Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day. Happily, thanks to public domain and the many internet book projects, much of her writing is now available online. She was a woman of her time and yet, ahead of her time in many ways.
“We are, then, put face to face with the great fact of Poverty, we are put face to face with the certain consequences of the continuance of such a condition of things, and if we have one spark of humanity we are put face to face with the question, What can we do personally and individually to lessen poverty, if we cannot abolish it?”
~The Question of Today: Anti-Poverty & Progress (1887) by M.F. Cusack
Anxiety. It’s not imaginary. It’s not soft and cuddly. It is real. Certainly anxiety has been a part of my own life for as long as I can remember. My mother used to talk about my ‘anxiety bunnies.’ Therapy, prayer, and just being gentle over the years has helped me to befriend my anxiety and learn how to deal with it without it dealing too much with me, if you now what I mean.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved that anxiety has a part to play in my own Congregation’s story. In 1884, at the profession of vows of the first Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Bishop Edward Gilpin Bagshawe said this:
“To secure this divine peace for ourselves and procure its blessing for others in the midst of the sin, turmoil, and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.”
As a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, then, my object is to be present to the restless anxiety of the world (and in myself) in ways that bring peace.
Today as I was walking home from church through city streets aglow with the splendor of autumn, I found myself reflecting on today’s second reading from Philippians (4: 6-9).
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
First of all, my dear friend Paul needs to realize that as much as we might wish to brush our anxiety bunnies under the rug, they will pop back up from time to time. We will have anxiety. I will (and do) have anxiety. But he has a point that rings true with my own experience.
The path to peace in the midst of the restless anxiety of our world (and our own hearts) is to bring that anxiety to God. To bring our prayers and concerns and wonderings to our God who of course already knows all about them, but there is something good and intimate and honest about laying it all before our loving God.
And so having placed our anxieties before God, we can let them rest there and focus instead on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and excellent.
Whatever is lovely … so much is lovely, as my autumn walk this morning showed me in abundance. Does that make all the yucky or complicated or worrisome stuff of life go away? No. But it brings some peace that helps us to be more authentic and our best selves as we face what we have to face in life.
Or so it seemed to me this morning on my autumn walk.
May the God of Peace be with you all, and may whatever lovely things you come across on your path today touch your heart and stop you in your tracks, if just for a moment.
A few folks have asked about the photo that inspired the name for my new blog. I’ve discussed this a bit in the “about” section, but given that most folks won’t spend a lot of time poking around my new blog, I thought I might as well make the photo the topic of today’s blog post. The short answer is, yes it is an actual photo that I took a few years ago on a trip to the town of Wenatchee, Washington which is east of the Cascades in the central part of the state.
I had never been to Wenatchee before, a town with a rich history that includes the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. In 1916 the Sisters were invited by Bishop O’Dea of Seattle to take over the Wenatchee General Hospital, which they ran as St. Anthony’s Hospital until the 1970s. Many of my favorite CSJP Sisters ministered at the hospital, including my friend Sister Monica who started there as a young Sister in the 1950s as a bookkeeper before becoming and RN, a hospital administrator, and eventually CEO of our health system.
Given our rich history there, I took the opportunity of giving a presentation at a parish in Central Washington as an opportunity to make a sort of pilgrimage. I visited the site of the original hospital (now a home for disabled adults). I also visited St. Joseph School, which was started by our Sisters in the 1950s. The last CSJP left the school in the 1980s, but my friend Sister Tonia stayed on in Wenatchee working with the diocese until a few years ago.
Now we get to the part of the story you have been waiting for … the discovery of the corner of Susan Place and St. Joseph Place. After parking near St. Joseph’s school and walking around, I returned to my car and discovered that this was where I had parked! The synchronicity of the moment struck me then, and the picture I took that day has given me many opportunities to contemplate in deep gratitude this wonderful adventure God has invited me to participate in.
When I was thinking of a name for this new blog to mark the beginning of a new adventure, the picture naturally came to me as perfectly capturing this moment and the many blessings in my life as Sister Susan, a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.
Really, I can’t think of a better place to be than at the corner of Susan and St. Joseph, pursuing social justice as a path to peace.