Worth Revisiting: Mercy in the City

If you find yourself wanting to grow spiritually, and to understand the connection in our shared journey as a people of faith, this is a sincerely beautiful witness! Available through Loyola Press.

Mercy in the City is a witty and truly authentic grappling with the living out of our faith and call to do more for others, in a society that often seems to run counter to these. As a single “millennial” in the heart of NYC, Kerry decides to embark on a self-imposed Lenten challenge to engage the Corporal Works of Mercy.  While many of us might consider attempting one of these in 40 days…Kerry goes for all seven.  She does this not from an “overly pious” approach, but from an honest encounter with love and mercy.

Feed the Hungry: From the sharing of her tuna sandwich to the continued time spent passing out many more in the city Kerry recognizes the move from good intentions to action needs to be a “deliberate” one. Rather than waiting for the perfect time to start, there must be that important first step and a resolve to see it through.

Give Drink to the Thirsty: Having volunteered to pass out water to runners in the NYC half marathon, there is a realization that helping others isn’t a matter of “forcefully thrusting” our gifts upon them. Instead, it is to be a humble offer, a supportive nudging at most, to draw nearer to the life giving water of Christ that we are all so in desperate need of.

Clothe the Naked: Starting with a short list of items that she can part with, Kerry discovers the freeing joy of shedding no longer worn clothing and memories to impart newness for others. In the Clothing Room of the Catholic Worker house, a program begun by Dorothy Day, she sees firsthand what these gifts mean to so many.

Harbor the Harborless: Hesitantly agreeing to stay the night in a shelter, Kerry finds camaraderie with those who have banded together under less than desirable circumstances. With humor and hospitality she is welcomed, encountering their diversity and the situations that have brought them there.

Visit the Sick: In a Holy Thursday visit to the retired Sisters of Mercy, Kerry gains experienced insight from these incredible women of faith who have devoted countless years of love and service to the sick and dying. Many whom are recuperating themselves from illness or surgery, they share what it is to be present to these holy moments of mercy, and to care for others fully.

Ransom the Captive: (Imprisoned) As a reporter and managing editor of America magazine, Kerry was hopeful of obtaining an interview with inmates taking religion classes at San Quentin in California.  When the day came, she left her blue jean jacket and later preconceived notions of the imprisoned behind. As hands reached through the bars for communion, and inmates gathered to grow in faith she found her vision challenged once again.

Bury the Dead: After many, pardon the pun, “dead ends” with cemetery officials, Kerry decided her closest opportunity to this corporal work of mercy would be to jog through a nearby cemetery.  Surprised by the cheery blossoming trees, and the simplistic acceptance of the gravedigger, she found herself thinking more about her life and those buried there than their death.

 Finally, throughout this book Kerry speaks of the joyous privilege of being asked to be an RCIA sponsor for a soon-to-be member of the faith.  Listening to the Litany of Saints prayed at Easter Vigil, Kerry writes that she felt  it was “less like a list of people dead and gone and more like a roll call of people who are here alive” with her that night.  All of this seemed to say, welcome to the church, to this “shared journey on the path of mercy, to places we’d never been and to the works ahead- works for which none of us is ever quite prepared, but to which all of us are called.”

Memorial Day: Freedom Prayer

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This Memorial Day, we remember family members, friends and loved ones who have given their lives in service to our country and for the freedom we so cherish. At the heart of all of this, we long for peace. My Grandpa Ferrell penned this poem while the Vietnam War was in full swing. It echoes this tension we feel today, and the hope we have for tomorrow.

Freedom Prayer: Carl Wyatt Ferrell

In this dark hour of nation’s woe
When paths of peace men do not know,
Lord, show us now which way to go-
Protect us with Thy arm.

When Tyrants seek men to enslave
And power drunk more power crave,
Lord, help us all to be more brave
And keep us safe from harm.

Let freedom be our battle cry
And may its banner ever fly
Above the world when tyrants die
And peace we have again.

When useless wars shall cease to be,
And haunting fears no more have we,
Lord, may our land that now is free
In liberty remain.

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith:Donald Maldari

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! 

Radio Show with Donald Maldari

Donald Maldari, S.J. is a Catholic theologian who earned a doctorate and a master’s degree at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and a bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University. A member of the Society of Jesus since 1977, Professor Maldari began his teachingThe Creed: the Faith That Moves Evolutioncareer in 1980. Having a keen interest in ecclesiology and spirituality, he has taught at Le Moyne College since 1999. Father Maldari, fluent in five non-native languages, has ministered as a chaplain in a Mexican prison and by teaching and providing spiritual direction in Haiti.

Worth Revisiting:Loyola Chicago

One year ago I was in Chicago- amidst its tree lined enclaves, diversity of Devon Avenue, beauty of its Gardens and splendor of Holy Name. Striding comfortably through Loyola’s historic Water Tower and Lake Shore campuses, I felt less like one of this city’s many tourists and more as if I had come home. Strange to say, perhaps, as this was only my second trip to the windy city. Yet, the family I have found in the students, professors and staff at Loyola University over the last three years is the full embodiment of Christian community. Commencement itself was just the icing on the cake!

Never at a loss for great food, engaging conversation or things to do while staying with my close friend Paula,  here are a few quick takes from Commencement week at Loyola Chicago.

With all of the excitement to come, how needed was this walk through the incredibly beautiful Botanic Gardens of Chicago! On this early morning, we were greeted with the songs of red winged blackbirds  and mourning doves who didn’t seem to mind at all that we were there. Among the tulips, hyacinths, and bluebells I felt at peace, an amazingly small witness to the splendor of God’s creation.  So easily I could picture myself as a child playing hide and seek in the walled garden and the sound of my shoes on the bridges. Truly a respite for the soul, this pause is a much needed time for us all to reconnect with who and whose we are.

One glance of the streets of Chicago and you vividly see the juxtaposition of old and new, cathedrals and skyscrapers, sari shops and Hasidic Jewish temples. Roads that have even been diverted so as to preserve the rich history of Chicago’s iconic structures. As an international relations undergraduate major, and religious education graduate what a sight!

This too is evidenced in the national Cathedral of Holy Name which was rebuilt in 1871 after the Great Chicago Fire. Home to some 6,700 families and newly appointed Archbishop Cupich, it is a vibrant Catholic parish surrounded by an amass of magnificent Gothic architecture. Inside, as well, are the caps of previous cardinals along with a memorial to beloved Cardinal George. How important to remember our shepherds, who continuously dedicate the breadth of their lives to the tending of the flock. May the Holy Spirit guide each one of them as they seek to lead us as a Church in the world.

Last but not least, were the Institute of Pastoral Studies Commissioning and Commencement ceremonies from Loyola Chicago. A long standing tradition held on the night before Commencement, students, family, alumnae, and professors from the Institute of Pastoral Studies gather to celebrate, pray and send forth the candidates for graduation. No sooner in the door, I was warmly hugged by fellow friends and classmates from the IPS Summer in Rome excursion. As many of us have kept in touch, it felt as if no time had passed since we were back in Rome sipping cappuccinos and limoncello. Others I have spoken with, emailed, and written back and forth for classwork yet had never met face to face. Remember when I said that Loyola is like a family? Well, it was truly one amazing reunion!

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Peace,
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Book Review:We Drink from Our Own Wells

Gustavo Gutiérrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People. 20th Anniversary Edition. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2003.

In the foreword, Henri Nouwen beautifully articulates that the premises within Gutiérrez’s book grow out of the “lived experience” (xiii b) of God’s presence in history as understood by “men and women who have devoted themselves to pastoral ministry in Latin America.” As each one of us seeks to live out our faith, we too are part of a concrete experience of God at work in the world around us. In caring for and pastorally ministering to others in our communities, we are given a glimpse of a diverse and yet unique spiritual journey.

“Spirituality, Gustavo writes, is like living water that springs up in the very depths of the experience of faith” (xvi) It is a personal encounter with God breaking into the very essence of our lives, meeting us where we are spiritually,  creating ineffable moments of transformation and continual conversion.  An understanding of spirituality, therefore, which is sourced in God’s love produces not only comfort but is itself an abundant stream of joy and blessings. This is a very important to consider, I believe, as it is quite easy to focus on the struggle and neglect to understand that there are also the experiences from the Lord of  “joy and gratitude, friendship and generosity, humility and mutual care”.(xv)

This brings me to Gutiérrez’s discussion of St. Paul’s “walking according to the Spirit, who is life and enables us to live in freedom”.(3) That while we are engaged in the journey of life in the Spirit, we do not know the bends and twists in the path ahead, but is “established in the very going” of our discipleship. It is a journey that we do not travel alone, for the Spirit guides, and we travel together as an “entire people” in search of freedom and the experience of the fullness of life .In doing so we also find joy and fellowship with one another. Pope Francis speaks very eloquently to this also in encouraging us to recognize that discipleship is a journey together, and we need to reach out to one another as we engage in our call to discipleship and mission. In time and ministry with the elderly, I recognize fully the call to bring Christ and the presence of community.  The freedom we seek-from loneliness, pain, and the unknowing as we journey from this life to life eternal with God, is there. As well as the joy of holding the hand of another along the way!

A point that Gutiérrez makes quite clear in his writings, however is that in accompanying the poor and oppressed we cannot just tend to the spiritual needs but must actively address their material needs as well. If others are to truly “see and know Christ in and through us” then I believe we must also be attentive to feeding, clothing and caring for those “least” among us. As Gutiérrez notes there must be “unity and connection between prayer and action” and a desire to live our Christian spiritual life within the historical reality of the world (17).  Of course it may very well challenge us to examine our own consumption habits and shake us from our comfort level in the underlying structures which support inequality and injustice. Yet, we cannot fall back on the assumption that the poor will always be with us, but instead tend to the poor in front of us.Remembering  that Christ did not choose to solely dine with those considered most like him, but radically reached across the table to those whom others wanted nothing to do with.

This movement of prayer and action can take several different directions, depending on God’s guidance and your own charisms. Perhaps you are able to provide resources, or to advocate and enlist the participation of others. A close friend of mine, for instance, gathers food and needed household items for the homeless when make the transition into temporary housing. In my community alone,there are a number of organizations which seek to serve the poor- St. Vincent’s de Paul, Matthew’s Kitchen, and an Interfaith Food pantry. Homeless and families, many of which arrive at least an hour ahead of distribution, often leave expressing a renewed hope for the day ahead. Conversely, those who serve are given a profound and humble appreciation of the gift of being present to this graced moment.

God is so amazing- he constantly trumps in gift giving! Take time today for both prayer and action, embracing the Christ before you!

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: Danille Shroyer

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! 

An Engaging Faith with Danielle Shroyer

Danielle Shroyer,  is an author, speaker, and blogger. She served as the Pastor of Journey Church,  for over eight years. Danielle is the author of The Boundary Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise(Jossey-Bass, 2009). A graduate of Baylor University and Princeton Theological Seminary, Danielle speaks often across theWhere Jesus Prayed: Illuminating the Lord's Prayer in the Holy Landcountry on issues of theology, faith, church leadership, culture, and story. She has written for Patheos, The Hardest Question, and Immerse magazine, and she blogs often at http://www.danielleshroyer.com. She lives with her husband and two children in Dallas,Texas.Texas.

Worth Revisiting: Praying Kataphatic or Apophatic?

How do you pray? Do you find your prayer overflowing with images, thoughts and conversations or instead find yourself wrapped in silence surrounded by God’s awe inspiring presence? While at various times we may find ourselves practicing both of these, understanding the shape your prayer takes helps us to simply understand how we personally connect with God.

The first form of prayer, kataphatic, is my own prevailing mode of prayer. At times our prayer begins in seeking God, in a desire to feel the immanence and closeness of God when our mind seems busied with the affairs of this world. In these moments, as I reflect on the presence, ministry and Passion of Jesus, as Word revealed, I recognize that I am being beckoned closer. In an instant, behind closed eyes, I am enveloped by the sights, sounds and scripture intended to speak to my heart. Aware of my own transgressions and surrendering, I find myself humbled by the love and grace so undeservedly but gratuitously given. A beautiful intimate conversation ensues, an exchange of wills- that of mine for His and a resolve to change.

While other times our prayer can be an exercise of self emptying and centering (apophatic), as Christ in the desert, in a desire to rest solely in God’s presence. Using a simple centering prayer, perhaps one word only, we can become immediately aware that there is no need to seek God for he is already here beside, within, and all around. Here, in this moment, we feel that images are incomplete for the magnificence of God simply transcends everything that we have ever known! Not an end but a beginning, in our seeking to understand God further, we realize that whatever our perceptions of God are that the Divine Other is so much more! Here we find a quiet contemplative aspect of our prayer whereby we are drawn into indescribable amazement at the mystery of God. When words are few, “How great Thou art!” sums it up pretty well.

On a very personal note, growing up without an earthly father figure in my life, I have often visualized Jesus welcoming me as a child to come and just “be” near to him. Amidst fields of tall grass, on a warm summer day and a light stirring breeze there is peace and joy. More than anything I could have ever asked for, this relationship has taken away the painful loss that I believe otherwise would’ve felt incapacitating. As an adult, I still experience this joyful purely childlike prayer, most often in those moments when God understands that I am most in need of a Father. And yet I find that as I have grown older so too have my conversations with Christ. In the desire for greater understanding, and the fullness of the gift that God has given through Christ, our responsibilities as a disciple continue to grow.

In a beautiful affective way, our experience of God’s love from both modes of prayer can be felt so strongly, that it seemingly overflows out from our prayer to praise for God and others. For through our daily activities, we are continuously invited to recognize God’s creative handiwork in the world around us, and celebrate its discovery in those we encounter. It’s a visible joy that sparks others to notice and ask, “So, what made you so smiley today?” It’s a deep sense of compassion that calls us to extend that love and mercy to those most in need. Be careful though, you’ll find its authenticity contagious and truly the best witness of faith that you can ever hope to give!

 Peace,

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Wit and Wisdom: Overcoming Disappointment

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“We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’d venture to say, that each of us has experienced disappointment numerous times in our lives. There are the daily goals that don’t work out the way we had planned or expected and also those milestone moments that either shape us or rock our world. Sometimes both. Yet, how we understand and overcome disappointment is key to any way forward. For otherwise, we may find ourselves stuck in our imagined happiness rather than open to the happiness and joy that God truly desires for us. The fruits of which we might not realize until much later in life.

When my then fiance’ and I were in our undergraduate years, we began to map out and plan our life together. We knew that as an ROTC officer’s candidate that he would have a corresponding service commitment , one that we were happy to give. So we prayed for his choice of branch and active duty..well one out of two isn’t bad.  You see, active duty would have afforded a more certain path in terms of job and home security and for a newly married couple that was very attractive.    Having scored in the top percentage  for his flight school entrance exam he received his choice of branch, but to our surprise was not slotted for an active duty assignment. Wait, did they not know of our readiness to serve? Did they not see his potential to lead? Oh, and what of our prayers..why did they go unanswered?

Then it hit me..In the course of our prayers, we always ended every petition and prayer with THY WILL BE DONE. If in our faith lives we meant this prayerful intention then we had to take comfort that it truly was. God was looking at our potential and journey and rerouting us to where he knew we needed to be. Why? Because we had asked him to do so. We had invited God to the final say, and now we needed to get on board with the new coordinates and let go of what might have been. When we did so, I have to say God has never ceased to surprise us!

Oh, and through my husband’s time in the Guard and Reserve, we were given many opportunities to lead soldiers and their families in that same discernment process of time and service. Sudden deployment activation held many concerns for these men and women who had never wanted active duty status. Now unexpectedly thrust oversees in tenuous and dangerous situations, we prayed for each of them and their safety. And again at the end of every decade we prayed that it be God’s will.

Yet, don’t just listen to me..here is a bit or wit and wisdom from others..

~GK Chesterton

“Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. ” Chesterton began his writing career not as an college English major, but unexpectedly as an art student and critic. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, it is said that he suffered early on from depression and had also experienced a nervous breakdown. Renown for being absent minded,  he relied on his wife and secretary to help him with the details in life.

~Thomas Merton

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Long considered a spiritual authority on Trappist contemplation and Christian spirituality, Merton himself initially wanted to be a Franciscan. His writings advocating peace, justice  and religious tolerance remain a continual call to live out our Christian faith in the world around us.

“If we really want prayer, we’ll have to give it time. We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what’s going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves….The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not.”

~Oscar Romero

On proper focus- “If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.” Soon-to-be-saint Romero’s appointment as bishop of San Salvador is said to have been met with great disappointment by his fellow priests and colleagues. And still with ever growing unrest, poverty and violence in San Salvador, Oscar Romero heard and responded to his calling with holiness and unbelievable fortitude. With this passionate shepherd and martyr for the faith, we learn where our true hope lies.

~Dorothy Day

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: Jane & Ellen Knuth

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! 

Radio Interview with Jane and Ellen Knuth

Jane and Ellen Knuth, will be joining us to discuss Love & Salt. Jane has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 15 years. She is also an eighth-grade math teacher. Jane and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan. Ellen recently returned to the USA after 5 years in Japan. Having already been an English teacher, a singer in a rock band, a dairy princess, a MC, and a newspaper columnist, Ellen now works as a university relations manager for a study and intern abroad company. Settled (for now) in Clinton Twp, MI, she travels extensively, writes occasionally, and sings constantly.

Worth Revisiting:Lord Send Me

…On Being Chosen and Sent Forth

As a young girl, competitive athletic teams and outdoor events were not my forte. The last or next to last chosen, I waited to hear my name called and then silently prayed that I wouldn’t prove to be a disappointment to whatever team I was put on. That is not to say that I did not recognize that I had abilities, I was just quite aware that my talents lay elsewhere. With a love of singing and dance I had found a home in performing. Yet, with a love of learning, serving and leadership I found other opportunities that called forth the truly unique gifts that I could offer. Imbued within my very soul, I had been chosen, not because of these gifts but to use these gifts.

“Tortosa catedral Huguet Transfiguracio Ascensio” by Jaume Huguet

I have been thinking of this story lately, the closer we move as a Church to celebrating the feast of Pentecost. Jesus who had been with the disciples, impressing upon them that he was alive and present, encouraging each of their gifts, now visibly departed. How would they continue the work begun by Christ with him no longer there to guide? Promised that they would not be left alone, that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and comforter was to be with them they were being asked to trust and wait.

These last few months have been both exciting and event filled-from the completion of my final integration paper, speaking engagements, meetings on prospective projects and positions, and commencement.  With each of these there has been the need to carve out quiet time to pray, refill and discern where God is leading me to go next. Not wanting to choose unwisely, and thereby make a mistake, this “reformed” perfectionist has been praying in earnest for clarity. Do you see the irony too? Apparently, I am not as reformed as I had thought in fully letting go and trusting the Spirit to lead, though I know the only way forward is by doing just that.

Seeking a path to serve but uncertain precisely of the details or mission, I find that I too am waiting. Surely this is what the disciples felt in the time preceding Pentecost, and even after.

“Lord, please send me. Open my ears and heart to hear your voice, and fill me with the inner peace to tend to those things placed before me today with love, grace and joy. There is much consolation in knowing that you see our inmost being, and though sinners, we too have been chosen and are loved.”

As we look at the horizon, towards each new day, and those impending moments when we are called forth to put these feet in action, let us pray…

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit
and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

(For thankfully, you are not finished with us yet…)

May this living flame ignite within you today,

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