Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Empty Bowl

Every Lent I throw a little purple cloth on my personal altar and place there an empty bowl. Sometimes the bowl is wooden, sometimes glass, sometimes clay or pewter. It doesn’t matter what kind of bowl; what matters is that the bowl offers me a vacant space. If there was no available space it would just be a chunk of wood or a lump of clay or metal. It is that inviting free space that enables it to be a receptacle. The emptiness empowers it to receive. Into that unocuppied space I gaze with wistful eyes and longing heart. Desire for God is, after all, one of the primary aspirations of the monastic heart, and so my Lenten Longing almost always, in some form or another, focuses on my desire to become a space for God and others. The empty bowl is symbolic of my desire to be free of the clutter that stands in the way of my love poured out. I put my heart into that empty space and wait for God. I want to be available. And so my Lenten questions are similar from year to year:

What prevents me from being available to those who need my love?

What blocks my heart?

What smothers my love?

What stifles my enthusiasm for life?

What limits my relationship with God, self and others?

Where do I need to loosen my grip and open my heart?

Monday, February 15, 2010


I know that Lent is just around the corner; but I can't get my mind off Valentine's Day!

“Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
that is, than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide what will
get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart, and
what amazes you with joy
and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”

-Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Arms of God.

Only in embracing all
can we become the arms of God.
The Catalpa tree on our monastery grounds flaunts a branch that I have begun to call, the arm of God. Here you see it in the twilight hour. The evening light softens it, giving it a bright strength. I imagine being held in the arms of God in all the seasons and I absolutely love the poetic truth that the mystical poet, Rumi, shares with us: "Only in embracing all can we become the arms of God." Perhaps our souls will soak up the truth of these words on this day of hearts: Valentine Day 2010. Why is it such a challenge for some of us to embrace all? To love all? To invite everyone into our house in any kind of weather? Why is it such a challenge for us to become the arms of God?

Now, in the winter season, the arm of God
embraces all that is frozen in us.
Let us bring to the loving arms of God
anything that needs to be thawed,
especially our prejudices
Prejudice is rooted in fear.
In the 1st letter of John we are told
"perfect love drives out fear..."
St. Benedict picks up on that in our rule.
He reminds us again that love drives away fear.
On this day of love may we discover
that the arms of God do not exclude.
May we be given the arms of God


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Too Crowded Altar

Sometimes my altar becomes too crowded. The simplicity that I long for gets lost in precious clutter. Yes, it is all precious. Each object on my altar is a metaphor that cradles a meaning only I understand. However, metaphors are a bit like adjectives. If I use too many, what I am trying to express gets lost in the decorations. The simplicity that I yearn for gets crowded out with an abundance of symbols and the space I am trying to create becomes a distraction because it is too busy. My altar above is an example of what I am talking about. It began uncrowded on New Years Day with tones of simplicity. Somewhere along the way my preparation for God’s arrival became avoidance. The "stuff" on it became my god.

The tiny stone, the lit candle, the open bible, the significant card, the symbolic heart, the sea shell, and all the lovely things I gather to enhance my prayer, does not draw the Beloved any closer. In reality, my restless preparation often smothers the very truth for which I am searching. Thus I have learned that preparation can, at times, be avoidance; and elaborate arrangements can crowd out Vigilant Waiting. A single flower and a moment of waiting is all I need to meet the One Who Comes. And even that, may be one flower too many.

This is what I am trying to say
in my poem below.


My days are all spent
in decorating my house.
I am forever preparing
for your arrival.
I hunger for your presence
yet I take not the time
to wait for your coming
and to my great sorrow
you never arrive.

It is because I refuse
to be silent
that I cannot hear you.

It is because I refuse
to await you
that you cannot come.

It is because I refuse
to be idle
that I cannot enjoy you.

It is because I am too busy
hanging up decorations
that I cannot welcome you home.

Yet in your deep wisdom
your presence leans toward mine.
You understand my decorations
to be symbols of my hunger
and you know of the day
when my heart swept clean
will be the only decoration needed
and I will listen for your coming
like night awaiting day.

--Macrina, from Seasons of Your Heart

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Listen carefully
each of you who have
a permanent place in my heart.
This valentine is for you.
I am bringing you all together
in the oven of my heart
where I will create
a friendship soufflé.

On February mornings
we will meet at dawn.
I will sit by the window of my heart
receiving your faces, your names, your gifts,
rejoicing in how each of you has
marvelously enriched my life.
When the sun climbs over the horizon
remember you are loved.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Benedict and Scholastica

Here you will see one of my finest pictures

of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica,

our community's patrons.

The sculpting was done in 1978 by Meg, one of those

dear friends whom I can't take out of my

address book (see January 26, 2010 post)

The photo was taken by Yours Truly.
May whatever is frozen
in you melt before dawn!