Celebrations are a part of May:  Mother’s Day, First Communions, May processions, Confirmations, Weddings, and Graduations!  How wonderful it is that we celebrate such important people or occasions that touch our hearts so dearly.  Of all the celebrations, Mother’s day is the one that affects us all.  This year we celebrated Mother’s Day with prudence but less fear of Covid.  It was truly a day to reflect, honor and offer gratitude for the Gift of our mothers.  Whether alive or deceased they have touched us and known us deeply – and fixed on us a mother’s gaze, a gaze which mirrors the gaze of God.   It is no accident that May is the month in which we honor Mary and celebrate the feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.  Ed Hayes reflects on this feast:  “When the Angel Gabriel responded to Mary’s surprise that the Holy Spirit would fill her womb, she was told that aged Elizabeth was also pregnant … and that with God, all things are possible.  This angelic message is as joyously true today as when it was first spoken, and it should become part of our daily prayer.  It could be added to the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps just before the final Amen.  Repeated frequently, this six-word phrase gives us hope for this day and for each of our tomorrows.  With God, all things are possible:  the removal of war, exploitation, the sin of racial prejudice and all the present evils of the world.”  This year we place before our Mother Mary our sisters and brothers in the Ukraine, asking that she who is our Queen of Peace, Patroness of the United States and the Ukraine, may bring peace to them and to the whole world. 

May also brought us into the Easter Season where we celebrate Resurrection and await Pentecost.  It is a glorious time where our gospels are filled with amazing stories of post-resurrection visits.  Despite the tragedies in our world today, the Easter Season always seems like a joyful time of year.  We’re on the cusp of the transition from Winter to Spring, we’ve moved from the drudge of Lent into songs of Alleluia.  Wendell Berry in the last line of his poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, tells us to “practice resurrection”.   How do we do that?  Easter is indeed a glorious time where we celebrate Resurrection, the Resurrection of Jesus but also the many Resurrections that Jesus has enabled us to experience in our lives – the moments of transfiguration that happen, often unexpectantly.  In his book, God Has a Dream,  Bishop TuTu tells us the principle of transfiguration –God’s Transformation — is at work when something so unlikely as the brown grass in winter becomes bright green again.  Or when the tree with gnarled leafless branches bursts forth with the sap flowing so that the birds sit chirping in the leafy branches. Or when the once dry streams gurgle with swift flowing water.  When winter gives way to spring and nature seems to experience its own resurrection.” (p.3) What are those moments of transfiguration in our lives and how are we practicing resurrection?  Remember: with God, all things are possible.   This poem may take us on a journey into what it means to be transfigured – to PRACTICE RESURRECTION.

We do have some news to share with you today.  There is a hope for us that in the Fall we might be able to offer some day programs.  We still don’t have the Franciscan Spiritual Center as we know it but you and the staff are the ones who comprise the Franciscan Spiritual Center – so whenever, we are together, there is our God enfleshing the Franciscan Spiritual Center.

 Another piece of Good News is that you are invited to a Martha/ Mary experience retreat called the Franciscan Hermitage Retreat. This Franciscan experience involves the Marys staying in the hermitage for a direct experience with God while the Marthas prepare meals and prayer services in St. Elizabeth  House.  Any one interested, please call Sr. Jean Ustasiewski at (610) 558-5372. or email her at jeanu@osfphila.org.  Space is limited.  Sr. Christa Thompson and Sr. Jean will be the Marthas. The retreat is scheduled from the evening of June 13th to the morning of June 19th. The cost is $ 550. There is a deposit of $ 50 in advance of the start.  This is a link to register:  https://fscaston.org/product/franciscan-hermitage-retreat-2022/ but since we can’t have any more than five retreatants it is probably best to call Sr. Jean to confirm your interest and desire to register.

 Also keep in mind that we continue to have retreatants at our hermitage .  To check availability and/or register please call Sr. Helen Budzik at 610-558-7674 or email her at hbudzik@osfphila.org.  It is $50 per night at the hermitage.  We also continue to have Spiritual Direction available for all who may want it.  There is a list of Spiritual Directors on our website at https://fscaston.org/spiritual-direction/ .  The cost of Spiritual Direction is $40 per session. 

 Many Blessings to each of you as you await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost.  Sr. Clotilda, a very wise and gentle woman who was a significant part of our formation years, used to tell us to expect some sort of gift on Pentecost Sunday because Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and we, the people of God, are the Church. 

With love and gratitude,
The Staff of the Franciscan Spiritual Center