Sunday, September 16, 2018

Throwing Words into the Fire

By Sr. Laura Coughlin, Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill (Perpetually Professed)
Then Aaron said to Moses, “They gave me words, I threw them into the fire, and out came this paper!”

Ex 32:24 [Revised Late-Night Standard Student Version - RLNSSV]

Right now I have a headache, my brain hurts, my eyeballs have filed a complaint with OSHA, and I’ve been talking to myself for two hours.  I like to communicate with myself out loud when proofreading a paper or trying to pull a lecture together.  Sometimes I do it to refine arguments.  Over and over and over I throw my ideas into a raging fire and some “product” comes out.  For reasons I don’t understand, my golden calf often (almost always) moos better when I’m alone than it does when I give it to others.  How it saddens me that I can only be brilliant when I’m by myself!  It’s a strange cross. 
Yet if I’ve learned anything in the last five years of graduate school, it’s that interpretation matters.  So why not imagine that if our God is a jealous God then it may be that he wants to keep my brilliance all to himself!  Or perhaps he’s teaching me not to cling tightly to marvelous arguments.  Or maybe he’s saying, “give those words to me and I’ll know where and when to plant them.” 
Tomorrow I will teach college students Augustine’s Tractate 122 – an exegesis of John’s big fish story. 
Lord, teach me how to throw my words into the fire and offer them up to you as a sacrifice which pleases.    

The message of the cross is…the power of God.  For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”

1 Cor 1:18-19 [NAB]

In Memoriam

As a final word, I’d like to share with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati my joy at having gotten to know one of your sisters, Terry Deri, over the course of this last year.  Terry passed away peacefully on Tuesday at Mount St. Joseph, the Cincinnati motherhouse.  Although having known her for only a short time, I will really miss her.  Terry was a sharp conversationalist, had a great sense of humor, and was a truly interesting woman.  She lived for a number of years in Peru and many of her favorite stories were from this exciting time in her life.  She worked as a counselor when she returned to the United States, and she had keen insights from this work into human motivations. 
Terry’s last sickness was painful and hard, but she was never without the aid of one of my own sisters, Cory, with whom Terry lived.  My recollection of Terry will hardly linger on her last illness, but on her wry smile, her sharp wit, and her insightful observations at particular points in a conversation.  Both sisters in their relationship of caring for one another, and in their extension of friendship to me in a time of hardship, have shown me firsthand how to carry a cross with joy.
Above is a picture of Terry superimposed over the thesis she presented to Loyola University in 1986.  This paper was one of Terry’s “products.”  She spoke of it occasionally as a moment of personal triumph.  As is evident in the picture, God took the ideas Terry had refined in the fire of her heart and moved them powerfully into the hearts of her examiners.  Then he moved those ideas through Terry’s life out into the world where they assisted others.  May she rest in peace forever. 

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