“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.”
Like many of my sisters and brothers in Christ, I am taking a break for Advent, trying to make some space in my life just to listen. While praying Friday night vespers to Mary, Mother Immaculate, la Virgen de Guadalupe, with friends at the college last weekend, this passage from the second letter of Peter got a hold of my imagination. Lately I’ve been studying Paul, both trying to understand the early Christian communities better and trying to reconcile personally with Paul himself, to understand his mind and his priorities as a missionary who had a deep conversion experience of the Risen Jesus.
As Paul made his impassioned visits to Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Thessalonia, Jerusalem, and beyond, he was animated by the expectation that the world would end soon. God’s reign was coming! Meanwhile Peter, the Rock, who so often errs in the Gospel narratives, seems to have it right here. God’s rhythms are surprising to human beings. Sometimes too slow for our taste, sometimes breathtakingly fast, a conflagration, an earthquake of change. But, it seems, with an all-expansive logic: that all should come to awareness, that all should be saved. Goats with sheep, demons with angels, lions with lambs, sinners with saints, wheat and chaff together. God doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
In this spirit of patience and listening, I share with you a spiritual journal entry from 14 weeks ago, the 3rd of September. Much has happened since then in our world, but the vision is the same:
3 September 2016 , Saturday night
I spent the day entirely by myself, except for the people I saw on walks and in transactions – and of course a few text exchanges. It was nice, after a full weekend and week with others.I’ve noticed some unrest in my heart and gut lately – some sense of discomfort, openness – like grasping at air, or dangling. The new wines, old wineskins parable has been in my thoughts frequently. Sometimes moments that were uncomfortable, or indeterminate, play over and over again in my mind. It’s like I’m trying to figure out what to make of them – how they fit into my story of myself, the story of who I am and where I’m going. Sometimes they are moments when I was vulnerable, or revealed in some way. It was like that at the end of my conversation with Z on Tuesday – we talked about various options for action and questions of what to do next, most of which were the same options and questions as in our conversation in January 2015 – write an article for America or Commonweal, use Facebook or Twitter or create a blog, and decide whether I am trying to convene a discernment group, or an action committee, or a grassroots movement that will bring the reality of Jesuit-called women more into public language and discussion.
The same questions for my training also came up – how can I acquire the training, the knowledge, the connections and skills to suit me for this organizing work? I do not have them yet. I want a Masters in Philosophy (First Studies), an MDiv, and a PhD in theology. Altogether, probably about $350,000 and 11 years of training, of life lived. And yet I can’t wait to do the work – I need to be doing it now with an open heart, even if I find myself inexperienced and not as qualified as I’d like to be for the job. I want to practice discernment with guidance and companionship. That is probably the core skill needed in order to seek God’s leadership in this, along with the ability to have some detachment from my thoughts as they pass.
And also, as before, I was asked by Z, “What are you trying to do?” with my writing, as well as “What does the Society of Jesus have to offer you that women’s orders modeled on its constitutions or employing Ignatian spirituality, do not?”
At this moment, one answer I could give is “freedom, mobility, investment, and equal opportunity.” Another simple-minded answer I might give is, “to be a Jesuit.” To give my life to Jesuit apostolates, with the support of Jesuit structures, missioning, and community life. It rings true.
And what am I trying to do with my writing? I am trying to get Jesuit women in one place, to share energy, ideas, and prayer – to seek God’s will, God’s dream for us, together. Right now, the women who want to be Jesuits are called to a form of spiritual life that may not yet exist. (This is where I need to be really flexible and open to the movements of life that spring up as my writing stimulates discussion – I need to be open to movements and ideas that do not look like my exact vision, because the Holy Ghost, with her bright wings, is in these.)
Not only a form of spiritual life, but a particular form of training and community that will allow us to become bridge-builders in the Church – willing to engage with and abide by traditions, while remaining merciful, open, learning in all forums and all environments in which we find ourselves. We need to be well-grounded in traditions of theology and philosophy, as well as art, popular culture, politics, and personal experience, in order to be able to bridge-build in this way.
The work is already being done by so many – all that we need is each other, that connection with each other, to embody the relational God who is loving us constantly and mutually, into what we will next become. A way of organizing ourselves, a name, a container, will be like a lamp for the flame, a lens gathering the light, to make it more powerful, more clear, more purposeful, more of use. For the Greater glory of God.
In order to be a vessel for this, I really need to be able to let myself go. To look after the needs of others co-equally with my own. To listen, even to what I think is impossible from past experience, like Peter with the nets. He still cast, even in his disbelief.
I felt so vulnerable at the end of that conversation with Z – I didn’t know what to say, and my words had revealed that I still desire most of all to be like Ignatius – and also, that I think I can be – that I could gather a group of companions willing to embark on a journey together that is both simple in purpose and deeply mysterious – that will be open to and guided by the Holy Spirit, by Hagia Sophia, our God relational and spacious.
Exposed like this, I had no words left. I could only look at him silently. I could feel my deer-in-the-headlights look. ‘See you, sweetie,’ he said, maybe feeling a little sorry for me.
I might need to get used to that look, if I am really committed to persevering in this. As L said, it is important not to look at this or present it as one person’s idea, but as a movement of that Spirit (‘which, of course, it is,’ she said). It will help me, in those moments, to remember that my idea is not so much a radical inspiration from one person, as one springing, of many, of God’s idea. And that in expressing it, I am ushering in this thought or dream of God’s, with others. I am only helping to enrich, gather, focus an idea, a movement that is like water, welling up – like wind, sweeping through, picking up. There is no way I can own it, but I can let myself be moved by it, and in turn move others.
All this makes me think of the old man I saw in his bright purple wide-legged suit and fedora at St. Mark’s coffee shop. With his presence, being kind, blessing sneezes, saying hello, and watching people. Walking in, walking out – just being present, just willing to belong.