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March 1, 2014

By Sister Marianne Watts, CHANGES        February 15-16 was one of those weekends when not much seemed to happen until you looked back at it. First of all, we held our Dominican Sisters of Hope Chapter conversation in the community room here on Saturday, the15th.  Its flavor was distinctively Asbury Tower-ish: 28 residents […]

1y01092rev2By Sister Marianne Watts, CHANGES        February 15-16 was one of those weekends when not much seemed to happen until you looked back at it.

First of all, we held our Dominican Sisters of Hope Chapter conversation in the community room here on Saturday, the15th.  Its flavor was distinctively Asbury Tower-ish: 28 residents signed up and about 28 came.  Just not the same 28.

It didn’t matter.  Whichever people took part, they were here because they wanted to be.  The door remained open and people wandered in and became part of the group.  No one wandered out.

When we considered actions we might take to bring Hope to our lives, we spoke of the environment, especially our North Beach which seems always to be under threat from the condo people. Recycling problems, plastic bags, and fracking were part of our To Do or Not To Do lists.Our conversational moment centered on ways in which we could be People of Hope. We were comfortable giving examples and naming manyalmost-synonyms for Hope, a few stories were told about it and we realized that hope isn’t easily driven away; it doesn’t disappear on bad days. We were generally comfortable with the topic and with each other.

But in looking back at it, what really made that Saturday such a revelation—to me, anyway—was the certainty that we were where we were supposed to be.  All of us together using Hope as our energy.  We didn’t have to analyze it or capture it in words. We just had to breathe its presence. It occurred to me that we were being Church for each other, we Catholics, Methodists, Jews, and members of other (or no) religions.  We were present to each other.

Most people are familiar with Emily Dickinson’s poem, at least the beginning of it:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

She wasn’t defining Hope as a bird, of course.  She wasn’t defininganything. Words as Emily says, aren’t necessary to an image that sings.

When we need to experience the presence of something—not just  talkabout it—we find ourselves in the land of metaphor. James Martin, S.J. uses Resurrection as Hope in Take Up Your Cross, his new book:

How many of us believe parts of our lives are dead? How many believe that parts of our country, our world, our church cannot come to life? How many of us feel bereft of the hope of change?

This is when I turn to the Resurrection. Often I return to the image of the terrified disciples cowering behind closed doors. We are not called to live in that room. We are called to emerge from our hiding places and to accompany Mary Magdalene, weeping sometimes, searching always, and ultimately blinded by the dawn of Jesus’ new life—surprised, delighted and moved to joy.

We are called to believe what she has seen: He is risen.

Hope allows us to see what someone else has seen. To be in the presence of the Other.

The sense of unexpected unity in our Tower continued into Sunday when we celebrated what we sometimes call our “Priestless Mass.”  It’s for those who are disabled or weather-affected, but I don’t think of it as a substitute for the real thing. For me it’s very real.  It exists on a more personal spiritual plane, in that it is not a group of women (usually) being led to God by a man. It’s an intimate act of worship created completely by us, a Mass with everything but the words of Consecration (we do have consecrated hosts) spoken by a priest.  It’s a Hope-event.

That was our weekend and I’m not sure what it meant.  I do know it was a time of Hope, arising from a community open to receiving it and open to giving it.  Breathing it in and breathing it out.  It was the presence of something sacred emanating from the ordinary.

It makes you question the meaning of “ordinary,” doesn’t it?

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Written by Gina Ciliberto

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