Saturday, January 27, 2018

Grace

"Put yourself in the way of grace."

Mary Oliver quotes this line from a friend of hers in the essay, Winter Hours, found in her book of the same title. I have been fixating on this line since the new year began. I love it. It implies choice in the matter, and it implies the reality of grace at work in our lives.

Tonight our community celebrated with our new sister, Kathy, as she chooses to put herself in the way of grace for the next year as a novice in the community. As I told her, I am a bit jealous of, but mostly joyful for her. The novice year is one full of grace because of its intentionality and sacredness. The purpose of the year is to grow with God, and all of its components (learning, time deepening relationships with community, exploring art, exploring self, and living in much silence/solitude) are beautiful ways of putting oneself in grace's path.

As our prioress reflected on a line from the Rule of Benedict, I reflected on my own year of grace that just ended not too long ago. My own experience was so wonderful (hence the jealousy). And its graces are only just beginning to show themselves in my daily life.

Sr. Anne reminded us in her reflections of a line from RB chapter 4, the Tools for Good Works, "Your way of acting should look different than the world's way." It is quite a countercultural/different choice to make a conscious decision to put yourself in the way of grace, rather than in the way of self-reliance or materialism. The graces of my novitiate come to fruition when I find myself demanding less and giving more, being more open to reality as it presents itself, while being able to have a better attitude about it. (Sometimes...still a lifelong journey to go!)

I am so, so happy that Kathy has chosen the way of grace for the next year and beyond. The way that allows God to be God in one's life while experiencing all the blessings that this way of living holds and unfolds. Blessings on Kathy as she journeys through this year.

May we, too, put ourselves in the way of grace.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(All this snow had melted when I walked past today!)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Some Thoughts on Authentic Living

My dear friend Jackie just started her own blog over at Monasteries of the HeartThought-provoking would be one word I would use to describe her most recent post, Some Thoughts on Calling. And it was these lines in particular:

Here’s the maddening thing, for me, as I try to figure out what exactly I’m doing with my life: even when you have a sense of what you’re called to, you can never know what it really means to choose it. We all commit ourselves to people, to places, to ways of life without any knowledge of what the future will hold: you can marry someone with perfect certainty that you’ll love him forever, and he could be hit by a truck the day after the wedding. Or you can take vows with a religious community a year before a Church Council permanently alters what religious life looks like, what possibilities it can encompass. More to the point: I don’t know what will happen to this community. I don’t know what will happen to me if I enter. Or if I don't. That is scary.


This is some real discernment if I've ever heard it. I have been doing quite a bit of my own reflecting on the topic of "calling" as I approach a new decade of life. Although I wasn't always aware in the moment, I spent much of my 20's listening to calls and trying to discern a response authentic to those calls. I became a teacher, forgoing use of my undergraduate degree. I tried to find a school that was the right fit for my teaching style. I entered the Erie Benedictine community when I still wanted more. It's only three items, but they are three big items, and I spent most of my 20's living through the life each situation presented (and maybe living through a few other experiences, too).

As I rested and reflected in solitude a few weekends back, I read an old journal of mine in which I wrote, "To risk everything for your passion..." I am currently re-reading a favorite book of mine, The Universe is a Green Dragon, which I first read at the start of my 20's. Brian Swimme writes: "The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion."

Our passions are so key; it is a gift to listen to Jackie as she discovers her own and as mine continue to unfold. Authentic living calls us to do this whole discovering thing together, in community. Authentic living tells us that we must pursue those things which allure us. Authentic living is filled with unknowns, but the promise enfolded in our trust of the process.

"Each person discovers a field of allurements, the totality of which bears the unique stamp of that person's personality. Destiny unfolds in the pursuit of individual fascinations and interests," Brian Swimme also writes. I like to ponder what might happen if we were to authentically pursue our collective destiny (because, as I've learned during my 20's, it's not all about me)—to ponder what might happen if everyone had a true opportunity for pursuit, if no one felt pressured by those who hold authority to forgo their dreams, if those who hold authority didn't hold anyone back for any reason, if we were to uphold one another through the challenges inherent in the pursuit. How beautiful to live authentically.

I am grateful for Jackie's writing, which calls me back to some of my own journeying through my 20's. I am excited for all that the next decade holds. I pray to live it authentically, in pursuit of and willing to risk for passion.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

We Belong Together

Even though our food remains plentiful throughout the winter, our four-footed and feathered friends don't experience the same abundance. So, we bundle up, slip (or forcibly pull) our boots on, and head outside.




Justice does not only extend to our fellow humans, my friends. This morning I was listening to an episode of On Being with Br. David Steindl-Rast as guest. What a beautiful description of our interconnectedness I heard:

Br. Steindl-Rast: I remember, the grace that Buddhists pray before a meal starts with the words “Innumerable beings brought us this food. We should know how it comes to us.” And when you put that into practice and look at what’s there at your table, on your plate, there is no end to connectedness. In the end, for instance — most people don’t think of it, but in the end, we always eat earth. We eat earth, not in an abstract way; in a very concrete way, this humus is what we eat. Or crystals: when we eat salt, it’s pretty obvious that comes out of the earth. That’s earth, directly. When we eat vegetables, well, the vegetables were nourished by all the nutrients in the earth, and then now we eat them, or the fruits of these plants. If you eat meat or fish, then they were nourished by vegetables, and they were nourished by the earth. Always comes back to earth.

But that is only one aspect. Most of it was grown, so people had to work on sowing it and harvesting it, packaging it, transporting it. There you have already a couple of thousand people whom you will never see, never know by name, never meet, and yet, without them, there wouldn’t be anything on your plate. [...] So all the farm workers, they have been working on getting this food to us, horizontally, with our people, our animals, our plants, the earth, and vertically, with the great mystery in which we are embedded, which those who use the term correctly call “God.” It’s not somebody up there. It’s more personal than it would be if there’s somebody up there. It is this tremendous mystery that — to which I am, as a human being, totally directed, totally related to, that makes us human. We are related to that which we call God. It’s tremendous reality.

Ms. Tippett: And this inextricability from — or this connection between gratitude and dependence and interdependence…

Br. Steindl-Rast: Interdependence.

Ms. Tippett: That any complex experience of gratitude would make us aware of that.

Br. Steindl-Rast: Well, the main thing is to think it — I think the beginning is — the starting point is to think it through. The moment you speak of independence, I can just say, what are you talking about? What is anybody talking about who says, “I’m independent”?

Ms. Tippett: Even from one’s enemies.

Br. Steindl-Rast: From every point of view, it is always a “Yes, we belong together,” a lived “Yes, we belong together.” So it’s a decision. It’s something that has more to do with the will than with your emotions or with your thoughts. It is the clear will: “I say yes to this embedding, to this connection with all, with all. I say yes to it.” And when I say yes to it, not just with my mouth, but I actually live that “yes.”

Let us say "yes" to all life, to all people, to all creatures, to Mystery, to all. Let us not exclude other people, other creatures, and especially other countries from our circle of compassion.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Changing Landscape

I was gifted with a weekend of silence and solitude across the road at the lake this past weekend. While it was probably the coldest weekend so far this winter, I wrapped up and did some adventuring to explore the winter stillness.

Here is some ice that caught my eyes. The first one because of its size, the second one because you could see water trickling down.



This was Saturday at the lake. In the early afternoon, there was no sun, but you can see how it tried to make a comeback on a later walk.




And, by Sunday...sun!




Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Resolute Love

Like a caring parent, God receives our childlike painting of a tree--usually an unrecognizable mess--and delights in it. God doesn't hand it back and say, "Come back when it looks more like a tree" or tell us how to improve it, God simply delights in us.


This quote, from Greg Boyle's new book, Barking to the Choir, gave me pause. The teacher in me thought of all the artwork I have received from children throughout my few years in the classroom so far. Each piece delightful in its own way. In fact, I still keep Michael's drawing framed in my bedroom: the cover of The Giving Tree that he made for me. Another student once asked me about my favorite things and gifted me with a precious paper full of sunshine and a river. Yet another drew me St. Benedict after we read The Holy Twins in religion.

As I sat with these lines from Boyle, the Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries, I thought about the "mess of myself" that I present to God. I don't mean it in a bad way...I just mean that I am still incomplete...the journey continues.

I think the word "incomplete" often has negative connotations when it comes to being human, which is the problem, I guess, because it's just reality. (And I've had to journey a bit myself, mostly through my novitiate, to write those words on my own free will.) Reality is that, like a child's painting, God doesn't ask me to come back when I look more like my True/whole self. God takes me here and now; I just have to choose to make that reality the real focus of my life.

I know better than to make a New Year's resolution given the odds stacked against them, but I also know I want to be resolute in living from that stance of the reality of God's delight in each of us this year. I want to be resolute in my belief that there is a force of Love at work in this world that meets each of us where we are--in our messiness of being human--and calls us forward, not because we have to improve ourselves, but because we are called to become Love ourselves. I want to be resolute in my call to recognize that I am not the only one presenting my painting to God. I want to be resolute in loving the way a child loves--with reckless abandon--just like God.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Art of a child.

Prophets of Peace

We spent this weekend celebrating the Feast of Saint Scholastica, Benedict's twin sister. Each year the community gives an award called ...