All posts by susanfrancoiscsjp

About susanfrancoiscsjp

I am a Gen X Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. Read more about my community at www.csjp.org.

Anniversaries

My novice classmate, sister, and friend Chero reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of our first profession of vows.

So much had happened since then: four years of social justice ministry, two and a half years of graduate school, and now four and a half years of community ministry on the leadership team. Many moves. And so much in between!

This morning, as I walked down the stairs in my pajamas to get my morning coffee, I remembered that today is the 3rd anniversary of the fire at St. Michael Villa, our regional center where I happen to live. While we are back in our corner of the house that received less smoke damage, we are anxiously anticipating the reopening of the main house soon. Lots of losses and discoveries and moves to temporary housing since waking up to a very real fire alarm.

Both memories lead me to give thanks for the gifts of community and belonging.

The past eleven years have been filled with so much love in action.

Prayers, hopes, and dreams shared.

Challenges and disasters navigated together.

Waiting in joyful hope, and maybe a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure.

Invitations and opportunities.

Roadblocks and detours.

Growing together as community for mission.

Finding my voice as a writer and discovering bit by bit my role as a leader.

It is the big moments and the little ones that make up this adventure called life, and God is always in the mix if we care to look.

Perspective

Sometimes we see only what we want to see.

Or our vision is clouded …

by fear or worry or grumpiness or distrust or

[feel free to fill in your own blank].

Maybe we want to see through rose colored glasses,

and so what we see is not quite true.

But sometimes our vision is

recalibrated,

corrected,

refocused,

clear.

Maybe it was a friend challenging us,

or a listening ear,

a lifting of mood,

or simply waking up on the right side of the bed.

Whatever the reason, rejoice!

To see the horizon clearly.

To see bridges as opportunity not obstacles.

To see the tiny beautiful bird in the midst of the mess.

On days when my perspective is clearer I give thanks.

Whatever the cause.

Amen.

On Presence

I want to continue to believe in the presence of God, the one who strengthens, cheers, and encourages me at all times. – St. John XXIII

I have a little prayer booklet I use sometimes from Twenty Third Publications called Walking with St. John XXIII: 30 days with a good and beloved Pope. This morning I turned at random to a page, which happened to be the second to last page, and read this quote.

Interestingly enough, just a few minutes earlier, I had read this post on our current Pope’s Twitter feed:

In the midst of all those passing things in which we are so caught up, help us, Father, to seek what truly lasts; your presence and that of our brother or sister. – Pope Francis

And I was reminded, instantly, of this quote in our CSJP Constitutions:

We value the ministry of presence as an important dimension of the gospel of peace. In the hope of continuing our tradition of gracious hospitality, we welcome others to our communities and also try to be present to people in their own situations. – CSJP Constitution 18

We are so in danger of disconnection and tuning out all the noise and chaos and bad news and suffering, when truly the invitation is to see God present with us in and through and and beyond all that. Emmanuel, after all, means God with us. God created us, Jesus became one of us, and the Spirit is present among us. Ours is to grow in understanding what this means. Ours is to be open to the presence of God in our day to day moments, not only those precious aha spiritual moments, but in the messy bits too. And I don’t know about you but I have a lot more messy bits than spiritual highs. Our is to be the presence of God for others, and to experience (and accept) the presence of God in others.

At least that’s what my morning prayer time led me to ponder, and I join John XXII in praying and trusting in my loving God who strengthens, cheers, and encourages me/us at all times. If we but listen.

Amen

Rising

I pray with the rising sun

confident that a new day is on its way.

I rejoice with the birds in the air

and the symphony of creepy and crawly things,

knowing that all good things come from God.

I reflect on the swirly waters,

shifting this way and that

directed by the tides and the wind and

chance.

I step into this new day

in the company of the newly risen sun

ready to shine and to love and to live.

For God is good

All creation is good

We are good

And goodness flows like a river

even in murky waters.

St. Edith Stein, pray for us … a Saint for these times

I have long been haunted by a quote by Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite nun, Jewish daughter and sister, philosopher, one time atheist, convert, contemplative, martyr of Auschwitz .

“Nowadays I always feel transported into Napoleonic times, and I can imagine in what tension people lived then everywhere in Europe. I wonder: will we live to see the events of our days become ‘history’? I have a great desire to see all this sometime in the light of eternity. For one realizes ever more clearly how blind we are toward everything. One marvels at how mistakenly one viewed a lot of things before, and yet the very next moment one commits the blunder again of forming an opinion without having the necessary basis for it.” Edith Stein: A Self-Portrait in Letters, quoted in the People’s Companion to the Breviary.

This quote is included in the office book published by the Carmelites of Indianapolis. It is the reading for Week IV, Friday, evening prayer. The first time I heard this read during community prayer when I was a candidate back in 2005, my heart stopped. I didn’t know much about Edith Stein, except that she had been killed in a concentration camp. But it led me to learn more about her, which only made the quote that much more powerful.

When she was a professor of philosophy she studied the problem of empathy. Writing in 1925–the same year that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published–she proposed that the capacity for empathy ensures “openness among human beings” rather than separation or alienation. She engaged in her philosophical study of this capacity for empathy because she believed it “to be descriptive of human reality and the foundation needed for productive action” for life in the human community.

Now, on this sad day almost 100 years later, a day which our nation’s present leader has chosen to round up children, women and men–largely of one ethnic group–transporting them to camps, separating families and causing terror to thousands of people, I cannot help but ask for her intercession.

Nowadays, I sometimes feel transported to her times. And it is a scary time to be, one that rocks one’s faith in humanity and causes one to cry out to the heavens. What tension we live in today. Are we complicit? Are we bystanders? Or do we stand on the right side of history, crying out “Not in My Name,” and acting on behalf of human dignity?

And then of course there is today’s Gospel reading, the Good Samaritan, which makes it crystal clear what we are to do. What sad twisted irony that the raids against our immigrant brothers and sisters are set to begin today when this Gospel is proclaimed in churches across our nation. Of course, no doubt, many families are staying away from church today, afraid that they might be swept up, no matter what their legal status. And others listen with deaf ears.

Today, the Carmelite Nuns of Great Britain shared a quote from Edith Stein on their Twitter account in which she reflects on today’s Gospel reading.

“‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This commandment is valid unconditionally and without qualification. The neighbour is not the one whom I ‘like’ but any and every human being with whom I come into contact, without exception.”

Without exception. Unconditional. Without qualification.

When Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 in the chapel of her monastery in the Netherlands and taken to a transit camp for deportation, eventually to Auschwitz, she commented: “I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. … I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress.” 

When she arrived at Auschwitz, she ministered to God’s people in distress, even as she was one among them.

“It was Edith Stein’s complete calm and self-possession that marked her out from the rest of the prisoners. There was a spirit of indescribable misery in the camp; the new prisoners, especially suffered from extreme anxiety. Edith Stein went among the women like an angel, comforting, helping, and consoling them. Many of the mothers were on the brink of insanity and had sat moaning for days, without giving any thought to their children. She immediately set about taking care of these little ones. She washed them, combed their hair, and tried to make sure they were fed and cared for.” –Edith Stein,  A Biography, quoted on Carmelites of Boston website.

And so I pray.

St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, you who studied empathy, lived a life of compassionate love, pray for us. Inspire empathy, respect for human dignity, and action for justice. Lead those of us who might become bystanders instead to solidarity and compassionate love. Help us to pray for conversion of heart in those who wield their power without enough apparent capacity for empathy or neighborliness. Most of all, be with those who suffer. Comfort the mothers, fathers and children facing inhumanity in these dark times. Pray for us all, that our hearts may become wider, wide enough to encompass all our neighbors, unconditionally and without exception. Amen.

Laundromat Lessons

Life circumstances have meant that I have had to go to the laundromat from time to time in recent weeks. I don’t mind. For one thing I get it all done at once. For another, I remember my mom all those years when our washer and dryer were broken and visits to the laundrymat, as I called it, were part of the routine.

Memories flood back from some forgotten place, summoned by the sounds and smells.

Saturdays and weeknights at the laundromat. Plugging coins into the machines. Playing make believe. Helping Mom fold (I am sure she had to refold most of it). Making laundromat friends.

I found myself wondering about those boys and girls I knew as I watched kids bonding amidst the too clean smells and preoccupied adults.

Tag. Tossing a stuffed animal. Conspiratorial whispering. Jumping off the sorting tables until an adult looks up and intervenes. Dancing to the music.

In my memory I played.

But more often I was really more like the little girl across from me now. Self suffcient in her pink tennis shoes and practical ponytail, she observes it all, arms crossed.

What impresses me most of all is the working moms–and dads–filling the car with the laundry on a busy weeknight after a very full day. Then filling the car again with kids and heading to the laundromat to be about the business of life, one load at a time. Rinse. Repeat.

Just like my mom, doing what needed to be done. Day by day.

How we deal with storms

Last summer I had four flight cancellations due to weather, which may explain why I wasn’t too upset when my flight from the west to east coast today was delayed three and a half hours. It was still going and it was a direct flight for me, no connections. No worries.

Of course those with connections were no doubt put out as their carefully constructed plans fell apart. I get that.

But I was fresh off a mini break weekend at the Oregon Coast with a friend I have somehow already known for 28+ years. I was renewed, mostly grumpy free, and a bit zen. I had just watched the choppy waves of the storm one day become beautiful shining waters the next day.

The plane ride itself was uneventful, until, that is, we started our descent just as the sun was setting above the skies and the storms brewing below. Breathtaking.

We landed into mid storm, with lightening strikes and tornado warnings. Ground crew were grounded, so it took awhile to get to the gate. But we were safe.

My positive attitude lasted the next hour while we waited for our bags. Remember those storms? Baggage crews were also grounded, not able to go outside and take our bags off the plane.

Bags started finally to come out of the gate and make their run around the circle. Bags from Aruba and Chicago, but none from Portland. Then the bags stopped their ride around the belt, and no new bags appeared. For quite a while. Admittedly, my positive attitude had lost some of its shine by now. But there was bonding with the other passengers. Two of us embarked on fact finding missions. And one or two walkie talkie messages later and magic … bags!

Storms come, and sometimes a grumpy or angry response is warranted and appropriate. But other times going the grumpy annoyed route just makes you grumpier. How we approach the storms of our lives makes a difference it seems.

And of course it always helps to be coming off of a three day weekend of friendship, fun and fabulous walks on the beach.

In between

We wait in the in between space

without rituals, or liturgy, or script

We know the reality of the cross

… the suffering of Christ is ours, our suffering is His, intertwined as one

Paradox and purpose, promise and possibility, perplexity and prose

Like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary we wait.

Like them we mix

our anxiety and fear and sadness

with hope

With holy women (and men) the world over

living the Holy Saturday moments of their lives, caught in between the already and not yet,

we love.

We wait. We hope. We love. We pray.

In between.

Grumpy antidote

I don’t know about you, but from time to time I turn into a Grumpy McGrumpypants.

What they say about waking up on the wrong side of the bed has some truth to it.

As does the reality that sometimes life is just hard, or at least seems that way.

Listening to the news exposes us to violence and toxic conversations on a daily basis. We are steeped in a social and political soup that I experience as increasingly divisive, polarizing, and awfulizing. This cannot help but seep into our daily lives and interactions.

And so we may be forgiven for waking up on the wrong side of the bed from time to time.

This morning I am not quite sure which side I woke up on. I sat with my coffee and pondered the tasks ahead for me this day, and reflected on the challenges of this past week. I read the news and prayed with the grumpy inducing happenings near and far.

And I listened…

… to the bird song outside my window …

… to the call of God within to act justly, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace…

… to my own inmost desire, etched into the silver ring I received at my first profession of vows, to live with an open heart.

I soaked it all in and remembered what a good friend of mine likes to say …We’ve got this.

So I breathe into this day, ready to love, ready to live into all it holds.

Breathe. Live. Love.

God is with us through it all.

(Even when we’re grumpy. )