Fr. Charles A. Frederico, SJ
Trees continually grow. When they stop growing,
they die. Like trees, we also grow, as long as we live. We do not increase in
height; we certainly do not put out additional appendages, such as arms or
legs, but even physically our bodies continually grow new cells that replace
old ones. But, as embodied spirits, our main area of growth is not physical,
but in our thoughts, values and motives and in the ways we fulfill our purpose
Most of us enjoy the presence of trees in all
their variety. They are not only pleasing to our eyes, but also connect us with
nature. We perceive more than the bark and branches, roots and leaves, and are
at times moved with appreciation for the gift of life even in a form so
apparently different from our own. We plant trees, and nurture them, but we do
not make them. Like trees, we too are not self-created. Though we are unique
individuals, we are communal and interdependent, which often brings us much joy
and pleasure, though at other times sadness and pain as well. Through our
interactions in all manner of relationships, we can recognize our own
connection with nature – human nature.
Though we appreciate the beauty of shrubs,
flowers and grasses, trees are easier to identify with as individuals. We can
see in them many qualities that we value highly. Trees remain steadfast in all
kinds of weather, favorable and unfavorable; they do not try to appear as any
other tree, but retain all their own characteristics whether they are in an
urban or country environment. We admire in trees some of what we respect in one
another: continually adapting to present circumstances, always reaching for the
light, no matter what the surroundings, and never ceasing to grow.
Though trees do not of themselves move from place to place as we do, yet we use the metaphor of “grow where you are planted” in praise of the human virtue of being one’s self in all the unchanging or unchangeable personal qualities that are ours, as well as within the circumstances of our environment. Trees are not considered “stubborn” for
being the kind that they are, nor are we, when we make decisions according to
the values that make us who we are. We adapt, we change, we learn through
experience, but the “tree rings” of our growth are manifested by the way we
take responsibility for all that we say and do.
We do not expect to live as long as oak trees or giant sequoias, but we hope to proceed to a mode of life in which we will at last be able to fully appreciate all of God’s creation, and relate in utter clarity with the very Person of God. For now, we can appreciate the gift we have, as our kind of creature, that enables us to look at trees with our eyes,
but move from physical sight to internal thoughts and uses of imagination that
characterize our ongoing human growth. Our roots are directly in God, while we
are yet part of this earth; our growth is not primarily towards the light of
the sun, but into the very person of God.
Trees turn out beautifully as long as they are
within the proper environment. Our beauty depends upon our freely chosen
response to God.
Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the
Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara
University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as
LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High
School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit
Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at
the Newman Center in Honolulu.
Throughout his years of ministry, he has
continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,
while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not
surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment
Dear Campus Ministers,
Warm greetings from the Jesuit Conference! This week, we are pleased to unveil a short mini-documentary from the Ignatian News Network on Fr. Walter Ciszek, available
now on our Jesuit Vocation Promotion Month website at www.jesuit.org/ciszek.
The video showcases the Ignatian News Network’s extensive archival research on
Fr. Ciszek and features an interview with Jesuit Father Daniel Flaherty, Fr.
Ciszek’s co-author on his two autobiographies. A brief post on the video is
currently the lead story on our blog, National Jesuit News.
Please continue to watch for updates from the Conference as Jesuit Vocation Promotion Month progresses, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.
In the fall of 2010, one of the women in our Love & Lunch support groups, Cecilia, was dying. She was our translator. Because our support group which had sustained her through years of an abusive relationship was located in a church, she joined that church. In the two years of her life, Cecilia had gone through RCIA and been confirmed, attended every retreat we had and translated it into Spanish, and was a quiet spiritual force in our lives. She fought cancer for 9 years, and then it went to her brain. We supported her through the end or her life, helping her get into the same Extended Care Center as her mother, moving the support group to her bedside, giving her the first birthday party she ever had in her life, and loving her to death. We paid for her funeral, and housed her sister, Rosita who came in from out of town. Rosita made the rounds of all Cecilia’s support groups, meeting all her friends and hearing their love for her sister.
The Tuesday after Easter 2013, I got a call from Cecilia’s sister, Rosita. She told me their mother, Blanca, was now dying. I arranged for her transportation from the airport to the hospital, and waited for her call to bring her to her place for the night. She called once, left no message and when I tried to call, a weird busy came on. When she couldn’t contact me, Rosita resurrected her contact with her long lost brother to stay with him.
I also contacted the various people who supported Cecilia and Rosita 2 and ½ years ago. Their relationships are being resurrected, and their friendships renewed. The times we shared with Cecilia are always with us, and Rosita’s presence reminds us of Cecilia’s journey from the cross to her own resurrection.
When Rosita went to visit her mother on the first day, she looked at the whiteboard where they listed her mother’s caregivers. Imagine Rosita’s surprise when she saw the name of the Nurse’s aide (see picture) written just the way her sister used to write it. Sign of resurrection!! Cecilia is still taking care of their mother.
The trust and reliance of this family on God for sustenance is inspiring, and the response of the community to Rosita’s bravery in coming to be with her mother with no place to stay and no plan except to see and be with her mother all put me in mind of the community of believers that were present at the first resurrection. They were challenged to trust God in their fear.
Jane, one of the women in our Love & Lunch group called during Rosita’s visit with the Love & Dinner group to say that she needed prayer for her son’s back pain. Earlier today Jane had expressed her pain around the death of her younger son many years ago, and we were able to listen and pray for God to be present in her memory. She was able to receive that grace, experiencing that painful memory in a new way. At the meeting this morning Jane had spoken about Simon of Cyrene and how he had been forced to help Jesus to carry the cross, and how we joyfully and lovingly play Simon for one another.
Always intermingled, the cross and the resurrection. Daily we are volunteer Simons helping those we serve to carry their crosses, knowing that our service is to be escorts to the resurrection, and in escorting those we serve, to experience our own daily resurrection, new life, and deepening love. We do what we can to follow in those precious footprints left on the trail to Calvary so many years ago, leading to the Kingdom not of this world.
Please pray for Blanca as she enters her final days, and for Rosita as she escorts her mother to her sister Cecilia’s side. And remember our women and myself who are being Simon to Rosita and her mom. And yourselves as you escort those you serve to the place God is calling them to be.
Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector and Volunteer, as Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY. She is a pediatric home care nurse, and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings
Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J.
My strength and my weakness are in your hands; preserve the one and heal the other.
My knowledge and my ignorance are in your hands; where you have been closed to me, open my knocking. Let me remember you, understand you, love you. Increase these things in me, until you restore me wholly.