Author and advice columnist Cheryl Strayed on writing and walking her way out of grief.
“The spirit that enables one person to overleap the boundary of the body in knowledge and love and to incorporate the other in the self is matched by the same spirit in the other.”
~ Luke Timothy Johnson, Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel
“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’”
~ Mark 5:34
After several days of renewed public debate about health care, we hear this weekend the familiar healing stories from Mark chapter 5. By Sunday we will know the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding challenges to the Affordable Care Act. So politically charged is this discussion, so designed is it to distort, divide, undermine, and confuse, it’s easy to forget that the issue, at its core, is a simple one: how ought a humane society tend to its suffering ones and aim for the well-being of all?
We will also hear this passage on a day when many will be anticipating the Fourth of July, and perhaps expecting their Sunday worship to kickstart the holiday’s celebration. In hearing the text from Mark, such worshipers might well wonder: What does Jesus’ encounters with a desperate, suffering woman and a young girl believed to be dead have to do with America’s love of freedom and fireworks?
Author's Note: Meeting Sister Catherine during my years as a seminary student in North Carolina played a pivotal role deepening and expanding my spiritual formation, in my personal healing and in discerning key callings of my future vocation.
Sister Catherine is a Catholic nun in the Society of the Faith Companions of Jesus, an order in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, t in France in the mid-19th century under the auspices of Marie Madeleine Victoire de Bengy de Bonnault d'Houet (1781—1858).
I began Spiritual Direction sessions with Sister Catherine after the unforeseen death of my father and in the midst of a spiritual crisis.
What follows is taken from my book Reluctant Pilgrim: (A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community) Copyright c 2010 Fr
esh Air Books. Used with permission. Upper Room Books
I started seeing Sister Catherine once a week and within two months I felt as though I were going through a spiritual transformation, like I was being radically broken open and the thick outer shell I had maintained for so long was cracking and pieces were falling off one by one, slowly and painfully. And I learned the difference between a therapist and a spiritual director. She helped me think through my relationship with God and how different areas of my life affected or were seemingly affected
by my sense of spiritual self.
“I know this season of the liturgical year is called “Ordinary Time” because the weeks of Sunday are numbered but I like to think of it meaning plain and uneventful time more so than ordinal,” I told Sister Catherine during one session.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because it kind of feels like a gift to me, to be trying to experience God in really simple ways during the church season of ordinary time when nothing exciting is happening like Easter or Christmas. I’m not going to church on Sundays very regularly but I feel like God is graciously revealing God’s self to me through other people and becoming really alive for me in very incarnate mundane ways, not just in my own head and heart, or in my own silent prayers or weak devotional life.”
++ Join us in showing our appreciation for Catholic women religious (aka nuns or "sisters") on Thank-a-Nun Day, May 9. Click HERE to send a thank-you note online. ++
Here I am, urging people to deconstruct their preconceptions about God, and this guy finds Jesus in a tortilla.
Russ, my father-in-law, lives outside of Espanola, New Mexico. He can tell you from years of living there that the area is jumping with religious mysticism. One of the most famous sites in the state is the church at Chimayo, where people visit to touch the holy dirt and be healed. There are photos of people who claim to have been restored all over the place, along with crutches and canes left behind.
I’m not one to affirm or challenge that what people experience there is real. But I did find it interesting that the priests who serve the church simply bring in new dirt to fill the hole when they get low. Perhaps they bless it; I have no idea. But it’s interesting to me the power we inhere to certain items, acts or places. Is God more or less there than somewhere else? Is there something about the experience that opens us up to the already-present God? Is it an example of the uncharted power of the human mind?
JERUSALEM — Every year, thousands of Americans travel abroad for less-expensive fertility treatments, hip replacements and other medical procedures. Now, an Israel-based tourism company is offering a package that combines medical care with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
IsraMedica plans to unveil the initiative Thursday (Feb. 16) at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.
Eli Knoller, the company's vice president of operations, said IsraMedica already brings about 6,000 nonmedical tourists to Israel every year, the majority of them Christian pilgrims.
Usually when I hear people talk about finding the good in the midst of a difficult situation, my cynical radar goes up. I picture the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where Brian and the two thieves are being crucified while whistling and singing “Always look on the bright side of life.”
I reminds me a girl named Cathy that I knew in high school who already lived on her own before she had even graduated. At school she was the perpetual ray of sunshine, always offering warm smiles and hugs, but hardly concealing a deeper undercurrent of sadness that you could nearly taste.
But once in a while, we have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of grace in the middle of the worst humanity has to offer. And it’s in those moments that I tend to recognize God in our midst.
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Everybody needs forgiveness.
But it’s hard to face that. It feels threatening, like an accusation. So we tend to get defensive and start justifying ourselves, rather than seeing the one we’ve hurt.
If we’re honest, though, we all know that we’ve done things that have hurt others. Probably lots of things.
“I wore chains just like these for over six years, a burden too great to bear for many like me, who stood ready to do violence in the name of the American people and way of life. In Genesis, Cain was the first person to have killed another human being, and we’ve been doing it ever since. As punishment, Cain was sentenced to a life of wandering, a burden he claimed was too great to bear.
"After the towers fell a decade ago, I reenlisted and was deployed overseas with an infantry platoon for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. Wandering the Mesopotamian wilderness like Cain before me, I saw things nobody should ever have to see. My heart hardened in the desert heat like the mud bricks I watched cure in the Iraqi sun.
"After coming home, I found war had infected my mind. Images and memories from Iraq would haunt my dreams and invade my thoughts. Not too different from the suffering endured by American and Iraqi families who have lost someone to war, I too lost someone on the field of battle – myself. I had sacrificed more than I bargained for, a lifetime of mental health and well-being forever crushed by the heavy yolk I bore as a combat soldier."
Before Veteran’s Day was Veteran’s Day, it was Armistice Day.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the cessation of hostilities of World War I took effect.
It was supposed to be the end of the "war to end all wars."
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to commemorate the day “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding.”
In 1938 the day became known as “Armistice Day” with the intent that it would be a day dedicated to the world peace.
In 1954, after World War II, when the world stood in horror at the sight of the Nazi genocide machine and ghastly bombings of civilian populations culminating in the first ever deployment of nuclear bombs, the day became known as Veteran’s Day — a day to honor military service.
I say if we are to truly honor veterans, we ought to remember and honor Armistice Day with the hope that we can bring an end to violent conflict within and between nations.
Albania was perhaps the most closed society in the world during the Cold War, with absolutely ruthless persecution of all religion. Churches were destroyed in every corner of that country. Clergy were eliminated. Worship was outlawed. And enforcement was brutal.
When Communism fell, and the country opened for the first time in decades, the Albanian church began a miraculous process of rebirth. We heard the moving story of the Albania Orthodox Church, rebuilding countless church structures, but even more importantly, restoring faith in the hearts of its people. I've known its leader, Archbishop Anastasios, from past encounters at the World Council of Churches, and he surely is a saint. The revival of religious faith in Albania and its compassionate service to those in need is a magnificent story of the church's witness, and the Spirit's power.
For every American student, September starts a new year. September was a time to put away the suntan lotion and refocus on studies -- on more serious pursuits. Gone were the carefree days of summer, and in came the weather that lives perfectly in my memory -- those almost orange leaves, crisp blue skies, and the faint smell of autumn in upstate New York.
I remember it like this 10 years ago. Fourteen and gearing up for a Varsity volleyball season, I had it all. I had only one worry -- that my dad would forget to pick me up from practice, which he never did.
My class had just finished homeroom -- it was my friend's 15th birthday. I don't remember singing, but I'm sure we did. I moved into my world history class, I think we were on the Greeks. And then, it changed. My choir teacher rushed in and frantically told us to turn on the television. We saw the hallways fill with teachers.
Earlier this summer I attended a church service where the pastor, a man struggling with what appears to be his final bout with cancer, preached about the hope that Jesus promises to those who trust in him. After describing the returning Jesus brandishing a sword and dripping with the blood of all our vanquished enemies, he invited the audience to share what they saw as the hope that this Jesus promises. The responses ranged from no cancer, to no pain, to no worries about paying the bills, to the promise of an upgraded body -- all of course in heaven someday after we die. The congregation was encouraged to find contentment in the present from the possibility of realizing these promises someday. Our souls are what matter; the body just has to endure until our souls reach heaven. No mention of help with how to pay this month's rent or what it means for a cancer-ridden body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, just the spiritual promise that someday all will be well.