Monday, April 15, 2013

How Beautiful Are My Feet?

This past weekend, we joined in the celebration of the Inauguration of Fr. Dave Caron as President of Aquinas Institute.  For the Inaugural Address, Fr. Dave invited Sr. Barbara Reid, a Dominican Sister of Grand Rapids and Academic Dean at Catholic Theological Union, to speak. 

Sr. Barbara preached on the Letter from Paul to the Romans which concludes with, “How beautiful are the feet that bring good news” (Romans 10:8-15).  In her preaching, Sr. Barbara reflected on the many types of shoes needed for preaching.  Sturdy shoes to navigate the challenges of being a preacher...  Mismatched shoes that allow us to try on the shoes of others – experiencing their pain, joys and sorrows and bringing peace...  Communal shoes, shared by all, which allow roles to be shifted and shared.  And, finally, no shoes, feeling the ground in holiness... taking off our shoes in reverence of God and the creation that reveals God. 

Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>
I have lots of shoes.  Some are for comfort and convenience.  Flip-flops allow me to check the mail, run around the house or to the grocery store without a lot of effort.  I can quickly take them off or put them back on.  I have hiking boots and trail tennis shoes which provide stability and safety in places that could otherwise be dangerous.  My primary shoes at the novitiate are black patent leather ballet flats.  They are fairly universal, but not perfect for any situation.  They can be worn with jeans, a skirt, capris, or just about anything, but don’t provide the safety that hiking boots do (although they look a lot better!).    I have heels which, although they don’t get taken out often, are perfect for weddings and special events.  I feel beautiful in them and they allow for twirling on the dance floor, but would mangle my feet if worn on a regular basis.  I have slippers that keep my feet warm on cold nights and in the morning when I’m stumbling down the stairs for a cup of coffee. 

To be honest, if I could, I would walk around barefoot all the time. Bare feet are humbling.  Feet are an area of our body that are covered up for ½ the year – more in colder parts of the country.  My feet are a little bumpy and I have high arches.  I have big feet and long toes.  My heels are rough and my skin is dry.  Even with all of that, they are the feet I have and serve me well.  My feet support me as I go to class and ministry.  They can bend when I need to reach the top shelf or need extra support to kneel down.  My feet were ritually washed during the Holy Thursday service at Sinsinawa last month.  This was a humbling experience, especially in the fact that during this 25th Anniversary year of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate, my feet were washed by one of the first women to dream of a CDN.  On a daily basis, we have our feet washed and wash the feet of others – we just don’t call it that.  We are constantly served and serve those around us.  Our washed feet are then enclosed by the shoes we need for the day -- whether sturdy, mismatched, communal, flip-flops or heels – and we go out to bring good news.   Hmm… What shoes will I wear tomorrow?

Jenn Schaaf   

Monday, April 8, 2013

Building a home in God's Love

Adela Langa, Dominican Sisters of Adrian

At the beginning of our time at the CDN, a wise man advised me to not let St. Louis become an airport stop, and I have to confess that I have been spending plenty of time in my internal airport.  And I think that’s what this canonical year has called us to do: to go deeper in our discernment, to dive in the pool of surrendering, to embrace God’s call to new life, to stay open to welcoming the unknown. 

 Airports are fascinating places.  A pause in between directions.  We come to the CDN sort of like arriving in an airport, each with our own bags, only to embark on a new journey together, but one on which we can only take whatever weight the airline we choose allows.  And as needed, we help each other place the bags in the appropriate compartments so that we can enjoy the trip rather than be confined to one position only, which would limit our ability to appreciate the view from various angles.

Our trip so far has had various layovers and each one has been an invitation to see God in all creation and to stretch the boundaries of our own hearts. As an immigrant, I have struggled to accept that for a while I do not have a ‘home country’.  Romania is my country of origin and yet this August is the 10th anniversary of my arriving in new lands.  I have chosen the U.S. as my home for a while but never quite decided that this would be my home as the Transylvanian lands kept calling me back.  Never has this pull been more challenging than during this time here at the CDN.  And yet it makes perfect sense that the time before embarking on a new plane, one looks at all other possible destinations.  

Have you noticed how when in an airport, we tend to look at appealing or intriguing places, and wish that we could explore more places but at the same time know that our chosen destination is the one for which we have prepared and then once again commit ourselves to enjoy the adventures that await us.  Sometimes we would rather take a new direction because we know that ahead of us lies the call to face challenging choices, to enter into difficult conversations, to confront our own limitations and prejudices.  Who wouldn't go to Hawaii on a cold, windy, snow storm type of day?  And yet, how beautiful the view when the snow sets, the wind calms down, and the sun comes out.

I have been neither here nor there, in between home lands, and yet, I have come to see how this is exactly where I needed to be.  In this discerning airport, I have had wonderful opportunities to allow people to love me as ‘the other’ and to love them as one who has been the fortunate recipient of abundant blessings.  

It’s so much easier to wash someone else’s feet and yet so much more vulnerable to allow others to wash ours.  Never underestimate though the loving gaze we receive as we place our naked feet in the hands of our Beloved God.  In this airport I have allowed God to touch me and now I can say with all my heart:  

My Lord and my God.   Your people will be my people because you have loved me first and in your love I have built my home.