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.


Is God Hidden or Is God Hiding

Walking around the University of Missouri – St. Louis South campus the signs of faith that once filled the buildings is hidden in plain sight. Whether one looks straight ahead, walks with downcast eyes, or looks up to the heavens there are ever-present symbols of faith in God. IMG_0524IMG_0534And yet, God is largely absent from public universities with the exception of clubs and religious studies classes.

The evidence of the absence is not hidden. It is visible in mass shootings on campuses across the nation, sexual assaults, and deaths from hazing, drugs, and alcohol. It is seen in the decreased funding to universities, the increased tuitions, and the absence of many faculty members from campuses. When we were sleeping, or maybe when we were too occupied with endless war to notice, the elected officials stopped supporting students, faculties, and infrastructures and quietly pushed the higher education system away from developing well-rounded adults ready to make society better. The higher calling is now graduate’s earnings.

It was once said that when we teach we reflect the condition of our souls. Does the lack of governmental support for higher education and the push to measure success by earnings reflect the condition of our National soul? We should be asking how it will impact generations to come? When teaching, ministry, the Peace Corps, Doctors without Boarders, and all manner of social service by graduates drive down the ratings of a university we are loudly proclaiming wealth as our measure of success and ignoring the dangers of focusing solely on financial gain.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. KJV Matthew 19:24

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The UMSL Grotto

Is God hidden on our campuses or is God hiding from us? Maybe we should ask ourselves if our hearts and our faith are as empty as the grotto.

I hope the day will come when we do not hide God behind locked doors nor deny access to sacred spaces and by so doing proclaim that the spiritual lives of students are secondary. Sadly, it isn’t just public schools that lock the doors, private schools do the same. These are two of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen and yet both are locked. One is public and the other a private Catholic university. No student can go in during the day to pray, or meditate, or sit in silence. Our souls are reflected not only in what we teach, but what we hide.IMG_1093IMG_0336


Standing on Holy Ground: Nurses, Suffering, and Values

Teaching students is always a pleasure and a privilege. Yet, sometimes the stories that have been the most powerful for me seem to have no impact on them. Today I read them an excerpt from Mary Elizabeth O’Brien’s book, Spirituality in Nursing. Sr. Macrina advised,

“if you should ever hear God speaking to you from a burning bush, and it happens more often than most of us realize, take off your shoes for the ground on which you stand is holy”. How appropriate, it seems to envision practicing nurses, who must come together with their patients in caring and compassion, as standing on holy ground. God frequently speaks to us from a burning bush, in the fretful whimper of a feverish child, in the anxious questions of a preoperative surgical patient, and in the frail moans of a fragile elder. If we take off our shoes, we will be able to realize that the place where we stand is holy ground; we will respond to our patients as we would wish to respond to God in the burning bush.”

Book_of_Exodus_Chapter_4-5_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media) (1)I believe we should all take off our shoes and experience what is holy in our professions and our human relationships. What are we called to do and what is preventing us from doing it? We should take off our shoes of bias, our shoes of fear, and our shoes of judgment and help alleviate unnecessary suffering. Only then will we be able to feel what is holy and just. Only then can we answer the questions that examine our values:
Who am I? Who am I to become? How do I get there?

Adult Health: Nursing Ethical and Legal Issues

Art by: “Book of Exodus Chapter 4-5 (Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media)” by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing


What Does It Mean to Make a Moral Decision? Declining My 2nd Amendment Right

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Each of us, man and woman, young and old, of all races, nationalities, religions, and abilities, is meant to exercise stewardship over what God has given us. The exercise of good stewardship requires that we make sound moral decisions. I believe that declining the right to bear arms is a sound moral decision that each of us should make and then we must act. Like faith, moral decisions without works are dead, and we have enough death all around us. From the time I went to bed last night until I turned on the news this morning 5 more people had been shot in St. Louis; five more victims of gun violence.

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I have never owned a firearm though I grew up around firearms of various kinds. Everything from a Derringer my mother carried in her purse to the gun my father brought home from WWII. There were guns in every room of the house and a reloading station in the basement. I knew how to use them all and how to load my own rounds. I learned to shoot a gun at a young age and then learned about guns in greater detail at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy. My father, who was a NRA member, never understood why I was opposed to guns. After the murder of my twin brother, we rarely discussed guns or my belief about the dangers they pose and the implicit responsibility we must accept for violence involving their use if we choose to own one or many.

I frequently wonder if we give enough thought to what it means to make a moral decision. I worry that we are so stuck in ideology and bound with fear that we cannot find the peace necessary for rational contemplation of the very serious issue of gun violence and violence in our culture. Whether one agrees with my stance or not I invite you to walk through the six-steps in considering the morality of gun ownership. Fill in your own blanks and take the time to contemplate what you learn.

Six-Steps in Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership

  1. Gather the information on injuries and deaths related to firearms.

People will give various reasons for wanting a gun. They list the least benign as a desire to kill Bambi or Thumper. Some genuinely claim a need to defend self or family. The only group I would consider paranoid is those that fear the government. Whatever the stated reason one must consider whether the purchase of the gun to achieve the end is morally right? Do the circumstances (living in a dangerous neighborhood, traveling alone in an unsafe neighborhood, going to school) affect the act? The more I deliberated the more I reflected on Matthew 5:21-26:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

  1. I identified the ethical problem. The ethical dilemma was between the individual rights or good versus that of the community.

It is certainly true that guns are sometimes used for self-defense. This year there have been 922 times guns have been used for defensive purposes. Of course, that pales when compared to 40,387 gun incidents in the same time period. Is the fear one person has for his or her safety more important than the safety of those around who are by all evidence at greater risk due to the presence of the gun? We are one of the nations with the greatest number of guns per capita and we are one of the nations with the greatest gun violence. People can cite urban vs. rural, and this city or that, but in the end we are one nation.

  1. What approaches can I use to analyze the problem?

I first approached the problem from a veil of ignorance, which is to say if I were the person who was the least powerful and the most vulnerable what would I want? I concluded that while I wanted to live and be safe. For that to happen it would be best for no one to have a gun. I also wanted all those around me to live and be safe. The risk to others from a gun in the house was greater than the risk to others and me without one.

I then took another approach using an adaptation of the Crisis Conceptual Nursing Model, which is a mechanism I’ve used to assess disaster risk and planning within nursing. When considered within a framework it is easier to see that there are actions that can be taken, provided the public or individual has the will to do so, to keep oneself safer.

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  1. After gathering the information, determining the moral dilemma, and using a framework to logically examine the problem it was time to make a judgment to determine which means are best under the current circumstances.

There really are only a few practical alternatives: 1) accept the status quo, 2) actively advocate for a rational change in gun laws, and 3) decline the right to bear arms and encourage others to do the same. I do not see repealing the 2nd Amendment as a practical alternative and thus it is not included. The 2nd Amendment is too engrained in the culture, has too big of a lobby supporting it, and would not be supported by the majority.

  1. Act

Once I made the decision to decline the right to bear arms it was time to act. A moral decision occurs when the intellect and the will come together, but without action serves little purpose. First, I am acting for myself in pledging never to own a gun. I decline the right to bear arms. Second, like many other pledges people may take I will develop a pledge to share. Third, one day soon I hope to invite others to join me in taking action.

  1. Evaluate the process and outcomes

The final step is always to determine if the choice and the action was effective. Only time will tell.

I pledge that I will never own a firearm of any kind. My heart will be guided by love and there will be no door opened for fear. When that door of fear is cracked it lets in evil and blots out reason. Not just the reason that comes from a well-developed human conscience, but the reason imparted through faith. When fear enters evil works to darken our souls to the inherent value of all life. That evil convinces us that property is of such great value that we can ignore the commandment not to kill and choose things over people. Fear causes us to listen to evil telling us that there are good guys with guns and that no harm will come from this instrument of death. Arm yourself with reason and faith and there will be no need for a gun.


A Week of Compassion Sprinkled with Grace

It was barley a week ago that we saw hate and tragedy followed by an amazing outpouring of compassion and forgiveness by a strong Christian community. The grace was like an invisible veil that covered us all with God’s love. In quick succession the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality ensuring access to healthcare for millions of people, many poor, and equality for all who love.compassionate HR edited

I feel blessed to live in a country that shows such compassion for the poor and the sick. I feel equally blessed to live in a country where love and equality win. I wish that we all felt the same joy and shared the same convictions about access to care, the poor, and equality. Most of all I wish we all equally valued the faith beliefs of others.

Today I’ve been told I’m a sinner as if that was ever in doubt. If we are Christians we acknowledge we are not perfect and we sin. Sadly, loving my neighbor who is gay or lesbian and wishing them the same happiness I’ve found in marriage isn’t among my greatest sins. If it is a sin then I will gladly say I chose to err on the side of love and equality.

Faith has been part of my life since I was seventeen. It found me in a rural Tennessee church and I accepted it. I have never doubted the importance of faith and still acknowledge that it is all grace. As I’ve grown older I’ve realized that there will always be those that try and steal the faith of others. They do it when they attack one’s faith or demean it. They fail to recognize that when we are touched by the grace of God no manner of attack will take away that grace. Overtime we grow in understanding, openness to inspiration through prayer, and form a conscience. Faith, hope, and prayer shape the conscience that is a gift from God. It is my conscience founded in faith, shaped by prayer and study, and fine tuned by the hope that God will never let my conscience be deceived.

I firmly believe in one kind and loving God, the holy Catholic Church where all are welcome, and that my conscience will always be true so long as I am open to inspiration. I cannot bring myself to believe that a person who is other than heterosexual is disordered and not deserving of love and equality. I do not believe any person should be denied healthcare or that there is any compassion in putting up barriers to the poor getting care. There is nothing in my faith, my prayers, or my conscience that leads me to believe that I am any more or less deserving of access to care than the poorest person. There is nothing in my being that can not be happy for those that find love. To do so would be to deny my conscience.

I am a liberal Christian and today the President ended this grace filled week by singing my favorite song – Amazing Grace. I wonder if the prayer, forgiveness, and the faith that spread from Charleston, that brought down symbols of hate, and that lifted up a Nation was so powerful that a veil of grace covered our Nation and for this week we chose love, equality, and compassion for the sick and the poor.

It was barley a week ago that we saw hate and tragedy followed by an amazing outpouring of compassion and forgiveness by a strong Christian community. The grace was like an invisible veil that covered us all with God’s love. In quick succession the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality ensuring access to healthcare for millions of people, many poor, and equality for all who love.

I feel blessed to live in a country that shows such compassion for the poor and the sick. I feel equally blessed to live in a country where love and equality win. I wish that we all felt the same joy and shared the same convictions about access to care, the poor, and equality. Most of all I wish we all equally valued the faith beliefs of others.

Today I’ve been told I’m a sinner as if that was ever in doubt. If we are Christians we acknowledge we are not perfect and we sin. Sadly, loving my neighbor who is gay or lesbian and wishing them the same happiness I’ve found in marriage isn’t among my greatest sins, but if it is a sin then I will gladly say I chose to err on the side of love and equality.

Faith has been part of my life since I was seventeen. It found me in a rural Tennessee church and I accepted it. I have never doubted the importance of faith and still acknowledge that it is all grace. As I’ve grown older I’ve realized that there will always be those that try and steal the faith of others. They do it when they attack others and fail to recognize that when we are touched by the grace of God no manner of attack will take away that grace. Overtime we grow in understanding, openness to inspiration through prayer, and form a conscience. Faith, hope, and prayer shape the conscience that is a gift go God. It is my conscience founded in faith, shaped by prayer and study, and fine tuned by the hope that God will never let my conscience be deceived.

I firmly believe in one kind and loving God, the holy Catholic Church where all are welcome, and that my conscience will always be true so long as I am open to inspiration. I cannot bring myself to believe that a person who is other than heterosexual is disordered and not deserving of love and equality. I do not believe any person should be denied healthcare or that there is any compassion in putting up barriers to the poor getting care. There is nothing in my faith, my prayers, or my conscience that leads me to believe that I am any more or less deserving of access to care than the poorest person. There is nothing in my being that can not be happy for those that find love. To do so would be to deny my conscience.

I am a liberal Christian and today the President ended this grace filled week by singing my favorite song – Amazing Grace. I wonder if the prayer, forgiveness, and the faith that spread from Charleston, that brought down symbols of hate, and that lifted up a Nation was so powerful that a veil of grace covered our Nation and for this week we chose love, equality, and compassion for the sick and the poor.

i hope this vile of grace is never lifted and that our policies continue to be compassionate.