Strong Enough, Brave Enough

Post by Rachel Lyons

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I have several spiritual mentors in my life, and one who continues to help my soul be nourished, my godfather, Tom. I think of his warm smile, his expressive face when telling stories, and his genuine goodness toward those he meets. Every year since I can remember, he has given me a spiritual book or set of writings for my birthday, Christmas, and really any “life-moment”. It is amazing to look back at the rich wisdom Tom has opened up for me. Whether it is a hefty book about remembering women in the Scriptures or a pocket-sized collection of Thomas Merton’s writings on contemplation, he alway finds sources that stir my spirit and help me grow. This spring, Tom gifted me a book called Just Prayer: A Book of Hours for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers. Once again, he has found a way to draw me into prayer in a new and profound way.

Just Prayer is patterned on the Liturgy of the Hours and has a rhythm of morning and evening prayer in a four week cycle. As I pray along with the Psalms, Scripture passages, intercessions, and moments of silence, I am further anchoring myself in relationship with God and with my fellow human beings, my brothers and sisters. This past Season for Social Justice, we heard over and over again: We belong to God. We belong to each other. How are we to act? The prayers from my heart over the past month have stemmed from this beautiful book and have truly made me joyful at the reality of belonging to God and to each one of you. The Season for Social Justice is not just about changing unjust structures and systems ‘out there’ -- it is about confronting the reality within my heart, within your heart, and transforming our inner lives towards peace, compassion, and courage. It is facing moments when I participate in discrimination and racism, when I harbor judgments, and when I stay silent in the midst of painful cries for justice. 

One of the refrains in week three of the Just Prayer cycle is Psalm 68: “O God, in your mercy, call us back and convert our hearts.” The past month of our Season has been a time for us to hear God calling us back to our faith and values. A time to root ourselves once again in the deep truths of human connection and mercy for our neighbors and ourselves. We have been called back to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching so that our hearts are converted and reoriented towards intentional choices of right relationship. Again and again, I shared moments of this conversion with staff and members at Old St. Pat’s. I saw families take an ‘action item’ from our baskets after Mass last Sunday with excitement for doing something concrete to live out their faith in the coming week. I heard powerful stories about service from our panelists who volunteer everywhere from the juvenile detention center here in Chicago to families and children in Nicaragua. I walked with our JustFaith group as they completed their year of reflection and learning together in a grace-filled retreat this weekend. I witnessed members at our Wednesday workshops who are ‘on fire’ for justice in our communities and committed to being a part of the solution. God continues to call us all back to our foundation, to the one spirit that flows through the human family. Our hearts will break as we walk in God’s light to dismantle the inner and outer injustices in our world. This is conversion, this is transformation, this is living the Gospel. We are strong enough for this.

We are brave enough for this. Thank you to everyone for a fantastic Season for Social Justice, and I look forward to taking next steps to put our faith into action. Hope to see you all on October 3rd for the Community Renewal Society’s Annual Membership Assembly! Our Social Justice in Action team will be there, and all are invited for this powerful day of prayer, fellowship, and dialog on the platform of issues we will advocate for over the next year. Join us!

Rachel Lyons is the Director of Social Justice at Old St. Patrick’s Church.