Did you know that the country of Indonesia spans four time zones? I had no idea. No clue, really, until I met Susi G. – a friend my daughter made during their just-completed graduate studies at SIU-Edwardsville.
Susi hails from Indonesia, and she’s returning there soon – diploma in hand. And frankly, it’s a little heartbreaking to see her go. Over the past three years, she has brightened many of our family gatherings with her humor, her geography lessons, her ghost peppers – and her deep and profound love of the Lord.
That last point was one of the most unexpected gifts that Susi brought into my life. When Ellen mentioned a few years ago that a friend from Indonesia would be joining her for Thanksgiving weekend, I was actually expecting to meet a Muslim. (Although I’d never studied Indonesian geography, I HAD heard that it was one of the world’s “most Muslim” countries. So surely…)
But it turned out that Susi’s a Catholic, just like me. And she grew up in a big parish – with sometimes boring liturgies – just like me. And she blogs about spirituality, just like me.
It’s been fun…it’s been a blessing…getting to know Susi – not least because she’s expanded my world-view in so many ways. I’ve discovered that, as well read as I am, I still have a lot to learn about the globe we call home, not to mention its many cultures and inhabitants.
I’ve come to appreciate, too, the art and beauty that can be found in almost anything – such as when Ellen and Susi teamed up to turn fallen autumn leaves into an exquisite backyard sculpture.
And now, as Susi prepares to go, I am reminded of how often ‘departures’ seem to be part of the spiritual journey. We just celebrated the feast of Jesus’ ascension into heaven – an event that left the apostles standing, slack-jawed, staring into the sky. In today’s first reading, we heard about Paul taking his final leave from his beloved community at Ephesus.
So often, such departures can seem like tiny dyings – we know that things will never be the same for something we love, or someone we love. But they aren’t just dyings. They are also commencements, in the fullest sense of the word: Beginnings, made possible only when we are prepared to let go of what has been good for us in the past.
And so it is with Susi: As we send her off from middle America, she is preparing to enter a religious community – the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. None of us can predict how that decision will play out in Susi’s life, or where it will take her next. But I was stirred to read about the charism that sparks the order she is joining. In the words of the foundress, Mary of the Passion:
God would like to breathe in and through us! If only we would leave him free! In this one grace alone there would be a whole abyss of holiness!
Quite a commencement speech, eh? And it’s really cool to be able to say that I know someone who wants to say ‘yes’ to that invitation. Godspeed, Susi – from all of us!