Archive for September, 2007

Principle and Foundation

For anyone with some experience with Ignatian spirituality, you probably recognize the title of this post as the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I’ve prayed with this from time to time in the years that have passed since my 30-day retreat, and it still speaks to me. Here’s a brief excerpt and then my brief reflection…

God who loves us creates us
and wants to share life with us forever.

I think what strikes me most about these words is the sense of God’s initiative in our relationship. God has always had a deep desire for relationship with me, even before I was even aware that God existed. Imagine, God’s desire for…ME. I’m pretty sure that this is the one thought that most helps me keep going when life gets difficult. Knowing that God wants to share my burden, be with me in whatever I’m experiencing…it usually helps to lighten the load a bit.

I guess I’m focusing on the sharing my burden aspect because of the brutal week I’ve had with my work. This week promises to be only a wee bit less intense, so I need to really take it one day at a time. Probably you won’t see any long reflections from me this week, but I’ll try to check in with some similarly brief reflection from my prayer and/or life once or twice this week.

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Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, has a weekly column on NCRCafe. I’m having a pretty brutal week with my workload, so rather than not post anything, I thought I’d point you to her Sept. 17 post. She is writing of the crisis that the worldwide Anglican Communion is facing these days. I leave you with the final words of her column, and encourage you to read the entire piece.

From where I stand, we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that.

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Anyone else out there just not able to get today’s Gospel reading? I do plan to look this up and see if I can figure it out, but on face value, this Gospel passage seems quite cryptic to me. On one hand Jesus says, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” What does that mean?! And then He says, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” That doesn’t sound good for the one who makes friends with dishonest wealth, does it?

I was at St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston, IL today, and Cardinal Francis George was visiting and presided. He gave a nice homily, basically saying that all the characters in the Gospel today were “bad guys”, but that didn’t really clear up my confusion with the apparent contradiction in the reading. Maybe I’ve just been working too hard and my brain really is turning to mush…

Can anyone shed any light on this? If I get some time to figure it out, I’ll post back here to let you know what I find…

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Integrity and mercy

I find myself waking after a rather short night. I was up late grading reports, and then woke up early in a fair amount of turmoil about something going on at work. I can’t really blog the specifics, but I feel it will help me to describe the general nature of my turmoil.

For those of you who know me well, you know that integrity is very important to me. In some ways, it’s a life and death issue for me, since I cling to the integrity I find in working in the 12-step program that keeps me from relapsing into active alcoholism. You may also know that compromise on matters of personal integrity is almost impossible for me.

“Be compassionate as your Father/Mother is compassionate.” This exhortation from Jesus is a teaching I take very seriously. I try to look for the best intentions in others, to give them the benefit of the doubt, try my best not to be judgmental…

So, now I have a situation where my sense of professional integrity has been placed into conflict with this invitation to show mercy, and the stakes are mighty high. I feel angry with the persons whose choices have created this situation, and I have this strong inclination to stand firm in my integrity and let the chips fall where they may. On the other hand, I cannot ignore the whisper… “Be compassionate as your Father/Mother is compassionate.”

Anyway, I ended up taking a compromise stand where the demands of compassion nudged me to loosen my death grip on integrity, and it feels lousy. But somehow, I think I would feel more lousy had I dug in my heels and refused the option of showing some mercy. It’s just lousy all the way around…

If you’ve ever considered that grace can be costly, well, this is an example of a costly grace. The practice of compassion in this case came at a very high personal cost to me. Would I make the same decision again? I honestly don’t know…maybe the passage of some time will bring some perspective.

I’m off to Chicago for the weekend to spend some time with some friends I haven’t seen since May. It will be good to just relax with these women who love me as I am. The only question is how much caffeine I’ll have to ingest to make the trip safely, considering I’ve had less than 5 hours of sleep.

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I sometimes wonder if my cute, cryptic post headings make people want to read on…

Anyway, the title of this post is inspired by something I’ve kind gotten myself into without really knowing what I was saying yes to. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing…

I may have mentioned in an earlier post that since I’m not living and sharing community with other women religious, I’ve been wanting to have some other experience of community. So some friends from church are part of a Christian Life Community group, and I approached them about the possibility of joining them if they were accepting new members. The group graciously agreed, so we had our first meeting of the new year on Sunday.

Well, I had an inkling of what we were going to be up to this year, but it didn’t really hit me until Fr. B. did the introductory session what I was getting myself into. It turns out that over the coming year, we will be doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius as a community.

Perhaps you are wondering, “So what is Sandy gulping about? Isn’t that a wonderful opportunity?” Well, it IS a wonderful opportunity. I had the privilege of being guided through the Exercises in a 30-day retreat as a preparation for my first profession over 20 years ago. I experienced that as a radical journey of self-discovery and of deepening my relationship with Jesus. I had hoped to make another 30-day retreat while on my sabbatical last year, but spinal surgery and other demands on my time seemed to lead me another way. I don’t doubt that at least a little of what happened was some resistance on my part.

You see, for me, the full benefit of the Exercises is only realized if I go into them with a generous openness to profound transformation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take that kind of journey lightly. I’ve had moments of deep conversion and transformation, and let me tell you, these moments are not always “sweetness and light”. They are sometimes downright messy and painful – not always…

So, in my desire to connect spiritually with some like-minded seekers, God seems to have given me the grace to receive something much more – whatever that may turn out to be. And so the adventure begins (continues)…

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andthetruthwillsetyoufree-web.jpg…our newest sister-novelist! Linda Rettstatt is one of my CSJ sisters who has recently had a novel published. I haven’t read it yet, but you can get it electronically for $6 at Wings ePress. Here’s a link to Linda’s website. She’s got a couple more in the works. The kind of writing I have to do in my academic discipline sometimes makes me wish I were a fiction writer…maybe I’ll have to try my hand at it, even if I have to wait until my twilight years to have the time to do it.

Anyone out there read the novel? It’s called “And the Truth Will Set You Free.”

Oh, and I just discovered that she has started a blog called “Linda Rettstatt – Author.” The name of the blog doesn’t sound like much, but the two entries she’s posted so far are very engaging. I hope she keeps it up.

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I’m having a bit of a rough start to the week, having just made it for the first time through the complete weekly cycle of courses I teach this term. And yesterday, it was just making it by the skin of my teeth – not the most satisfying feeling. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that technology is great when it works, but know what you are getting into when you depend on it for what you are doing…

I got home from work at about 9:30 last night, and was in bed by 10:15, plain exhausted. Even after sleeping in until 8:00, I had a hard time getting up and going. I even brought my bike out of the garage and then put it back in, rationalizing that I need to do some grocery shopping after work today, so I might as well take the car.

So, here comes the point of the post…I mentioned this to a co-worker who is on the clerical support staff, who suggested that the change in routine at the beginning of the term might be a factor. (She’s on about the same schedule all year, so doesn’t have the big changes we faculty do.) As soon as K. said this, I thought of Carleen, one of our sisters who died a number of years ago quite suddenly. She was my spiritual director at the time of her death, and I still miss her terribly. What I remembered in that moment with K. was a playful remark, “I don’t do transition!”, that Carleen imagined God saying at these times of change. Of course, she never meant, nor do I believe that God is absent in times of transition. Just that we sometimes are inexplicably unable to sense God’s presence at these times.

Anyway, I’m grateful that Carleen came to mind today, even if it was an acknowledgment of stress that made it possible. And so I return to getting my preparations for my next round of class sessions on track…

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