Thursday, January 30, 2014

What's essential?

This week on January 23 St. Scholastica Monastery celebrated the 135th anniversary of our Benedictine community in Arkansas.  The little log cabin below is actually a cake which is a replica of the original log cabin in New Blaine Arkansas which was, at that time, our founding site.  As I look at the cabin I realize that I am looking at history.  I hear echos of the stories of our founding Sisters.   As we enjoyed the cake at our evening meal January 23 I was so aware that when our Sisters entered that cabin they had no cake.  Indeed they had very little, the bare essentials and  not even that. 

I want to hold on to the word, ESSENTIAL, for a little while.  Ever since our Founding Day Celebration I've been praying with that word and trying to discern just what is essential in my life.  In no way am I implying that we should live in destitution yet I do have concerns with how distracted my life can become in regard to the truly important ingredients of each day.  How can I simplify my life in small ways that truly matter each day?   How can I do a slow dance with only the essential?  For indeed, when I make friends with that which is essential I see everything with new eyes.  For example, beauty is essential and it is all around me.  Sometimes when I stop my restless pacing, I see the beauty that I pass by every day because I'm looking for something else, something better, more profound or elaborate....  These musings reminded me of a poetic reflection I  wrote many years ago.  I named it DECORATIONS.

"In our search for the holy, there are times when our restless preparations smother the very truth for which we are searching.  We decorate our rooms and make elaborate preparations for our prayer,      
    when a single flower  ...

......and a moment of waiting 
                                                                                                                                      are all we need to meet the One Who Comes. 
 In our restlessness, our search 
sometimes becomes the only god we every meet. 

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 because I am too busy
hanging 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 you coming
like night awaiting day.

--Macrina Wiederkehr
Seasons of Your Heart, HarperSanFrancisco

And now back to our beginning question: 
What is essential?  
What will you dance with this week?
List a few things/people/experiences 
that are essential
for you to live a happy life.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

O Lamp of God Gone Out

No matter how much we cry out to God, "Be thou my vision..." there are times when it will seem as though our lamp has gone out.  Any kind of vision that we hoped would light our way has fled and we are left with a troubled heart.

Even in these moments we can find a voice for prayer.  Even if it is a sad and lonely prayer, let us dare to let God hear our voice.

O Lamp of God Gone Out  ~   Where art thou?

Once there was a sweet innocence that lived in the garden of my heart and you 
were my Epiphany Star; you were my clarity, amazing gift of my life.   Your  presence was obvious in the pages of each day.  Reflecting on our original relationship I perceive that it was vibrant and alive with possibilities and meaning.   I remember  how you  helped me claim my authentic spirit.  From childhood days I had such a longing for authenticity  and you were my coach, my star, my gate, my lean-to.

Give me back the sweet innocence of childhood along with the gifted wisdom of my maturing years.  I am firm in my resolution that you are still the Lamp of my Life and I boldly ask you to shine through the stark and seeming barren branches of my life--all the way through to the Epiphany Star that is still shining  in the core of my being.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Amen from Macrina

Monday, January 13, 2014


The word I have chosen for January is VISION. It seems like a good word for a new year.  Even though you may have chosen a different word for this month I offer you this rich word for your prayer.  "Where there is no vision, we are told in Proverbs, the people perish." (29:18)  So just what does the word, vision, mean to you?   First of all, it is considerably deeper than a plan.  Anyone can make a plan; not everyone when making a plan will invite vision to be a companion in the planning.

The first thing to do is to get out your piercing, penetrating eyes (your far-seeing eyes) and become very still.  Wait!  Listen! Look! Rest in the unknowings of the moment!  Close your eyes so that all distractions may more likely disappear and help you get in touch with your inner seeing, that is...your insight. All of this is prayer.   You allow God to pray in you.  After a brief quiet time you might ask yourself a few questions.

  • What is my vision for this day?  If I borrow God's far-seeing eyes and look into this day, how would I like to see myself living? [this need not involve a long list, which is often detrimental to faithfulness; perhaps my vision for this day could simply be to live awake (aware).]
  • How can I live each day with less plans and more vision?
  • Do I have a spiritual vision for the path of 2014?  Am I willing to use my far-seeing eyes to discern what areas of my life are in need of transformation? 
One of the things I am doing this year in an attempt to awaken the vision that I so often allow to sleep in my soul is this:

Before retiring I ask myself a question,  What is your vision for tomorrow?  After a few moments of silent listening, I write in my journal one or two of my dreams for the next day.  Amazing how a little exercise like this can help me stay on the path, awake!

I am also trying to allow everyday theophanies (God-Showings) to speak to me about VISION for my personal life.  E.G. I am walking along and come upon a young green shoot sprouting out of a dead branch.  I pause and allow this ICON to speak to me about my personal life.  What is my vision about the things in my life that seem to be dead but in reality are not.

Another example is this:  I see a Sister in my community doing something really kind for another Sister.  That is a 'God-Showing' and as I let this beautiful vision cleanse me, I call upon my far-seeing eyes to discern what I might do for someone.  It happens every day.  I am jarred out of my sleepwalking.  I awaken to a vision of something more that is waiting for me.

Is it too late to wish you a Happy New Year? 
 Of course not!  
We have 11 months and 18 days of 2014 left.
 That's enough time for you to do a tremendous amount of good and have an exorbitant  number of visions.  

Thank you for the blessing that you are in our world!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy Feast of Epiphany

 And suddenly the star they had seen rising    went forward and halted 
over the place where the child was.
The sight of the star filled them with delight.
Matthew 2:9-10

How often the sight of a star fills us with delight.  It is awesome to stand outside and behold a star-studded night.  The stars, it seems, have always called us to greatness.  They stir up  within us a sense of mystery.  Poets write and sing about the stars.  Artists paint them

We are told to follow our star.  And yet, for all our romanticizing about the stars, if the truth be known, they sometimes lead us to places we would rather not go.  A star marks our path with light and guides us to deeper insight.  With that deeper kind of seeing comes new responsibilities.  It is not always easy to follow a star.

Long ago three who have been called wise journeyed to the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem.  They followed a star that led them to the powerlessness of God lying in a manger.  It was the last place on earth one would expect to find the Creator of the stars, yet that is where those beams did shine.  We call such a moment an Epiphany.  An Epiphany is a manifestation of the Divine Presence right in the midst of daily life.

Those who have tried to follow the Creator of the stars often find themselves in the midst of an Epiphany. They are called to follow stars that seem beyond their reach.  ...   And what about you?  What is your current Epiphany?  Where is your sky all shining with stars?  And which stars are calling you?

Creator of the Stars~~God of Epiphanies
You are the Great Star
You have marked my path with light
You have filled my sky with stars
naming each star and guiding it
until it shines into my heart
awakening me to deeper seeing
new revelations 
and brighter epiphanies.

O Infinite Star Giver
I now ask for wisdom and courage
to follow these stars
for their names are many
and my heart is fearful.

They shine on me wherever I go:
The Star of Hope
The Star of Mercy and Compassion
The Star of Justice and Peace
The Star of Tenderness and Love
The Star of Suffering
The Star of Joy
And every time I feel the shine
I am called
to follow it
to sing it
to live it
all the way to cross
and beyond

O Creator of the Stars
You have become within me
an unending Epiphany.

--Macrina Wiederkehr

Thursday, January 2, 2014


The practice of choosing a word for the year has replaced my former practice of making new year’s resolutions.   I would like for my life to be an Epiphany this year: a manifestation of goodness and light, grace and joy, gratitude and grief.  I want to be open to Epiphanies and Theophanies.  These are God-Showings, moments when an awareness of the Holy Mystery breaks into my life.  You may be surprised that I included grief as a God-Showing.  I have found much grace in grief because it brings me face to face with my vulnerability.  Grief is not an enemy; it reminds me that I have the potential to love and be loved.  When something or someone I loved has been taken away from me it doesn't mean that my life is over; it just means that I have to figure out how to go on with grace and sometimes it takes a while.
I'll take the star as a guide and I’ll try to open my eyes a little wider each day.  I will watch myself live. Not quite the same as a resolution!  I am not saying that I resolve to do this, but I am saying with a certain amount of passion: this is the way I would like to live—open and awake to God-Showings...even if I don't always like the "showing."  I do want to see the truth.

I want to live my life with greater integrity and for me that means living with my eyes open.  It also means I need to reflect on how, sometimes,  I live with closed eyes.   For the new year I have a sign posted on my bulletin board that says, " Open your eyes and watch yourself live." That's scarier than any resolution I ever made.

This year I plan to spend time praying with the gospels about Jesus healing the blind.  The first gospel I've chosen is Mark 8:22-26.  I chose it because Jesus had to lay his hands on the blind man twice before he could really see clearly.  That is definitely the story of my life.  One time just isn't enough.  I am a slow learner; I have to be taught again and again and again.  The hopeful and helpful thing that I know about myself is that I am willing to be taught.

My motto for the year is: Nothing has to be a problem unless I make it a problem.  
My word for 2014 is  Epiphany.  My word for January is Vision.  Those of you who have my 2014 calendar will notice I have given you one word to pray each month.  For those of you who do not have the calendar I will be posting the new word at the beginning of each month.  We can live it together.