Alive with Franciscan joy

Advent: God's love beyond human imagination

Monday, November 25, 2013

AdventWreathLineartby Sister Laura Zelten

"God's extravagant love."  These words of Sister Urban Schumacher come to mind as I think about Advent.  Yes, this is how I would describe Advent.

Advent comes with the extravagant promise of an unconditional love. When we slow down and live the season we discover an awareness of a God who loves us beyond human imagination, and we discover a new awareness of the presence of God in our midst every day. Advent presents new and energizing challenges of what it means to live as God's holy people.  Advent invites us to wait with joy, it promises peace and is a season of wonder.

May your Advent days be filled with quiet prayer, reflection, and daily practices to help you discover the extravagant promises of our extravagant God.


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Seeing God at a distance

Monday, September 16, 2013

ON A CLEAR DAY: The Basilica of St. Clare of Assisi and the surrounding Italian mountains are easy to see on a clear day. Imagine how Clare must have pondered God as she roamed this region.

by Sister Laura Zelten

On my morning walk there's a hilltop from where I can see a very long distance. One recent morning as I stood at the top and looked west over the city I could see farther than I had ever remembered. The air was crisp and the sky so blue. It was an amazing site. I was in awe and wonder of God's presence.

It came to me that discernment can be like the weather -- on clear days it is easy to see far out but on days of fog and rain it is much harder to find the horizon. Yet, we trust God is present. Like seeing on clear days, discernment requires us to clear away all those obstacles and distractions so that we can better understand the issues before us. By learning to see what is truly there, we can focus on life-enhancing thoughts, feelings and actions.

  1. What obstacles are in the way of my truth?
  2. How can I see past the distractions along my life's path to what really matters?

One answer is contemplative meditation. Take time each day to look into the distance and see where God is calling me or to find a person such as spiritual director who can help me through the days of fog and rain to know where God is in my life.

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Being an instrument of peace

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

by Sister Laura Zelten


Pope Francis is calling for this Saturday to be a day of prayer and fast for peace in Syria. As I heard the President speak this past week my heart was sad. I can't imagine that military force is the answer to peace. And I must admit I don't have all the facts or answers. But it made me think about how I am called to be a person who speaks peace in a world where violence is very visible. As a Franciscan my life is based on the Gospel and the Rule of St. Francis:

"Within themselves, let them always make a dwelling place and home for the one who is Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that, with undivided hearts, they may increase in universal love by continually turning to God and to neighbor." (Chapter 2 of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis)

Do I pray for peace daily? Do I respond in a nonviolent way to the violence around me? Are my words and actions of peace? May we pray with undivided hearts that for love of our neighbor we may find a peaceful way to end the conflict in Syria and see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters around the world.

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Summertime Simplicity

Friday, June 21, 2013


Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxby Sister Laura Zelten

Summer is one of my favorite seasons. In March as I took my morning walk I made the comment, "I just want summer to come so I can walk in my t-shirt and shorts."

I love these days of summer with warm sunshine and beautiful flowers. This year my favorite spot is the garden in our yard. I love to be out there with my hoe and just soak in all that is growing around me. It feels good to "clean up" the weeds from in between the tiny plants or to mulch around the tomatoes.

There's something about the pace of summer, a slowing down and getting away from the stress of ordinary life. It's a time when many families take their vacations or start their weekends "up north." As Sisters, many of us take our silent retreat during the summer months. The days of summer are the optimal conditions for contemplative living. We give ourselves permission to slow down, be still, and savor life. It is time to simply stand in the middle of the garden of life without doing something. It is a call to live with greater mindfulness of the love that surrounds life and of the very gift of life from our loving God.

This summer may you find a sense of gratitude for summer's restoration of spirit and a perennial need of summer days to maintain spiritual vitality.

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Happy Mother's Day

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Remembering the love of many women makes this a special day


LOVE ONE ANOTHER: Sister Laura Zelten, left, stands near the holy water font with Sisters Jeanne Jarvis, Carlotta Ullmer and Mary Kabat. The font is near the entrance to St. Francis Convent Chapel. The blue mosaic symbolizes God's presence (gold tiles) in every aspect our lives (blue tiles).

by Sister Laura Zelten

As we celebrate Mother's Day, I like to think of the women who have impacted my life in a positive way.

I always start with our Blessed Mother. She had such a profound trust in God. I often pray the line that precedes the Magnificat, "Let it be done unto me according to your word."

My grandmothers come next.  Both Emma and Ella were extraordinary women.  They came from very different backgrounds and were authentic in who they were and how they raised their children.  Both grandmothers were grounded in their faith.  Both taught me to trust in God and do the right thing -- even when it was difficult.  I will always remember them for their lemon pie, red velvet cake and their love of faith and family.

Next on my list is my Mom. I have tears as I write this. She was such a hope-filled and fun-loving person.  I will always remember her as someone who loved the simple things in life.  She, too, had a deep faith in God.  Her love for St. Joseph and her trips to St. Norbert Abbey's National Shrine of St. Joseph to pray were examples of how to root oneself in prayer.  Plus, she and my aunts always enjoyed being together.  It was my first lesson in how to live "community."

I can't forget my three sisters -- Amy, Jo and Meg.  What would we do without each other?  They are women of compassion, love and acceptance.  We turn to one another in times of joy and need.  I feel so blessed to have them in my life.

The women who have made the biggest impact on my life are my Sisters in Community.  Because of them I have become the woman I am today.  They have taught me that sacrifice for the sake of God's people is worth everything; that prayer is the center of how we communicate with God and with each other; and that we can do together what we cannot do alone.

I am so happy to be a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Cross and to walk with women who live compassion, uphold peace and promote Gospel justice.


World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Friday, April 19, 2013

Celebrate your vocation today with a moment of prayer

Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxApril 21 is the 50th anniversary of World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It was established by Pope Paul VI who designated Good Shepherd Sunday for this day of prayer.

As you and I know, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He protects his flock and he promises us the gift of eternal life. (John 10:11) As his followers, we are asked to do the same for others. The Church encourages us to serve the flock by living to the fullest our respective vocation whether as priest, vowed religious, married or single.

More than ever, our world needs to know the love of the Good Shepherd, to hear his voice, and to be led in his ways. Are we willing to carry on the mission of Jesus and give our lives for others? This call to serve is for every Christian. Today we pray for the whole Church and ask God to bless each of us in our chosen vocation. May each of us continue the work of the Good Shepherd with our lives. Together may we foster vocations for the life of the Church.

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. -- John 10:11


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'Walk to Mary' event is abundant in opportunities

Friday, April 12, 2013

Like life, sacred moments will happen throughout walk


by Sister Laura Zelten

Seeing all the posters advertising the "Walk to Mary" fund-raising event for the Green Bay Area Catholic Education System (GRACE) got me thinking about sacred spaces and points in between.

The walk (which we Sisters are supporting) will begin at the National Shrine of St. Joseph at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere and end with Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, two very holy places in our area.  My thoughts are not  directly on the shrines but on what will happen to the pilgrims as they walk 21 miles.

WalkToMaryLogoOur spiritual life is often an "in-between" event.  We are born and we know that one day we will die.  But what happens in between those two points is so significant. It makes me want to be strategic on how I spend that "in-between" time.  I hope that I can use it according to God's plan.

  • How do I form relationships with others?
  • Do I spend time in prayer?
  • Do I continue to educate myself on important life issues?
  • Am I the face of Christ to others?
  • And, most importantly, do I recognize those who walk with me as sons and daughters of God?

Yes, the end points are very important in life's journey but the in-between is significant on how happy the journey will be for all those around me.


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Celebrating Triduum

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gaze upon Christ, contemplate Christ, consider Christ, imitate Christ

Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxToday is Holy Thursday and we begin the Paschal Triduum. A triduum is a three-day period of prayer, usually in preparation for an important feast or in celebration of that feast. This Triduum recalls the suffering, dying and rising of Christ beginning Holy Thursday evening and concluding Easter Sunday.

The days are like a seamless garment of prayer. We begin with the washing of feet and end with Mary Magdalene running to the disciples announcing, "Jesus has risen."  I love the fact that I can take these holy days as a mini-retreat. They flow into each other and the symbols are so strong. We use ordinary water, fire, incense, a pitcher and towel, the cross and music to celebrate this extraordinary time.

My prayer this Triduum is that, like St. Clare, each of us can take time to gaze upon Christ, contemplate Christ, consider Christ and imitate Christ, and live every day in the spirit of the Resurrection. May we together grow during this time as Easter people.

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Welcome Pope Francis

Friday, March 15, 2013

Holy Father's simplicity, service to poor resonate with us

Pope Francisby Sister Laura Zelten

As Franciscan women religious we rejoice with the rest of the Church and world on the election of Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as our new Pope. As religious, we recognize that his humility, simplicity, and commitment to the poor exemplify the virtues of consecrated religious life.

We offer Pope Francis our prayerful best wishes and support as he begins his papacy at a most historical time. We also pray for the entire Church, that we all remain faithful to the mission of the gospel given to us by Jesus Christ. May God bless and strengthen our new Holy Father, Pope Francis.



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Come back to me with all your heart

Thursday, February 7, 2013

by Sister Laura Zelten

Jesus Sacred Heart Blue

Returning to our hearts is often difficult for us.  It's too easy to get our hearts broken.  But what if Lent is a time to return to our hearts and find comfort, strength and solace there?

It is interesting that this year Valentine's Day is the second day of Lent.  For many of us, the word "Lent" connotes drab days, giving up things and a long, long time waiting for spring.  Lent means many things, a time for repentance, a time for sacrifice, a time for preparing for Easter.

We often overlook another meaning -- the idea that Lent is an invitation to reconcile with God and with each other.  Lent calls us to look into our hearts and see what is there and act from what we see.  Lent is a season of the heart.

The Lenten scriptures, both the Hebrew Prophets and the New Testament, are our guides for the Lenten journey.  They make a powerful point, one that our culture and society often forgets:  It is the heart that matters.  What is in our heart deeply influences our vision, our hearing and our actions.

On Ash Wednesday Christians everywhere are called to remember, repent and return.  Through the symbol of ashes, we are asked to remember that we are of the earth, created by another, and will not walk the earth forever.  We are asked to repent, to look at ourselves, to recognize what keeps us apart from God, and to return to the one who has created us.

Repentance, remembering, returning to God -- all of these begin in our hearts.  None of these is an intellectual exercise.  Returning to our hearts is often difficult for us.  It's too easy to get our hearts broken.  But what if Lent is a time to return to our hearts and find comfort, strength and solace there?  What if Lent is a time to return to our souls and find our calling and our source of life?  Is that what happened to Jesus when he was in the desert for 40 days?  Can that happen to us during this season of Lent?  Do we hear God calling, "Come back to me with all your heart!"