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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A discernment reflection and information on retreats from the Sisters of Life


May the Name of Jesus be praised!

A blessed fourth week of Advent to you!
The next Sisters of Life Come and See retreat
will be Thursday, March 19 – Sunday, March 22.
If you would like to attend, please call 718.863.2264.

We’re also hosting a retreat for young women ages 18-35 from Friday, Jan 30 – Sunday, Feb 1 called “Perfect Love Casts out all Fear” (not a discernment retreat). The information is on the attached document. To register, go to www.sistersoflife.org/vmg.html. (We can only register those who have not yet attended this retreat) Please pass the word!

In Christ, our Life,
Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV & Sr. Mariam Caritas, SV


When we Sisters of Life gather for supper during the days preceding Christmas, we do so in the dark. All the lights in and near the refectory are out, and winter darkness shrouds the yard outside. We begin to pray without the benefit of seeing the ones standing by our side, until the candles on the Advent wreath are progressively lit, lending a warm glow to the room. The blessing said, the Sisters begin to sing and the sound of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” fills the air.

Emmanuel. God-with-us. He is with us, and Advent draws us back to this truth as darkness gives way to light. It was our Blessed Mother who first conceived the light of the world - how easy it is to forget she did so in the darkness. In the midst of the weariness of sin all around her, she held with fidelity the flame which was the Life of Christ within her. She did so during the first Advent as she did at Guadalupe, when, pregnant with Jesus, she transformed a culture and a people with the beauty of roses in winter.

Her yes opens a way for the light. Her generous maternity fearlessly offers it to others. In the warmth of her yes we are healed, we see our truest self, we find courage. The light dawns, and we have the benefit of seeing those who stand by our side. Christ is conceived again, by you and me, even if in darkness: the darkness of our time, the darkness of the unknown required of total surrender, the darkness of our own hearts (one thing we do not share with Mary). Emmanuel, God-with-us. God-with-us as we are, not as we would like to be. The very name Jesus means God saves, and he does.

And when we let him, what a transformation, what a revolution of love it is! Like the vulnerable Babe of Bethlehem, this fire is alive; it must be tended in the confessional, fueled by charity and forgiveness, delighted in through adoration. Encountering his Life within is heaven on earth, and joy that no circumstance, no suffering, no evil, can take from us. His presence reveals that you and I are known and loved and awaited[1] by the One who governs all things. This is peace the world cannot give, and the power behind any good we accomplish. The more faithfully we tend the flame of his Life within us, the more truly free we will be and the more blazing his Life will be in the world.

Doing something great, something worthy, with one’s life starts in the darkness, in the secret recesses of the heart. It starts with the courage to say yes to a love which will set you on fire, which will burn away every impurity, every fear and hesitation holding you back from total worship, total giving.

Pope Benedict has said that “…the world needs lovers, and these we call saints.” Yes the world needs lovers: lovers of Christ, lovers of his Life which he so readily gives us. Lovers of the human person, of the poor, the weak, the voiceless, lovers of truth, lovers of beauty. The world needs lovers so confident of being loved, so filled with God, that they are able to take off the masks and let others come close. Purity does not hold others at a distance – quite the contrary. If the word ‘diabolical’ means to separate, slander, divide, this is what sin does. Purity, innocence, allows others to draw very close.[2] Yes, the world needs innocent lovers, not afraid to allow others to be a burden, not afraid to allow others to lean on them that the flames of the Holy Spirit, the ever-newborn Life of the Christ, may warm and heal and, eventually, set their hearts ablaze.

This Christmas, let us kneel with humility at the foot of the crib. Let us give our yes to the light, however great the darkness seems. And, receiving the fire of God’s love anew, with fearless generosity let us offer Him, our true hope, to the world. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!


[1] cf. Pope Benedict XVI. Spe Salvi, 3

[2] “…the privilege of (Mary’s) Immaculate Conception… which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary’s purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Lourdes Sept. 14, 2008)

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