Will you be someone’s blessing?

From the Hermitage
By sister alies therese

Due to hospitalization, I have been away from church, since before Christmas. I am still at a rehab in Louisville where my church members have been so kind to visit and bring treats.

That, however, has not stopped me from reading and praying and receiving the Eucharist when possible. There is something very tender about the sacraments in a hospital bed! The ministers who bring Jesus are very special.

How many folks in your parish are at home or in the hospital and need the Eucharist? If only someone would bring Him!

There is something special both for the person and for the minister as well. For the sick, the reception of the Eucharist is not only a privilege but also a sign of support and concern shown by the Christian community. Bringing a good word from the scriptures, cheer from your heart, a message of healing from parishioners, and the Eucharist are certainly highlights for ministers to the sick and homebound.

You might remember that the tabernacle was originally kept in church not so much for adoration as for the sick! The Eucharist was kept there to make sure even the most vulnerable were able to receive! Are you the one to make sure the healing power of Jesus in the Eucharist gets to your sisters and brothers?

There is a certain hope needed when you are very ill. Often one is so in need, only the Eucharist will do. Hope truly gives the heart a dimension that cannot be replaced by anything else. Be the one to bring hope and healing. Even the smallest things bring joy!

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Is Advent inconvenient?

By Sister alies therese

If you are awaiting a new adventure, then now is just the time to explore. Often, we get stuck in our routines and simple paths, ministries and works of hope – things we are sure we have to do. Advent, however, is a time of awaiting something new…something that will prick our hearts and open us up for a new and deepening relationship.

Perhaps it was during advent that Grandma Moses began painting? “If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens!” (My Life’s Story) She began painting at an elderly age (like 91 or so) … and painted until she passed on. What did that adventure afford her? Notoriety of course, perhaps a bit of money but likely it opened her heart to beauty, to color, to a new kind of freedom.

Gwendolyn Brooks, an American poet wrote her song “In The Front Yard”: “I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life. I want to peek at the back where it’s rough and untended and hungry weeds grow. A girl gets sick of a rose.” How can anyone get sick of a rose you might ask? Well, despite its beauty, there may be something in the back yard that takes us to the next level.

The coming of Jesus was like that I suspect. Jewish life was such a rose. And then an adventure Mary could not have imagined, Joseph wondered about, and the rest of us have to explore in faith, perhaps a new faith. Who knew? Did every young woman dream of bearing the Messiah? Did Mary? What she was offered in the back yard was well beyond what she imagined. Yet her response to the adventurous offer was … ”I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” (Luke 1:38) Her understanding that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) launched her forth … seeking out Elizabeth and being a woman of God through whom God might show Divine favor to others.

Advent can also be a time of disgust, distress and discouragement. Why? Because it is in the darkness for us … a night of inconvenience. A night where there can be a lack of comfort, causing bother. (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2003) We can be filled with illness, or financial stress or even a lack of faith. How will you replace these “D” words with some “R” words?

Advent causes us to stretch to revival, replenishment and renewal. We are called beyond to relinquish, repurpose and to receive. I’m particularly fond of the call to reconciliation and restoration. The coming of the Infant in the cold night in the cave was proceeded by and advent of centuries, not just four weeks. What was this introduction to the restoration of humanity to look like? Who was it for? Who brought it to the crowds, where would they go to understand?

Not only does the rose take time to flourish, but it is also bounded with thorns and often rather than appreciating it’s beauty, we are pricked and bleed. Those drops of blood disgust us and can cause distress and discouragement. However, if we are willing to learn to live in a more positive way we look to be revived and get on with it!

Advent brings us back to our senses if we let it. Advent brings us back to faith, hope, peace and love … as we walk those weeks of introduction.

Maybe we discover in English poet, Brian Patten’s poem “Interruption at the Opera House” (Selected Poems, page 20, 2007), just how inconvenient things can be if we are not attuned to the ‘rightful owner of the song.’

“At the very beginning of an important symphony, while the rich and famous were settling into their quietly expensive boxes, a man came crashing though the crowds, carrying in his hand a cage in which the rightful owner of the music sat, yellow and tiny and very poor; and taking onto the rostrum this rather timid bird he turned up the microphones, and it sang. ‘A very original beginning to the evening’ said the crowds, quietly glancing at the programs to find the significance of the intrusion …’”

Later in the poem he will express who the song is for and who leaves the hall disinterested and disgusted.
Advent can be a bit like this … inconvenient indeed to my desires to have things, and order my own life, and to listen to the songs that tickle my ears.

Let’s let this Advent be one of “R” words and in a new discovery of the true song in the back yard, the one asking us to take care of each other, to invite the outcast and to allow our own lives to be furnished with a deeper union of joy.


(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)


By Sister alies therese

In the Texas death house, on Nov. 9. 2023, Brent Brewer uttered these last words, “tell the family of the victim I could never figure out the right words to fix what I have broken.” And with that he was executed and died, the seventh execution this year in Texas.

In this month of November, we celebrate the dead, Dia de los Muertos, those who have gone before us, but do we pay attention, however, to every day death-dealing … wars filling the globe, hunger, abortions for inconvenience, executions, euthanasia, or the dying of those in hospital or nursing homes, fading away, cast aside?

Scars are forever things; they ache. “I thought about what death is and what loss is – a sharp pain that lessens with time but can never quite heal. A scar.” So says Maya Lin, the Chinese American creator of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC where thousands of names are beautifully inscribed to serve as reminders. Maybe we have not figured out the words or the policies that will fix what is broken? Maybe they are scars that never heal?

Recently the President told us he took his grandchildren, one at a time, when they turned 15, to Dachau in Germany to see the concentration camp and to hear his instruction: never again. Never again seems a lot like here we go again when we view the world and the savage massacres of men, women and children. Having visited Dachau myself I can tell you that the chills that ran up and down my spine will never be forgotten nor the ache when visiting a friend on death row.

November is about remembrance, yes … and rightly so. About love and about loss. It is also about service and protection. Indeed. Perhaps, however, it might also be a month of renewal? A new commitment to peace, a month where like the suffering servant in Isaiah all people across the world are not murdered for who they are … Black, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, Jew, Palestinian, gay, women?

Gary Cummins in If Only We Could See (Cascade, 2015) writes, “like the suffering servant, ‘the crucified people have no form, no comeliness, no beauty, (Is 53:2) since to the ugliness of daily poverty is added that of disfiguring bloodshed, the terror of tortures and mutilations….’ As Rauschenbusch says, ‘religiosity sharpens the steel edge of intolerance.’ As Pascal says, ‘people never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.’”

What part of these are we ignoring?

Let’s use the rest of this month to discover what death and fear bring to the human spirit, to the soul. Of our many remembrances let’s honor those who told the truth, who did not lie to us; let’s honor those who struggled to help others, who went out of their way to sacrifice themselves, especially when it was unpopular. Consider your own scars received from abuse, or hatred, or hopelessness … and then ask the Good Jesus to wash your heart with His love so that you might not pass on any resentments or fears to others. In our tradition we remind one another that life has changed not ended and so does American teacher and writer Helen Coutant, in First Snow, who says: “At this moment, Lien thought she understood what dying meant. The drop of water had not really gone; it had only changed like the snowflake into something else.”

Let’s pray for a change of spirit, one of the beatitudes and especially draw to our hearts the tiny children who suffer so and if living with scars of anguish might just take that other path. May our prayer join those of St. Francis as Thomas Celano (St. Francis of Assisi, 1988) writes “The common view of Francis forgets that after his vision of Christ crucified, ‘he could never keep himself from weeping, even bewailing in a loud voice the passion of Christ. For this he allowed himself no consolation and filled his days with ‘sighs.’ “Let us weep as we work for justice, let us cry out to an awesome God who promises to hear us.

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

What do you worship?

By Sister alies therese

In 1986, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the amazing basketball player said, “I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.” That’s what he worships.

We just celebrated St. Therese on Oct. 1 (her 150th birthday), the sister of sweet toughness … the manufacturer of ‘little things matter.’ We also celebrated St. Teresa of Avila, who many years earlier, carved out for women a firm line of hope. Whom did they worship?

Everyone worships something … someone. What you worship is important, especially today. What comes first in your life? May I ask? Do you worship food, gaming or TV? Or clothes, cars, dogs or cats? Who worships sex? Or only family or friends? Who worships sports? Who worships lies and ‘fake’ news? Do you worship wealth and money? Or maybe you worship God?

Sister alies therese

The synod is a practical and historical forum, a place where representatives of this world, broken and at war as it is, might speak in peace and attend to what might seem to be the little things. It also reveals what we worship. Are we no different from the rest of the world … hungry for power, greedy for wealth, selfish? No doubt all these and many more things will be revealed in the rest of this process. Pope Francis said, in the opening synod Mass, “This is the primary task of the synod: to refocus our gaze on God, the be a church that looks mercifully at humanity.”

If I worship so many other things, how can I worship God? Well, the synod is supposed to investigate that and invite us to ‘refocus our gaze.’ If you return to Kareem, Therese or Teresa you might discover their gaze. In their understanding of ‘little things’ (see also St. David of Wales) they focus on the poorest and littlest, mercifully at humanity. They look away from themselves.

Worship and prayer go hand in hand, but worship usually is with others … I may pray alone (and that can be worship too) but usually I worship with others … office, devotions/rosary/chaplet/stations … and certainly Mass. Both prayer and worship take a long gaze and a little practice.

Consider Alice and the Queen …” Alice laughed, ‘there’s no use trying, one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice … when I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six things before breakfast,’ said the Queen.” (L. Carroll, Through the Looking Glass). How have you worshipped or prayed before breakfast?

Sometimes prayers in unison get mixed up. For example, Dr. Clifford at a Methodist church in Texas, “We find our world a clod and cheerless place without Your love.” Or in the church bulletin prayer at the Congregational United in Missouri, “O Loving God, who reaches out to restore our soles, touch us now with Your word of truth…”

Or maybe it is actually perfection we worship … that we search for … that we value?

I like Marilyn Meberg’s insights, “my intent in life is to remind you that nothing in life is perfect … if we can accept that, we can quit looking for it, blaming ourselves or others, … and even come to a place of peace. That gives me the energy to settle down to a platter of pasta that is a trifle overdone with a touch of too little garlic – and not lose my joy!” (Bolton, Heavenly Humor for the Woman’s Soul, Barbour, 2008)
How have you refocused your gaze on God? What things do you worship that you need to let go of in order to put Jesus first? How has your worship of such an awesome God brought you joy?

Consider this with Thoms A. Kempis (1380-1471): “O everlasting Light, surpassing all created luminaries, flash forth Thy lightning from above, piercing all the most inward parts of my heart. Make clean, make glad, make bright and make alive my spirit, with all the powers thereof, that I may cleave unto Thee in ecstasies of joy.”

Let’s uplift our communal worship and fill our private prayer with joy.


(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Are you obscuring divine plans?

By Sister alies therese

Maybe he’d never heard this Psalm? “I love You, O Lord, my strength … and I am safe… The breakers of death surged around about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me … in my distress I called upon the Lord … from God’s temple I was heard, my cry reached God’s ears…and set me free in the open and rescued me, because God loves me.” (Psalm 18:5-7, 20)

I also love the Peterson translation of 18:20, “God stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved – surprised to be loved.” This is the reality of the Job story – a love story – a story that challenges us to come to a deeper understanding of the awesomeness of God’s love for us, the heart of the truth, the place of union. “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him…” (Job 1:8) Yet God later questions Job: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you are talking about? Where were you when I created the universe? Tell me since you know so much.” (Peterson, Job 38:1ff)

This has been a weird year for me. From January when I ended up in hospital for many weeks with broken bones and infections, to July when our apartments, filled with swift moving rain, flooded, midst extreme heat. When was the last time you read Job? If not recently, I suggest it as part of your study, not because bad things happen but because Job discovers many things he’d never even considered.

The Job story is full of sadness and as C.S. Lewis points out in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “If you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness.”

Some of our readers are suffering right now in the quiet … perhaps the loss of a child, a fire, in jail, abuse, or hunger, including darkness in prayer or even unbelief. Joan W. Blos, an American author wrote this: “This morning’s sermon reminded us that great though our grief and suffering be, others have suffered more.” Anguish may fill the pages of Job and yet if we stop there, we shall never heal, have hope or happiness and we shall never learn compassion.

Because of the surprise of love, Job moved from being an advice-giving, important, very rich fellow and helping the poor … to becoming poor himself. Job recognized a whole new life when he talked with God (screamed, complained and confessed). How shall I say, he got ‘real,’ unlike his previous life or that of his ‘friends.’

In his poverty Job learned something else surprising, only God unties knots of trauma, pain, disappointment or distress. “You told me, ‘Listen and let Me do the talking. Let Me ask the questions. You give the answers. Job said, I admit I once lived by rumors of You, now I have it all firsthand – from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry – forgive me. I’ll never do that again. I promise! I’ll never again live on the crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumors!” (Peterson, Job 42:6)

So, the surprise included this personal relationship with God as reality, not just an idea or a possibility. Job discovered he was known, not through an intellectual exercise, nor a simple acceptance of other people’s stories and experiences, no, his own experience welded him in joy to a God who loves beyond all telling.

Our lives contain many fears, and when they are the focus, obscure divine plans. Over the centuries our various cultures and peoples have enslaved, murdered and warred against one another, executed one another, nuked, gossiped, bad-mouthed and turned our backs on one another. We have done horrible things even in the church by ignoring one another. Why are there no Black US saints? For centuries we have lived through greed, stealth and power, and the funny thing is, we continue today. Slavery, where human beings are ‘owned,’ cannot be explained away with ‘slaves learning really helpful things.’ Job learned only in love can we thrive and obtain forgiveness by experiencing the humility of God, moving us beyond these things.

If you are obscuring the divine plan in your life because you are afraid, stuck in some sin or addiction needing release, do read Job and see how much you are loved. Find a way to pray that causes you to rejoice, to see beyond rumor or other people’s experiences, that you might be surprised by this love so extreme, expressed in Jesus’ love-giving sacrifice for you!

Chester Cricket, in George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square, “began to chirp to ease his feelings. He found that it helped somehow if you sang your sadness.” Do chirp and sing so that others might be lifted from their anguish. Do learn to listen, as Job did, to the voice of God who desires us more than we can imagine. Do get out of the way, so God’s divine plan for your life might flourish, living anew as Job who disowned what he said and repented in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)


(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Delight in the Word

Sister alies therese

By Sister alies therese

U.S. author Karen Cushman, in “The Ballad of Lucy Whipple” said: “Look was pa’s favorite word; it meant admire, wonder, goggle at the beauty and excitement all around us.” What ‘word’ does this for you? One of my favorites is delight. Consider poor Owl in A.A. Milne’s “Eeyore Loses a Tail:”

“For Owl wise though he was in many ways … somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like measles and buttered toast.” Oh my, how words vary with each of us!

Spring is well underway though convalescence continues I have been exploring ways to study scripture. Most of you no doubt are reading each day’s readings, preparing for the Eucharist, and finding new ways to deepen your knowledge and wisdom. One way is through the Magnificat that our little parish provides us. I am always on the lookout for a word, a single word that can help me do that. “Delight” has been in my heart. Exploring words and the Word is well worth time and energy! Anais Nin, a French American writer in her diary called my attention to this:

“A trite word is an overused word which has lost its identity like an old coat in a second-hand shop. The familiar grows dull and we no longer see, hear, or taste it. “

So, I have also been exploring ‘the Word’ in “The Message,” by Eugene Peterson … a poetic and modern language edition of the Bible (Catholic books not included). Some of you may well know it and realize that just the changing of a word enlightens the mind. He taught Greek and Hebrew and is a pastor and thought that the words one found sometimes did not express a modern understanding. It is neither a study Bible nor one with footnotes (but the Intros are very worth exploring). It is a reader’s Bible… Here is a simple example from the Gospel of St Luke:

“Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you … the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God … nothing is impossible to God… Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1)

“The Message” is not an attempt to ‘dumb-down’ the scriptures but to make available words that catch our hearts and minds. The Psalms, for example, are a good place to start in any translation! I love Psalm 62:“God, the One and only – I’ll wait as long as God says. Everything I need comes from God, so why not? God is a solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.”
I love that … breathing room for my soul! Delightful.

Psalm 142 anchors the cry of our word in the anguished hope that God will come to our aid:
“I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy. I spill out all my complaints before God, and spell out my troubles in detail.”

Maybe you’ve never read the scriptures. I know that sounds nuts but often people listen at Mass and hope for the best. Indeed, the reading of the scriptures is a pleasure and our source of goodness and promise. How will I know what God has promised me if I do not read His Word? What can I delight in? What can help me when I am ill or fearful, joyful or expectant? Though in our Catholic tradition most of the Bible is read aloud over the 3-year cycle, each day I need the Word for sustenance, I need to hear God tell me who He is, what He has done for us, how I might follow.

Another favorite is Job and his saga with three ‘friends’ who do him no good, and a God who loves him dearly but seems silent at times. Maybe you have had this experience?

“Please, God, I have two requests, grant them so I’ll know I can count on You: First, lay off the affliction; the terror is too much for me. Second, address me directly so I can answer You, or let me speak and then You answer me. … Why do You stay hidden and silent? Why do You treat me like I’m Your enemy? You watch every move I make, and brand me as a dangerous character.” (Job 13)

Exploring the Word and finding delight draws us close to our God who left us all these inspirations and promises that we might live with God forever. The human authors and saints that follow are there to invite us into the Kingdom. In Isaiah 42:1 (referring to Jesus) we are reminded:

“Here is My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One, in whom My soul delights … I have put My spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” In whom does your soul delight?

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Plant one seed

By sister alies therese

On earth day I planted one seed, a giant sunflower sent to me by a friend in California. If it sprouts and is nourished it might grow to 15’14” across. Oh my. That’s a lot for one seed. While thinking about this one seed (and she sent me seven) I recalled the wonders God has done and was drawn to Psalm 104 where we encounter God as provider and creator.

In this springtime some of our readers are suffering perhaps from illness or accident, aging or loneliness. You might be reading from a prison or a nursing home, from your den or garden. What I learned from this Psalm is how rich and bountiful our God is and no matter where I make this meditation, (34) I can sing (33) praise to God. This is a seed of hope.

What is the one seed you will plant today? Is it an actual seed like mine, or will it be a seed of happiness or healing? Will it be a seed of thanksgiving or peace, or gratitude or friendship? See each day as the opportunity to plant one seed. Maybe it will be a phone call, or kindness to a visitor, or writing an email to someone who is sick. One seed can change things greatly. This God knows and shows God’s graciousness to us. Our favorite ‘one seed’ is Jesus. One seed planted and grown and rescued from permanent danger by being raised from the dead. Not all seeds seem to flourish like Jesus … they pop up and then whither. I do not want to wither, and Psalm 104 shows me how God, our provider wishes the same.

Sister alies therese

We remember the story about the seeds on the path, the seeds in the thorns, the seeds on rich soil. Maybe only one seed prospered … the rich soil made it possible. The birds and creeping things each come from one seed. Out of all the reproductive possibilities, one seed is available, one seed blossoms, one seed provides nourishment. And what did Jesus say that seed was? The Word of God. Are you reading your Bible? Are you finding new ways to grow in God? Are you praying in thanksgiving for the treasures of God?

In this Psalm, I am happy to read about all of creation and also about how I can respond. I can rejoice, sing and mediate and my love for God is deepened, and I increase my wonder and awe of all that God created. I can also be alert to the ways human beings are not generous with the creation of God.
Russell Baker, a US journalist who remarked in an article in the New York Times on Feb. 22, 1968, “We live in an environment whose principal product is garbage.” I dare say we have not become more responsible in all these years. Rachel Carson, environmentalist, and writer, in her work Silent Spring, noted: “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”

What is this garbage besides the obvious plastic? Well, when it is a seed of resentment or anger, hatred or regret the ‘garbage’ in our souls grows. When our focus is on the things of this world that keep us from God, chemicals surround us … dangerous and contaminating. What breaks the cycle of negativity? What causes us to be transformed into peacemakers and children of such a gracious Father? Well, plant the seeds, even if only one of charity within and all the others will fall into place. Consider St. James 1:21ff, who sets the seeds of welcome and meekness against those of sordidness and wickedness. They are like smog in the throat keeping one from singing.

“ ‘Once-ler!’ He cried with a cruffulous croak.

‘Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke! My poor Swomee-Swams…why they can’t sing a note! No one can sing who has smog in his throat.” (Dr. Seuss, The Lorax).

That includes the smog in our hearts. Plant something today that will bring joy and healing to hearts and minds. It could be green things that drive out the smog and invite us into the refreshment of God.

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Light beyond betrayal

Reflections on Life
By sister alies therese

Betrayal is a horrible experience. If you have not been betrayed, you are most fortunate; many, if not most of us have been.

The children massacred in Uvalde, the people killed in El Paso for being Hispanic or Buffalo for being Black, or Dachau for being Jewish, have certainly been betrayed. We have betrayed one another through poverty (food insecurity, unfair wages, poor health care), abortion, war, mass shootings and the death penalty, and, of course, abuse and poor eldercare. And perhaps the worst betrayal of all is convenient, rigid or complacent Christianity, Catholicism.

These keep us from friendship with God; expressed as a deepening groan or a desire to serve self. Can I set betrayal aside and learn to put others first? Will I ever be friends with God again? Where has the light of Epiphany gone? The Wise Ones chose the Light by betraying King Herod.

We can experience overpowering and challenging choices when on the road to recovery and we see that in AA or Al-anon, and various sorts of other helping communities. Depending upon how one is addicted or challenged can make choices toward recovery even more difficult. In his book “The Betrayal Bond” (1997), Dr. Patrick Carnes tells this little story:

Sister alies therese

“Tribal peoples in Africa put out slotted cages filled with fresh fruit. The cages are anchored securely to the ground. Monkeys discover the cages, reach in, and grab the fruit. Of course, they cannot retrieve the fruit because as long as the hand holds the fruit, it will not fit through the bars of the cage, the monkeys are trapped. They could let go of the fruit and escape, but they refused to let go … trauma bonds are similar….” (page 210)

We know from AA that even when one has been betrayed by family or others, institutions, and certainly booze/drugs recovery is essential to living in the light. We also know that Bill W. (co-founder of AA) received advice from Dr. Carl Jung to tell stories to be set free of strangulation by fear and intimidation. These stories might reveal how betrayal has featured in life and made friendships difficult. Perhaps the stories might show how one has become a betrayer.

So, what to do now? What have we refused to let go of in order to put betrayal in the past? Are we stuck in a trauma bond? Is the light ever to be seen again?

What is the way back to friendship? In order to restore our friendship God took on a human nature to teach us how to forgive. Betrayal features in Jesus’ life more than just the Garden. Each time followers rejected what He taught; the message of God was betrayed. When we don’t stop the tongues of gossip or stand for something we believe in, we betray not only others but our inner life. Certainly, we are betrayed when we continue any big lie…that green is yellow, yellow is green, perpetuating the lie and making our ability to follow the light more difficult.

Arthur Simon, in his book “How Much Is Enough?” (2003) relates this:

“A six-year-old boy, taken to an ER following an accident was given a glass of milk. ‘How deep shall I drink?’ he asked. He came from a very poor family in which something as precious as milk had to be shared with six brothers and sisters, drinking too deeply cheated others.” (page 132) Of course, his choice is to share or to betray his siblings. What will he do? What might I do?

George Eliot sometime in 1850 said: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

“Forgiveness,” says Christina Baldwin, “is the act of admitting we are like other people.” We mess up, we are selfish, and we might betray ourselves when forgiveness is not on the table. Servant of God, Dorothy Day (and Peter Maurin) remind us of a basic Catholic Worker tenant: make it easy for people to be good. There is no betrayal in that. No, it is the light.

Jesus showed us the way and as we move into this new year, we might have pause to remember that – on the night He was betrayed, He left us Himself in the Eucharist to be always with us.

In 1785, Anne Letitia Barbauld noted: “Nobody ought to be too old to improve; I should be sorry if I was, and I flatter myself I have already improved considerably by my travels….” I should very much like to improve … You?

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Mississippi agates

By sister alies therese

Did you know Jackson sits on an extinct volcano 2,900 feet under the Mississippi Coliseum, having erupted 75 million years ago and unlikely to blow any time soon? Well, who knows how many Mississippi agates (usually found in volcanic material) there might be?

Maybe you’d find a three-inch thunder-egg shape of varied colors. Agates are often rust-red from the oxidizing iron or yellow, brown, black, grey, pink and even sometimes green. White bands of quartz separate the colors. The translucence of the quartz allows light to shine through and even glow. Fossils are billions of years old, and many are found in our gravel pits. The Mississippi agate is a mere 323 million years old.

Sister alies therese

Shapes are important too, how the water has formed them in the streams as they travel down from the Nashville Dome in Tennessee to the Appalachian Mountains of Alabama. All these rivers are moving toward the gulf and their deposits are still to be discovered near where I live in Northeast Mississippi. They say these ancient gravel deposits were recycled by erosion and made new bars in modern rivers like the Tombigbee. Sometimes they were embedded in floating ice!

Treasures of the heart are frequently the result of much refining and pressure, often formed by the water of tears. Have you noticed? The diamond is beautifully created under pressure; who knew when the first person discovered the magnificent geode’s insides or that a bland and ‘regular-looking- outer- rock’ had a purple amethyst encrusted within?

Consider the Great Star of Africa, (Cullinan I), part of a larger diamond discovered beneath the earth in South Africa in 1905…the largest of the Crown Jewels we learned about during the passing of the queen. It was formed over 400 miles deep in the earth. Worth millions…whose money is it? South Africans think it’s theirs. Why not, it was a gift ‘taken’ from the people’s pocket.

What are the pressures we seem to be under that shave off our rough edges and when someone looks inside, they discover such magnificence? Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman reminds me of one whose guileless splendor exploded through the pressures!

I’ve always been a bit of a rockhound and often collected a small stone from places I’ve visited…a stone from St. Kevin’s Hermitage near Glendalough in Ireland (where his slab of sleeping rock remains), finding a rock with a fossil in a Kentucky creek. A friend brought me the plainest looking rock from her refugee camp in Iraq, another from Elijah’s cave on Mt. Carmel, and another from her workplace in Alaska.

The thing about these stones is that they are indeed plain, nothing could get a big WOW! They are a perfect example of ‘what you see is what you get’. Various sorts of collections like this provide us with ‘prayer-stones,’ reminding us of just who we are praying for. I have a stone from the gravel outside the prison in New Jersey where a friend was on death row. Another stone from Helen Keller’s place in Alabama, and one from a lonely wild cliff in Scotland. Other times I’ve challenged myself to collect perfectly round stones.

Markers have always shown up biblically, sometimes as treasures, sometimes as tablets of information, and sometimes as a place to rest while on an agonizing journey. Stones were piled up for altars and places of worship, as signals of the way to go, and as weapons of destruction; five small ones for David.
Houses, fences and walkways, birdhouses, prisons and barriers, abound in various cultures. We find stone spirals or labyrinths. There is a power in the stone, stability, and a substance not easily blown over even by the strongest of storms. Jesus is our ‘cornerstone.’ That is a forever thanksgiving gift!

Of course, the gems that come from deep within are still the natural resources of the nations, looked for and often sold on markets that do not respect the miner’s work. You might remember the issues around diamonds…were they ‘blood diamonds’ or not, one would ask the jeweler…some knew what you were talking about, and others either did not or ignored the question.

These natural resources were part of what was wanted by colonizers and those who came to take the land (and gem resources) from indigenous peoples and tribes. Rubies, emeralds, agates, diamonds and sapphires are among the beauty God created under the pressure of earth and stone.

Consider this from Exodus 28:15ff: “On the breastplate of decision, you shall have made you shall mount four rows of precious stones: in the first row a carnelian, a topaz, and an emerald; in the second a garnet, a sapphire and a beryl; in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; the fourth a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper…each stone engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.”

How do you mark your breastplate of decision? Have you discovered your deep withins? Have you turned your pressures and ‘I’m going to blow up’ into something extraordinarily beautiful? Well, even though the Mississippi state stone is petrified wood, the Mississippi agate is there for you to find. Goin’ lookin’?


(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)

Christian marker: The Cross

By sister alies therese

On Aug. 9, 2022, we celebrate the feast day of Edith Stein (St. Sister Benedicta of the Cross, OCD), German (born, 1891, in Breslau in what is now Poland) intellectual, scholar, typhoid-nurse hospital worker and Jewess-cum-Catholic Christian (1922) and Carmelite (1933), who at 52 was taken to the Nazi chambers and murdered (1942). I like what Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, points out:

“The fact is Edith Stein is not important because she was martyred for anything. Edith Stein is not a light to take into the 21st century because she was killed by Nazis for whatever reason. Edith Stein is a pathway through darkness because of the courage it takes to critique your own.” (emphasis mine, A Passion for Life, Orbis, 1996)

She might be best known in Carmelite circles, unlike some of her more famous Sisters, Teresa of Avila, or Therese. That she was caught up with Bonhoeffer or Kolbe and others also annihilated for religious reasons during the Nazi regime, points to the highlights (1942) of the brutal reality of authoritarian politics. Though she had been smuggled to the Netherlands, she and her sister Rosa were found out and eventually reached Auschwitz where their earthly lives ended abruptly.

In the day (and maybe today as well?), a sister professing Carmelite life took a ‘title’ pointing her in a special direction within her prayer vocation … in this case ‘of the Cross’ was chosen and the fact that she was born on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, she had been on this path her whole life. She saw her life as one united with the suffering of God, the anguish of the innocent, and the prayer of the powerless. The Cross for her became the Christian marker where the greatest love had been shown, even to those who ravaged the world, who lived out of greed or insensitivity, who barreled through country after country demanding obedience and submission.

Mostly the Cross was the symbol of success, despite its narrow appearance, of the empathy theory she’d studied reminding people that to walk in another’s shoes across barriers (class, culture, ethnicity and…) is to accept a call to build together the beauty of peace. We ‘cross over,’ out of our zones into a graced place serving one another. The beauty of God, reflected in the common good, is torn asunder when the innocent are ravaged when lies become common currency for truth, and when hope seems impossible as attacking armies (of whatever kind) seek to dominate. Aren’t we just a bit too cozy with violence? Just look at Oklahoma, executing 25 men one a month (on Thursdays) for two years beginning this month. That the Cross reaches up and stretches out is a reminder that God is not just the God of ‘me’ but the God of ‘we’; when will we nourish one another and cease scrambling in darkness … perhaps they’ll come for me, for us?

In her book The Wisdom of the Cross, she remarks that through a process of death, all will come to life in Him if we are willing to give our lives.

She says, “This faith in the Crucified – united with devoted love – is for us the doorway to life and the beginning of the glory to come. The Cross is our only boast … But the cross is not the end: it is lifted high and shows us the way to heaven.” (ICS, Washington, 1996)

She had no illusion about what that meant for her, her sister Rosa and so many more; it meant death. Equally, she understood that through her tool of conversion (the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, 1921) she saw ‘the truth.’ Her mother was brought to tears at her conversion. ‘I’ve nothing to say against him (Jesus),’ she told Edith, ‘just that he claimed to be God.’

Before her conversion, during her years as a professor, she was very outspoken about women’s roles and wrote in the Ethos of Women’s Professions, for example: “One could say that every normal healthy woman can hold a position. And there is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman.” (ICS) Not long after she would become unemployable because she was both woman and Jew. No place in academia for her. Does that sound familiar? How is the truth rejected? What can/not be taught? How do we ignore history?

Next month we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14, and maybe our study of St. Benedicta might open to us deeper wisdom and help us put the suffering, especially targeted violence, at His Cross.
“As for what concerns our relations with our fellowman, the anguish in our neighbor’s soul must break all precepts. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself because God is love.” (ICS)

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)