Ministry

Why I Wear the Habit

by Frater Michael Brennan, O.Praem.
As a “youngish” religious, I find myself somewhere in the middle of this conversation of clerical
dress, which in my case includes my Norbertine habit.  Some have accused those that wear the
habit of being overly clerical or of wanting to draw attention to themselves.  I, myself, have been
accused of wearing the habit as a way of “hiding behind it.”  This accusation disturbed me and
continues to disturb me.

Recently, I was walking through Northwestern Hospital in my habit on my way to distribute
Eucharist to patients on the oncology floors.  Before reaching the escalator, a woman called out
to me and invited me to join her and her friend in conversation over coffee.  Naturally, I agreed;
both women shared their stories with me.  One is at the hospital holding vigil with her 18-month
old granddaughter, who is battling cancer.  The other woman is at the hospital holding vigil with
her 23-year old son, who is battling a rare reaction to previous medical treatment.  These two
women have become intimate friends over the last several weeks.  They found each other
because their loved ones were having surgery on the same day.  One was drawn to the other
because she was praying the rosary in the family waiting room during surgery.  This public
display of prayer drew them together.  Thus, they have been able to share prayer, coffee and
other means of support for one another over the last few weeks.

In this example, because of my habit—a public expression of our shared belief—I, too, was
drawn into their circle of support.  They felt comfortable sharing beautiful stories of their
struggles and their joys.  We concluded our brief encounter with shared prayer, hugs and
promises to hold one another in prayer.  First and foremost, I thank God for this opportunity to
encounter these women and to share our common faith.  I also thank my community for
encouraging me to wear the habit as a means of facilitating these chance encounters.

In closing, I recognize this is a sensitive issue for many women and men; I offer this story as
part of the conversation, with the recognition of the value and call inherent in each of the individual and communal decisions surrounding distinctive religious dress.
Frater Mike Brennan, O. Praem.

Blog author, Frater Mike Brennan, O. Praem., is an Mdiv student at CTU.

Advertisements

Another Medium

This is a spoken word poem that Melissa, a rising 3rd-year Mdiv student,  performed recently at an open mic night. Unfortunately, the video from that night was too dark, so this is actually a  re-creation of her performance that night…please still pardon the quality of the video 😉 The poem was inspired by her field education experience this past school year as a chaplain intern in a hospital. Melissa is a chaplain intern again this summer at another hospital in Chicago doing her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8XQ2arqIn4

Another Medium

I got a B minus in art in the 4th grade.
I didn’t get another B for 10 years
And I gave up any hope of being an artist for more years than that.
I had tried and been found wanting,
So I would leave the art to the artists
And I would stick with numbers and then eventually with words.
Words could be my medium.
They can be inserted passionately into space
And their absence can adopt as much meaning as their presence
They can speak life or indict injustice
They can explain, and qualify, and be understood.
Unlike my 4th grade art that couldn’t explain itself.
That couldn’t cry out in self defense–
I was trying.
Words. Words. Words could be my medium of choice
While I pondered the possibility of me
An artist.

An artist
I pondered another medium too.
Alongside my precious words, I found another art form that awakened my soul.
That worked with words but also with silence
And that used the 64 colors of the Crayola box
With the 65th color of the breaking of a heart
And the 66th color of the vulnerability of a hospital bed
I feel my words get jealous as I get acquainted with this new medium
But don’t you see, words?
I still love you.
I’m using you right now.
Together we’ll create our art, with this medium of words and silence
And color and breath and heartache and joy.
Our medium is life itself.

I tried out this medium recently.
Furtively, like an imposter, I painted and composed and mixed words.
I stood silently at hospital beds in utter confusion
And in awe of the vulnerability of our human condition
Masked more easily for some.
I entered into the pain of rejection with our sisters and brothers with mental illness.
I crossed myself with fellow Catholics
And waxed rather nonpoeticly when asked deep theological questions.
And I fumbled words of español and uttered honest prayers for our searching.
My heart swelled in the swirling of the graced mystery
I thrived on the poetry of it all.
Or so I thought.

Then I couldn’t leave the room
I felt trapped by his presence
And then trapped by my mistake.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high
And suddenly, my new medium appeared as a fraud.
I was kidding myself.
There’s nothing poetic about ministry, about life.
He was tired of life
And I was just tired.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high.
And my new medium appeared as a fraud.

I wasn’t an artist
And life wasn’t a poem.
I was bumbling and tired and life was a mess.
But outside my own willing
I’ve felt the beauty amidst the mess
The graced mystery swirls and I’m not strong enough to resist
Love has captured me.
So sooner rather than later
The romantic in me can’t deny the canvas being painted
And I want to be a brush.
Coaxed back to art with empathy and concern,
Iron and friends, the trust of my patients and the brushstroke of the Artist.

In my art with a patient
I thank God aloud that God has created her in God’s image.
So she can consider her dignity and worth.
And since art is meant to stir in us
Is it lacking in humility to say
It stirs me to consider that I am created in the that image
Of our artist-God too?
I am a brush and a pencil, a painting and a poem.
Art and artist.
Words and image and life and pain and beauty.
Our medium is life.
Maybe I am an artist after all.

 

This poem was originally posted on Melissa’s blog, like sunlight burning at midnight.

Haikus from Honduras

By Ali Kenny

Three weeks after the wedding, my husband and I flew to Honduras. This was not our honeymoon destination, but rather, the start to our first 13 months of marriage. Since July 2013, Pat and I have been living in an intentional community of six (all women save Pat), speaking broken Spanish, raising 106 orphans in our jobs as godparents, and eating an obscene amount of beans. Needing a creatively quick outlet, I began writing haikus about certain experiences, both humorous and less so. Please enjoy on behalf of all associated with Amigos de Jesus and myself.

School Walk

7/26/13

The three-legged dog

nipped at your ankle. Did he

want it for himself?

A Healing

8/7/13

Grandma was an old

mermaid, beached in blue, bought

by a loud prayer.

Blanca

8/14/13

She saw a coral

snake by the children and took

a rock to its head.

Operation Smile

8/28/13

I have never seen

a palette such as this; eye

in cheek, face value.

Dorm Activities

9/9/13

You pierced your ears

on a black, metal bunk bed;

infected flowers.

Expectations

9/26/13

My fulfillment is

sharp and hard like rocks in the

bag of my belly.

Reality

10/2/13

Why do the children

smell like cheesy toe-jam? The

water is filtered.

A Girl’s Story

12/9/13

The police killed my

mother. She was walking on

birds with a vengeance.

Madrina Dream

12/17/13

I saved you all from

aliens and prostitute

showers. It’s my job.

Another Saturday

1/17/14

The boys were playing

marbles by a dead vermin;

rigor mortis rat.

My Husband

1/21/14

I am a sixty-

cent laborer, flea-bitten

man with a Masters.