August 28, 2021

What we call “setting goals” is often an exercise in psychological projection.  From a young age we are taught to pour our desires out onto our mental canvas, and then keep that image or idea in our mind’s eye as we progress through life until we finally achieve what we want.  Nevertheless, at some point we grow weary of this game as we find ourselves stuck in a stifling cycle of chasing after things that we have imposed on ourselves!  The spiritual life truly begins when our desire no longer gets attached to people, places or things, but is instead oriented unambiguously to the infinite and eternal God.  When God is our singular object – which both Jesus (Mt 22:37-38) and the First Commandment (Ex 20:2-3) insist upon – we are drawn into a life of mystery, risk and truth (cf. Jn 21:18).  Indeed, we go from the anxious and fearful fist that clings (cf. Gen 3:6) to the open hand that receives in gratitude (cf. Mt 26:26).  The psychological space that once housed our precious goals now becomes the net (Mt 13:37-50) that simply catches the graces revealed to us.  Let’s make the decision this very day to set God as the unique goal of our lives and in doing so adopt his Cross as the unique way of ending (Jn 19:30) goals that compete.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!


A Hero of the Cross Born in Russia

Sister M. Ehrentrude was born in 1901 in Crimea (Sudak) Russia.  Her father, Anthony Czyzewski, was an officer in the army, and her mother, Helen Carol Kotkas, was a housewife.  Mary grew up in South Bend, Indiana.  The family was a member of Saint Hedwig Parish, and Mary attended the parish school. 

Mary Magdalen entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1918 and received the Holy Habit on August 4, taking the religious name Sister M. Ehrentrude.  She pronounced her first vows on August 15, 1920 and her final vows on August 15, 1923. The Czyzewski family of South Bend, Indiana contributed many sons and a daughter to the Congregations of Holy Cross. 

In 1924, she graduated from Saint Mary’s Academy, Notre Dame, Indiana and then attended two years of college at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, receiving a two-year Normal Certificate in 1926.

Sister Ehrentrude was assigned to be an elementary school teacher and was an excellent teacher for twenty years.   She taught in Catholic parish schools in South Bend, Indiana; Los Angeles and Fresno, California; Boise, Idaho and East Chicago, Indiana.  All of these schools benefitted from her presence.   Her ill health prevented her from continuing as a teacher, so she served as portress at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana and Saint Theodore’s in Chicago, Illinois.  In 1945, Sister Ehrentrude became a citizen of the United States.   She retired to Saint Mary’s Convent in 1964 and served in many capacities until her death September 8,1987.  

August 21, 2021

What is God like?  God is like when your grandmother holds you as a child and feeds you.  God is like when you find a twenty dollar bill in your coat pocket at the beginning of a new winter.  God is like when your sports team loses the game but you are so proud of the way they played.  God is like when you decide to jump off the diving board for the very first time.  God is like when you reach for the apple slices instead of the bag of potato chips. God is like when you go for a very long walk.  God is like when you are talking to a person and understand exactly what they mean.  God is like when you get up from your desk to go play with your friends.  God is like when you take a break during a very stressful day.  God is like when you harvest vegetables from your garden.  God is like when your head hits the pillow at night.  God is like when you smile at a stranger.  God is like when you realize that you are breathing.  May the great AVE CRUX SPES UNICA be locked into place in our minds and hearts so that we might never experience another “when” in this life without feeling absolutely close to the God who saves.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica.  

Brother Simeon (Thomas) Costello, C.S.C. (1901-1956)

He Always Had a smile, Never a Complaint

Simeon was born in Fort Wayne, IN, the older brother (by one year) of Brother Jude. He attended Cathedral High in Fort Wayne and worked as a mechanical and electrical apprentice for a number of years. He decided to become a Brother and joined Holy Cross in 1926. He went to the juniorate in Watertown, then the novitiate at Notre Dame, and made his first vows in 1928. He was assigned to work at St. Charles Boys’ Home in Milwaukee, WI where he served for eighteen years. He was the first athletic director and was instrumental in arranging for medical care for the students, besides looking after their health. He was a stocky, little Brother with a unique sense of humor that made him popular with the boys. In 1948, he was assigned to Sacred Heart Juniorate to look after the farm. 

In 1949, he went to St. Joseph’s Farm, an obedience he loved. The photo is of the Holy Cross farm personnel in the early 1920s. He always had a smile, never a complaint, said his colleagues. He contracted a type of cancer that slowed his work. When he was in hospitals for treatment, he longed to go back to the St. Joseph Farm to be of help. Brother Jude Costello returned from Bengal to visit and pray with his brother at the Mayo Clinic. Simeon passed away to his eternal reward three months later.

“Serve the Lord gladly, come with songs of joy.” (Psalm 100:2)

August 14, 2021

Grieving is the quintessential human experience that lays bare just how spiritual we really are underneath it all.  Indeed, our tendency to reach out, grasp onto something and not let go is only rivaled by our glorious and miraculous ability to surrender that same thing in an act of trust and acceptance of some new reality.  While this Christic pattern – of dying and rising – is unique to our species, no two people grieve in the same way:  for some it is a very gradual process, for others it is practically instantaneous, and still for others the path is dark and confusing.  The only tragedy in all of this is when a person avoids loving so as to escape the drama of grief.  Such a fear-based posture in life stunts our spiritual growth and represses our human flourishing.  Are we able to articulate the people, places and things that we are grieving?  Are we willing to see grief as life-giving and good?  Are we ready to accept a lifetime of grieving as a real dimension of our human vocation?  May the tears and pain of our constantly awkward attempts at love in this life give rise to a transformed spirit receptive to the kind of love that “sets the world on fire” (Lk 12:49).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother David (Sylvester) Martin, CSC (1901-1986)

A Given Life: Entwined with Learning

Brother David Martin, C.S.C., arrived on the Bluff [University of Portland] in 1928. With no college degree at the time, he was immediately named the librarian. The irony became sort of an inspiration. He was to hold the office of library director until 1966.

Faced with many challenges, Br. David worked in stages; waiting, proposing, pushing toward the possible and making progress. First, having charge of a limited collection of books, he created a dedicated reading-room for student study by moving the library from West (now Waldschmidt) Hall to Christie Hall where there was space for reading tables.  Next, or perhaps already within that first vision, he began to plan for a library building, an impossible ambition in those days when there was only a single dedicated classroom building (Science Hall, 1937). But Br. David was patient and persistent. And prepared not only the design of a modern college library but also himself through the years of waiting. When the library was built in 1958 — in no small part through his own efforts as promoter and chief fund-raiser — Br. David had, in the meantime, picked up four advanced degrees, founded the Library Summer School, and earned the rank of Dean of the School of Library Science. 

But, he wasn’t finished. Coincident with his retirement as Dean of the Library, the University Archives was established with Br. David as the first University Archivist (June 1, 1966). Collating, arranging, and indexing historical files accumulated through more than sixty years of university life was to be the work, but his first order of business was again creating space and access– once again moving resources out from closet filing cabinets in West (Waldschmidt) Hall across campus to the library, and eventually to Shipstad Hall.

His fifty-five years of service (retiring from the Archives in 1983!) is a life-time of contributions to the growth and maturity of the University of Portland. The two developed together, Br. David and the university he loved. Br. David was ever learning and put his curiosity and knowledge into the hands of students and the university community. 


August 7, 2021

If you are looking for a way to become more sensitive to the subtle spiritual movements of God throughout your day, consider the habit of praying Psalm 119.  By far the longest chapter of the entire Bible, Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem that covers the whole Hebrew alphabet.  Each of the twenty-two stanzas employs the same vocabulary again and again – ways, words, teachings, commandments, statutes, ordinances, laws and precepts – in order to communicate how very pervasive God’s will is in our lives, whether we know it or not.  The refined style of this Psalm – as it makes no specific mention of Israel’s dramatic history – is an invitation to the reader to consider how simple the life of discipleship really is beneath the outward show and fancy contours.  Indeed, if we really examined ourselves and the meaning of our own personal stories, we would discover that it is not more complicated than Psalm 119, “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps 119:1).  Let’s therefore open our hearts to the living God and allow our lives themselves to become alphabets that constantly form words of consolation for others on this  journey and sound forth ceaseless words of praise to the God who saves.   Ave Crux, Spes Unica