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Dear friends,

This past weekend we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala and Jean’s Eleventh Anniversary of Priestly Ordination. I did not want those events to go unheralded.

St. Mary of Magdala was a friend of Jesus and then the “Apostle to the Apostles.” Elizabeth Johnson relishes calling people like her “Friend of God and Prophet.” It prompts me to wonder if we would describe ourselves as Friends of God and Prophets. That is God’s dream for us! Sr. Ita Ford, Maryknoll missionary martyred in El Salvador said, “Find something worth living for, even worth dying for.” Mary of Magdala found that in Jesus—he became her inspiration, his mission became her mission. It seems like she understood him better than some of the Twelve.

Last Saturday, Jean and I and a number of members of our community went to the rally for the Nuns on the Bus—Friends of God and Prophets. The Nuns journey this year was to the two political conventions. Sr. Simone Campbell presented a flyer contrasting the positons of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She cleverly said, “We are not endorsing either candidate. We are asking them to endorse us and our mission to “mend the gap” between the 1% and the 99%.” Sr. Simone has developed quite a relationship with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. As you might imagine, after many encounters over several years, their idea of budget priorities are still diametrically opposed. However, Sr. Simone revealed that the Holy Spirit prompted her to take a new tack with Paul Ryan. He is married with four children. His family lives in Janesville, Wisconsin while he works in Washington and then flies home every weekend. She said to him that she was trying to imagine what it was like for him to be so far all week from this family that he loves so much. Being on his side, trying to enter his world and his heart space changed their relationship. They still disagree on budget priorities but it changed the level of their conversation. Love and the Spirit does such things. How are you and I called to be Friends of God and Prophets? So she began The Nuns on the Bus tour in Janesville, Wisconsin with the message “Mend the Gap.” Many of the 99% probably could not even get the weekend off let alone fly home every weekend to be with loved ones. (I invite you to go to the website www.globalsistersreport.org where there are several articles about the Nuns on the Bus tour including four social justice virtues for the 21st century: joy, holy curiosity, sacred gossip and doing our part.)

How are you and I called to reach out to the poor and marginalized? Our Spirit of Life theme song says, “And God will delight when we are creators of Justice and Joy.” How do we work for justice and bring joy? The call of each of us to serve is different depending on what is happening in our little corner of the world. How can each of us work for justice and bring joy?

The second important event this weekend is Jean’s eleventh anniversary of ordination as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. I will always remember how many women have come up to her and said, “Thank you for doing this for us!” I am sitting here at Jean’s desk typing this letter and before me is a picture of Jean meeting one of her heroines, Sr. Theresa Kane who courageously challenged Pope John Paul II to work for the ordination of women.
We are so grateful that all of you have joined us in co-creating The Spirit of Life: A Catholic Community of Justice and Joy.

Sr. Joan Chittister offers us a meditation on the friendship between Mary of Magdala and Jesus. God is inviting us, too, to be Friends of God and Prophets.

The friend of Jesus

Feast of Mary Magdalene, July 22nd Joan Chittister
“If I were pressed to say why I love him,” Montaigne wrote of his deceased friend Etienne de Boetie, “I feel my only reply could be, ‘Because it was he, because it was I.’” Friendship, real friendship, in other words, is the blurring of two souls into one where it was thought two had been. No price exacted. No interest paid.

Friendship is the linking of stories. It is a spiritual act, not a social one. It is the finding of the remainder of the self. It is knowing a person before you even meet them. I am not so sure, then, that we so much find a friend as it is that friendship, the deathless search of the soul for itself, finds us. Then the memory of Mary Magdalene becomes clear, becomes the bellwether of the real relationship.

Mary Magdalene is the woman whom scripture calls by name in a time when women were seldom named in public documents at all. She is, in fact, named fourteen times—more than any other woman in the New Testament except Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, herself. She is clearly a very important, and apparently a very wealthy woman. Most of all, she understood who Jesus was long before anyone else did and she supported him in his wild, free ranging, revolutionary approach to life and state and synagogue. She was, it seems, the leader of a group of women who “supported Jesus out of their own resources.” And she never left his side for the rest of his life.

She was there at the beginning of the ministry. And she was there at the end. She was there when they were following him in cheering throngs. And she was there when they were taking his entire life, dashing it against the stone of synagogue and state, turning on him, jeering at him, shouting for his death, standing by while soldiers poked and prodded him to ignominy. She tended his grave and shouted his dying glory and clung to his soul. She knew him and she did not flinch from the knowing.

The Magdalene factor in friendship is the ability to know everything there is to know about a person, to celebrate their fortunes, to weather their straits, to chance their enemies, to accompany them in their pain and to be faithful to the end, whatever its glory, whatever its grief. The Magdalene factor is intimacy, that unshakeable immersion in the life of the other to the peak of ecstasy, to the depths of hell.

—from The Friendship of Women by Joan Chittister

At The Spirit of Life, our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.

With loving blessings,
Ron & Jean