Week 5 Prompt: With Gratitude

Dear Casey, Luke, and All Workshop Conspirers,

Thank you so much for your inspiring words and example. I am sorry to say I’ve been a terrible correspondent during the latter half of this workshop, but I have been reading your words with interest and gratitude. What an amazing, diverse, rich group of people! You all inspire me in different ways. I did not write much on the blog, but I can say that under your influence I finished and submitted a proposal for a book based on my doctoral dissertation (defended in 2014 – it only took 6 years!) Under your influence I am working on an article about COVID-19 in Nicaragua. Under your influence I am gathering up courage as I travel from Buffalo, NY, where I’ve been for the last three and a half months accompanying my parents through the pandemic, to Dubuque, Iowa – once again traveling from a lower risk area to a higher risk one. I hope that we stay in touch.

Dear Small Group Members,

I have come to look forward so much to our weekly conversations. Thank you for listening, for sharing, for engaging, for praying with  me. Out of our conversations came an awareness of a desire I have that previously I did not even know I had: the need for a meaningful experience of parish life. I am grateful to you as well as to Luke for inspiring me to seek this in concrete, practical ways.

Dear Rhonda,

Thank you for encouraging me to join this workshop. When we met five years ago and I came to see what you were about, my first reaction was, “Where has this woman been all my life?” You showed me a vision of the Catholic faith that I had always *hoped* existed but never really saw much evidence of. Now, I see that the community I was seeking had always been there, even though I could not see it. Thank you for helping me to find it.

Dear Mamusz and Dad,

It’s been a heck of three months, hasn’t it? I came from Dubuque to Buffalo with the perhaps slightly grandiose intention of saving your lives. For the time being, I think we’ve done it. I trust that you will continue to take every precaution against COVID-19 once I am gone, and to care for each other. I love you so much, even though we stand on opposite side of the US political fence, even though in November two of us are going to be rejoicing and one of us lamenting – or two of us lamenting and one rejoicing – over the 2020 US presidential election results. You gave me your values, and I am living them out in the best way I know how.

Dear Magdalena,

I’ve not had a real hug – a prolonged, warm embrace – from anyone at all since March 8. Of all the people I want to hug, the person I most want to enfold in my arms is you. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that when we see each other next week, but please know how much I wish I could. Thank you for coming into my life, for reminding me not to forget my lunch, for sharing your story with my students, for tolerating my mood swings and overabundance of books, just as I tolerate your unexpected requests for rides and unwillingness to put dish towels in with the general laundry. I’m a little nervous about how we’re going to live together now in this COVID-19 situation, since you interface with the public every day, but I hope we can find a way. Please just know that I love you.

Dear Eri, Alex, Andres, Wendy and Johanna,

Thank you for making me feeling like our parish is a home. Thank you for believing in my piano playing abilities when I myself did not, for encouraging me to sing. Thank you for showing me how to host a Posada. Andres was one of the first people I met in Dubuque – I still remember how, not even knowing me, he gave me a big hug at the entrance to the church, the very first time I came in. I’d like us to get together more frequently and pray together and discuss the Sunday meetings midweek. Would you like that? I think it could be fun.

Dear Jesus,

I’ve done a lot wrong in my life, including not always believing in you. Even now it’s a struggle. I recently read a comment by an Orthodox priest is that the biggest division between Christians is between those who believe in the Resurrection and those who do not. I must admit that I’ve often fallen into the latter category. I doubt your divinity; often, you seem like nothing more than just a really good story…but also nothing less. The world has many good stories, and so far, yours is the best I have found.

While recently talking with an atheist friend about my religious beliefs, I concluded that for me, the most important story in Christianity is neither Christmas nor Easter. It’s Holy Thursday – the moment when you washed the disciples’ feet, when you commanded them to do the same for one another, when you asserted that in this way and no other would they be recognized in the world. This is a story that I believe even the most reductionist materialist might be able to grab onto. I don’t know what will happen after death comes, but you show me the way I want to live now. Thank you for doing that for me, again and again and again.

Love,

Jeannine

3 thoughts on “Week 5 Prompt: With Gratitude

  1. Dear Jeannine,

    I think Jesus would be very happy with your focusing on the foot washing for others and you may not need to worry about the rest. Leave that up to him. I think as long as you try to DO what Jesus asked, you will be fine in his eyes. Blessings.

  2. Hi Jeannine, I love these letters, these notes of love. Here are the phrases that stand out to me:

    “Dear Casey, Luke, and All Workshop Conspirers, Thank you so much for your inspiring words and example.”

    “Out of our conversations came an awareness of a desire I have that previously I did not even know I had: the need for a meaningful experience of parish life.”

    “You showed me a vision of the Catholic faith that I had always *hoped* existed but never really saw much evidence of.”

    “I trust that you will continue to … care for each other. I love you so much,”

    “Of all the people I want to hug, the person I most want to enfold in my arms is you.”

    “Thank you for making me feeling like our parish is a home.”

    “Dear Jesus…The world has many good stories, and so far, yours is the best I have found…you show me the way I want to live now. Thank you for doing that for me, again and again and again.
    Love,
    Jeannine”

    Well said Jeannine. Thank you so much for your inspiring words and example!

  3. Querida Janina,

    What lovely, heartfelt letters. In response to your letter to me, you’re welcome. I’m grateful that I could be a link in the chain to help connect you to this wonderful patchwork collection of loose and messy and wonderful networks of justice-seeking and creative and outside-the-box Catholics. You belong here.

    I’m delighted to know you are responding to Luke’s suggestion and have a desire to deepen and invest in faith-sharing with my comadre’s family. They are beautiful and holy people. Downstairs church is the best kind of church, as you well know.

    What stirs in me as I sit with your words to Jesus: today is the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle (AKA Doubting Thomas). Over and over in Scripture even those who walk with Jesus, who share life with Jesus, who encounter Jesus in the every day, don’t “get it” and doubt and misunderstand. Jesus responded to Thomas’ disbelief with an invitation to touch His wounds – a profoundly intimate and vulnerable exchange.

    What if Jesus sees your struggle to believe not as “doing wrong” but simply responds as He did to Thomas: with an invitation to draw closer and find intimacy with Him – in and through washing the feet of others as well as in and through prayer?

    What if He responds with the same warmth and unconditional love and joy as Andres embracing you?

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