Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Speak, for your servant is listening."

The readings for this weekend reflect imagery of VOCATION, being called to the service o God and humanity. In the first reading Samuel does not recognize the voice of God calling him to service, and in the gospel the disciples of John go to figure out who Jesus is and end up staying with him. If only it were so simple to know where God is calling us! If only following one's vocation were simply a matter of KNOWING what to do, instead of, more often, facing one's fear enough to do what is right.

This long weekend we celebrate the 86th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - a great orator, a leader in the fight against injustice, and ultimately a martyr at the hands of people, mostly Christians, who rejected the Gospel call to unity. Despite (or maybe because of) his incredible public significance, it is easy to forget how much danger he faced in his ministry, how strong the opposition to something so straightforwardly immoral (it seems so clear to us!) as desegregation, and how much he struggled with fear and doubt. Even after he had been in a position of leadership for years, his opponents' increasingly brazen tactics demanded new depths of courage. As he told the story, "One night toward the end of January I settled into bed late, after a strenuous day. Coretta had already fallen asleep and just as I was about to doze off the telephone rang. An angry voice said, 'Listen, nigger, we've taken all we want from you; before next week you'll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.' I hung up, but I couldn't sleep. It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached the saturation point...I was ready to give up...With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory: 'Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right. I think I'm right. I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now, I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage. Now, I am afraid. And I can't let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone.' It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: 'Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world.'"

He knew what he needed to do, but he struggled with the courage to do it. Three days after that episode, his house was bombed with his wife and infant daughter inside. The fear, the near-despair, the apocalyptic sense that there was no escape as a black man from the racism of the white majority could so easily have turned to desperation and violence - and who could have blamed him for succumbing to the desire to give up, or worse, to join in the calls for retaliatory vengeance? Instead, he understood the call to challenge people to sanity in an insane moment in history - to nonviolence.

As this new semester and new year begin, we too have a choice to pay attention to the needs of the moment, or not: listen to the deep fear and anger and pain that are finally coming to speech in our community after decades of silence and invisibility, or bury ourselves in schoolwork and friend circles and all the usual things we would be doing anywhere. We can all come up with perfectly good reasons why we just don't have time to get involved with the uprooting going on around our city - we are all busy people - but we owe it to one another to strive to hear what has led to such immense racial, ethnic, gendered, and socioeconomic divisions all around us, and to respond in love. Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And know that God is with you until the end.

Patrick Cousins is a member of the Department of Campus Ministry.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pray with Imagination this semester!

As our community returns, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is marked as the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and the end to our season of Christmas.  In the mystery of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River, we again encounter and represent the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and His manifestation as the Christ. We find accounts of Jesus’ baptism in all four gospels (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark  1:9-11, Luke 3:21-23, John 1: 29-33).

But in John, the words and the images speak to me and I imagine myself being present:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!  This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’  I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

These images are a reminder of how Ignatius encouraged us to pray.  We may have heard of lectio divina which is meditative or spiritual reading.  We listen with our heart and then reflect on that experience and then respond to the influence of the Spirit.  But let’s take this prayer a step further.  Can we take the words of the Gospel, put ourselves inside the Gospel, and link that to art?  We combine our spiritual reading with spiritual art or visio divina.  

Let’s take a painting by James Tissot, "The Baptism of Jesus (Baptême de Jésus)" from the Brooklyn Museum.

In small simple steps, you can pray with scripture and with art, as I suggest.

Watch what happens; listen to what is being said; see what is happening in the painting; feel the actions with your body.
Become part of the mystery by becoming one of the persons in the story or one of the people in the painting.  Listen, taste, smell, feel, and watch what happens. Allow yourself to interact with the other persons in the event: enter into conversation with them, listen to what they have to say to you and to each other.
Allow the event to unfold through your imagination.
Respond spontaneously in a conversation with God, with Jesus or with one of the persons within the Gospel story.

As our own semester unfolds, I encourage you to take time in prayer daily.  Perhaps you want to use scripture or art; perhaps you have your own method of prayer.  Whatever may be the case, take some daily time to imagine where God is leading you and enjoy your conversations as I do every day!

Sue Chawszczewski

Director of Campus Ministry

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Practicing grace

Everyone knows the city of St. Louis is not at peace right now. It’s been on the news. It’s been on Facebook. It’s been discussed on this campus. The events in Ferguson do not stand in isolation, but rather illuminate an unrest and hurt that has been present for many years. People are hurting. People are angry. People are upset. And many people are unsure. Unsure of what will happen, of what it all means, and of where to go from here. But I believe God never leaves us to face this alone. In the passage from Philippians, He tells us to “make our requests known” to Him. And so we do, we pray for peace, but we cannot stop there. We cannot ignore the second step, maybe the more important one in the passage, to “keep on doing what [we] have learned and received and heard and seen in [Him]. Then the God of peace will be with [us].” God sent us the perfect example of peace in His son Jesus. And God asks us to reflect on that example, to reflect on Jesus’ teachings, words, and actions. But then God asks more of us, he calls us to continued action to bring about the peace we seek. We are to follow Jesus’ example, but we are to take part in the realization of our prayers. For if we want peace, we must seek truth. We must defend honor. We must fight for justice. We must praise that which is pure. We must uphold that which is lovely. And, we must practice grace. Let God guide your heart and mind to peace. Rest in the assurance that we have an example set forth for us in Jesus. Know that we can also be examples and instruments of God’s peace in our own lives, on this campus, and in this city.

Cami Kasmerchak is the Campus Ministry GROW Intern.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


(*This post was originally delivered as an introduction to the first 9:00 p.m. Mass of the 2014-5 school year.*)

'Welcome' to the Class of 2018 and all our transfer students and visitors, and 'welcome back' to all returning students----welcome home.
Before we begin the celebration of the Mass, I'd like to direct our hearts inwards and our eyes upwards... Literally. Look up! Look up at these monstrous marble pillars and follow your gaze to their meetings with the ceiling. Atop each pillar is a stone "knob," twirling into a creative design. Look at these "knobs" atop the pillars closely. Now notice the smaller knobs, the hundreds beautifully placed everywhere in this Church: the golden-painted ones meeting on the ceilings in the side wings, the ones conjoining atop the stations of the cross displays attached to the walls, essentially, look at every meeting, every connecting architectural moment in this place of worship. Notice something interesting? Every---every----knob is unique. Each knob or "knot" brings its own style, character, and essence to this church. Some have waves, some flowers, some fruits, and some subtle curls. But each one is unique, no two the same... yet they all come together in the big picture, unifying as one complete design to give glory to God.
Now bring your gaze down and look around this SLU community. Look closely. Notice the hundreds of us beautifully placed everywhere in this Church, as we connect, as we meet and gather as one body in this building. Every---every----individual, each one of us, is unique. Everyone has their own style, character, and essence. We come from different places around this nation and world; we study different subjects, play different sports, support different opinions, engage in different subcultures, and may even practice different faith traditions. Each one of us is unique, yet we come together, unified as one complete Saint Louis University, living one mission: to pursue truth for the greater glory of God and in service to humanity. The knobs make this building architecturally beautiful. We make this place holy and magnificent... and all are welcome here, no matter how "different" your inner "knob" or "knot" may be.
And so as we enter this new school year, as we celebrate the Feast of St. Louis, King of France in this 800th anniversary year of his birth and this 250th anniversary year of the city of St. Louis, absorb the beauty of this moment----and know you are always, always welcome here.

Luke Yamnitz is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and an Oriflamme leader.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Living with purpose

Raising little people is hard work.  My husband, Mike and I have the great privilege of teaching our children, Riley (2.5 years) and Hudson (1.5 years) about how to live in this world.  Never have I been more aware of the things I say, the things I do, the ways in which I love.  Teaching little people (around the clock) about how to be kind and loving and confident and full of faith in a God who we believe loves them more than we have the capacity to imagine, has taught me about living with purpose, with truth, with intention, in a way that I hadn't before even considered.  Each night, Mike and I lead the boys in our little family version of the daily Examen.  We whisper to each other in the quiet of their bedroom about the day we just experienced together.  We remember the happy things we encountered, the many things we learned together, the people who spent time with us, or the places we visited.

We also remember some of the tougher moments of the day, when nobody seemed happy and frustration hung thick in the home.  And at the end, we offer special prayers for the most special people in our lives.  We consider this time in prayer together an active response to God's love for us.  This prayer time is always so simple, yet I often find myself moved to a deeper experience of prayer than most other moments.  Perhaps it's because I know that we are inviting little people to become aware of themselves, of others, of God with them.

And perhaps it is for these same reasons that I am happy to call SLU my home.   

Almost every day at SLU I'm reminded of how connected we are to the mission of SLU, how connected we are to pursuing God in our own lives, and to living in response to the love of God in our lives.  From the first year students who may have just learned a few “Jesuit buzzwords” to the graduating seniors who will find themselves grateful for and craving more of the Ignatian Spirituality that somehow nestled itself into the very fiber of their being....from the optimistic new member of SLU's staff, to the seasoned veteran of SLU's Faculty, there's something compelling about Ignatian Spirituality, about SLU and her people, that invites us to consider our daily response to God's love for us. 

Because in the end, we belong to each other....and God is here. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Are You Fully Alive?

As the semester winds down it seems impossible to keep up with the pace.  In the never ending check list of commitments, assignments, papers, and tests I think that we as students here forget that our purpose here is much deeper than all of the busyness and schoolwork.  I have a secret for you…we are here to fall in love.

Now before you get upset with me for suggesting that all of those tuition dollars are going towards and elaborate dating scene, I should clarify what I mean by falling in love.  I do not mean this in the romantic sense, but rather, the practical sense.  This sense of falling in love is finding who you are at your very core.  This love is what will sustain you in your friendships, your relationships, your career, and beyond.  This love is what makes you feel alive.  Falling in love in this sense is best described in the beautiful words of Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

“Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”
- Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

So, with that in mind I ask you, what makes you feel alive?
It’s a difficult question, but an essential one to say the least. 
What is it that seizes your imagination?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What do you think of when you are thinking about nothing at all?

There is something that makes each and every person here come alive in a beautiful and unique way.  My challenge to you is to find what makes you feel alive and to embrace it, pursue it, and let it guide you.  Do not let your God-given passion be kept as only a portion of your being…let it consume you and radiate from you. 

“The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” –St. Irenaeus


Adam Dirnberger is the SERVE Social Justice Intern in Campus Ministry.