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.

Love all things that are

2501-f4f1eToday’s Gospel is one of my favorites. Luke tells us the story of Zacchaeus. Most of us know by now that Zacchaeus has seemingly sold his tax-collector soul the Romans, and was much hated by his neighbors in Jericho.  He knows Jesus is passing through town and for whatever reason – to hide from him, or to see him, Zacchaeus gets up in those branches. I always imagine Danny DeVito playing the role if a movie were ever made! Can’t you just see it?

Jesus, being Jesus obviously spots Zacchaeus. Instead of castigating him as an outcast and sinner, instead of ignoring him or denying him, he does the typically unthinkable Jesus thing and says:

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”

Continue reading

Solitude

Solitude Quote St Therse Shrine ImageI’m still here – just enjoying some solitude. Hope everyone had a great summer (or winter, should you live south of the equator!) and is moving into autumn with joy. (Or spring!)

My friend Cassidy Hall posted this quote on Twitter the other day, which inspired me to create this image. The photo was taken last May when I was at The National Shrine of Saint Therese in Juneau, Alaska.

John O’Donohue was an Irish poet and philosopher, a former priest, and he died suddenly in early 2008. I can still remember the shock of learning of his passing. His legacy lives on in his work. I highly recommend learning more about him. Right around the time of his death this interview was released; it is a great listen and I think you will be enchanted with the conversation.

Speaking of good listens, I highly recommend listening to the work of Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson, and Carl McColman via their podcast, Encountering Silence. You will find soul stirring conversation that invites us all into deeper silence. Sure – talking about silence seems counterintuitive, but I hope you will follow the path of words that will lead you to a remarkable solitude.

Action required

67960967_10157222946030256_1434263191302438912_nNo reason for not writing much lately, just not writing much lately. I was preparing for a seminar I had to give at the Hartwick Seminary Summer Institute of Theology. This was my second visit and I love working with our Lutheran brothers and sisters.

After my session I was the recipient of a ticket to see Show Boat at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown. It has stuck to my heart because of the subject matter – a brilliant musical, well produced with themes of Continue reading

Día de Santiago

Feast of St James collage

Top: Sue, St. James, and me, with Dave looking on from behind us. Bottom: Deb looking as cute as ever, ready to hang out longer and wait for her bag to arrive.

Today is the feast of the apostle Saint James. In Spain he is known as Santiago and today is Día de Santiago. In the city of Santiago de Compostela there will be great celebrations. The streets will be teeming with pilgrims – peregrinos – many who are arriving at the end of their pilgrimage.

our feet in santiago

Our pilgrim feet and a way marker in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

The weight of my heart seems to increase with joy as I recollect my own first steps into the city I had long dreamed of and had finally arrived. Santiago – the city of so many hopes and dreams, at last. Perhaps the longest part of the entire journey was walking from the city boundary to the Cathedral plaza. Thanks to many generous souls I was able to make this journey. Each and every day as I pray I continue to think of all of you who supported me and my gratitude is eternal.

The photos at the top of the post are taken with a statue of Santiago that includes a desk – as you can see! We left Frómista on the morning of October 6, 2016 after a stay at a truly terrible albergue. Today that stay makes for some hilarious storytelling, but it was not funny then and  we were grateful to shake the Frómista dust from our shoes and to press onward.

Santa Maria Blanca Villacazar

Santa Maria Blanca Villacazar de Sirga

A few hours later we stopped in Villalcázar de Sirga where we had something to eat at a small cafe and visited a beautiful church, Santa María la Blanca. On our way out of town we stopped at the statue for picture taking. Deb was waiting for her backpack, which she had shipped to this slightly-more-than-halfway point in our journey. Leaving her behind, Sue and I departed and made our way to Carrión de los Condes. If Frómista was one of our least favorite places, Carrión de los Condes ended up one of our favorites. – but that’s another story for another day.

Web-cabecera-rojoRecalling the Camino always reminds me of the joy and goodness all around. The hardest days and worst places perpetually giving way to the sweetest memories, challenge yielding to joy without fail. On this feast day of St. James we are reminded that we are all pilgrims on a path, and that while we may journey separately, we are united in so many ways.

May el apóstol, as Santiago is often referred to in Spain, bless you without end as you make your way.

¡Buen camino y ultreia!ultreia

Martha my dear

christ-with-mary-and-martha-johann-friedrich-overbeck

Artist Johann Friedrich Overbeck

Poor Martha, I feel for her – I’m pretty sure that most women do. She’s frustrated in today’s Gospel because while she is working her rear end off, her sister Mary is sitting there at Jesus’ feet listening, learning, adoring.

Did you ever notice how often we see rivalries played out in Scripture, even among those who love one another? I am guessing that this struggle between the sisters is not a new phenomenon. This particular struggle always intrigues me though, because so many of us get ourselves in a twist because we feel like we are doing more work than someone else. Also, we tend to want to explore the tale as a binary one, good-bad, black-white, right-wrong, winner-loser. Jesus always has other ways for us to understand everything in ways we do not typically imagine.

It might appear that Jesus declares Mary the winner for choosing “the better portion.” That does not make Martha the loser. What Jesus seems to be offering Martha is an invitation to sit down and spend some time with him, not to admonish her, but to bring her closer.

So many of us suffer from the need to be “doing” something all the time. This summer I have spent more time than usual on my deck reading a book – or doing nothing but contemplate the beautiful world around me. It has been heavenly. Typically I am  filling my days with this and that, having always been a poor budgeter of time, among other things. Busy-ness can seem to quell our anxiety, and I do know that is a big thing for me. Quiet time allows my fears and worries to creep in. Also, due to that poor budgeting of everything, I sometimes fritter time away with busy-ness of a non-essential sort, only to have to dive into the rush of things that need to be done. It is an endless cycle of the white noise of movement. And it keeps me from God.

On top of everything else, we live in a culture based on ever increasing productivity and efficiency. Achieving things is the source of pride, a lack of it a source of shame. Sitting at the feet of the Lord might not seem the best use of time. It might seem otherwise to Jesus however, as he notes to Martha regarding Mary.  Even in church the temptation to “do” more is evident and it seems like a form giving. It is indeed a form of giving, but the trick is to discern the balance of doing and being. That is a tough spot to discover, but one we might all well spend some time seeking out.

For what it is worth, our first reading tells us the story of Abraham and the visitors. As he welcomes them and sits with them, everyone else, his wife Sarah included, is busy in the background, unseen by the guests. This scene offers us an interesting prelude to Mary and Martha, the story of those busy “working” and those who sit at the feet of angels or God. In this tale, it would appear that everyone busily at work is there because Abraham set them in motion. One of the visitors asks about Sarah, and offers a mysterious statement about returning in a year, when she will have born a child.

In the end we are left with our own discernment of our relationship with God and with how we spend our time. Who among us cares to think about how all we have to do in order for God to love us is to simply be… What a thought! Yet that is at the very heart of Luke’s Gospel and the message of Christ. That’s not an order to stop accomplishing things, we all have some kind of work to do. It is however something to hold in heart and mind as we contemplate our relationship to God and to one another.

What choices will we make going forward? Can we sit still and participate in a holy gaze of love, heart and ears open and available to God alone? It is not easy to choose to do this “not-doing” but what might we miss if we stay in the kitchen.

(As I wrote this I kept hearing this Beatles song in my head, so I will include it along with the lyrics. It obviously influenced how I titled the post!)

Martha, my dear
Though I spend my days in conversation, please
Remember me
Martha, my love
Don’t forget me
Martha, my dear

Hold your head up, you silly girl
Look what you’ve done
When you find yourself in the thick of it
Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you
Silly girl

Take a good look around you
Take a good look you’re bound to see
That you and me were meant to be
With each other
Silly girl

Hold you’re hand out, you silly girl
See what you’ve done
When you find yourself in the thick of it
Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you
Silly girl

Martha, my dear
You have always been my inspiration
Please, be good to me
Martha, my love
Don’t forget me
Martha, my dear.

Neighbor

Today’s Gospel from Luke is a familiar story – that of the Good Samaritan. I was well into my adult years before I learned that Samaritans were not upheld with respect by the people of first century Palestine. That’s why every time you hear about a Samaritan or a visit through Samaria in a Gospel, pay attention. That is a big part of what you are being taught by Christ.

It matters that it is not the priest or the Levite who helped the wounded man. The men who are those upholding the “law” keep on going because touching someone would likely have violated the law. There was ritual cleanliness and certain guidelines to follow as with any legal situation, church law or civil law. The Samaritan however, stops to help when he sees another human – a neighbor – in dire need.

Let’s take a quick look at that Continue reading

Rerun

This post is a rerun of something from 2017. Randomly chosen, I find myself struck by it as I got into a “thing” on social media yesterday. How we treat one another matters. FWIW, I poked the bear, the bear struck back hard. Score? As  I see it, Bear-Nothing and Fran-Nothing. In the end, although I found the bear unkind, no one wins except for cruelty.  In any event, welcome to the blog if this is your first visit.

Camino Edith Wharton QuoteIt has been a little while since I have blogged. I’ve been either too tired, too busy, or too uninspired.  Anyway, I was reminded of this quotation from Edith Wharton today, always a favorite one of mine, so I made a meme out of it.  That got me thinking about how often my own desire and willingness to live as Wharton’s words suggest.

With the reminder that when I write, I’m talking to myself allow me to begin. Right up front we are reminded that being unafraid of change is step one.  Change?! Unafraid of change?! Oh sure, many of us will say we are fine with it… that’s generally the case as long as it is a change of our own choosing. Any change that chooses us? Not quite so easy to like that kind of change. That goes for change that comes forth as challenge in both large ways and small, as well as the less obvious invitations to grow. You know, like the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Those kinds of changes… are they so welcomed? Not always.

Having said all of that, I have long believed the words of a little wallet card that came into my possession in the mid-90’s. It read said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” The moment I read those words, I immediately hated them. Yet, something in them caught my attention, the slightest little tug Continue reading