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Find Your Orlando

At first I intended only to post this rainbow flag at half-mast in front of a church—so overwhelmed and silenced I was by the carnage at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando this past weekend.

May those who lost their lives rest in peace. May those who are injured heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. May those who lost loved ones find healing ways to grieve.

Yet, as I reviewed my notes from the international Henri Nouwen conference I attended in the Toronto area that same weekend, I found many things that might help us all, and now find myself writing a post I had intended to write next month.

A workshop on care and grieving reminded participants that “care” comes from a word that means “to lament, to grieve.” I’ve since learned that even “anger” is derived from a Norse term meaning “grief.”

“Compassion” is “to feel with,” “to suffer with.” Health care professional Saki Santorelli has described care as a “crucible for mutual transformation,” hence Michelle O’Rourke, the workshop presenter, suggested we think of ourselves as “care partners” rather than “caregivers.”

“Where two or three are gathered together,” Jesus said, “I am there…” in the care given and received.

So caring for Orlando is deeply spiritual. Yet we cannot all be in Orlando to help.

Henri’s brother Laurent spoke of how the person with multiple disabilities Henri had cared for as part of his ministry at Daybreak, the L’Arche community in Toronto, had brought him into proximity with God. “Adam helped me get to know God,” Henri wrote.

“The whole world is Daybreak,” Laurent observed, suggesting we ask ourselves, “Who is my Adam?”

This theme echoed in keynote presenter Shane Claiborne’s description of serving with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. As he departed that ministry, he asked how he might next serve God. “Calcuttas are everywhere,” Mother Teresa told him, “Find your Calcutta.”

What is your Orlando? Orlandos are everywhere. Find your Orlando.

Nouwen’s friend and literary executrix, Sister Sue Mosteller, had opened the conference with a story about visiting an art gallery with Henri. Henri sat down in front of the first painting, so she joined him on the bench as he intently gazed upon it. Time passed.

She explained to us that her usual way of visiting a gallery was to look at a painting and read the little card beside it before moving on to the next painting. She was feeling a bit restless, and, after 15 minutes had passed, she finally asked Henri, “What are you doing?” To which Henri replied, surprised, “Are you not in the picture?” Suddenly Sue realized that he was in the south of France, strolling in the fields with van Gogh.

Our encounter with scripture is much the same. Often we read a text without putting ourselves in the story. Contemplation helps us to place ourselves in what we are reading. I realized that contemplating sacred texts is less about finding God than finding ourselves, our true selves in God’s eyes.

And just as many read scripture as if it were a newspaper, we read the newspaper as if it weren’t a transcendental conduit, a sacred text inviting us to put ourselves in its stories.

We are the ones massacred and wounded in the Orlando nightclub. We are their lovers and families and friends awaiting word of their fate, and inconsolably grieving when it is known. We are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Latino/Latina communities who are targets of hate. We are the Muslims fearful of the prejudice and suspicion engendered by such violence. And—and this is harder to imagine—we are the gunman armed with religious intolerance.

I am crying as I complete this post. I am in Orlando, and Orlando is in me. My consolation is that Jesus is there and here too in the community of care such crises awaken.

Click Here to Link to Chris Glaser’s Blog: Progressive Christian Reflections

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