Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
I was born in New Orleans on June 14, 1915. I was a Missouri Synod Lutheran until I was a junior at Loyola University in New Orleans. I have been a Jesuit for 68 years and a priest for 57 years. I am neither “old breed” nor “new breed.” I am just a “half breed.” I have studied both the old theology and the new theology and am convinced that the continuity between them is so great that you cannot understand the new until you have mastered the old.
I was Director of Montserrat Retreat House in Dallas, Retreat Master at Manresa Retreat House, Convent, La., Immaculata Retreat House, Liberty, Mo. and Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House, Grand Coteau, La., Pastor of St. John’s Church in Shreveport, Associate Pastor of St. Rita’s Church in Dallas and Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, and taught in Jesuit High School in Dallas and Tampa.
I have written extensively on the spiritual life including, “God the Incomprehensible Obvious,” “The Wonderful World of Reality,” “The Dignity and Responsibility of Being Human,” “The Liturgy of the Heart,” “The Journey of Faith,” “The Church Changing and Changeless” and “Sunday Mass, the Heart of Catholicism.” All of these can be read on my website Seasoned Spirituality:WWW.FRKSJ.ORG
Seasoned Spirituality means spirituality seasoned by experience. God does not work in a vacuum; he works in the real world. God deals with us as human beings. We experience God as human beings. God sanctifies us through our lives, our daily actions, our fears, failures and yes even our sins; he is the potter we are the clay. All we have to do is to keep the clay soft and manageable. Seasoned Spirituality is not an intellectual pursuit but a pursuit of the heart, the realization of the simple truth, the discovery of the obvious, that is salutary and life-changing. It holds that the division of reality into the sacred and the secular is a false dichotomy which produces a departmentalized life. Discernment, decision and action must be woven into the fabric of everyday life so that we become contemplatives in action. Besides the strong winds of Pentecost there are the gentle breezes of the present moment.
Most of my priestly life of over 57 years has been spent giving the Spiritual Exercises. I have given the preached retreat, the guided retreat, the personally directed retreat, the 19th annotation retreat and now I am giving, with great joy and much success, a type of retreat of which Ignatius could never have even dreamed. And a type of retreat that I am sure the author of the “tantum quantum” and the “magis” would have joyfully embraced. It is the E-mail retreat. While institutions seem to be losing some of their attraction, the Internet has thrust the grass roots movement to front and center. And there is nothing more grass roots than the informal, unpretentious, least intrusive email retreat which is woven into the fabric of everyday life and goes right to the heart of the human desire for spirituality in a culture permeated with materialism. Just like the Good News it proclaims, it is something you cannot keep to yourself. And so it spreads quickly, not by word of mouth, but by click of mouse.
The most enjoyable assignment I have had was Director of the RCIA. Having been a Lutheran I knew their questions before they asked. I especially enjoyed explaining the devotion to Mary because it had been a great obstacle to me. The RCIA, the process of initiation of adults into the Church, is no longer a one-on-one affair in which “Fr. Smith instructs Jackson.” It is a process which is community oriented from beginning to end. To be a Christian is not only to have a personal relationship with Jesus but also to be a member of the Christian community. To believe is to belong. On the first meeting these catechumens and candidates, cats and cans as I called them, were perfect strangers. At the end of the course they were an enthusiastic, joyful community. I often wondered why the rest of the parish was not the same.
I enjoy celebrating Mass twice a week at Our Lady of Wisdom Healthcare Center where I am a witness to the Gospel truth that God chooses the weak and foolish to confound the wise and strong. I am also a witness to the fidelity of the love of God. When God calls someone He reveals very little. There is just the basic call: “Come follow me.” It is just an invitation to start out on a journey of faith into the unknown. There is no script, no map, no job description and no blue print. God does not promise a rose garden. He promises only that whatever the garden, be it the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane He will be there. He will be faithful in spite of all of our infidelities. I am a witness to the fact that God has been faithful to me beyond my wildest expectations.
I am free at last from the “rat race,” from competition and rugged individualism. No longer a proud competitor struggling for perfection, I can be a humble, loving human being. My persistent Pelagian labors to save myself and the world, have all ended in frustration and failure. So I let go, I let God “whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” I am free at last to make the long delayed journey into my inner self to the God who is the ground of my being, free at last for prayer and meditation.
I have exchanged the apostolate of doing to the apostolate of being. The apostolate of being is the first, the last and always the most effective apostolate. As the old philosophical dictum has it, first is to be and then to do, and the action follows the being. Pecan trees produce pecans, orange trees produce oranges and baboons produce baboons. I am happy to be me because me is “we” and “we” is mostly Thee.
This is a time also
to show gratitude for many gifts God has given me and those gifts that
God refused to give; those things that I thought were so necessary and
for which I prayed so much. It is also a time to witness to the fact that
in the midst of time and change there is Someone who is timeless and does
not change. “Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and the same forever.”
I do not know what tomorrow holds but I know WHO holds tomorrow. Finally,
there is the end for which the beginning was made. As we say in the Mass,
“with joyful hope we are waiting for the coming of our savior, Jesus
Christ.” And I have discovered much to my surprise that our Lord
really does save the very best wine for last.
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