By Julianne Dickelman
Dr. Raymond Reyes, inciting us to sing the world into being, woke us up and gathered us together on the final morning of our conference, rousing us with song, story, chanting, and much laughter. One needed to simply consent to be immersed in his rhythmic, passionate bursts of energetic language and being. Dr. Reyes’ message was felt as much as heard.
The poet’s role, he reminded us, is to confront complex issues of the time, to create great dialogue, and to celebrate both. Dr. Reyes challenged us, in his alliterative alchemy of multiple images and provocative metaphor, to be transformed — and to be agents of transformation.
Weaving personal stories rooted in his Mexican and American Indian heritage, theology, and Jesuit principles imbued in his almost 30 years as professor and administrator at Gonzaga University, Reyes inspired us into that dialogue between our particular narratives and our complex cultural and societal issues.
Those issues of our time are many, illustrated by Reyes’ remark, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, some people build windows.” Walls are barriers against diversity. But diversity, Reyes posits, is God’s way of being in our world. Diversity is a living curriculum toward love and service. So, he reminds us, we are called to window-building — windows that open to promote consciousness, windows through which the winds of justice (“what love looks like in public spaces”) might blow. And, his imagery continues, like salmon swimming upstream, we struggle against the current, but we are compelled to continue this journey, speaking truth to power, knowing that “courageous conversation creates caring community.”
If the source of all conflict, perhaps the bricks that build these walls, are the three R’s — race, religion and resources — then the three R’s essential to open windows must be relationship, relevance and respect: to know the power of ourselves and the other in relationship; to know what we care about and make it relevant without sacrificing what we believe; and to act on what we care about out of respect, or, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., “to act in the spirit of sacred hospitality.”
Dr. Reyes continued to stir our imaginations by referencing celestial navigation, the ancient science of position-fixing that enables a navigator to transition through a space using three navigation points. But rather than the stars a mariner might employ, Reyes offers us Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection as our reference points, as we traverse the often-painful and humbling journey on our Emmaus roads, trying to re-locate ourselves, awakened and in service. He illustrated these reference points with stories from his own journey out of anger toward love, toward seeing people as “mysteries and not problems,” by hearing through “love that listens.”
He offered many thought-provoking images and language potions — catalyzing our conference conversations and kindling alchemical fires within — so that we might return to our daily work knowing who we are, what we value, as well as our purpose and destiny. Dr. Reyes concluded by inviting us to be hollow bones through which God breathes the melodic, and to have strong backbones to have the courage to hold others accountable. And to keeping singing and dancing — and laughing — because humor is “rain for parched imaginations.”
Julianne Dickelman, BCC, is a chaplain educator at Providence Healthcare in Spokane, WA.