Friday, October 6, 2017

Am I a part of the problem, or the solution.....

horrible act of terrorism

I am trying to figure out how to address this past weekend’s events in Las Vegas.  I start first with the underlying message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Love, Life, Mercy, Change of heart, eternal life. It is doubtful that of those themes of the Gospel could have prevented this terrorist attack again on our soil. And again some voices are saying that this is God’s will that these things happen for some kind of punishment. It’s easy to blame God for the problems in our world, in our neighborhoods, and in our relationships.  After all, God is all-powerful, and therefore can bring about any changes God wants.  And that means that if there is something lacking, it must be because God is not providing it, right?  Of course not. It really has to do with us, not God.  We are given total freedom to decide how we will act.  Total freedoms to decide how we protect ourselves. We all have the freedom and the power.

In other words, if I’m part of the reason that the world isn’t as God wants it to be, then I need to be part of the solution.  God has given and continues to give us every single thing we need to make this world the beautiful place he created it to be.  It’s not that God needs to do more.  I need to do more.  We all need to do more --- give more and love more and care more. Perhaps start by living our faith; out Christian Catholic faith.  Yes living what we proclaim at every mass in our Creed, that we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  And that our Eucharist is not only our communion with Christ, but what he left us in that same Church.

This doesn’t mean that we can solve every problem by trying harder, or cure every ill simply by working toward that end.  Many things involve the freedom of others, and for things to be different in our lives and in the world, it will often require that others make an effort too.  But we should never underestimate the difference one faithful person can make, or never underestimate what our families can do when we work together, or never underestimate the potential of a community of faith such as ours. Catholic Christianity is counter cultural and if we are not living a life that challenges the status quo, especially in issues of life and death, we will continue to experience horrific events. God gave us all a share in God’s light in baptism…how well to we allow that light to shine?

October is a month that our church commits to respecting life in all its forms, from conception to natural death. Next Sunday we will have a great pancake breakfast to support pregnant students so they do not have to decide between an education and bringing forth their child. That is the abundant life that God desires. It takes faith to believe in a world of abundance, a world in which God provides every single thing that we need.  But that’s who we are as Catholic Christians and that is what our church teaches.  And so maybe the question, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” isn’t God’s question at all.  Maybe it needs to be ours.  And maybe each of us needs to answer it honestly.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Vocation-Knowing and caring for the Lord's own.

This weekend the universal church prays for vocations to the priesthood, religious and consecrated life, and the diaconate. These particular vocations have a common thread;  all of them have a charism that calls them to care for the many. In ways similar to individual families who also share a vocation in rearing children; vocations to marriage which is a foundational vocation witnessing two people, a woman and a man, who show their care, protection and service towards the other as a lifelong vocation; similar to the vocation of the single life; which offers a freedom to give more time to caring for the many needs of the peoples of the world; this weekend we offer prayers to those who have answered yes to the call in a personal relationship with Christ in caring for Him through the many.  Vowed, Consecrated and Ordained commit themselves to hundreds of thousands of people through their vocation. Some exercise it through parish life, some through involvement in schools and universities, some through community and social programs that follow Catholic Social teaching. Regardless of the particular charism, these vocations are an answer to Jesus invitation to follow Him.  These vocations show the works of Jesus to the many. These vocations do not operate in isolation though, they call all of us to live our own vocations as being good shepherds to others. 

Just this Saturday, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople both visited a refugee camp in Greece. They went to bring attention to the plight of millions of peoples who are fleeing war, poverty, terrorism, and despair in their own countries. It is messy and messiness is exactly what Jesus called His followers to in His great commandment of loving and building relationships with the least of His. Just this past Friday night Sr. Clareann Weinert spoke to our students on religious life and how important forming relationships with people is to her and her community of religious women.  Relationships allow us to be good shepherds of others and to lead them to the love and care of Christ.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel “my sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me”  As shepherds, we are called to focus on the identity of our community.  And we all share in Christ great commission to lead others to Him. Living our vocation is to allow our voice be the voice of Christ so others will hear him, and come to know Him.

Catholic writer “Alice Camille says “our vocation is the door, our consent is the key.  The word “consent itself comes from two Latin words “con- ‘together’ + sentire ‘feel’. This is what a relationship demands, an openness to be with and to understand the other. Each of us has a vocation just waiting for us. Like a door it has a means to be opened by and through our individual consent to enter.  Each one of our vocations is different, lived in different ways.  But we must all spiritually support and recognize the vocations of others even if it is not our own. And that support will cause tensions as we all can feel that my vocation is more important than yours.  That’s our human nature. We keep trying even when difficult. But as Mark Twain says. “By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity, another person’s I mean”  We don’t go to bed at night feeling all is well.  We know that there are needs to be met, challenges to overcome, and vocations to be lived. All in community, in relationship with Christ and each other. The door awaits us, through the door folks are listening for Christ’ voice.  Will we consent to opening the door to our vocation so they too can hear His voice? 

Friday, May 22, 2015

People Come... People Go... Friday May 22-final blog from Guatemala

Collecting my thoughts as we prepare to leave and sitting in the shade of a long Guatemalan afternoon I am gently reminded that we as human beings, if we choose to follow Christ as Christians, are gifted hundreds of times daily. The gift is the real "encuentros" that are given us daily as individual beloved creatures of our one true God. And we can if we choose, witness the rich and infinite images of the God of all creation. The sad fact is that all too often we see others defined by the personal opinions or stereotypes that we are unfortunately "formed" by in our lives.

So while I feel this may be my last trip to the mission; advancing age that causes difficulty in climbing into the trucks, requiring more bathroom breaks, and a once-iron clad stomach losing its iron, I reflect on the beauty and gift that was offered. Responding to gift is always a selfless act or it is no longer gift. Nothing less offered was the gift of Christ himself…the real deal, Christ as known from scriptures and His uncompromising command to love-love though service, love through offering mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness; love by meeting Him in all. To accept Him without conditions is a true gift received. Our Christ wears many faces, garments, and offers words to comfort, challenge, and renew.

I pray to always see in the poor the face of Christ. Nothing should be more desired by a Christian. It is what we long for in our central prayer, our Divine Liturgy when we are so blessed to be in this communion. Second it is to live the command accepted in baptism, love God and neighbor as taught by Christ. I witnessed this in the people who have given their lives to the mission, much better than I could ever do. From the local staff, leadership by long time lay workers and clergy, and the memories that they continues to live as a reminder to why we “mission in this place. Perhaps most of all is the gift of the great folks that we choose to love in the name of Christ, who chose us first. They show that withstanding sickness, poverty, scars still tender from war and its aftermath; Christ is still living in their midst.  May he continue to dwell in us all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday, May 18 2015-Mary Kantner

Everyone and myself (Mary) thought yesterday, Sunday, was a blast. We started around the usual time, had breakfast, then ventured off into the market. Sunday being Mother's Day for the Guatemalans, the market was bustling with people and different kinds of goods from clothes to produce to jewelry to chocolate covered bananas. Though it was busy and many of the people were pushy, we persisted to buy things and wave as we went by. After making a few more stops along the way, we headed back to the mission to rest and spent some more time together.
Around 2 in the afternoon, the pastoral youth began to trickle in, dressed up and with decorations in their hands. They started to decorate the salon with a banner that read "Feliz dia de Madres" ("Happy day of the Mothers"). Two hours later, the mothers began to walk in, dressed up and grinning, receiving a box of matches with raffle numbers attached and a colored daisy by some of our group and other youth. As the night progressed on, they put on skits, a couple clowns did an activity or two, they danced, played games with the mothers, and invited some of us up for a song, thanking their mothers for their love. It was extremely touching to see how much fun the mothers had. I was reflecting to myself how a celebration like this would be in the U.S. and if the mothers would participate with such joy and energy. Sheila told us that this was probably the only big event any of the mothers would attend, especially one that shows appreciation for them like this one does. The children were also incredibly heart warming...some were crying and singing right to their mothers, then making their mothers cry as well. At the end, one son went up to his mother and she fell into his arms and they quietly sobbed together. It made me tear up and miss my mom, and later on in reflection, our group agreed that seeing the intense emotion and love displayed by them was a blessing to witness and something we should never take for granted - a mother's relationship with her child. 
Once the mothers had gone, around 7:30, the youth stayed behind to spend time with us. We ended up dancing for hours. They did the salsa with us, Breanna, Quincy and myself did "the worm", we taught them how to line dance to country music (which was a riot), we swing danced, and they taught us a traditional dance as well. It was both hilarious and a lot of fun. We were sweating bullets and had permanent smiles on our faces when they shouted out "ultima!" which means, last song. We hugged them, and took more pictures than we've ever taken in our lives - we felt famous really, every one of them wanted photos with us. We chatted with Fransisco, Anderson, Marvin, Billy, and some others as they started to leave. After that, we were ready for bed. All of the girls decided to have a sleep over in one of the houses, while James and Kyle rested on their own. 

This morning (Monday), some of us were slow to wake up, and spent the morning mostly resting and checking out more of the clinic. Quincy and some others watched some doctors in the lab do a pregnancy test - came back negative if any of you were wondering. We also bought some bags of medicinal tea. Whitney, Elly and myself played with the 5 month old, Juan Carlo, who's mother is very generous and trusting with him, and the rest of us were in and out of our rooms. Lunch was light since most of our appetites are somewhat fading (can you blame us?), rice and chicken...some of us just ate PB and J sandwiches. Around two, those of us who felt up to it climbed into the trucks to head up the road about 5 km to the coffee cooperative. They explained to us how the coffee is roasted and harvested. We all bought coffee, some of us bought mugs and burlap sacks used for the beans. The ride back was beautiful, almost looked like a vineyard you'd see in the hills of Oregon. The crops there mostly consisted of coffee, corn, and plantains or bananas. The mountains were clear, and it was cool today, although, humid as ever, because of the lack of rain for the past 3 days. I also heard that while we were gone, there was an earthquake which is pretty exciting! Getting back from that short adventure, we hung out in the kitchen/movie room, as it finally started to pour rain. We watched a couple movies together and then had a dinner of lasagna. It wasn't as good as my mom's, but it was delicious despite the lack of appetites. Once dinner finished, we all gathered outside to witness the amazing lightning storm where the sky didn't go more than 5 seconds without flashing in enormous light. The power went out, and our generator turned on as we came back inside for a brief reflection of the day.

A lot of us are still feeling ill, unfortunately, but we all are in good spirits and believe we're on the uphill road to healthiness and in time for our trip to Lake Atitlan. Breanna is feeling more of her energetic goofy self, after her full day of illness on Sunday before the Mother's Day celebration, where she spent most of her day in bed trying to keep hydrated. Shannon seems pretty much back to normal after her day and a half spent in our house, and a rough previous night. Kyle is up and laughing - though still not perfectly back to normal, everyone is getting medicine or antibiotics if they need it and all attended dinner, despite our sensitivities. None of us really feel 100%, but its proving to be a blessing almost. As my mom said, "It's not a pilgrimage until someone gets sick", which is proving to be very true. Luckily, we are all sick together and helping each other with whatever we need. In the end, we're able to chuckle at our unfortunate situations together. Sheila has also been very generous and selfless, what with getting us medicine and running around making sure everyone has a gatorade or medicinal tea (made by workers here at the mission) by their bedside. 

We ask for your continued prayers that those of us who feel okay stay healthy and those of us not feeling well to be healed of our illnesses as we venture off to our new destination tomorrow (Tuesday) - a 3 hour drive to Santiago Atitlan. We will be heading off after breakfast around 9 and will be there up until Thursday I believe. We pray that we will continue to grow together, immerse ourselves in the culture, and progress back to health. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday, May 16-Breanna Thompson

Another One Bites the Dust.

Overall my Guatemala experience has been very eye opening. I have seen how little people have in the villages; and although poverty is an everyday factor, the culture and love for life is very vibrant.  The people I have met have such beautiful hearts. Even with the language barrier I have been able to connect with the community through soccer, making tortillas, and broken conversations. The generosity that has been given to our little MSU group has been so humbling. I have realized there are many things I can do without in America and still be well off. I have no need to stress over plans with my friends, or whether I am having a bad hair day; because I have made relationship with people who don't know when there next meal will be or where the next day will take them. For this I should be grateful I can make plans with my friends and have the money to get my hair done because I have a roof over my head that does not consist of a dirt floor and am on the path to earning a degree which many of my friends in Guatemala will never have as an opportunity. I am inspired to live life more simply, be a servant to my brothers and sisters of Christ, and be grateful for everything God has blessed me with.

Today was a quite an interesting day. During breakfast we discovered that half of our group had become sick. James was sick two days ago and Mary yesterday, but today Ellie, Jenny, Whitney, and Kyle got sick. Quincy, Sherrie and Lindsey were a bit nauseous as well. Nina, Shannon, Father Val, and I are the only ones who have not caught this bug. People are dropping like flies in sickness! I am convinced I will not get sick (knock on wood) I'll give you an update if I do catch this bug. We decided to paint the salon in the mission which was quite nice to contribute something for these people (Although it does not come close to all they have done for us). We painted the salon walls yellow and the door/window seals red. It was nice to have conversation with everyone in the group that were feeling well. Also this bug only seems to last for 12-24 hours so James and Mary were feeling good.

Today we also played soccer with the kids around the community. I absolutely love playing soccer with my Guatemalan friends! Its one of the best ways for me to connect since I am horrible at speaking spanish. The players looked around 14 but they were in there 20s! The people are pretty short compared to us Americans, so they look younger than they are. I told one of the 20 year-old girls I was 19 and she was shocked because she thought I was much older. Funny what height can do. We took pictures with the group and talked to a few of the players after the game. They said we played well but I think they were just being nice.

We also went to mass today which was cool to hear in spanish. I love how no matter where you are, going to church at a catholic mass, you know what is happening because of the traditions. It was a beautiful mass. We got to speak with a lady named Lucy who was so excited to be around us because she could speak english! This was the first english-speaking person I had met yet in the community. Her english was very minimal but it was nice to speak in my own language for a while. We took pictures with her as well.

Afterwards we had a great dinner and conversation with the group which was a wonderful way to end the night. Not only am I connecting with the Guatemalans but I am also making great relationships with the students who also came in the group. I am hoping everyone recovers from today in their health and that the four remaining do not catch this bug. I also cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Much love and gratefulness for this trip!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday, May 15-James Dilts/Lindsay Langhals

We started the day by traveling to a nearby town to see their market. We all got into pickup trucks and traveled through the mountains and saw some beautiful scenery. One thing I noticed was the political signs and slogans painted on the rocks and trees along the highway. On the way, we stopped at a government clinic and observed their training for midwives. Most of the women there did not speak Spanish or English. Instead, they spoke Q'iche, a local Mayan dialect. During our discussion, we needed to go through two translators to understand them. However, we were able to see their joy and passion through the language barrier. The average age for these women was well over 70 years old, and the oldest midwife there was 90 years old.
When we got to the market, there were so many different sights and smells to see and experience, some good and some bad. We walked through the streets and passed many little stands that sold various foods and some crafts. There were a lot of beautiful beaded bracelets and bags, as well as blouses and other cultural attire. However, most of the food was of poor quality and covered in flies, and there was a lot of trash and stray dogs in the marketplace. Many of us found it difficult to see this, and we had a good discussion tonight about it.
After we left the marketplace, we visited some of the widows of Guatemala's civil war in the 1980s. The mission has helped them to find meaningful work by weaving bags to sell in the market and in the United States. It takes about one month working a few hours a day to weave a bag, for which the weavers will earn $25. The widows live in houses that are about 10 feet by 10 feet, and do not have access to running water or any type of clean sanitation. They seemed very happy to see us, and we enjoyed seeing the talent needed to make the crafts by hand.
After we got back to the mission, we visited the local cemetery, located in the ruins of a colonial church that was destroyed in the 18th century by an earthquake. Most of the graves are located above the ground in a type of mausoleum. They were brightly colored and contained messages written about the deceased. The graves were obviously well loved, and there were flowers everywhere. As we finished walking around the area, it started to rain, and we were soaked. It was enjoyable to walk back town in the rain. Finally, we finished the day with mass held in the chapel in the mission.

James Dilts-Lindsay Langhals