About Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Pilgrim, writer, speaker, retreat director, social media minister, church secretary - it's hard to believe I was once a corporate executive, but I was. Married to an incredible man, have a spectacular stepdaughter, dog and cat.

Bridges and walls

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Bishop Kicanas distributes the Body of Christ during mass at the border wall in 2014.

In December of 2018, the Republican controlled Senate in Washington passed a short term funding bill that would keep the government open until February 2019. The president initially indicated that he would sign it. This was not ideal, but anything, as we know, is better than a shutdown. This bill passed by voice with no dissent – no dissent at all. It was contentious to get there, but this was something that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to pass to get through the holidays without a shutdown.

The president refused to sign anything that did not give him his wall money.

For reference, it should be remembered that Continue reading

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Is there another way?

 

Epiphany means many things, but in the context of this day, it is a kind of spark of understanding something new. In that way, the Magi follow a star in the sky and make their way to the Holy Land, wanting to see the newborn king. It would make sense to them to check in with the current king, after all, they themselves were kings, right?

Clearly Herod was not too happy to hear about another king. He was not so secure in his power, he was angry and defensive, he had a huge ego, and he wanted things his way, Continue reading

Christmas

Theology Mary Fatherly JosephI looked around for some information about this stunning image, which can be found on the cover of a volume called The Edinburgh Companion to the Bible and the Arts. Originally I saw it on Facebook with this explanation:

Here is an Icon brought to my attention by a colleague of mine.
It is an Icon of 15th century located in France.
Mary is inquiring the Torah and Joseph keeps Jesus in his arms.
It is a nativity that goes beyond many stereotypes. It speaks of tenderness with regard to Joseph and of theological skills concerning Mary.
A Nativity that appeals for an updating in our manger scene!
Therefore, merry Christmas. Beyond stereotypes!

9780748639335However, it is indeed a 15th century image, but not of the Virgin Mary reading the Torah, but rather she is reading the hours. The image is fittingly called the Nativity, the Virgin Reading the Besancon Book of Hours. Despite its initial explanation to me being more exotic, either way, it is a beautiful image to behold and pray with as we enter Christmas.

 

48420590_10216144873788277_1834312285091266560_nThis is another nativity image that caught my eye, something known as Isa ibn Maryam, meaning Jesus, son of Mary. In Islam, Mary is highly revered. Jesus is seen as a prophet, but not as God himself. A surprisingly small amount of people know or understand how Jesus and Mary are understood by our Muslim brothers and sisters. There are so many links about this that I am hard pressed to find the most accurate one to show you. My best advice is to go find a Muslim friend and talk to them about it, or visit a local mosque. If your church has any interfaith connections, this should not be hard to do. If your church does not have interfaith connections, this would be a great time to explore starting them!

Refugee-NativityAnd then this scene of Jesus born in a tent to refugees, as a reminder of the era in which we live. People traveling, not because they want to, but because they have to, and people not welcomed when they arrive. There are no shortage of reminders to our current environment when we pray with the Nativity.

Christmas is here. Christ, born in the lowliest of circumstances to people at the lowest rungs of what is known as acceptable society. If we do not use this time to reorient and refocus ourselves, we miss yet another moment when God calls out to us to pay attention.

Jesus came so that all might be one. Jesus said to love one another. Jesus entire story from birth to death to resurrection is an instruction in mercy, compassion, outreach, and hope.

When will we ever learn? How about today?

May your Christmas dawn in hope this year, and may you carry hope forth for others in the days to come.

Blessings to one and all! Peace on earth! Goodwill to all people! Jesus asks for it, it is up to us to do it. This year, may it be so.

 

Shadow and light at the border

1531_Nuestra_Señora_de_Guadalupe_anagoriaToday there was a bit of  row in the Oval Office. Apparently if the wall is not built, terrible people will be streaming over the southern borders and making America worse by the minute.

The timing of this conversation and the impending (read: horrible) government shutdown has been on my mind. I just finished a book that took my breath away at every turn, a book that had me crying as I read its last words on its final page, a book about the border.

Add to all of this, today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. Of the many apparitions of Mary, the Mother of God, she may just be my favorite. Entire volumes have been written about her, so this short blog post won’t go into all of her details. If you need to know more about her, she is easily found.

For the sake of our post today, let it suffice to say that Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a universally present and beloved presence Continue reading

Waiting in hope

EDIT Meseta hopeBe full of hope today, be as full of hope as you possibly can be.  Times are tough, they are very hard everywhere for so many of us. Even in the times of greatest joy, things can be challenging and hope is the fuel that propels us onward.

Motivational sayings often steer us towards optimism – conflating or confusing it with hope. Hope is not the same as optimism, just as joy is not the same as happiness. Hope is the warmth of a flame that is in all of our hearts, sometimes a roaring fire, other times an ember that we fear may go cold.

Optimism is not a bad thing – it is necessary, but it should not be confused with, or worse yet, replace hope. Optimism is something in our head, something that we can think and conjure with a mindset.  Hope lives within each one of us and radiates something essential to ourselves and to our world. Optimism can help us with develop endurance, but it is hope that strengthens our soul for the trying times when we must wait.

Hope is strengthened in silence and stillness, nurtured in its dynamism and grace through quiet, meditation, creativity, and prayer. This is how we approach the dark days of December, with this inner posture illuminating the world around each one of us, illuminating the world within us, as we await in hope the dawning light of Christ.

Stay, wait in hope

(Please be aware that this post contains one image that might be challenging for some.)

rosesToday is the First Sunday of Advent. It is also the 38th anniversary of the martyrdom of Maura Clarke M.M., Jean Donovan, Ita Ford M.M., and Dorothy Kazel O.S.U. in El Salvador.  Known as the Four Churchwomen of El Salvador, they gave their lives to the Gospel, even unto their last breath. Jean Donovan, the one lay missioner among the sisters wrote to someone right before her death. Her words remind us of the challenge of watching and waiting in the name of Christ in a violent and war-torn land.

“The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme and they were right to leave…. Now I must assess my own position, because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave. I almost could, except for the children, the poor bruised victims of adult lunacy. Who would care for them? Whose heart would be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.” Continue reading

Soul Seeing

Soul Seeing book Nov 2018A brief post – I am so happy to announce that an essay of mine has been included in a new compilation from Orbis Books. Soul Seeing, Light, Love, Forgiveness is a beautiful collection of essays and reflections from a wide variety of writers. Many of these works have been featured in the Soul Seeing column at the National Catholic Reporter, which is lovingly shepherded by Michael Leach, Publisher Emeritus at Orbis Books.

How grateful I am that “It All Tastes Like Love,” my Soul Seeing column from 2011 was selected to be included in this volume. It is an honor to be among the giants found in these pages. And I cannot lie – I am recommending this book. Not because of me, because of all the light, love, and forgiveness you will find in its pages!