Bus Blog: “What Am I to Do?”

Sister Cecelia Cavanaugh
October 01, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about “posture” these days. One of the “postures” I’ve pondered is leaning, specifically leaning in. At the first Town Hall in Erie, I watched all the participants pay exquisite attention to those who were speaking, either in a large group or in our break out groups. Perhaps because of computer volume settings or connections, many literally moved their faces and ears closer to the screen. I wondered if our human need for connection and tactile communication might have contributed. I marveled at how all those present at the Town Hall were truly present in their bodies as well as their spirits as they leaned in toward each other. Later that week, I attended the Town Hall in Buffalo. In addition to the attention I’ve already described, in my small group, we worked together to help one member think about how to respond to a particularly difficult conversation. Our listening and suggestions truly provided support and something and someones on whom she could lean. During this week’s Dialogue Across Geographic Divides, I marveled at the leaning in I witnessed among six women ministering in urban and rural settings in my home state. As each described the reality and particular challenges faced in her circumstances, the others leaned in and offered suggestions and resources. They really could not help themselves! They had to reach out, lean in and network. I found this very heartening and supportive.

This morning I gathered with a group of sisters for our three times a week prayer and sharing and the post-debate pain was palpable. I watched tear stained faces and listened to hurting questions and petitions. “Lord, have mercy!” “God, help us!” I felt my own constant question, “What am I to do?” resonate with the prayer and questions of my sisters.

Yesterday, September 29, was the feast of the Archangels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. I listened to the first reading, so familiar to us who love the hymn “On Eagles’ Wings.” As I pondered God’s promises of safety, defense, prosperity, safety and long life, I returned in spirit to Matamoros, Mexico where I volunteered in the refugee camp created by the US “Migrant Protection Policy.” I wondered how my dear neighbors living in simple tents for over a year were experiencing the presence of angels. Then I recalled Michael’s name and question, “Who is like God?”’ and realized again my call – our call – to be “like God,” to be angels in this world. How is this about posture? Well, a memory helps me respond to the President’s words last night addressed to the Proud Boys, “Stand down; stand by.” Reading that they rejoice in this order and that they’ve already had patches made with the quote dismayed me. I prayed, who has asked me to “Stand by?” With whom and for whom do I assume such a posture?

When I was a young sister in formation, we took classes with George Aschenbrenner SJ. Discussing the vows, he told us that Saint Ignatius of Loyola urged the Jesuits to live the vow of celibacy or consecrated chasitity “like the angels.” Father Aschenbrenner exhorted us NOT to try to be bodiless cherubs flitting around, but rather to understand angels as “mighty, concentrated personalities, standing always in God’s presence, ready to do God’s bidding at a moment’s notice.” This is the sense I have of St. Michael, for sure. It describes the strength, dedication and focus of those I met in Matamoros – the persons forced to live there and all who minister to and advocate for them. I believe it is the posture I am being called to assume, into which I pray to grow. It describes the community I experience as a Nun on the Bus.

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