Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Challenge”

letterVictor

 

Dear Future Cortinian,

You are about to embark on a new chapter in your life that will forever change the way you view things and people in the world.  You are going to meet people who have different values than the ones you believe in. As a result you will be challenged. Many people don’t like to be challenged, mainly because most of us don’t like to think that we could be “wrong” or that we could be the “bad guy” in someone else’s eyes. The think to keep in mind though, is that it’s not about being right or wrong. It is about making the effort to get to know the other person, and hearing their story to understand where they are coming from and why they hold the values that they hold. In doing this you will open yourself up, and consequently open upother people to a whole new world of new experiences, new life lessons, and new friendships. Remember to just keep an open mind and to make yourself vulnerable. When people see your vulnerability, they are seeing the truest manifestation of yourself. Most importantly, remember to love, and love deeply. Never let a moment pass you by that allows you to tell someone how you feel about them. You’ll be amazed by the warmth in your heart that you’ll feel throughout the year. Your face will hurt from smiling so much and sometimes your eyes will hurt from crying with and for others. All of this will lead you to understand that you have acquired a new family in your life. Good luck with this coming year! Welcome!

Much love,

Victor Diaz

“I’m a Vege-a-vegan-a-healthy-a-confused-a-tarian”: On Ethics, Love, and Legalism

This has been a really strange summer for me, I’ve been taking two semesters of a really time-consuming class (general physics), and so I’ve had to put more effort into staying on a schedule in the summer than ever before. This leads me to constantly have to plan meals, when I will make them, and when I will shop for them. It’s a good thing; I feel like a real grown-up because I’m getting way better at cooking for myself and doing it efficiently.

But it’s also been really, really, really, really confusing. I’ve had little time to spend with my friends and family in comparison to previous summers, and I’ve been increasingly noticing an alarming thing in myself. I have a really strong conviction, that was cultivated and honed even more during my year in Cortina, that if I am aware of something bad in the world, it is my obligation and duty to do what is in my power to change that. This led to my becoming a hardcore vegetarian for most of 2013, and since I began that, I still haven’t had a bite of meat. It also led to the strengthening of an already existing disgust with the consumerism that dictates our country and others. Towards the end of this past spring semester, I became increasingly convinced that I should actually just live in this purist monk, raw local vegan, never-buy-another-material-object-I-don’t-absolutely-need-to-survive type of existence, where I spend all of my extra time building friendships with people no one else notices. And to tell you the truth, that is the ultimate destination that I would really like to reach, because I’m gonna make money in the job that I want to do, and I would love to be able to give a high percentage of it to people who need it more than I do, and use my time and abilities to change the world :P. But somehow, in my fervor to become this person, I realized that it was not only causing me to feel insanely guilty about things none of my friends felt the same for doing, but it was also causing me to insanely judge everyone around me. I was unconsciously holding everyone else in the world to the same impossibly high standard I had set for myself. (If you’re a Christian too, this just honestly might sound like the familiar “No one is righteous, not even one” refrain).

After some brutal external processing with one of my close friends who went through Cortina with me, plenty of Bible and book reading, and prayer, I realized that I was acting exactly like the Pharisees that Jesus rebukes, like, every time he sees them. The Pharisees were known for following the law to the tiniest letter and being very “upright” in terms of their to-do lists. They were also known for turning up their noses at everyone else. My THL 100 teacher didn’t spend too much time on the Pharisees, but if you ever read the gospels, they are very hard to ignore. It’s blatantly obvious that they have gotten their priorities completely wrong. Everyone (all the normal sinners Jesus hangs out with) dislikes them. They don’t actually love anyone, and they seem like they do everything out of a despairing sense of guilt. It’s a terrible and immature religion to dedicate one’s life to.

My current confusion stems from needing to know where I should draw the lines in my own life. What guideline should I stick to, at my current level of maturity, so that I am encouraging myself to act lovingly, and not judgmentally out of my own guilt? Does it mean continuing to attempt and fail at being a vegan, or maybe taking a chill pill, eating some butter with my family and friends, and being cool with just not eating meat/fish/poultry for now? Does it mean wearing the same three shirts all week, all month, or does it mean maybe being ok with buying a couple new things to fit the new body that I have from eating veggies instead of chicken fingers? I’m still not sure about these things, but I am certain that it means wholeheartedly loving the people I am already surrounded with before going out and finding new people to “love”. I am certain that it means having a humble heart about the issues that I have been informed on, and not being so caught up in what everyone else is doing, when I have enough to work on in my own life.

Oh Cortina. I’m so excited to have a whole ‘nuther year to be a part of you and become the person I’m designed to be.

What Cortina Was To Me: Querencia

Cortina is a loom, a framework holding loose threads together to weave into a fabric. In Cortina, I met different people bringing stories and ideas from around the world and around their hearts.  Cortina guided the shuttle that helped make those threads cross: service trips, time at Metro tutoring, conversations in the NZ at hours that can charitably be described as irresponsible. It flung my friends and I to protests and into the gritty reality, into contact with the real and the pure, into vulnerability.  We learned the stories of our neighbors, our sisters, and our selves.  Each invitation and opportunity helped make the fabric we work together stronger, seamless.  Each conversation, hug, tear — the words and punctuation of a story we are still writing.  They’re the rhythm to our perplexing dance.

My physical time in cortina is over now, but it is an indelible tattoo on my life.  Cortina was normalizing for me: it taught me that these strange ideas weren’t so strange.  That people are sacred, that love is the most powerful force in the universe, that stories are all that matter.  In the wildly tumultuous years of college, the warm embraces of friends’ words and arms made the journey down new roads holy and exhilarating. That doesn’t mean our journeys weren’t and aren’t scary.  But we know we don’t walk them alone.

In the end, Cortina’s lasting impact is the human fabric it helps weave.  My best friends came from those years, as did my first love.  Those people are sacred beyond words and are the true pages on which our stories are written. They are friends for life, friends who all tell each other “I love you” and mean it. In the time since Creighton, they are what gets me through the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, depression. In this time, it is they who challenge me to do ordinary things extraordinarily.

The way we choose to make the threads of our lives cross shapes how we will go through life. The ties created there are sacred, unbreakable, and everlasting.  Those ties, paraphrasing the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, help us to see what is essential with the eyes of our hearts.  Those ties, to use a favorite phrase of Jon Cortina, help us put little feet to the gospel.

Buen Camino.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Querencia.(the word querencia means a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place in which we know exactly who we are, and from which we speak our deepest beliefs.)

-Tim Nendick, A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012

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I Am Exactly Where I Need To Be.

This summer I signed up and prepared to go to Detroit to serve in the amazing Covenant House Michigan as a live in volunteer.

Through a few weeks of phone calls and broken connections, I realized I was the only volunteer who had signed up to live in this intentional community house. So, I had to let Detroit go, hope for next summer, and plant myself back home.

I am now doing the same job search I have done since I was sixteen. I am running on the same streets I grew up running down. I am homesick for Omaha, and Detroit, and Cortina. I don’t really know what I’m homesick for. I am bored and frustrated.

I hung a picture on my wall that reads “You are exactly where you need to be.” (Yes, sometimes when I am feeling down I print out inspirational Pinterest quotes). It has hung there for three weeks now, but I was bored and frustrated so I never really believed it. I believed I needed to be in Detroit, or Omaha, or anywhere but here.
That’s beginning to change now. I made a pledge at the beginning of my year in Cortina to “Vocalize Gratitude”. When I started to do that, I started to think about my summer differently.

I am becoming involved with a campaign that I care deeply about. (If you live or are registered to vote in Missouri, check out Missourians for Equality or send me an email at SarahPeraud@creighton.edu).

I get to see my little brother become a man and drive him to tour colleges. I got to watch him vault thirteen feet and be here as he trains for the junior Olympics. I get to love him as something other than a snot-nosed little brother, but as a friend.

I get to train for our 5th triathlon with the most amazing woman, my mom.

I got to see my favorite band with my best friend.

I’m rediscovering the reasons I get homesick for St. Louis.

I found Covenant House St. Louis and get to spend some of my days there.

I fell in love with living in community this year and was so discouraged that I didn’t get to find a new one this summer.

But I’m realizing, every community is an intentional community if I work and love with intention. I think being a part of an intentional community is a call for inclusion. Entering into intentional community does not and should not isolate me from my engagements in the rest of the world. Community creates people motivated by peace, intention, love for others and reminds me that when I take those values into the wider political and social arena, I am not alone.

Detroit isn’t the only place where I can love. Cortina is not the only place where I can love. If I am not a loving person where I am then I cannot be a loving person anywhere.

Mother Theresa once said that we all “belong to each other.” We cannot do harm to one without harming the very integrity of ourselves and our entire existence. Fortunately, it works the other way as well. We are all so intimately connected. It is impossible to affect just one person. We are constantly transforming. I have to be constantly thinking of that transformation and do my best to transform with love, rather than greed or selfishness or boredom. There is no savior or victim. Rather, there is a need to for us all to be transformed. The way I want to do that is through radical, unabashed, extravagant love.

I can do that in Detroit. I can do that here.

So yes, there are days when I lay in bed, watching Netflix and wallowing about how I don’t get to serve, how I don’t get to be in community, and how I am soooo bored. But, then, I have to shake myself up a little bit. I smile, think about all the things I can possibly do tomorrow and think of all the music and experiences and beautiful lives I still get to be a part of this summer. And I am starting to maybe truly believe—this is exactly where I need to be.

–Sarah Peraud, Cortinian 2012-2013,  Live-in Formation Group Leader 2013-2014

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Finding the Courage to Forgive

“If we believe terrorists are past redemption, we should just rip up like 1/2 the NT because it was written by one.” –Shane Claiborne

A few weeks ago I heard a talk by Shane Claiborne. For those of you who don’t know, Shane is a peace activist who advocates for non-violence on a personal and societal level. He believes in, and promotes, forgiveness because he truly believes that, “Grace has the power to dull even the sharpest sword.”

Today I did a little experiment. I typed in “Boston Bombings” on Google, and to no surprise, all of the articles I found started by talking about the bombing suspects, and the investigation to find out who we can punish for this act. When an act of terror occurs, the media focuses all of its energy on who did the act and how those people will pay for what they’ve done. It emphasizes the type of justice that involves finding a punishment that will harm the person who did the crime as much as that person harmed others. It’s all about that person getting a fair penalty for their crime. Our justice system does not emphasize forgiveness, but rather emphasizes people paying for their mistakes.

There is a quote on a poster that I’ve seen in many places around campus. It says, “All religions believe in justice.” However, the type of justice this is referring to is not the type that we observe in our criminal justice system in the states. While our system is discriminatory and revolves around profits and punishment, the justice of faith traditions is about love and forgiveness.

Trying to get someone to see how they have hurt us or someone else, or trying to control how someone will act in the future, has nothing to do with forgiveness. The World English Dictionary defines “forgive” as to free from the obligation of. Forgiveness grants the person we are forgiving freedom. It grants them the freedom that they were born with that is a part of their human dignity. Forgiveness is not something that should be based off of what a person will do for us in the future or how they will change. Rather, forgiveness is a gift that should be given to everyone, and that everyone should receive as part of their dignity.

As Shane Claiborne says, “All of us are better than the worst thing we’ve done.” We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are small, and some of those are much bigger. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter; because God forgives everyone, and in our journey to be more like him, we should strive to forgive everyone as well.

By forgiving people for the wrongs they have done, we are not excusing the pain they have caused. I wish that whoever bombed the Boston marathon, had never felt the need to do so. But I also know that people cause others pain and suffering when they are in pain or are suffering. Humans hurt other humans when they don’t feel loved, or when they are craving attention. What if when violent acts occurred, we reached out those who had committed the act? What if we told them that we forgive them, and embraced them unconditionally instead of shunning them and dehumanizing them? What if we loved them regardless of how much they hurt us? How would that person react? Do you think we’d be getting to the root of what caused the problem in the first place-namely that the person didn’t feel loved? I do. We should all strive to forgive those who wrong us. Because we are all human, we all make mistakes, we are all imperfect. And regardless of our faults, God loves us, and in doing so, he calls us to love one another.

So even though forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do, I believe we are called to try and forgive everyone regardless of what they have done. Every person deserves to be loved, every human being is inherently good, and everyone has the potential to find redemption. Yes forgiveness is hard, but, as Shane Claiborne says, ” Each time that we want to hate, we can always find the courage to love.”

-Haley Warren

A “Christian” Nation?

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” -Stephen Colbert

A Climate of Hospitality

We are called to set tables at which natural enemies gather. At these tables we make room for conversations that are off limits and often taboo in others contexts. We make room for “the least of these,” and give them preferred seating. We explore theological and ministry perspectives that sometimes seem subversive to the status quo. Most importantly, we help create a climate of hospitality. We play the role of host. We make room for all voices to be heard, even and most especially the ones that are hardest to hear. Such tables can and do get lively, even messy. This is our work. We do not shy away from issues, because these are not “issues” for us. They are flesh and blood relationships with real people whom we love very much.

Tuesday Newsday [3.26.13]: A prayer.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments about Proposition 8 in California, the gay marriage ban. Tomorrow, it is hearing arguments about the Defense of Marriage Act. For many of our friends, neighbors, and strangers, this is the most important two days in the history of the United States Supreme Court.

In Tuesday Newsdays, I usually try to maintain a pretty consistent neutrality, and just give you the news. I also believe there is a time when neutrality is evil. Now is one of those times. Below is the prayer I am earnestly praying every minute of the next 48 hours. I would implore you to pray something similar. I place no stock in my own words, but I place all trust in the power of passionate, love-driven prayer. Join me. Use my words or write your own. Pray.

Faith, Hope, and Love (the greatest of which is love),

Westin
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A prayer for Tuesday, March 26, 2013 and Wednesday, March 27, 2013:

Holy creator of every person, emotion, and action, hear our earnest plea. Hear the cries of those we have oppressed, feel the pain of those we have bullied. Weep over the heartbreak of those whose love we have denied. Cower with those we have broken, shriek with those we have driven to rage.

Today, bless the tongues and minds of those arguing to end the oppression of your creatures. Speak through them in the most literal way. Let them think your thoughts. Make a lawyer your prophet.

Remind your 9 creatures in black robes they are yours. Make them feel your passion, your love, and your righteous anger. Overwhelm them.

Forgive us, Holy Creator, for we have sinned. We have sinned in action and in neglect. We have perpetrated sin, we have ignored sin, and we have committed hamas against your people. Stop us.

Change this country. Change our hearts. Change our laws. Feel the pain and hope of your creatures whose love is under discussion, and hear the rallying cries of their allies.

Show us what love looks like in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Amen. Amen. Amen.