THINK: Fall in Love

You might think that Valentine’s Day is superfluous or silly (and I might agree with you), but perhaps a new way to think about love on this over-commercialized day:

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

-Pedro Arrupe, SJ

What are you in love with? What seizes your imagination? What do you do with your nights and weekends? Why do you get up in the morning? How do you sustain love?

Monday Meditation: On Beautiful Speech

In my last year in College
I set out
to write an essay on
the Art of Rhetoric. I had yet to find
the country already lost to me
in song and figure as I scribbled down
names for sweet euphony
and safe digression.
And when I came to the word insinuate
I saw that language could writhe and creep
and the lore of snakes
which I had learned as a child not to fear —
because the Saint had sent them out of Ireland —
came nearer.
Chiasmus. Litotes. Perphrasis. Old
indices and agents of persuasion. How
I remember them in that room where
a girl is writing at a desk with
dusk already in
the streets outside. I can see her. I could say to her —
we will live, we have lived
where language is concealed. Is perilous.
We will be—we have been—citizens
of its hiding place. But it is too late
to shut the book of satin phrases,
to refuse to enter
an evening bitter with peat smoke,
where newspaper sellers shout headlines
and friends call out their farewells in
a city of whispers
and interiors where
the dear vowels
Irish Ireland ours are
absorbed into Autumn air,
are out of earshot in the distances
we are stepping into where we never
imagine words such as hate
and territory and the like—unbanished still
as they always would be—wait
and are waiting under
beautiful speech. To strike.
—Eavan Boland

We have been talking about language. Good Language. Bad Language. Language that engineers in. Language that engineers out. But, though language creates a portion of our reality, it is not everything, Boland insinuates. Do you ever hide behind your language? Where do you feel fear, hatred, pain, intolerance, or violence where you communicate confidence, love, pleasure, tolerance, or peace? How will you begin to deal with your own issues that are hidden beneath your language? How can you become cognizant enough to not hide from yourself underneath your own beautiful speech?

¡Buen Camino!: The Life of a Pilgrim

Those around me tell me that as a college graduate, I’m supposed to be preoccupied with my resumé, leveraging my education and diploma, getting ready for a career in my field and getting my life in order after the idyllic world of university.  Since I’m not working, I should be building valuable experience through a post-grad position or internship, applying for grad schools, and entering the ‘real world,’ wherever that is (I’ll let you know if I find it).  In truth, I’m not so good at this.  After all, “pilgrim” isn’t exactly a marketable identity unless you happen to be applying for a job whose perks include a roman collar. So why would someone like me choose to uproot themselves in such an important time, and take a little walk across an entire country?  Why be a pilgrim?

I could tell you about my story, share my camino, but I won’t.  The thing about adventures and stories is that they’re not something that you write about on a blog or shelve away in some special pictures that gather dust. They don’t sit quietly in you heart and you don’t just move from experience to experience, gaining merit badges to put on a social justice sash, “oh, I did Encuentro, and Cortina, and IFTJ and this is my ‘I talked to homeless people!’ patch!”

No, adventures aren’t to be read about. They are to be experienced. You’re on your own journey, and it is just as important.  Walk with me. Let the people and places and love and life that you know come to the surface. Remember what others have taught you and don’t forget their songs. They are sacred.

Fr. Gillick once told a group of us about to depart for the Dominican Republic that “Adventure is, by its nature, something that happens to other people.”  My favorite quote, by a Jesuit named Anthony de Mello, reads, “I used to be stone deaf. I would see people stand up and go through all kinds of gyrations. They called it dancing. It looked absurd to me — until one day I heard the music!”  The point: things that look absurd, like walking across all of Spain with a pack on your back, make sense if you hear the music.  The places and people and experiences you find by pushing yourself to be uncomfortable and meet the world and its brokenness and love will shape you beyond words.  You’ll become vulnerable.  You’ll be hurt.  But you’ll also come alive.  Your heart will be touched in a way that you can’t do anything but follow where it leads.  You just start putting foot in front of foot and pretty soon, you end up in places that you’d never imagine, like being chased by a bull down a street in Puente La Reina.  That’s a story, I suppose, for a different time, though I will tell you that if you get the opportunity to do such a thing, take it.

You have one life. One. It is a wild and precious thing; how you live that life, how you invest your love, is the most important question you can answer.  It is the only adequate response to the incredibly sacred and wordlessly special gift you’ve been given by being alive.  Pedro Arrupe writes that falling and staying in love will decide everything.  This is true beyond words; your task, as a Creighton student, as a Cortinian, is to let the world overwhelm you with its love.  To be touched by the real and the pure.  To listen to the voice of God alive and pulsing around you and within you. It’s to go places and try new things and discover yourself by discovering those around you.  You have an incredible set of gifts to give, and you will never know they exist within you until you find reason to share them.  It’s to let the world, love, and other people mission you.  To have your heart set on fire, and let that fire spread to the world.

So be a pilgrim. What, who is calling you?  Where do you feel your heart and soul longing to be? Find the things worth living for, the people who will touch your soul in a way you cannot escape.  Carry those people in your heart and your eyes, carry the grand spectacles you encounter in the world and in the world of your soul and let them pour from you.  Do things that make you uncomfortable, and bring others along. Go places for the simple reason that you desire to go there; find God and Love alive and let them be the most powerful forces in your life and the world.  Live as a prophet.  Live as yourself.  Live.  As some graffiti on the camino poignantly reads, love and live, dangerously.  ¡Buen Camino! -Tim

Tim Nendick is a 2012 graduate of Creighton University & former RA in the program.  He recently walked a month from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Muxía, Spain, completing a centuries old pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago.

 You can find his pictures here.

The Eucharist and Solidarity

I know Cortina and the Creighton community are full of many different faiths and denominations.  I’m going to speak a lot about Eucharist in the Roman Catholic sense as the real body and blood of Christ.  However, it’s my hope that this reflection will be relevant to you wherever you are on your faith journey.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting with my provincial (the man who oversees all the Jesuits in my region) and talking about actions.  I have a great desire to “do.”  I’m in pretty constant motion.  The hardest part of this vocation to the Jesuits has been sitting still and prayer every day.  Not to mention the thirty-day silent retreat.  But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that praying is doing.  “Pray” is a verb after all.  It is indeed an action.

In my prayer, I’ve realized that going to Mass is both an act of and deepening of my solidarity.  I want to focus on just the actual Eucharist, though.  It can be easier to find solidarity in the readings—Jesus proclaiming the Beatitudes is hard to miss.  But what about the Eucharist itself?  Three things stand out—Christ on the cross; participating in the Eucharist; and sharing an act of faith.

Sometimes Mass can feel stuffy, tightly bound by the ritual and rite of it.  But the real story in the Eucharist is astounding.  Here’s a dude who is God.  He participates in everything human.  He doesn’t have to, but he does.  He gets hungry, happy, joyful, sorrowful, thirsty, angry, tired, tempted, and killed.  He didn’t just participate in human life, though.  He participated in the oppressed life.  He shunned every expectation of fearless military leader and revolutionary.  More revolutionary, he gave himself up to die a slave’s death.  And it wasn’t a polite one.  We often see the Passion plays lightly, sanctified.  The Eucharist is about a man who was mob lynched.  They came out and found him in the night, dragging him away.  The justice system wasn’t going how some folks wanted, so they essentially made it happen themselves.  It’s painful, gruesome.  I can imagine no greater act of solidarity.  And we saw this same love and participation in the lives of the poor from all the great martyrs.  From Oscar Romero, to Jean Donovan, to Dietrich Bonheoffer.  I participate in solidarity remembering all these stories, these beautiful people who gave all they could to love and to serve.  Whenever I receive the Eucharist, I tell myself, “Lord, let me grow in love and solidarity.”

I actively participate in the Eucharist.  I engage it.  And I share it with those around me.  But I share it with billions of Catholics around the world.  And I honestly believe that I share it with those who are not Catholic.  I go to the Eucharist praying for greater solidarity, hope and love.  That love extends to everyone in the world, especially the oppressed and downtrodden.  I go to the Eucharist as an act of radical love to destroy oppression.  I do not have many ways of participating in the lives of the oppressed around the world, but this is one that I can positively do every day.  The greatest gift I have ever received is a meal with others.  This is a meal at a global table.

Finally, I believe it is an act of solidarity because it is participation in faith.  There are certainly many throughout the world who espouse no faith and many who have different faith.  But I act with you in praying with and for you.  I do not approach this prayer as a simple requirement of the week, but as a way of truly placing my heart near yours.  My body is far, but my spirit resides with the oppressed.  It is an act of presence.

This weekend, a good friend invited me to come to New Jersey to be present.  I would normally choose to work, to use what I would consider ample muscle to move stones, break up debris and clean up the wreckage.  But Jim has asked me to simply be present with people.  After the tragedy of Sandy, the people simply want some symbol of faith.  I’ve never knowingly been someone’s symbol of faith or a person to listen to strangers after tragedy.  But guided by the Eucharist, I will go to listen and to love.  I will go to Mass with people and participate in their salvation, and them in mine.

-Br. Ken Homan, SJ

Molly’s Defense of Beauty: The Transcendence of the Animal Nature

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.”
– Che Guevara

I’ll preface this by saying that my political beliefs have been nearly everywhere on the spectrum. Currently, according to my voter registration, I am non-partisan, but judging by my hair, piercings, and undying love for Conor Oberst, you can guess which way I swing.

My dad, on the other hand, is an avid fan of Rush Limbaugh, no matter how risqué or allegedly racist his comments get. I have a theory that my dad’s just old and crazy, but I’m not sure that dementia can begin at age 47.

Every time I come home, it’s the same scenario: we discuss my classes, we talk about family drama, and we ease ourselves into a gentle political discussion. Two minutes later, Dad and I both realize that we hold completely opposite points of view. He brings up the standard conservative arguments – all of which I know, because unfortunately I’ve read every single Ann Coulter book published before 2010. I offer a few social justice-focused comebacks, but I can feel the tears of frustration welling up.

We’re misunderstanding each other.

In all reality, I don’t think my dad and I are that different. We both care for others, we both want America and the world to flourish, and we’re both pretty idealistic about our beliefs. But as is the case in most political arguments, we have different means to reach the same end. He believes a free market will most effectively guarantee human success, while I believe that, above anything else, love for others will save us.

Tim Bastian, a Creighton professor who spoke in last Sunday’s Cortina-sponsored Debate, is a lot like my dad. He’s an incredibly smart guy, he’s had decades of experience as a middle-class white male, and he’s extremely practical. And though I can agree with many things he said that night, one statement in particular struck me. He said that one of the most beautiful things about modern day humanity is our ability to trade freely and safely with each other.

Indeed, that is an astonishing and inspiring fact: humans have progressed so much that we can maintain a free market, exercising our ability to produce and purchase goods. What a true display of human creativity and potential.

However, Mr. Bastian, there are more beautiful things about humanity than our knack for creating free market systems.

I believe the most beautiful thing humans can do is transcend their animal nature enough to deeply care for one another, to disregard the savage “circle of life” and trust ourselves to create love instead of succumbing to violence and indifference.

There is absolutely no place for violence in the human race. The fact that we are conscious enough to recognize the humanity in others, the fact that we can create such deep bonds with one another, the fact that we have used our abilities to constantly improve the human condition for as long as our species has existed – for me, all of these facts point to the overwhelming goodness of people. Whether we are innately good or evil does not matter to me. What matters to me is that we can recognize when others suffer and that we have the full capability to do something about it.

Force yourself to care, no matter if you idolize Rush Limbaugh or Che Guevara, no matter if you voted for Obama, Romney, or Gary Johnson. Force yourself to stop polluting the earth with apathy, with things you don’t need, with trash and carbon dioxide and negativity. Force yourself to do more than simply exist.

Shout your indignation at the sky and run steadfastly to help your brothers and sisters who are suffering from injustice.

Because serving others in any way is the absolute most beautiful act of humankind.

Defend that beauty.

-Molly

Monday Meditation: On the Possibility for Offendedness

“Admittedly, we all walk around feeling comforted and assured by specific certainties, but our sense of assuredness as true believers (whatever it is we claim we believe) need not preempt the possibility of feedback. ‘We condemn as unacceptable…’ is the opening phrase intoned by various groups in response to all manner of pictures, programs, or prose they view as offensive. Are we unwilling to endure the pain of a drawing? Does the pristine intensity of one’s faith require that any question or jibe pointed toward its content be ruled as impertinent and out of order? If we won’t entertain disagreement, how can a conversation ever occur? What is anybody’s faith for? Isn’t openness to the dangers of feeling offended a prerequisite to an actual relationship?”
-David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

In this election season, look around. Who are your friends? Who do you spend your time with? Its it only the people you agree with? If so, why do you surround yourself with these people? To feel understood? To feel affirmed? To feel loved? These are not bad things. But, it is hard to imagine that much learning or teaching occurs without some sort of dialectic. And, furthermore, what if your friends change their opinions? What then? is the relationship over? Can we only draw near to those who say we are right? What does this do for us? What does this do for the world?

One time Jesus said, “What credit is it to you to love those who love you?” Love your enemies (political and otherwise). Be crazy. This is the kind of radical hope that our world needs–and it is perhaps more intensely persuasive and instructive than any kind of polemic.

It may feel absurd to hurt for those who “lose” on election day if your team “wins”. But it is possible to live in that kind of tension–though the world provides few examples of this for us. You can condemn ideas and love people. It is possible. Though, perhaps, among the hardest things we can undertake as humans.

-Annie

 

THINK: Architecture

I don’t think that I need to be gifted at math or science to understand my role as an architect. I think good communities are made up of people who know that they are architects.

Humans are adept at creating comfortable spaces for themselves—spaces that they’ve measured out—spaces that they know. I don’t like you, I can keep you as far away from me as possible. I don’t understand or probably agree with what you believe—I’ll create a wall. You make me feel awkward, I’ll communicate with you through a window that is my computer screen.  You’re a part of that political party, well I’ve made a room for you in my house—and I never go there.

We like the places we build to be understandable. So we build rooms to hangout in to give us easy access to all the things we like. And create wings in the house that we never have to set foot into. We are so good at building these houses that we don’t even know we are doing it. Our houses reflect our own vision and our own desires—and our own fears.  In my humble opinion—the first step in creating a good community is being aware that you are building a community at all. Because when you become aware that you are building—you then become aware of how you are building—who you have in mind in the visioning of this project.

A good community considers all its members when it sets out to blueprint. And it includes all the members in the building process.  By engineering people in to the architectural process—you’ve put yourselves in one room. And, as you begin to build more rooms—you remember the common room—the room where you envisioned what this project might become. When you begin to build, and you begin to move outward—expanding spaces and going in different directions, you’ve begun to build a house you don’t understand yet.

Be amazed by the spaces that are created by trusting others with your resources, your talents, your vision, your work. In this you communicate that though you don’t know what the final product may end up looking like—you do know that there are spaces in the house you may never have been able to explore if someone else weren’t involved.

Good communities know that they are ever building.

The best communities create for and with one another.

Who do you engineer out of your life? What room do you hide in?Why? What does that intentional or unintentional wall building do to you? What does it do to the person you are pushing out? What does it do to the larger community? What kind of house are you building? How can it be an inviting space?

-Annie

Monday Meditation: On Authentic Selfhood

“Hold still, we’re going to do your portrait, so that you can begin looking like it right away.” -Helene Cixous

These words are chilling, and rightly so. The idea that we position ourselves to begin looking like a version of ourselves that someone else has determined is best  is no less than frightening. Cixous, a brilliant feminist theorist, meant for these words to scare. She isn’t into this version of self-creation.

Yesterday, in our meeting, I read this quote by Parker Palmer:

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts–then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting mothers [or fathers] disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others…Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks — we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.'”

In our meeting, Liz challenged us to think the of  “love” and “vocation” as intimately tied. Brother Pat challenged us to unplug and cut out those things that make it hard to hear the quiet voice calling us into full life.

We need to position ourselves in relationship to people, objects, events, studies, activities, and ideas that challenge us, but also that call us into our authentic self–not the self given to us by the the world that exists outside of us, and often only wants to use us.

Where do you see love in your life?  What in your life is “too loud”? Whose voice in your life is “too loud”?  Where do you feel the most joy and also the deepest service to the world? What is the picture that is being painted of you? Does the picture conform to the reality of the self that is trying to emerge from you? How can you best position yourself to discern your next steps, steps that bring life to you and to others?

-Annie

The Journey Towards Worth

This semester I am doing an internship at Siena/Francis homeless shelter. Currently in my internship I am getting to know the guests and the people in the addiction recovery program. Every Friday morning at 10am there is a community meeting where we celebrate birthdays, sobriety anniversaries, and graduations from the addiction recovery program. Every week I have been sitting and getting to know the same couple women. This past Friday I had an incredible conversation with one of those women.

Over the weekend she had spent time with her son and grandson. She talked about the fun she had over the weekend and how much that time meant to her. She said very explicitly after telling me all of this that she finally felt worthy, because she recognized God’s love for her and because she felt that she deserves to be loved and to be worthy.

This concept of feeling worthy of other’s love has never been an idea I have thought about by that name. But how true is it that we have to find worth within ourselves before we can accept that others see worth in us and love us for who we are. We all have weaknesses, insecurities, strengths, fears, and hopes. Sometimes those weakness, insecurities, and fears hide the fact that we also are good. But I think, based on some of the conversations and experience I have had at Siena/Francis, that it is in accepting that these weaknesses are a part of who we are and that we need the love of others to help us to love ourselves along the journey that we really come to find that we are worthy.

Peace, Elizabeth