Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically, this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

fr-jack-greeting-card

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on September 28, 2016

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Why I: Joined A Discernment Group

Ten years ago I was looking to make a fresh start after a near crash and burn of my academic career & a list of personal issues. (Side note: The fact that I started college more than a decade ago makes me feel kind of old.)

Here’s what’s awesome about going to a university with an active campus ministry:

There’s always something going on.

It’s almost kind of ridiculous how much stuff you can be involved in (or not).

At the time I wasn’t a practicing Catholic, in fact I was still in the recovery from Atheism phase of things, because that kind of journey practically requires a recovery period. I called myself a Christian but I wasn’t ready to “drink the Catholic k00l aid” just yet.

I steered clear of any organized group outside of the theatre department my freshman year and I was reconsidering that plan for sophomore year. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, so I didn’t want to do the same thing.

There are always plenty of things to do in a theatre/drama department as well. There are always “other duties as assigned” (to put it one way) or a friend is working on some sort of project at all hours so if you want to see them it’s best to go to them (and then you end up helping on the same project, somehow). But I didn’t want to be a “drama kid,” at least not exclusively.

At some point during orientation, sometime after neighborhood orientation, I huddled into the campus ministry office with other new students to hear their “sales pitch”. This was some place I wanted to be involved. I knew that from visiting a friend earlier in the year. The how was the part that needed to be determined.

I’m not a try everything once type of girl but that’s pretty much what ended up happening. The first few weeks the only thing I had second thoughts on was solemn adoration; anything labeled solemn or somber means I’ll laugh uncontrollably. I needed to be better versed at adoration before the sound was turned off.

The first group I showed up for (I think) was women’s group. I loved that group. In fact many of the ladies I met thanks to that group I’m still friends with today (maybe I’ll tell you about that someday).

The next night discernment group would be meeting. I had no idea what “discernment” was but I figured it would be similar to women’s group so I showed up.

I probably should’ve looked up what discernment was before I decided to go to the group. But if I did I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Instead of sitting in the lounge area we met in the prayer room. And instead of one of the campus ministers facilitating there were two nuns, from The Little Sisters of the Poor (an order I knew nothing about, but have come to love dearly).

At some point during the hour I realized I was in a room full of ladies who were considering becoming nuns. I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t want to get up and leave (for fear of embarrassment only).

I may have countless sisters these days, but back then I had only known two, and the impression they left wasn’t one of full warm & fuzzy memories.

I left that night thinking I probably wouldn’t go back (because I wasn’t even in the same hemisphere of that life path) but when Thursday rolled around again I did. I’m still not sure why. The funny thing is I kept going. I think I only missed a few meetings during the year, when being a drama kid had to take a front seat.

I even went the night when we’d be saying the Rosary most of the time. When I grasped even less of it than I do now & I had to borrow a Rosary from the spares that someone always seemed to have on hand.

For me it wasn’t about discernment, at least not at first, it was about meeting people who just might be like minded. When that didn’t work out so well it was about having concrete examples of what I might aspire to. Not to mention meeting some religious sisters who were not only nice, but they went out of their way to invest in others.

I will never ever forget that Sister Mary David told me it was perfectly fine to fall asleep during adoration “because the Lord knows you need your rest.”

Never mind that I had agreed to sit up with the blessed sacrament only to fall asleep face down on a futon that was in our makeshift retreat chapel.

My original intent couldn’t have been any more off. However I think I got a lot more out of it than I realize (yes, even now). I made a mistake in judgment but it was one of the best mistakes I could’ve ever made (especially given my history with mistakes).

Even if I have come to have a love/hate relationship with the discernment process.

*A similar version of this post was written on September 4, 2013

Being 25 Years Old

25 years is a quarter of a century, which makes it seem like a long time.

In reality 25 years isn’t really that long of a time span.

I thought 25 would mean being an adult, until I was 25 and then I waited to feel like an adult. Now that I’m a few years past 25 I realize how far from being an adult 25 really is, for most people.

Within the context of organized religion 25 years is basically infantile.

Within the smaller context of religious orders 25 years is nearly unheard of.

I still remember when one of my closest friends told me she was entering a convent. I was still in shock when I started to tell people myself, which was probably spurred on by the shocked look I had on my face for God only knows how long.

People mainly wanted to know two things, how old she was and what order she was going to be a part of.

Naturally skepticism followed, because how many women in their early 20s join virtually unknown religious order?

sistersoflifeprofession

I, in a desperate attempt to be a good friend, felt the need to defend her choice, even while agreeing with everyone else.

Almost 10 years later I’ve gained more prospective on the situation.

I get “it” now, or at least as much as I can without joining the Sisters myself.

I especially have a greater appreciation for what it takes to create and more importantly sustain a ministry.

Happy 25th Birthday Sisters. May God continue to bless you all & those you serve for many more years to come.

vow-019

Let’s Get Spiritual

“Are you mad that God did this to you?”

 I don’t get asked this question a lot, but enough to make me consider addressing it. It’s a loaded question, so I’ll try to keep it as “light” as possible.

My simple answer is, no, I am not mad God did this to me.

However, in the interest of full disclosure there were a few years in my life that I did not believe in God’s existence & was very bitter about pretty much everything. But that’s a story for another day, if anyone is in fact interested in that period of my life.

I am not mad at God for doing this to me.

God may have intended me to have CP but He himself has nothing to do with the after effects from it, like how people react to it. I am not mad at God for other people’s shortcomings. It’s not His fault some disabilities are chosen, because if you’re curious I consider idiocy a disability.

I firmly believe that everyone is created for a reason, for a purpose, and the only way we can find out our reason for being is to be who we were created to be. So if I were to be mad at God for “doing this to me” then I’d really be doing a disservice to myself more than anything else.

To address the “did this to you,” portion of the question, I always want to ask just what do they think was “done to me”? Maybe if they could answer that I’d be able to answer indefinitely if I am in fact mad at God, but I’m pretty sure the answer would still be “No”.

If anything gets me mad its how people treat each other, especially those who use their religious background as a reason to do so.

Jesus isn’t here to let us know just what He’d in fact do, but I’m pretty sure going around being hurtful to others isn’t exactly what He’s have in mind. So let’s just keep the predictions to a minimum and treat people with some decency.

I’m not the most religious person on the planet but I do believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. Therefore, those with special needs & disabilities aren’t mistakes. Anyone who believes differently is mistaken in their thinking; let’s not blame God for faults in someone’s free will either.

I am not mad at God for doing this to me. In fact, some days I would say I’d go as far as to thank God for the life I’ve been given. As often as I’ve had ups and downs in my life, CP related or not, I can’t imagine my life turning out any other way. For that alone I cannot be mad.

I think a card a friend sent me says it best:

smc

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 20, 2012

Proselytizing & Disability

This isn’t exactly a Catholic topic, but there’s three main reasons I wanted to write about it.

  • I like that the Catholic Church isn’t as into proselytizing as other denominations of Christianity.
  • I don’t think I’d be wrong in assuming most, if not everyone, with a disability has a proselytizing story, not unlike prayer related stories.
  • It’s a topic that needs to be discussed from anther, potential, point of view.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve been proselytized to. Now I typically listen for 15-20 seconds, if that, plaster on a small smile and nod every once and a while. Then the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher just comes out of their mouth.

The smile & the nod is just an attempt to avoid becoming Peppermint Patti, which doesn’t always work. Yes, I have almost fallen asleep while people are trying to have a meaningful conversation with me.

I hate to say it (well not really) but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t like striking up a casual conversation with anyone I don’t know in public. I know my wheelchair makes me an “easy target” for a lot of things so if I want to avoid being such an easy target I have to be “less friendly.”

I’ve been proselytized to at the public pool and the state fair, and those are just two of the more memorable ones.

Usually I say very little, if anything in return. How can I when I’m not really paying attention? But there are times when I do.

During a state fair an older women using a wheelchair passed me and when were close enough to each other she tried to take my hand (I don’t do that kind of thing so I keep my hands on my rims and pretend not to notice) and said, “You know, someday you and I won’t need these things……”

I responded with “I like my wheelchair, and who I am,” smiled, and went on with my day (hoping I won’t see her again).

Full disclosure moment: One of my biggest problems with Protestant denominations is the emphasis on proselytizing, particularly towards whoever they deem “weak and vulnerable” (which those with disabilities are usually included).

I’m not going to pretend that everyone has my same take on the subject so I’m going to give you my point of view.

One of the biggest issues I have when people proselytize to me is the constant need to compare. It’s a problem I have anyway but add the proselytizing aspect to it and my brain tries to crawl out of my skull until you’re done with your sales pitch.

Most recently, although it wasn’t the first time, nor will it probably be the last, I was compared to Joni Eareckson Tata. Now I’m not going to say I don’t have anything in common with her but I doubt I have as much as in common with her as people thing or that we share the commonalities that people think.

I’ve been told, multiple times by multiple people, that she would be an ultimate source of inspiration for me. That’s a pretty tall order from someone who doesn’t know me and a pretty big burden to put on someone else who isn’t even directly involved in the conversation, nothing against Joni personally.

Think about what you’re going to say before you say it, like prayer, the saints, and in a way miracles, how you say it is more important than that you say it. Individuals with disabilities have a hard time with certain topics for a variety of reasons, which includes but is not limited to, previous unpleasant encounters.

It’s OK to want to share your faith with others but please get to know someone before you start talking about such personal matters that can run so deep. But if you must say something keep it short and sweet and positive. Telling someone to “Have a good day” can mean much more than anything from the “Do you know Jesus?” category.

I Don’t Believe In Miracles

One of the things I always admired, and liked, about the Catholic Church, even when I walked away from it, was their necessity to validate miracles. The main reason being, I believe people overuse the word “miracle.”

I’ll give you an example; I’ve had to relearn to walk multiple times (3 or 4, I think). Each time was during a different phase of life with varying circumstances. The only constants were they were after surgery and it was declared a miracle by multiple people.

Here’s the thing, it only looks like a miracle.

There hasn’t been a single time, during any of those, when I’ve gotten out of bed and suddenly been able to walk without some sort of difficulty during any of those time periods.

That would be a miracle. That hasn’t happened to me.

A lot had to happen in 1 year, 1 month & 1 day (for example) for those first independent steps possible.

The hours of PT.

The hours spent doing an at home PT and hoping you’re doing it right.

The hours waiting for and/or attending doctors’ appointments.

The early mornings.

The sleepless nights.

The pain.

The countless days spent trying to appeal insurance denials.

The hours at the gym because you’ve maxed out your insurance.

The co-pays and out of pocket costs.

The time out of work.

The time away from friends and family.

The prayers.

The hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Calling someone or something they’re able to do a miracle discounts the hard work they’ve put forth to make this so-called “miracle” happen.

I’m not saying that miracles don’t happen. There wouldn’t be a need for The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, for one thing, if there weren’t indeed miracles. But sometimes we’re quick to “cry miracle” without realizing that it took a lot more than you can imagine to make that miracle happen.

So next time you witness a miracle, take a minute and consider what might be behind that miracle before you make your declaration public.

Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

Almost 60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on October 8, 2012 & October 22, 2014

Years In The Making

10 days ago 2 dear friends professed their perpetual vows.

I knew it was a big day but it took a few days before the enormity of it set in, to the tune of,

“I have friends married to God, Whoa!”

Then I cried for a long time.

I remember the phone call telling me that it would be the last phone call because day to day life in a convent doesn’t involve regular cross-country hour long phone calls about anything.

I remember the 1st letter filling me in about what it’s like to enter religious life with the hand written “PS” at the bottom that I read over and over again.

I remember my first retreat and saying “my best friend is a Sister” to anyone who asked me what brought me to the retreat, and hoping I’d get to see her. I remember how shocking (and equally amazing) it was to see her in her habit.

I remember leaving that retreat with more one friend who happens to be a Sister and nurturing those friendships.

I remember trekking to visiting day, when every obstacle you could imagine (and some you couldn’t) was telling me it wasn’t worth the effort. And it was SO worth it on so many levels.

I remember witnessing their profession of 1st vows in the sweltering heat thinking that there’s no place I’d rather be that day.

I’ll always remember the day they professed their perpetual vows, and wishing I could change things and keep things the same at the exact same time.

I’ll remember the end of the day when we all gathered for a picture. Only a small portion of our group of friends from college we able to attend but we were one of the biggest groups there, I think.

The children helped our smallish group practically double in size; there were SEVEN of them after all. I kept having flashbacks from my days in early childhood education, but then I realized I didn’t have to be “Miss Sarah” I could be “mom and dad’s cool friend.”

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated from college (Lord, I feel old). We used to talk about what we all wanted to do after college and while I’m not sure all of us are exactly where they thought they’d be at this point in life (I know I’m not); we are all where we’re meant to be.