Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Stop. Look. Listen.

I've been told that the theme for novitiate is "Stop. Look. Listen." Thus far I have found it to be true that I have been able to do each of these in a more heightened way. I never realized how many birds stay as it gets colder!

A few weeks ago I was walking and noticed something new again.

This little leaf was just hanging on to the rail somehow; I didn't want to touch it for fear it would fall, but I was amazed at how it managed to stay put. For the first time (that I can remember, at least) I have noticed individual leaves detaching from trees, too. I am certainly learning a lot about presence right now. But rather than try to figure out what it all means, I will leave you with a poem, Content, from David Ignatow instead.

          I should be content
          to look at a mountain
          for what it is
          and not as a comment
          on my life.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Prepare the Way

It is amazing how overnight we transform into Advent people. It just feels like Advent now, with two hauntingly beautiful instrumental versions of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" at morning praise, Advent hymn books, and a particularly gorgeous Advent wreath adorning the center of chapel. Yesterday you didn't even have to look too closely to see the chapel turn blue. I was able to catch a few glimpses yesterday and this morning. Remember how I said it is hard to find new angles for stained-glass photos? Well, with mirrors underneath our Advent wreath, my work just got easier!

This Advent I am working on a special sort of journal for my art as meditation journey. It combines prose with haiku in a style of writing called haibun. In addition to the journal I am creating, I will play around here a bit too!

monastery in blue
it's beginning to look
a lot like Advent

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Curiosity and Gratitude

Two Saturdays ago I participated in a poetry workshop focusing on the works of Mary Oliver. It was a wonderful post-election pick-me-up. For me, the most powerful part was introducing ourselves while sharing our favorite Mary Oliver poem and our reasons for choosing that particular piece.

I shared At the River Clarion. While lengthier than most of her poems, Mary still seems to capture such a great depth of the human experience in one work. The sharing of each participant was a beautiful practice in listening; it moved me.

Recently, someone shared another favorite Oliver poem with me, What is the greatest gift? The first time this poem entered my life was five years ago upon receiving a copy from a mentor of mine. I also read it again a few weeks ago when it came to mind after listening to a reflection on the ways curiosity can be an antidote to judgment. Since it is a special time of thanks, I give gratitude to this poem and all the people with whom I've shared the words, who teach me to be open to all life.

Blessings of Thanksgiving to you all.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

What is the greatest gift?

What is the greatest gift?
Could it be the world itself -- the oceans, the meadowlark,
     the patience of the trees in the wind?
Could it be love, with its sweet clamor of passion?

Something else -- something else entirely
     holds me in thrall.
That you have a life that I wonder about
     more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a life -- courteous and intelligent -- 
     that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a soul -- your own, no one else's --
     that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
So that I find my soul clapping its hands for yours
     more than my own.

(the wild geese announcing our place in the family of things)

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Over the weekend, we traveled to Villa Maria, PA for another inter-community formation retreat. Our speaker was Amy Hereford, CSJ, a canon and civil lawyer; she spoke on the topic of becoming mystics and prophets in the modern age - quite a unique interdisciplinary kind of woman!

But when we came home, the monastery was without electric. It made for a quiet afternoon of Christmas card making. Tennessee Back Porch, a local band, had set up to practice for a concert, but perhaps couldn't accomplish much sans electricity. Fortunately, the concert is tonight.

This is the most wonderful time of year for our stained-glass windows in the chapel. It is difficult to find new angles for photos, but in this one, you can see some of the band's equipment. As they play their concert tonight, I humbly practiced a beginner's version of "O, Come All Ye Faithful" on the piano this morning!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The low road

I was having a conversation about coming together as community recently, and this poem came to mind. I hope it provides you some good reflection, too. The poet is Marge Piercy; the poem is The low road.

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can't remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can't stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trust the Process

I am now two months into my novitiate. The words I received over and over during a conversation last week were: Trust the process.

They seem quite fitting on many levels right now, if you hear what I'm saying. I mean, I was going to write about how I feel about this election by telling you what happened when I was running today. There was a dog, and usually dogs have electric collars here; the big roads are right at the edge of many yards. This dog started to chase me with no collar in sight. I darted as fast as I could, turned around and yelled, "Stop!" at this evil-looking dog, as if it would understand me. Fortunately I outran it. But, the metaphor might be a little too trite! And, I've told you the story anyway.

During a very good homily this morning we received other words over and over: The work continues. I so desperately want to outrun so many devastating stories of hatred that I am already hearing with torches of love and justice. I want to do that work.

But, I am currently living in a different space as a novice. For the first time since I graduated from college I do not have direct, daily contact with inner-city kids. That reality struck me as I realized how much I want to be in a classroom post-election, teaching kids what community looks like and how we form it with love.

Here is where the trust comes. Whatever is happening to me during this novitiate is teaching me exactly the skills I need to continue the work. The presence that I am learning through some quieter ministries, the stillness that brings me focus, the listening that gives me perspective - I need all these things if I want to do loving work.

I, too, have to trust this election process, as much as everything inside me resists it. I have to trust that it is calling us to greater, better work for those who suffer at the hands of hatred. I have to trust that the work of God continues and is bigger than any of this. I have to trust that love will always trump hate.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dream Me, God

A friend posted these words from Dorothee Soelle on Facebook last night. I will be praying with them many times in the days to come.

Dream Me, God

It’s not you who should solve my problems, God,
But I yours, God of the asylum-seekers.
It’s not you who should feed the hungry,
But I who should protect your children
From the terror of the banks and armies,
It’s not you who should make room for the refugees,
But I who should receive you,
Hardly hidden God of the desolate

You dreamed me, God,
Practicing walking upright
And learning to kneel down
More beautiful than I am now,
Happier than I dare to be
Freer than our country allows.

Don’t stop dreaming me, God.
I don’t want to stop remembering
That I am your tree,
Planted by the streams
of living water.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Current Joys

As novices, one opportunity we have is Art as Meditation. For this, we work with a sister in community on some sort of creative endeavor. My current art as meditation is writing - specifically poetry. This brings me joy. It also partners nicely with other things that bring me joy.

The trees are just so golden right now. My eyes have been spending much time with this particular one outside my window. Since Wednesday its color has changed quite a bit; it has a much deeper color today. This is a picture from Wednesday.

That golden color brought about a haiku:

That Rumpelstiltskin
Seems to be at work again
Turning leaves to gold.

Another joy can be found right outside my window, too. Last week at our Halloween party, I won a prize during a game - "geometric chime" - it said on the box. I showed it to another sister who likes chimes. Outside our window it now lives along with suet for the birds. Of course, when I went to take a picture, all the birds scattered, but the current "double feature" on the shepherd's hook brings me joy. Now that I am back inside there are about a dozen birds hanging out.

The other morning it had been raining. When it stopped, this poem came.

The bird outside my window
Bellows a sound more jarring
     than usual.
"What's wrong?" I ask.
"Oh, nothing," he replies.
"I just want to make sure
everyone can hear me say
that the rain has stopped."

Praise God for life's small joys, which seem so big at times.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hidden Lives

I am currently reading and discussing James Martin's book, Jesus, with another sister in community. I love the Jesuit priest's writing, and I love sharing the journey with someone else as we read.

One chapter focuses on the hidden life of Jesus: those years of growing up in Nazareth before his public ministry began. Pondering the hidden life of Jesus provides for such a rich reflection. What were the most formative events during those years? How did Mary and Joseph's nurturing affect Jesus? How did Jesus come to recognize his true identity? Was he a bit rebellious?

Then, that easily extends into reflection on other people in our lives. What might have happened in her childhood that leads her to hold this worldview? Were his parents the most formative people in his life? Or maybe was it his teachers? Why does she deal with pain differently than I do? Hopefully this type of reflection opens us up to understanding and inclusion.

Over the past few days I have been watching the shamrock plant in my room come back to life. I had re-potted it with poor results. Another sister had recently cut her own plant back, and it re-sprouted, so I tried the same. Here you can see the difference in just one day -- just imagine the hidden life happening underneath the soil!

Observing this reminded me of a poem called "Fueled" by Marcie Hans.

by a million
wings of fire-
the rocket tore a tunnel
through the sky-
and everybody cheered.
only by a thought from God-
the seedling
urged its way
through thicknesses of black-
and as it pierced
the heavy ceiling of the soil-
and launched itself
up into outer space -

May we clap for and celebrate all those hidden experiences that make us who we are.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

Here are three things currently on my "love list." 1. This photo that Jen, a postulant in our community, took of a snowy tree...