March 2017

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Stories Seldom Heard Archive

Stories Seldom Heard

212th Edition


The Fourth Gospel 13: 33- 14:9


 Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard.  I would especially like to welcome those who participated in the preaching workshop in Houston, Texas.


How appropriate to receive “Stories Seldom Heard” on March 1st, Ash Wednesday.  Many of us will be able to attend Mass today and received the blessed ashes.  Others of us might only be able to receive the blessed ashes at a prayer service.  But either way those ashen crosses that are smudged on our foreheads are a gift.  The word “blessed” ashes makes all the difference in the world.  Today, Ash Wednesday, reminds us of our true identity.  We are not only children of God and disciples of Jesus, but also the ashes remind us that we are earthlings.  We are not the Creator.  We are not in charge. We are God’s creation: earth creatures.


By accepting the blessed ashes we are acknowledging our dependency on God. We are also declaring that we want to be more intentional disciples.  It is not hard to know what Jesus has asked of us.  Throughout scripture, by his example and certainly in Jesus’ farewell address at the Last Supper, Jesus boldly states his expectations.  “I give you a new command: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must love one another.  By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:34).  Jesus’ command is straight forward and demanding.  Yet, at the same time he reassures us that we are not on our own.  “I have said these things to you while I am still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of all I have said to you” (Jn 14:25). 


When we choose to receive the blessed ashes we publicly announce our desire for and our need of repentance.  In Hebrew “repentance” means to turn around, retrace our steps; change direction.  In Greek “repentance” means to change one’s mind or outlook, to change one's horizons or expectations.  It implies a change of heart, a deep interior change that affects everything we desire and everything we do.  Deep change is a slow process.  We know that.  It is a step-by-step, choice-by-choice process.  So how do we begin?  By stopping, praying for guidance and deciding today what we will practice for the next forty days with the intention that our Lenten practice might become a habit. 


Fasting is a traditional Lenten practice.  Fasting helps us acknowledge our dependency on God.  It also has the potential of helping us grow more compassionate towards those who are physically hungry.  It is a way to be in solidarity with those who do not have daily bread.  Furthermore, the money we save on simple meals during Lent, and perhaps as a practice throughout the year, could be sent to local, national and international food or justice organizations (i.e. Bread for the World, Southern Poverty Law Center, a local free clinic).  There are also some kinds of fasting that cost us nothing except self-discipline.  We could fast from judging others, from pettiness or from using harsh or angry words.  We could fast from half-truths and misleading statements and feast on building strong relationships based on truth.  Some of us might not be able to physically fast, but we could fast our time.  In other words, share our time graciously with those who are lonely or in need of support.   A man I know began many Lents ago visiting a rest home near his home.  When admired by friends he says, “If I have time for golf once or twice a month, I have time for a weekly visit with my new friends John and Harry in the rest home.”   Women and men from our parish visit men on death row, teach classes or hold spiritual direction sessions at San Quentin State Prison, CA.  There are groups of lay women who visit the women’s jail.  They do some counselling and offer weekly prayer services.   There’s an interfaith group of families who pack bags of food at our local food pantry.  Many teens and adults run 5K -10K races to raise money for children who need basic school supplies.


Many of us, however, do not have extra time.  There are other ways to stretch our hearts.  Many people have been involved in helping children in other nations through the Unbound Organization.* Over the years they have made monthly financial contributions.   Just recently, a friend of mine met a man whom she had contracted to work on her house.  During their conversation she talked about a girl she has been supporting in Guatemala.  The man was deeply moved.  After seeing the girl’s photo on my friend’s refrigerator, he told her that as a child he had received funds for his education through the Unbound program!  He said that thirty members of his village in Ecuador had received financial aid.  They were now living productive lives because of the faithful generosity of those who contributed to Unbound.  What a gift (and surprise) to my friend to meet and hear the voice of gratitude from a man whose life had been changed by people like her through Unbound.


What I have mentioned above might be decisions we have already made.  If that is true for you, then perhaps we might think more deeply.  Jesus’ words “To love others as I have loved you” is a radical commandment.  It is a call to make deep changes in our lives.  These words call all of us to serious reflection.    How can we become people of justice, people of peace?  How can we cross the borders of prejudice and hate?  How can we accept and show our care and compassion for all people?  Jews and Greeks, slaves and free women and men, all people of all nations are made in God’s image.  How can we proclaim the mind and heart of Christ in our lies as we accept the ultimate sign of God’s non-violent love?


What I have found, by the grace of God, is often the Lenten practices I have chosen have opened my mind and heart to the next step to which God was leading me.  My prayer for you is that through sincere and thoughtful reflection God will grace you with holy wisdom and courage so you will be able to live out Jesus’ vision of love more fully.  Let us pray for one another as we enter into this blessed and dangerous journey.  


Is this a Fast, to keep 
the larder lean? 
and dine 
on fat of Veal and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish 
of Flesh, yet still 
to fill
the platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour 
or ragged go, 
or show
a down cast look, and sour?

No: ‘This is a fast, to give 
your sheaf of wheat 
and meat 
unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife, 
from old debate 
and hate:
to circumcise your life.

To show a heart grief-rent; 
to starve your sin, 
not your larder
and that’s to keep your Lent.

Adapted from Robert Herrick’s poem on Lent    (1591-1674)

Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green and Maria Hetherton who have helped in editing this article.

"Stories Seldom Heard" is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.  Sister is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California.  This service is offered to the Christian community to enrich one's personal and spiritual life.  The articles can be used for individual or group reflection.  If you would like "Stories Seldom Heard" sent to a friend, please send a note to If you would like to support this ministry, please send your contributions to Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, c/o Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P., 638 36th Street, Richmond, CA    94805.        Thank you.

To make changes or remove your name from Stories Seldom Heard mailing list please contact me at  Thank you.  Sister Patricia

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