Saturday, March 28, 2009

Healing our Families: Attending to our Stories, Screams, Salvation

Yesterday, at 5:30pm, I had the privilege of addressing a group of about 40 women gathered at the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet Center in St. Paul. I was invited to speak to this community on the topic of "Healing our Families" - as part of a Lenten Series - sponsored by the nuns and the CSJ Consociates. Before a room of mostly pink-skinned Sisters, Consociates, St. Joseph Workers and Friends, ranging in age from 22 to 80, I delivered the following reflection.

I offer it here for your own contemplation. I say "Thank you" to all who read and respond to such musings, especially my own immediate family. You all do wonders to inspire me, and countless others, I'm certain!


CSJ Healing Service
March 27, 2009

Healing our Families: Attending to our Stories, Screams, Salvation!

Good evening! Let me begin by saying what a privilege it is to be in this community tonight; what an honor to be present in this space, with all of your glorious spirits, collective wisdom and stories, and given this opportunity to crack open a bit of scripture, and reflect upon this topic of healing our families.

I begin tonight with a story. I turn then to scripture. I conclude with questions and a prayer. The title to this, by the way is, “Healing our Families: Attending to our Stories, Screams, Salvation!”

Three weeks ago, on the second Sunday of Lent, I was running errands after mass. I had a laundry list of things to purchase, which took me to Walgreens on Lake Street. (Who here has been to the Walgreens on Lake Street?) While I was walking in to pick up these items, my eye was struck by a tall, handsome fellow. And everything in me started to sort of quake. He was handsome: 6’4”, clean cut handsome. Blazer over jeans and Italian shoes wearing handsome. Brown. African brown handsome. Rimless glasses handsome. I wanted to melt when he looked my way. I tried to proceed forward in my drugstore purchases, but over the course of the next 14 minutes, I went a little bit nuts -- swooning over this fellow that I’d never laid eyes on before in my life.

I found myself standing next to him in the deodorant aisle, picking out anti-perspirants; or rather: trying to pick out an anti-perspirant, but wondering instead where he lived, what kinds of food he ate, and whether he might want to take me out for Thai curry some night? I tried to focus on the Shower Clean and Pure Rain deodorants before me, but all I could think about was how nice and clean he smelled, like he maybe just stepped out of the shower or carried the scent of rain with him wherever he went.

He was so pretty!

Now, I know that I’m addressing a group of mostly nuns. And maybe there’s something seemingly illicit about talking about sexual attraction before a religious community? But I don’t think so. Because I know each of us, at some moment in time has had an encounter with beauty, with that which takes our breath away, and inspires a swooning-like feeling. And I think at the heart of these kinds of experiences -- is something that flows from God, is something that resembles the Divine, is something that has the power to heal us. And these moments are sacred and worthy of our collective note-taking or reverence.

I had to write about this experience afterwards. I had to write about all the aisles this fellow and I encountered one another in, in the store. (Toilet paper, toilet bowl cleaner, dryer sheet aisles.) I had to write about making eye contact with him and smiling. I had to write about how I got shy and quiet, but never spoke. I had to confess my own larger fears over what reaching out and extending words might mean. I had to disclose my complete joy over the encounter, and my utter frustration of what ensued. I had to admit how long it had been since such an experience had stirred such emotion in my heart and limbs. I had to celebrate that this body, this Divinely made being could have such an encounter, and even, quite possibly inspire something similar in him, the hot Walgreens man, who could be, for all intents and purposes: the other, the observer, even possibly, Christ in our midst.

What does this tale have to do with Lent, this Healing Service, or any of our families?

I turn to this weekend’s scriptures.

In preparation for today’s service, I found myself prayerfully drawn to these words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel according to St. John.

Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,


"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?

Can you repeat these after me?

Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,


"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?

How many of us know these aching questions, these cries coming from our own weary lungs? From our own salty lips? Beseeching a loving God and Creator for salvation?

Whew. For this 40 years old, single lady, roaming the planet trying to honor Love, these questions pierce the core of my heart.
I imagine they might resonate with each of you, as well. No matter what your circumstance as an individual, as a person part of a larger family. How many of us feel we have failed our families? (or they’ve failed us?) We haven’t been fully enough in our community? Haven’t responded in the most compassionate way to our cousins or to the Christ in our midst? How many have felt just like Jesus, here, achy, seemingly alone, and possibly letting down a leader, a parent, a figure of faith that we aspire to serve? (How many of us have feared death?)

I’m 40. A 40-year old single woman who loves God with her whole heart and mind and body. I'm a single, never-been-married woman who wants nothing more than to serve a discerned calling to partner and marry and have children. But has that happened yet? Nope! Guess what my cries sound like to God? Guess what screams pour forth from these lungs!

Enter: Walgreens man. Enter Love. Enter Jesus. Enter a moment, a chance encounter, when beauty pours forth, and pierces my heart, reminding me of my own beloved nature.

How does such a story, juxtaposed with scripture, provide insight into healing ourselves? How does a story like this relate at all to the healing of our families?

I return to a meditation on oneness. On our belovedness. On recognizing our connections with Christ, on seeing our suffering, our screams, as aligned in his own humanity, in his questions and story, and united equally, then, in His salvation…..Don’t you think?

The answer, from the prophet Jeremiah is as simple as this, The Lord says, “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts.”

What’s the Lord writing here, (pointing to heart) except the word, “LOVE!”

Say it with me: LOVE!

So I wrote down this story about the Walgreens guy. I entitled it, “Weak in the Knees at Walgreens. “ I posted it on my blog, and then emailed it my list-serve of about 250 people. Included in this list, were my family members.

And do you know what happened? It triggered something. My aunt Marian, a biologist living in Lincoln, Nebraska, who screams a lot about stuff and incites all sorts of riotous on-line writing, softened in her reception of this. She re-titled my email, “Melissa’s Knees: Our Love Stories.” What ensued for days on end, in my online Borgmann-Family Listerve world: were narrative after narrative, written story after written story, response after response: all bearing witness to each family member’s “weak-in-th- knees” moment, when he or she had a similar encounter with Love.

It was beautiful and inspiring. It felt to be a kind of sweet balm, antidote to that which ails. It was healing.

As I close, I ask each of you to consider:
What is your story? What “weak-in-the-knees” moment have you encountered? What first hand stories of love have you shared with family or friends? How have you experienced Christ’s entrance in your world? At Walgreens, at the dining room table, how do you see yourself aligned with him in suffering and salvation?

My prayer is that in and through our individual and collective witness to such encounters, we know healing in our hearts and homes. May we encounter the beloved in our bodies and in the beauty of the other . May we find alignment in Christ’s suffering, and simultaneously say, “Thank God for the Salvation of Story!”



LENTEN PRAYER ~ A Time for Healing ~

Fridays, 5:30 – 6:15 pm
Carondelet Center, 1890 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
All are welcome!

March 6 ~ Prayer Service for the Healing of the Nations
featuring musicians Mary Preus and Tom Witt

March 13 ~ Healing Our Country
Reflection by Joan Wittman, CSJ Consociate, Chair of Legislative Advocacy Partners Working Group

March 20 ~ Healing Our Communities
Reflection by Brian Reusch, Minnesota Council of Churches, Celeste’s Dream visioning circle

March 27 ~ Healing Our Families
Reflection by Melissa Borgmann, teacher, author, spoken word artist, lover of the gospel

April 3 ~ Healing Our Earth
Reflection by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Jay Phillips Center for Jewish Christian Studies, peace educator

Lenten Prayer is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates: Celeste’s Dream, Hedgerow Initiative, Justice Office, Membership, St. Joseph Workers, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality


Juliet said...

Hey, M

Thanks for sending this beautiful sermon/darma talk/ lenten prayer.

Sending love,


Jody said...


You rocked the room last night.

I enjoyed watching the nods of the heads as people related to your reflection, almost as much as I enjoyed hearing you give it.

Thank you for the way you continue to inspire me and others to see beauty and Christ all around, even in the prsence of a handsome man at Walgreens.



Arlo said...

Thanks for sending your words to my love love. that's what it's all about!

Sr. Rafael Tilton said...

Dear Melissa,
I am so pleased to read this and to share in your reflection from this little distance here, love to love and heart to heart. I have seen a little of this in letters as well as e-mail. Time to try harder, I think!

Love and peace,
Sr. Rafael