Monday, February 21, 2011

You want to know me? You want to see my face?
I do not age with time. I do not fit into a space.
I transcend the capacity of your eye, so who am I?
That is the question of the moment; it is the question for all time.
I am you and you are mine.
God Is ~ Danielle Rose

A lot of times when I'm driving around and no one is in the car with me I listen to NPR... either that or I use the time to reflect in silence. This morning was an NPR morning. As I was listening to the news, a story came on about a new law in Afghanistan. It is a law that would place all women's shelters (including homes for battered women) under the auspices of the Ministry of Women's Affairs. That doesn't sound bad at first. However, it is much worse than what one might imagine.
I don't necessarily want to retell the story here on this website. I'm not really a journalist. However, I would like to share with you my initial reaction to this story...
About mid-way through the story I said to myself (actually, outloud... I was alone, you know): "I can't do this. It's too difficult." And I promptly turned the radio off. Here I am... with freedom to drive a car, go to the gym, live an unmarried vowed life... I've never been tortured or beaten. I've never even been in a fight. And yet this was "too difficult." I chose ignorance rather than to be challenged, hurt, or perhaps changed.
How often do I choose not to listen? To ignore the voice of God in the life of another because truly entering another person's chaos is too much for me?
It made me think of the song I quoted above. If you've never heard this song I encourage you to listen to it:
These women in Afghanistan... or El Salvador... or Egypt... or at the numerous shelters of Dayton, Ohio... are Christ. "Whatever you have done to these least ones, you have done for me." And what might be even more difficult to grasp... not only are these women Christ in our world today, so are those who oppress them. That's the more difficult thing to recognize.
I have sinsc finished listening to - and reading - the story on line. As I imagined, it wasn't easy. However, chosing ignorance is not the call.
Abundant blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Monday, February 14, 2011

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
Acts 4:32

First, I should say Happy Valentine's Day... well, actually, happy feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius! Unfortunately, people don't typically know a whole lot about Cyril and Methodius... But, alas... today's feast is not the focus of today's reflections...

As a Marianist and as a staff person at the University of Dayton, I hear a lot of talk about community. People say that the community of UD is what sets it apart from other places. It's something intangible... there's a bond... or some people call it a sense of family. They attribute this sense to the fact that the school is Marianist. For Marianists community is a means of bringing Christ to the world. "Many people will never grasp the message of Christ until they see a credible witness of it. Many will never know Christ's love until they experience it in a community. Our mission is to provide such communities." (A Manual of Marianist Spirituality)

When many students (not all) at UD are asked about what community is, they say things like, "I know my neighbors." Or "If I walk through the student neighborhood on a weekend night I can go into any party and it's okay." Or perhaps they talk about the way people party together several days in a row...

Each year it is estimated that 10-12 students at UD attempt suicide. Some people feel isolated... alone... Rates of depression are very high. Unfortunately, this is true on many college campuses, but people don't really like to talk about it. This isn't what community is about. True community would not allow for this.

I've been reflecting on community recently in light of my experiences in El Salvador last month. It was there that I caught a glimpse of community that I hope I never forget. It's difficult to put into words. However, in La Ceiba (the small village in which I lived with a family for a few days) community is their means of survival. They truly depend on one another in a way I've not experienced. There was no sense of individualism... or possessiveness... or being rushed/hurried to go on to the next thing. People... relationships... empathy... compassion... These were their priorities. The people of La Ceiba settled there after living in the refugee camps of Honduras during the civil war. They traveled back to El Salvador together just before the war ended. Without each other, they never would have been able to survive. And still... without sharing food... water... laughter... parenting responsibilities... survival would be difficult.

This is a sharp contrast to what I see around me and within me. People rushed and hurried (me included!)... superficial relationships... people using others for their own selfish needs... possessiveness... "my time," "my money," "this is what I want," sort of mentality. It's no wonder people feel lonely and isolated...

When I was in high school a friend of mine from middle school took her life. She left in her note that she was alone. There was no one who really cared about her. There are hundreds of young people like her all around us. Can we step out of our own little world to see them?

May we become people of real community... Christ-centered and unselfish. May we put others ahead of ourselves and stop perpetuating the "me first" mindset. In the words of Dorothy Day, may we learn, "Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each others' faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much."

Many blessings to you all!
Sr. N

Sunday, February 06, 2011

If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday.
Isaiah 58:9b-10

Do you know those days when you can say without a doubt, "I see the Spirit of God active and alive here in this place in these people... and it is light." Or perhaps you know someone whose very being radiates God's compassion and concern for the poor and oppressed... and they're so full of joy you know it's of God?

Well, I know that I have those days. And if I'm honest with myself they happen more often than I pay attention to. However, I cannot over look the experience I had yesterday.

First, I need to set a little context. There is seems to be a movement here in Ohio (mostly the Dayton and Cincinnati regions) of Lay Marianist communities living in such a way that they become a source of vibrancy, life, justice and faith for their neighborhoods and cities. It's difficult to explain unless you've experienced it. Anyway, most of these communities are not "residential communities." Meaning, most Lay Marianists live in different houses with their families. That's pretty typical for people outside of religious life, right?

Here in Dayton, however, there are communities of Lay Marianists popping up that are people who live together - share common prayer together, have a mission statement about how they are going to be witnesses and community builders in their neighborhoods etc. It's an amazing Spirit-led phenomenon.

Yesterday a very large number of Marianists - both lay and vowed - came together in the home of one such Lay Marianist community. The community is comprised of two married couples who intentionally purchased a house on a side of town that is under-resourced... to help build community there... to witness to their faith and the sacrament of marriage... because they are committed to living lives of justice & peace. Anyway, we were there to bless their home and to celebrate with them the formation of their community.

Listening to their mission statement... sharing prayer and conversation with others who are committed to building communities of justice and peace... witnessing the power of God's Spirit in the hearts of those around me... I was in the embrace of the type of light spoken about by today's first reading from Isaiah (quoted above). This community (and others like it) are prophetic and a light for a sometimes dark society. May God continue to bless them and all who seek to bring about a more just society.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N