Learning a new language is hard. Yes, there is the vocabulary, conjugations, declensions, constructions, tenses, moods, idioms and pronunciation, but what is more, is the risk of sharing our mental space with foreign ideas and concepts. Indeed, to allow ourselves to think differently necessarily challenges our well-established neural pathways, which is where our opinions and attitudes dwell. Slowly we learn to befriend these intellectual visitors and develop a whole new mental landscape that makes us more capable of communicating with others and sharing ourselves. The language of an authentic human life is the Word, who similarly knocks on the doors of our souls and invites learning at the deepest of levels. As we navigate the interior conversion of our spiritual pathways, where there can be all sorts of blocks and obstacles, we slowly learn to speak God’s language: seeing the poor among us, listening compassionately to others, forming our consciences before acting, practicing gratitude spontaneously, humbly asking for help, smiling generously, breathing deeply, and being present to each and every one of our sisters and brothers throughout a given day. May we thus find the courage to confront the babel of our lives (cf. Gen 11:1-9), to share our personal spiritual space with the Word (cf. Jn 14:2-3), and begin speaking the Good News in all that we say, think and do (cf. Acts 17:28). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Brother Bede (Sylvester) Stadler, CSC (1911-1992)
Brother Bede was born in Manawa, WI and attended schools there. He worked in various jobs and joined the Brothers of Holy Cross in 1931 making first vows in 1933.
Having taken the foreign mission vow, his first assignment was to Bengal for ten very devoted years. He was among the Holy Cross missionaries who were caught in India during World War II. As the headmaster of Holy Cross High School in Bandura, India, he went through the severe famine of 1943, the riots and demonstrations for freedom from British rule, and the threat of Japanese invasion. During the famine Brother Bede helped government officials in distributing food. Once he returned to the States, he seldom talked about these experiences, yet it was evident that he paid a heavy price.
When he returned in 1948, he taught Latin at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, IN, and then spent the next eleven years in Monroe, MI at Catholic Central High School serving as librarian and assistant principal. In 1962, he joined the faculty at Holy Cross High School in River Grove, IL teaching his Latin classes and developing one of the finest high school libraries in the Midwest Province. Upon retirement at Holy Cross, he continued to serve the community as a housekeeper and spent a great amount of his free time researching his family history and publishing an extensive genealogy of the Stadler family.
After nineteen years of devotion to the students and the Brothers at Holy Cross, Brother Bede moved to Dujarié House continuing to live a life of generosity. He might best be memorialized by this scriptural approbation: “Show yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect.” Titus 2:7
I used to go on very long hikes – thirty or forty miles at a time. After a series of failures where I either did not make it to the destination or did so only hobbling and exhausted, I decided to get more serious about my preparation and my strategy: frequent stretching, plenty of rest, full hydration, carbo-loading, packing wisely, well-timed breaks, weather updates, etc. The hikes became deeply gratifying experiences that allowed me to take ownership of the process as well as enjoy my full physical flourishing. I have to think that this is what the journey of discipleship is like. We have this exciting spiritual destination that our hearts absolutely long for, but the preparation and planning is complex and demands a multifaceted approach: daily prayer, participation in the liturgy, spiritual friendships, sacramental reconciliation, faith-sharing, ministry commitments, acts of charity and so much more! Each time we feel that we have failed or come away discouraged from our efforts to walk in faith, we can turn to Jesus who spent thirty years in preparation for his singular journey to Jerusalem which came to such a definitive ending (cf. Jn 19:30) that he exists at the end point of each of our individual journeys, rooting for us in love and grace along the way. May we learn to hike on his glorious path of perfection (cf. Ps 119:1). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Today is the feast of Guardian Angels, a celebration which may conjure up caricatures of spiritual beings in our mind’s eye. Perhaps this was a day that was important to us as kids, when we could be assured that there was an invisible friend who was protecting us at all times. Perhaps we prayed and talked to our guardian angel before going to bed. Whatever the case, it is not unreasonable to believe, even as adults, that the living God who is pure spirit, has created spiritual beings to mediate our daily experiences so that we may be drawn ever closer to our salvation (cf. Jn 1:51). While we may be tempted to speculate about the nature of angels or articulate their exact theological meaning – topics which were the basis of many medieval debates – we need only to trust that the God who is Love (1 Jn 4:8) enjoys finding creative ways to lead us homeward, and that God’s angels can indeed fill the gaps that sin has caused in our lives. So the next time we make it to the gas station just in time, or we catch an important mistake before submitting a report, or have an unexpected change of attitude, or, like Jesus, experience deep consolation in the midst of a major trial (cf. Lk 22:34), let’s offer a prayer of gratitude for the angels who “guard us in all our ways” (Ps 91:11). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!