Alive with Franciscan joy

Reflecting on Roe v. Wade

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxby Sister Laura Zelten

Today we remember the decision passed down by the Supreme Court in 1973.  I was a senior in high school at the time and can remember vividly when I heard the decision.  I was visiting the Sisters who were teaching at St. Jude School in Green Bay, Wis.  Sister Ambrose Nichols answered the door with the statement, "This is a terrible thing to happen in our country. We will live with this sin for a very long time."

I didn't fully understand at the time what she meant.  I do now and feel sorrow for the lives lost and for the men and women who have made the choice against life.  Mother Teresa once said, "What happens to a society who kills their children?"

May we never let our hearts become harden to the fact that life is a part of our throw-away culture; may we continue to promote life at all stages.  Let us pray that abortion will end and that all of life from conception to natural death will be cherished as God's gift.

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Follow that star

Friday, December 30, 2011

Star-Goldby Sister Laura Zelten

Follow that star!

When we think of the month of January, we often feel let down after the glitter and sparkle of the holidays. But before we can completely put away the decorations, finish up the parties and thank-you notes, resolve to drop a few pounds and settle into snow-covered roads and cold and dark nights, the stars of the season shine forth.

The January calendar reminds us of stars who have brightened the horizons of our lives with curiosity and wisdom, with courage and determination, with self-sacrifice and simplicity. Stars of hope and warmth these cold January days are:  Mary the Mother of God, the Magi of Matthew's Gospel, St. John Neumann, St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther King Jr. and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

May the celebration of the Epiphany on Jan. 8 and all the Saints of January give you reason for hope and happiness!

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Dad's socks, Mom's gifts on St. Nick

Monday, December 5, 2011

DadsSocksby Sister Laura Zelten

My mother was great for celebrating the not-so-big holidays.  I remember her always calling upstairs in the morning reminding us of why the coming day was special.  It could be Ground Hog Day, the first day of a season, Mardi Gras, April Fools, or Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

I have fond memories around the feast of St. Nick.  The night of Dec. 5 after supper my three sisters and I would begin to prepare our socks.  We always wanted my Dad's socks.  We thought the bigger the sock the more we would receive.  We would make sure we had our name on our respective sock.  There was no way we wanted St. Nick to mix them up.

Isn't funny that I don't remember the type of candy we found but I do remember there was always a popcorn ball wrapped in red or green cellophane, a tangerine, and peanuts in the shell, a candy cane and a small gift.  My gift was usually a box of crayons -- the big 64 box -- and a coloring book.  I was so happy to see all those new and unbroken crayons.  I would look for the unusual colors like periwinkle.  The tangerine never made it past breakfast.

Now I remember the love my Mom had for us by knowing especially what each of her daughters liked.  How happy she was to see us that morning discovering the treasures in my Dad's socks.

On this feast of St. Nicholas what are the mysteries that lie deep with in your heart?  How to share God's radical generosity with others?  Blessings on your day.


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Aaron Rodgers and St. Francis

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Happy Birthday, Aaron Rodgers!

Stories about Tim Tebow's faith and how you live yours caught my attention.  It is evident in Green Bay that you are a person who trusts in God.  You care about others and are willing to share yourself and your good fortune with others. You are a gentleman on the field and off, even taking time to throw the ball with kids in your neighborhood.  You are unassuming. This is important to note when in the news we hear of athletes who are all about showmanship or are being fined for unsportsmanlike conduct.

You mentioned in a recent interview that you model your Christian faith by the words of St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary use words."

This is a great quote, very Franciscan in its spirit, but not literally from St. Francis. The thought is his; this catchy phrasing is not in his writings or in the earliest biographies about him.

In Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, "Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds."

Whether Francis said it or not isn't the point.  The importance of the phrase for me is how I live the Gospel.  Am I, like St. Francis, concerned for the poor, faithful to the Church, and willing to give up all for the sake of Christ?

So happy birthday and thank you for shining some of your spotlight on our Patron Saint, Francis.  During this Advent time, I am again reminded to "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words."

-- Sister Laura Zelten

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Attitude of Gratitude

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Those who use Facebook no doubt noticed a number of friends posting daily notices (marked as "Day 1," "Day 2," etc.) this month, identifying specific things and people in their lives for which they are grateful.

In this season of giving thanks and preparing for Christmas, tens of thousands of people -- whether on Facebook or elsewhere -- are consciously stopping long enough each day to discern and write down at least one thing for which they are grateful.

The Facebook event is designed to remind us just how blessed we are, no matter what, how much for which we have to be thankful.

The "Attitude of Gratitude" movement has erupted on Facebook. Oprah Winfrey has featured the attitude of gratitude on more than one of her shows, especially during her final year broadcasting.

It is interesting to see how many people jump on the Facebook event or buy a book on the subject because others are doing it.  But don't we do it every day in some little way?  Sometimes when I find it hard to fall asleep at night I try to think of 5 things I am grateful for from the day.  They are personal and they are different every time, but no matter how difficult things seem, there is always something for which to be grateful.  This spiritual exercise always has a calming effect.

Gratitude is easy when life is good.  But when life is not so good, when we are suffering, gratitude for anything in life is harder to see.  And we might need someone to help us find things to be grateful for.

Praying, reading scripture, saying a mantra or silently meditating work to dissolve heaviness in the heart. It takes time; it takes patience; and it takes gratitude.

Practicing an attitude of gratitude -- for one's family, for one's career or for a sunny day -- makes you focus on God's many blessings.   There is so much more than one blessing a day, and it is not just a November thing. The practice of gratitude makes happy people.  It is a part of our faith and hopefully it is my attitude all the time.

Peace and all good -- Sister Laura




Changing -- and letting go

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011AutumnBranches02As I look out my window I see the last leaves hanging on a tree.  The wind is blowing and they seem to be determined not to be swept away.  Or the pine tree that is still green and praising God with its branches held high.

I do love all seasons but autumn seems to hold a special treasure.  The beauty it holds with the many colors and stark changes.  I like to see autumn as God's in-between time.  The summer activities have finished, we have returned to a routine and are waiting for that first snowfall.

I ask myself … how do I see God in all of life's changes?  Can I be open to seeing God in all seasons and events? And like the tree with the determined leaves … what am I afraid to let go of?

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The prairie walk

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"It all started from a seed," kept running through my mind as a mantra while taking this extraordinary walk.  Yes, it is St. Francis Day and as a Franciscan it is a day of celebration.  So to celebrate I decided to take a walk.

At the Shalom Retreat Center in Dubuque, Iowa, there is a large prairie that surrounds the grounds.  It is former farmland that the Sisters have let revert to prairie for the last 15 years.  As I walked the path I saw so much beauty.  The fall flowers were in full bloom. The fields are filled with wild asters, golden rod, grasses and berries.  It was a field of purples, yellows, whites, and reds bordered by blue sky.  As I looked out from on top of the highest point it was like looking at a painting from Monet or Van Gogh. The colors ran together and created a beautiful watercolor.  All I could think of is that it started with a seed.  

As I end this summer season and begin to ponder fall and the coming of winter… what is the seed growing in my heart?  I am reminded in Scripture that the seed must die before it can be born again.  What is it that I must die to for new life to burst forth?

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Comtemplating Prayer

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship."

-- Fr. Thomas Keating
founding member and spiritual guide of Contemplative Outreach, LTD


Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxby Sister Laura Zelten

I had the opportunity to participate in Common Prayer at St. Norbert College in De Pere.  Common Prayer is every Wednesday at 10:10 am where the college community takes time out of the busy schedule to share prayer.  This particular day we were in small groups.  I chose to go to the Mulva Library where Campus Minister Sandy Murphy was doing a piece on the blocks to contemplative prayer in our lives.  We were a group of 20 women from all walks of life: married, single, staff, faculty and students.

We started the prayer with defining what contemplative prayer is in our own lives. Sandy gave a handout with some definitions on it.  We took quiet time to define contemplation.

I welcomed the invitation to take some quiet time.  I believe contemplation helps me to be ready for the busyness of each day.  I start my day with quiet time.  My first prayer in the morning is when I tie my walking shoes at 5:30 am.  I say "God as I begin this day may each step I take be in your direction."  Then I set out for my walk.  The quietness of the early morning and being with nature is very contemplative.  To walk with the changes of the seasons or to meet other walkers with a morning greeting helps to begin my day with a perspective of God's presence in and around me.

At Common Prayer Sandy asked, "What are some blocks to contemplative prayer in your life?"  The answers varied from social networking and always being connected to noisy environments, mental list making, not knowing how to slow one's self down, and just not taking the time out of one's schedule.

For me, if I don't do it in the morning by the time I get home at night I am too tired or too wound up from the days activities to do quality contemplation.

Sandy went on to explain that, like our faith, our prayer life needs to be practiced.  So she challenged us to take 3 minutes of quiet prayer time each day.  Members of our group welcomed the invitation and were eager to set aside time each day for prayer.

How do you practice contemplation in your life?  Where do you go in order to connect with God?

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The Evangelical Lifestyle

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxby Sister Laura Zelten

The Evangelical lifestyle is a way of life that Franciscans have embraced since the 13th century.  This form of life is based on St. Francis of Assisi's desire to follow the Gospel way of life.  Francis wanted to follow Jesus in a radical way, and he was able to so this because he first believed in God's goodness.  It was a goodness that God shared with all of creation from its very beginning, and found its ultimate expression in the person of Jesus. As Francis read from Scripture:

  • "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…And God saw that it was good." (Gen. 1:1, 25)
  • "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being…And the Word became flesh and lived among us…" (John 1: 1, 2, 14)

For Francis the Word became flesh because from the beginning God intended to give us Jesus who was, is, and always will be the Perfect Good.  Francis focused his attention on the fact that God created the world and everything in it through the Word, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, he considered all of creation as holy.  Birds, trees, stars, water, herbs and everything in nature was an expression of God's goodness.  We especially bore both God's likeness and goodness.  Sin, on the other hand, was failure to see God's goodness in another person, creature, or object.  Sin was also taking for oneself what belonged to God.  That is why Francis showed reverence to all of creation and all of creation in turned inspired him to give praise to God.

"And after the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel."  (The Testament of Francis, 14)

Francis wanted to follow the Gospel way of life by imitating Jesus.  He and his followers did this in simplicity and joy.  Their focus was on their relationship with Jesus and with one another.  In the Franciscan way of life, relationship is central to everything they do.  In the Franciscan community the common bond is relationship with Jesus and with each other including their relationship to creation.  Because of this, Francis accepted neither the apostolic nor the monastic models of community that were operative in his time.  In fact, Francis never asked that his followers do a particular ministry other than being good examples of living the Gospel way of life.

Today Franciscans all over the world continue to live the Evangelical lifestyle.  In communion with God, each other and the world, they witness to God's goodness at work everywhere, just as Jesus did.  They do this by living community, serving a ministry, and praying deeply.  Franciscans are free to serve God's people wherever there is a need.  As Franciscans they are called to be peacemakers and to work for justice.

The call to be Franciscan begins with a call to follow Jesus.  From this relationship flows the experience of relating with others in community and of recognizing Christ in all relationships.  Reverencing the Christ in one another is the nourishment that impels a Franciscan to go out into the world to enable all people to see that gift with them that is Jesus.

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Many Parts, All One Body

Friday, September 9, 2011

VisionMagCoverI just received the Vision Magazine and am amazed at the number of religious communities we have throughout the United States.

Though we hold the mission of Jesus as our capstone we are unique in our way of life.  Each religious community comes at it from a different angle. A community's charism is based on its history, traditions, ministries and prayer life.  The different style or charisms took shape because of the specific social needs of the time in which they began.

Today, we find four main religious lifestyles - contemplative, evangelical, apostolic, and monastic -- four unique and rewarding ways to share the love of Jesus with the world.  As Sisters of St. Francis we live the evangelical life, rooted in the Cross, Word and Eucharist.

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