Sunday, November 24, 2013

Being All There Wherever There Happens to Be

This post was originally published on Cold Oatmeal, the personal blog from of Mary Paige "MP" Bausch.  As we come into the week of thankfulness, as well as the ending the liturgical year, we wanted to re-post her thoughts.
Hey y'all, sorry it's been a while since I've updated Cold Oatmeal. The last few months have been a bit of a struggle-- certainly some ups and lots of downs. Despite some of these intense challenges so far in my personal life, ministry, and community, I can feel that I've grown since the beginning in August. I've met some great people, explored the city more, and I'm finally getting to know some of the students. 

This last Saturday, I had a wonderful time on my own exploring a beautiful San Francisco landmark-- the Golden Gate Bridge. Prior to getting there, I was in a funky bad and sad mood. Though, when the bus dropped me off that bad/sad mood somehow lifted. This huge monument that I've seen on TV (especially every episode of Full House) was right before my eyes. I was standing on it, walking on it, touching it. I could see all of San Francisco. This was so cool.. and it was a perfectly sunny afternoon. I walked across the 1.7 mile bridge to Marin County where I hiked up to a beautiful look-out spot. The view put a smile on my face. The tourists around me must have thought I was nuts-- "Who's this girl that's just sitting there smiling?" 

A few years ago, in the midst of a crazy semester of school, a mentor asked me, "MP, where do you find God in all of this?" I thought about it for a moment and replied, "God is there." I was taken back from the depth of my own answer; whoa, things just got deep. As I reflected more, I explained that I did not feel as though I was intentionally putting God at the front and center of all that I did. I was involved with this and that-- music, Res Life, college ministries, school, volunteering, and roughly 20 other things. Sure, I prayed regularly and went to mass, but didn't consciously give up everything to God-- as many of my peers testified. However, I did feel God's presence in me and in my life: God is there. Since then, it has been my mantra for my spirituality. 

With the Dominican Volunteer experience-- full-time ministry and living in intentional community with vowed religious women-- there is a lot of 'God time' in Godly places-- praying in my classes, in the chapel at evening prayer/mass with the sisters, at the young adults small group, weekly mass... I'm really racking up those prayer points! 

All of this 'God time,' though, it's made me contemplate my unfulfilled spirituality-- Why am I not feeling fulfilled? Is all of this 'God time' a true reflection of my spirituality? What am I doing wrong? For example, the faith community that I live in has a distinct way of 'doing prayer'-- liturgy of the hours, Dominican style. It's great, beautifully written and sacred, but I don't really get a whole lot of spiritual fulfillment from it. Same with the other forms of God time-- it's great, but I'm not getting a lot. Now, I know prayer shouldn't always be selfish-- what am I getting from it? I, I, I; me, me, me; take, take, take. When you pray with a community, there's the aspect of bringing something of yourself to share with others. With that, I do participate and will continue to do so. On the other hand, shouldn't I get a little something? Why does everyone else seem to be getting something, and I'm not?

Going back to my Saturday afternoon at Golden Gate Bridge... It wasn't just a good ol' touristy time for me... it felt spiritual. Sitting at the way top of that look-out, taking in the breathtaking nature-y view of the pre-sunset... I felt connected to something bigger than myself. This something that I was feeling-- that was making me feel so good, physically putting a smile on my face-- it wasn't something that could be replicated in a church or a chapel or a classroom. For the first time in a while, I really felt like I was whole-heartedly living out my spirituality. That feeling where time stops, you feel real joy, and want to share it with everyone. 

Finding God in the ordinary parts of life, mainly nature, is where I feel most connected. I love singing in the church choir at mass. Prayer with the sisters is a good wrap-up to the end of a busy day. It's wonderful to see everyone in my prayer group. I'll definitely continue to do those things, but it feels so good to have identified an environment that fosters my spiritual needs. Luckily, all I have to do is go outside.

Carla Mae Streeter, OP, writes so eloquently on spirituality. I just love her vision of spirituality-- being real and being present. That's exactly what I was feeling on Saturday.
Spirituality is real presence. It is being real, or fully human, and being really present - to myself, others, nature, the cosmos, the Divine. Said rather tritely, it is being all there wherever there happens to be. 
Carla Mae Streeter, OP

Friday, November 15, 2013

A New Branch on My Family Tree

Tory Nogle currently serves as a 6th grade teacher with Holy Family School in the St. Francis Center.

It is officially the season of being thankful. All around me, I see examples of people saying their gratitude for certain things or people. We are all challenged to think, "what am I really thankful for?"

In sixth grade, the religion curriculum is the Old Testament. This can be really tough to teach to sixth graders because the Old Testament is filled with stories of death and God getting angry. I am faced with a lot of tough questions about God's love after reading stories like Noah's Ark, where as a child it seemed so innocent.  When we read the real text we realize God was mad and he wanted to get rid of those who turned away from His love. Even though these stories can be hard to understand, we are able to pull out lessons that we can apply to our own lives. We learn about God's merciful love and the blessings He bestowed onto those who truly loved him.

Despite the challenging material and vocabulary that comes with the Old Testament, the students really love Religion class. I could chalk it up to I am the best teacher ever, but I would like to give some credit to my students as well because they are able to really think about the lessons and how we can apply them into our modern lives.

Once a week, we take our class time to have a prayer service. I am very honest with them about how difficult the Old Testament can be and how we need to take a break and experience our faith without the textbook in front of us. I have the kids sit in a circle, turn down the lights, and normally open with a reading from Psalms. I ask the students to think about something, someone, or an experience, really anything at all, that they are thankful for and then to also think about a prayer or intention they have. 

The first few times we did this in class, when we went around the room and said what or who we are thankful for, everyone's answer was the same. 

"I am thankful for my family and my friends." 

I was getting so frustrated, at first, because I thought the kids weren't really thinking deeply about this. It was an easy answer, of course, we are all thankful for our family and friends.

Then I realized this is what we all have, even when we have nothing, we have our family and our friends. When we have everything we could ask for, we still need a support system, people with laugh with, cry with, celebrate with, and even mourn with.

At the heart of life, is relationship. 

Starting new, across the country, has had its challenges. I am no exception for being thankful for my friends and family. And now, for the most part, that support system is back in the Midwest and there are times when that fact is painfully obvious.

For example, my birthday was last month. Back home, celebrating my birthday is always so much fun. My older sister's birthday is the day after mine so we always have a big family dinner and then we go shopping together. I was getting really excited for my birthday and my students were even counting down the days. The morning of my birthday came and I woke up to a phone full of texts and facebook notifications. I was overwhelmed how many people were already wishing me the happiest of birthdays. It was a little hard though to realize that I wouldn't get to give my mom or dad a big hug and my sister and I wouldn't be going on our annual birthday shopping trip.

My sadness turned to joy shortly after I got to school and the kids started arriving. One of my white boards was full of birthday messages from the students and I had received flowers, teddy bears, and even purple cupcakes from the kids!

Then, during one of my planning periods, I was sitting the conference room and there was a mom of one of my students and her math tutor working. The mom was acting so weird, very fidgety, constantly taking phone calls, and she kept saying, "This is such a wonderful day!" I was honored she thought it was awesome that it was my birthday, but she stared me down every time I got up to do something. Finally, she got up and closed the door and peaked back in and said, "you stay put!"
When I was retrieved, I walked into the kitchen to find a huge feast and a Minnie Mouse cake! I was almost in tears. The moms did this all for me and they have only known me for 2.5 months! Everyone at the center was conspiring all week just to make my birthday special.

Ever since I arrived in Redwood City, I have felt a sense of family with those I have met. When I am at home with my community, we are like a family. When I go to school, those kids and their parents have welcomed me into the St. Francis Center family. The parents ask me how I am doing and if I miss home. They tell me what is happening in their lives and they give me suggestions of things to do while I am in California.

At the center, I have become part of another family. All of the students and their parents have taken me in like they have known me for years.

I am extremely thankful for my family and friends here in Redwood City. My students really know what they are talking about. 
Ms. Nogle and her class on Halloween

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Saint for All Times

The following post has been written by Michael Fabrizio, who is currently serving at Indiana University.

“Let me be useful and unnoticed, like a broom behind a door.” –St. Martin de Porres
November 1st is a feast in the Catholic Church known as All Saints Day. Fr. Simon-Felix Michalski, O.P., the superior of the Dominican community at St. Paul’s Catholic Center and the Director of Campus Ministry for the Newman Center at Indiana University has been known to say, “If you want to know more about God, read theology. If you want to know how to practically get there, read the lives of the saints.” The saints, in turn, all strived to imitate the life of Christ. Thomas à Kempis says in his spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ, “What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God.” (The Imitation of Christ I,1).

Many young adults today lack a personal relationship with Christ. The issue is often that we don’t even know where to begin. St. Augustine once said, “Christ as God is the native land towards which we travel. Christ as man is the way by which we journey.” (Sermon 123,3). Sometimes it is hard even to turn to Christ, even as a human, and follow Him in our journey towards God. That is why we need the lives of the saints to guide us and serve as our compass, pointing us towards heaven.

November 3rd is the feast of St. Martin de Porres, an extraordinary Dominican Saint who devoted his entire being both to Christ and to the poor. Mystical and mysterious, compassionate and caring. Saint Martin de Porres is known for many things, the greatest of which is being a friend to God’s poor at all times. Saint Martin de Porres knew how to truly be exalted, by taking the most humble places at the table and letting the host of the heavenly banquet elevate him. (see Luke 14:10). Saint Martin was indeed a humble man, of humble beginnings. Born Juan Martin in the city of Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579, he was the illegitimate son of a freed slave of Panama, and a Spanish nobleman. His father abandoned his family shortly after the birth of his sister.

In this period of abandonment, where Martin and his family were barely able to get by, Martin developed an unconditional love for the poor, and for God. In his book Martin: The Legend and Miracles of St. Martin de Porres, author Ernest Haywood writes, “Sometimes Martin was given a few coins and an empty basket to go and do the shopping for the food for the family. Often he would return without any money and the basket still empty. He would be stopped by someone poorer than he and begging for money to buy food. Martin could not help but give what he had to a beggar who had not eaten for days. As he would give away coins for food, he would say, ‘May God bless you.’ Then he would run away so that he would not hear any outpouring of thanks to him.” (Haywood 39-40). As a teenager, he took on an apprenticeship as a barber-surgeon. It was at this time that he would spend much of the night in prayer, a spiritual practice that would only gain momentum as he grew older. It was there also he learned many aspects of medicine. It was not long before Martin applied to the Dominicans, however not as a professed friar, but as a tertiary, or third order. In this sense, Martin was simply a lay helper, not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother. Eventually, his humility did not go unnoticed. Though it took nine years, his example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. (American Catholic Saint of the Day: St. Martin de Porres (

After Martin became professed, he continued to devote his life to helping the sick and serving the poor. A powerful testament to his character was that he treated all of God’s people, paying no attention to color, race, or status. He established an orphanage and a children’s hospital, yet still managed to keep a vigilant prayer life. At one point his priory was in debt. He offered to the prior that he be sold as a slave rather than sell the paintings in the monastery (Haywood 72-73). He is known as well for his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In one account, “…he was praying in front of it one night when the step of the altar he was kneeling on caught fire. Throughout all the confusion and chaos that followed, he remained where he was, unaware of what was happening around him.”(Wikipedia: St. Martin de Porres).

Another particularly extraordinary characteristic of Saint Martin was that he was known to be blessed with “levitation, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures, and an ability to communicate with animals.”(Wikipedia: St. Martin de Porres). One incredible story about his bilocation was an occasion when St. Martin was out ministering to the poor and his prior wanted him to return home. He sent out four friars in four different directions to look for St. Martin. They all found him helping the poor! He was also known as an excellent fundraiser, and worked hard to raise money both for his religious community and for the poor he devoted his life to serving. Yet, his humility remained with him, referring to himself as a poor slave, until his death on November 3, 1649.

We can learn from the life of Saint Martin that a life dedicated to prayer and vigilance is very important, but it is to be complimented with a life of service to others, done in the most humble of ways. As our Lord says, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Saint Martin de Porres was one who humbled himself greatly, and therefore was exalted greatly.

A relationship with the Saints is important for any Catholic for many reasons. For me, St. Martin is a perfect person to have as a patron saint. He understood what it meant to surrender completely to God, to abandon his own self and let God take over. It was only through doing the ordinary, with a great humility and a reverence to God in all things that God eventually took over. It took nine long years for his community to ask him to make his first profession. While we all may want to be recognized as holy people deserving of praise and glory, St. Martin and all of the saints realized that we had nothing to be proud of-save our Lord. Obedience to God is a path to freedom. It is through this that we can become like the Blessed Virgin Mary, and let our prayer be hers: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). St. Martin’s prayer was the same, and he was known to say, “Let me be useful and unnoticed, like a broom behind a door.” Sometimes I wonder if the good I do, even the little things, is noticed. But sometimes it’s better not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, and let your good be done in secret, for our Father who sees us in secret will repay us in secret. Before he left home to join the Dominicans, Martin, in explaining to his mother why he was becoming a lay brother and not a student priest said, “Mother, the Lord has big tasks to be done, and He has small tasks to be done. I just don’t think He intends for me to do the big tasks; therefore I have chosen to do the small tasks. In that way I will be showing Our Savior all the more how much I love Him.” (Haywood, 55).

So what does St. Martin de Porres have to do with me, Michael Fabrizio? Why do I have a devotion to him? Well, I first learned about him on his feast day last year, November 3rd, 2012. A sister asked me if I could do some research on him for her as a favor, and I ended up writing a short report on him that served as the basis for the biographical part of this article. However, no biographical report can describe my devotion to him. St Martin is someone whose intercession I seek because he is someone that I hope to imitate. In my ministry at St. Paul’s, there are many times when I can relate to St. Martin. In Martin’s early years of ministry, he was not a professed religious. He was not under vows and didn’t wear the habit. He simply did his duty and continued to do this his entire life.

I am not a priest. I am not a brother. I am a lay person without extensive theological or spiritual training. If I look at this as constraining, it will be constraining. If I look it as freeing, it will be freeing. Since I don’t wear a habit I am unable to go to campus and just sit in Starbucks and be a visual magnet for students to approach and chat with. I can’t celebrate the Mass. I can’t hear confessions. I am unable to preach at the ambo to the crowd of parishioners. But this is not my mission. The mission of the Dominicans is to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls. I am not a Dominican. I do eat with, pray with, and work for Dominicans. And more importantly, I am of service to the Dominicans here. I am like the simple broom Martin described when I plan out a retreat, and then pray for its success. I am the same way when I slip out of a prayer service early to warm up food to be served afterwards. I am a servant when I listen to a student’s troubles and pray with them, and then let my lips remain sealed, holding everything they have told me in my heart and in my prayers. If all I desire to be is who I am, and who God wants me to be, then I can allow my Lord to work through me. My mission is the salvation of souls. I may not be the one preaching to them, but I can pray for those who are and support them in all they do. And I can recognize that as God forms me into a finer instrument, able to do His work in a more precise way, I cannot claim any of the good that I may do to be my own doing. Rather I am a poor slave of Jesus, and it is only in true servitude that true freedom exists.

O Lord, let me be like St. Martin de Porres, and realize that the only good I do, I do through you. O Christ, let me recognize like St. Martin that there is only you. O Holy Spirit, if it be your will, fill me and allow me to be like my dear Martin and work as your tool, doing all you command of me. O Blessed and Sacred Trinity, All glory is yours for all eternity. Amen

Prayer to Saint Martin De Porres
Most glorious Martin de Porres, whose burning charity embraced not only thy needy brethren, but also the very animals of the field, splendid example of charity, we hail thee and invoke thee! From that high throne which thou dost occupy, deign to listen to the supplications of thy needy brethren that, by imitating thy virtues, we may live contented in that state in which God has placed us and carrying with strength and courage our cross, we may follow the footsteps of Our Blessed Redeemer and His mist afflicted Mother, that at last we may reach the Kingdom of Heaven through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.