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Students’ morning prayer, in Jalgaon.

At the end of many prayers in which I participate here, I hear and sing, or chant, “shanti, shanti, shanti.” “Peace, peace, peace.” May there be peace in this place, peace for those who hear the bells, peace for our community, peace for the world.

I am always reminded of the prayer of St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

How do I pray such a thing, in the midst of poverty, inequalities in education, and stories of female feticide, rapes, and murders of women?

How do I pray that, on a smaller scale, when I am still hurt, jaded, and cynical from my classroom teaching experiences? When I cannot say for certain that the schools in which I taught could ever be truly a “safe space”?

And yet, what kind of teacher—or human, or Christian—am I if I give up hope? Sr. Carla Mae once told me that the opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is despair.

For the last few months, I’ve been thinking about what happens when teachers “burn out.” I wrote a paper for my multi-religious contemplative capacities course entitled, “Ahimsa Practices for Tramautized/Tramautizing Teachers: How to Restore Peace-full Teaching.” In these three weeks, I’ve been listening carefully to the stories of teachers, and attending to what the schools here feel like. Do the teachers have warmth and regard for their students, or contempt and disdain? Are students energized and joyful, or reciting rote and fearful?

What meditative or restorative practices can heal teachers who work in circumstances where systematic injustices and dehumanizing bureaucracies discourage voice (read: vocation)?

We live in a world where peace feels frequently elusive, impossible, a nice quote to pin on an inspiration board before returning to sarcasm, individual competitiveness, black-and-white thinking, and practices that leave us feeling increasingly dead inside. Gandhi and the Reverend King are heroes, far removed from the kind of daily injustices we face. Unless our voices touch millions, we fear, it’s unlikely for us to see peace—or justice—in our lifetimes.

***

I had a long conversation with Prof. P. last week. Last year, I attended part of the funeral of his father. Twenty days before his father died unexpectedly, his teenaged nephew drowned. It was a hard summer for his family.

We sat together on a porch in Jalgaon, overlooking green hills and orchards. I told him that I had held his family in my prayers all year, and asked how they were.

Prof. P. mentioned how devout his sister-in-law is, how ordinary and good the lives of his families are, how the thousands drowned in sudden floods were at worship. And yet, he pointed out, thieves and looters live and thrive. We were talking about the problem of theodicy. Both of us used the phrase, “…in this life.” As in, “We just can’t understand the purpose of such loss, in this life.” Or, “…there are different kinds of karma, that we can’t understand, and it doesn’t make sense, the way things happen, in this life.”

I recited again a quote that is dear to me, from the Reverend King: “…the arc of justice is long, but it bends toward mercy.”

Jain cosmology, with its radically different sense of time, reminds me again and again that my mind is finite. The universe, and God, are infinite. Maybe I will be blessed with a few golden glimmers of Truth, of Possibility, where I understand, for one goosebumpy and numinous moment—the bending.

***

Remember how in A Wrinkle in Time, Charles Wallace thinks he faces evil alone—a quick path to despair.

Mrs. Whatsit shares with him a glimpse of our planet Earth, seen from afar. A dark, pulsing cloud covers most of it. It is like a tumor, a living, present thing. Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who reminds Charles Wallace and his friends that we are one of millions of those who work against the dark, who work knowing their tiny acts of light will not be overcome.

Charles Wallace is surprised; he didn’t realize this battle has been fought long before his particular pain. Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who offer reminders; L’Engle writes:

‘And we’re not alone, you know, children.’ came Mrs. Whatsit, the comforter.

‘All through the universe it’s been fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it’s a grand and exciting battle. I know it’s hard for you to understand about size, but there’s very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy. You think about that, and maybe it won’t seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and it’s a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy. You can be proud that it’s done so well.’

‘Who have our fighters been?’ Calvin asked.

‘Oh, you must know them, dear,’ Mrs. Whatsit said.

Mrs. Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly. “And a light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

‘Jesus!’ Charles Wallace said. ‘Why of course, Jesus!’

‘Of course!’ Mrs. Whatsit said. ‘Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.’

‘Leonardo da Vinci?’ Calvin suggested tentatively. ‘And Michelangelo?’

‘And Shakespeare,’ Charles Wallace called out, ‘and Bach! And Pasteur and Madame Curie and Einstein!’

Now Calvin’s voice rang with confidence. ‘And Schweitzer and Gandhi and Buddha and Beethoven and Rembrandt and St. Francis!’ (65-66).

The mundane, daily, and systematic examples of injustice work to make us think that our impulses toward community, toward collaboration, and toward life-affirming action are silly, wrong-headed, and bound to fail.

As children of God, we are made to be light-carriers. If we tend to our spiritual selves and work in communities that can help us identify and remember our calling, we are better equipped to work against despair.

***

Practicing mindfulness may seem a selfish, tiny act—how is cultivating gratitude going to help my students in their poverty and hunger? And yet, we find that over time, the cultivation of a new kind of flexibility in the mind prepares us to be prepared and willing.

From childhood—ourselves threatened and made afraid from nursery school—we have been raised up in a posture of fear and despair. We forget so quickly our true potential. Even understanding that the history upon which we build assumptions may be faulty can change the position of our posture.

In Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink writes, “Learning the history of nonviolence is another way of rehearsing it. Furthermore, our ability to act may depend every bit on our knowledge of nonviolent methods and spirituality as on our fortitude” (300).

If I had to teach again, in such a situation, and I pray I will, I will do the following to begin with. I would teach the history of nonviolence, including the history and voices of those in the American Civil Rights Struggle and for every nation represented by my students. For my own good, as for theirs. I would commit to never using sarcasm, ridicule, or threats with my students—and would be forthright with them why I make this choice, and why it is difficult. I would share this challenge with my teaching peers.

I know from experience that when I have been honest with my students—in joy and humor, and in tricky times, admitting when things are hard and “right answers” far and few between, the energy in the room is one of deep community and connection. I didn’t know that when I engage with young people from my centeredness as a child of God, I am tugging a bit at the veil of despair that conceals our true natures that will help, one day, to upend it forever.

***

I pray that I will always have hope, and a healthy, noisy, thriving hope that fills my blood with oxygen and keeps me sharp and eager to work. I pray that I can grow in practices that help me see light, help me recognize peace when I see it, and keep me mindful of that arc of justice, ever ending toward the light.

All will be well. We are made for more than competition, poverty, sarcasm, and hopelessness. We are made to be in relationship, to heal one another, broken shard to broken shard, small light to small light.

It’s a good thing to recite “Peace, peace, peace,” many times a day. To take time to sharpen my eyes in looking for it, to reminding myself to not abandon it. I do believe that all will be well, and all shall be well.

I’m not sure how peace will come about, and in what forms it will take, but I trust that arc of justice, bending long to justice. I can see it and feel it, and I will not despair.

***

Portions of this reflection got their start in a paper I wrote for class in 2011, called, “Lights for Us to See By: A Critical Review of Engaging the Powers.”

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One of the last days in Jaipur, several of the group wanted to do a tour of three Jain temples; we needed to send a staff person with them, and I was the only one available. Sigh. I didn’t want to go. I had seen the temples. I was tired of coordinating, of answering questions, talking to the driver, figuring out food and water… I wanted to stay in one place, get work done, and not sweat.

But of course, I was “happy” to go. Of course I want my colleagues to see these amazing temples, and besides: this is why I am here. I put on extra deodorant, baby-powdered my entire body, got two bottles of water and money for the driver, and headed out.

I once read a bit of CS Lewis where he talks about doing things one doesn’t want to do. He framed it beautifully, by first asking about one’s love for and commitment to God. He helps us imagine how we would rush to do any single thing for Jesus, if he only needed and asked. And I can imagine that–walking great distances to bring expensive perfume, or staying up all night in a garden. Of course I would do the very thing God asks me to do.

And then Lewis reminds us: What if the thing God asks you to do is this? To sit in class, for hour after hour, and study even when you hate the subject? To stay up with the baby, rocking and rocking, even when you are so, so tired? To listen for a little longer to the tiresome woman at coffee hour after church? To help your neighbor move, even though it’s hot outside and you’ve worked overtime every day this week.

I’ve often thought of this, in long lectures, long train trips, during stressful or tiresome conversations. I say, “This, this moment/chore/conversation/task: this is what I am asked to do, in this moment and on this day.” It helps me feel the whole picture–that all of the little things I do are connected to bigger things–and to remind me not to just do the brave/exciting/laudable things, but also to tend to the mundane.

So I called this to mind. I said, “Stephanie, this is the thing you need to do, today. This is the one thing you are here to do.”

It was a truly great day. At the first temple, on a huge hill overlooking the city, the rain clouds swept in. I sat on a bench and watched the green of the trees and the white marble turn bright and odd, as the gray storm light swept in. I knew my camera would never capture it, so I tried to tell my brain, “Remember, remember, remember.” The wind was cool and the leaves turned their backs.

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By the time we got to the second temple, the rain had ended, but the air was cool and no one else was at the temple. We had it to ourselves. I wandered around, and found that alone, with the cool air, it was like entering a temple for the first time. I felt blessed and lucky to have access to such a holy place. With the sun hidden, the votives seemed more essential.

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I found an empty part, either under construction or abandoned. A metal and stone dome covered the space. Either I was talking to myself, or praying out loud, because I realized the echo was fantastic.

And so, with no one around, I began to sing. Oh, it was the best acoustics I’ve ever experienced. If I held out a note long enough, and my voice was directed dead ahead, the echo would hold out the note long enough for me to harmonize with myself. I sang “Beulah Land,” an old hymn I always find near to mind.

When my grandmother died, my sister and I sang at her funeral. The night before, in my grandparents’ old farmhouse bedroom, we practiced. I had never really sung with my sister before, unless it was along to a radio or tape, or maybe in church. Her voice sounded like mine. Sitting next to her on the bed, I felt like our voices were the same–it was so strange, hearing two of the same voice.

I remembered that moment, and other times I’ve sung that hymn, as I sang there under the dome. I love that even when I am wrong-headed and stubborn, and reluctant to do something, I can still end up having an amazing experience.

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By the time we got to the third temple, the light was changing again, for evening time. I had the rooftop to myself, and enjoyed peeking through the temple vimanas (towers) at the surrounding buildings.

I have sort of been taking for granted that I’m in India again. I’m distracted by logistics, by making sure things are going smoothly, with answering e-mails and preparing for the next group. And there are fewer surprises: I was expecting the smells, sounds, crowds, and heat. And yet, of course–this being India–delight and awe catch me up short, when I least deserve it.

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Mary in splendor, in Hagia Sophia.

Mother Mary was all over this trip. Surprising that after having lived in places like the Bronx, where she is also frequently found—from shrine to garment to tattoo—that I would feel so close to her at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

When I was little, going to a missionary Baptist church out in the country, Mary didn’t come up very frequently, although I often got to play her in Christmas pageants. (Having blonde hair and blue eyes that matched her robes seemed prerequisite.) Even with nativity sets, I was always interested in the tiny baby, and in rearranging the stable crowd in various scenes. Mary wasn’t doing much in those little ceramic sets—kneeling, eyes cast down.

At one point in upper elementary school, I undertook to read the entire Bible, cover to cover. There’s not much Mary in there, either, actually. I loved the book of Esther, which read like a novel, and liked the idea of Eunice and Lois, early members of the church important enough to have names. Besides her magnificat, Mary doesn’t say anything. And Jesus himself is kind of rude to her in the wedding story, acting annoyed that she pressed him into service. And, to be honest, growing up trying to be a good girl, Mary just seemed meek and mild, the opposite kind of woman that a subscriber to Sassy magazine would aspire to be.

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Tradition says that after Jesus, as he was dying, charged his dear friend John with caring for Mary, John took her to Ephesus, where she lived out her days. This shrine is on the site of where her house is supposed to have been.

When I did my master’s in Byzantine hagiography, I finally started thinking about Mary in earnest. I saw images of her as God-bearer, as a near-warrior lady, holding the safety of humanity underneath her skirt, looking with intensity at Christ as she begs forgiveness on our behalf. My professor said, of her downcast eyes, “In these [Byzantine] images, she’s not looking down because she’s meek. She’s looking down because she is nobility, and they don’t look commoners in the eye.”

One of the things that’s so exhilarating about Istanbul is that beautiful images are grander than you can imagine, and jaw-dropping beauty is around every corner. I frequently found my eyes filling with tears. I would turn a corner, look up, and see an image of the theotokos, completely not expecting it, and stunned into staring.

Or I’d see something out of the corner of my eye, look up, and see Christ as king, splendid and solemn, staring at me from centuries ago—gold still shining in the dim cave light.

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Outside the Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus, where pilgrims tie prayers on scraps of paper.

I couldn’t help by pray, and be awed (which is also a kind of prayer, I think), along the way.

CS Lewis defined the word “numinous” like this:

“Suppose you were told that there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told ‘There is a ghost in the next room,’ and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind.

It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is ‘uncanny’ rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous.

Now suppose that you were told simply ‘There is a mighty spirit in the room,’ and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking–described as awe, and the object which excites it is the Numinous.”

(When I looked up this story to get the details right for this post, I also found the following quote from Shakespeare that gets at “numinous,” “Under it my genius is rebuked.”)

So I would be walking around Istanbul, thinking about pistachios and how I used to always misspell “Constantinople,” (despite that master’s degree) and would suddenly find the hairs on my neck rising as I see another fresco, another mosaic, another image that stops my voice.

It’s hard to write about the numinous. When you have an experience—in a stand of sugar maple trees, at a child’s baptism, at the bed of a dying grandparent, in a chapel in Prague—that brings goosebumps, tears, a whoosh of energy in the gut and heart, and it feels like all of creation meaning…

It’s like the old writing class edict “show, don’t tell” falls apart. How can I show you? I can only tell you that I was greedy for images of holy and gold, and was blessed with more than I could handle.

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Votives lit by pilgrims at Mary’s house.

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My reflection with Matt’s on our first morning in Istanbul.

My classmate and our group leader, Abudurrahim, asked us to write a short response about our expectations for the trip (ten days, eight cities, countless sites and people, throughout Turkey), on the very first evening. I have been engaging in inter-religious dialogue and work for eight years; I’ve spent years of academic and professional time wondering about expectations for interfaith engagement.

But this was personal: What did I hope to get?

Matt and I were in the unusual position (for Western, American, Christians) of being in the minority; of the fourteen of us, only four of us were Christians. We often stopped during the day so our friends could worship in a masjid, but we never participated in a Christian service. I was startled to see large pieces of holy calligraphy, in Arabic, throughout Hagia Sophia, and disrupting my view of the central image of Christ.

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In Hagia Sophia, Christian images were plastered over both during times when the building was used as a mosque, and destroyed during iconoclastic periods. Our guide noted that the Islamic leader at the time did not want to destroy the images, because Jesus and Mary (Issa and Maryam in the Qu’ran) are sacred to Muslims as well; he just had them plastered over because images are not suitable for a place of worship. Here we can see the plaster being removed from the mosaic, painstakingly.

But this is what I asked for. I often use the word “disequilibrium” when I’m talking about education in general, and IR engagement specifically. It’s a term from Piaget. All children experience disequilibrium every time they encounter something, new in the world, that doesn’t go along with what they previsously knew. It doesn’t feel right. You have to check for other information, and finally incorporate the new worldview into what you know. It happens before you learn anything.

One of our jobs as teachers is to provide safe places for students (or congregation members, or clients) to experience disequilibrium.

For a toddler, it might be: You thought if you pushed this toy, it would light up red. But look! Sometimes it lights up green—what do you think about that? The world can be surprising. Keep pushing, see what happens.

For young adults, it might be: You have been taught that the protagonist of the book is always good, dependable, trustworthy. Guess what? Here’s an anti-hero, an unreliable narrator, a character you don’t like but somehow connect with.

For any of us: Every black person you’ve seen on television has been a criminal; you know only what the media has chosen to show you. Guess what? Your family has a new member, and he’s lovely, the son-in-law for which you’ve always dreamed. You’ll have to feel the disequilibrium, hold on as all the old synapses get sorted and grow, and incorporate these new understandings with how you move through the world.

I often pray that God will give me a posture of openness. By this, part of what I mean is that God will keep me curious, open to disequilibrium, and hold me safely through it. In my reflection for Abdurrahim, I said I hoped that I would experience things that I did not expect, and make new relationships and encounters that expanded my understandings.

This is easy for me to say, in America. In my home, with the pillow that smells like me, my favorite coffee cup, a closet full of clothes that suit the weather, and classes in which I excel. Surrounded by English language, and an endless (truly) assortment of food and drink that are tasty and nutritious.

Swimming like a faithful fish in a Christian environment, at a school of theology marked by a central chapel, and images and languages from the Bible throughout the literal landscape. Where I can wear a cross around my neck, say “Merry Christmas,” or “God bless you,” two dozen times of day, and never feel uncomfortable. Where I can seek out interfaith seder meals, or interfaith iftar, or read about Buddhism…if I want to. And no one will stop me or question my intentions; I am privileged that way.

The other hope I had was to really encounter history. I’ve learned and read so many Byzantine hymns, prayers, songs, stories. There was a time in my life where Gregory and Basil, Constantine and Helena—they were in my daily thoughts and writing.

This trip exceeded both of these expectation—boy, did I feel disequilibrium. Mostly in small ways—but they add up!—and in some delightful, serendipitous ways as well. And the history—well, I got goosebumps every day. I’m still working out what it all means to me. At the moment, my mind still reels slightly, dizzy from new geography, new tastes, and a crazy array of beauty and holy.

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The interior of the Blue Mosque. So, so breathtaking. One can’t help but pray.

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Oh, October

I love October. My birthday month, cooler weather, and (at least in the Midwest), blue, blue skies. I have many memories of riding my bike and noticing those skies, and feeling they were particular to my month.

I keep thinking it’s the first week of October, because we’ve been so busy, but really, we’re nearly half-way through. I also keep thinking it’s the beginning of the school semester, but really, I’ve already turned in multiple assignments. I had a great visit with my mom and sister, and I have a new nephew. The world is full.

In the past two weeks, our school had an Ahimsa Day, in which I was in a play/dramatic sharing, and participated in a panel on forgiveness–I was representing the Christian perspective. (Tough to do, in one single-spaced page!) I published my brief remarks here.

Last weekend, I was the on-site events coordinator for a dialogue conference. Big ideas, great professors and leaders, me running around making sure catering, welcoming, materials…everything in order. Thank goodness for Matt, who takes some of my load with grace and aplomb. Dinner parties and a bridal shower thrown in for good measure.

I’m also finishing work on a project for the Jains, it looks like I’ll be going back to India this summer, and helping shepherd the Journal into more growth. AAR next month, plus Thanksgiving/Christmas with family.  We’re re-booting the community garden.

So many good things. I find myself in a lot of “spontaneous thankful” prayers– just walking around thanking God for everything I have. As fall comes on, though, I am thinking about Advent, and the need to be a little more intentional about my prayer life.

Other notes: I’ve started reading the Game of Thrones series. Not great, but pretty good. I started using an app on my iPhone that tracks how deeply you are asleep, and only starts the alarm when you’re coming up out of a deep sleep. You have to keep the phone on the bed near you. It’s working, and kind of cool to see my “sleep statistics” every morning–the graph of when I was in deep sleep, dreaming, and when I was not. I’ve been driving more, with the manual transmission; it’s okay. Serving as a Teaching Assistant is going well, as is my work in the Writing Center. We’ve had Remy for a year, and I can’t imagine our life without him.

We housesit for two friends and they came back from a mini-vacation with so many beach stones. While we caught up, I played with the stones, organizing them by color and shape. Pleasing.

Some amazing Chihuly glass I saw while visiting my sister. Oh, the color. Oh, the abundance.

Cool old bricks in “Bricktown,” in Oklahoma City. I love how each one is stamped with the maker’s name. Again, pleasing texture.

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When I titled this blog, I turned to a group of women, and two saints, who have been most influential on my own spiritual growth as an adult. I became an Associate to the Dominican community of religious women, in Racine, WI, in 2004.

The Dominican charism, “Committed to Truth; compelled to Justice,” has informed my teaching, studies, writing, professional work, and how I encounter challenges and possibilities in my life. Today is the Feast Day of St. Dominic. Before he was born, his mother dreamed of a black and white dog, carrying a torch in his mouth– this would be her son, carrying Truth and God’s message to help bring light to this world.

Today I received by e-mail a sermon by one of the sisters, a powerful theologian and preacher. I share her words below. I am struck by her call to “enter into what it means to be human.” I am challenged by examining how I might live out my calling in everyday life, in all of my work, and not keep it for Sundays or “holy” occasions or settings.

“Proclaim the word; fulfill your ministry.  And remember I will be with you at all times. 

It is a phenomenon of life that as we get older, time seems to speed up.  Has it really been that long since we last saw each other?  It is hard to believe my youngest grandchild is graduating.  Is my hair turning that gray?  Am I now on the list to receive Medicare and social security?  Time is fleeting.  Where have the years gone?  The sense of life moving on can haunt us.

But the more important question is how have we spent those years?  How are we willing to spend our lives, so more life may evolve?  Suddenly we could arrive at our last day not believing that that was it.  And so we strain to find a way of living and being to harvest the short time of our life on Earth.

We know that our brother Dominic demonstrated a focused way of life.  The words of scripture heard today: Proclaim the word; fulfill your ministry.  And remember I will be with you at all times, unmistakably reflect Dominic whose feast we celebrate this week.  Dominic, the preeminent disciple and itinerant preacher left us an incredible legacy, using his time on Earth announcing peace and bringing good news.

Dominic set himself to preaching and attracting others to preach.  Heretical teachings dangerous to the faithful, led him to see a great need for educated, zealous preachers who would enlighten hearers and lead them to the truth.  He proposed an order dedicated to preaching at a time when no one but bishops regularly preached.  Designated by the Pope, he was to be the preacher to the world.  Dominic was concerned that preachers should know their faith thoroughly and be able to expound it competently.

Biographers tell of how cheerful and companionable Dominic was.  His intense devotion to prayer and preaching led him to demonstrate that both should be full time occupations.  You may recall from any studies about Dominic that he exhorted his brethren to ‘talk always about God or to God’.  Dominic spent five years as head of the Order.  Five years of his charismatic presence was enough to gather an Order that in its first hundred years would count nearly 30,000 members from the European countries.

Catherine of Siena is to have said: ‘The voice of Dominic’s preaching is still heard today and will continue to be heard’ in the preaching of his followers.”  It is quite in accordance with his own temperament that Dominic should live on in the church, not as a striking individual, but in the work of preaching the gospel.  Indeed that is why he gathered the brethren.

We have inherited this profound Dominican legacy, so in the same way, today’s scripture should speak to us.  Proclaim the word; fulfill your ministry.  And remember I will be with you at all times.  As Christians we have been called.  The call comes from a voice inviting us to be the persons we were born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given us at birth by God.  Vocation is the place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.  Every journey honestly taken stands a chance of moving us toward the place where we make a mark in the world.

The nature of the call can change over time, taking a person down pathways never anticipated.  Friends, guests celebrating with us today you have each answered a call.  Those of you who were more formally connected with the Racine Dominicans as aspirant, postulant, novice or professed, we express gratitude for the gifts you shared with us, gifts that are immeasurable and lasting.  We hope that what you received during those years of special connecting have been valuable and have enhanced your life and outreach for whatever path you have taken.  We hope your Dominican connection has made you a better person.  Many of you have testified to a deepened spirituality, a stronger faith, and gifts of lasting relationships when sharing your thoughts for the Booklet of Memories.

As you have grown and moved on so have we.  In 150 years Racine Dominicans have never remained stagnant.  Change has been a mantra.  It happens to be quite visible today with the claws and jack hammers seen on the property.

Mother Benedicta began our community and we have always been a little chaotic as time unfolded, as social conditions changed, and the church changed with Vatican II.  While we changed our wardrobe, more significantly we changed our classrooms.  The world has become our classroom.  We strive to think through the questions of faith in dialogue with the world; attentive to the signs of the times, listening to the call of the Spirit, seeking the bigger picture, knowing God is at the heart of it all.  In the Jubilee ad booklet you received today, we invite you to read the two pages listing the Corporate Statements we have adopted.  We encourage you to endorse them with us.

And so to proclaim, to fulfill our ministry, to be a follower of Jesus is to reach out, to enter into what it means to be human.  It starts with loving a people so much we work to change the structures that violate human dignity and hold people in bondage.

As the Albigensian teachings challenged Dominic, as this week we remember the atomic bomb attacks in 1945, as immigration laws cause division, as trafficking enslaves, as Earth cries out for respect, as power is abused, we must strive to restore just relationships and bring peace to our messy world.  With Dominic as our motivator and mentor, we are companions on this journey, remembering we have a greater opportunity to make a path if we do it together.  Time is fleeting.   There is an urgency to proclaim the word, to fulfill our ministry with the assurance that Jesus is always with us.

Jesus came to teach us that God’s presence is as close as our next act of kindness, our decision to go the extra mile, our willingness to be inconvenienced, and our attentiveness to real needs, keeping in mind that the most powerful influences are often the invisible ones.

As we prepare to be nourished at the Eucharistic table, let us continue to be faithful followers of the disciple and itinerant preacher Dominic.  And let us carry on this celebration in a spirit of joy and heartfelt gratitude for all of us who have answered and continue to answer the call.

May the God in you meet the God in me with each encounter?” (by Sharon Simon, OP)

Image from “Telling the Stories that Matter.”

 

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Last night, I started re-reading The Little Princess. I had finished The Wind in the Willows and My Antonia, and have a stack of library books, but was just falling asleep and wanted something softer. As in A Secret Garden, Hodgson Burnett’s young heroine is returning to her parents’ England after an early childhood in India. The narrator captured some of what I’m feeling as she mused, in her eight-year-old brain:

“Principally, she was thinking of what a queer thing it was that one time one was in India in the blazing sun, and then in the middle of the ocean, and then driving in a strange vehicle through strange streets where the day was as dark as the night.”

In cool Ontario, I read, swim, drink wine, and generally partake of the luxuries of a green, lush, well-tended and underpopulated world. Already it is hard to remember what was so daily and striking only last week.

*

I am tired of talking about the Burning Place. When people want to know, I now want to say, “Here is something I wrote about it once.” I don’t want to try and describe it, I don’t want to hear the “Gross,” or “Real bodies?” or “That’s so unreal.” I don’t want to try and use up the memories to help others understand; I fear that the more words I try to use to describe, the more actual pieces of the memory will disappear. The experience becomes what I say; I don’t want to forget the heat, the dry ashes as they fell, the torn garland in the water, the gravity of all around.

You know how if you talk about a memory, repeatedly, the memory itself becomes what you have said about it, and not what you actually experienced.

If you think about your high school prom, for example, you will remember the things you’ve talked about while talking about it all these years. The smaller things—the pollen from the stamen of your lilies falling onto the dusty velour of the car seat between you and your date, the awkwardness of seeing your gym teacher’s bra strap in her dress-up dress, the strangeness of driving to school as the sun sets, and parking in a familiar place, but in utterly unfamiliar clothes…

If I keep trying to talk about the Burning Place, I will lose the actual impressions. Like wet tissue paper pages—once color-saturated, they will dry up and leave me with rasping slips of brittle blank paper.

*

I kind of like being sunburned. Not on the tender parts, like my shoulder and that soft doughy bit between my swimsuit strap and my torso—that’s too much pain. But my legs, my feet. I like feeling the discomfort, the constant reminder, as I move my feet inside the sheets. It’s like: I can still be reached by the sun, even all this way away.

*

I still find myself working to keep water out of my mouth when I swim or wash my face. I keep forgetting that the water here—all of the water, every drop of it—is safe and will not make me sick. This is incredible.

I went to church last Sunday, an Anglican parish in small town Canada. It was an outside, casual service, the kind I hate. Lawn chairs, a jocular sermon, kids wearing baseball caps. No processions.

And even still, I needed it and loved it. The great thing about the BCP is that even in a lackluster service, you hear these prayers and phrases that gild the whole thing. It’s like seeing a red thread that you’ve previously only seen against green velvet, and here it is against denim: look how red and strong it is. Feel how inspiring and comforting the words. And so once again, I received the Body and Blood, and tried to use the tiny sliver of silence during the Prayers of the People—I have so many prayers. Of thanksgiving, of names of all those I wish to remember, to be thankful for, to send God’s Grace and Presence and Care to, for forgiveness (for privileges known and unknown, privileges seen and unseen.)

Bells from all over town are background for the readings. I keep my hands open, as if to receive, as I did so many times in India, and pray that I might keep my posture of openness just a little bit longer.

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