Wednesday, October 8, 2008


After Morning Prayer and Eucharist, breakfast at St. Mary’s is a convivial time, and the Sisters sometimes share humorous anecdotes about their life experiences with guests. The former nurses in the Community have a “gracious plenty” of stories from their past hospital work. This morning, Sister Miriam sat across from me and told a story that took place in a Children’s Camp at Lake Tahoe where she served as Camp Nurse. The camp had a population of chipmunks that nested in the roofs of the buildings, and one morning as Sister Miriam washed utensils in a sink of soapy water, a baby chipmunk suddenly dropped down, from above, into her suds and appeared to have died from the sudden immersion. Sister Miriam, who’s always on guard to revive people and creatures, plucked the doused chipmunk from the sudsy water, carefully dried it off, then gently blew her breath over its face…and, voila, the small creature resurrected! I know she’s skillful in revivifications because she saved me from a major fainting spell when I was overcome by the heat while watching a Dog and Cat Show this past summer. The beautiful rosaries she makes are manifestations of her revival-of-the-soul work.

Three former nurses live in the Community of St. Mary, and two of them will make the annual trek to Port Au Prince, Haiti in November where they’ll help install the first water purifier in a children’s orphanage there. Many people in Louisiana donated to this project and, following the Sisters’ return, will receive a full report on the results of this work. Haiti has suffered through major destruction from two hard-hitting hurricanes and one tropical storm during 2008, and clean water will be a timely boost to the people of this underdeveloped country.

Carolyn Doerle of Doerle’s Foods in Broussard, Louisiana, asked her staff to pledge money for the water purification system, and she matched their contributions, which resulted in a sizable donation for the project. The Sisters of St. Mary regard their Louisiana donors as Ambassadors of Good Will and laud the gracious support Louisianans gave after reading “A Word’s Worth’s” appeal for monies to help purchase a water purifier.

You know, the poor challenge us in their giving. Low income people in the U.S. contribute a higher percentage of their income to charitable projects than do those who have middle or high incomes. Arthur Simon has a chapter in his book HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH, Hungering for God In An Affluent Culture, entitled “Filling the Heart With Something Better Than Cash.” His book advocates a way of life that frees us from the shackles of consumption and leads us to a way of gratitude and generosity. The book begins with an arresting paragraph: “A Christian from Germany visited the U.S. shortly after WWII. ‘I notice your churches have cushions,’ he commented, suggesting cushions of affluence. Then he added, ‘I notice your preaching has cushions, too.’ He had gotten a sampling of ‘feel-good’ sermons that treaded lightly (if at all) on the expectations God has for us regarding love and justice toward the poor…”

This morning’s readings from James about being doers and not just hearers of the Word pointed to the activity of those who’ve generously supported the clean water project in Haiti. As James says, “A doer that acts shall be blessed in his doing.”

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