Maundy Thursday: Washing Feet, Loving, Praying, Forgiving

Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem

The following post by friend, and Following the Spirit vocation discernment series collaborator, Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem is reprinted with permission.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-7, 31b-35

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight? That’s the question Jesus got to answer. Jesus knew the time had come for him to depart from this world. He knew he was going to die. And with the last remaining hours of his life, he chose to love and care for his disciples.

The Bible tells us that Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. So he stood up from the supper table, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples feet. I imagine he knelt down, held each foot tenderly, poured water on it, and wiped it clean. I imagine him doing this slowly, quietly and gently. And I imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of his followers. I bet he said some words to each one. They had the chance to really and truly be with one another. What a way to say goodbye.

Jesus told them, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet…I give you a new commandment. that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Isn’t that interesting? The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Jesus doesn’t say the world will know we are his disciples by the size of our congregations, the strength of our youth programs, the sound of our choirs or even the end to social injustice. Jesus says the world will know we are his disciples when we love one another.

That, my friends, is all about forgiveness. And forgiveness is so hard. Because hurt feelings hurt. Betrayal stings. Disappointment really disappoints. And unmet expectations are so hard to deal with. But Jesus gives us a new commandment. We are to love one another. And this is how the world will know that we are Jesus’ followers.

Tonight we have the chance to serve one another by washing each other’s feet. But only some of us will get to do that. There’s another way to work toward forgiveness. And that is in prayer.

Last week, I lost patience with my daughter because she wasn’t practicing piano the way I wanted her to. I shared my frustration with my spiritual director. He suggested I take it to prayer. He said that Holy Spirit will work in that prayer to change me. So that can become more loving toward her. {I wondered if that was really the solution we needed ;-)}

Someone shared a meditation with me that is helping me become more forgiving and patient. I think we can learn something from this, because it is congruent with Jesus and his ministry among us. Let’s practice a prayer of forgiveness.

Practicing a Prayer of Forgiveness

Breathe deeply, and feel your body relax into the chair or pew. Breathe and sit with yourself. Imagine that you are no longer your ordinary self, but that you can see things from a larger perspective, from the center of your being. From this perspective you feel warmth and tenderness for yourself. Feel your heart as a center of kindness and imagine it contains a purifying fire.

If you are agitated, lonely, scared, misunderstood, angry, anxious, accept this suffering part of yourself. Breathe the dark cloud of your suffering into your heart. Imagine your suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Rest in this space.

Next, bring to mind someone close to you, whom you know is suffering, Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Breathe out healing and love towards them.

Now think of someone you love, but with whom your relationship is more challenging or complicated. You may feel jealous of them, or find communicating difficult at times. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now think of someone you find difficult to love. Someone you find irritating, someone you feel resentful toward, someone who has hurt you. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now, imagine all of these people together – the person you love easily, your friend with whom your relationship is more complicated, the person you find very difficult to love, and you. Hold them in your heart. connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Sit quietly and allow your heart and your breath to rest.

This kind of prayer may feel uncomfortable. But I believe it is the work of forgiveness. We need to work on forgiveness. Jesus says the world will know we are his followers when we love one another. And the only way we can love one another is in and through forgiveness. It’s true in our families, in our friendships, at work and in this community of faith.

***

The night before he died, Jesus could have done anything. He was the Son of God. And he chose to wash his imperfect, difficult, slow-minded disciples’ feet. He transformed the Passover Meal into the Lord’s Supper when he gave them the bread and wine, saying this is my body and blood given for you. Do this for the the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. In the security of this relationship and in God’s love, Jesus was free to love, forgive and care for his disciples. And so are we. There are a lot of things we think we should do as a church, but Jesus tells us we are his followers when we love one another. Amen.

 

“How can we hear and respond to God’s call for our lives?”

Laura Kelly Fanucci

Laura Kelly Fanucci

by Laura Kelly Fanucci, Project Researcher, Collegeville Institute

From the time we are children and teenagers, people ask us questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “What are you going to do with your life?” Sometimes such questions seem exciting and full of possibility. Other times they feel oppressive and overwhelming. Yet at every stage of life’s journey-at mid-career or at retirement, for example-we are full of questions about what to do, where to go, who to be.

How can we learn to see where God is leading us through our journey? How can we become aware of how God speaks to us, often in “tiny whispering sounds”? How do we understand what God wants for and from our lives? These are questions of vocation that call for careful discernment.

Where do we notice God at work- in our relationships, in our work, or in our everyday activities?

The process of discernment is a centuries-old Christian practice of personal prayer and reflection with others that examines our lives in light of what we know about God’s hopes, dreams, and love for us. Discernment involves paying attention to our experiences in order to recognize God’s presence. Where do we notice God at work- in our relationships, in our work, or in our everyday activities? What other voices around us are competing with God’s voice or leading us towards selfish, even evil, inclinations instead of the good God wants for us? What patterns do we notice about how we make decisions: are we careful planners or do we simply fall into situations without much thought? How do we choose? Through discernment we consider our inner thoughts as well as our outward actions; we listen to ourselves, to others, to our community and our context.

Your discernment practices are the ways you reflect on your life and make decisions based on what God reveals to you through your life.

The Christian tradition offers many formal practices of discernment. Ignatian spirituality uses a review of where God’s presence is felt throughout the day (called the examen). Quakers gather “clearness committees” where a group helps an individual to discern God’s voice within them and find clarity about a question or dilemma. The practice of lectio divina that you are learning from the Rule of Saint Benedict is another discernment process with a long history of helping Christians sort out God’s voice from the many other voices that call to us.

But many people already have informal habits of discernment. Perhaps you have a trusted friend that you talk to about big decisions. Maybe you journal or pray or take long walks when you are wrestling with important questions. Your discernment practices are the ways you reflect on your life and make decisions based on what God reveals to you through your life:

“Vocation…comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about-quite apart from what I would like it to be about-or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

…Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live-but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

–From Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

We often think of God’s call as a voice that is heard. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare which means “to call,” and “calling” has traditionally been another term for “vocation.” And people often talk about discernment as “listening for God’s call” or “hearing God’s voice,” as in the stories in Scripture when God speaks from a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17) or wakes someone with a voice in the night (1 Samuel 3:1-18). Yet it seems that most of us do not experience God’s call through a booming voice from heaven that tells us where to go or what to do. Instead, we are called by God through the people and places, the events and the encounters, the challenges and the changes of our everyday lives. God communicates with us through conversations and questions, through friends and family, through our own hopes and thoughts. Maybe we feel “pulled” or “drawn” towards one decision instead of another. Perhaps we see signs or feel led down a certain path. These can all be ways that God reveals our vocation to us.

And vocation is not just God’s call to us; it is also our response to God. We call on God in turn as we struggle to figure out where and how to live out our vocations. Discernment practices are valuable for questions of vocation because they help us develop habits for exploring our relationship with God. While it takes effort and patience to learn how to look and listen for God, such habits of discernment can help us during times of doubt, fear or anxiety about our vocations. Making time and space for discernment can open our ears and our hearts to find God in the “tiny whispering sounds” of our lives.

************************************************************************************************************************

Excerpted from “Called to Life: Reflecting on Vocation” a curriculum we are using as part of the Following the Spirit discernment series. We are happy to be able to share this as a resource from the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. –Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion; Co-Facilitator, “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series

Practices of Discernment: Learning to Listen – Elijah’s Experience

Image from The Foundation Stone; blog by by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg.

The following prayer and questions are ones we will draw on in Session Two of our Discernment Series. Session Two is entitled, “Learning to Listen: Practices of Discernment.” We are grateful to our partners at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research for this curriculum and the resources they offer us.

Then the Lord said,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord— but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”

1 Kings 19:11-13

  • Elijah expected to find God in a powerful force of nature. Instead, God was revealed to him in a “tiny whispering sound.” Have you ever experienced God’s presence in an unexpected way? What did this experience feel like? What did it teach you about God?
  • How do you think God communicates with us? Through other people, nature, music, events, prayer or worship, Scripture or other reading, the needs of the world, or our own thoughts or ideas? Name one or two ways you have experienced God communicating with you in your life. What message did God communicate to you?

“Following the Spirit:” Discernment Tools for Your Life

Princess small group

How do we hear God’s voice?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Monday, February 25, 2013, marks our second discernment session of the “Following the Spirit” series at St. Jane House. This evening will focus on how we tune in and hear God’s voice and invitation for our lives. What follows are a few links to resources for discernment that we are offering here for participants and blog readers alike.

These tools include:

Blessings on your journey!

Lent Begins! Papal Discernments and Vocation Journeys

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Did you know the Pope resigned?”
It was six o’clock on Monday, February 11, 2013. I was sitting outside the Girard House when my “Following the Spirit” co-facilitator Meagan McLaughlin rang with this headlines question.
“Did you know?” she asked. “I’m sitting here with the TV on in the background and just heard this on the nightly news!”

Her surprise was not unlike my own experience in the earlier hours of the day when I first learned of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation – while standing in my bathroom.

Stammering surprise. Overwhelming wonder. Inherent disbelief. Human intrigue. How many ways are there to categorize my initial response? I was disconcerted. I was sad. I was hopeful. I was ultimately curious. “Why did he resign?”

***

I help facilitate people’s discernment processes. Because I work alongside Catholic sisters inviting individuals to prayerfully reflect on their vocations and share their stories of how they hear God calling them,  the story of the Pope’s resignation came to me as a discernment story. I read his words to the religious convened around him Monday morning, and was struck by the following lines:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God..
I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

[L]et us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ…” – Pope Benedict XVI  Vatican, January 10, 2013

His words were bold. Courageous. Inspiring to me.

Writing on this first day of Lent, Pope Benedict’s resignation informs my prayer for the next forty days and nights. As the elected leader of our Catholic church has discerned this historic move, honoring his capacity and calling by God, I wonder how I am called to listen and act on my own discerned capacities, gifts, and abilities? I think of Christ’s journey over the next few weeks, his time in the desert, his relationship with our first Pope, Peter, and I invite this story of forgiveness and mercy and sacrifice and leadership to inspire my own.

What,  in the stillness of my prayer, do I hear God asking of me?
How is my heart inspired by the boldness of Christ’s life and ministry?
What happens if I entrust my life to the Supreme Pastor, as Pope Benedict suggests we do of our beloved Holy Church?

Will you join me in these prayerful questions and vocation journey this Lenten Season?

LIVE + JESUS!


A Discernment Story: Part II

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

When I walked into work that Monday morning, the assistant principal at the school approached me about interviewing for the newly posted teaching position. There were two of us in the Professional Practice School who had been asked to apply — one position. In my heart, I knew I didn’t want the job.

The course load was too much; the job, as posted, was inappropriate for any one educator.   Pre-IB English 9, Comprehensive English 10, and Stage Management were the subjects the teacher was being asked to teach. In my two years at the school, I’d covered all of these courses. Individually, I loved them; combined, they were deadly, in my estimation — or again: a recipe for burnout.

The Stage management course alone meant supervising productions and student work on evenings and weekends at the school. Stage Management was a full time job in a school with an active student body and thriving performance arts classes.  The course spilled over from its allotted time into after school hours involving moving vehicles, rental equipment, construction personnel, and collaboration with other faculty, parents and empowered student leaders.  (In my one year of teaching stage management and taking on this role in after school hours,  I recalled being at the school every day straight for the month of March. I still have vivid memories of looking at my watch at 1am  in the auditorium, while wearing an insulation mask and student graffiti artists painted the back wall of the stage for a rock concert production. It was fun. I was tired. It was late. I didn’t need to sign on for more hours than there were in the day to be a good teacher.) I’d happily teach the  English classes. But these two courses to prep for – combined with the stage management responsibilities, were a no go. I knew my limits.

My cousin Jill’s sage counsel still rang in my ears: “Just interview for the job, Melis. Get the position, before you ask to change it.”  The advice from my elder English and theater teaching cousin, coupled with the priest’s prophetic words at mass at Old Saint Pat’s the day before, (“Ask why you are there. If it’s a not a fit, God will show you an open door.“) gave me a kind of peace in my decision: Yes, I would interview. Yes, I would draw on my experience teaching all the courses. Yes, I would trust that God would show me a way out.

We were building a 17 foot volcano out of chicken wire and paper mache’ that day in the stage management class. I came to school dressed for paint and paper and glue mess, not for interviewing with the faculty and administrative team. I still remember wiping green paint off my jeans when I sat down before my colleagues. I smiled. I was already doing the job they were interviewing me for; the irony and humor were not lost on any of us.

***

My colleague accepted the position about two hours later. I felt relief and a kind of holy gratitude and awe. “What next, God?” I wondered. Surely, I wouldn’t have been given such a strong sign and direct words as that from my dream and the priest, that God would leave me flailing.

Within a week, my full time position at North High for summer school was solidified. I left the seeming  beauty and pristine of a more resourced area of the Twin Cities for north Minneapolis. And my life changed. (The Northside was where I would meet the Vis Sisters after all!)

Epilogue:
I was offered a full time job for the regular school year on my last day teaching summer school at North High. My colleague, who accepted the post we had both interviewed for,  resigned two months into the following school year citing mental health issues. I learned this from our mentor at the Professional Practice School. “Does an ‘I told you so” make you feel better, Melis?” she asked.
“Perhaps vindicated,” I think now.

I thank God for the directions my life has taken,  my journey to north Minneapolis, and the way Spirit has lead me.

Invitation to reflect:
What is your story? How have you arrived in your own particular perch or area of the world? What has inspired your course of action or decision making? How has your heart, mind, and prayer lead you? What sage counsel have you sought in discerning your next best step? How have dreams influenced your journey ? What wise, inspired, pastoral presence or mentorship has influenced, or affirmed your discernment process?

I welcome your words.

A Discernment Story: Listening to Dreams and Preachers

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I did not want the job I was invited to interview for. I’d been teaching at this particular Twin Cities public high school for almost two years — student teaching one fall,  long-term subbing in the spring, interning full time the following year. It was great. But I was tired. I was all over the map in preparing different curriculum for the different subjects I was asked to teach, and getting burnt out from the late nights and weekends I was at the school stage managing or directing after-school speech and musical productions. It was invigorating and overwhelming. I knew my limits, and while I was happy the administrators wanted me, I knew that no one would benefit from a “not breathing” me. In my humble opinion, whoever took the job that the administrative team had posted was on the fast track for a nervous break down, or a very early retirement.

I had a long weekend to discern my application — my “yes” or “no” to interview. I was en route to Chicago when the invite came to apply and interview. I had just dropped off “Ayana” at her mother’s house. (Ayana, who had just qualified for State Speech and was the first student in the school’s history to make it that far in Speech competitions.) As her speech coach, I was ecstatic, but I was also very ready for a break and enthusiastic to hit the road and enjoy a long weekend away from my job and home. I wanted to relax. I was going to spend time with my cousin in the Windy City, maybe drink a beer or two, unwind in her downtown warehouse loft, and revel in the energy of another space and set of human stories. This is what I wanted to do. But then the call came.

For the next 48 hours, I basically breathed questions around my calling to teach at this school. I inhaled pros, exhaled cons. Details of my last two years in the classroom flooded my brain as information; images of joy and mental exhaustion filled my mind and informed my spirit.

I arrived in Chicago, after 6 hours of road trip weariness in thought and contemplation, with a resounding “NO” on my lips. I shared all of this with my cousin Jill.

She, the elder, wiser, more learned and seasoned English and theater teacher, advised me otherwise. “Just interview for the job, Melis. Get the position before you turn it down, or ask them to change the position.” I appreciated Jill’s advice, I took it in as wise counsel and went to bed for two nights with a greater sense of peace. On my third day, I rose in the morning unnerved by a vivid dream.

It was Sunday morning, and as my cousin and I were getting ready for mass, I relayed the dream.
“I was stuck in a closet. It was dark. I couldn’t find my way out. I didn’t know why I was there. I was searching for a door.

My cousin responded, laughing, “Well, it’s not about this place! We have no closets in our condo.”

She was right. But it occurred to me: “What if it isn’t about my physical space, but where I am professionally? I feel trapped, and I’m looking for a way out?”

We laughed; we dressed and went to church.

I’ll never forget that Sunday. My cousin and I walked into Old St. Pat’s in Chicago, to a packed house, looking for a place to sit, feeling we must be very late. Was it the homily we walked into, or just a long pre-amble to the service, I wondered. The priest was on fire.

“You have to ask yourself why you are here!” Father exclaimed. He invited us to to tune into the gospel and apply its lessons to our current life situations. When you go into work on Monday morning, you are going to ask yourself why you are there. Some of you may recognize it’s not a fit for you, and you are seeking a way out. You have to trust that God will open a door.”

I got goosebumps. Jill nudged me. “I think God is talking to you.”

Indeed.

Can you imagine what happens next?

***

Stay tuned for part two!

“Many Callings: One Life” — A list by Amanda Steepleton

Amanda Steepleton, Discerner

Amanda Steepleton, Discerner

Monday, October 29, 2012, marked our third session, entitled “Many Callings/ One Life,” of our “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series at St. Jane House. Discerning participant Amanda Steepleton was our featured story-teller, reflecting on her life and journey to date. She began her narrative with the following abbreviated list of vocations/ roles/ identities that she has known in her 28 year journey. We post it here as fodder for your own reflections. How are you called? What titles, roles, responsibilities would you record as part of your own vocations list?

Vocations/Roles/Identities:

Daughter

Student

Craigslist housemate

Spanish learner

Border/immigration educator

Advocate

Fundraiser

Adult

Friend

Volunteer

Writer

Dreamer

Meaning maker

Depth seeker

Truth speaker

Reader

Advisor

Dog lover

Biker

Servant

Employee/team member

Aspiring veterinarian

Child of God

Listener

Witness/accompanier

Traveler

Explorer

Campus Minister

Singer

Waiter (one who waits)

Two Poems: Two Prayers

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

As Sr. Katherine and I prepare for this evening’s “Following the Spirit” discernment series, these two poems strike me as beautiful prayers for all who discern/ reflect/ contemplate their journeys on this earth. Maybe they speak to you? Let me know your favorite line!

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver

——–

Eagle Poem

PuuPUTTo pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Joy Harjo

From: Beloved of the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude.