Undoer of knots

“It’s one of the symptoms of our time to find danger in men like you who don’t worry and rush about. Particularly dangerous are men who don’t think the world’s coming to an end. ‘It’s coming to an end, all right,’ the seer said. ‘That started the moment it was born.’”

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

It has struck me repeatedly and profoundly these last couple of weeks that we have a flair for the dramatic. Now, I should be honest from the start that I’m not sure who I mean by “we.” But at least within the circles I run in these days—the people I talk to, the people whose thoughts I read print and online—there’s a real penchant for superlatives.

This is the worst day ever.

This is the best latte ever.

Donald Trump/Barack Obama is the devil and is ruining America and only real, true patriots can stop him from his unsurpassed and unsurpassable villainy.

Rand Paul/Bernie Sanders is the new baby Jesus, come to save us all!

K-Cups will turn into monsters and destroy the planet (lest ye doubt me, this is a real thing).

Tesla cars and Space-X will usher in a new, peaceful world order of super cars and alien-human peaceful coexistence!

I am no different from anyone else in this regard. I tend to think, mired in my small viewpoint, that my problems are paramount. My heroes are superheroes, and my villains are archfiends, and my struggles are heroic in scope and legendary to tell! But, most days at least, they are not. I have no real problems. I am a human—I have vexations and frustrations, but they are normal. I have successes and joys, but they are ordinary. I am not a saint, though I am working at it.

Now sometimes, in trying to resist this over-dramatization, I can go too far the other way. It can lead me to disregard my joys as less than joyful. In the last couple of days I have watched my baby daughter start to crawl. It is miraculous. But there was a moment, as I was tearing up, that I thought “Well, this isn’t that special … I mean, all babies crawl. Every parent has witnessed this before. She’s not a super baby or anything.” That may be, but what a depressing mindset filled with tragic despair. Yes, perhaps every baby ever has learned to crawl—but mine never has! I am right to rejoice. Every spring is new—God does not tire of making them. Every breath I take is a miracle, no less so because billions of others breathe. Life may be ordinary—but that shouldn’t make it less awe-inspiring.

To accept that things matter, but not any more than they actually do: this is a tightrope, but I think one that is important for us to walk.Mary with knots rosary

Recently, I’ve come across a Marian devotion called “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.” And, I must say, I like it quite a great deal. I feel compelled to confess that I’ve never been much of a Marian devotee. I’m a fan of Our Lady, don’t get me wrong … but so many of her devotions are so dramatic that I find them off-putting. Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of the Imminent Apocalypse, Our Lady of the Despairing and Totally Hosed. It’s not her fault that her friends so often speak of her in these terms, but it’s made me wary. When my problem is that I’m vaguely annoyed with a co-worker, I find it wrong to address a request for aid to her with phrases like “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” This is a powerful plea for those in real despair and I don’t criticize those who turn to her in their darkest moments and then utilize such language, but normally I need more of a “complaining and grumbling in this vale of minor inconveniences” level of assistance.

Photo by Steven Cottam
Photo by Steven Cottam

And this seems exactly where “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots” comes in. She is beseeched with a simple plea to aid us in undoing the knots—the fears, worries, and anxieties—of our daily lives. Some knots are huge, some are nigh Gordian! But most are small. An unsmoothness in a moment of marriage, an unruly disposition toward the neighbor—little knots. A spilled coffee, a flat tire, the dog taking a dump on the rug, and the baby taking a dump on the dog … successively bigger knots, but still nothing calling for heroic virtue. But we should not wait to call for divine assistance only when heroic virtue is called for. We should call for it all the time, for every moment of our day is a choice to grow in holiness or grow away from it. But we will be greatly aided in that pursuit if we can remember to keep things in perspective: remembering which knots are big, and which are really not.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for Us!

A Visit to The Simple Way

Earlier this summer I was fortunate to be able to make a pilgrimage-of-sorts to The Simple Way, a Christian community in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia described as “a web of subversive friends conspiring to spread the vision of ‘Loving God, Loving People, and Following Jesus’ in our neighborhoods and in our world.”

Like many thousands of Christian millenials, I have been interested in The Simple Way community ever since I first devoured this book about eight years ago.

 

In The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, Shane Claiborne describes an inspiring type of Christian living: a dedicated, communal, prayerful, life of radical simplicity and activism inflamed and inspired by the Gospel.

Some time after first reading his book I remember writing Shane Claiborne a letter thanking him for his work and sharing with him how it impacted me. At the time I was new to my Franciscan community and feeling confused while I discerned commitment. I was starting to become aware of the community’s shadow sides as my idealized sense of who we are waned away. I felt uncertain whether staying with my Franciscan community would free to me to live the way I felt called to live. Plus, I was struggling with generational challenges and the impact of joining a group with a long history. Honestly, I was tempted to leave religious life and instead join a movement with the freshness and ecumenical energy like The Simple Way community that Shane describes in his book.

I must have written my thoughts all out in my letter to Shane because I still remain thankful for the gift of his response as his encouragement to be Franciscan ultimately contributed to my decision to stay with FSPA (and propelled me toward my perpetual profession of vows five weeks ago!). Here is an excerpt from the letter I still treasure and pray with:

“I admire your hope and your discontentment–and certainly the Church needs both—it is a beautiful thing to hear in your words the fiery passion of Francis and Clare—and the humility to submit and seek the wisdom of elders … Our communities and ‘new monasticism’ has its charm and fresh charism but it also has this challenge and vulnerabilities … I certainly will keep you in my prayers as you continue the work of Francis and Clare and ‘repairing the ruins of the Church.’  You are a gift to the FSPA …”

Since that first correspondence, I have remained a fan and follower of Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way. I have heard Shane speak in person a couple of times and I continue to be inspired and influenced by his writing and passion for being a neighbor and disciple of Jesus. I have tried to keep up with all the happenings in The Simple Way, but never before made it there for a visit.

So when a wedding brought me to Philadelphia at the end of June, I reached out to The Simple Way community to see if I could stop by. I didn’t expect to actually see or spend any time with Shane (he’s kind-of famous) but I was really interested in the current state of The Simple Way and how God was working with and through their presence in the Kensington neighborhood.

I was so excited when I found The Simple Way in Philadelphia! I really felt like I was arriving on Holy Ground, a place of faith and wonder.

 

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

 

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

 

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

There, I was hosted by Caz Tod-Pearson (the director of the organization) who had recently returned from maternity leave.

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

She and I had a deep conversation about The Simple Way story. She told me about the ups and downs of community life and the ways that she is working hard to help the community stay rooted and find a healthy focus.

As Caz explained in an email to me prior to my visit:

Right now we do not have an intentional community house, or a large amount of service projects, or programs going on as we have in the past (as the stories in the book written 10 years ago speak of).

Over the past year and a half we’ve gone through some major transition, and taken a lot of logs off our fire, that had got pretty saturated, to get the flame burning again. So what happens here on a weekly basis is pretty small and simple, and has begun to look a little different as indigenous neighbors take on more leadership and volunteer roles in the work that had been done by our residents. We’ve had to say no to a lot of good people wanting to come in and help as we’ve listened and made way for neighborhood leaders to take ownership for what our neighbors need and want.

We do still have a couple of families and friends who’ve relocated intentionally, are living and working alongside us, and are sharing life in simple ways. We do still have some rhythms of prayer, shared meals and work, but to a different degree than before. We really have stripped everything back and are ‘starting again’ in a way. It’s been a difficult, yet beautiful season that we know the Spirit will continue to guide us through.”

I love the simple beauty of the main common room where we had our conversation.

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

Caz spoke about how fame and fire impacted The Simple Way community. In 2006 The Irresistible Revolution and The Simple Way community was put into the national spotlight. During that time Krista Tippet interviewed Shane on Speaking of Faith (now On Being). Then, on June 20, 2007, a seven-alarm fire destroyed several properties in Kensington, including the house where Shane was living.

The effect of these two events occurring so close together was an explosion of financial support, organization, projects, collaborations, associations, press and visitors. The initial grass-roots, intentional-community flavor of The Simple Way shifted some. It is still an intentional community, but it’s not of the same type as when it was founded. The Simple Way has essentially remained in a state of discernment and transition since 2007, while still serving the neighborhood and being faithful to the Gospel.

Here is the lot that remains empty since the fire.

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

The Simple Way is now committed to being a loving presence in Kensington, building relationships of mutuality and establishing sustainability.

And in a place hurting from poverty and its impacts, they offer tremendous beauty and love to the neighborhood by cleaning up spaces and sponsoring artists who paint murals.

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

They also have a few garden projects.

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

What I encountered during my visit to The Simple Way was inspiring and exciting for God clearly is actively influencing the life of community. What was especially fascinating, though, were the indicators that the members of this new form of religious life are dealing with similar questions as those of us who are newer to Catholic religious life. In different corners of the country, living different forms of religious life, we all seem to be riding the same wind that the Spirit is blowing throughout God’s people who are eager to build God’s reign of peace and justice.

Just like the peers of my generation in Catholic sisterhood, The Simple Way is grappling with questions of identity and call and how to respond to the signs of these times. They are trying to discern who God needs them to be now, as they stay open to the Spirit’s work and revere the legacy of their founders. They are trying to establish relationships of mutuality with those on the margins of society and build bridges across lines of culture, class and creed (and I have also heard some of my Catholic Worker friends of my generation express the same sort of desires).

Clearly, God is up to many great things through Shane and Caz and their friends and neighbors, who are working hard to help Christ’s peace and love be known in our hurting and troubled world. Thanks be to God for how they offer themselves as true instruments of peace. Let us pray for them and support them in all the ways we are able.

They—like many other Christian millenials—are challenged by the Spirit and the signs of these times. We desire to help God’s peace and justice be known by all people, in every broken place of the world.

No matter what type of Christian community we belong to and whether we are joining a new movement of the Spirit or a 800-year-old tradition, all of us are eager to build deep relationships of mutuality and strong communities. Together we are on this journey of building hope and proclaiming peace. So, let’s pray, discern and follow the Spirit together, now matter how messy, mysterious or confusing doing God’s good work may be! AMEN!

photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

 

Being Bread for Life: A Sacrifice Pleasing to the Lord

Messy Jesus Business Rabble Rouser, Amy Nee-Walker, recently wrote the following Scripture reflection “Being Bread for Life: A Sacrifice Pleasing to the Lord” for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time and posted it on the Catholics On Call blog. 

Catholics on Call worksofmercywar
Artist: Rita Corbin

In today’s readings, John the Baptist is prodded past the point of despair through miraculous nourishment in the desert, St. Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to be “imitators of Christ,” who, as Jesus iterates in the Gospel of John, is “the bread of life.”  Meditating on these readings on August 9th 2015, I am moved by how poignantly they contrast to the events that happened on this same date, 70 years ago.

On August 9, 1945, the U.S. detonated their second nuclear bomb, “Fat Man,” on the heavily populated city of Nagasaki.  An estimated 73,884 people were killed, another 74,909 continuing to labor under the misery of loss of health, land, resources and beloved friends, family and community.  Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, brought home this seemingly distant tragedy, writing, “vaporized, our Japanese brothers [and sisters] – scattered, men, women and babies to the four winds, over the seven seas.  Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York, on our faces, feel them in the rain.”

In a new book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, Susan Southard further personalizes the story of those who suffered through and survived the massacre at Nagasaki by focusing on the lives of five Hibakusha (the name given to survivors of the bombings).  She tells of Taniguchi Sumiteru who, at the time of detonation, was a 16-year old boy, riding his bicycle to deliver mail throughout the city.  The bomb destroyed over three square miles of the city in which Taniguchi lived and worked.  It was 17 months before he could sit up, having had the skin melted off his back and arms.  Because of lying face-forward in bed so long, his chest too began to rot away.  After four years Taniguchi was finally discharged from the hospital.  As doctors and nurses did the excruciating work of repairing his body, he is reported to have cried out, “Kill me, kill me!” preferring to die than to endure the pain any longer.

As I read the lament of Elijah in the wilderness, “This is enough … take my life!” I hear the wails of young Taniguchi and those who thought it better to have died than survive the pain of their injuries or the turmoil of radiation sickness and cancer.  Yet, just as Elijah was ordered to eat and endure for the sake of those who remain, so the Hibakusha, like Taniguchi, endured their bodily and emotional trauma and engaged with life that they might be representatives for those from whom life was irrevocably stolen.

Nuclear weapons, and the radiation they emit, wreak havoc on bodies, poison waterways, and seep into the soil, sowing seeds of destruction for generations.  It is a death that strikes heavily and spreads deeply, infecting the sources of life for the present and the future.  The U.S. is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons as an act of war and continues to be a leader in nuclear munitions and in further development of nuclear armament and technologies.

What then are we are called to as we approach the Presence who is revealed in the Word, in prayer, in the Eucharist?  What are we called to if not to be bearers and sharers of that presence; to be bread for the hungry, to proffer nourishing life in resistance to a culture that cultivates death?  St. Paul, notorious for his tendency toward convoluted prose, manages to write quite plainly and eloquently in his letter to the Ephesians:

“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

“And so be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.”

This Christ, very much a man with all the fears and pains that accompany life within the flesh, willingly proclaimed himself as “the living bread that came down from heaven.” “The bread that I will give,” he said, “is my flesh for the life of the world.”  In this, Jesus fully acknowledges that to give bread for the nourishment of life in the world would come at a personal cost and he was willing to give it, sacrificing even his own life.

What does it mean to be followers of one who rejects self-preservation, one who would choose that his own body be broken, his own flesh be consumed for the sake of giving life to others, rather than ever being an instrument of harm?

On August 6, 1985, in a radio message to the people of Japan, Pope John Paul II said of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

“Such a tragic destiny is not inevitable.  It can and must be avoided.  Our world needs to regain confidence in its capacity to choose moral good over evil … One must affirm and reaffirm, again and again, that the waging of war is not inevitable or unchangeable.”

Elijah, after being roused from despair, continued to be a prophetic voice in the name of God.  The Hibakusha bore the trauma of horrific wounds and unhealable memories and went on to be a voice for those who lost their lives as well as a healing presence for those who survived.  Jesus overcame death by willingly accepting it so that we all might discover the way to peace and to life abundant.

How do we walk on amidst these truths? For today, I sit in prayer with the presence of the Spirit; I hold the generations who suffer from reckless, destructive war-making—as well as those who suffer from my own careless interactions and complicity in social evils—in my heart. I ask that I might be transformed and become a true image-bearer of the compassionate, forgiving, nourishing, healing Christ.

Ordinary lights

During a recent volunteer stint at the local drop-in center for people who are homeless, I overheard a conversation between two of the guests. A man gestured toward me and said, “Don’t talk like that here, especially with her around — she’s a nun.” I don’t know what they were talking about or what words they were using, but I noticed the woman he was talking to squirm in disbelief and embarrassment.

She turned to check me out, to see if he was telling the truth. I introduced myself and explained that yes, I am a sister, but that they shouldn’t worry or try to be any different around me. I asked her to be herself and said I would be myself too. I said that I am an ordinary person who just lives a different type of lifestyle. After commenting on my simple outfit of leggings and a sundress, she relaxed and said…

[[This is the beginning of my latest column for the online newspaper, Global Sisters Report. Continue reading here.]

 

Seeking corners of quiet but learning lessons on love instead

Recently I had a conversation with another sister. During the chat, we realized we had a common experience on our different retreats earlier this summer.

We had each gone to opposite corners of the country and were looking forward to some sacred one-on-one time with God. He found a way to sneak in–to surprise and enlighten both of us.

My friend shared an account of how she had gone to a chapel, hoping to pray in silence in order to spend time with the One Who Loves her (and loves everyone, for that matter), only to be distracted by all the people and the happenings inside: chatting, rosaries prayed aloud, and fussy cleaning and tidying.

Then I told her about my retreat: to a busy lake over the 4th of July weekend, where I foolishly hoped for some solitude and silence in nature. I kept trying to find quiet corners in God’s creation. Instead, I became a little irritated by the noise of speedboats, jet skis and people whooping and hollering as they had fun.

The other sister said she eventually calmed and realized she was actually in an appropriate space to savor God’s presence. God was totally present in the people distracting her silent prayer in the chapel. She felt a sense that God was there, loving each of them. In this awareness she was overcome, suddenly, with a deep sense of joy and gratitude because she felt connected to God’s love for her and everyone else in the room.

My transformation happened gradually. Eventually I realized my attitude had shifted, though. All the people screaming in joy and speeding along on boats began to seem precious to me. I realized I felt happy for them as they had a great time. And, in one sacred and fleeting moment, I felt totally in touch with how God loves each and everyone one of them just for who they are.

 

"Tall trees near Trout Lake" photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“Tall trees near Trout Lake” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

Both my friend and I had certain hopes about how our prayer time would go. We had gone into contemplation seeking union with God and anticipating a certain outcome and experience.

Instead, we experienced little conversions and learned great lessons from God about love. One of the most awesome ways to be in union with God is to love others as God loves them.

Amen!

Staring At My Pile of Dirt: The cost of growing the kingdom of God in Chicago

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Julia Walsh:

I am glad to share this recent post from Daily Theology with all of you. It is written by one of my friends, Dannis Matteson from Catholic Theological Union, who writes from the messy trenches of Gospel living in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. Let us hold their ministries in prayer and do all we can to support them!

Originally posted on Daily Theology:

The reign of God. God’s rule. The household of God. God’s dream for the earth. Basileia tou Theou. The justice of God…

The kingdom of God is the core content of the synoptic gospels. In fact, the kingdom of God appears 122 times in the New Testament. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to participate in building the kingdom of God. But there is always a cost…

A life dedicated to growing the kingdom ensures great adventure, as my husband and I have found. The glamour of giving it all up, living counterculturally, and letting go of socially acceptable life plans, all of which is required when you give your life to building the kingdom, can appear attractive. At the Hope House (1), an intentional community my husband and I have worked to create, along with Molly and Kevin (our core community members), we live each day in anticipation…

View original 851 more words

Like loon encounters

“rowing on Trout Lake” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA

Like loon encounters 

Communion with the Creator
can come like loon encounters,
when you are simply rowing
through life and enjoying
the ride, then-ah-behold:
the sight of loon dancing, diving,
singing, playing. The surprise of beauty,
of scenery, of simplicity. Many ecstasies
come in these off-shore liminalities
but I must keep rowing, allowing
the beyond-me to be
bigger. Hold me Waves.
Hold me Harmony!

loon community
“loon community” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“loon dance” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“Trout lake” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA

Surrender to the way

As this water flows
within the container
of Love-lake true-
my self shall surrender
to the way of these loons.
They give into the breezes
of belonging, the diving
of self, of yes.
Their freedom is found
in being who they
were designed to be best.

“looking loon” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“loon school” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA

It happened!

Sisters Julia and FSPA President Karen Lueck
Sisters Julia, FSPA President Karen Lueck

The past few weeks have been very busy and full of life for me.  I went on vacation and then retreat and then made my Final Vows on July 11th. It was all amazing!

Thank you very much for all of your support and prayers! I am in awe and overwhelmed by all the love and blessings I have been showered with recently.

If you are interested, you may view the mass of my Perpetual Profession of Vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration here:

Sister Julia Walsh Final Vows U Stream

Julia Receives Ring
I am a bit amazed by the ring I received.

For me, one of the highlights of the profession mass was the phenomenal reflection given by my dear friend and Messy Jesus Business contributor Sister Sarah Hennessey in which she cites what my heart, one day, began to say: “I pray, dear One, that the union that comes from my consecration helps your Church to boldly burn with the fire of your love.”  (This was something I shared in my most recent Global Sisters Report column.)

According to many who were present on Saturday, it was obvious I was boldly burning with a fire of love for Jesus; my family; my friends; my FSPA sisters; my Rabble Rousers; and my partners in a life of Messy Jesus Business, including all of you!

May God bless us–we are all in this Messy Jesus Business as we set the world on fire with Gospel love! Amen!

Sister Julia with her family
Me with my family, minus brother-in-law Daniel
Sister Julia and friend Father Graham Golden, O.Praem.
Me with my friend Rev. Graham Golden, O.Praem., who presided at Mass
Joyful Sister Julia!
A joyful moment after Mass

 

Just sandals and a walking stick

Note from Sister Julia: A version of the following text was written for my coursework in my Introduction to New Testament course at Catholic Theological Union where I am a part-time student. The assignment was to write a Biblical commentary on a particular Gospel passage. The passage I selected was Mark 6: 7-13, which was the Gospel for this past Sunday

imgresJesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts. 
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic. 
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. 
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.” 
So they went off and preached repentance. 
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.  

– Mark 6: 7-13sandal-1419571

Jesus gave a particular Mission to the Twelve from the Gospel of Mark. And, it is a very interesting story when you are aware of the historical context. In the time of Jesus, there was another group of countercultural preachers who belonged to what was called the Cynic movement. They were founded by Diogenes of Sinope in fourth century Greece and had spread throughout the Mediterranean world, including Palestine. They carried a staff to show that they were homeless and a knapsack to show that they were self-sufficient. They were urban and individual. What Jesus establishes with his sending of the Twelve is a very different movement, as his missionaries were rural and communal and did not carry a knapsack (nor a staff, in Luke and Matthew). This showed their solidarity with and dependence on those to whom they preached. [1]

Like the Twelve, we are called to embrace God’s mission and serve. We must move out and go to be with the other to serve and share the good news. But we don’t arrive as heroes or messiahs, we come to companion and be a guest. We are equal with those who we help, as we unite with their experience of daily life and receive their hospitality. As we give messages of hope and healing, we receive. This is real solidarity and interdependency. It is a radical way of loving ones neighbor, for this “walking with” will not make us into the rich, famous or accomplished.

In order to really live the Gospel in this way of mutuality we may need to change our life around. We may need to change our mind about what it means to help and to serve in the name of God. We may need to make changes in our life in order to be present to others in the ways that God needs us.

In order to do this with integrity and love, it is necessary for us to pause and assess the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I offer a few simple reflection questions to guide us as we seek to implement Jesus’ mission into our modern times.

Question 1.) Who are you with? The Mission of the Twelve begins with Jesus summoning his friends and then sending them out as pairs. Christ summons each of us and wants us to remember that we are not alone. For the disciples of Jesus in the first century, it could have been dangerous to travel alone. Plus, people would have been less likely to take them seriously and welcome them if they were solo travelers. For us who are also called to build the reign of God, it is unnecessary and foolish for us to try to be alone in doing good for God. We are a communal people. We belong to a Trinitarian God of relationship. We need each other. Let us lean on others for support as we do the work of God. Let us support and unite with others while we do that which God calls us.

Question 2.) What does God need us to bring? The instructions that Jesus gives the Twelve is that they are to “take nothing for the journey.” (Although they could have a staff, a second tunic and a walking stick.) I am reminded of the time when I was a Jesuit Volunteer and flew to California to work with homeless youth for an entire year. As I was preparing for my missionary experience, a letter from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps program director arrived and challenged me. The letter quoted this passage from Mark and reminded me that I would be arriving to a fully furnished house. I was asked to pack lightly and bring little with me so I could learn to live simply and live in solidarity with the poor. Packing was a real struggle because it helped me to recognize my attachments. Somehow I sensed that the less I went with, the more open I would be to receiving whatever God had in store for me. I knew I could trust the circumstances and I could trust God. We need to bring trust in God.

Question 3.) What does God need us to leave behind? When I was packing for my year of service it felt very freeing to realize that I could leave a lot of my possessions behind and start fresh in a new city. It became clear that I was bringing a lot of excitement and eagerness for my adventure. It also became clear that it would not be helpful for me to be guided by fear, but by love. Just as The Twelve, I needed to leave behind any attachments that could get in the way of serving God, especially any lingering attachments to fear. The Twelve needed to leave behind anything that would prevent them from being open to those who they would meet, anything (such as a purse and money) that would not show them to be an equal. God needs us to leave behind fear and other attachments that prevent us from being open to others.

When Jesus sent the Twelve on a mission, he was establishing a movement to live out his mission. In our day, we are also sent to serve. Like the Twelve, as we go on our journeys and do acts of love, we must bring hearts full of trust in God, leave fear behind and be ready to love all we meet as equals. When we move in this way, we will build relationships in solidarity and interdependency. We will build the Kingdom of God! May God bless us as we go. Amen!

[1] John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images, (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994), 148.

 

Franciscan Bookshelf: “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”

By Messy Jesus Business guest blogger K.P.

Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.”– Ann Voskamp

51lWAOBT9rL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_The concept of eucharisteo, as Ann Voskamp explains in One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, is a practiced and disciplined form of perpetual adoration: a choice to thank God in every season, every action, every moment. As she describes in this interview with The High Calling, it is “the word that can change everything”: thanksgiving, which “envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.”

Last week, I made my covenant affiliation to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and participated in the program’s live-in for five days prior to that ceremony. On Wednesday morning we were visited by two sisters who spoke passionately about perpetual adoration. I confess that, prior to the live-in, I found perpetual adoration to be the most mystifying and distant aspect of my community’s charism. I have sat in the perpetual adoration chapel many, many times, and I’ve experienced peace; I’ve prayed and felt the effects of my prayers; I’ve left prayer requests for others. And I felt that I understood—intellectually—the significance of perpetual adoration and the way it has marked the history and experience of the FSPAs in La Crosse, Wisconsin. But I did not fully understand this ministry and its immediate application to my life. I was grateful that others dedicated their time to adoring the monstrance—not just FSPAs, but countless affiliates, prayer partners and occasional visitors. But I did not understand how or why I should make this a regular, meaningful part of my own spiritual journey.

One of the sisters that morning spoke fervently of perpetual adoration as a form of being prayerfully active in the world, and I recalled immediately Voskamp’s own word for such a practice, eucharisteo. Voskamp’s text is meaningful to me because I credit her book—and my dog-eared, much-loved copy—for introducing me to the power of the everyday spiritual practice. It was after I read One Thousand Gifts that I began to explore lay orders and other spiritual communities and disciplines; it was after I watched interview after interview with Voskamp that I began to recognize and appreciate mundane holiness and the need for loving presence in every moment. One Thousand Gifts helped me understand that I would be remembered for how I loved, how I brought peace—not for what I owned or accomplished. In this way, I would place Voskamp in powerful company: her book was as quietly revolutionary, for me, as was Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and the work of Richard Rohr. Her revolution is a whisper. A silent, persistent prayer of gratitude. A microaction, prompted by a profound call to her own version of perpetual adoration.

And so, even though Voskamp is not Catholic nor is she Franciscan (though I believe that, as we say, she has a “Franciscan heart”), her word eucharisteo remains with me as I begin my new journey as an affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.