Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Boat I Travel in

Recently someone asked me why I was carrying the Holy Rule around so much and I said, "Well, you see, I'd really like to be a Benedictine." The one who had questioned me looked surprised and said, "But you are a Benedictine!" I just smiled and later when I was at prayer I thought a long time about that funny little conversation that ended so unfinished. Then I remembered a meditation I wrote for my Jubilee last summer. I borrowed the idea from Balbir Mathur from a reflection called Planting One Tree at a Time that I found in Heron Dance. I read my meditation once again with that same haunting longing to really become a Benedictine.


The boat I travel in is called Monastic Life. My two chief oars are named for what I most need to keep me faithful to the monastic way of life. One of my oars is called: Seeking God. The other is called, Giving up My Own Will. There are other oars that I keep ready at my side, close at hand, lest I have a sudden inner conversion that requires some quick changes in my course. These oars are Loving Determination (in monastic language—better known as Stability), Radical Simplicity, Prayer, Obedience, the Common Life (also known as Community), Peace, Christ, the Spirit of St. Benedict, Gospel Values and Flawed Love. I know that Flawed Love sounds like a strange oar to cherish, yet it is the only love I have known and I have discovered even love with flaws has amazing powers, and who knows? … as I travel on in my monastic boat with my little oar of Flawed Love some day it may miraculously be transformed into the unfeigned love that I am asked to strive for in Chapter 72 of the Rule.

There are a few other oars laying around in the back of my boat. The fact that they are in the back by no means implies they are unimportant. They, too, are in ready reach. They are very necessary tools for my monastic journey. Their names are Bright Joy, Wonder, Beauty, Mindfulness, Creativity, Passion, Deep Listening, and Extravagant Yearning.

I have been in this boat for fifty years and sometimes I ache at how far away I seem to be from the Shore of my Longing and from that wild, pure, passionate light that we call Everlasting Life (which could be a kind of heaven on earth) but for the most part I am good at forgiving myself and others—so I’ll row on with my spare oars of Courage and Patience seeking God and trying to give up my own will.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tiptoeing Around the Truth

This morning I heard myself saying,
“It’s time for me to stop tiptoeing around the truth
in my personal life, in my work relationships and beyond.”

Well, that’s easy to say
but what do I really mean when I speak those words?
And so, my morning meditation
was filled with thoughts about

how to be truthful without being haughty
how to be truthful without sounding self-righteous
how to be truthful without blaming
how to be truthful without false expectations
how to be truthful without being harsh
how to be truthful without being insensitive
how to be truthful with myself

Words from an old song or poem keep moving through my mind:
“And you bring me down with truth
when lies have filled my life.”

Thus as my meditation continued
I decided to begin with an attempt
to stop tiptoeing around the truth
in regard to my personal life.
Oh My! Lord, please don’t speak very loud.

Some wonderful words
from Dom Helder Camara come to my rescue.
After so many years, what joy
to find these words still in the archive of my heart:

"Do not fear the truth
hard as it may appear;
grievously as it may hurt
it is still right
and you were born for it.
If you go out to meet
and love it,
let it exercise your mind,
it is your best friend
and closest sister."

-Dom Helder Camara

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Labyrinth Liturgy

April 17, 2010 -- This was a wonderful day. We had a labyrinth clean up day and accomplished much. Actually it was a liturgical celebration even if our workers weren't aware of that. Although today the word LITURGY is commonly understood as a worship that happens in church. In ancient times it had a broader meaning. A liturgy is a work done by the people for the good of all the people of God. Yesterday was truly a liturgy. Everyone did their part even if they couldn't be working on the labyrinth.

Dee, Mike and Julie brought pine needles, Sister Hilary brought food. Sister Pat washed off the tables for our picnic. Others prayed for us. Some have promised to donate supplies for upkeep of the labyrinth, others promised assistance with watering. Our infirmary Sisters looked out of the window and cheered us on. In beautifying our labyrinth we were performing this liturgy for our retreatants and guests. Clara Jane, Lisa, Karin, and Linda who assist in taking care of the labyrinth gardens on a regular basis couldn't be there but we did see the fruits of their liturgical service and we added our own love to their flower beds which belong to us all. Oh, and lest I forget: Sr. Pat and our cat, Toby, spend a little time weeding many evenings.

The labyrinth is a wonderful prayer walk for our often over-stressed hearts. I especially like the fact that it slows us down. We walk into the center slowly releasing the obstacles in our lives asking questions like: What prevents me from forgiving? Where do I need to loosen my grip? What blocks my heart? What do I need to release? Our walk into the center is a walk of RELEASE.

When we arrive in the Center we open our hearts and stand with attention to RECEIVE. We accept the gift of the graces we need to be a living liturgy in the lives of others. We trust that all shall come to pass as is needed for the good of our souls. We see our lives unfolding as flowers opening. We yearn to be a part of the healing of the wounds of the world.

The walk out of the labyrinth is a RETURN to our daily tasks knowing that faith has touched us in the areas of our greatest needs. We return with faith. We own the beautiful truth of our lives unfolding as a daily liturgical service.

To those of you who helped
and to those who will help in the future,
we have tattoed THANK YOU
on our hearts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Common Life

My Bench
I am still mulling around with yesterday morning’s first reading for Eucharist: It was about the community of believers in the early church being of one heart and mind, no one claiming exclusive rights to possession but holding all in common. I stared at those words for a long time yesterday and I am still contemplating them today.

I suppose this is what we are to do in our monastic community but oh, my, the purity of the original concept is surely lost if it ever was a true reality. Perhaps it is just an ideal and there is nothing wrong with having ideals as long as we make some kind of progress in transforming them into reality. It occurs to me that I often show more faithfulness in caring for a possession when it is mine (whatever that means) When it belongs to everybody there is the temptation to think the next person who uses it will take care of it properly.

And how easy it is to claim ownership of things, even when you live in a monastery. I go for an evening walk and discover someone sitting on my bench. Imagine! I sit here at this time every evening and now there is someone else sitting in my space. After all, I’m the one who has been cleaning off the bird poop. I’m the one who has been offering hospitality to that particular bench and now someone else is there usurping the atmosphere that I have made sacred.

Well, you get the drift. It is so easy to claim things as my own. I could, instead, make a choice to gaze at the person on my bench and be glad that I blessed the space for them before they arrived--and now they are blessing it even more with their presence. I especially like the idea of offering hospitality to the things we share in common...and perhaps becoming aware of how all these things serve our needs.

The next time you find an empty bench, please consider sitting there for awhile, asking that we become enlightened as to how we might become "one mind and heart." And while you are there perhaps you will be overcome with gratitude that there are so many things we get to share in common. Then leave the place a little nicer than you found it even if the last person forgot to do that.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


We Are Pressured
From Within
To Evolve.

-Karl Rahner

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Lovely Risen Friends

Happy Easter dear colorful friends…

Here is a little color for your souls. This is what I do with my seldom worn scarves to help them feel fulfilled. I just throw them in a pile on my personal altar and ask them to look beautiful.

There are many who adorn themselves with scarves and look so lovely…but when I try to wear them I end up looking like a May Pole so this seems like a creative and even sacred alternative. As I beheld their splash of color this Easter morning they made me smile and something in me began to feel risen. I go into this day Risen and Lovely, like Jesus, hopefully bringing a little color into the lives of others.

And you, lovely risen friends, go into this world with your splash of color. Tell everyone it’s Easter without using words.