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.
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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?