Locked in for the night

It’s becoming rapidly cliche to say this, but we are indeed living in strange times.

My coworkers are working remotely for social distancing, but since I live on campus I’m coming in each day to a very empty yet highly productive space. I live on campus, but I’m not going next door to where the retired sisters live for their protection. Separated togetherness.

Our sponsored hospital just down the road is treating patients at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis here in New Jersey. Holding all of the dedicated medical professionals and patients especially in my prayer.

Our sisters in the Seattle area are just down the road from the nursing home where it all started in Washington State. They’ve been in high gear for over two weeks now.

My Dad is in his own nursing home in Chicago where he receives excellent care. I was planning to visit him this past weekend, but that trip of course got cancelled. I just called and managed to get him on the phone to wish him a happy St. Patrick’s Day. “Are you all locked in for the night?,” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “The whole world is locked in for the night.” He then asked me how far reaching this was, so I told him. And I think he understood. He knows something is up.

As my Dad’s dementia has progressed, he has used more and more interesting phrases to get his point across. Sometimes they make no sense. This one was spot on. Locked in.

Praying for everyone on this Feast of St. Patrick, as we anticipate the Feast of St. Joseph later this week and the start of spring.

Stay safe and tucked in (locked in) wherever you are.

Remember social isolation only makes sense in solidarity. Even if you are alone, we are together.

Remember to breathe (just not on other people!).

Peace

La Otra Susana

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.

Lesson learned.
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.

Paz

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.