing good or from reacting to evil. It is this fear that causes me to focus on small things and forget about the great ones to which God is calling me. That is why it is so important for me to change the perspective sometimes and see that I am not alone. That we can unite ourselves against the evil of this world and say: we are not afraid, we will consistently respond with love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

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Silence teaches humility

I waited for month until “Silence” came to Poland, so I ran to see it as soon as it was possible. I got exactly what I expected: a lot of unanswered questions. I saw something deeper than my attempt to search for the right way. I saw that sometimes there simply is no answer, because it is known only to God. Once again I saw the value of discernment and radically following the Holy Spirit. He has a different path for each one of us, sometimes radically different from the one we would consider to be correct. This has two consequences – thinking that I know what is right leads to pride, and judging other people’s choices does not lead to good. However, this requires such a close relationship with God, that you are able to hear His voice in the slightest shake.

Surprisingly, something else became important to me – the image of Christ appearing repeatedly in the film – the face of Jesus from Veronica’s veil painted by El Greco. This artist was of much importance to me on the way of my vocation, and it was his painting that appeared on the pictures from my first vows. A small sign from God just for me. In the cinema we met two Jesuit friends and two of my former students (now high school students). To each of them, God definitely spoke differently through the film, but He certainly spoke. You cannot be indifferent to the questions posed.

The viewer is given many dilemmas about faith, doubt, denial of God. Many thoughts I have not yet gathered, and I know that this experience will be working in me for the next weeks. Of equal importance, however, might be the circumstances of making the film for over 20 years. The way it worked in the heart of Martin Scorsese, the way it transformed Andrew Garfield, and how it will change the world of the people who see it. With growing curiosity I am now reading interviews about “Silence” and articles about Christianity in Japan, because this is the story of God working today in the midst of His people.

The Christian life is something much more than saying that I believe in the existence of one God, Creator of the universe. It’s even more than the confidence that He is good and devoting my life to Him. Faith is the acceptance of a way, which can be very confusing and surprising, but always leads to Love.

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Death in the name of a better world

The Catholic part of the Polish Internet was flooded yesterday by news of a tragic death of a volunteer in Bolivia. I began to wonder why such news instead of causing my anxiety and wanting to close myself at home, only strengthen my desire for missionary work. Maybe it’s the hope for being a heroic martyr and a faster way to beatification. Perhaps it’s the feeling that I’m doing something important for someone. Maybe it’s my love for the poor and a desire to be among them. With the words of fr Kasper Kaproń OFM I discovered that it might be something else.

“The first call was at four o’clock in the morning local time: “We are preparing a material about the murder of the volunteer. Could Father say something? “.
Yes. For media murder is material. Today, it was on the news, and tomorrow it will not matter. There will be new, more attractive information. Who will be there tomorrow, when the desperate family will be feeling a great emptiness? Who will be interested in this other girl, who is now fighting bravely, but tomorrow will be going through a difficult struggle with emptiness?
Bolivia is a beautiful country with great people. I fell in love with the local people, their culture … And it hurts me when I read in the comments that “if you go to the less civilized countries, you should expect something like this to happen” (as some said). What happened today, however, in a sense, is the consequence of medial propaganda and the consequence of great inequalities in the world split into two worlds: those blessed with abundance and those fighting for every day. Propaganda proclaiming that you have to put up walls to protect yourself; propaganda proclaiming that the ones guilty are those of a different skin colour (lighter, darker): “They are to blame for all the evil in the world, all this violence,” or “They are responsible for my poverty … they have everything, and they keep using us.” In such a world there will always be murders for a few pennies; in such a world there will be fear, because the others are “uncivilised”.
Helena came to us to fight these inequalities and to proclaim that another world is possible: a world based on the Gospel. Let this death, as always, in Christianity, become a leaven of new missionary vocations: people free from fear, wanting to build a world without walls and inequality. Because the world as it is now can no longer function.”

At such moments, I want to go to the end of the world, to bear witness with my own life that we will not accept dividing people into better and worse, black and white, modern masters and slaves. We want to build a world of solidarity, friendship and love, and we will not rest until we are at least a little closer to a world like this. We will tear down walls and build bridges, even if we have world leaders, terrorists and people of hatred against us.

We are slowly approaching a great jubilee in our Congregation – the bicentennial of Philippine’s arrival in North America. Our first missionary set out on a long journey to bring Christ to people who did not know Him. Today often the missionary countries could bring their strong faith to Europe. Today, much more important is to work with those who feel excluded, to demonstrate a simple human solidarity and kindness and, above all, to be open to the fact that they have something very important to offer us. The best we can do is stop dividing the world into “us” and “them”, because it is such thinking that led to the death of Helena.

Let us continue building a better world, even if it means giving our lives for it!

 

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The tourist and the pilgrim

Yesterday I finally watched the first episode of “The Young Pope.” I have already heard a lot about this show and so far I’m not disappointed. Whatever we say – it definitely confronts us and asks a lot of good questions. Every second dialogue could do for a good homily or a blog post. This time it will be about one sentence that probably no one would pay attention to, but I really liked it. Pius XIII says: “I will never shed my aversion against tourists… because they’re just passing through”

Just passing through. Without engagement, without deeper relationships. Just to see, enjoy and go on. Without obligations. Hop in, hop out, take photos. Is that not the image of today’s world? A Christian has to go deeper, because only in the deep is there pure water. Sometimes I really have to stop sliding on the surface. Stop my daily run and focus on what matters most.

At the same time I remind myself that this life is only a road to the real world. My favourite quote from Catherine of Siena is: “Life is a bridge. Go through it, but don’t build your home there.” The other extreme is going down so deep, that it’s hard to get out. The point is not in growing roots and safely surviving life in what is known. This is probably what attracts me most in religious life – there is no stagnation, only constant looking for the better way of serving God and the people.

So we should not be a tourist on the go and not get stuck in a warm cosy cottage. I think the key is to be a pilgrim. As a pilgrim I know where I am going. I walk the paths that lead me to my goal, but I will not run, because I know that I need to save my strength. I also know that the road itself is important, not because of all the things I will visit and see on the way, but because it will teach me life, and I will meet people there, who will change me for the better.

Life is an amazing pilgrimage. I hope not to be a tourist, who is just passing through – taking a selfie in front of the museum and buying a hot dog at the gas station.

 

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