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Inaugurals & Baptisms

It may not be coincidence that Inaugurals are celebrated at the beginning of New Years and fall around the feast of The Baptism of Jesus.

Yesterday, Justin Bib was inaugurated as our new Cleveland mayor and I was reminded that such celebrations are always occasions to promise more progress and also the best of times to reach out to everyone. Justin did just that and promised to do his best to make more friends than enemies.
Cleveland politics, so far, have proven to be extremely divisive. The very name Cleveland means “divided land” and right now divisions seem inevitable in all our politics. The very health of our form of democracy is at best on life support and fear prowls all around us.

Yet… watching this young man willingly shoulder burdens of leadership reminded me of another young man who years ago was elected governor and how full our hearts were then. Full of hope for better times in Ohio.

That Inaugural too fell on the day that celebrates the baptism of Jesus.

In my autobiography We Can Do Together, I describe that day in detail and today, decades later, I gratefully remember all the good we were able to do together with many and trust that what we failed to do will be yet done by those recently elected.

Since all Inaugurals are a form of baptism they are an opportunity to reject evil and opening our hearts to light and spirit.

The motto of Ohio is: “with god all things are possible.” May our best efforts benefit all and may our failures increase our humility and strengthen hope at the heart of it all.

As I sit here this morning overlooking the graceful skyline of this city, reflected in the troubled waters of the great Erie sea, barely visible in the snowy mist, I bless her new mayor, his family and friends and especially the defeated candidates. Together, may we chose to continue to work, non violently, to benefit all.

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Epiphany 2022

This morning at St. Malachis, RoseMarie Dejohn’s family is remembering the first year anniversary of her transition into light. To me RoseMarie will always be the godmother of sister/lay-priest(esses) in the Cleveland diocese.

Yesterday was world peace day and at Don’s underground cafe we remember him and decided to continue to carry on in his name “serious conversations leading to holy Communion” (Walter Brueggemann).

This coming week, let us take time to continue to contemplate the ChristKind in the manger while exploring the meaning of “Unity” as we celebrate the visit  of the three Magi, the Wise Ones, imaginative enough  to follow a star and brave enough to defy Herod’s orders.

Finally remember to credit St. Francis with inventing the tradition of building mangers and so bring to life God’s peaceful presence in the here and now.

For many years Roberta and I choose to celebrate Christmas on Jauaryn 6th to remember “what is essential is invisible” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The three Wise Ones represent the unity of the One God in all creation and so help us birth the deep desire for peace that such unity brings.

“Contemplation is allowing ourselves to become the One we love.” Sister Claire Andre Gagliardi, OSC.

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The Power of Sisterhood

Today is my sister Utzi’s feast day and my sister-in-love Pat’s birthday.

Utzi died in a car accident caused by my father’s inability to control our sky blue VW bug on an icy road. They were returning from a funeral. I was supposed to accompany Vati (dad) on that fateful trip. So… in some mysterious way she died for me?

The night before she died, my parents, who were in the process of finalizing their divorce, were fighting so violently that it woke us up next door. Utzi was crying and insisted that she was going to stop the divorce. I remember trying to console her by suggesting that anything was better than these incessant, violent fights. But she persisted in her decision to stop them.

Her death did just that.

Mutti (mom) felt that somehow the accident was her fault because my father was distracted by all the fighting. He promised to change his ways and she sank into deep grief that lasted for the rest of her life.

Utzi was around 15, and had a lighthearted cheery disposition. She was more like our mother while I am more like my father, critical and more reserved.

In fact, the day of Utzi’s funeral Oma, our mother’s mother, shocked me by out loud wishing I had died instead of Utzi.

On my part, without her home never felt like home again.

When years later I met Patricia, my husband’s sister, it seemed special that her birthday was Utzi’s feast day. Utzi was an avid Elvis fan and her insistence on playing his music was most annoying to me. To this day I believe she was instrumental in helping Dick bring the Rock & Roll Hall to Cleveland, just to continue our friendly music rivalry. Lorin Maazel was more my speed. A few years after I moved to Cleveland my former “Vienna Jeunesse Musical” choir director became the artistic director of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Mary Jo, who died in 2020, was born in 1942 the same year as Utzi and over the years we considered each other soul sisters. Like with most siblings there is often conflict as well as closeness. When she died, her daughter gave me some of her ashes and I put them under a palm in my bedroom.

Finally, I owe much of my spiritual growth to sisters like Roberta and Francis Therese Shanon and Mary Collingwood, and the sisterhood keeps growing even after death.

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Surge of the ❤️

Perhaps you are familiar with the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir? In it the baby Jesus reaches his tiny hands around his mothers neck and looks into her eyes.

Catherine Cavadini Ph.D wrote this Gaudete Sunday

This mother child tenderness represents the true exchange of love and unity possible even now in the midst of pandemic darkness.

And then… what is it we can do? Return this look of tenderness for us and each other with thanksgiving! Just look and notice everyone you encounter.

“For me,” St. Therese tells us, “prayer is a surge of the heart; a simple look turned toward heaven…”

Let us remember this Christmas Eve that love was born in us and into the world and gratefully remember our mothers tender embracing.

Then… simply trust all will be well.

2021 Christmas blessings.

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Neuland

Every time a child is born it is by the grace of God and reminds us of how each of us was born by Grace in Hope.

Today on this last day of Advent we retell the story of the birth of John. Like his cousin Jesus, his name was chosen by the angel Gabriel; and like all our names foretells much.

Then… every time one of us dies we hope to transit into Neuland trusting that all will be well.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, we again celebrate the dawn of something new at the heart of it all and trust with the poet that “the wrong shall fail and the right prevail.”

Let us be ready to meet the Christkind with lighted lamps and grateful hearts ♥️

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Now & Forever

Somehow I never imagined myself to celebrate my 80th birthday and then when I least expected it… surprise!

I spent much of 2020 preparing myself to die a good death by letting go of whatever dreams or stories I remembered or told myself.

Then 2021 dawned and gratefully I was still here. Now what?

I barely noticed the effects of the first vaccine . But the second one felt like being abruptly returned to earth.

“Time to wake up and move on!” I was told, “you work is not done yet!””

In the summer of 2021 I received a batch of surprise birthday cards. My dear friend Alice Butts had jumped the gun and told our Cleveland book circle, formed by Anda Cook in my honor when I returned home to Cleveland after our divorce, to send birthday greetings on the wrong date.

Earlier this Fall, at Eleanor’s fairy tale wedding, some of us shared some unfinished wishes. I could not think of any and flippantly mentioned that while in India I always admired our Aya Mary’s diamond nose stud.

That prompted Kramer, my latest daughter in love, together with Christopher and Theresa, my youngest granddaughter, to organize a birthday nose piercing event. Then a week before November 23rd my daughters staged a spa party, complete with massage, pedicures and a buffet worthy of ranaissance royalty.

The evening of my actual birthday the Cleveland-based kids and grandkids surprised my with cake, candles, and gifts while LeeAnn had thoughtfully sent all white flowers.

After a surprise visit from Marvin bearing gifts and my favorite chocolate tart, it seemed that the birthday celebrations were finally over.

But birthdays kept coming. In the Roman Catholic tradition we continue to celebrate saints eternal birthdays on the day they died and were born into forever.

Fr. Tom Leonhardt, the co-founder of the Federation of Christian Ministries (FCM) unexpectedly died, followed this week by Fr. Don Cozzens. Tom never was vaccinated and Don missed getting his booster shot.

Not surprisingly the advent readings on the day Don died were Is 41:13-20 and Matt.11:11-15… whoever has ears ought to hear.

Perhaps the best birthday gift came from Eric and Alex. In order to prevent me from creating unwanted spam they created a fresh blog entitled “Dagmar Will Do,” something I say when folks ask how to introduce me. 😉

At the end of Jay Shetty’s book Think Like A Monk he writes:

Eventually when you’ve uncovered your real self, you won’t even need to ask yourself what a monk would do. You can simply ask, “What will I do?”

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The dawning of a new decade

All sunrises are awe inspiring, but this morning is like the whole horizon is on fire.

I am sitting very still, almost holding my breath, waiting for all this pink promise to focus on the ever increasing brightness where in a minute the sun will emerge above the distant heights hills.

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Gestation

In reflecting on today’s first Advent Sunday readings, I found myself trying to remember dark times and time spent in darkness. To my surprise what bubbled up was “womb time”.

We all spent most of our first years in complete darkness in our mothers womb and remember none of it?

Yet… that time was real and well spent.

We grow and grow and eventually grow strong and brave enough to venture beyond that original comfort zone. Nothing has ever been more rewarding than helping our mothers push us into the light.

So… why do we fear women and darkness? When do we loose the trust we had in both before birth?

Advent is mother Mary’s time.

A time of gestation, a time of waiting & wondering, patience & pondering. A time of anxiety & anticipation?

Many years later I again and again entered personal Advent times. And again, the effort was well worth it. The birth of each child opened new ways of seeing & being.

There can be no Christmas without Advent and the quality of each Christmas is in direct proportion to our willingness to take the time to breathe and wait trusting that at the end of each breathing out a new breath of fresh air comes out of nowhere.

Life is not so much about Faith or even Hope, Life like Love might simply be about learning to trust again.

How appropriate that following the feast of thanksgiving we enter the season of trust.

The Austrian Benedictine monk David Steindelrast defined gratitude as the feeling of appreciation that comes when “you recognize that something is valuable to you, even though it may have no monetary worth.”

Then… when we find reasons to be grateful each day, we will grow in health & self awareness, improve our relationships with others and eventually discover a true sense of fulfillment…

By Joy Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent we will see Christmas with new eye and trust that the best presents we can give is our loving presence.

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Here comes the sun

Throughout today I will try to piece together the many moments of this 80th birthday.

To begin I remember the story of my birth as told to me by my mother.

In 1940 Dora Prohaska Braun gave birth to my sister Dagmar.

Dagmar I lived less than 24 hours.

A year later I was born and in memory of her was baptized Dagmar Ingrid Josephine.

The name Dagmar means a day at the ocean or a day with Mary.

In Denmark babies are given a Dagmar cross in memory of their beloved Queen Dagmar.

I don’t believe my mother knew that legend, I never heard that story until years later the wife of the Italian ambassador, visiting ohio, gifted me with a Dagmar cross. To this day I wear it together with the bridget cross given to me by my friend Lee Ann Massucci.

Yesterday the day began with a birthday text by my youngest granddaughter theresa and ended with a surprise visit by kids and grandkids including my youngest grandson Asher.

Josephine was given that name without Noelle realizing it was my own and Opa’s mother name, not to mention the name of my favorite baby doll?

So what’s in a name? Reflecting on the names I chose for my children made me remember deep connections one by one.

Eric was names in honor of Frank Celeste, Christopher to honor Arthur Braun, Gabriella to honor my Italian mom Maria Scrivanich, Noelle was named by Alicia Miller but in honor of Teresa of Avila, and Natalie born on father’s day was named after mother Mary while Stephen the youngest was named to honor the archangel Micheal and my mother, grandmother and sister Theodora, a name that lives on with Thea our first great grandchild. I could continue to reflect on the meaning of naming but will rest my case for now.

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November 28th

November 28th is the first Sunday of Advent this year.

Last year I decided to keep my “advent peace tree” throughout the whole year, to remind myself that waiting and attentiveness are virtues worth cultivating all year long.

May this advent be fruitful and help you grow deep gratitude for our very lives and perhaps see the empty shelves in our stores as an invitation from the spirit to shop less and share more of ourselves this Christmas Eve.

Let’s together spend time reflecting gratefully on every breath and find more personal ways to share gifts and celebrate the birth of the Christkind this year.