Finding Clarke in All Places

When I went to Clarke University to teach nursing I felt I found my soul. I was able to let go and be the person I imagined I was born to be and not the one forged by 20 years of federal rules and regulations. As I taught nursing I learned how to be a better nurse. When I left the spiritual safety of a Catholic university I feared I would regress or in some way have my faith diminished by not being constantly in the presence of those dedicated to freedom, education, charity, and justice. What I didn’t know is that everywhere I go they are present.

Today I went to the Catholic Worker House to help prepare food. It wasn’t the organized preparation we had in St. Louis for the St. Patrick’s meals, but rather the Zen method of taking whatever has been donated and turning it into a tasty and nutritious meal to take downtown to distribute in the park.

One of my tasks was to find the scissors and in the process found Sr. Mary Dennis. She quickly introduced herself and told me she was from Iowa. As soon as I said I had taught at Clarke she beamed and announced she was a Clarke graduate and a Presentation Sister from Dubuque. We talked about our love for the place and what it means to us and promised to talk more over coffee.

I came home to Knoxville, but Clarke and especially the Sisters that helped me with the transition to higher education continue to touch my life and faith. In every city I’ve lived in since I left Clarke I have run into a Clarke graduate and without exception, the one thing they have in common is their love for the place and the life-changing impact.

catholic-worker-logo-1I feel blessed that God sent a Clarkie to Knoxville to live in the Catholic Worker house, care for those that live there, and provide hope to those that are homeless in Knoxville.
Sr. Mary Dennis and the people of the Catholic Worker reminded me that it is my job to carry with me everything I learned from the BVMs. There will always be reminders along the way that we are a community of love and part of sharing that love is recognizing the dignity of every human being. It is the education we have and share with others that helps us develop our gifts and share them. I learned to be free. I will always be free.

When Hate Wins, Freedom is Threatened

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”

Charter for Compassion available at .

Open dialogue is essential to a democracy.  We value our freedom to speak our minds.  However, open dialogue does not negate the requirement to be reasonable, thoughtful, and kind.  Our freedom is threaned if we do not exercise compassion in our words and deeds.   “The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, “the subject of this freedom,” is “an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods.”33 Moreover, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions that are needed for a just exercise of freedom are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.” (CCC 1740)  If we believe that faith guides policy, then we must accept that threats to freedom will negatively impact our policy, our government, and our way of life.

Every day that we, as citizens of the United States, engage in uncivil discourse we are diminishing our freedom.  Do any of us watch what is occurring in the Congress, in the White House, in the media, and through social media and doubt that we are headed down a road that will not end well.  We are headed down the road of intolerance that leads to hate.

“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. …” –(CCC 1731)  When we let our public discourse and actions become filled with hostility, a desire to win at all cost, and no focus on how our actions impact individuals then we have jeopardized freedom.   The difference between the current citation in the U.S., and so many failed countries, is that in the U.S. the government is made up of the people.  We should not be pointing at a few elected officials and saying they are the problem.  They are only in their seats and able to maintain their behavior if we support it.  They are only able to pass laws that do not respect human dignity if we support it.  Therefore, we are the problem.

There are three questions that should be ask before every decision:

  • How is human dignity protected?
  • How is suffering alleviated?
  • Will anyone be made worse off?

Likewise, when we speak publicly, including through social media, we should ask three questions:

  • How could what I’m saying be construed to violate human dignity?
  • Will my statements cause anyone to suffer?
  • Are my words kind, thoughtful, and respectful (not the truth hurts kind or pointing out the error of your ways kind or it is my job to set you straight kind)?

If you can’t respond to these questions in a way that promotes freedom and is compassionate then be silent until you can. Silence can beautiful and enlightening.