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Sr. Bernadette Reis, fsp :
25 article(s)

Sr. Bernadette M. Reis, fsp holds a Bachelors Degree in Spanish and English Literature and has spent several years researching various women’s issues. She lives in Rome and works in the English department of Paoline Multimedia, an international bookstore near the Vatican.
April 8th, 2014

A few years ago, I was rushing to catch the Staten Island Ferry. Missing the ferry could mean a 30- or 60-minute wait for the next one. I had minutes until the next departure. Nothing else was on my mind.
A man stood at the top of the stairs asking for money. I had seen him several times before. But wouldn’t you know it, of all times, this was the moment that he approached me. My response? “I don’t have any money on me, but I will pray for you.” Little did I know that this was the beginning of one of those unforgettable moments when God breaks through the hustle of everyday life.
“You will?” he asked me.
“Yes, I will,” I responded while at the same time the tension in me was mounting…

February 20th, 2014

One of my favorite movies as a kid was a story set in the Alps. I remember being delighted watching St. Bernard dogs and their owners rescuing people who had gotten into trouble on the treacherous snow-covered heights.
This breed of dog is named after St. Bernard of Montjoux (c. 923 – c. 1008). His family origin is disputed — but his work in the Alps is not. For 40 years, St. Bernard founded schools and churches in the Diocese of Aosta, a region of Italy that borders France and Switzerland. As vicar general of the diocese, he traveled not only throughout the diocese, but as far as Geneva and Novara. He is primarily remembered for establishing two facilities on an ancient path through the Alps, which is perpetually…

December 13th, 2013

Advent is more than halfway over. Christmas is just around the corner. It’s Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday in the Church. “Rejoice in the Lord always” are the words that gather us for prayer. “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom, they will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song,” Isaiah proclaims. The Third Sunday of Advent provides us with the opportunity to experience the joy possessed by those who have encountered Christ, the one who comes to save us.
But how many of us can relate more to John the Baptist in Sunday’s Gospel reading? He is imprisoned because he has lived his life searching for the one…

November 13th, 2013

Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is one of my favorite books; “The Grand Inquisitor,” my favorite chapter. In it, Dostoyevsky masterfully crafts a parable that would hold any Christian’s attention. Christ returns to earth during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and is condemned to exile because his judge disagrees with Jesus’ responses to the Devil during the testing in the desert. Besides being an incredible work of literature, this chapter is very difficult to digest for anyone who takes the Christian life seriously. Dostoyevsky left me, and I am sure many others, with a haunting question: How would I treat Christ if he were to come into my life?
Being ready for Christ’s return…

June 18th, 2013

The other day while we were eating together, one of the sisters in my community began a conversation regarding the exponential growth in the number of people attending papal functions in Rome since the election of Pope Francis. She expressed her surprise and disappointment that the same amount of people did not turn out during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Those who come to Rome to see the new pope, she said, are motivated by what is “unessential” — his personality, the hope that he will bless and kiss their babies or comfort those with disabilities — rather than by the desire to hear the Word of God and strengthen their lives as disciples of Christ.
This discussion prompted me to reflect: To what…

April 29th, 2013
How the reality of Jesus' resurrection changes how we see the world

I mentioned in a recent Busted Halo® article that since my mother’s death last August, I have begun to see the disciples of Jesus as friends who can accompany me in my own faith journey. As I reflected on the Gospel readings each day of the Octave of Easter (the week immediately following Easter Sunday) this year, my eyes, like theirs, began to open a bit more.
I began to see a common thread in the resurrection appearances — something that I can relate to. Jesus himself names this common element: a lack of faith, and stubbornness or “hardness of heart.” If I can understand why it was difficult for the followers of Jesus to believe, I thought to myself, I might be able to understand why it is difficult for me.…

March 26th, 2013

Every year Catholics commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection in worship. On Holy Thursday we remember the Last Supper and the gift Jesus gave to us in the Holy Eucharist. The Good Friday liturgy recalls his arrest, crucifixion and death, and the Vigil and Easter Sunday liturgies celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Personally, we may feel a bit removed from the actual events of Holy Week because we are participating in them liturgically (in worship), and not historically. However, our own personal experiences may help us understand what the people with Jesus were going through as they witnessed these events.
This became very apparent to me a few months ago when my mother died. She had been on a ventilator for…

February 19th, 2013

Where would you want the love of your life to take you on a romantic getaway? Hawaii? Paris? Camping? Did you ever wonder what God’s idea of a romantic getaway is? One thing is for sure — it is not a cruise. No, God wants to take you to the… desert!
The Hebrew word for desert, midbar, has significance beyond the images of isolation, barrenness and death that we conjure up when we hear it. The root word is dabar, which means word. So, the literal meaning of desert in Hebrew is the place of the word…, making the desert a place of encounter, communication, relationship; a place where one hears the voice of God. This sums up the experience of the Israelites in the book of Exodus in company with God — in the desert.

February 6th, 2013

It’s that time of the year again. Most Christians have to face an important decision in their lives — what to “give up” for Lent. Last year I was invited to a Facebook page where people were posting the all-important decision they had made. I was fascinated that the trend hasn’t changed: no sweets and no coffee still are tops. There’s a new “tech” trend: no Internet. I couldn’t help posting on my own Facebook page, “So we’ll have a lot of unsweetened, decaffeinated, and dis-Interneted Christians on the planet again. But will we love each other any more for it?” To which my sister-in-law promptly commented, “No, it will make us grumpier! If the point of Lent was for us to love each other more… it would be 40 days of chocolate, coffee, and alcohol!”

January 29th, 2013

One thing that has stuck in my head since I was a child I learned from my mother who was a nurse. She came home from a continuing education class when I was about 12 years old with a tidbit that astounded me then and still astounds me today. The instructor communicated that researchers had discovered the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for our creativity and imagination, is also activated when we pray.
Since learning that, I have always believed that there must be a profound connection between prayer and creativity. It also makes sense to me since prayer is the doorway to communicating with the Creator — me communicating with God and God communicating with me. One of the connections I have made is that being…

January 8th, 2013

I feel sorry for priests. Every Sunday they are required to get up in front of a crowd and preach, whether they’re good at it or not. This leaves them wide open for criticism — and, believe me, I’ve not only heard plenty of it, I’ve, unfortunately, done my fare share as well.
A common critique is that they don’t talk enough about morality or doctrine. Another is that what they say isn’t relevant, a complaint I can definitely relate to. Personally, I am tremendously irritated when the homily becomes a barrage of negativity against today’s culture. Then there are those homilies that go nowhere. For instance, I can’t remember a single thing from the homily delivered…

December 11th, 2012

Waiting is a fact of life. We wait in lines. We wait at stop lights. We wait for babies to be born. We wait, and wait, and wait. Our response is often one of wanting to “get it over with.” From a child’s annoying “Are we there yet?” to impatient drivers cutting off other drivers to get someplace quicker, we seem to have an aversion to waiting.
The flip side to waiting, however, is expectation, anticipation and hope. This is beautifully captured in the Spanish language. The verb esperar means “wait, expect and… hope.” One of the themes of Advent is waiting. It is usually cast in terms of our expectation for a Savior — the pre-Christian expectation of the Jewish people for

September 18th, 2012

In my late 20s, I began manifesting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I had been attacked twice at knifepoint as a child and was able to keep the memories pretty well tucked into my unconscious, but at a certain point my unconscious won. As I began sifting through the memories and the pain, I also began experiencing tremendous anger toward God. How could he ever let something like that happen to me?
‘God, where were you?’
Many people have confronted this same dilemma. We call it the problem of evil. How can an all-loving, completely good God allow evil to happen to his children? The response that I had heard repeatedly was, unfortunately, only a portion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ treatment…

August 8th, 2012

Country: South Africa
Born: October 7, 1931
Religion: Anglican
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, Desmond Tutu helped end apartheid and heal the wounds it left behind. His peace and reconciliation work is deeply rooted in his faith and daily spiritual practices.
May 9th, 2012

For many Catholics, the mystery involved with receiving Holy Communion remains a distant reality. The language that the Church uses to define the mystery of the Eucharist is heavily philosophic, thus making it perhaps even more difficult to understand. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that the Eucharist is at the heart of the Catholic Church.
Understanding bread, wine and community
The reality of this Sacrament can be unlocked for us if we allow the bread and wine to communicate to us what is actually taking place. These sacramental signs,… or the “stuff” that is transformed into Christ’s body and blood, don’t just appear out of nowhere. In every Mass, the bread and wine are the gifts presented

February 8th, 2012

The night before I traveled to my brother’s wedding I was putting the finishing touches on his wedding gift: a hand-crocheted tablecloth. After four years in the making, it was wonderful to finally work on the last part — blocking it. This task was the most tedious. Stretching the tablecloth and pinning it at every small point on the edge would ensure its beauty — otherwise it would look like a crumpled up, tired mass of string.
This was time consuming, and I didn’t have much time left. So I asked the two other sisters living with me if they would help me. Both of them agreed. As we were kneeling on the floor, backs bent over the tedious work at hand, I told them what I had learned while crocheting the tablecloth.…

December 23rd, 2011
A closer look at how several women break the pattern of male ancestors in the Gospel's account of Jesus' genealogy

A defining Gospel passage during Advent is the genealogy text from Matthew’s Gospel (1:1-17). At first glance, these verses simply appear to be a collection of names, and therefore incapable of producing any meaning other than the obvious — this is Jesus’ family tree. After a closer look at this passage, it became apparent to me that these verses, like Mary, are pregnant with hidden treasure.
The list of names produces a pattern: one man fathers another; one generation follows another; and every 14 generations an event important to the history of the chosen people takes place. Not only does the pattern create an expectation, it also becomes predictable. This pattern, however, is randomly…

October 6th, 2011

Do you have trouble forgiving? Well, I hope I don’t shatter anyone’s image of nuns, but I do, too.
Some of the sayings connected with forgiveness don’t help. You know, sayings like Alexander Pope’s “To err is human, to forgive is divine” and Jesus’ command that we forgive 77 times (or 70 times seven times) sends the subliminal message that forgiveness is impossible. Then we have the phrase “forgive and forget” — where in the world did that come from? So many people let these words glide glibly from their tongues. It makes it seem that forgiveness is easy and adds a guilt trip besides.
Well, I was in the category of believing that forgiving was next to impossible. I sat in prayer I don’t know…

July 11th, 2010
Donna Freitas' novel This Gorgeous Game looks at priestly sex abuse through the eyes of a teenage girl

Donna Freitas is best known for her provocative nonfiction book Sex and the Soul, which was based on scores of interviews she conducted with college-age students about “sexuality, spirituality, romance and religion on America’s college campuses.” Beyond her work as a scholar and college religion professor, however, Frietas has forged a parallel career as a novelist. Her first novel, The Possibilities of Sainthood earned accolades in the Young Adult fiction genre back in 2008. Her most recent novel This Gorgeous Game… tackles an unusual theme: a Catholic priest stalking a teenage girl. In the midst of a new wave of accusations of sexual abuse coming from Europe, Freitas’ work tragically

March 31st, 2010
A Good Friday Reflection

Though Good Friday is the most solemn day on the liturgical calendar, for much of my early life it was difficult for me to connect to Jesus and his experience, until my brother was diagnosed with cancer back when I was 19. My faith went through a wringer. All I could ask God was, why? I could no longer pray. Every time I tried, I would just cry. Through the wisdom of my spiritual director at the time, I was able to see that my tears, being the expression of my inner anguish, were probably the most honest prayer that I had yet uttered. I was in touch with my pain, and I was sharing it with God.
This experience helped me realize that where I can connect most intimately with Jesus is through my own human experience. I do not know his experience.…

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