Weekly Reflection: Short, Careful Steps - Lianna
“The simplest and most practical lesson I know…is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow. Let us take one day only in hands, at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow, thus we may hope to get on taking short, careful steps, not great strides” -Catherine McAuley
My God, I am yours for time and eternity.
Teach me to cast myself entirely
into the arms of your loving Providence
with a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity. Grant, O most merciful Redeemer,
That whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me.
Take from my heart all painful anxiety;
let nothing sadden me but sin,
nothing delight me but the hope of coming to the possession of You my God and my all, in your everlasting kingdom.
Weekly Reflection: Empty All Oneself of Self - John
Dear fellow leaders,
“If one could empty all oneself of self
Like to a shell disinhabited,
Then He might find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — “This is not dead,” —
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says —
"This is enough Unto itself —
'Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”
-Thomas Edward Brown
When I first read this poem it took me a long time before I understood it. The repeated thees and thous did not help, but I think what I most struggled with was the idea that I could shut God out and that God passed by the shrewd and self-satisfied shell so easily. If God loves humans, why would God give up on us so easily?
One of my high school teacher’s favorite Bible passages was Proverbs 16: 1-2:
“1The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from God. 2All one’s ways may be pure in one own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.”
In other words, humans often create, formulate and design their lives to fit their image of a good life, but without an awareness of God, we can be deluded. I think the poem and Proverbs are both reminders that despite all our shrewd activity, it is valuable to empty oneself of self from time to time and humbly become aware that there is a lot we don’t understand. It is not so much that God doesn’t love us, but more that we prevent ourselves from adopting the humility we need to approach God.
I’m sorry if this was too much like a sermon, but I hope it was helpful to at least a few people!
Weekly Reflection: Fordham’s Beautiful Music - Julianne
Fat Tuesday - Angela
Today, I had a friend over for lunch – just some grilled cheeses and tomato soup. Not the most extravagant of Fat Tuesday meals, but the company was the important part, and something that I think is worth celebrating on Fat Tuesday – the privilege of friendship and companionship.
In considering and speaking about what I may give up for Lent this year, I have been thinking in less materialistic ways than usual – I have been thinking about the idea of emotional fasting, and wondering how such an endeavor could play a role in the self-reflection and preparation of Lent. While I have had thoughts along these lines at other times, I think it is because of highly publicized events in the international sphere that these thoughts have resurfaced this Fat Tuesday.
Currently, it is uncertain just how alone those in Ukraine, bracing themselves for Russian invasion, will be. Will another nation come to their aid, or will they be left, severely outnumbered, to handle Russian forces themselves? Regardless of the political pros and cons for any country considering direct involvement in the region, the unfolding situation has caused me to really think about the emotional and spiritual joys that are rarely considered when I decide what to give up for Lent. From my limited understanding of Jesus’ forty days in the desert, his isolation was a necessary step in his preparations for performing public ministry.
I have many questions about why we give things up for Lent and have heard many different answers – to share in Jesus’ suffering, to show gratitude and humility for Jesus’ own sacrifice, to prepare our hearts for his resurrection – the list is a long one. And many times, I find others and myself picking things that are “bad” for us to give up, thus hoping to benefit ourselves as well. Sure I may love sugar, not going to the gym, sleeping in, getting seconds at my meals, etc. – but giving up these things during Lent may help me accomplish goals I already have – losing weight, being healthier, being more well rested. And I do not think there is anything wrong with benefitting from sacrifice. But is there some way in which these types of Lenten promises keep us from really understanding the sacrifice Jesus made, not only alone in the desert for forty days, but to climb to the cross and to take every else’s sins entirely onto his own shoulders?
It is difficult to put these thoughts into words, but as I look back on my Fat Tuesday lunch with my friend, I wonder if some form of Lenten promise regarding relationships with others would help me better understand Jesus’ real sacrifice, and the emotions that may be felt by those in many places around the world, both on a national scale like in Ukraine or North Korea, and on a personal scale, like those at Fordham (or anywhere) who feel they lack human connection in their lives.
Would doing so be self-destructive – to say, for instance, that I will spend more evenings n self reflection than hanging out with friends? If so, is a little bit of self destruction or self sacrifice perhaps not a bad thing? Would it help me to be more ready for “public ministry,” or for being a true friend, after the 40 days are over, like it did for Jesus? Would it help me to know a form of sacrifice – real isolation from others – that he took on, and that many others have thrust upon them because of where they live?
We Cannot Do Everything - Clare
Recently I reflected on this poem with my Global Outreach team. The words really hit home for our team
and how we are going to attempt to approach our time of service abroad in Guatemala. Our team has been
talking more and more about how we can change our mindset from one of “We’re here to fix a problem in this
community,” to “We’re here to learn something from this community.” This poem altered the way I think about
service work, and I think that the idea of our role as the workers, planting “the seeds that one day will grow,” is
a beautiful way of embracing the limitations yet the incredible importance of service.
I particularly love the line, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.” It is
not only applicable to doing service, but to our everyday lives. I personally have a hard time accepting the fact
that I cannot do everything, and it is hard for me to admit that I can’t do something. However in looking at my
limitations as bringing a sense of inner freedom rather than a sense of failure, I feel that I can give myself more
room to grow.
A Future Not Our Own (words attributed to Oscar Romero)
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
do is complete, which is another way of
says all that could be said.
pastoral visit brings wholeness.
objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
knowing that they hold future promise.
yeast that produces effects
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
something, and to do it very well.
opportunity for the Lord’s
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
brings perfection, no
No set of goals and
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
We lay foundations that will need further development.
far beyond our capabilities.
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do
a step along the way, an
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
Weekly Reflection: Teach Me How to Trust My Heart - Alyssa
Hey team! A member of my GO! team brought this to reflection last week, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s a Lakota prayer:
Great Mystery, teach me how to trust my heart,
my mind, my intuition, my inner knowing, the senses of my body, the blessings of my sprit.
Teach me to trust these things
so that I may enter my Sacred Space
and love beyond my fear, and thus Walk in Balance
with the passing of each glorious sun.
Last weekend was amazing. My GO! retreat was perfect. I’d gone home for Dad’s birthday, spent time with my parents and BOTH my brothers (a rare occurrence now that Ben’s in college too), hung out with the guy I’m in a relationship with, played with my cats, had a Skype interview for JVC with people I immediately clicked with at a placement that I’m really pumped about.
And then, a weird, out-of-the-blue crisis hit. Mom dropped me off at the train station on Monday so I could head back to Fordham for my weekly GO! Board meeting. I sat down on the train expecting to feel excited for the meeting later that day. Instead, I started to cry. I am not a public crier (the fact that I’m even writing this is evidence of how much I trust this community). I was embarrassed by the fact that I was crying, and confused about why I was crying in the first place.
I thought back on my weekend—a weekend that had made me really happy—to look for answers. I second-guessed relationships, involvement at Fordham, post-grad plans… I finally stopped thinking, started breathing, and just sat with God for the rest of the train ride, but I spent the rest of the day in a funk.
On Tuesday, a team member brought the Lakota Prayer for reflection. In that reflection, I realized: I don’t trust myself. In my prayer this week, I’ve figured out that my instincts are a lot more accurate than I let myself believe. I psych myself out at the slimmest shadow of doubt—no, that boy doesn’t like you, no, that placement isn’t going to hire you, etc.; you’re seeing what you want, not what’s there—rather than putting my trust in my own God-given “inner knowing.”
Again, I haven’t figured out where those tears came from last week, and I don’t trust myself. But I’ve got a starting point now, and a Lakota prayer saved as a constant reminder on a sticky note on my laptop. I have direction.
I hope that you all can find some insight in this prayer, that it speaks to each of you in whatever way you need it this week.
And, ladies and gentlemen, my positive gut instinct about the JVC placement was correct. I’M GOING TO CLEVELAND!
Much love to you all,
Weekly Reflection: Ubuntu - Mary Frances
Hi, everyone! I hope everyone’s spring semester has been wonderful so far- I am missing all of you very much!
Here in South Africa, I am exposed to an extremely diverse community. With 11 official languages and various tribes, this diversity is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I have met men with multiple wives, students who have encountered witchcraft, and races I never even knew existed. Being here has only confirmed that humans have the capacity to experience life in so many different ways.
Reflecting on this reminded me about the greatness of life and how it allows people to grow in completely different ways, which made me cherish all the beautiful and unique qualities that our retreat team brings to the table. As opposed to attempting to conform to certain lifestyles to be perceived in certain ways, you embrace your you-ness. In fact, you even search for ways, such as reflection and retreat, to further grow into yourselves.
Right now, I am sure it is overwhelming going through the team selection process. I wish I could be more present full of it, but please know that I am thinking about you all and praying for you. Just remember that there is a reason why you were put on the retreat team. There is a reason why other people will be put on the retreat team, and other people won’t. It is only part of the journey of getting to know yourself. Keep on embracing your you-ness, and embracing other’s otherness as well!
This idea of celebrating yourself and what it means to be yourself in a community (in our case, the retreat team) I would like to share a Desmond Tutu quote about Ubuntu, the philosophy that my program is named after. It is as followed:
“Ubuntu […] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say […] “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”
[…] A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”
I hope this quote and reflection finds you well! Thanks for reading :D
Weekly Reflection: Beautiful Simplicity - Meg
Hi lovely people!
Weekly Reflection: Christ Within Me - Tommy
"Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."
Weekly Reflection: Light, Darkness, and Seeing - Mike
As some of you may know, one of my favorite books in the bible is the Book of Job. The themes of human suffering, wisdom, our relationship with God, and light and darkness really fascinate me. I think these themes are especially relevant during the season of Lent.
To briefly summarize the Book of Job (you can skip this paragraph if you’ve read the Book of Job), Job is an upstanding man that loves God and is very blessed with a family, land, animals, etc. Ha-Satan then tells God that Job is only faithful because of all the things he has. So God allows Ha-Satan to take all Job has but his health and Job remains faithful. Ha-Satan then tells God that once he takes Job’s health Job will no longer be faithful. God then allows Ha-Satan to inflict sores and the like on Job and Job’s three friends and wife now come to him to tell him to repent. Job does not speak out against God but then starting in chapter 3 there is a sudden transition and Job curses the day he was born. Throughout the rest of the Book of Job, each of Job’s three friends speak to Job and tell him that they will teach him wisdom and that he should repent. After each friend speaks Job replies. At the end of the Book of Job, God finally answers Job, Job then responds to God, Job is humbled and satisfied, Job’s friends are humiliated because their wisdom was false, and Job is restored.
Light, Darkness, and Seeing
What I noticed most when I read the Book of Job again recently was the theme of light and darkness and seeing. Something that I can relate to at this time is how Job feels like God is distant from him. He says in Job 23:8-9, “If I go forward, he is not there: or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” At the same time however, Job feels that God will not leave him alone or take him out of the focus. In Job 7:17-19, he says, “What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will you not look away from me for a while…?” I think in these parts Job deals with things that many people deal with today: Where is God in all of this and in my life? How can I find God working in my life when I feel like God is so distant? Why is there human suffering? Etc.
Job often plays with the idea of light and darkness in answering the so-called wisdom, a false wisdom that seems to exist still to this day, of his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Their wisdom consists mainly of looking to the past for wisdom, that bad occurrences or fortunes in one’s life are a sign that one has sinned against God, and that they can speak for God. Job shows that this is a false sense of wisdom and that it is unclear why bad things happen to good people and how the light is not so easily distinguishable from the darkness.
During Lent we often hear the idea that we are in darkness waiting for the light that comes when Christ rises on Easter. In Job17:12, Job questions the notion of how “the light…is near to the darkness.” I often feel, like Job, it is not easy to distinguish the light from the darkness in my own faith and in my own Lenten fasting and reflection. Rather, I feel I am mostly situated in the gray area, the shadow that exists between the dark, and the source of light. For me, at times it’s easier to see or experience the light of God, just like how a shadow can vanish or become smaller. While in other times there can be the complete darkness of feeling distant from God like the dark of night or where the shadow becomes much larger. Unlike Job’s friends beliefs, the light may not always seem near to darkness and the darkness may not always seem near to the light.
Some Questions for Reflection:
- In your own relationship with God, is the light easily distinguishable from the darkness? How so? Why not?
- What have been times when you have felt you were in the gray area or the shadows in your faith journey?
- How does the theme of light and darkness play in your own Lenten fasting and reflection?
Sorry that was a bit long but I hope it may be fruitful to your own reflection. I have attached my attempt at a poem that I wrote about Job for my Old Testament class if you’d like to read it. I also attached this beautiful painting that comes from a series of paintings I love that depict scenes from the Book of Job. This specific scene depicts when Job is finally answered by God in chapter 38 through a whirlwind.
Blameless and upright
Job, Yahweh’s delight
Skin for skin
Ha-Satan’s plan for Job’s sin
Take, take, take, and take
Death becomes a rake
Animals, servants, and progeny fall
Nothing left but a man standing tall
Ha-Satan strikes once more
Job’s body inflicted by loathsome sore
Faithful he may still be
That is until chapter three
A wife and three friends that tell him to repent
Psalm 1 describes his signs as a life wickedly spent
Unhappy despite not following the four sinners’ imposition
Job’s frustration and stubbornness become his ammunition
Physical signs as a tell
Challenges to society’s notion of a grace that fell
An attempt to know Yahweh and how He acts
Society’s measures naïve tracts
Yahweh gives, Yahweh takes, blessed be Yahweh’s name
But who in this story of life is to blame?
Some say it’s all just a test
At the heart a larger story of love, life, and quest
Growing in Inner Freedom - Megan
If I had to pick a theme for my faith life and life in general for the past few months, this would be it. I have been going to God with a lot of questions about who I am and what is my role in my relationship with him. In all of my relationships, I have been questioning whether or not I feel free. This has caused there to be a big shakeup with my relationships, with some rightfully falling away and other, new ones coming in. For a long time I’ve felt constrained in my relationships and in my ability to be myself in them. All my life I’ve struggled with the need to please everyone around me, and to not cause waves or make a mess. For me, this is an issue of freedom.
This past year has been both the best and the most challenging year of my life, and it was this area—not feeling free in my relationships—that was challenged the most. The year started with a beautiful little wake-up call I had about what it means to feel free. I started last year by going to Spain with a teaching program, where I would teach English to 2nd graders while taking education classes. While in Spain, I lived with a host family—a sixty year old woman named Pepa and her son Jose.
Pepa is a typical Spanish mother—she devotes every hour of her day to cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her kids. Part of the host family agreement is that she would provide me with three meals a day, and do laundry and clean my room once a week. I was apprehensive the first few days as I tried to figure out what sort of relationship Pepa expected us to have. The first moment out of the taxi, Pepa declared that she would be my Spanish mom….but I wanted to see exactly what that meant. I didn’t want to disrupt the way their family did life, or assume that I had a place with them.
My second night there, after family dinner, Pepa brought me into the kitchen with her. This was already a big deal because Spanish moms typically do not let anyone, even their kids, in the kitchen. But, I had seen that Pepa allowed her son in the kitchen and told me to do the same. She spent the next twenty minutes giving me a complete tour, explaining every appliance and every single food item in the pantry and fridge. She told me how to prepare my coffee in the morning, how to work the toaster, and where to find plates and the olive oil and utensils.
She told me to not worry about cleaning up, to leave my dishes in the sink. She told me to have as much coffee and as much food as I like. She asked me if there was anything special I liked, that I used to eat at home that would make me comfortable here.
Then, she took both my hands and said, “Megan, remember, you have freedom here.” Her words hit me pretty strongly, for a reason I couldn’t understand, and for the rest of the night I kept turning them over and over in my mind. Megan, you have freedom here.
From that day forward, day by day, I truly became her daughter, and she became my mother. Any and all anxieties I had about being an imposition or making a mess or taking up space in her house disappeared. I stopped walking around constantly aware, with my ears perked, ready to pull out my best manners. I stopped sitting stick straight at the table and lounged on the couch like they did when we watched movies. I stopped trying to be the perfect house guest, and the moment I did that, I became the daughter she always wanted, AT HOME.
As I thought more about it, this is what I realized. By saying that, “I had freedom there” Pepa was inviting me to act as a daughter in the house. She was telling me that I had the same free reign that her own son did in her house. I was loved and welcome to be me. She was inviting me to make a mess, to be real, to make my life here.
She was doing my laundry, cooking my food, cleaning up after me like she did with her own son. By saying that I had freedom there, it went so much deeper than just the kitchen. She was saying, this is your home. You are free to act like it, to be comfortable and confident in your relationship to me. To ask me for things and approach me. You are free to act like a daughter, like one of my own. You have freedom here.
What she taught me is this: Freedom means being home, wherever I go. It is being invited to make a mess in someone’s “house.” To not have to be a perfect house guest in their life. It is the ability to move without constraint, without second-guessing if something is allowed or too messy or too myself or too “real.”
This type of freedom speaks to my identity. It encourages me to lose the need to impress people, to lose the fear of taking up space and making waves and making a mess…of being fully alive.
I think of Pepa, and then I think of God. When have I come to Him thinking that I need to clean up my act? What is my role in my relationship with God? My role is to be a daughter, not a house guest. My “space” is sitting on the couch with my feet up, and not standing in the doorway waiting to be invited in to sit down with him. It means to be at home. God is inviting me to make a mess, to be myself, to bring in my dirty laundry at all times of day, to let him feed me and provide for me. To relish in the feeling of being cared for, fussed over. I want to always feel at home, with no fear of being too messy or taking up too much space.
I want to feel at home. Our faith tells us that God is everywhere, all the time, and where He is, we are at home. Here on campus. Back with our families. After graduation, wherever I end up. I am home. In every area and every space and every moment of my life, I can feel at home, and I can feel free.
And when I grow in this inner freedom with God, then I can grow in it with my other relationships, and every day the fears of not being good enough, not being lovely enough, of taking up too much space, of making a mess, will fade away. In the Gospels, Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” We each have a room in the house of God. In all of my relationships, there is room for me. Space to fill, to stretch out my legs and be myself. It’s taken me a while to find that space where I belong, but it’s the worth the search to be in the place where I find freedom.