Worth Revisiting: A Purposeful Path

How Far Can You Go With $30, A Bus Ticket, and a Dream?

Ever wonder where God is leading you and yearn to discover or explore your own vocation in life more fully? In Fr. Casey’s A Purposeful Path (Loyola Press), we are invited to do exactly that. By opening ourselves up to being vulnerable and embracing uncertainty we are then able to give way to trust. As a Jesuit novice, Fr. Casey takes us with him on a journey of a lifetime, on his pilgrimage of discerning his identity, vocation and purpose in life.

—-→Who and whose are we?

Our fundamental identity as God’s beloved children, made in the image of our Creator, is our simplest most profound identity in life. From this place we recognize that all other gifts and identities we are to later be given, while important, are lesser than our calling and love experienced as a child of God.  In what is described as a “convergence of heaven and earth”, Fr. Casey finds the words and experience of Maya Angelou resonate deep within his soul reminding him of this infinitely divine love. This is to set the stage in his own journey of transformation and acceptance of God’s plan for him.

—-→The notion of a pilgrimage..

While often we think of a pilgrimage as a journey to a place, it implicitly involves in our humanity a relational connection, compelling a response from us and deeper meaning. The idea of making a pilgrimage acquiesces itself to our identity as a people of God on the move towards both accompaniment and relationship. Though Fr. Casey feels that his pilgrimage is to lead him to a chance meeting with Maya Angelou, he is unsure of how that is to happen or how well he is to be received. Meanwhile, all that he is given to begin the journey is $30 and a bus ticket.

—-→Discerning our path

Fr. Casey’s own pilgrimage leads him first to the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, where he bonds with fellow pilgrims on the trail, and then to the Wake Forrest Campus where he encounters it seems everyone else but Maya Angelou. Dejected and feeling as if he had failed, he then heads to Washington DC. Where again, he meets others with whom he shares commonalities in service and who seem to be directing him back again to an encounter with the poet. Yet, he recognizes that he has a choice does he stay where he is to be of service or let go and let God lead him the rest of the way. To do this requires an unconditional trust in God’s provision and a vulnerability to ask others for help.

—-→How do we meet and traverse the crossroads in life?

Fr. Casey suggests and indeed illustrates that an indelible part of the journey is to continually move forward. Our timing and God’s timing are seldom the same, and while we might not understand the diversions from our perceived destination, this too is important. Learning that none of us are perfect but are perfectly loved, and faithfully provided for, is the start of finding our purpose with hope and joy.

“All my conscious life and energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own”    Maya Angelou

*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: We Drink From Our Own Wells

Fr. 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.

On Spirituality

“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!

Accompanying the Poor

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.

Prayer and Action

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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Ethics as Improvisation

 

Image result for samuel wells improvisationWells, The Drama of Christian Ethics: Improvisation. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004. pp. 236. pb. ISBN 1-58743-071-1.

Using the backdrop of the five act play, Wells imaginatively interprets the Christian community as players incorporated through baptism as part of the 4th act. Then the community, in anticipating the 5th act, is invited to faithful improvisation through nurturing trust, and joyful cooperation within God’s larger drama. Christian ethics then becomes that continual improvisational response to the new and challenging situations that arise.

 Common mistakes made within narrative drama:

Only viewing it as one act, seeing oneself as either creator/savior, living in the end of the drama, and failing to live as witness to Christ’s life (pp 55-57).

 Improvisation:

The invitation to faithfully and joyfully respond to our purpose as Christians having been formed through scripture, as a community of faith, and through continual discernment (pp. 65-66).

 Overaccepting:

A way of welcoming a gift without hindering the potential for transformation, or accepting it as is. Instead we look to see the potential usefulness of the gift and importance (p.131).

 Reincorporation:

seeking to reintegrate the events/voices of the story that have been lost or neglected in the past and seeing their potential for renewal and transformation of the future (p.147).

Throughout these readings by Wells, there is an exquisite thread of reconciliation present in every act of his understanding of the theological narrative. We are a people created with a purpose, to be in relationship with our creator, sharing in God’s magnificently creative love story. Yet, inevitably we have misunderstood our role, either underplaying or overplaying our involvement. While Wells, places God center of the drama, he calls us forth to draw on the own participation as well as the untapped potential of the discarded “material” and past experiences of the supposed minor actors. The call to faithfully improvise is not to create something from nothing, or be “original” but to seek as a community to reclaim and re-purpose the gifts and resources that God has given us.

It is with eyes and ears looking towards the past, and open hearts and arms in the present, and feet progressing “backwards” into the future that we as a church are called to await the 5th act. This openness allows us to receive a gift, even an unwanted one and see its potential transformation, as well as our own, through God’s grace. Yet, it isn’t simply the gift of another that is to be overaccepted and repurposed, but the very material and experiences of our own lives. Rather than blocking and discarding these unwanted experiences, or accepting them as a given, we are called to see these challenges as a means for God’s potential transformation and our own growth.

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Worth Revisiting: A Child’s Perspective “Dear Pope Francis”

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Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World (Loyola Press)

With the incredible appeal of Pope Francis, there has been understandably a vast array of books on him or by him featuring his homilies, angelus’, addresses and encyclicals. Yet, I am so thrilled to be able to preview a book composed of letters and questions by children and the tender responses of Pope Francis.

While I could tell you how I felt reading these personal and heartfelt correspondences..I thought that instead I would share a few of my son Thomas’ thoughts as we read these preview pages together.

I asked him, “So, Thomas, what do you think?”

Pope Francis brings out the most of everyone’s questions in faith. He speaks to each child from his heart.

(Thomas, age 10, United States)

I really like the question from Alejandra, “Why didn’t God defeat the devil?” and Pope Francis’ response that he already defeated him “in his own way” on the cross. This relieves me so much because I dislike Satan and the evil things he does. (Thomas, age 10, United States)

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I think Pope Francis’ choice for a miracle is a good one because I do not wish that children or anyone else would suffer. When Pope Francis says that it’s ok to cry, that is different from saying that crying won’t change anything. He cries because he feels for us and loves. (Thomas, age 10, United States)

To Karla, You ask if everyone good or bad has a guardian angel. I feel bad for the guardian angel that has to accompany the people that do bad things! I am happy though that people are never alone and they have a guardian angel to guide them. (Thomas, age 10, United States)

Knowing that God wants us to all be saved makes me feel grateful. If I make a mistake and am sorry, he forgives me.(Thomas, age 10, United States)

To Pope Francis: Thank you, yes Jesus wants me to be his friend. But to be a good friend, you say that this means that Jesus wants me to talk to him, and spend time with him. This makes me happy because then everyone gets to be friends with Jesus!(Thomas, age 10, United States)

As you can see, the dialogue between hearts is intended to continue with each child, parent and teacher that picks up this beautiful conversation of faith. Children have a remarkable way of meeting situations and others with a profound honesty and simplicity. Perhaps this is why we too are called to be like these children in seeking the Kingdom of heaven. 

Peace, Signature

Reappraisal- Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees

With the most recent attention on immigration within our nation’s political sphere, there was ample discussion on the cost, danger, and long term effects of our current policy on immigration. While each of these are worthy considerations from a financial and security standpoint, there still remains a profound understanding that under guards our Catholic teaching  and our relationship with our Creator

…that of the human person.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to take a look at Daniel Groody’s Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees as a means of providing a fuller discussion on this very tenuous current discussion.

In this piece by Groody, theology is examined not as a static discipline set apart from an understanding of migration, but as inherently entwined and alive in the migrant experience. For through the perspective of the migrant, we become witnesses to the prophetic voices of those who encounter the Gospel anew in their struggles and hopes for a changing world.  Here, we are invited to glimpse the fundamental nature of the human person, and its relationships with God, others, and the world as it is, as well as how it should be.[1] We are challenged to hear how God is speaking to the particular social location of the migrant, while calling us to accept responsibility and embrace our relationality with all humanity. Thus, as we are beckoned to reconcile with God, we are also called to reconcile with one another working towards the Kingdom values of the Gospel. Correspondingly, we lessen the divide between us and reach through the borders which mankind has created towards the unity that God intended.

Imago Dei (Image of God)

First, through a revisiting of imago Dei, we are called to transcend the social and political labels that humanity has imposed on one another, to recognize our intrinsic creation in the image of God.  Rather than the disproportionate relationality created by these labels and intended to “control, manipulate, and exploit”, migrant and native alike are called to affirm mutual equality and identity as children of God.[2] Further, imago Dei is a reminder that our existence is linked from the very beginning to God sharing also in the Trinitarian relationship. As such, it carries immense moral responsibility to ensure the dignity and protection of life for its most vulnerable, as part of the universal human community.[3] Groody aptly points out that Catholic social teaching and encyclicals like that of Gaudium et spes, and Laborem exercens, summon us to examine the social and economic structures themselves.[4] Here, we come to understand many of the root causes of migration and become aware that change is needed in creating opportunities for economic growth, education, and political status. [5]

Verbum Dei (God’s revelation to us)

Next with Verbum Dei, we receive the truth of God revealed through Jesus Christ entering into our world and “movement in love to humanity”, leading us back to God.[6] In Jesus we witness the self-sacrificing love reaching beyond societal borders to the outcast and sinner, all the way to the cross. For in the midst of pain and suffering, the light of Christ’s love is fully revealed calling us to see the “other” and follow him.[7]

Missio Dei (Mission of God)

As a church then, with missio Dei, we recognize that the mission of Christ calls us forth to spread the Good News of salvation and hope throughout the world. For those denied their inherent rights endowed by God, to justice and equality under the law, or a voice in determining the course of their lives, this is indeed Good News! Beautifully, Groody points to the idea of “creating space” in migration theology to allow the message to take root in hearts and lives of those who hear it.[8]

Next week, we’ll touch on Fr. Goody’s consideration of Visio Dei (the vision of God) and some final reflections on the path forward as a community of faith..

Peace,

Signature


[1] Daniel Groody, “Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees,” Theological Studies 70 (September 2009):642.
[2] Ibid., p. 643.
[3] Ibid., p. 645.
[4] Ibid., p.646.
[5] Ibid., p. 647.
[6] Ibid., p. 649
[7] Ibid., p.652
[8] Ibid., p. 659

Worth Revisiting: Oscar Romero-Prophet of Hope

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As a witness to the ever growing unrest, poverty and violence in San Salvador, Oscar Romero heard and responded to his calling with holiness and unbelievable fortitude. This biography by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca is extremely well researched and informative on the recently beatified and hopefully soon-to-be saint. So much so, that its author was invited as an expert to the consideration of the cause of sainthood for this passionate shepherd and martyr for the faith. The following are quotes taken from this biography that poignantly speak of the soul of the man who will be forever remembered in the heart of the people. I highly recommend this work as a valuable resource and primer on the life and witness of Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero.

On Being a Jesuit: 

“The Exercises of St. Ignatius [of Loyola] are a personal effort to put Christianity into practice. They are not the great principles of revelation or the magisterium, but the personal conversation with God. ‘I have seen God’ Jacob said. This must be my yearning, ‘Speak to me Lord’”. (p.6)

File:MOAR 3.jpgOn Being a Priest:

Perhaps it may surprise you but as Morozzo della Rocca affirms- Blessed Oscar Romero was at his core a traditionalist. He proudly wore a cassock, was committed to the Rosary, fasting, examinations of conscience, deep prayer life, supported Opus Dei and had a profound love for the people he served.

On Being a Bishop:

Rather than a supervisory or administrative role Oscar Romero saw the role of a bishop as one who “is essentially a pastor, a father, a brother, a friend. He journeys with other people, sows hope along their path, urges them to seek peace, in justice and love, and teaches them to be brothers and sisters.” (p. 49)

Still accused by some to be a supporter of socialism, he was ardent in his opposition to the separation of the inherent connection between God and man that Communism and Marxism advocated..

On Communism:

“The serious decisive reason why Christianity will always be anti-Communist is above all that Communism denies God and Christianity affirms God” p. 15

File:Óscar Arnulfo Romero with Pope John Paul.jpgOn Vatican II:

“‘Renewal’ the Church has cried, and no one will be able to stop this renewal because the Holy Spirit is blowing… It is not just a restoration of the Church’s prestige, which convinces no one, but a firm and open minded renewal that makes the church appear simpler and more biblical.” (p.22)

“The best thing is to live today more than ever according to the classic axiom: think with the church” (p.23)

“Tradition and progress go together”… “it is not uncommon to come across people who would like a clear decisive break with the past and to meet others who with systematic resistance oppose any form of renewal or adaptation…The conciliar position is a position of integration which brings about a vital synthesis of these two forces, Tradition and liberty.” (pp. 37-38)

Conversion or Fortitude?

What some have called a conversion others close to the bishop described more as a growing awareness to the socio-historical conditions and strength or fortitude to respond to these circumstances out of a deep faith. “Because the Church was faithful to her mission of evangelizing by fostering the conscience of society and by denouncing the injustices and abuses of authority, all these things made the Church the object of persecution…I believed in conscience that God was calling me and giving me a special pastoral fortitude that contrasted with my temperament and my conservative inclinations. I thought that it was my duty to take a positive stand to defend my Church, and on behalf of my Church to stand with my greatly oppressed people.” (p.81)

File:Oscar Romero.jpg
A commemoration of those killed in the Civil war in San Salvador, El Salvador

On Violence:

Romero, as della Rocca observes, was a man of non-violence, of forgiveness not hatred ..and yet equally noted is that at the time.. “neutrality was nearly impossible”. In one of his last homilies he speaks that “ It is time for reconciliation..how irreconcilable they seem the Left’s denunciation of the right and the right’s hatred of the left..those in the middle say let violence come from wherever it may, it is cruel in either case. So we live in polarized groups”. (p. 92)

On Being a Church of the Poor:

File:Oleo em tela.jpg
Pedro  Casaldaliga, cc. Carolina Batista

“Let us not look for Christ in the opulence of the world, amid the idolatry of wealth amid the desire for power, amid the intrigue of the great. Let us seek God among the undernourished children who have gone to bed tonight with nothing to eat..among the poor newsboys who will sleep tonight in doorways covered in newspapers..The God of the poor has assumed all that and is teaching [us] the redemptive value of human pain- the value that poverty, suffering and the cross have to redeem the world” (p. 114)

Finally, as della Roca observes, Blessed Oscar Romero could have fled but didn’t. Instead, Romero remained “faithful to God and the mission” in the face of certain persecution and death.Signature

Worth Revisiting: A Purposeful Path

How Far Can You Go With $30, A Bus Ticket, and a Dream?

Ever wonder where God is leading you and yearn to discover or explore your own vocation in life more fully? In Fr. Casey’s A Purposeful Path (Loyola Press), we are invited to do exactly that. By opening ourselves up to being vulnerable and embracing uncertainty we are then able to give way to trust. As a Jesuit novice, Fr. Casey takes us with him on a journey of a lifetime, on his pilgrimage of discerning his identity, vocation and purpose in life.

—-→Who and whose are we?

Our fundamental identity as God’s beloved children, made in the image of our Creator, is our simplest most profound identity in life. From this place we recognize that all other gifts and identities we are to later be given, while important, are lesser than our calling and love experienced as a child of God.  In what is described as a “convergence of heaven and earth”, Fr. Casey finds the words and experience of Maya Angelou resonate deep within his soul reminding him of this infinitely divine love. This is to set the stage in his own journey of transformation and acceptance of God’s plan for him.

—-→The notion of a pilgrimage..

While often we think of a pilgrimage as a journey to a place, it implicitly involves in our humanity a relational connection, compelling a response from us and deeper meaning. The idea of making a pilgrimage acquiesces itself to our identity as a people of God on the move towards both accompaniment and relationship. Though Fr. Casey feels that his pilgrimage is to lead him to a chance meeting with Maya Angelou, he is unsure of how that is to happen or how well he is to be received. Meanwhile, all that he is given to begin the journey is $30 and a bus ticket.

—-→Discerning our path

Fr. Casey’s own pilgrimage leads him first to the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, where he bonds with fellow pilgrims on the trail, and then to the Wake Forrest Campus where he encounters it seems everyone else but Maya Angelou. Dejected and feeling as if he had failed, he then heads to Washington DC. Where again, he meets others with whom he shares commonalities in service and who seem to be directing him back again to an encounter with the poet. Yet, he recognizes that he has a choice does he stay where he is to be of service or let go and let God lead him the rest of the way. To do this requires an unconditional trust in God’s provision and a vulnerability to ask others for help.

—-→How do we meet and traverse the crossroads in life?

Fr. Casey suggests and indeed illustrates that an indelible part of the journey is to continually move forward. Our timing and God’s timing are seldom the same, and while we might not understand the diversions from our perceived destination, this too is important. Learning that none of us are perfect but are perfectly loved, and faithfully provided for, is the start of finding our purpose with hope and joy.

“All my conscious life and energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own”    Maya Angelou

*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

 Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Spiritual Friendship- Love & Salt

“You and I are here and I hope that Christ is between us as a third. Yes most beloved open your heart now and pour whatever you please into the ears of a friend. Gratefully, let us welcome the time, place and leisure” 

Aelred of Rivaulx, Spiritual Friendship.

What is Spiritual Friendship?

It is a bond between souls – one that cannot be created or induced but is the very knitting together by our Creator from whom all love flows.  This is a friendship that mirrors the love that God has for each of us, a give and take of our very selves, without thought of risk or gain. It is an opening of our hearts to one another, willing to share difficult truths and sorrows as well as joys.  Challenging us to grow, it inspires us to be more like Christ in crossing into one another’s lives through and for the sheer reason of love.

In Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters we are welcomed into the lives of Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith. Two women from very different backgrounds each felt led to take  a creative writing class that would truly be the beginning of an incredible spiritual friendship. While initially there would be a concealment of their own admittance to and searching for faith, their paths with one another would lead to a true discovery of self. Through letter writing they spanned the distance apart, and like Ruth and Naomi realized that they indeed could walk this path together.

For Jessica it was the faith of her childhood which “brought religion to life in a way that theology never could” , through a visible lived faith experience that seemed to permeate everything.  Battling doubts as to Amy’s choosing of her as Confirmation sponsor, Jessica was hopeful that she could help guide Amy into the faith in her own return as well. Meanwhile, continually unfolding the layers of grief of her mother’s death and father’s alienation, Jessica sought to understand her own new vocation as mother.

For Amy, her path from a secular upbringing to conversion was more of a “long crescendo”, an accumulation of experience that spoke to this decision that felt called to make to become a Catholic. Approaching faith initially from a position of trying to prove its truth, she conceded that there was in fact a “leap of faith” beyond reason that was required. When Amy encountered the initial joy of pregnancy to the experience of delivering Claire as stillborn their spiritual friendship was what carried Amy through this difficult time.

Through the sharing of these daily struggles, small and large, and their profound moments of deep questioning they experienced a connection that went beyond a simple exchange of friendship. They had found the freedom and friendship of faith and love that bound them  together like Ruth and Naomi.  Unraveling what it is to have faith, in the midst of grief and through the ups and downs of life, buoyed by the God given companionship in one another.

Have you experienced a friendship like this? Is there someone in your life whom you feel privileged to carry their burdens as well as their joys? If so, take a moment today to say “Thank you” to God for this priceless gift of love.

Peace,

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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.”

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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