Making a lasting impression is awfully hard to do, especially in this day and age of mass information and perpetual change. But it can happen if the experience,
the message, the person affects our brain in a truly transformational way. I can only count a handful of
people who have made lasting impressions on me.
Near the top of that list is a 91 year-old priest named Father Al Ruschman. Known for his even-keel disposition, patience and peacefulness, Fr. Al is widely beloved in his community. He’s relatable to people of all ages and circumstances, surpassing any limits set by Father Time.
I sat down with him recently to talk about
spirituality and how to find it in today’s world.
Today's Spotlight: Rev. Albert Ruschman
Diocese of Covington
Me: Fr. Al where does your faith, your spirituality, come from?
Fr. Al: It started when I was young. I was raised on a farm. My siblings and I helped work the land and tend to the animals. My parents ran a Catholic household. I remember going to mass starting at age 5. Our lives were centered in the Liturgy.
Me: It sounds like a good life.
Fr. Al: It was and yet it wasn’t without hardship. I remember talking with my older brother Clifford in the fields when he was about 13. I was 6 years old at the time. The next day he went to St. Elizabeth hospital for an operation. He had an appendicitus but by the time he arrived his body was already poisoned. We had the funeral visitation at home. That was a hard time for our family, especially my parents.
Me: Did that event affect your faith?
Fr. Al: Clifford’s death was a lesson. It taught my family that out of this hardship was an opportunity to help others in similar situations. It taught us empathy, and how to have a good impact on others who suffer similar losses. As Christians, we’re called to react as best we can to trials and tribulations. And to constantly be open to God’s help.
Me: God has a way of helping and healing through human connections.
Fr. Al: I’ve had a Spiritual Director since I was in the Seminary. That person has changed through out the years but I’ve always had one for spiritual guidance. It’s important to have someone you can talk to or meet with regularly. It doesn’t have to be formal, and the person doesn’t have to bear the title of a Spiritual Director. Everybody just needs somebody.
Me: What are some important characteristics to look for in a Spiritual Companion?
Fr. Al: Does the person listen? Is faith a priority in their life? Do they constantly work on keeping a relationship with the Lord? How well do you know this person? Often times, it’s someone you have come to know over the years.
Having someone to discuss life with helps keep us focused, uplifted, and in touch with the Lord. Though the truth can sometimes be hard to receive. Our hearts must be open to it. Open to advice that’s not always easy to hear.
Me: That’s hard. And it can be equally difficult to give an honest opinion. But that doesn’t seem hard for you. Your disposition is both truthful and kind. How did you come to be like this?
Fr. Al: Knowing that God is with us, and that tomorrow will be better gives me a sense of calm. I’m talking to God all the time. Every day I take a walk. Knowing he’s in the trees, in the people I meet, it gives me peace. I feel connected to this earth. Taking these daily walks gives me quiet time and I always come back enriched.
Me: Many people say they’re too busy for “quiet time” or they’re uncomfortable in the quiet. What would you say to them?
Fr. Al: We have to find a way for quiet time. But that might mean something different to each family or person depending on their stage of life. For a busy parent, for example, quiet time might mean taking a child to see a flower and lingering over it to appreciate its beauty. To determine what quiet time means to an individual, you can ask the Lord for guidance.
Me: Although you’re retired, you’re still very active. You had 8:15am mass this morning. You take daily walks. You visit the school. And up until a couple years ago, you maintained a vegetable garden. If I can ask you one last question, how do you stay so young?
Fr. Al: Of course eating right and staying active is important. But equally important, is my prayer life. To not pray is to give up on our spirituality. If we continue to pray we’ll get back to the Lord. It’s important to keep in touch with God. My prayer life keeps me going.
Well, you heard it from Fr. Al. Youth isn’t just physical and mental but spiritual too.
Thank you Fr. Al for your time and insight. You're a blessing to this world!
Peace, health & happiness!