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Serving Good Causes Bigger Than Ourselves

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick, OP

Last Thursday, August 30th, about midday, I had a flashback. I saw myself walking into the Dominican Motherhouse in Great Bend, Kansas, with eagerness and not just a little trepidation, to begin my journey into vowed religious life as an Aspirant—about to join 23 others entering  the same day. That was 62 years ago to the day, and nine of these 24 women continue living into the journey today as Dominican Sisters of Peace.

In those days, we began as Aspirants for about 3-4 months, then graduated to Postulants for about 6 months before becoming Novices for 2 years, Temporary Professed for 6 years, then Perpetual Profession until death. At the close of our initial 2-3 year formation process (focused more on prayer, study, and community), vowed life ushered us into living on mission, using our gifts in ministries to which each was called/sent.

Anniversaries, as well as transitions, tend to stir up significant memories, feelings, life reviews. Looking back over the 62 ensuing years, I felt gratitude fill my heart. Recalling how God has led  our community (and me) to ways and places to serve the greater good—far beyond what I could ask or imagine—and to leave behind the narrow confines of our limited self-concepts, all I could say was THANK YOU to God and to my Dominican Community! My life has been so blessed!

So that same day when I came across Senator John McCain’s final statement in which he expressed his thanks to his “fellow Americans, and especially his fellow Arizonans” whom he gratefully served for sixty years, I resonated with his feeling that he was the luckiest man on Earth. Attributing his satisfaction to his loving family and his beloved America, he added:

“To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.”

 

How true! ‘By serving good causes bigger than ourselves,’ by allowing Love to find full expression in us, we become all that we were created to be. Bearers of God, Images of God, designed for happiness.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Got Privilege? Use John McCain’s Example of How To Use It For Good

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The death of Sen. John McCain resulted in an outpouring of tributes expressing sympathy, respect, and honor.

As I listened to and read the testimonials of praise, I found myself fixated on his capture in Vietnam.

I couldn’t shake the fact that he could have used his privilege (the prominence of his storied military family) to be released early but chose to stand with his fellow POWs. For me, that spoke volumes about his character – that he would sacrifice his own freedom and well-being to demonstrate solidarity with his comrades.

I began to ponder: What kind of spirit drives a person to do something like that? What kind of heart do you need to do something like that? What kind of mindset must you have to do something like that?

It takes a mind set on doing the right thing. It takes a servant’s heart. And it takes a spirit of love.

Was John McCain perfect? No, he was flawed like the rest of us. But he had integrity and dignity.

John McCain, in his refusal of a preferential release in Vietnam, demonstrated for us how to use privilege the right way. He showed us how to be a good ally.

In recent months, I have had several conversations with friends and acquaintances who ask how they can use their privilege to help others.

My response has been that they not allow frustration to force them into inaction; that they resist the temptation of seeing themselves as guardian angels; and that they find ways to use their privilege to advocate for those who don’t have the same advantage.

Advocacy, of course, takes different forms – it could mean building a trusting relationship with someone; it could mean putting yourself in harm’s way for the benefit of someone else; it could mean aligning yourself with a cause, purpose, individual or group, etc.

But looking at John McCain’s sacrifice, I think I need to walk back my response and talk a little more about motivation. I’m thinking something like: privilege is something that needs to be checked repeatedly, when interacting with or advocating for those without a favored position or circumstance; and your interaction or advocacy needs to be fueled by a spirit of love, a servant’s heart and a desire to do the right thing.

Then, I will point to John McCain as an example of a person who put service to others over and above his own self interests.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Angry at the Right Time

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

I enjoy watching the TV show “What Would You Do?” where people are confronted with dilemmas that at first make my blood boil, then wonder who will do something about the injustice happening right in front of them? There is always a bit of relief when John Quiñones appears and makes it known that it is a staged situation with actors playing the villains. But it never fails to make me ask myself: what would I do? In real life would I let my anger, mixed with compassion, empower me to take action? or sit still, walk by, and mind my own business?

Since I wrote my last blog on being “Angry at the Wrong Time” I have noticed many articles, blogs, and stories about how right it is to be angry at injuries and injustice done to other people.

Phil Marcin, OPA, recently wrote: Remember Adam and Eve. When God confronted Adam about his sin, Adam said: “Eve made me do it.” And Eve said: “The Devil made me do it.” They both passed the buck. They accepted no accountability or responsibility. We often do the same–just talk or complain. We need to act. There are opportunities at home, at work, in our neighborhood, our city, our church, our nation.

Our country is suffering and divided. You and I need to work for greater civility; we need to work for compassion; we need to work for justice; we need to support adults and children seeking asylum from murder and violence and rape; we need to support families torn apart at our borders. What can we do? We can contact our representatives in Congress. We can vote. We can pray.

Last week a short paragraph in our Akron Beacon Journal alluded to an Instagram by actress Ann Hathaway, followed by an editorial by Dahleen Glanton quoted from the Chicago Tribune: “Until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Nia Wilson. My introduction to her came from an unexpected source: the Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway. With a single Instagram post last week, Hathaway was able to push the story of this young African-American woman’s tragic death onto the radar of mainstream America more quickly and with greater impact than any one of Wilson’s own race could. That’s the astounding power of white privilege.”

Hathaway’s Instagram read: “The murder of Nia Wilson — may she rest in the power and peace she was denied here — is unspeakable AND MUST NOT be met with silence. She is not a hashtag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man,” Hathaway wrote underneath a photo of Wilson. “White people — including me, including you — must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS. White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence. Given those givens, we must ask our (white) selves- how ‘decent’ are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action? Peace and prayers and JUSTICE for Nia and the Wilson family.”  To read this editorial, click here.

In his recent article in the New York Times, “The Virtues of Catholic Anger,” Father James Martin SJ encourages Christians in the face of the Pennsylvania abuse scandal, to use their rage to combat evil within the Church. He writes: Anger is an important part of the life and ministry of Jesus. And so anger should be part of the Catholic life — with Jesus as a guide…Jesus’ anger is always a righteous anger, never on behalf of himself, but in reaction to how he sees others being treated.”

William Barclay wrote: “selfless anger can be one of the great moral dynamics of the world.” Anger fueled by compassion and active love can make heroes of ordinary people. There’s just one question: Will we let it?

Posted in Associate Blog

Channeling Anger into a Transforming Force

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I saw something recently that made my blood boil – a video surveillance tape showing a 71-year-old man being attacked by two teenagers.

The footage shows the septuagenarian walking along a street when the hoodlums approach and kick him, knocking him to the ground. When the man (wearing a Sikh turban) gets up, he is kicked again and knocked to the ground, where his turban falls off his head. Then one of the ruffians kicks him multiple times while he is on the ground and spits on him. The two then walk away.

What a hateful, repulsive, horrific, abominable, repugnant display of human behavior.

Although I felt justified in being incensed, I began to slip into the belief that anger is bad and that I needed to get it under control.

As I examined this inner conflict, I considered how our goal as spiritual beings is to live life in peace and love and I acknowledged the reality that there are situations that push our buttons.

The truth is that as spiritual beings, part of our journey includes experiencing the diverse complexities of human emotions, including anger. I concluded that anger is not always a bad thing. In fact, some anger can actually be healthy and constructive.

Yes, it is true that anger can hurt us, but it is also true that anger can unleash what it really feels like to care. Healthy anger can help us ascertain our truth and take a stand for what we value.

I concluded that my anger was a healthy response to injustice, an instinctive response to unfairness. My anger was a form of protest to the unfair treatment (or abuse) of the man –Sahib Singh Natt. It was the unfairness, or injustice, that provoked my anger, or indignation. Therefore, the anger was not the problem. The injustice that provoked the anger was the problem.

My anger revealed that I value the humane, fair, and just treatment of others.

When anger tells us that something is wrong, it also provides the energy to make it right. My anger moved me to prayer for Sahib Singh Natt and his family and his attackers and their families. And it fueled me with the determination to continue raising my voice against injustice and taking actions that will move the needle toward justice.

I encourage you to do the same.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Angry at the wrong time?

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

I’ve had a complete set of Barclay’s New Testament Commentaries since around 1985. Over the years I often used them as a reference when studying a NT passage or preparing a preaching. Though I appreciate the rich historical perspective it brings to each passage, as well as its very practical application of the bible to our lives, I have never read all the books from beginning to end. Recently I decided to do that, starting with Matthew, using it as part of my daily prayer.

On page 96, Barclay reflects on the Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Referring to Aristotle’s definition of meekness—“the happy medium between too much or too little anger”—he concludes with a first possible translation of this beatitude: “Blessed is the [person] who is always angry at the right time, and never angry at the wrong time.”

It was the next sentence that stopped me short. “If we ask what the right time and the wrong time are, we may say as a general rule for life that it is never right to be angry for any insult or injury done to ourselves; that is something no Christian must ever resent; but that it is often right to be angry at injuries done to other people.”  Whoa! I had to think about that one! I was conflicted.

Whether someone is slighted, insulted unwittingly, treated unjustly, or outright oppressed, most people get angry when that happens to them, don’t they?  Isn’t it natural and healthy to feel hurt and angry when treated badly, and NOT to accept abuse?

On the one hand, doesn’t such anger empower a person to move away from an abusive situation or relationship? On the other hand, long held anger withholds forgiveness and fuels resentment—which poisons a relationship and one’s spiritual life, becoming an obstacle to eternal life in Christ.

Jesus, taught: “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your transgressions.” Jesus’ teaching about anger is a very important lesson in the first 25 verses of Matthew Chapter 5. We cannot be disciples of Jesus if we do not grapple with this teaching and apply it in our life and relationships as Jesus did.

Two persons, who learned and lived this lesson well and have much to teach me, stand out in my mind: Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King. Mandela after having been unjustly imprisoned for 27 years said: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”  “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

Dr. M. L. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence, modeled by Mahatma Gandhi in the nonviolent revolution in India, were based on and derived from Christ’s life and teaching:

  • Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people, not for cowards.
  • Build the Beloved Community everywhere you go.
  • Attack the forces of evil, not persons doing evil.
  • Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the just cause.
  • Avoid inner violence of the spirit as well as outward physical violence.
  • The universe is on the side of justice.

Since reading and praying about the first half of this Beatitude, I am on a spiritual cleansing diet: examining and ridding myself of any “anger at the wrong time,” any resentment toward anyone no matter how far back it goes. And I offer it as an ongoing practice for any of our readers to adopt as needed.

As to being “angry at the right time”—I will save that for another blog…

Posted in Associate Blog, News