This Advent, although short, has already been exceptional. During these three weeks, a friend, who I knew during my studies in Warsaw, died of cancer; during mass with a great crowd of people, I remembered Fr. Jan Góra, a very famous Dominican on the second anniversary of his death; and above all, with my whole Society, I experienced the death of Mariola Vera, who has been struggling with leukaemia these recent months. The way she lived through her illness shows how united she was with Jesus, who was close to her up to the last days. On the Spanish website you will find a letter that she wrote to the her Province a few days before her death.
All these things reminded me of the symbolism often used while writing icons. In the Nativity scene, little Jesus is wrapped in the way in which the dead were formerly buried, or is even lying in something resembling a coffin or grave. This should show that Jesus was born to die, and he died so that we could have life. These two mysteries – life and death – meet and complement each other. It is a paradox that accompanies the entire Incarnation, because when the Almighty God becomes a defenceless child, we feel that it goes beyond our human understanding of reality.
These days, I remind myself that “memento mori” are not words that should fill us with fear of eternal hell, but which should put our lives in the right light. St. Ignatius, as one of the methods of making decisions, proposes to imagine yourself at the moment of death and ask yourself if it would be the best choice from this perspective. Maybe it would be good to look at the coming days from the perspective of eternity. Will it still be important that there will be good food and clean curtains? Or maybe something else will emerge from our priorities then?
This is a very polish custom to meet with everyone during Christmas and exchange wishes, but I think this might be useful for everyone 🙂 Welcome to the Reality full of God #2
(if you don’t see the subtitles turn them on in the lower left hand corner)
During the days of my studies, when many things absorbed me up to late at night, I always use to say, that I will finally get some sleep after I die. Although in the meantime I have significantly changed my lifestyle, the motto is still valid, because the number of hours sleeping seems to have little effect on whether I will be yawning during the day. This also effects my prayer.
Apparently (though I can not find it) Saint Teresa of Lisieux once said that if the surgeon wants to perform an operation on the heart, he must first put the patient to sleep. Maybe I should not be surprised that after entering the chapel, I sleep best – maybe my heart requires constant operations!
For several years, with varying intensity, I have been trying to practice prayer in motion, taking Jesus for a walk. My legs, walking several kilometers, significantly reduce the risk of falling asleep and, in addition, make me stay fit. Of course, the noises of the surrounding world can effectively disrupt my encounter with God, but they can also become the basis for a prayer of mindfulness, which will bring my thoughts “here and now” without wandering to the past and future. A walk is also a perfect moment to say the rosary, entrust to God people passed on the street or to make a summary of the day in His presense. Fortunately, he did not shut Himself in the church or our homes and every place can become the Holy Land of encounter with the Almighty.
It happens often, that I leave my prayer disappointed that I slept again most of the time. But maybe I have it wrong? Maybe it’s just an invitation for a walk …
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 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 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 – 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 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 Poznań. 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.
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 €), 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? 😉
Yesterday, we buried Sister Maria Kosińska 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.
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.
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.
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.