I’m spending some time with my sister and her family in Chicago this week. Today’s rainy day activity? Teaching my 6th grader nephew how to build a website!
Just in time for the end of the Year of St. Joseph, I am excited to share the news that my little book of reflections on St. Joseph has been published by Kenmare Press: My Friend Joe: Reflections on St. Joseph. It is available for purchase as a paperback ($8) or ebook ($1) from the Kenmare Press Online Bookstore.
St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, is central to the Christian story. Yet, so little is known about St. Joseph, either as an historical figure or as recorded in scripture. Much of what we understand about Joseph comes to us from tradition, art, and the lived experience of the faithful over the centuries. Sister of St. Joseph of Peace Susan Rose Francois reflects on her growing spiritual friendship with St. Joseph, who she affectionately calls her friend Joe. Inspired by photographs of Joseph taken by the author, she reflects on her personal encounters with Joseph in conversation with church tradition around this saint. Through art, prose, history, and prayer she encourages the reader to discover, or deepen, their own spiritual friendship with St. Joseph.
Sitting on the porch
Summer breeze wafting by
I pause and smile, breathing in
The beauty of this day
A butterfly rests on a Black Eyed Susan
And this Susan sighs
Rest is good. Rest is necessary. Rest is holy.
I was reading the Urbi et Orbi message that Pope Francis gave today in an empty St. Peter’s square. He reflects on this time of Covid-19 in light of the story of the storm in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41).
“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. …
Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” -Pope Francis
Click here to read the entire message: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/27/read-pope-francis-urbi-et-orbi-address-coronavirus-and-jesus-calming-storm
More than once in my life I have echoed the disciples refrain… do you not care that we are perishing?
Imagine their consternation, frustration and fear that he is, of all things, asleep!
We are terrified … we think we are alone.
But Jesus is with us in the storm.
A few years ago I created this video prayer reflecting on this passage, set to “How to Sleep in A Stormy Boat” by singer songwriter Amy Speace. The Pope’s message reminded me of this video, and so I share it here in case it is a helpful reflection for others in this time.
Peace. Be not afraid. We will weather the storm together.
For my friend Susan, who went home to God far too early in life.
When I showed up in nunland, you became my first friend.
You stayed close during my challenging novitiate, even
though you were 3,000 miles away. Your promise that you’d
read my emails and not tell anyone what I wrote (and perhaps
most importantly, not try to fix anything) may have saved me.
I returned to Seattle when you left for El Salvador, so
our friendship continued by email and yummy Thai or
Indian or Japanese or Chinese food when you were home.
Then you came home and I went to Chicago first, then New Jersey.
The tradition transferred, and it was when I was home that
we had our dinner dates.
When I think back to our friendship, it’s those meals that
stand out. Not the food, but our delicious conversations.
Your listening ear. Your laugh. The fact that you always called
me on my bullshit. That time when you listened to me vent,
ad nauseum, about whatever it was. And then, when we had
paid the check, politely reminded me that friendships were
mutual, and when was I going to ask about you.
An important one, that I am grateful for.
So much to be grateful for really.
Tonight at your vigil service, my memories were mirrored
in what others shared. Your friend from high school.
Another stranger who became a friend. Coworkers.
Your friend’s teenage daughter. (I was waiting for the
dog catcher or waste management professional to
go to the mic.) We all felt loved and known by you.
You were a light for others. One that shone brightly if but
only for a time in my own life. An important time.
Gracias, la otra Susana.
The invitation for me this Lent, it seems, is to focus on beauty, to add to and look for and create and celebrate beauty amidst all the goo of life. I’ve been invited to focus on beauty in my work, in loving community, in the challenges and in the blessings. I do believe in the power of redemption, in the awesome continuing work of our creator God, in and through us and yes, even in the most messy bits, when beauty can be harder to see.
May you and I be graced with a beautiful Lent
Click here to read the whole reflection
Today is my Mom’s 15th birthday in heaven. As often happens around anniversaries, she’s been on my heart and mind a bit of late.
I am grateful to her for so many things, not the least of which is the gift of life! She taught me so much by her love and example.
My mom was a true contemplative in action. She could stop and stare for hours … at the forest, at the ocean, at her own backyard. She saw the love of God reflected in creation and knew instinctively how to soak it all in.
I used to love just watching her as she stared at the embodiment of God’s love all around us. My Dad took this picture in West Virginia. It’s classic mom. She’s probably a little older than I am now in this picture. She’s got her book on her lap, but she’s contemplating the book of creation instead.
Nourished and fed by the love of God, be it at Sunday mass or all around her, my mom put it into action. Dust did not settle under her feet.
Over the years in her work, helping prisoners at the local jail learn decision making skills or as a congressional aide helping citizens navigate our system, she found herself on the right side of justice and helped to build the kindom.
In our community, she was a leader in ways we never even knew until her wake, when person after person came up to us to tell us how she helped them with x, y and z. So unassuming, she just did what needed to be done.
At home, journeying with her own parents through chronic illness and death, welcoming them into her own home, raising five kids, supporting her husband’s call to serve the wider world, she was most always grounded and exuding love.
Even when she herself was very ill, she would sit and ponder and teach us how to love and be loved.
I still miss you mom, and always will, but I will also always be grateful for your lessons in contemplation, action, and love.
Last night I was perusing the CNN Exit Polls and discovered that 59% of midterm voters polled support stricter gun control measures. I was sad to see that number so low, especially after all the amazing activism of young people after the Parkland Shooting and countless other senseless mass shootings.
Then today, just after reading about the latest shooting at a nightclub in California, I received a text from my sister. It started out saying that my niece Eileen was dancing at the Borderline last night … the nightclub where the shooting I’d just been reading about happened.
my heart stopped. what if?
I closed my eyes, said a prayer, and went back to reading the text. She and the friends she was dancing with escaped with their lives after the first shots were fired. They have since discovered that at least one high school friend is among those killed.
Active shooter drills were not a thing when I was in school. I guess I should be grateful that my niece and her friends knew what to do in the moment. Eileen told me that she’s not hurt, except for rug burns on her knees from crawling her way out to escape, close to the ground. Of course her spirit is wounded. As should ours be. We allow this to continue to happen.
Yes, it’s a cliche that it’s different when something like this happens close to home. And this certainly did. My other niece lives down the hill from the club. My sister is a professor up the hill from the club. The shooter is from the town where they went to high school and where their little sister goes to middle school.
Given the lack of common sense gun laws, this will happen close to you one day too.
We must pray. We must act. We must join together. We must make gun violence stop. Now. Seriously. Now.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, please read this column written by Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the students from Parkland, that appeared in the Washington Post the day before election day and a few days before my niece escaped the Borderline with her life.
Over eighteen months before the shooting at our school, 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Four months before Parkland, 58 people were killed at a concert in Las Vegas. And on Oct. 27, 11 people were killed at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In all that time, not a single federal law has been passed that addresses gun violence. Not a single law. Our nation’s leaders have failed to protect citizens where they live, where they learn and where they pray.
My latest contribution to the conversation has been published over at Global Sisters Report: The Hour for ‘Our’ is Now
Our Father. Our daily bread. Forgive us as we forgive. Lead us. Deliver us.
This prayer that for decades I have said desperately at my most lonely hours calls us to be community. It is not a prayer to my Father for my daily bread and my forgiveness or deliverance. It is a prayer for the whole. As I have prayed this prayer anew in these days, I haven’t been able to get this sense of the collective out of my heart and mind. The hour for “our” is now. …
What would happen, I wonder, if instead of spreading negative energy in our conversations that contribute to the toxic levels of our current civic discourse, we practiced loving even those bits of the whole we struggle with? Speaking the truth in love, standing in solidarity in love, acting for justice in love.
Maybe this would lead us to deliverance, provide our nourishment and sustain us, help us to listen deeply for that which binds us together, no matter how small, in the sea of division.
Visit Global Sisters Report to read the whole reflection.
Today I visited this blog and realized I’ve not written in a few months. My recent yesterdays have been filled with much travel, work, visits, etc… On the political and ecclesial sphere, it’s been a mess to say the least. And yet, we live today, knowing tomorrow will have its own challenges and blessings.
I’ve found myself pondering the wise words of Winnie the Pooh from the recent film, Christopher Robin. After an action filled adventure with its own ups and downs and share of uncertainty, Pooh and his friend Christopher (now an adult) are sitting together looking at the horizon.
Pooh asks Christopher what day it is, to which Christopher replies, “Today.”
Calmly Pooh responds, “My favorite day. Yesterday when it was tomorrow was too much day for me.”