Archive Monthly Reflections
A Collector’s Christmas
by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus
It all started on a wintry night as I and Jim Gavin, the president of The Friends of the Creche, walked over from our hotel in Salt Lake City to attend a rehearsal performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had met Jim, but I did not know him well.
I was a collector of nativities, attending the bi-annual convention of The Friends of the Creche, a society of people who love the Christmas story and have a passion for collecting nativities. Jim asked where I was from and about my collection. I told him I had about 150 sets. I had never made an accurate count. During our conversation, he asked if I had ever exhibited my collection. I told him that I had never seriously considered doing a show. He told me that I most definitely should consider doing one. This is where the seed was planted.
Over the following weeks, the hound of heaven started to pursue me. I felt that I was being summoned. The “no” changed to an “I don’t know” and then to a “maybe” and finally to a “yes”. Once I had made the commitment in my own mind, ideas started to take shape. I became obsessed, and I thought of nothing else for hours at a time. There were so many decisions to make, so many details to work out.
Thirteen months later, in December 2010, the idea became a reality. This was no small undertaking. I had not experience. I had been to several exhibits and to a number of conventions. What I had learned was that putting together an exhibit took an enormous amount of work and could be a logistical nightmare.
The exhibit was called The Crib and the Cross. At the entrance, I set up a large outdoor set that had the appearance of stone, surrounded by a collection of crosses and crucifixes that I had also collected. A plaque at the front had an extensive quote from Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s “The Life of Christ”, describing the connection between the crib and the cross.
The exhibit was set up in my parish hall. I recruited a team of twelve family members and friends to help transport dozens and dozens of boxes in cars and vans and to help set up the nativities.
Members of the parish were invited to see the exhibit after all the masses on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, more than four hundred school children came over class by class to see the exhibit. In all, over one thousand people attended.
There was Christmas music playing in the background and the fragrance of burning incense candles filled the air. Of course, there had to be a Christmas tree decorated with all the nativity ornaments I had collected. The tree was flanked by a picture of Botticelli’s Madonna and Child on one side and Salvador Dali’s Madonna and Child on the other side.
I had a station for memorabilia from various Friends of the Creche conventions along with information about how to join the society. There was a station about the first nativity exhibit created by St. Francis of Assisi in 1221. On the next table, I had my favorite set, the one that started my collecting passion.
When my wife and I first got married, we realized that neither of us owned a nativity set. I was given the task of buying one for the family. I shopped for weeks and weeks but couldn’t find one that seemed special enough. Then came an inspiration; I would paint my own. I purchased a foot high, sixteen piece plaster of Paris set. For many months, every chance I got, I labored at the kitchen table, deciding on colors and then mixing paints, finally painting all the figures.
There was a touch table to small children, containing a number of inexpensive sets with which the children could play. This turned out to be a great idea, and it helped keep breakage of my other sets to a minimum.
I had tables grouping together nativities from different countries and a table with an explanation about stopkas, special sets from Krakow, the cultural center of Poland. Besides my first set which is my favorite, I highlighted my other favorite – one from the Vatican collection. It depicts the Virgin Mary kissing the Infant Jesus. Buttons were prepared with the picture of Mary and Jesus on them. The buttons read, “I saw Mary Kissing Baby Jesus”. The kids loved them.
I created questions abut the exhibit for the teachers to use with their students. All the questions could be answered through observation or by reading the various explanations displayed throughout the exhibit. I also donated two multiple-piece nativities for each grade, Christmas wrapped, that could be distributed as the teachers decided.
On the eve of the show, my niece (who is also my godchild), presented me with an exquisite framed needlepoint nativity scene. She told me that she had been working on the piece for several years. When she found out that I was going to be doing the show, she worked day and night to have it ready for the opening. Of course, I made this piece another highlight of the exhibit. A number of women told me it was a grand piece of workmanship.
I remember one little first grade by standing in the middle of the exhibit. With raised arms, he whirled around and exclaimed “This is awesome!” I remember thinking to myself that he was right; it was truly awesome. The son of God came down to earth to join us in our humanity and ultimately redeem the world.
To me, the Incarnation is the penultimate miracle. That the exhibit came off was a small miracle. How do you measure the success of such a show? After the exhibit, my pastor told me that a parish member I did not know wanted to contact me so I gave her my email address. He told me that she had some kind of religious experience while viewing the exhibit.
Here is a quote from her email: “That was the most influential exhibit in my life and it has made a positive impact on my faith. The Christmas season is often lost in the shopping, lights, and festivities, but your nativities and narratives and explanatory pieces were a beautiful reminder of why we celebrate Christmas and what it means worldwide. You showed how the important symbolism in Christ’s birth was just as important s the symbolism in His death.”
For my myself, if the exhibit could have such an impact on just one person, it made it all worthwhile.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” John 1:14
I hope that each of you had a happy and blessed Christmas.
The Divine Catcher
by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were sitting and waiting expectantly for our take-out delivery. Since the onset of the pandemic, no dine-in restaurant option was available. I told Father “Bo” I had just viewed a documentary about circuses. I had never realized what a great impact circuses had on entertainment in our nation from the turn of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century.
Father “Bo” said, “I was most fond of the clowns as a child.” I told him I was quite the opposite. I said, “I always found them a little creepy. I did like Emmet Kelly though. He was very sad.”
“What was your favorite part of the circus?” asked Father “Bo”. “I loved the trapeze artists,” I replied. “The ring master always said they performed death-defying feats.”
“Did you know that Henri Nouwen was fascinated with the circus?” asked Father “Bo”. “I did not,” I responded.
“Yes,” said Father “Bo”. “At one time, Nouwen became very friendly with the Flying Rodleighs and actually travelled with the circus. Nouwen was especially fascinated with a remark of one of the trapeze artists. The flyer told Henri, ‘the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything When I fly to the catcher, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me safely over the apron behind the catch bar….. A flyer must fly and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust with outstretched arms that his catcher will be there for him.’”
“I think that was why I so liked the trapeze artists, even as a young child. I marveled at that demonstration of trust,” I responded. “I still marvel at that absolute trust.”
Father “Bo” went on. “In the last months of Nouwen’s life, he had to deal with the death of Adam Arnett, a 34 year old whom Nouwen had cared for at Daybreak. Adam couldn’t speak, dress himself, or brush his own teeth.”
“Is there a place I can find out more about Adam?” I asked. “Yes,” answered Father “Bo”. “Adam, God’s Beloved was Nouwen’s last book. Nouwen wrote of Adam, “Adam was – very simply, quietly, and unquietly – there! He was a person who, by his very life announced the marvelous mystery of our God: I am precious, beloved, whole, and born of God. Adam bore silent witness to this mystery, which had nothing to do with whether or not he could speak or express himself…It has to do with his being. He was and is a beloved child of God.”
Father “Bo” said, “Henri wrote that Adam seemed to be talking to him. He said ‘Don’t’ be afraid Henri…Let my death help you to befriend yours. When you are no longer afraid of your own death, then you can live fully, freely, and joyfully.’ Nouwen wrote that dying was trusting in the catcher.”
I said that I liked the image of Jesus as the divine catcher. I think of the great prayers given to Saint Faustina was “Jesus, I trust in you.” Being able to develop that trust, to let go, is to fly into the waiting arms of the Divine Catcher is a lifetime journey.”
Jesus, I trust in you.
A COVID Reflection
by Camille Devaney, IVC Volunteer
It has been many weeks into our “Stay at Home” lifestyle. No contact with my nursing homes or the Domestic Violence Shelter where I normally serve. COVID hasn’t changed the status of the shut-ins; they still need food and some human contact. So, the Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels program continues and that’s how I can serve others.
I have been doing the same two routes, approximately 11 -14 clients. I know every client by name, and they know mine. They tell me about their families, their aches and pains, their neighbors and much advice on “medical” cures. Do you know that sleeping with a bar of soap in your bed makes many pains go away? Where else could I learn what is on sale at the neighborhood markets? Where else could I get hollered at for bringing the wrong meal even if I only deliver and not prepare? AND, where else could I find God every day?
Today’s presider of the livestream mass that I watch spoke about the many gifts we have been given. He made reference to an old movie “Chariots of Fire”. One of the runners knew he was being called to be a missionary, but he also was aware of his running ability. He said, “It makes God happy to see me run.” The point is God does delight when we use the gifts He has given us. Personally, I don’t like being home doing nothing and I do like speaking with people. The presider this morning made me aware that God is happy as I chat with the clients on my Meals on Wheels route.
Today, two different clients invited me in for a visit and a cup of tea or coffee. Of course, I can’t do this, but I did see God smiling. It is sad not being able to receive the Eucharist, the bread of Life. But I am reminded of a poster in the Jesuit parish in Peru. it shows a woman with a child and reads (loosely translated): “We cannot have the Bread of Life unless we have Bread for Life.” The Catholic Charities clients who receive their bread for life are also receiving the Bread of Life. I can find God when I go to mass literally or attend an adoration service, but currently I find Him/Her more profoundly in the face of the men and woman who come to the door.
Safe in Their Mouth
by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having a discussion about love. “Do you think everyone knows what love really is?” he asked.
“Probably not,” I responded. “There are some people who think love only has to do with the emotions. They equate love with infatuation. The culture talks about falling in and out of love. It is beyond your control. It just happens.”
“Yes,” Father “Bo” responded. “They often do not recognize that love is an act of the will. Your relationship with God is very much an act of the will. Yet there is an element of trust.”
“I think the love of a mother for her child is an act of the will. Have you heard the expression “The baby has a face only a mother could love?”
“Yes,” replied Father “Bo”. “But I must admit that I think all babies are at least cute, if not beautiful.”
“Young children seem to have an innate sense of love,” I said. “They have complete trust. It is quite beautiful, but sometime along the way we seem to lose that trust. The experiences of the world do the damage.”
Father “Bo” noted, “much of the development of the spiritual life involves putting our trust in God. Believing He loves you, imperfections and all, and trusting Him completely. It seems we have to learn that lesson over and over again.”
“I am afraid that is so,” I replied.
“Here is a bit of wisdom from a four-year old girl,” Father “Bo” said. “In response to the question ‘how do you know someone loves you?’ the girl responded ‘They say your name different. Your name is safe in their mouth.’
Wisdom opened the mouths of the dumb and gave ready speech to infants. Wisdom 10:21
As we face the COVID 19 pandemic, there is a great deal of fear. I see it at the grocery store as people, almost in a panic, are buying things like toilet paper. Over and over again, friends have been bidding me farewell with “be safe”. How often in the Bible are we told “be not afraid”?
I do not have to tell you what protocols to follow. This advice is everywhere. However, to feel safe we have to place our trust in God.
Entrusting Myself to the Hands of Jesus
I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer
we can offer up, during these hours
when the road before us is shrouded in darkness,
is that of our master on the cross:
“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”
(Into your hands I commend my spirit.)
To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread,
that blessed and caressed, that were pierced; . . .
to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down
to the very marrow of the soul that mould and create
to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted
it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul,
and above all when we suffer or are afraid.
and in so doing there is a great happiness and a great merit.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
Holy Week and Coronavirus
by Camille Devaney, IVC Volunteer
It goes without saying that these are strange times for all of us, bringing out many strange emotions for me. Our ministries are on hold for most of us, making me realize how much I miss the presence in the nursing homes and the shelter. Ten years of hearing a Bayside nursing home resident ask me every week, “when are you coming back?” Those words are now a prayer. The first week, the activities director either didn’t communicate well or some didn’t hear well that I would be gone indefinitely. She called the afternoon we were scheduled for mass and asked if we could pray over the PA system so the residents would relax. Probably the simplest and most profound prayer I shared with them.
Like many of us, I “watch” mass from my parish or Loyola Academy. I soon realized that I didn’t miss “going to mass” as much as sharing this experience with others. I found comfort in the Holy Trinity homily when spiritual communion was described, as I heard it, as taking what we derive from mass and sharing in doing the work of God. It doesn’t take ordination for this. In Baptism, we became a member of the Body of Christ. We are all baptized as a royal priesthood, a holy people and a people set apart to follow Him in the work of salvation. Beside sharing in the community aspect of mass, I also realized the importance, for me, of spiritual direction, a place to share and examine my desires. Again, virtual will not be the same as face to face but better than not at all.
Finally, I don’t do well with long idle days. There is a limit to reading, cleaning and Netflix before I go crazy. The need in Catholic Charities to help with meals on wheels is very high. I decided to take on this ministry at least for now. Again, I was humbled to see how grateful the recipients are for the meal they receive. I have never heard one complaint about not liking something. Some recipients look like very able-bodied persons. I have learned gratitude for what I have and not to judge why someone needs a meal. Jesus didn’t ask the woman at the well why she had so many relationships. He loved her as she was and ministered to her.
by Jerry Koncel, Friend of IVC
Although I am not an IVC volunteer, I am a graduate of St. Ignatius H.S. (Chicago), Loyola University Chicago, the University of Detroit, taught three years at St. Xavier H.S. (Cincinnati), and spent 11 years in the Jesuits studying to become a priest. My best friends are ex-Jesuits, and I cherish my 11 years in the Jesuits.
With this background, my story is about being the lead facilitator for the Baptism Preparation meeting at a nearby. I have been in this ministry for nearly 15 years, enjoy it because it keeps me in contact with the new members of the parish, strengthens my faith, and sometimes just totally amazes me. This is one of those last encounters.
We meet on the last Tuesday of every month, bringing information about Baptism to parents who are having their children baptized within the upcoming months, and asking the parents to discuss and articulate their faith beliefs. We typically have 4-7 sets of parents at that meeting, and on this particular Tuesday, we had six.
I begin our meetings by thanking the parents for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend this meeting and that I want to share with them something we all have in common that is not connected to our faith. “We are all busy,” I tell them. “We live in a world of busy-ness, where we have phones to answer, texts to answer, places to go, people to see, and this is just the world in which we live.” I then tell them that in this world of busyness, we don’t do one thing that is so important to our spiritual lives–we don’t take time to pray. “So, if you would just give me a minute of your time to be quiet, to ditch the noise and hyperactive world in which we live, and just take time to pray, to listen to God, to find Him in all things.” Is this not the Ignatian motto of Contemplation in Action? of Finding God in all things?
The group then watches a 10-minute video on the theology of Baptism before we get into a discussion. We actually ask them to discuss these two questions: Why are you having your child baptized at Hubert Parish and what, if anything” can the parish community do to help you? The second question is: Who are (or were) the one or two people whose Catholic faith meant a lot to you and whose example produced lessons that you share with the newly baptized?
We then go around asking the parents to respond, but before they do, I want them to know that this is not a quiz, just a way of getting them to articulate their faith beliefs that in the hearts and minds. Please remember that there is nothing rehearsed about this discussion. It is spontaneous, and on this night, it amazed me.
In responding to question one, the young lady blurted out that she was from North Carolina, that her husband was in the military and would be going to Afghanistan. When I asked her why she was here at the parish, she replied, “There aren’t many Catholic churches near the base, and I wanted to go back to my parents, to the church and school that have meant so much to me,” She continued, “My parents have belonged to this parish for 35 years and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have our baby baptized here.” Wow, what a powerful statement.
But wait, there’s more. When I asked a couple why they were having their child baptized, the wife said, “I am thanking God for a miracle and hoping that my child will have the strength to live a healthy life.”
I followed up by asking, “So, what’s the miracle?”
She replied, “My husband and I have been wanting to have a child since we were married, but the doctors told us we couldn’t have one. We continued to try and after five years, we succeeded.” The doctor told her that this would be a difficult pregnancy, so she prayed to the Virgin Mary to help make it through this difficult time.
“The baby was born three months ago,” she continued, ” and we are extremely grateful. Without God’s help, without Mary’s help, we don’t think this wonderful child would be ours.” I can’t believe she actually said this to a group that that was unknown to her. I would add that I was amazed and that such interactions do not occur every time the Baptism preparation meeting takes place.
So, when you are least expecting God to reveal himself to you, he does in mysterious ways. I don’t know if the mother from North Carolina ever went home feeling strengthened in her faith, but I did. I’d say the same thing about the mother who shared her story. You never know when God speaks to you, so be open to his callings for He speaks to us in mysterious ways!
by Rich Pozdol, IVC alumnus
As we celebrated the most incredible birth in the history of the world during the Christmas season, I reflected back to this past summer. It was a quiet, warm afternoon when I decided to visit the Lake County, Indiana County Fair. I had not been for a number of years, and I always enjoyed the experience.
One of the things I always checked out was the produce pavilion. I wanted to see the champion squash for the year. It weighed in at 922 lbs. I know how hard it is to grow a decent-sized tomato. How do you get something to grow that large?
Another thing I always enjoyed was visiting the cow barn. As I stood admiring the champion cow, a young girl of 15 or 16 years of age gushed out loud, “Isn’t she beautiful!” I had to agree. I had not thought of cows as especially beautiful, but this particular cow was a beautiful specimen. As we admired the cow, I noticed a small crowd gathered at the other end of the barn and walked over to see what was going on. I asked someone what was happening and was told that a cow was about to give birth. I had never seen a calf being born, so I decided to stay and watch.
What I immediately noticed was how gentle the vet, his young son, and another assistant were to the cow. They petted the cow as she struggled to deliver. “Good girl”, “you can do it”, “everything is going to be fine.” I doubt that the cow understood, but the soothing words seemed to calm her. The water bag was protruding but had not yet broken. The vet told us that over 90% of cows delivered on their own, but he was there if she needed help. He said he was going to wait another half hour before he intervened. The half hour passed with no action. He then manually broke the water bag. A young woman standing next to me said, “now we’ll see some action.” “How so?” I asked. “Oh, I know. I have assisted dozens of cows deliver their babies,” she responded. I thought to myself, “I am truly a city boy. At my advanced age, this is my first birth of a calf.”
Still no action. Finally, the vet asked his son to bring some chains. The calf’s nose was now protruding, along with the front legs…just enough to attach the chains. The best and his son gently pulled. After several minutes, the calf was out. A new life had entered the world, reaffirming in my mind the existence of God.
Within minutes, the newborn was struggling to its feet. The mother was up and licking her newborn. The vet said that the cow would be a good mother and that everything looked fine. The vet then started to sprinkle salt from a Morton’s salt box on the baby calf. He explained that he did this in order to make the cow thirsty so that she would drink more water. She was dehydrated after the birth, and he wanted to make sure she was quickly rehydrated.
Birth is such an amazing thing. The joy radiating from the small crowd of parents and children was palpable. “Pied Beauty” (1877) Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him. -Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ December 2019
The Practice of Ritual
by Mark Avery, IVC Volunteer
The practice of ritual has been of assistance to me through life and relationship transitions.
For hundreds of years, ritual has not only helped us make sense of the world and where we fit into it, but has expanded our awareness and connected us to the great mystery of life. The very word “ritual”, means to “fit together.” Every ritual conveys an act in which we literally join the metaphysical with the physical. It is a means of calling spirit into our material lives.
We all long to a time when the lighting of candles signified a real desire to illuminate – to bring virtue, healing, and deeper meaning into our lives and our homes. We hunger for both community and communion,the feelings found in the conscious practice of rituals. Let us consider bringing back their ancient power, translated for our modern times.
- Ritual is one of the greatest spiritual technologies of the 21st century
- Rituals anchor us and give us a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves
- Rituals have great influence over our minds
Here are four rituals that can bring you energy and meaning in the New Year: Review the year. Acknowledge accomplishments, see where you parted from your mission, evaluate what worked and what didn’t. What needs to be changed? Any new opportunities come to light? What did you learn? What challenged you? How did you grow stronger? Out with the old. Clear out the old things that clutter up your life. If you get something new, give something away. Welcome good luck and prosperity. Think of the qualities that you want to bring into your life in 2020. Perhaps joy, clarity, good health, a peaceful heart. Identify an item(s) in your home that represents your qualities and keep them in your mindfulness for 48 hours. And, if appropriate, then consider giving the items away to a charity or someone who could use them. Focus on the first 12 days. Wise women and men have taught that the first 12 days of the year represent the entire year. (January 1 for January, January 2 for February, etc.) By practicing loving kindness, openness, and generosity while giving thoughtful attention to the significance of each of these 12 days, you will consecrate and revere the entire coming year! HAPPY NEW YEAR! ABUNDANT AND CHOICE BLESSINGS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!
How Do We Read and Hear and See the News?
by Don Gimbel, IVC Volunteer
I recently met with my reflector, Fr. Mark Henninger, and we got on the subject of “How, or with what lenses, do we view the news as we listen to the radio, watch TV, read newspapers or magazines, or surf the internet?” We decided to each think about and come up with suggestions. These are my thoughts
When looking at events and actions of individuals, local, state, and national governments, and other groups and organizations in the domestic political realm, consider the following:
- Look through God’s eyes. Does it build or block God’s kingdom on earth (as in the Out Father)?*
- Who is helped? Who is hurt?*
- How does it affect the poor and marginalized?
- Does it help or harm individuals, groups or society as a whole?
- Will it lead to greater good or bad?
- Does it serve or detract from the common good?*
- What virtues or vices are on display, if any?
- Does it foster peace and fraternity or dissension and conflict?
- Are we our brothers’ keeper?
- What Gospel values are advanced, ignored or gone against?
- What is realistically possible?
- Should this lead to any action on my part?*
Looking at events and actions in the international realm:
- Are we our brothers’ keeper in the international realm and if so, to what extent?
- All of the above from the domestic realm.
*If you have limited time, I suggest focusing on these questions.
When we see people who are hurt and suffering, whether it be from natural disaster, accident, sickness, disease or sin by another person, group of people or nations, consider the following:
- Pray that they know God’s love, that God sends people to alleviate their suffering, and to the human extent possible, that action be taken so that it not happen again to anyone.
- Should this lead to any action on my part?
Going In: A Story from the Kolbe House Jail Ministry
by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus
Two years ago, I was an Ignatian Volunteer Corps member, beginning my service at Kolbe House Jail Ministry. Through Kolbe House, I would visit detainees at Cook County Jail. Cook County Jail has two primary categories of detainees. In the first category are those charged with a serious crime and awaiting trial. These detainees cannot make bail. The second category are those who have been convicted of a crime and have less than one year to serve to complete their sentence. Once convicted, if their sentence is over one year, they will be sent to one of the 24 (yes, 24) prisons in Illinois.
Most of the jail population is composed of African American and Latino males. Black males make up 6% of Illinois’ population yet they represent 60% of the total prison population. When I began my service at Kolbe House, the jail was huge, with over 7,000 detainees, and grim.
On that first day, I was visiting with Fr. Mark Bartosic, then director of Kolbe House (and now a bishop) and Brother Jay, a Franciscan doing an internship with Kolbe House. They were going to lead a bilingual bible study and I was tagging along to observe.
We went through one level of security and waited. We went through a second security check and waited. Finally, we got into a lower level tunnel system and walked and walked and walked. We were headed towards a maximum-security section of the jail. There were no signs to indicate which way to go. It was explained to me that in the event of an attempted breakout, the jail administration did not want to assist a detainee in any way.
We got to the maximum-security section and Fr. Mark yelled “gas!” One second later, my throat began to burn, and I started to cough. I learned that minutes earlier, officers used gas to neutralize one or more detainees.
We did not get our own space for bible study; instead, we held it in an open space in the cell block where other detainees were playing cards and chess and socializing. There was a high level of noise and we struggled with our meeting. I never felt in danger since there were many officers around us. However, I did feel the pent-up anger. The environment was less than relaxing.
We finished our meeting and made our way out through the various check points. As we reach the street, I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief. I had gotten out. I thought to myself, “what a water. How have we allowed our society to get to such a point? The United States has 6% of the world’s population yet we are responsible for 21% of all prisoners.”
Things are starting to get better, but improvement is slow. So, what is to be done? What can we do? Will it make a difference?
Since I first visited the jail two years ago, the population has been reduced to about 5,500 detainees because of changes in the bonding requirements. This has allowed judges to be more liberal. In certain cases, detainees can not be released with little or no bail.
This year, I am no longer an IVC volunteer, but I continue to visit the detainees. We now provide prayer circles where we gather in small groups, hold hands, and pray out loud. These groups have proven to be very popular. We do 10 or 11 circles during each visit with between 80 and 100 detainee participants.
I am very hopeful for the future. As Pope Francis said about hope, “it is very important because hope never disappoints. Optimism disappoints but hope does not.”
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
by Maureen Kennedy Barney, IVC volunteer
As we finish a summer of relaxation, hot sunny days, walks on the beach, brilliant sunrises and breath taking sunsets it takes some transition to move into the cooler, crisp days of fall, the shorter days, the regularity so absent in the summer; but, with the transition comes a sense of structure, a sense of readying for those shorter days and a more urgent sense to prepare.
In this passage so familiar to all of us, I see a parallel to what each person here today is approaching. The harvest…and for any Midwesterner, the urgency need not be explained….but the labor involved is one most of us have not experienced personally. The harvest requires many hands, many laborers. And as IVC prepares for a much deeper harvest in the work ahead, as laborers we need to spend time reflecting on what we will do as we move to the “fields” of Chicago as laborers for the Lord and his message to those we will serve.
If Jesus sees the world as a garden…an image we’ve so often heard… then he indeed is the gardener preparing the fields and gathering us, the laborers. Ignatian Spirituality Program, Cook County Hospital, Trinity Volunteer Corps at Old St Pat’s, Cristo Rey, and on and on…the places we’ll serve. And the kind of laborer we’ll be does, I believe, grow from the way we see and understand Jesus and the type of gardener he is.
Some may see Jesus as efficient, results oriented, careful that the garden is always healthy, meticulously tended. The weaker plants plucked and discarded, uprooted and abandoned. Yet others see him as one who shows care and tenderness for all, for the weaker plants especially so that they might become healthy, thrive and bear fruit. Just as we see in the parable of Weeds and the Wheat where the weeds sown are allowed to remain. This gardener has what I call the more “gentle” heart. Whichever gardener we identify with God will have real consequences in the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, the way we see God and the way we’ll see the people we’ve been called to serve this year.
I believe that the second type of gardener, the compassionate and tenderhearted one, is the more accurate way of describing Jesus. To say that he takes a preferential approach to the weak seems fitting as we see him spending time with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors during his time on earth. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one who leaves the 99 to seek out the one who is lost.
God does not leave the weak and sinful behind. Yes, he sees the world as a harvest, but he does not uproot those who appear lost; he tries to recuperate, to heal and to strengthen them instead.
And what then is our challenge? Our challenge is to work with Jesus, to be his hands and his voice in the streets of Chicago. Jesus wants us to care for the weak, the sorrowful, the forgotten, the ones discarded by society’s definition of success. He wants each of us to be the compassionate gardener wherever our harvest will be found. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” When Jesus looks at this world he sees an opportunity. He sees a plentiful harvest, but not a perfect one.
“Jesus was resolutely determined to travel to Jerusalem to be lifted up.”
by John Hynes, IVC volunteer
Please note: This reflection was written after hearing the readings at mass on Sunday, June 30.
I entered high school as a 74 pound 12 year old with the nick name “Howdy Doody”. I knew I had to get tough quick. So I began delivering the morning Tribune in the dead of Winter.
That first morning the wind howled! At 5AM I crept down the attic stairs so as not to awaken my seven sisters. I felt scared, all alone and completely inept. I walked into the kitchen. My mother sat there in the dark. She had alreadly folded all the newspapers, tucked them in my canvas bag and had a cup of steaming hot chocolate at my place. “Johnny,” she said “I want you to be safe and warm out there. You can do this” I walked into the winter darkness resolutely determined…and with a little chocolate still on my face.
Julian of Norwich says that Christ revealed himself to her as an unconditionally loving mother who continuously breaks herself open and pours herself out to her children.
Hold this image close to your heart. Today Jesus is inviting the IVC to journey to Jerusalem with Him… to be lifted up.
Happiness usually comes from circumstances outside of ourselves. So today’s gospel makes it very clear that Jesus does not promise us any happiness. Jesus says we may not have a place to lay our head. We will not get the inheritance from our father’s death. Family values do not seem to have a high priority. And we cannot even call down fire on those who disagree with us!
Joy however comes from an abiding presence that transcends every circumstance. Jesus does promise us Joy. But how so?
Listen to Thomas Keating the architect of centering prayer:
“Christ disappeared in his Ascension, not into some geographic location, but into the heart of all creation. In particular, he has penetrated the very depths of our being. Our sense of a separate self has melted into his divine person. Whatever we do, it is Christ living and acting in us, transforming the world from within.”
This is why Paul can say that those 8 words from the second reading, “Love the other as you love your self” shatter any reliance on the Law. For it means that we can love the other as our very own being…there is no separation; your sense of a separated self has melted into His Divine Person. We are each a luminous cell in the universal body of Christ.
Now don’t get annoyed by Paul’s apparent dualism, Flesh versus Spirit. By flesh I think Paul means that sense of a separate self.. the false self ..the ego that has but one agenda: to be separate from and to be superior to everyone else. Flesh is the Teflon by which we slide into isolation.
Spirit, on the other hand, always merges. Spirit seduces us toward solidarity. Spirit is the cartilage that knits IVC as one. Teilhard de Chardin says that ” Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God ” Where there is Spirit, there is always joy. At Catalyst Circle Rock where I volunteer Joy fills the Literary Brigade room like the scent of lilacs in early Spring. Sister Donna and Sister Helen are the gifted gardeners. Each child that we sit with becomes a sacred icon; to gaze into their innocent faces is to look into the Heart of God. It is not difficult to abide in His presence in the midst of these beautiful children.
But real soon we return to flesh…our separate self…separated from God…separated from others. So Jesus the wisdom teacher offers us volunteers two practices so we abide always in His presence.
First Eucharist! Simple bread and wine engraft us into the very body of the risen Jesus .We become Christ at a cellular level. Call it an explosive inter-abiding! No wonder the writer Annie Dillard says that as we line up for Communion, we should all be wearing crash helmets!
The other essential practice is the discipline of contemplative prayer. Two periods of daily meditation that act as anti-biotics to free us from the toxic illusion of a separate self.
The Signs of the Time cry out for intervention….a radical, self-sacrificing spiritual intervention. I shudder to think that in 20 years my great grandchild will ask my grandson Brendan this question: “Why didn’t your grandfather do something? The house was burning down…and all he did was put up a lawn sign. However, the Flesh ..the false self ..the separate self cannot be the incubator of our response to systemic evil. Anger is not the answer. But Spirit is longing to brood over us as we sit together in silent surrender. The Spirit of Jesus will give birth to our resolute determination in forms unimaginable! IVC itself is an example!
Then we volunteers can walk down those attic stairs together.Let the wind howl We will first be comforted by Mother God…and then filled with joy, be sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God, without looking back…but with a little chocolate still on our faces!
The Lion and the Mosquito
by Rich Pozdol, IVC alumnus
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having a traditional Friday night fish fry at Steve’s , an old-fashioned corner tavern. We were both having the seafood platter with shrimp, scallops, frog legs and, my favorite, lake perch.
Father “Bo” asked, “Do you remember a book by the name of Mr. Blue?
I replied, “I do. I read it as a teenager, so very many years ago. I remember loving the character Mr. Blue.”
“I have been rereading the book” said Fr. “Bo”. “What did you like about Mr. Blue?”
“Well, as a teenager I liked someone who did his own thing. Blue was different. Anyone who lived in a packing crate on the roof of a tall building was an intriguing character. He flew kites from that roof and released balloons to celebrate any occasion.”
“Think back,” said Fr. “Bo”. “Who did he remind you of?”
I thought for a while and then it came to me. “Saint Francis of Assisi. Yes, Blue was a modern-day St. Francis.”
“Quite so,” said Fr. “Bo”. “Listen to this quote from the book when Blue is challenging the narrator’s status as a Christian. ‘I suppose you consider the exhortation “love your neighbor” as a figure of speech. You would love only the lovable. Did you ever try to love someone who was mean, petty, shallow, selfish? Try it.’
The narrator responded to Blue, telling him that he was willing to try to love a villain, but that he could not arouse any affection for a mere annoyance, an irremediable nobody. ‘I think I could love a lion,’ the narrator said, ‘but I doubt very much if I could love a mosquito.’”
I laughed and responded, “I know God cannot make a mistake, but if He could I have always said that the one mistake God clearly made was creating the mosquito.”
Fr. “Bo” responded, “Myles Connolly wrote Mr. Blue three years after Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to provide a counterpoint to the materialism of Gatsby. For me, Blue raises the question of my calling today. He echoes so well what Pope Francis is asking us to do…to go out to the margins, to love the mosquito.”
“Yes,” I responded. “I think we IVCers have tapped into Mr. Blue’s spirit. So many irremediable nobodies to the world’s way of thinking. And yet, we have come to know them as members of the body of Christ.”
A Prayer for Compassion
Oh God, I wish from now on to be the first to become conscious of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;
I want to be the first to seek, to sympathize, and to suffer; the first to unfold and sacrifice myself,
to become more widely human and more nobly of the earth than any of the world’s servants.
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, S.J.
The Courage of Spring
by Mark Avery, IVC Volunteer
“All the buried seeds crack open in the dark, the instant they surrender to a process they cannot see.” (Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo, 2000). Recently, that quote has challenged me to reflection and action which has moved me to grow in new and different ways. There are “buried seeds” in each of our hearts that hold possibilities and invitations to think differently; to respond to needs in our cities, neighborhoods, on our borders and across the oceans. This process of introspection may also be helpful in our various IVC ministries as we serve and accompany those persons we are privileged to serve. In all of these examples, we respond to the cries of the earth and the universe.
Poet Mary Oliver, who passed away earlier this year, loved the world and its various creatures;she saw our world with the eyes of her being and her heart. In her poem, “Spring,” she writes: “There is only one question: “How to love this world?” Perhaps that is just the question that prompts one of those “buried seeds” in our hearts to crack open and to bud! It may be an opportunity to accept the nudge of grace, to be open for the seeds, of who knows what possibilities still lying buried in my heart, and to surrender to the process?
“How to love this world?” is both a gift and a challenge. Perhaps this Lenten season, and the approaching spring, will give us opportunities to meet Jesus alive in those we serve. It may also occur with the opening of a bud, and the first sight of the morning sun. We pray for slow, steady growth and continued unfolding.
What gifts and challenges do you perceive in the coming of spring? May we have the courage that spring offers!
The Challenges and Rewards of Service
by Mike Reidy, IVC Volunteer
Since I have been volunteering at Cristo Rey St. Martin in Waukegan, I have found it both challenging and rewarding.
It takes a lot of time and dedication to provide the guidance and administrative support to prepare these kids for success. Each kid has their own set of skills and needs, and it takes a while to develop a good guidance plan. Along with a good guidance plan, accurate record keeping is essential to provide them with grades that identify and reward behaviors that will help them be successful in work and in school.
I am also impressed by the how the academic and work study staff do their jobs in a way that will help these kids. I believe most of the kids realize that they have an opportunity to prepare themselves for a better career than their parents and that they have that opportunity because of the generosity and dedication of others.
I am trying to apply the principles that we teach these kids to my life. Just because I am an adult with years of experience and education does not make me a finished product. I believe I have grown as a person in the process of trying to help others grow.
Making Room at the Table
by Maureen Kennedy Barney, IVC Volunteer
One of the most integral aspects of Jesus’ public ministry was that he welcomed all at the table. Sharing a meal together in Jesus’ culture held a unique weight; it reflected RESPECT, ACCEPTANCE and FULL INCLUSION. Jesus expected his disciples to promote a community that welcomes and honors all.
For the past four years as an IVC volunteer, I have been blessed to be at Old St Pat’s with the members of the Trinity Volunteer Corps, people with disabilities volunteering together, providing each person with an outlet to express their unique talents and gifts. Inclusion through volunteerism guides TVC. Gathered together at our table, the mail room table on the third floor of the Jack Wall Mission Center, our tasks are many and varied.
Preparing the 5000 cut outs for the Giving Tree, assembling Valentine Cheer bags for shut ins, sharing liturgy at the Special Friends Mass, participating in the Mass with the IVC members, assisting at all of the Ronald Mc Donald Houses to serve a meal for those on a journey with a seriously ill child, bringing the light at the Easter Vigil, assisting with any task for the many ministries supported by the wonderful folks who make Old St Pat’s a place where one experiences the God who loves us all, greeting at the Block Party or welcoming guests to Deck the Halls, we work together in a spirit of inclusion and companionship as we are JOY to each other on our journey.
Perhaps our greatest efforts consist in our preparation of weekly food bags that OSP provides for the homeless: a bottle of water, a package of crackers and cheese, raisins, canned sausages, and a protein bar…some hundred people a week find their daily nourishment in the food bags. As we walked together one Wednesday to the noon Mass, we passed a young man holding a very small child. Seated on the curb which was their table, they were sharing their lunch…the bag they had just received from Old St Pat’s. We stopped and spoke with the pair learning of the hardship they were enduring and of the gratitude they felt for this daily meal.
And as we moved on to church, one of my buddies said quite simply what God wants from all of us:
TO SEE HIM IN ALL WHO CROSS OUR PATHS AND TO WELCOME HIM….TO LIVE THE BEATITUDES.
God meets us wherever we are…caring for each of us and also challenging each to prepare to welcome HIM… for it is Jesus who is in those he sends into our lives, those who cross our paths. Witnessing that with each person who is part of the Trinity Volunteer Corps allows me to understand the message of HOPE…and HOPE is the door that opens onto a future where all are welcome at the table!! As Jesus tells us:
“Here I am knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door I will enter his house and have supper with him and he with me.”
As we take our places at the table we are blessed to have the support of those who share our vision. Fr Tom Hurley, Beth Marek, Bea Cunningham and the staff at OSP are examples of the inclusion that makes each member of Trinity Volunteer Corps feel welcome….and valued.
Actions not Words
by Dick Pabst, IVC Volunteer
One of the things I always kept with me during my career in health care was a quote from St. Ignatius Loyola that stated ” Actions not Words “. I adopted that as my philosophy and it has influenced my search for spirituality and for finding God and the meaning of my life.
My current IVC site, Beds Plus in La Grange, is an agency for the homeless that offers shelter, programs, and support. It has opened my eyes to the issues of homelessness and the people who experience it. I can see their struggles with depression, loneliness, lack of self- image, and hopelessness. I experienced these same difficulties when my wife passed. I can identify with their struggles and their search for hope and, in my own small way, do what I can to assist. I see the residents and guests of Beds Plus as images of Christ and follow the words of St. Matthew’s Gospel:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25)
Across the Table
by Janet DeRaleau, IVC Volunteer
As an IVC volunteer at the Lake County Catholic Charities Food Pantry, I meet many people who need help. We don’t just pass out food. We sit down with the clients, listen to their needs and try to offer some encouragement with referrals to other food pantries, clothes pantries, and agencies that can assist. I encounter many people with multiple problems but yesterday, I met a woman who was a refugee from Africa. Accompanying her was the pastor of a local church that is her sponsor.
Across the table from me sat a woman, who only months ago lived in an exceedingly hot and humid climate, bundled in a puffer coat, with her one-month-old baby snuggled in a carrier. She looked exhausted and yet was polite and patient as I worked to pronounce her name. The pastor explained that the woman’s husband was involved in an uprising in Africa and she didn’t know if he was dead or alive. In addition, the woman, pregnant at the time, had escaped with her three year old, but her two sons were still in Africa living with family members. The pastor’s church was trying to get them out.
The trio had spent the day making the rounds of Lake County social service agencies registering for services. After leaving Catholic Charities, they planned to stop at one more. Despite their apparent weariness, their day was not over.
I’ve seen the news about immigrants and refugees as I watch TV in my cozy family room, but yesterday, I met someone who is living that horror. I saw her fear, confusion and exhaustion. I saw the love in her eyes as she showed off her newborn. I also saw the embodiment of Christ in that pastor, who tirelessly led the woman through the maze of social services and red tape. As I celebrated Thanksgiving, I carried that woman with me. I prayed for her and her family and will continue do so, hoping that they will all be together by next Thanksgiving.
Let it Be
by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant, Rodity’s. We were both having the combination plate — stuffed grape leaves, mousaka, and lamb. We were talking about prayer.
Father “Bo” asked, “do you know what the two greatest prayers are in the gospels?”
“Hmmm, I would say one would be the Our Father,” I responded.
“Good guess,” replied Father “Bo”, “but the two prayers I am thinking of are basically the same prayer, but they were said by different people.”
“Well, I would say one of them would be Mary’s Let it Be Done to Me According to Your Will.”
“Yes,” said Father “Bo” excitedly. “Very good. Now the second one?”
I thought for a while but was getting nowhere. “Could I have a clue?” I asked.
“Let me quote from Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Divine Dance. ‘Prayer is not primarily the spoken or the read word. That might be a second or third level of prayer, but not the primary one. Primal prayer is where you can in truth pray always, where you can live in conscious communion with the divine indwellings, with the spirit who was poured out so universally and graciously upon all creation, upon all nations and languages. Primal prayer does not mean waiting for some mystical, projected, future, “spiritual” state, but waking up inside your life right now in the present moment.’
“O.K. I can see how you get to praying always, but I am not seeing how it is similar to Mary’s Let it Be prayer, I replied.
“Mary shows us that our ‘let it be’ matters to God. God does not come into the world uninvited. He needs an invitation,” Father “Bo” answered.
“I think I am going to have to give up,” I responded.
“Think about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus embodies the same willingness his mother had. When Jesus asks if this cup can be removed……”
“Ah” I replied, “Yes, Jesus responds,’ not my will, but thine be done…. let it be.”
“Exactly” said Father “Bo”. “Mary’s prayer starts everything. Jesus’ prayer ends it by leading to His suffering, death, and resurrection. Let it Be is one of the most beautiful and powerful prayers you can pray.”
“It reminds me of my favorite Beatles song, Let It Be. Paul McCartney wrote the song and he claims it was about his recently deceased mum, Mary. I always thought it was about the blessed mother, and that is why I like it so much. After all, Mary is known as the seat of wisdom,” I replied.
Accept, O Lord, and treat as your own
my liberty, my understanding,
my memory – all of my decisions and my freedom to choose.
All that I am and all that I have you gave and give to start:
now I turn and return all to you, looking to find your hopes and will in all.
Keep giving me your holy love, Hold on me your life-giving gaze, and I neither need nor want anything else.
Joseph Tetlow S.J.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Camille Devaney
I did my first trip as a single person 16 years ago and oddly to Peru. The trip was with my parish, a vacation, not a mission or pilgrimage. We actually built a church in Miro Flores, a community very similar to Lake Forest. We were hosted for fine meals by parishioners. I assume this parish does outreach to communities in the area. We did the normal, Machu Pichu, Cusco, Valley of the Sun and a cruise down the Amazon.
Three summers ago, our Province offered a Pilgrimage to Peru to visit the sites where the Jesuits serve. I booked but had to cancel for personal reasons. Last summer the trip was offered but not sufficient takers. Finally, this past June it became reality with Kevin Flaherty, SJ as our guide. This was a totally different trip, now we were with the poor and marginalized. What I call poverty is probably a vast improvement of what the Jesuits found when they first came. It was amazing to see and experience not what these men did for the people but to see how they empowered the people to help themselves, Community Kitchens to prevent staving for many, micro industries, local banking, retreat programs, a University, a second college just started and a school where possibly the kids do not have college degrees but are trained for the industries found in their area. The Jesuits were there with the people through the terrorist years of the Shining Path.
We also did the tourist things, Machu Picho, Cusco and Valley of the Sun and the Inca places. Even in these areas there were places where the Jesuits had missions. The most lasting impression was to see and feel the love the people have for the Jesuits and how it is reciprocated. In Lima, our parish is in an area called el Augustino. If Fr. Kevin were presiding at mass and mentioned, “Camilla is a friend of Padre Danilo” Dan Hartnett, SJ, I was showered by many hugs and kisses to return to him here in the US. Dan has not been in Peru for possibly 10/12 years. They don’t forget.
Dan Hartnett, SJ was my first IVC mentor when I started 8 years ago. I didn’t want to travel to Cook from Lake County so one school and a parish ministry were my two choices. I went reluctantly with our director to interview at Most Blessed Trinity (MBT), my first and only site. Richard Leonard, SJ says in one of his books that a friend is someone you are willing to follow, to die for on the hill. This is exactly what happened when I met Dan and we started a ministry at the nursing homes in the area. I knew I could and would follow with him no matter the task.
These two stories are actually related, how you might ask? The love and respect I saw from the people in el Augustino to the Jesuits and vice versa was how I started IVC. Two vivid impressions are:
- A man by the name of Frank Chamberlin, SJ, who I do not know, died in Peru a few months ago. He was an American from Chicago but lived his entire Jesuit life in Peru, a member of that province and actually became a Peruvian citizen. I went to his memorial service at Loyola Academy only because he was a friend of both Dan and Kevin. When in Peru, Kevin asked if I would carry back to Chicago, Frank’s personal stuff for his sister. I said yes, not knowing if this was a box, a suitcase big or small. When Kevin handed me a small manila envelope with family pictures, I learned what the word poverty means and even acquired a deeper understanding of The First Principal and Foundation. Every Jesuit jokes about Ignatius House being “Jesuit Poverty,” but that envelope was the reality. Not indifference but no excessive attachment to anything material or personal.
- Today I went to my nursing home with a box of “religious things,” pictures, statues, rosary and holy water, all acquired from my niece’s parish. One of the residents took the holy water and made sure I knew that she hadn’t any holy water for several years, “this stuff really works, Camille.” When Jesus said we need to become like children, this is what I experienced today. If it weren’t for Dan Hartnett, I wouldn’t be doing this ministry and, like all of us, getting back a thousand fold.
Peggy Cunniff: Howard Area Community Center, Chicago
I have been an Ignatian Volunteer at the Howard Area Community Center, Employment Resource Center since September, 2017. So far, it’s been a great placement! I learned about the program from my daughter, a Jesuit Volunteer serving Christ the King Jesuit College Prep.
I was given a few sites to consider for my volunteer service. When I was told about the Howard Area Community Center, I became excited for a number of reasons. I am a lifelong Rogers Park resident and have known about the Howard Area Community Center since I was a child. In 1967, my parish, St. Jerome, recognized the need to help neighbors in need. Parishioners organized a food pantry and clothes distribution program. Eventually those services, and numerous others, became the Howard Area Community Center, which just celebrated 50 years of service to the Rogers Park Community.
More significant to me, is that the position offered was as a member of the Employment Resource Center that exists to help adults prepare for and find jobs. To that end, I am tasked with helping people create resumes, search for and apply for jobs, and discuss and practice interviewing skills. My professional career was as a Human Resources Manager, and combining that with the parish connection to the HACC and the ability to walk to the volunteer site, made me think this placement was a match made in heaven!
The people I serve amaze me. They are kind and appreciative, hard-working and optimistic. They speak many languages and come from many cultures, but they are all looking to improve their lives and the lives of their families by getting quality employment. My volunteer service has made me more aware and appreciative of the opportunity to use my gifts to help others in such a significant way.
Christ has No Body Now but Yours
by Kate Kniest
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.” ― Teresa of Avila
In the past few months, I observed staff at CRSM put St. Teresa of Avila’s words into action as they rallied to help a student. Their perseverance and dedication to help one student will never make front-page news, but stands as example of how individuals are Christ’s hands in this world. The work the staff did was unselfish, driven by love to provide physical and emotional healing.
Following an accident, a student had an injury that caused continued discomfort. The injury was not immediately visible but did affect the student’s ability to concentrate, sleep and eat.
The parents, immigrants with little English, had difficulty navigating the health care system, finding consults and referrals. So out of frustration they sought alternative medical solutions rather than completely following the recommendation of an emergency room physician. The parents were concerned but appeared stoic and expected their child to manage through the discomfort.
A faculty member noted that the student’s school performance was taking a nose-dive.. The source of the problem was verified, as was the need of intervention by a medical specialist. The faculty member persisted in encouraging the student to work with the parents and seek the proper help. Once a specialist was found the faculty member worked with the specialist to get the fees adjusted to fit the family’s budget.
A counselor, who spoke the family’s native tongue, was also enlisted to work with them. The counselor spent hours encouraging the parents as they worked through medical and insurance issues. In the end, the counselor accompanied the mother and child on the first office visit to the specialist. By interpreting, the counselor assisted the family in understanding how the condition affected all aspects of the student’s life.
Administration took up the cause, supporting the child, family, faulty member and counselor. Schedules were rearranged and funding possibilities considered. They gently pushed to ensure that progress was being made.
Christ was not physically present, but he did touch and heal this child through the effort of a remarkable group of people, who responded as St Teresa’s called us to ‘go about doing good.”
by Mike Schrauth
This past January, Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary Charter School, my volunteer site, got word that one of its graduates died in what was described as an accidental shooting. I soon found out that the 16 year old victim was someone I knew well from the time he was in 5th grade at CCR.
Our principal. Elizabeth Dunn, was in close contact with the family and when she found out there was little money to pay for a proper funeral and burial, she immediately went into action and raised enough to cover all expenses from contributions made by teachers, staff and others. All were encouraged to attend the services to support the family.
As the day of the funeral approached, I began to think about John. He was a happy face at school, a member of the orchestra, always attentive and respectful. The service took place before an overflow audience at a funeral home not far from school. I was struck by how many young people were present, some of whom gave testimony to John’s life. I heard about what John’s life was like after school from siblings and cousins who adored him, his mom who praised him, still in shock over his death. Emotions ran high and through it all I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence in the words about John, the beautiful songs of praise and the outcries of the faithful.
As I left, I expressed my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for putting me in that holy place to witness something so very special. That experience will be with me forever.
Just a few days ago, I read in my nightly prayer words by Pope Francis entitled “What the Poor Teach Us”. “The poor are the privileged teachers of our knowledge of God. They guide us to experience God’s closeness and tenderness, to receive his love in our life, his mercy as the Father who cares for us, for all of us.”
by Rich Pozdol
Oberammergau is a Bavarian village 45 miles southwest of Munich, famous for its wood carvers and passion play. In 1634 the village was threatened with a plague. The villagers prayed to God and promised Him that if He spared the village, they would put on a passion play every 10 years in thanksgiving of His help. No one died. Ever since, ever 10 years, the village has put on the passion play.
In 2010, over a half million people saw 109 performances. The village of Oberammergau is small, just over 5,000 people, yet the cast included 1,500 adults, 450 children, 100 musicians, 110 singers, and 41 stage hands.
In 2000, my wife and I booked a trip to Oberammergau to see their famous passion play. I had wanted to go for years, but my wife was somewhat reluctant. She finally agreed, and we made the arrangements. Several weeks after we booked the trip, she came home rather disturbed, she had just found out that the play lasted 8 hours and was in German. My rather unsympathetic reaction was “So what. You know the story.”
Several weeks before our departure, I had a gall bladder attack and had to have emergency surgery. I remember going to see the surgeon a week after the surgery and asking, “Do you think I can fly to Germany at the end of the week?” His look was one of grave concern. “Why would you want to do that?” he inquired.
I replied, “My wife and I have a trip planned to Oberammergau to see the passion play.”
“Well” he replied, “You are in a lot of pain and the trip would be difficult. Furthermore, why would you want to be in a foreign country if something goes wrong?” Before I could respond, he said, “Why don’t you go next year?”
My wife, who was in the examining room, and I both laughed. The doctor asked, “What’s so funny?” We explained that the play only took place every 10 years.
Fast forward 10 years to 2010. I was again contemplating a trip to Germany for the passion play. This time my wife was ill, being in the eighth year of a battle with ovarian cancer. She would not be able to go but urged me to go by myself. I was reluctant to go, but she convinced me that time was running out. In 10 years, I might be physically unable to attend, or even dead. So, after much debate, I again booked the trip.
In 2010 they had changed the format to a long morning session followed by a relaxing lunch, and then a long late afternoon and early evening session.
The play was extraordinary and well worth the effort to attend. Almost everyone in the town is somehow involved in the play. Families have participated for generations since 1634.
I saw the play on a Saturday. The next day was Pentecost and I attended mass at the town Catholic church. Liturgically it fit in quite nicely. I
I will share with you just one item about the play, although I was impressed by many things. The lady that had been chosen to play Mary was a somewhat overweight, or as my mother would have said “pleasingly plump” middle-aged woman with graying hair. Somehow, she did not fit my image of Mary. And it was somewhat bothersome to me. Where was the slender and attractive woman I had always pictured as Mary?
After some reflection it occurred to me that the play’s Mary was much more realistic. After all, at the time of the passion, Mary would have been 47 or 48 years old. It was also not unlikely that Mary had put on some extra weight by that time in her life.
All in all, the play was much more realistic and therefore somewhat jarring My expectations were for a sanitized version of Jesus’s passion and death. The horror of it all came home to me with a jolt.
Which leads me to the prayer that is prayed in Clarence Enzler’s “Everyone’s Way of The Cross” at the thirteenth station.
“The sacrifice is done.
Yes, my mass is complete; but not my mother’s and not yours, my other self.
My mother still must cradle in her arms the lifeless body of the son she bore.
You, too, must part from those you love, and grief will come to you.
In your bereavement think of this: A multitude of souls were saved by Mary’s sharing in my Calvary.
Your grief can also be the price of souls.”
I reply,“I beg you, Lord, help me accept the partings that must come from friends who go away, my children leaving home, and most of all, my dear ones when you shall call them to yourself.”
Then give me grace to say: “As it has pleased you Lord, to take them home, I bow to your most holy will.”
And if by just one word I might restore their lives against your will, I would not speak.
Grant them eternal joy.
My wife Sue passed away 6 months after the trip.
May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
Change of Heart: Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday
by Mark Avery
We now know that the calendar was not wrong. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day! What a combination! What better way to have begun Lent; to reflect on how we are called to change our hearts. What better way than to reflect on how we are called to become more loving.
God constantly calls to each of us: “Receive my love that is freely offered, and accept my invitation to have your ways of loving become more like mine.” Love is meant to be received and embraced, to be rooted in God’s faithful loving kindness, and to be shared with all of those who journey alongside us.
Lent’s basic message is to be open and ready to change so that our response to God’s love may increase. Lent isn’t just a time to remember that we are dust. Rather, we are to remember that God’s spirit of love was breathed into us when we were merely dust. That dust was transformed into a living being, capable of loving God and all creation. Lent calls us to return to our God, a season when our hearts should expand as God fills them with love.
As part of that transformation from dust to living, loving beings, Lent encourages us to ponder those times when we haven’t been images of God, when we have not loved as God wishes. This is a season of conversion, a time when we are meant to turn from thoughts and actions that set us apart from one another. Only then we can claim once more that we are Valentine people, full of expressed love and willingness to be gift to others so that they too will know God’s boundless love.
Let’s use this time to once more fall in love with God, with God’s invitation to live a Gospel life, and to be God’s valentines to our neighbors, and to those we serve. To love with all our hearts!
by Susan Olenski, first-year IVC volunteer
This is a reflection on my first “semester” with IVC.
Being part of IVC means, welcome to a world of constant surprises. God can do wonderful things with what the world views as “less than”, “failure”, “misfortune”. The students at this school where I am posted have endured traumas, rejections, drive by shootings. And YET, they try. They do not give up.
My companion is a veteran, thank goodness. We assist students in producing their Senior Portfolio Project. When complete, a student presents their electronic project to a panel of three adults. The portfolio contains a title, academic essays, resume, references, a photo or two, answers to specific reflection questions, an autobiography including past, present and future plans. It also contains an arts integration project that is integral to the school’s philosophy. The belief is that students, particularly those with challenges, need to express their understanding of themselves and their world with a greater variety of instruments. It’s a multifaceted summary that would be demanding for anyone but holds real challenges for young people with painful events in their history and/or present.
The Ignatian concept that comes to mind in thinking about this place, these students and me is cura personalis—care of the person.
Recently, one of the students sits next to me. She apologetically tells me she’s behind in the assignments because of her job. She works full time. She’s been independent for two years. Getting everything done is almost overwhelming. Then she told me what it is she does in her job at O’Hare.
She escorts people with special needs, like someone in a wheelchair. She gets them into and out of the stages of air travel in our day. I think of the trust she is given in doing her daily work. She thinks of herself as a student who isn’t being very successful. She focuses on her inadequacy as a student. I think of hundreds of ordinary HS students without responsibilities. I think of the care and patience needed to navigate a frail traveler, like my mom had been after her stroke.
We are called to care about our clients. But, it’s the care she gives that teaches me that day.
This is the Sound of One Voice
by Maura Rogan, Regional Director
The other day, I was listening to WBEZ and heard a story about an English choir composed of individuals with cystic fibrosis. Did you happen to hear it too? It turns out – and I never knew this – that people with cystic fibrosis cannot be together in the same room due to cross-infection. They cannot risk the possibility of picking up germs from one another. So, this choir actually came together virtually. One by one, the members (all of whom have CF) came to the studio and recorded the song. All their voices were then put together through technology to form the finished product.
Everything about this story touched me. And everything about it reminded me of IVC…in one way or another. In one sense, the choral members were reminiscent of those we serve. In the radio story, they expressed how they can feel isolated and alone…part of a larger community and yet not able to participate fully. They shared a desire to belong, to connect, and to be understood. In another sense, they reminded me of our volunteers. Each of them offered his/her gifts and, combined, they created something beautiful and meaningful. Each week, our volunteers serve at their individual sites – schools, shelters, hospitals, prisons, and numerous social service agencies. There are days, I know, when the volunteers question their impact on any grand level. And yet think of their collective contribution. They are changing the world.
Finally, the producer touched me. Not only did he spend a two-hour session with each choral member as s/he recorded; he and a partner scrubbed the studio down between each and every singer to minimize any risk of cross-infection. To me, that was so loving…it was a quiet, unselfish goodness. His commitment to the project, his behind-the-scenes efforts, and his desire to make it a positive experience for all brought to mind my colleagues with whom I am so blessed to work. Their dedication to IVC and their attention to the volunteers’ spiritual formation and sense of community provide the “music” for the “song”.
The song that the English choir sang is called “This is the Sound of One Voice”. Think about it…all of those separate voices and support people joined together to make something so much bigger than themselves. Impactful. Grace-filled. Challenging. Healing. Inspired and inspiring. Transformative. IVC.
Click on this link to watch a video about this story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyfuHSi3CIs
Everything is Going to be All Right
by Rich P.
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having dim sum at Furama restaurant. For those of you who are unfamiliar with dim sum, it is the Chinese version of Sunday brunch or Spanish tapas, with all manner of dumplings, buns and other goodies served up from small carts that circulate through the restaurant.
We were talking about the phrase “everything is going to be all right”. I observed that the phrase is often used with children, relatives, spouses and friends to give comfort in difficult times.
“Yes,” stated Father “Bo”. “We like to tell those close to us that although we are not sure how, difficulties will somehow be overcome or resolved and things will get better.”
“Do you know where the expression comes from?” I asked.
“Perhaps Julian of Norwich” Father “Bo” speculated. “Julian of Norwich was just becoming more widely known in the last century, although she wrote a book about her revelations in the fourteenth century. Thomas Merton felt that along with Cardinal Newman, she is the greatest English theologian. I have just discovered her, and I find her writings amazing, more so since she wrote in the fourteenth century. She was the first woman to write a book in the English language.”
“O.K.,” I said, “but why do you think that the expression “everything is going to be all right” comes from her?”
“I have no proof” replied Father “Bo”, “but in Julian’s thirteenth revelation, Julian wonders why did God in His infinite wisdom not prevent the beginning of sin? If God knew in advance that sin would so severely damage His magnificent creation and bring untold suffering ,why did He allow it to begin? In Julian’s mind, if sin had never been allowed, then all would have been well.”
Father “Bo” went on. “This was Jesus’ response from Julian’s text, ‘But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that I needed, answered by this word and said “sin is behovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
“What does behovely mean?” I asked.
“Behovely in middle English bears the connotation of useful, necessary, or even advantageous,” said Father “Bo”.
I replied, “I see that Jesus’ response to Julian in modern English could very well be translated as ‘everything is going to be all right’. I don’t think, however, that we will get to see how everything is going to be all right in this life.”
Father “Bo” replied, “I agree. That is to be left for heaven when we will see how all manner of things shall be well. However, we do have a partial answer in the cross. What can be a more horrific evil than the murder of God? And yet, from that we have the redemption and salvation of mankind.”
“We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His decree.” Roman 8:28