It’s often said that “90% of life is showing up.” I have often reflected on the meaning of those words. Most of the time it seems mundane – we show up for work, for special occasions, for family functions …
Like many, I have been impressed by Time’s person of the year, Greta Thunberg. As an eight-year-old, she was inspired to do something for planet Earth. In 2016 she camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign, “School Strike for Climate.” Students around the world followed her example. Since then she has addressed the heads of state at the U.N., met with the Pope and spoken to President Trump. She does not have time for small talk; instead, she says, “Our home is on fire.” Her message is simple: oceans will rise, cities will flood, and people will suffer. She moved from sadness to endless action. She shows up.
Fr. Jim Flynn, a 90-year-old Louisville priest, can be found six days a week on street corners around the city holding a sign welcoming immigrants to Louisville. Rain, snow, extreme heat, or cold does not deter him. Sometimes he is the only person present to hold a sign. I have stood with him when countless drivers blow their horns. He receives many thumbs up but at times a different finger. His life has been threatened if he continues, and still, he is there. He can be found at the Greyhound bus station bringing bottled water, food, coloring books and crayons to nervous immigrants passing through the city. He shows up.
Showing up is most often not dramatic. Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace have shown up consistently, preaching the just word. We have delivered countless hand-written letters to a Governor asking to end capital punishment, delivered soap and informational materials on human trafficking to hotels before a sporting event, walked in demonstrations for peace, environmental justice, and responsible gun legislation. Whether preaching from the pulpit, teaching English to immigrants, or praying for lasting peace in a fragile world, Dominicans continue to show up. The many expressions of showing up are endless.
I believe showing up is a mission-driven, Gospel-driven response to Matthew 25. It is not about success, but faithfulness. “Showing up” is holy persistence, believing that one person can make a difference.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I need some inspiration to propel me to keep moving forward.
Whether it’s the winter blues, our chaotic culture, the turbulent political climate, family turmoil, or something else causing confusion, discouragement, desperation, pain, sadness, or fatigue that makes our world seem like a dark place, we must always remember that there is light to be found if we look for it.
I used the word “inspiration” (instead of motivation) in the opening line because, for me, inspiration stirs the heart, mind, and spirit. It is usually during that “stirring” process that my passion and purpose is awakened – fueling me to move forward, forcing me to take account of my internal landscape.
Self-reflection (whether voluntary or involuntary) tends to take me to a place where I realize that the essence of who I am – the shining seed of my authentic self, the inner light that shines brightly – is enough to help me get through the darkness.
My experience has taught me that I might not be able to change what is happening and that I can’t control other people, but I can choose to handle adversity with grace, courage, and joy – I can choose to be a source of inspiration for others.
As a Christian, I take seriously the charge to bring light to dark places — to look for opportunities to lift up someone else. By allowing my own light to shine, I can help other people recognize the light that is within them.
If you are looking for some simple wisdom on how to be light in the world, I offer this inspirational quote from an unknown author:
In a recent visit to San Antonio, Texas, a group of Sisters took a local bus to explore some of the sites in the city. As I turned to look for a place to sit, a bright yellow seat in the front caught my eye. Written on the seat were the words, “Dedicated to the memory of Rosa Parks.” Of course, I had to sit there and take the opportunity for a photo-op—it was a time to remember.
February has been an important month of remembrance for me. Ever since my early school days, I have recognized it as the month that celebrates the contributions of Black Americans in American History. Black History is American History. You might ask, “Why is there a need to celebrate Black History at a particular time? “ The short answer is that the contributions of Blacks in American society (except the select group we used to learn about in school) are largely ignored or unknown—even by many Blacks. What we do not make an effort to acknowledge or celebrate, we forget. There is great value in the act of remembrance.
The image of the mythical “Sankofa” bird perfectly symbolizes the reason Black History month continues to be important to celebrate. Sankofa is an African word from the Akan people in West Africa that means, “Go back to get it.” The concept is symbolized by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward, carrying an egg in its mouth-the future. This symbol represents the wisdom of learning from the past to build the future.
While it is significant to Black History, “Sankofa” can also be relevant to other areas of society. I see it as a concept that is important to Dominican life, to the formation of women in the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and to vowed religious life in the 21st century. The call to religious life remains a personal response of love and service to God and to the people of God. But answering the needs of the times and building the Kingdom of God as vowed religious in the 21st century will require transformation and trust. It will require change because we cannot continue the same pathway into the future. It will require trust in the One Who Calls, knowing that the path will be made clearer during the journey. It requires moving forward, but bringing wisdom from the past to build the future—Sankofa.
Perhaps, God is calling you to walk the path with us into the future as a Sister?
Dominican Sister of Peace Melita (Shirley) Bearinger, (90) died on January 31, 2020, at the Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH.
Born to Edna Laird and Victor Bearinger in Turtle Creek, PA, Sister Melita entered the Congregation in 1946. As a young woman, she was drawn to work in Foreign Missions. Although she never ministered outside of the United States, she served those less fortunate throughout her religious life, and especially as a volunteer in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Sister Melita earned her BS in Elementary Education in 1957 from Saint Mary of the Springs College and her MA in Elementary Education in 1962 from De Paul University. For thirty-seven years she ministered as a teacher and administrator in Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Sr. Melita’s ministry took a new turn after meeting Sr. Grace Pilon, SBS, creator of the Workshop Way system of education. She devoted herself to the methodology that allowed her to focus on the growth and personal development of her students. She worked with the group for 3 decades, first as Business Manager and later as a licensed consultant, proofreader, and member of the Task Force.
Her work with the Workshop Way brought her to New Orleans, which also made a huge change in her life. She loved the South and the city of New Orleans in particular. She was grateful for the opportunity to show her love for her adopted hometown by volunteering for Lantern Light Ministry, which served those returning to the city after Hurricane Katrina.
Sr. Melita returned to Columbus in 2017, where she served her Sisters at the Columbus Motherhouse. She began her final ministry of prayer and presence at the Mohun Health Care Center in 2019.
Sister Melita was preceded in death by her parents, Victor L. and Edna Laird Bearinger, her brother, Victor J. and her sister, Mary Louise Dietz. She is survived by several nieces and a nephew.
A Vigil of Remembrance Service was held on February 20, 2020, at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel
The funeral liturgy was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel on Friday, February 21, 2020, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery by Egan Ryan Funeral Home.
Memorial gifts in Sr. Melita’s memory may be submitted securely online or sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr, Columbus, OH 43219.
Preparing to preach on the feast of Thomas Aquinas, I did some background reading, while in the midst of exploring writings of Thomas Merton. Two Thomasses who did a huge corpus of writing—one, the Summa Theologica and countless other writings and preaching, and the other, a great many articles, books, and major correspondence. One Thomas who dialogued thoughtfully and deeply with the realities of his changing culture, while living and teaching and writing in the midst of growing cities, universities, points of view. The other Thomas, who left the world behind to become a Cistercian, then a hermit, but who never disengaged from the culture and thought calling from outside the walls of Gethsemane. Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Merton, both scholars and communicators with the world of ideas, deeply absorbed in an obedience that stretched the boundaries of their thought and the conventions of the time, an obedience to the One who could not be known, but called them nevertheless to wrestle language into insight—or insight into language—in changing and confusing times for church and society.
Thomas Aquinas, Dominican Friar, he of giant intellect and systematic thinking, Master at the University of Paris, popular teacher and preacher, was willing to forego the heady joys of conversation and disputation in his university culture, to place his considerable gifts humbly at the service of the student brethren who needed a program of study to ground them in the theology they would need to preach the gospel in a church and in disparate places where understandings and interpretations of the Christian life were pulling at the edges of traditions and systems. But he was no slave to pride nor sought recognition. Grace was at the center of the mystery. The purpose of study had only one end; union with God whose faithful presence and promise always overtook the human tendency to bend or misstate the truth and fail in charity.
Thomas Merton, Brother Louis, with a restless spirit and a deep need to engage with the great thinkers and movements of the post-World War II era, always pushing at the strict rules of the cloister and the mediocrity of the community while knowing in truth it was his home; a life-choice which pulled him deeper into the Mystery he always experienced as the pull and strain of contradictions he termed his True Self and his False Self, thirsting for both knowledge and communication, the emptying of himself and the darkness of God’s silence.
Both were deeply aware of the beauty and witness of creation to its creator, the extraordinary brightness of all being, given God’s “sheen” (TA) and people “shining like the sun” (TM), reflections of divine radiance, beauty and joy. For each one, life was a great gift.
I’m not attempting biography here, or spiritual analysis of any merit. It is what both Thomasses speak to me now, today—this difficult time engulfing the whole of the globe, the chaos and confusion, the agony of need, the division and cruelty vastly enlarged and clouded by our instantaneous communication, the widening rifts in humanity—the cry everywhere for love and truth and peace. This is a “too-muchness” before which I quail, with that sense of dimming zeal and ineffective discipleship and wavering hope.
Here’s the lesson for me. They toiled steadily, daily. And by God’s grace, each brother’s work of probing and communicating went way beyond great achievement, if that ever was a concern. Communication found its heart in communion, the contagious enflaming of hearts and minds, a gracious freedom in letting go, as if each heard God say, “Thanks just the same, Tom, but I’ll be running the universe today.”
We know of Aquinas, in the last year of his life, dismissing his work as “all straw” in light of God’s ineffable love. Herbert McCabe OP has written that Thomas dedicated his life to asking the questions “What is God? Who is God?” McCabe continues, “His great virtue lay in the fact that he let the questions defeat him.”
And one finds in Merton that recurrent theme of self-emptying, death to the False Self in order to be possessed by God; an impossibility if left to himself, through any rational and human way. “The only One who can teach me to find God is God himself.” One of his most memorable reflections is about the call to the “General Dance:” “…the Lord plays and diverts himself in the garden of his creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear his call and follow him in his mysterious, cosmic dance…..the more we analyze (life) out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the common dance….Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds, and join the general dance.” (New Seeds of Contemplation 296-297)