By Kaitlyn Rusca
The year after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, I made my home at L’Arche Tahoma Hope (Tacoma, Washington), living in mutual relationships with persons with disabilities. Our “core members” (persons with disabilities), are incredible teachers of what is most important.
The core members are as authentic as human beings come. They are never preoccupied with outward appearances and the opinions of others like the rest of us are. They wear no masks to cover up their weaknesses. They don’t have fancy clothes or Ph.D. degrees, and are not concerned with power or prestige.
And they don’t always follow all of the rules, social or religious, that us “normal” people can care so much about. Mass at L’Arche might be condemned by the Scribes and Pharisees, but it is one of the most simple and joyful celebrations of God’s love I have ever experienced. Sometimes we clap, sometimes we dance. Sometimes a core member shouts out her favorite food from the back, because she’s excited to have it for lunch.
The core members live from the heart. They are free to be completely themselves, because they know they are loved for who they are. The Pharisees and Scribes seem so caught up in outward appearances that they live in a prison of rules and expectations. My wish for them is that they could have glimpsed, just for a moment, how deeply loved they were.
This year, the core members at L’Arche have been helping me to realize and settle into God’s simple love for me. They are helping me to see that God does not need us to be perfect, but hopes for our growth in the weightier things of love, compassion, mercy, and fidelity. Today, let the insides of our cups be filled with the unconditional love of our incarnate God, and may we discover then that the outsides have become radiant in the freedom of this love.
Kaitlyn (Kiger) Rusca’s original reflection was posted on Notre Dame’s FaithND blog. After leaving L’Arche, Kaitlyn joined Robby, her now-husband, on a Catholic farm and retreat center in rural West Virginia called Nazareth Farm. They were married in September of 2013, stayed at the farm (living in intentional community) for 6 more months, and then took a long road trip across the country to visit and learn about other intentional communities and farms, especially Catholic Worker farms. In 2014, they moved to Martinez, California, where Robby is pursuing a degree in music while she works as a yoga instructor and doula. They are expecting their first child in January 2016, after which the Rusca family plans to move to the Seattle/Tacoma area so Kaitlyn can pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and Spirituality.