Season 2, Episode 4: of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh
IN THIS EPISODE:
In Season 2, Episode 4 of the Messy Jesus Business podcast, we get into the mess of learning to pray as well as polarities in the Church, which Father James Martin reflected upon. As an author, Priest and editor at large for America Media, Father James is adept at understanding and facing these challenges while remaining true the Gospel.
POLARITIES IN THE CHURCH
“I’ve been a Jesuit 30 years. I’ve never seen it so divided,” he said. “I mean…I cannot believe it. It’s stunning to me that you have even some cardinals and archbishops and bishops opposing the Pope.”
Father James has experienced these polarities first-hand in his ministry. “It’s difficult. but I think part of it is understanding not everyone’s gonna like me,” he explained. “Not everybody liked Jesus and he was a pretty nice guy.”
Sister Julia agreed, “Yeah, but he upset the system, and sometimes when we’re being faithful to Christ, we might have to disturb the status quo a little too.”
Finding the right approach in the face of division is essential. “The personal attacks are just amazing to me. So that’s messy, and the key is to try to be charitable, to never attack people personally, to give them the benefit of the doubt, but also to keep preaching the Gospel,” Father James explains.
In this episode, Father James and Sister Julia also explored vocational discernment, what drew him to the Jesuits, and what it was like for him to have a private audience with Pope Francis. And with his latest book on the horizon, “Learning to Pray,” they also talked about how surprisingly difficult prayer can be.
ABOUT THE GUEST:
Father James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America, consultor to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication and author of many books, including the New York Times bestseller, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. His latest book, Learning to Pray will be released in February 2021.
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In less than a week, votes will be counted. In less than a week, we might know the results of the election. We may know who our new — or returning — elected officials will be.
It seems to me that many of us are nervous — or terrified — about what is to come from Nov. 3. And, rightly so. We know that our votes are sacred, that a lot is riding on the results.
Here’s a little litany of what is stirring in our hearts and minds: We are thinking of the dignity of the human person and sacredness of the planet. We are concerned about climate change and political division. We are thinking about the right to life and the need to protect the vulnerable — children, elders, immigrants and refugees. We want violence and racism to end. We want there to be food, health care and justice for us. It is a lot. This is part of the mess of radical Gospel living: We care about many, many issues, and we are involved in shaping the world that we long for.
And, this litany doesn’t even account for the concerns I have about the transition of power in local, state and national governments. I wrote about those worries. This video highlights a possibility.
Despite all this seeming danger and real suffering, Christian scriptures challenge us to not be afraid — to be people who foster the virtues of love, faith and hope. Especially hope.
In the Bible, the message is plain:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (Romans 8:24-25)
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
It’s not surprising that the theme of hope is everywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic is hard and we are full of grief and exhaustion. When times are tough, hope holds a sacred power over us.
So, how could a Christian live with hope during uncertain times?
The list of options is long; possible actions compatible with each concern. Pray. Donate. Volunteer. Care for yourself. Study. Companion others. Reach out.
No matter how you embody hope, let’s deeply consider what it is and is not. It isn’t naive optimism. It is not denial. It is a feeling, a passion, but it’s more than a feeling to harbor in our hearts. As written by St. Thomas Aquinas, hope is a movement toward a future and possible good that is dependent on God’s greatness, not our own. (Sister Michaela Martinez writes about this here.)
With all this in mind, three simple principles to holding on to hope have become apparent to me. They all require openness and deep listening.
Honor the complexity of every person and situation.
No person or circumstance is worthy of being flattened out and oversimplified. But we tend to do this a lot, and this why we are in serious, polarized times. Every person has a story. We need to listen to learn the reason for their worldview, heartache and concern.
This NPR story emphasizes the challenge — and importance — of maintaining relationships across the political spectrum. Here’s an expert that remains with me:
This connects to the next principle that helps me to have hope.
Remain open to what you don’t know.
You can call it intellectual humility, sure, but you can also call it conversion. God designed us to be creatures who are constantly growing, learning. We are meant to stretch ourselves away from our attachments and comfort zones. And we’re meant to be people who are on journeys of discovery — in our faith, relationships and development. Listening and learning must be ongoing for us. This demands an openness to reframing, redefining and new ways of being as well.
Keep the big picture — God’s view — in mind.
As we love, serve and pray — as we radically live the Gospel — we are likely to feel small instead of mighty. Setbacks and heartache can get the best of us. We wonder if we are really having an impact, if our hard work is influencing the common good. It’s easy to become discouraged or to despair. This is a constant temptation for us.
Yet hope is rooted in trust in God. We have faith in God’s omniscience, and we believe that we can never know all of God’s good mystery. So we bow and worship and accept the big picture, that we are only allowed to see a sliver of the Truth.
In the midst of it all, we pray and submit ourselves to the holy mystery. God is in control. God has got this. We aim to cooperate with God’s vision and plan, to partner with the good. Centered in our spiritual practices, in our prayerful contemplation, we can quietly do small things for the love of God. While we do, God takes care of the big picture and there is freedom — and joy — in this mystery.
Yes, a lot is uncertain. From the transition of power after the election to the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many reasons why we could be afraid. We are Christians, though, who live boldly with faith, love and hope.
The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)
Season 2, Episode 3 of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh
IN THIS EPISODE:
In Season 2, Episode 3, Sister Julia Walsh talks with Stina Kielsmeier-Cook, author of a spiritual memoir: Blessed are the Nones: Mixed Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community. They discuss Kielsmeier-Cook’s search for understanding and community, after her husband deconverted from Christianity and became a “None.”
“In some ways, I was just writing because I wished I’d had something to read that connected with my experience that wasn’t purely couched in this language around how do I bring my husband around to my side, versus finding grace and love and God’s goodness in and through something that I wasn’t expecting and yet, is not unredeemable,” Kielsmeier-Cook explains.
Kielsmeier-Cook recognizes that a desire to find our place amidst uncertainty and old expectations is a journey most people face. “I think in a lot of ways it’s messy because it’s reckoning with…smashed ideals, and recognizing that this path looks different than I thought it would but maybe this is actually the journey that God had for me all along, and that there are companions here too.”
Also in this episode: wrestling with questions from outside and inside a faith tradition or church community, bridging protestant and Catholic divides, and the Nuns and Nones movement.
ABOUT THE GUEST:
Stina Kielsmeier-Cook is author of Blessed are the Nones: Mixed Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community, which was just released in September.
She works as Director of Communications at the Collegeville Institute, where she is also the managing editor of Bearings Online. She calls the frigid northland her home, where she raises children, keeps the libraries busy with her insatiable reading habit, and admits to often running late for church.
It’s Sunday and four-year-old P’s turn to pick the movie. The eight-week ban on “Frozen 2” has expired and so, to her older brother’s chagrin, that is what we are watching, again.
I admit that, aside from the film’s flaws and how tiresome it is to watch it for the hundredth time, it is a beautifully animated story of two courageous women and an epic journey to find a truth that will heal a divided land. Not the worst narrative to be streaming into my daughter’s mesmerized gaze.
In “Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints,” author Daneen Akers writes, “Humans are storytelling creatures: Stories are how we share values, cope with life’s challenges, cherish beauty, and celebrate the resilience of the human spirit … we are made of stories and stardust.” Akers is a self-proclaimed lover of stories and disaffected Christian who longs for “better faith-based stories” to share with our children and within homes, schools and communities.
Working from the premise that the stories we consume feed and grow the values we live, Akers presents a cornucopia of imperfect “holy troublemakers” who, from the grounding of their particular faith, may sometimes challenge conventions and even break rules in order to “make our society work for everyone.”
While the sentiment of working for the good of all is a noble one and feels right and reasonable it is, in my perception, quite a sticky one. In fact, for me, it is not only the stickiest point in this book but also in my lived experience in which it seems that however much I believe myself to be wholeheartedly working for good, there are others who perceive my actions as harmful; at best, misguided. Even within a single faith tradition, family or community, reaching consensus about how to define and apply moral values is a messy business indeed.
Be that as it may, I was delighted to find among her troupe of loving disruptors some of my own heroes — Mr. Rogers, Rumi, Mary Oliver and Wangaari Mathai among others — and happy to examine the beautifully articulated (and illustrated) highlights of their lives through the eyes of a child who might be “meeting them” for the first time.
Within each narrative, Akers not only introduces people but also concepts, terms and historical events. For example, in the section about Bayard Rustin, she includes comments (and glossary notes) on segregation, Quakers, discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community, pacifism, social justice organizing, chain gangs, the civil rights movement and the March on Washington.
Akers’ intended audience for the book is children ages third through seventh grade. While she writes with cognizance of young readers, she honors their intelligence and does not diminish her subjects through over-simplification. She manages to layer in complexity and careful attention to terminology without bogging down or overloading the reader. She also includes resources like “Some Notes on Language,” which outlines the sources and reasoning that influenced her in navigating the complex realm of words, as well as a glossary designed to invite further exploration of some of the loaded or unfamiliar terms sprinkled throughout the texts.
At times the common thread between the stories may seem loose or frayed or occasionally redundant. Yet where else can I read about sage and beloved Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and also meet Maryam Khatoon Molkara, the transgender Iranian woman and devout Muslim whose remarkable story of courage, commitment and certainty in her own identity led her to endure beatings and gain an audience with the Ayatollah himself to plead her case! Akers closes each narrative with a question, much like similarly-styled books might include a short prayer that draws from the theme. After telling Molkara’s story, she asks, “Have you ever had to do something scary in order to be true to yourself?”
In my own home, with my children young in age and my personal reservations regarding some of Akers offerings, I will be selective with whom I introduce from this book and how we frame the conversations around it. But naturally, over time, they will make their own selections and find the guides that best inspire and serve them on their own hero’s journey. I can only hope to offer them a scaffolding of my values over which they will build their own.
We are finally nearing the climax of “Frozen 2.” My little one clings to me and watches with rapt attention as Queen Elsa enters the ancient cave, A’tahalan. No matter how many times I have seen it and how silly I feel, my eyes inevitably fill as Elsa hears her mother’s voice sing out, “Show yourself … you are the one you’ve been waiting for all of your life …”
I hope the stories that we tell our children will give them the confidence to show their true selves while also providing the framework to question the impulses and influences that may not serve themselves or the “common good.” Hopefully the stories we tell and “saints” we introduce will guide them toward the path preached by the prophet Micah: “do justly, love mercy and act humbly” (6:8). And if “doing justly” sometimes means making — in the words of the late John Lewis — “good trouble,” may they have stories to stand on that give them the courage to do so.
Amy Nee-Walker grew up in the middle of a large and lovely family in Central Florida. Living into questions about truth and love has led her to the Catholic Worker, the Catholic Church, her incredible husband, three audacious, adorable children, and (for the time being) a home in the hills of Appalachia.
Season 2, Episode 2 of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh
IN THIS EPISODE:
In Season 2, Episode 2, Sister Julia Walsh talks with Steven P. Millies about the believer’s role in our highly-politicized ecosystem.
“One of the things that I’ve come to understand…is that our life inside the church is political,” Millies says. “And I want to be very clear about what I mean by that. Politics is not the partisanship, it’s not the division, it’s not the polarization. Politics is the human hope for the common good unearthed through discourse and dialogue. It’s the building of community.”
Millies continues, “I think it’s terribly important…for everyone we speak to, to understand clearly that this is a world that needs all hands on deck…and it certainly needs all believers.”
We also dive down into the interplay of sin and polarities, the importance of trusting in Divine timing and our jobs as Catholics working on the assembly line on the project of building God’s reign. We’ll discuss how liturgy and rituals of Church and politics build bonds. And, believe it or not, we talk about sports too!
Steven P. Millies is Director of The Bernardin Center and associate professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. During the fall 2020 semester he is the Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ Visiting Fellow in Catholic Studies at Loyola University Chicago’s Joan & Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. His most recent book was Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump.
“For these reasons, the Church, while respecting the autonomy of political life, does not restrict her mission to the private sphere. On the contrary, “she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines” in the building of a better world, or fail to “reawaken the spiritual energy” that can contribute to the betterment of society. It is true that religious ministers must not engage in the party politics that are the proper domain of the laity, but neither can they renounce the political dimension of life itself, which involves a constant attention to the common good and a concern for integral human development. The Church “has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities”. She works for “the advancement of humanity and of universal fraternity”. She does not claim to compete with earthly powers, but to offer herself as “a family among families, this is the Church, open to bearing witness in today’s world, open to faith hope and love for the Lord and for those whom he loves with a preferential love. A home with open doors. The Church is a home with open doors, because she is a mother”. And in imitation of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, “we want to be a Church that serves, that leaves home and goes forth from its places of worship, goes forth from its sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be the sign of unity… to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation.” (FT 276)
MESSY JESUS BUSINESS is produced, hosted and edited by Sister Julia Walsh with production assistance from Charish Badzinski.
My three-year-old daughter, JoyAna, loves the garden. She walks around smelling flowers, searching for worms and almost indiscriminately exclaiming, “Whoa, daddy, this is amazing.” Last week she got a hold of a red and yellow zinnia and, with all the free-spiritedness of an exuberant toddler, ran up and down the sidewalk unpetalling and tossing the flower bit by bit. After navigating my own inward journey of concern for her safety by the road and guilt for taking a neighbor’s zinnia (sorry, neighbor), I smiled and thought of The Little Flower.
On October 1, the Church joyfully remembers one who teaches us the little way of Jesus, St. Therese of Lisieux, who gave witness to the expansive height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love through the bold proclamation that the stirring vitality of holiness resides in the depths of ordinary existence. This little way calls us to share the fragrance of Christ’s mercy in the smallest perpetually-present gestures of love and to bear our weaknesses meekly. By some mystery, as we tap into the fountainhead of grace in the small relinquishments and little acts of tenderness and welcome in our everyday lives, the way of spiritual childhood opens for us the pathway to participation in the kingdom of God.
“Sanctity does not consist in performing such and such acts; it means being ready at heart to become small and humble in the arms of God, acknowledging our own weaknesses and trusting in His fatherly goodness to the point of audacity.”
One of the well-known images associated with St. Therese that illustrates this audacious trust and readiness of heart is the strewing of flowers. Her petals are all the little opportunities throughout her day to share God’s love. Just as fragrant beauty spreads when one unpetals and scatters a flower, each of these small gestures — interior and exterior love-offerings for God — put forth the aroma of Christ. Jesus takes great pleasure in this, according to Therese, and it was her small way to “make Love loved” in the world.
What does Therese’s little way have to say to us today? This is a particularly important question for us in this collective moment in our country, as the generational aching caused by racial injustice breaks through the surface and we are brought face-to-face with the glaring connection between oppression and many of the systems upon which our common life is built – including education, judicial law and incarceration, and money-making. I pray that communities and congregations nationwide ask this question and reckon with the wisdom of Therese in honest, curious dialogue.
For me, a helpful entry point for these questions leads me to yet another sister in the faith: Dorothy Day.
Dorothy’s prophetic witness for justice confronted the filthy, rotten systems of her day with relentless force. She has inspired so many to live radically the way of Jesus that is alternative to the logic of the unjust and dehumanizing structures of a profit-driven society. Her way of prayer, voluntary poverty and works of mercy glows with the light of Therese’s little way. And Dorothy didn’t simply apply Therese’s wisdom to her spiritual life of prayer and interior attentiveness but also to her social and economic commitments. The Catholic Worker Movement, under Dorothy’s bold leadership, encouraged a personalist response to the unjust social order of her time, including the little way of credit unions and farming communes, along with small enterprises and cooperatives that valued human labor and shared ownership.
Dorothy describes her first introduction to St. Therese as an underwhelming experience. She almost took offense to the confessor’s recommendation to read “Story of a Soul,” finding Therese’s little way too small and preferring to read about heroic and inimitable saints. Over her years living in Catholic Worker hospitality houses, studying and writing about the Church’s response to the unjust social order, Dorothy discovered Therese’s little way to be the path accessible to all, including and especially the poor and the downtrodden. The teaching of the little way makes room for anyone in any circumstance to participate in the loving, active presence of God.
Here in Durham, we often reflect upon what our call to follow Jesus on the little way looks like here and now. By grace, there is in our community an integration along the barrier lines that often separate us from one another — namely race, age and disability. Our society has been arranged, largely through the logics of profit and fear, in such a way that most people who are different along these (and many other) lines do not share intimate daily life. Praise God for the exceptions to this all over the country that provide an alternative imagination, but the setup of our society makes it much easier to be more proximate to those who are like us.
Every day, the nine of us in our home are each involved in a small, personalist response to some monstrously big social ills, including racism and the exclusion and belittling of persons with disabilities. Some of us live with developmental disabilities. Some of us are Black and some are white. Our ages range from nine months to 69 years. Naming this suggests no heroism (in fact, the challenge and constant failings are apparent each day) but rather indicates that St. Therese’s little way makes sense of our common life together and provides a framework for adventurous, sacred meaning in our everyday lives.
And so, the raw material of our daily lives, including offenses and forgivenesses, dishes and dusting, laughter and horseplay, annoyances and confrontations — all of these invitations to humble and self-offering love — happen in the womb of a concrete expression of the new humanity Jesus ushers in through his very person. The boundaries of hostility are torn and, in Jesus, God’s love opens new horizons of togetherness.
And so, as I praise God in reflection of our community’s lived encounter with Therese, I see a sort of little way inside a little way. I see the little way of attempting to bear one’s imperfections in humility, exploring the million daily interior and exterior invitations to respond to God’s grace with small acts of love. And this little way swirls inside the little way of proximate and intimate shared life oriented around those most vulnerable, poor and excluded in our world with personalist systemic engagement (i.e., household habits of consuming and eating and welcoming that undercut the big injustices of our time). These little ways lead us always to surrender and trust. God alone is the wellspring of goodness, truth and beauty. In God, all justice and mercy find its source and fulfillment.
And God became small. In the incarnation, God chooses the littleness of a baby and the dailiness of ordinary existence to bring salvation to the world. Within the surrendering trust of Mary’s simple “let it be” resides humanity’s faithful response to the loving invitation of God. And Mary’s consenting “yes” resulted in a hosting of our Lord Jesus filled with a million little gestures of love. Physically, in her body, she was hospitable to the life and new life of Jesus. She raised Jesus day after day after day, mothering him from an infant to toddler to young boy, through teenage years and into the intimacy of their adult lives up to the cross. Her ‘let it be’ was a surrender that left her hands open to freely scatter tiny petals of love. It was a room-making for God’s life to be and to generate new life.
May we accept God’s invitation to be available to the wonder and mystery of love as we travel the little way with Jesus.
Greg Little is a husband to Janice and father to JoyAna and Elias “Eli,”and he has a home at Corner House in Durham, North Carolina. He has learned from various schools, including several Christian communities seeking justice and peace (a Catholic Worker home inspired by St. Francis, Durham’s Friendship House and Haiti’s Wings of Hope) and is committed to a life ordered by daily communal prayer and littleness. He works at Reality Ministries, a place proclaiming that we all belong to God in Jesus through fostering friendship among people with and without developmental disabilities. Greg and Sister Julia recently met in the wonder of interfaith dialogue about monasticism and the contemplative life at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.
I was in another Zoom meeting with my friend, another Catholic sister who is a professor on a college campus. Together we were lamenting the extreme polarities in the church and society. Rubbing our foreheads. Sighing. Praying right out loud: God, help us.
Together we were bemoaning how the tensions impact our freedom to love and serve, to remain fierce in our hope. I asked her what she’s seeing from her vantage as a professor who spends a lot of time with young adults. I know she is often buoyed by the zeal and vision of Generation Z. I was hoping to hear something encouraging.
But her expression turned grim as she started to speak about the… [This is the beginning of my latest column for the online newspaper, Global Sisters Report. Continue reading here.]
Season 2, Episode 1 of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh
IN THIS EPISODE:
In Season 2, Episode 1, we explore the following question: what does building a Church of Oneness really mean? The answer is messy.
“I think a lot of people think heaven is the suburbs. And I’m very clear that’s not true,” explains our guest, Father David A. Jones, who explores the intersection of church and oneness versus rugged individualism.
Father Jones also shares his unique vocation story, we’ll hear his understanding of what it means to be a priest of the neighborhood, and we’ll talk about how our vision of heaven can be limiting, but the reign of God has space for everyone.
ABOUT THE GUEST:
Father Jones holds a Bachelor of Science degree in the field of Economics at Grambling State University and a Master of Divinity degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary. On December 15, 1989 the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin ordained David to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In 1993, after only three years of ordination, he became the youngest person appointed pastor in the Archdiocese. He is currently assigned as pastor of St. Benedict the African Parish in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago and as an Archdiocesan Dean.
The Scripture passage referred to in this episode is a reading from the Gospel of John 17:13-26.
MESSY JESUS BUSINESS is produced, hosted and edited by Sister Julia Walsh with assistance from Charish Badzinski.
LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS: We’re taking a survey of listeners to find out how we can improve Messy Jesus Business, and what topics you would like us to focus on for future podcast episodes. Take our brief survey here.
Ellen Walsh-Rosmann: Feeding the hungry during COVID
Season 1. Episode 10 of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh
IN THIS EPISODE:
In episode ten, Sister Julia speaks with Ellen Walsh-Rosmann, a farmer, a Food Service director in a rural school district, and an owner of food hub and a farm-to-table restaurant. They discussed the systemic challenges of feeding the hungry during the COVID19 pandemic and how the ordinary person can eat in a way that helps builds justice and cares for creation.
ABOUT THE GUEST:
Ellen Walsh-Rosmann is the Director of Wellness, Food Service and Nutrition for the Harlan Community School District in Shelby County, Iowa and the founder and owner and director of Farm Table Delivery and Procurement. Ellen and her husband, Daniel, also farm with Daniel’s family near Harlan, Iowa, own a farm-to-table restaurant and raise two children. Ellen believes that food can build community and foster friendships. She’s eager to have potlucks with neighbors and friends again once the COVID19 pandemic is over.
MESSY JESUS BUSINESS is produced, hosted and edited by Sister Julia Walsh.
On the good days, I am conscious of the discoveries. This life under COVID-19 has been full of new and beautiful discoveries, both inner and outer. I recently read that while our outings to restaurants, shopping malls and amusement parks have all decreased dramatically, our visits to public parks has increased exponentially. This is certainly true for me. I have discovered gems like little parks, woodlands and prairies while on steep hikes and gentle jaunts all close to where I live. I feel so free and alive in the beautiful green. Now I can tell you where to find the best milkshake in town because I’ve tried them all. When my housemate went on a bread-baking spree and the grocery stores were out of dry yeast, I found myself at the bakery buying live yeast instead.
I have also discovered inner resources: deep compassion, reflective listening and the joy in being still. Hope is no longer abstract. Hope is as sturdy as the early Christian symbol of the anchor that they used to put on their gravestones. I believe in yes. I believe in tomorrow. I believe in the power of us all working together, to watch out for each other and to care for the most vulnerable.
Making these discoveries sometimes doubles me over with stress. How do I keep my vulnerable housemates safe? When do I choose to stay in, and when is it necessary to go out and meet with someone (masked and socially distanced)? Do I go to church? Can I wait until this is all over to ever see my family again? Simple decisions loom large, and I almost drown in the quagmire.
These are my stresses, and I am incredibly privileged to have them. I have a home to stay in. I have a job that I can work virtually. I have the option to stay safe. I am white. I do not have to live with the constant discrimination and pain rampant within our culture of racism. I am not an essential worker or, as one woman described it, a sacrificial worker. I am not laid off. I do not have to navigate and maintain the safety and learning of children who attend school while trying to manage my own work schedule.
Every day, I hold all these concerns in my heart. I widen the compassion in my core. I pray. I trust. I hope. I contribute financially to those in need through my congregation, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. I do not know the answer. Even the phrase “we are all in this together” is starting to get worn and tattered.
I do know that my work at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is one of my causes for hope. People from all walks of life come in their vulnerability, and we listen with the ears of our hearts. We are engaging conversations on racism and transformation, self-care for health providers and grief groups and much more. This helps me make it through. Because in some odd way, even though it is strained, we really are all in this together.
This reflection was first published in Franciscan Spirituality Center’s e-newsletter “Reflections From the Center.” Learn more at www.FSCenter.org.
Sarah Hennessy is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She grew up in North Carolina as an active Quaker and became Catholic in 2000. For her, Jesus’ Messy Business includes falling in love with Christ AND with the People of God! Her heart is on fire for her Franciscan community, poetry, singing, and accompanying people through birth, death and the living that comes in between. She currently ministers as a spiritual director at Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.