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Epiphanies:

Living Word

  • Living Word: The POWER of YES: Reflections on the incarnation and the free will of Mary

    Sep 17, 2014


    By Jeanne Grammens Hidalgo

    I was recently co-facilitating a retreat for student leaders who want to be involved in ministry at Marian University. John Shelton (Campus Minister) was presenting on tenets of effective Christian leadership, and the final point was how vital it is to a relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I was to "bring it home," by offering an activity regarding this idea.  As John spoke, I felt that warm sensation, which I have come to recognize as the Holy Spirit, which lead me to ask the students this question:  “What do you and Mary have in common?" As they threw out a wide variety of responses, I cut to the chase, stating two simple, yet profoundly powerful words, "Free Will."  This is not something we often reflect upon, in regards to Mary and her unbelievable response to God’s invitation.  It is easy to assume that the conception of Jesus was a done deal and tend to disregard the power of Mary’s YES. The students were silent. Yes, Mary had free will.  She was free to say Yes or No to the offer to carry the savior of the world in her womb!! 

    In my own humanity, I have often wrested with free will and in my less inspired moments, questioned the value of my “YES.” I have been greatly formed by the spirituality of an amazing Christian artist, Amy Grant.  In fact, I have been known to joke that if she only knew me, we would be best friends.  She has seriously impacted my faith journey over the past 30 years and I have been privileged to hear her sing in person on several occasions.  At one of her concerts, years ago, I Iooked upon Amy in all her talent, her beauty and her incredible ability to impact the spiritual lives of what I believed to be millions of people.  I marveled at her gifts and her willingness to use them for God’s glory.  Yes, I was COMPARING myself and my value with Amy Grant’s!  And what I was doing in that moment, was also questioning God's ability to use whatever has been planted in me, for fruitful completion (Paul's letter to the Philippians).  It was a low moment for me, but what followed was a conviction, (yes, again the Holy Spirit) that my YES, my willingness to offer whatever I have been given for the good of all,  was just as important as Amy Grants. As Mary says in her magnificat, “my soul magnifies the Lord…” God can and does magnify all that we willingly offer, no matter how humble the offerings. 

    This reminds me of my favorite Christmas story rendition in clay mation; (very popular back in the 1960s—to date myself); the Little Drummer Boy.  An angry, resentful young lad, living in first century Palestine, has lost his home, family and now, one of his beloved animals.  He approaches one of the wise men, at the scene of the birth of Christ, and asks for help.  The very wise man redirects the lad to the stable where Jesus is lying in the manger.  The boy hesitates, saying, “I have not gift to bring,” and suddenly, he realizes that he can offer what he has, the gift of a song played on his crude instrument.   He is told that Jesus favors this gift and alas, his pet donkey is restored.  The point for me? Be willing to say YES to utilizing what we have, no matter how seemingly insignificant. God can and does magnify our gifts.  It will be done!

    So the lesson of Mary's "Yes"? In a chapel in Italy at La Verna, Italy, is a rendition of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in order to invite her to allow the incarnation.  God is up above her with his ear inclined, waiting to hear her response! This is what I shared that day with the students.  Mary had free will. She had a choice!  This is a stunning concept for us to consider! We are all glad that she said yes.  And it is humbling to remember that we have a choice as well, to say Yes or No to blessed with the power of free will.  We can say Yes or No to God’s invitation.  Either way, He will never give up on us and will keep offering opportunities for us to respond in the affirmative, to allow God to live and move and have his being within us.....in our own "small" way, to allow the incarnation to have a home within us! It is our choice and I believe our free will makes our Yes (es) all the more valuable!

  • Living Word: Francis and the Leper

    Sep 10, 2014


    By: John Shelton, Campus Minister

    Leprosy is a disease that is still “alive and kicking” in our world- with thousands of leprous people living in poorer lands with unclean health conditions. St. Francis’ death, as recorded by his companions, was gruesome.  He suffered physically, and was blind at his death. In his adult –stage, life long association with serving lepers, he became one of them. Just as Christ became one of us.

    Let’s take a moment and place ourselves in our own imagination.

    You are Francis.

    You reflect, "For I, being in sin, thought it bitter to look at lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them, and I worked mercy with them."

     Your recall that first meeting:

    • I, Francis do not wish to be a cloth merchant like my father
    • My dream of knighthood has been crushed through war and by my prolonged illness
    • I  am walking along a road on the outskirts of Assisi with my friend Leo, I hear a bell-  a coarse, flat, pedestrian clank something like a cowbell
    • "Let's get out of here, Francis," Leo cries. But I, not knowing exactly why, stood my ground
    • Over the hill just ahead, there appears a deformed figure with a clanging bell around the neck- a leper
    • The figure waves me off to the side of the road, but I did not move
    • I have always been repulsed by the sight of lepers! How much I fear their dread contagion!
    • "Have you not heard my bell?" asks the leper. "Do you not know that I am forced to wear this bell to warn you that a leper is approaching?"
    • I remained motionless, tasting my fear as I swallow
    • Suddenly, filled with a strength which came I knew not from where, I run toward the leper
    • I embrace the Leper, kissing him on his festering cheek
    • Weeping aloud, "Brother Leper, forgive me for neglecting you”
    • Then, for a moment, the Leper's appearance is transformed
    • He seems to wear a crown of thorns and to bleed from wounds in his hands, his feet, and his sides
    • He looks at me with love
    • Just as suddenly, the Leper vanishes from sight, leaving me weeping on the silent road
    • "Brother Leo, don't you see? Don't you see? The lepers, they all turn into Christ! “
    • I have found my vocation, my life call from God. 1

    I believe that in many cases, I have done the same.  Now, I am excited!!  When the next opportunity arises, when I hear the bell, I will not look the other direction, or move onto the other side of the road.  For Christ will be there ahead, waiting to meet me, waiting to embrace me. 

    How about you????????

    1 adapted from: The Healers Calling Daniel P. Sulmasy, O.F.M. M.D. Paulist Press, 1997.

    Image credit: http://franciscanpassages.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/francis_and_leper_painted.8144113_std.jpg

  • From the Office of Campus Ministry

    Aug 27, 2014

    New Student Day of Service
    This summer, the Office of Campus Ministry prepared two important initiatives for our incoming first-year students that make accessible and real our Franciscan Sponsorship Values. First, the New Student Day of Service (NSDS) is a Marian University tradition which invites all new students into a day of reflective service, both here on campus and throughout the greater Indianapolis community. Embracing the Franciscan sponsorship values, along with our vision to educate students who will transform the world, NSDS exposes students to agencies which align with the underserved and with those who have minimal access to basic resources. As students grow in awareness, they also offer their time and energy to support the initiatives of these organizations, to include Second Helpings, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Gleaners Food Bank, Peaceful Grounds, a city park, and our own Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab. This year, we had nearly 200 students at the Saturday, August 16 event. NSDS is a collaborative effort between the Offices of Campus Ministry, Student Activities, and the 21st Century Scholars Program.

    Connections: A First Year Gathering
    Our second new initiative happened on Saturday, August 23, when campus ministry hosted Connections: A First Year Gathering. This program happened at the end of Welcome Week and was organized by a group of six student leaders along with campus ministry staff. Through this program, campus ministry aims to create a dynamic community, present a radically hospitable form of spirituality, and demonstrate that campus ministry will be “with you” all four years of college. We do so by reflecting on the four Franciscan sponsorship values through personal reflections offered by the student leaders and engaging activities in the setting of White River State Park. For example, students reflected on dignity of the individual (our first value), by asking the questions, “What are my values? Who do I want to be? What type of community do I want to be a part of?” When reflecting on the value of reconciliation, students role-played how difficult college situations may transpire differently when they act upon our Franciscan values. The event concluded with a spirited prayer experience and a bonfire that wass open to entire student body.

  • Saint Francis and Pope Francis: Men of Surprises

    Aug 27, 2014

    By Daniel Conway, Senior Vice President for Mission, Identity, and Planning

    Cardinal Francis George says that a little more than a year ago the new pope’s choice of name was “his first surprise.” All the surprises that have come afterward—and are yet to come—can be traced back to Jorge Mario Bergolio’s desire to align himself with Francesco Bernadone, the saint from Assisi who was a man full of surprises. Saint Francis presented himself to the world as Il poverello (the little poor man), and he strove to be God’s jester, poet, and ambassador of peace. Pope Francis seeks to imitate his namesake and he urges all of us to do the same.

    We don’t think of popes as “spontaneous” or “unconventional.” We don’t expect them to tell jokes during their homilies or to confront Mafia members and unceremoniously pronounce their excommunication. We don’t expect the pope to live in a hotel or drive an old Ford. “Who am I to judge?” is not the kind of papal pronouncement we’re used to hearing.St.Francis

    Pope Francis surprises us. He unsettles us. He challenges us while forgiving and encouraging us. He really is like the little poor man from Assisi—full of paradoxes (apparent contradictions) and beaming with the peace and joy that can only come from Christ! When we look at these two men together, their many differences dissolve and the ways they are alike stand out in bold relief. These are men of the Church wholly dedicated to humility, charity, poverty, peace, and joy. They are unconventional but fully aligned with Catholic tradition. They are spontaneous—eager to move beyond their “comfort zones”—but they never stray from the program outlined in the Gospels, especially the Beatitudes and the parables of Jesus. They can, and do, question the way priests, bishops, and even popes preach (and practice what they preach), but they never doubt the authority given to Peter by our Lord to bind and loose, comfort and heal, challenge and forgive the People of God, the Good Shepherd’s wandering flock.

    In the end, it is the cross of Christ leading inevitably to the joy of Easter that unites the saint from Assisi and the pope from Argentina. Both sing of Jesus. Both seek to imitate him, to live as he did, as poor little men who are rich beyond all measure in the abundance of holy joy.

© 2012 Marian University
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