Curious, distant
Bright sensation on my face
Who is this stranger?

Sunday has taken its name seriously the past two weeks—a gift amidst the necessary, preparatory darkness of Advent. Erie gets a little bleak this time of year as we wait for the Solstice to give us hope; needless to say, days like this are extraordinary moments. (I even write a haiku, or two!)

I got outside for a bike ride and a walk these two Sundays. I cranked up my current favorite band, First Aid Kit. I allowed nature to do its thing to my soul. There is little I can think of more satisfying than making it to the top of one of the longer hills that I hike up on two wheels on East Lake, but the view is, without fail, worth it.

I think a lot about the barrenness of these winter months, especially when I am outside, especially seeing the empty grape vines that were so recently full of fragrance, especially during Advent when the goal is to make space to live an authentic Christian life as our true Hope emerges again.


An Advent PSA

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,

She did not cry, “I cannot, I am not worthy,”
nor, “I have not the strength.”
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
             raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
      consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
   and the iridescent wings.
   courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Consent, Denise Levertov

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Art as Life

When we were at the Renwick Gallery during our time in Washington D.C., one artist’s work focused on the U.S./Mexico border. Tanya Aguiñiga founded AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides). Here is a description of the work she and others are doing:

Quipu Fronterizo/Border Quipu engages US/Mexico border commuters on both sides of the border by asking about their experiences and asking them to anonymously tie a knot. The AMBOS team walks among the cars in traffic, pedestrians waiting in line, and surrounding areas of the crossing asking for participation in an art project that focuses on the lives of those who cross the border and/or live in the borderlands. Postcards that read “¿Qué piensas cuando cruzas esta frontera? / What are your thoughts when you cross this border?” are passed out with pencils for participants to record their thoughts in the space provided. All of those who work or live along the border are invited to participate, and asked what they think if they can cross the bo…

Walking Through Washington

I spent the past week in Washington D.C. attending an early childhood education conference. Quite the experience to see so many EC educators in one place, not only from this country, but representing teachers on an international scale. The highlights for me were workshops on making experiences with block play and math more intentional and meaningful for children.

Staying a good 40-minute walk away from the convention center allowed some opportunities to take in the nation’s capital, a place where I have spent quite a bit of time, but the majority of that as a kid who visited every year.

This time I had the chance to visit the Renwick Gallery with a friend. Currently on display was an exhibit focusing on the Burning Man Festival that takes place each year in Nevada. As its websites describes, the people attending Burning Man create a city unto themselves, “a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. In this crucible of creativity, all are wel…

Transcendence, Enlightenment, etc.

My friend and I have been spending some time swapping messages about transcendence and enlightenment recently. Of course, we have yet to figure out how to achieve either, but this story we love gives us a good hint:

When I was twenty-one and on a Buddhist studies program in India, I ordained temporarily with two Burmese nuns. In the Theravada tradition, monks and nuns cannot eat after noon, so around 5 p.m. every day the nuns would gather to drink lemon tea and talk about the dharma.

At that point in my life, I was jazzed about enlightenment and the end of suffering. I spoke passionately and intellectually about my experiences of noticing impermanence during meditation. After I shared some such heady, proud insights, one of the nuns smiled.

“When I first ordained as a nun,” she said, “I was always hoping to get enlightened. But now, after forty years of practice, nothing has happened!”

Then she burst out laughing, overflowing with joy. “Nothing happens!”

The other nun joined in gleefully. …

What is a monk?

Isn’t this the million dollar question, the question that can help us unlock the future of our life as monastics, and specifically for us, as Benedictines?

Over the next five weeks, we are watching a series from Michael Casey, OCSO titled Monasticism in the 21st Century: A View From the Trenches. It seems Fr. Casey will be addressing the current situation where the monastic family finds itself, emerging features of the life, and how we form ourselves to live this life into the future. 
One issue the Cistercian monk raised was that it is difficult to define monasticism and the monk. Because the life is so dynamic and varied, it therefore carries with it a less-than-concrete definition. There are many orders, many ministries, many cultures, many, many, many. Because of this, there can be a lack of coherent vision about monastic life. 
He joked, “The monastery is about raising cows,” referencing some of the more agricultural communities. One sister sitting behind me misheard the quote, a…

The Truth

The lector read the lines of 1 Peter 5:5:

"And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: 'God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.'”

She walked away from the ambo and said under her breath, "Yeah, you got that right."
Yes, the God opposes the proud and favors the humble. Now, more than ever, we need these lines as our truth.
This little moment happened at Sunday morning prayer during a recent formation weekend. We spent the weekend reflecting on the topic of liturgy and the Benedictine life.
Liturgy, the center around which our lives orbit as Benedictines, takes many forms, but I have spent much time recently in gratitude for the Liturgy of the Hours. Not just because of moments like this that make you smile with hope, but because each day I watch the same women walk into chapel to be faithful to the life they have professed to live. It would be impossible to live conversatio, stability, or obedience without…