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Hope, peace, joy and love

This Christmas season, as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus, let us remember the importance of the Advent wreath. The circle of the wreath represents the eternity of God and the four candles symbolize hope, peace, joy and love for the coming of Christ. Each week, we invite you to pause and reflect on the beauty of waiting for the birth of Christ through four reflections with the themes of hope, peace, joy and love. May these reflections, provided by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, bring you closer to Jesus and the meaning of Advent.

“No time is more suitable for practicing humility than the holy time of Advent, in which we celebrate the mystery of the incarnation, which is and remains always a mystery of deepest humility.”

-Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger,
Foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame
Trust and Dare: December 15



Sister Joan Penzenstadler, SSND

Sister Joan PenzenstadlerThe watching and waiting of the season of Advent echoes with a hope-filled resonance. Let us reflect for a moment on what it might mean to be filled with this resonance. The energy of hope does not have as much to do with an end result, as it does with a dimension of the soul. It is an orientation of the spirit that transcends facts and observations in this world. It is a conviction that the overwhelming brutality of facts is not the last word. Hope is a conviction that something is worth doing because it is good and right, regardless of how it turns out. It is a discipline born from love.

Although hope is a deeply personal conviction of the soul, it is meant to be sustained in and through community. I am reminded of the powerful words that opened the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World from the Vatican Council II, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” As Christians, our hope includes all of the beloved of God. As followers of the One who became human out of love for us, the School Sisters of Notre Dame joyfully proclaim to be women of hope who gladly give our lives for the realization of the Gospel. This Christmas may we all be gifted with “a new birth to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) in the One who has made all the difference.

For the lighting of the first purple candle of your Advent wreath, I invite you to pray with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Our prayer is for hope. Hope for our community, friends, loved ones and for peace in this world.


Advent and Peace

Sister Paulette Pass, SSND

Sister Paulette PassOften we associate peace with Advent, but maybe we need to expand our sense of Advent and peace a little more. Words to savor and ponder that help us to think about this topic in a different way are: movement, calm, silence, awe, unity, shared energy, circle, stillness, listening and acceptance. It may birth new ideas and broaden our thinking about Advent and peace by meditating on one or more of these words and sharing our thoughts with someone.

Sister Jeanne Wingenter shared this idea about peace, "Whenever you perceive that something negative or violent is occurring, whether that is a negative thought on your part or a violent event, say the words, ‘Peace be with you,’ or ‘Peace will prevail,’ and mean what you say. Try to visualize what a peaceful resolution would look like or feel like in that situation." Imagine all the peace we would bring to our world in all those negative events.

For the lighting of the second purple candle of your Advent wreath, I invite you to pray with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Our prayer this week is for peace. Peace in this world for refugees, gun-violence victims and all those with negativity in their lives.


The Color of Joy

Sister Rosemary Bonk, SSND

Sister Rosemary Bonk“A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart; good news invigorates the bones.” Proverbs 15:30

When fall’s beauty encircled us not too long ago, I could hardly take in the beauty of gold-red-rust-colored trees dazzled by the sun. I love trees; they are an image of joy for me, offering glorious color to my life. It is quite powerful and colorful when paying attention to the opportunities that bring joy.

At a recent benefit dinner held for Messmer Catholic School, Milwaukee, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know anyone present at the dinner after I had taught there for 10 years. But I mustered up the courage to introduce myself to a family attending and soon learned that the second grader of the family was going to lead the prayer. I, too, was able to delight in knowing this young person’s excitement. I believe what Marcus Aurelius said a long time ago, “The color of our thoughts dyes our soul.” When I look at life from the inside out, I can learn to dye my world with joy. I can learn to bring joy and receive joy.

In the face of pain and suffering one can try to avoid it, resent it, endure it or choose to keep one’s heart open, realizing there is more to life than just this. Does that mean that we live in denial of the pain and suffering that happens to us and to others worldwide? Not at all. How much joy we experience is not solely based on what is happening, but by how we respond to it. Several years ago I had eye surgery and couldn’t read for a short time afterward. I was concerned I would never be able to read again, but during that time, friends came forward and read to me. It was a wonderful experience; one that I will always remember. So in the midst of my distress, there were wonderful moments of joyful connections.

For the lighting of the third pink candle of your Advent wreath, I invite you to join the School Sisters of Notre Dame by looking for times when you brought joy and a time when you received joy. Pray for joy for the loved ones in your life.


An Advent Reflection on Love

Sister Marcie Solms, SSND

Sister Martha Jean SolmsAs the people of Israel waited for the Messiah to come, so we are reminded each Advent season, during this time of waiting, of our need for the rebirth of Jesus, to come more fully into our hurting world. What do we need most at this time in our salvation history?

The opening lyrics of Jackie DeShannon’s song, “What the World Needs Now is Love,” says it well, “What the world needs now, is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Imagine if we could experience more civility, acceptance and love in the arena of political debate and governance. What would it be like if kindness and forgiveness could replace revenge and violence? Just think, if corporate executives and business leaders made economic decisions in the context of the common good for all God’s people and all of creation!

If love could replace anger and fear, God’s incarnation in the person of Jesus would shine in new ways. With God’s grace during this season of Advent, we can journey towards being more loving, individually, as a faith community and as a nation. Our future and our earth are depending on this. “Come Lord Jesus; be born anew in our hearts!”

For the lighting of the fourth purple candle of your Advent wreath, I invite you to pray with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Our prayer this week is for love. Love for each other, life and the earth that God so graciously gave to us.


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