Tag: Sr. Ann Shields

Reflection: Rooted in Jesus

The following was taken from a letter written by Peter Williamson in response to a talk by Sr. Ann Shields given June 3, 2018. (If you click the link to listen to the talk, we recommend jumping over the first two minutes.)

Wasn’t it great to hear Sr. Ann Shields speak to us about intercession last Sunday? If you missed, I highly recommend you listen to her talk.

Two things have stayed with me from Sr. Ann’s talk. First, the illustration she drew from Andrew Murray about the grapevine that produced more grapes than all the other vines in the vineyard because of its extraordinarily deep and long root system that extended to the Thames river. We too can bear much fruit if we sink our roots deep in intimacy with Christ and drink deeply of the living water that he supplies.

The second thing that struck me was the importance of praying and living according to God’s will, rather than our own. We need to ask the Lord to show us how to pray, and we need to be willing to surrender out time and preferences and will to him.

So here’s my prayer for us individually and as a community!

Lord, help us to sink our roots deep into you. Help us to pray at all times in the Holy Spirit. Help us to slow down and listen to you. And help us to pray with great faith, according to your will and purpose.

In particular, Lord, we pray for miracles. We pray that you reveal your power to the sick among us, to those among our family and friends who have wandered from you and need conversion. Do whatever it takes to turn them back to you and the path of life!

Reveal yourself also to our neighbors and co-workers and those in the city and country where we live, and for the whole world. Your love extends to all; save those most in need of your mercy! . . . Let us Christians be radiant with your light and love. Work signs and wonders that will show those around us who you really are!

Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayer!

Prayer: Why & How

The following is a letter from Sr. Ann Shields to members of Friends of Food for the Journey that we felt was important to share more broadly. If you would like to learn more about Friends of Food for the Journey, click here.

Have you been giving God some substantial time every day? If this has been a struggle, simply try spending a half hour in the morning reading Scriptures and bringing your needs before the Lord. Then pray the Morning Offering:

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins and for the intentions of all my relatives and friends and for the intentions of the Holy Father.”

Then, give God fifteen minutes in the evening, when you review the day. Repent where you need to, and then thank God for the blessings you received.

We receive blessings every day, but sometimes we are too deaf and blind to see and hear God’s action. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be more aware of the ways in which God answers prayer and accompanies you throughout the day. If you wish, keep a journal of the insights you receive, the passages in Scripture that really stand out to you, the decisions you make, the questions you have, the petitions you bring to the Lord, and whatever else is on your heart.

In addition to a daily examination, let’s take a moment right now to consider the past month: In what ways did you help yourself yield to God’s grace? How did you help yourself believe He accompanies you throughout the day, and that He knows your thoughts, desires, hopes, and fears? Did you talk to Him about them? Did you entrust your fears to Him, your worries, your hopes? I know that it can “feel” like you are talking into empty air, but you are not! Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Lk 12:6-7; emphasis mine).

If God, the almighty God, knows the number of each strand of hair on your head, then how much more does He surely know the joys and sorrows, the pain and fear that, at times, weigh you down? “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the KINGDOM” (Lk 12:32; emphasis mine).

Let that sink in a minute: God doesn’t just want you to get over the threshold of the kingdom; He wants to give us—you and me—the KINGDOM! You can trust Him. But to grow in trust, you have to spend time with Him: in personal prayer, in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and by going to Mass during the week, if possible.

Let me make one note here about making decisions to grow in your spiritual life. Make one, or at the most, two at a time. Then, make sure they have become a habit—and don’t get discouraged; this could take six months to a year—before you add any new decisions to your list. Finally, writing things down in a spiritual journal can help cement these decisions in your mind and your heart.

God loves you, and I pray that you may come to believe it—personally—for yourself and then for others. I want you to read slowly what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said a number of years ago in Germany on his radio program:

“God created each of us according to His will, and this will is our prime origin. It is not just a remote and general will, but a particular will for each one of us. However it may seem when viewed from the outside, no one exists solely by chance. Each one has been willed by God and has his own proper place in life.”

“There is, for each one, a meaning and a role in the universe, and our lives will be all the more replete and happy, the more we realize this meaning, the more we incorporate this will into our lives and are one with it.

“Hence there arises the next question: “What kind of will is this?” What concept does God see fulfilled in the human race? For one thing, we can say that He has his own design for each person; each one is something special, not merely one example of a product produced by the million. Each one is unique, never to be repeated and willed by God exactly as he is. That is why we say that God calls each of us by name—not just by a concept, but by a name that only this one individual knows and that belongs solely to him. For each one there is a special call. And only if we live attentively in conversation and dialogue with God can we know why He needs us in such an apparently insignificant position and why we are, precisely in that position, so immeasurably important. We need only recall that individuals who were apparently the most forgotten and insignificant in the world—a young woman in Nazareth, fishermen on the Lake of Genessaret—became immeasurably significant. It is not always so evident, yet God wants each of us, he needs each one of us, so that His world may become what He wants it to be”

[Co-Workers of the Truth (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1992), 222]

Look at what Jesus said to His disciples:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. (Jn 15:9-11)

The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and thou in me that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them even as you love me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them thy name and I will make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them. (Jn 17:22-26)

If you are baptized, you are a child of God the Father and a disciple of Jesus Christ, and Jesus has promised many inexpressible blessings for those who clearly decide to follow Him. There DOES need to be a concrete decision on your part, in terms of accepting who you are—a son/daughter of the Father! God does not lie. He promises you the eternal kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more mourning, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death, for the old order will have passed away. “All will be made new” (see Rv 21:1-8)!

God desires to love us as the Son loves the Father, and as the Father loves the Son. We are drawn into that love. That is a key part of our inheritance: that we know, experience, and are drawn into the love between the Father and the Son. This is a key reason you want to repent of sin, so that you become a clear vessel to receive and give the love of God. It is incomprehensible to us in our limited human state, but if we follow Him now as closely as we can, cooperating with His grace, we will be changed more and more into His image and likeness. This is not just a holy idea! This is what God has in store for those who follow Him. Even as I write this, I know my words are totally inadequate to the reality of union with the SOURCE of all Love.

Hear, again, the words of Scripture—this is Jesus speaking to each one of us:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

These words reflect a depth of love we cannot comprehend. But, it is nevertheless true. Jesus wants to dwell with us! To make His home with us—with you! He literally wants a close, personal relationship with you! Are we worthy? No, but He makes us “worthy” by His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness, day in and day out.

Think about a couple of ways in your own life that you could evangelize yourself. I know that sounds strange, but there are times when we need to tell ourselves the truth of who we are and where we are going. We can so easily lose our way, but God will help us as we cry out to Him. Use the Scripture passages I have given you; reflect on them; apply them to yourself. Speak the truth day in and day out, because the Enemy seeks to rob you of the truth.

Some resources you might want to examine are:

  1. My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith, by Clarence Ensler. This was published by Ave Maria Press in 2010.
  2. Thirsting for Prayer, by Fr. Jacques Philippe. This was published by Scepter Publishers in 2014.

Both of these books deal in different ways with our spiritual life. They are very solid and can be very helpful!

As we enter more into the truth of who we are and who God is, so much of life’s journey begins to make sense. The day will come when you will be able to “give away” to others what you’re grasping more deeply, not just with the head, but with your heart.  Then you will be able to bring His light and His truth into the growing darkness around us. And that light, that truth, no one will be able to destroy.

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How Does God Reveal Himself through You?

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The following letter originally was sent last January to members of Friends of Food for the Journey, which you can learn more about here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It’s a new year! When we think of new, we usually apply that word to a new dress, suit, shoes, new car, phone, furniture, house, office, church . . . (add your own examples). But when Scripture uses the word new, it has an infinitely deeper meaning. New means “never having been seen before.” God makes all things new. He doesn’t just spruce something up or modify or create a new model of some sort. When God creates, the fruit of that creation is something never having been seen before.

So listen to these words in Revelation 21, as written by St. John:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling of God is with men.  He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

And He who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold I make all things new.’ Also He said, ‘Write this for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life. He who conquers shall have this heritage and I will be his God and He shall be my son.'”

Remember, we are quoting here the living word of God! This Word has power to give you new vision, understanding, courage, and hope for your own life and those of your loved ones. What God has prepared for us, even our deepest longings cannot conceive—the life, joy, and eternal happiness God has prepared for those who love Him. God wants eternal union with His sons and daughters; that is God’s desire for you—that you live forever with Him! Ask God to help you grasp the reality!

When what I wrote above becomes a conscious framework not only for your daily activities, but also for your deeper goals in life—and when you consciously begin to train your mind and heart to always see the wider picture—you will begin to be rooted in the truth. As Scripture tells us, the truth sets you free—free not to listen to the lies that our culture tells us are the “truth.”

The devil is the father of lies, and he tries to entice you away from the One who is the Truth. His lies may tell you that you are a loser, ugly, a failure, not loveable, dumb, etc.—add whatever phrases that go around in your own mind. The reality is that you are God’s beloved son, beloved daughter.

Each of us is created with different physical features, different strengths, weaknesses, and different gifts—each of us is created to show forth a particular aspect of the beauty and wisdom, the love and the mercy that is God. We are truly God’s children and each of us is made in His image and likeness. How does God wish to reveal Himself through you?

Start by thinking of one strength, quality, or gift you have, and then simply ask God to show you how He wants to reveal Himself through the gift or quality He has given you. Every day in your own personal time of prayer, ask God to show you, and then wait patiently. God will show you. Whether you are fifteen, thirty, sixty, or ninety, all of us at different times in life need to go “back” and ask Him to show us how He wants to use us at this time for the sake of our own salvation and that of others.

I want to share a story I heard some years ago—a true one: A young man, about sixteen, had a very serious handicap. He could not articulate his thoughts without great struggle on any subject. You can imagine his frustration and humiliation. He was hired at a local grocery store as a bagger. The store was in trouble financially, but they hired him. He was able to do the job he was given, but one night he said to his dad that everyone seemed to be discouraged at the store. He wanted to be able to do something to help, but he did not know what it could be. A few days earlier, he had been trying to put quotes he liked on paper with some simple design work. His father suggested that those kind of notes were uplifting, and the young man thought that maybe he could share them.

For the next week or so, as he bagged groceries, the young man dropped one of the quote cards in each bag, never saying a word about it. Several weeks later, the manager was surprised to see more people than usual coming into his store. He was even more surprised to see that that young bagger’s line was the longest. Seeking to help, he tried to move people to other lines, so they could be more quickly served. When no one moved, the manager asked why, and they showed him some of the cards that they had received in their bags of groceries. “Coming in to this store,” some said, “has brought such a bright spot into my day.” “I come as often as I can,” said another, “just to get one of his cards.”

That young man was using his life, in spite of his handicap, to bring life to people. Incidentally, he also helped the financial situation of the grocery store.

God has a call and a purpose for your life—each of you—but the busyness of life can sometimes blot that reality out of your consciousness. That is where Scripture—read daily and prayed about—can bring clarity to your own mind and heart about who you really are, who God created you to be, and how you can put the gifts He gives you to work for the sake of others.

Think about these things I have written. Ask yourself how your life fits (or doesn’t fit) into this framework. Ponder, and pray, but don’t be discouraged. God created you for a purpose, and He will show you how to live out that purpose. So let’s begin:

For the month of January, the first thing we need to do is to make some decisions:

  1. Take time daily to ponder the passage I gave you: Revelation 21.  Read the chapter; understand the meaning of the word NEW in Scripture.
  2. Pay attention to Hebrews 4:11-16: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living, active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are opened and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
  1. Make sure you set aside a half-hour a day (to begin with) to read the Scripture, and to reflect with God about what the day holds for you. Ask for His wisdom, and then sometime later in the day, come back to the Lord and review your day with Him. (I will share more on this later, but get into the habit of spending time with Him in the morning and evening—the emphasis on time should be the morning, but at least ten minutes at the end of the day is important as well, to take a little inventory.) When you do this regularly you will be amazed at the fruit in your own soul.
  1. I would suggest that you begin looking at certain publishers online for recommendations on books that could be inspiring and encouraging for you in your own journey. Don’t just read for the sake of reading. Again, ask the Lord to lead you to the lives of saints that would be inspiring to you in your own relationship with God. Ask for publishers’ catalogs, and reflect on what might be most helpful before you buy.
    1. a) Ignatius Press, an outstanding Catholic Publisher.
    2. b) Our Sunday Visitor (This is a weekly paper that is very good; they  also publish a number of books that could be very helpful in your walk with the Lord.)
    3. c) Franciscan Media has published a number of books that I have written over the years, as well as books from a number of other good authors.
    4. d) I’d also recommend Sophia Press. It publishes some new books, but also reprints great classics from the lives of the saints.

Anything I write here about making a schedule has to take into account your state in life. Be realistic. Sometimes people with a sick child or spouse can’t find five minutes a day to be alone. Just say to the Lord: Here’s my day and my responsibilities; will you show me how on most days I could get ten minutes to be quiet with You? (That is merely an example; suit it to your own situation.) If that is a sincere need (not an excuse), then God will know that and you will receive graces just by turning to Him in your heart and then trying to do your best to serve Him in that day.

I’ll talk more in future messages about building a personal relationship with God. But, for now, take the questions I asked, ponder them, and then we’ll take the next step, next month.

Lastly, I know that many of you are in different “stages” in building your relationship with God. Over the coming months, I hope to highlight some of the goals and pitfalls we often face and how He uses them all to bring us closer to Himself.

Thank you for your support. I thank God for you and for the opportunity to share these reflections with you!

God bless you,

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Sr. Ann Shields


Feast of the Triumph of the Cross


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This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ September 2017 newsletter.

Today is the feast of the Triumph (or Exaltation) of the Holy Cross. This feast commemorates the finding of the true Cross by St. Helena in 326.

The History of the True Cross

To give you some background of this feast, St. Helena, a convert to Christianity and the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, hoping to find the very Cross on which Jesus was hung. She succeeded; the identity of the true Cross was confirmed by a miraculous healing of a terminally ill woman.

St. Helena had a church built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Constantine dedicated this church on Sept. 13-14 in 335. Even today, the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, or the Via Dolorosa, end at this very spot.

The true Cross was considered a most valuable treasure of the Church, and the feast honoring the Triumph of the Holy Cross has continually been celebrated until this day.

Reflections on the Triumph of the Cross

Why is this important? As I travel and speak in many places, I see the ravages of sin in the lives of so many, but I also see the incredible healing power of God when there is repentance. I meet many people who stumbled in the darkness, but have emerged into the light. And I find myself bowing down to the power and the triumph of the Cross.

During each Lent and Easter season, we worship Christ in a particular way as our Savior, who died for us on that Cross, that we might receive mercy and live forever with Him. But we need to more closely unite ourselves to the power of the Cross in all seasons. As the challenges of life face us—many times in major ways—I think the Cross, and the love and mercy that flow through every wound of Christ on that Cross, need to be part of our lives in a more tangible and frequent way. We need to learn how to unite our pain and suffering and with the only suffering that can heal and set us free. God allows our sin, its consequences, and the trials we bear because of the sin of others, to be united to His saving Cross for our healing and restoration. This is all a part of His great mercy.

A few years ago, I had an experience I have never forgotten. Some of you may have heard me tell this story: I was in a local drugstore on a hot summer day and took my purchases to the counter. A lovely young woman was serving at the cash register. As she took my items, she glanced at me, and my crucifix caught her attention. Leaning across the counter, she held my crucifix in the palm of her hand.

“Who is that guy on that bar?” she said. A bit startled, I paused, and quickly realized she was seriously asking me that question.  I said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, who died for your sins and mine, so that we could live forever with Him.” “Oh!” She quietly reacted and then said, “You know I think my grandfather had one of those.” She smiled at me and went on to the next customer. It was a quick exchange, but although she was clearly clueless about Jesus, she had seen a crucifix before—her grandfather’s.

Since then, I have never missed a week that I don’t think about that young woman and the generation she represents. She came from a family that had some Christian background, but something either did not get passed on, or the message did not penetrate. This I do know: Wherever I am, I will ask God for the opportunity to speak of His love and mercy toward us, and when I cannot speak, I will pray to be a quiet sign by my kindness and mercy. I will ask God for myself and for all of us, that we remember to venerate the cross as often as we can, and that we hold it high in our conversation, our actions, and our relationships. Some say we live in a post-Christian era, and it certainly seems that we do in many ways. Therefore, how important it is that each of us be a sign of a merciful Savior! The power will come from the Cross we venerate!

We need to hold up the Cross of Christ before our own eyes—daily! Then, we need to hold up the cross for others, by our thoughts, words, and actions. We need to worship, adore, thank, and plead with Him for mercy for ourselves and for those who have strayed. We need to let the power of the Cross genuinely invade our lives and change us. A relationship with Jesus and the power of His Cross is never static!

May today be a day on which each of us takes time to thank Jesus for His unspeakable love, even to death. Let us pray that we may, according to His will and grace, follow in His footsteps for our loved ones and for the generations to come. Let us encounter Christ in a new or deeper way—through the power, the mercy, the love of Jesus on the Cross! May the Cross of Jesus triumph in your life and the life of your loved ones.

Reflections on the Lord’s Transfiguration

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This article originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Faith Magazine. It is based on the Gospel reading for Aug. 6, the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Jesus took Peter, James and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:1-9)

This passage from Scripture is one of my favorite sections to read. Why? Because it tells us so much about God’s care for his disciples and, as a result, it speaks powerfully to what awaits us when we leave this earthly life and enter eternal life—fullness of life, true and lasting life forever. Even that is hard to grasp because we are finite. So, let’s “walk” through this scene. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain, and he is transfigured before them. What does that mean? As far as the disciples could tolerate, Jesus shows himself in his majesty and glory of God the Son.

Then something further happens: Jesus is seen conversing with Moses and Elijah. Peter speaks for them all when he asks the Lord if he could build three tents—dwelling places—for the majesty and splendor of Jesus and the reflection of that glory in Moses and Elijah. No dwelling could ever contain God’s glory, but Peter is trying to find a way, with his human resources, to honor them.

Continue reading here.