THE POWER OF KNEELING

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

It is now officially fall – which can mean a lot of things for different people.

By now, I have usually gotten a first look at several NFL teams, including my beloved Chicago Bears.

But, this year, things are different: I have made a conscious decision not to watch the NFL, until Colin Kaepernick is treated fairly.

The 29-year-old quarterback made national headlines during the 2016 NFL season for kneeling during the national anthem, sparking a movement among athletes across the sports spectrum. That movement was reignited this past weekend, when the U.S. Commander in Chief described the act as disrespecting the flag and called for players who kneel during the anthem to be fired.

Kaepernick’s explanation for his action: to support Black Lives Matter and to protest police violence against people of color. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said in a published report.

And he vowed to continue his nonviolent protest until he feels like “[the American flag] represents what it’s supposed to represent.”

Well, he’s not sending his message from a football field this season (because no team has signed him). Some argue that it’s because of his stats. Others, including me, believe it’s because of his posture against racial injustice and because we don’t want to be reminded that something is terribly wrong in America (including an anthem that celebrates the murder of slaves in its third verse).

I think Kaepernick’s stats speak for themselves – ESPN reports that last season he threw for 2,241 yards in 12 games and had a quarterback rating of 90.7 (and quarterbacks with much less impressive stats are on NFL rosters this year).

But I don’t want to get caught up in that dialogue. Let’s focus on the kneel.

I have a coffee mug with a message that reads: “When Life Gives You More Than You Can Stand, Kneel.”

Could it be that Kaepernick, a black man in America, had experienced all that he could stand, so he kneeled?

One of Kaepernick’s formers teammates, Eric Reid, said in a published report: “What Colin and Eli (Harold) and I did was peaceful protest fueled by faith in God to help make our country a better place. And I feel like I need to regain control of that narrative and not let people say what we’re doing is un-American. Because it’s not. It’s completely American.”

Could it be that Kaepernick, a Christian, is inspired by his faith to kneel?

Could it be that instead of disrespecting the flag, he is showing a deep respect for the God who granted this nation its freedom?

In his own words, Kaepernick said in a newspaper interview: “I think God guides me through every day and helps me take the right steps and has helped me to get to where I’m at. When I step on the field, I always say a prayer, say I am thankful to be able to wake up that morning and go out there and try to glorify the Lord with what I do on the field.”

Until Kaepernick is allowed to return to the field to glorify God, I will not watch the NFL.

Kaepernick may not be kneeling on the field this days, but others – like the NFL players, coaches and owners across the league on Sunday who sat, kneeled, raised fists, locked arms or stayed inside locker rooms as the anthem was played before games – will continue to make a statement about their commitment to working toward justice for all (including those who some people think do not have a right to peaceful protest).

This isn’t about disrespecting the flag, this is about humbling ourselves, acknowledging America’s racial justice failures, recognizing that we are all created equal, and working to help America live up to its promise of being a nation where freedom, liberty, and justice reign.

And maybe it’s time for one of those owners who took a stand against injustice on Sunday to bring Kaepernick back to the field.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

God Calling?? Blog

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

“All will be well. And all manner of things shall be exceedingly well.”

                                                                                                                   ( Julian of Norwich, Mystic)

There is a popular daily devotional book that I often use in my morning prayer that contains wonderful reflections around the theme of the Scripture readings for the day. This week I was struck by a reflection from 14th century Mystic, Julian of Norwich. The overall focus of this excerpt, which was written in 1393, dealt with the certainty that despite the “trials, tribulations or stress, you (we) will not be overcome.  All will be well.  All manner of things shall be exceedingly well.”  I found that this message of the Spirit to a 14th century mystic truly resonated with me as I reflected on the devastating and challenging events taking place in our world in September 2017.

“All will be well”—and not just “well,” we are told, but “exceedingly well.”  I sat in silence for a while and let the words wash over me. Then I recalled other words—words from Scripture that encourage us to trust, even in times of turmoil. “In this world there will be trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  I am not ashamed to say that faith has been my saving grace in dealing with the realities of 2017.  In the face of current national realities, remembering messages of faith and the good news of the Gospel has been essential to maintaining an open and hopeful perspective of the future.

What is the landscape of the future that I see unfolding? Globally, the landscape includes natural disasters, terrorism and exploitation of the poor. Nationally, we are standing on the threshold of nuclear war and the U.S. is witnessing wide scale resurgence of deep divisions involving poverty, immigration, racism and nationalism all being propelled by power, money and fear. The “wild card” in this mix is a U.S. President who is “at war with the truth” and seeks to shape the nation, and indeed the world, in his own “fearful and nationalistic” image. Consequently, the landscape of the global and national future that I see unfolding is a landscape I must travel as one “walking by faith and not by sight.”  Such reminders like the one revealed to Julian of Norwich serve as seeds of encouragement and as divine Light for the path.

What keeps you centered in times of stress or confusion?  How do you navigate your way through turmoil and anxiety to clarity and peace?  The answers to these questions are probably different for each of us.  My answer generally comes down to trying to find God in the midst of what my grandmother used to call, “going through.” My word would simply be “faith” and perhaps the answer would be the same for you.  It is faith that helps me to find comfort in the words, “All will be well” when the landscape of the future might seem to reflect chaos and division.  If we peer closer into the turmoil, we will also see signs of divine Light—people helping people in the hour of their deepest need.  Because of our hope in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be assured that eventually, all will, indeed, be well.

Perhaps you feel called to be a source of light and inspiration, giving hope to others as a religious sister.  We would love to hear from you. Click here to contact one of our Vocation Ministers.

Posted in God Calling?, News

So I Just Listened

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, the grounds men who mow our lawn noticed the sound of a new bird song.  They could not identify it but we all enjoyed listening to it. There are many birds in our yard and I have written about them a few times. So I went looking on YouTube to try and identify the bird and also found a Mary Oliver poem that I had tucked away.  I love her poems and she asks: is not the sound of a bird a prayer? Is not my listening, a prayer? Just for fun, listen to the bird song of a wren here.

Mary Oliver’s poems inspire me very often. This image of just listening, of holding her pen in the air is as if she is suspended in belief. Belief that the world is capable of goodness; belief that God’s Word is always being spoken.  A favorite scripture passage is Isaiah 55: 10-12.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

After learning this so many times, I realize once again that prayer is listening.  Some days it’s listening to a bird’s song. Some days it’s listening to a person share a story.  Some days it’s watching the news and hoping I do not despair of a better world.

Mary Oliver and the unidentified bird reminded me that God’s Word is always being spoken, all around me in every sight and sound. So sometimes I just listen.

Here is Mary Oliver’s poem:

I happened to be standing

Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Why Stay?: Peace and Persistence on the International Day of Peace

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As North Korea continues building and testing its nuclear arsenal, as Dreamers are threatened by the rescinding of DACA, as white supremacists march in our public spaces, and as relief efforts continue for those impacted by Harvey and Irma, it’s hard to hold on to hope as the International Day of Peace approaches on September 21st.

We all know brave women and men who have been working toward peace and justice for decades, many of whom are members of our congregation. Yet, it often appears that decisions continue to be made and actions continue to be taken that send us backward on our march toward justice and peace.

As we come together in community and prayer on the International Day of Peace, may we all reflect on the reasons we continue in our work to be peace, build peace, and preach peace. In her book Perseverance, Margaret Wheatley articulates well the frustration, the hope, and the reason we continue working toward peace, each and every day.

“Why Stay”

It’s normal to reach the point where we start questioning our motivation: “Why do I work so hard?” “Why am I dedicating so much time to this?” “Why do I stay in this work?”

And if we don’t ask these questions, our friends and loved ones surely will. Usually, if they’re confronting us with these, they already have the answers in mind: Stop working so hard; get a life; notice that other people aren’t nearly as dedicated as you.

Asking “Why stay?” can be an invitation to reassess not our work load, but our original commitment that brought us into this work. Especially when we’re overloaded, burned-out and exhausted, it’s extremely helpful to pause occasionally and reflect on the sense of purpose and potential contribution that lured us into working for this cause. Doing this with colleagues who also are working much too hard is a well-tested means for deepening our relationships and strengthening our resolve to keep going.

But there’s also a significant element of irrationality in why we keep going, even in the midst of defeat and exhaustion. The question “why?” doesn’t lead us to any personal clarity or reassessment, because there really isn’t an answer.

We’re doing the work because we’re doing the work.

If we try and develop an explanation beyond this simple statement of fact, we get into murky waters. Yet even though it’s the truth, it’s a statement destined to promote either anger or confusion in our loved one.

It’s an insufficient answer, and sometimes it’s the only one available.

-Margaret Wheatley, Perseverance 2010

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What Sets Us Free to Be All We Can Be?

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I enjoy watching America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and the Olympics—winter and summer events whenever they come on and I have the time. I am intrigued and inspired by performers who push their limits to be all they can be: a woman completely deaf but singing in perfect pitch and rhythm; a lone survivor of a fiery plane crash bravely standing before millions in her disfigurement  and sharing her gift of song. And break dancing blows me away—the way they defy gravity—spinning on their heads, bouncing on one hand, summersaulting mid-air from the floor. Just to mention a few… As I watch and marvel, I imagine God within me also delighting in these performers breaking through usual limitations to realize their human potential.

But even more, this past week my heart was warmed and inspired by the “Hand in Hand” Hurricane Relief Telethon in which stars and celebrities of every ilk performed and called on everyone to donate to help rebuild and restore Houston, raising over 44 million dollars in one night. There were endless pictures of persons who themselves were losing everything to the flood waters but reaching out to save others—using whatever specific gifts they had to offer. Again, as I watched these, though saddened to see all the destruction and human suffering, a quiet joy welled up within me to see people freed up to be all they (we) can be.

As more hurricanes, storms, floods, fires, oppression, wars, isms, and every kind of disaster continue to leave a path of destruction and suffering, we humans will always be called on to be all we can be for others. “What sets you and me free to be all we can be? and what holds us back?”

As Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates, we challenge each other to be and do what we can to bring healing and peace to the world, empowered by Christ and the Good News, calling forth and activating the gifts we hold individually and communally.

A few weeks ago Jolene Geier OP sent me a link to a YouTube that she received from someone else, saying “Take a look at this video. You’ll be glad you did.” So I watched it,, and I was glad I did. I was humbled and inspired by Chris Koch, from Nanton, Alberta, who spends his spring, summer, and fall working on a farm near Torquay, Saskatchewan.

What’s so inspiring about that? For one thing, he looks like a happy, good natured man not unlike many men I know. But as I watched the video I soon realized Chris is no ordinary person. It became obvious that he grew up armed with something that set him free and unleashed his human potential.

Chris’ life can inspire, challenge, and encourage us to be all we can be, no matter what we see as our limitation. Watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/

Posted in Associate Blog, News