Wednesday, September 26, 2018

a hole in a flute

I am
a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through—
listen to this

- Daniel Ladinsky, inspired by Hafiz, “The Christ’s Breath,” Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002), 153. Used with permission

Sunday, September 23, 2018

trust your aloneness

Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. 

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

HT: John Predmore SJ, Ignatian Spirituality

Friday, September 21, 2018

the moan is the birthing sound

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery Alabama
The air must have been thick with fear and prayer as the slaving ships pulled out of Gorée and other West African ports laden with human cargo. Devotees of Vodun, the river gods, [YHWH], Allah, Oludumare—to name just a few—lay together (tightly or loosely packed) in an involuntary rebirthing cocoon. It was a community of sorts, yet each person lay in their own chrysalis of human waste and anxiety. More often than not, these Africans were strangers to each other by virtue of language, culture, and tribe. Although the names of their deities differed, they shared a common belief in the seen and unseen. The journey was a rite of passage of sorts that stripped captives of their personal control over the situation and forced them to turn to the spirit realm for relief and guidance.
. . . The word contemplation must press beyond the constraints of religious expectations to reach the potential for spiritual centering in the midst of danger. Centering moments accessed in safety are an expected luxury in our era. During slavery, however, crisis contemplation became a refuge, a wellspring of discernment in a suddenly disordered life space, and a geo-spiritual anvil for forging a new identity. This definition of contemplation is dynamic and situational. . . .
As unlikely as it may seem, the contemplative moment can be found at the very center of such ontological crises . . . during the Middle Passage in the holds of slave ships . . . auction blocks . . . and the . . . hush arbors [where slaves worshipped in secret]. Each event is experienced by individuals stunned into multiple realities by shock, journey, and displacement. . . . In the words of Howard Thurman, “when all hope for release in the world seems unrealistic and groundless, the heart turns to a way of escape beyond the present order.” [1] For captured Africans, there was no safety except in common cause and the development of internal and spiritual fortitude. . . .
The only sound that would carry Africans over the bitter waters was the moan. Moans flowed through each wracked body and drew each soul toward the center of contemplation. . . . One imagines the Spirit moaning as it hovered over the deep during the Genesis account of creation [Genesis 1:2]. Here, the moan stitches horror and survival instincts into a creation narrative. . . . On the slave ships, the moan became the language of stolen strangers, the sound of unspeakable fears, the precursor to joy yet unknown. The moan is the birthing sound, the first movement toward a creative response to oppression, the entry into the heart of contemplation through the crucible of crisis.
- Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, second edition (Fortress Press: 2017), 45-46, 50, 52.
HT: from today's meditation from Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

Friday, September 14, 2018

Walking out of a door into the fresh air

 "It is simply opening yourself to receive. The presence of God is like walking out of a door into the fresh air. You don't concentrate on the fresh air, you breathe it. And you don't concentrate on the sunlight, you just enjoy it. It is all around."
- From a lecture by Thomas Merton, to the monks at Gethsemani

Thursday, September 6, 2018

all good Catholics, even the Pope

we are sinners

From Pope Francis' homily, September 6, 2018. From Vatican News HERE.
“There are people who go through life talking about others, accusing others and never thinking of their own sins. And when I go to make my confession, how do I confess? Like a parrot? ‘Bla, bla, bla… I did this, this…’ But are you touched at heart by what you have done? Many times, no. You go there to put on make-up, to make-yourself up a little bit in order to look beautiful. But it hasn’t entered completely into your heart, because you haven’t left room, because you are not capable of accusing yourself.”

And so that first step is also a grace: the grace of learning to accuse oneself, and not others:

“A sign that a person does not know, that a Christian does not know how to accuse himself is when he is accustomed to accusing others, to talking about others, to being nosy about the lives of others. And that is an ugly sign. Do I do this? It’s a good question to get to the heart [of things]. Today let us ask the Lord for the grace, the grace to find ourselves face to face with Him with this wonder that His presence gives; and the grace to feel that we are sinners, but concretely, and to say with Peter: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinner'.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

true rest is a moment of contemplation

Francis and the Clowns
Notes from Francis' homily this morning:
There is false rest and there is true rest.

Society is thirsty for entertainment and holiday. We think that a "successful" person is one who can afford different kinds of pleasure. But this mentality slips towards the dissatisfaction of an anesthetized existence of entertainment that is not rest, but alienation and escape from reality.  Man has never rested as much as today, yet man has never experienced as much emptiness as today.

True rest is a moment of contemplation, of praise.

It is a time to look at reality and say: how beautiful life is. to say to God: thank you for your life, for your mercy, for all your gifts.

Make peace with life because life is precious.

Peace is chosen, it cannot be imposed and cannot be found by chance.

In the end, “all is grace”. For, as the Psalmist assures us, in God alone do our souls find rest.
- Pope Francis, homily at Casa Santa Marta, September 5, 2018

From Vatican News HERE

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

two spirits

Daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta  (Vatican Media)
"There are two spirits, two ways of thinking, of feeling, of acting: that which leads me to the Spirit of God, and that which leads me to the spirit of the world. And this happens in our life: We all have these two ‘spirits,’ we might say. The Spirit of God, which leads us to good works, to charity, to fraternity, to adore God, to know Jesus, to do many good works of charity, to pray: this one. And [there is] the other spirit, of the world, which leads us to vanity, pride, sufficiency, gossip – a completely different path. Our heart, a saint once said, is like a battlefield, a field of war where these two spirits struggle."
- Pope Francis, September 4, 2018 

from Vatican News HERE

bibilcal zen

A Zen line in Job: "Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars?" (39:26)
- Merton, Conjectures, p. 285

Monday, September 3, 2018

The truth is meek. The truth is silent. The truth is not noisy.

Pope Francis last week at the Vatican.CreditCreditGiulio Origlia/Getty Images

In his homily at this morning's Casa Santa Marta Mass, September 3, 2018, Pope Francis said,

“The truth is meek. The truth is silent. The truth is not noisy."

Even in a family, Pope Francis said, there are times when a discussion of politics or sports or money escalates into a truly destructive argument; 

"in these discussions in which you see the devil is there and wants to destroy—silence. Have your say, then keep quiet.” 

Francis was commenting on the Gospel story of the day from Luke that describes how Jesus reacted when he returned to Nazareth and met with opposition from his former neighbors after commenting on a passage from the prophet Isaiah.

He said the Gospel story helps us “to reflect how to act in daily life, when there are misunderstandings” and “to understand how the father of lies, the accuser, the devil, acts to destroy the unity of a family, of a people.”

He recalled Jesus’ silent composure on that occasion, when people wanted him to do miracles as he had done elsewhere, but when he chose instead to comment on the prophet’s words and they got furious and the atmosphere quickly changed “from peace to war.” Jesus adopted “silence” when confronted with the devil.

Pope Francis said that those who attacked Jesus “were not persons, they were a pack of wild dogs that threw him out of the city. They did not reason. They shouted. Jesus stayed silent. They took him to the top of the mountain to throw him down, but he passed through their midst and went away.”

“With his silence,” he said, Jesus wins against “the wild dogs”; he wins against “the devil” that “sowed lies in the heart.”

Pope Francis said that Jesus’ dignity shines through “this silence that triumphs” over his attackers, as it would also on Good Friday when they shouted “crucify him!” after praising him on Palm Sunday.

He acknowledged that what Jesus did is not easy, but “silence wins, through the Cross.” He emphasized that 

“the dignity of the Christian is anchored in the power of God.” 

“May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent. This applies to every part of life: to work, at home, in society.”

 Excerpted from reporting by Vatican correspondent, Gerard O'Connell for America Magazine HERE.

Also at the Vatican News site HERE.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

blind alleys

Handwritten notes and poems by Robert Lax, courtesy of the Lax archives at St. Bonaventure University
"Bob Lax was a potential prophet, but without rage. A king, but a Jew too. A mind full of tremendous and subtle intuitions, and every day he found less and less to say about them, and resigned himself to being inarticulate. In his hesitations, though without embarrassment or nervousness at all, he would often curl his long legs all around a chair in seven different ways, while he was trying to find a word with which to begin. ... Lax has always been afraid he was in a blind alley, and half aware that, after all, it might not be a blind alley, but God, infinity."

- Thomas Merton (Seven Story Mountain)

The Nonviolence of Francis

Some accuse Pope Francis of being confusing when he does not aggressively defend the righteous and condemn the sinners, imposing rules, defining with papal infallibility the lines we cannot cross, etc. But they do not understand that, in reality, what he is confusing is the evil spirit that motivates them.
In a world where politicians and religious leaders debate and insult each other through tweets, Francis, with his way of resisting aggression through dialogue, “stands firm (Ephesians 6:13) but with the same attitude of Jesus,”[26] and opens around him a different political space, that of the Kingdom of God, in which the Lord is the real champion of the battle, not us.
This “passive resistance of evil” – the same that Bergoglio has always emphasized as the grace which belongs to the people, and upon which they build patiently and wisely their culture[27] – amends, among other things, three attitudes that are typical of a “politics of aggression” and are at the basis of all partisan politics. Bergoglio describes these behaviors as they present themselves in the Passion of our Lord. The first one is the behavior of the people who “persecute those who they believe to be weaker.”[28] The powerful did not dare to oppose Jesus when the people followed him, but they were brave enough to do so when, after having been betrayed by one of his own, they saw him weakened. The second attitude is characterized this way: “At the root of all cruelty there is a need to unload one’s own faults and limits […] the mechanism of the scapegoat is repeated.”[29] The third attitude belongs to those who, like Pilate, in the face of such ferocity decide to wash their hands of it and walk away.[30]
 From an article in La Civilta Catolica, "The Spirit of Fierceness" by Diego Farrs SJ, September 1, 2018

Christ in the Rubble

The Rev. Munther Isaac lighting a candle next to an improvised crèche this month in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Credit... Samar Hazboun...