Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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To search for God is the greatest of all adventures. To find God and to share Him with others is the greatest of all human achievements. I remember very clearly some 65 years ago when I was in the Jesuit Novitiate at Grand Coteau, Louisiana. I had just finished two years of probation and was making a retreat in preparation for taking my First Vows. Each afternoon I would pace up and down on a narrow gravel path in front of the main building trying to discern whether or not I should make the leap of faith and take the vows. One moment I would look at myself and be convinced that I couldn’t keep the vows. The next moment I would look at Jesus and was convinced that I could. I never thought of putting my self and Jesus together and realizing that Jesus and I are one, that I am “We.”

This was strange indeed because the Spiritual Exercises which I was making begins with “Man is created…” Man is created not made. When you make something you organize preexisting material. And when you get finished you can walk away it doesn’t need you anymore. When God creates something out of nothing He must continually preserve it in existence. In other words, God is present in all creation. God is the ground of my being. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17: 28) Without God I do not exist.

Think of a sponge in a lake. The sponge is upheld by the lake, every fiber of the sponge is interpenetrated by the lake. The sponge is not the lake and the lake is not the sponge. That is how God is in me. I am not God and God is not me. In other words, we live in a wonderful grace-filled world where everyone we meet and everything we see is a visible sign of invisible reality, a sign of the love of God for us. Creation speaks in exclamation point about the presence of God. Every bush is burning.

The answer came to me many years later when I was stationed at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa. Part of my duty was to say an early morning Mass for the Franciscan Sisters at their St. Joseph Hospital. One morning I arrived early and found that the Sisters were still reciting the Morning Office as they always did before the Mass. So I used the time to browse around the lobby. I was attracted by a beautifully scripted poster on the wall that read: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” It was a quotation by Leon Bloy. I was so impressed with it that I made that the subject of my homily for the day. And I must have done so many times more because the Sisters finally had the poster framed and gave it to me. (Only now am I getting the hint.)

One day, after having given that same homily many times and in many different places the thought came to me that what I was saying was not true. Joy is not the most infallible sign of the presence of God. God is everywhere but joy is not everywhere. What was lacking was awareness. Then I realized that joy is the most infallible sign of the AWARENESS of the presence of God. Awareness is the magic that can change gloom to joy. All of the wonderful gifts of God mean nothing to me if I am not aware of them.

Just seven years ago when I was 87 years old and stationed at the Jesuit High School in Tampa I found God in an accident. One day while I was walking up the stairs I fell and broke my shoulder. I couldn’t take care of myself and thought that my active life as a Jesuit was all over. Evidently my superiors thought so also because I was sent to Ignatius Residence, our retirement home in New Orleans, to pray for the Church and the Society. For weeks I went to the LSU Medical Center for exercise and rehab.

Then one day our Superior, suggested that I should have a website. I knew nothing about the internal working of the computer so I called Pete Matassa, a friend in Tampa, and asked him if he could set up a website for me. He said that it would be no problem if I would just send him some material. So at the age of 91 I embarked on a new and exciting mission and cast my net into the deep waters of cyberspace.

My website “Seasoned Spirituality” (WWW.FRKSJ.ORG) is presented not in the jargon of academia but in a language that everyone can understand. 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 is so great that you cannot understand one without the other.

Then I thought of the possibility of giving the Spiritual Exercises via email. What sparked the idea of an Email Retreat was the delight and gratitude of friends when I would attach a homily to one of my email letters to them. It was not exactly a leap of faith then to go from a homily to the 19th Annotation. So I gave my first email retreat to two friends who volunteered to be guinea pigs. Since that time I have given many of these email retreats.

I also say Mass twice a week for the residents of Our Lady of Wisdom Nursing Center and enjoy sharing with them the wonderful graces God has given me. To them I am 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. He 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.

God has been faithful to me beyond my wildest expectations. And I try to express my gratitude by being happy – happy to be me, because me is “We.”

© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J. all rights reserved