Patience comes from our attempts to hold together an always-mixed reality. Perfectionism only makes us resentful and judgmental. (Sunday)
It is only by a foundational trust in the midst of suffering, some ability to bear darkness and uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with paradox and mystery, that you move from the first half of life to the second half. (Monday)
Regardless of the cause, the dark night is an opportunity to look for and find God—in different forms and ways than we’ve become accustomed. (Tuesday)
Through darkness and doubt often come the greatest creativity and faith. Our faith is strengthened every time we go through a period of questioning. (Wednesday)
God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness, because if we fully knew what was happening, and what it will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process. —Gerald May (Thursday)
“The Dark Night of the Soul is not only about being brought to our knees. It is about unconditional love.” —Mirabai Starr (Friday)
Let’s ask for the grace to let go of those grudges and hurts we hold on to, and let’s do it now and not wait until later. (Sunday)
Nothing new happens without forgiveness. (Monday)
God does not love us if we change; God loves us so that we can change. (Tuesday)
To accept reality is to forgive reality for being what it is. (Wednesday)
Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the entrapment of the past. (Thursday)
The genius of the biblical revelation is that it refuses to deny the dark side of things, but forgives failure and integrates falling to achieve wholeness. (Friday)
Practice: The Welcoming Prayer
I’d like to offer you a form of contemplation—a practice of forgiving reality for being what it is—called The Welcoming Prayer.
First, identify a hurt or an offense in your life. Remember the feelings you first experienced with this hurt and feel them the way you first felt them. Notice how this shows up in your body. Paying attention to your body’s sensations keeps you from jumping into the mind and its dualistic games of good guy/bad guy, win/lose, either/or.
After you can identify the hurt and feel it in your body, welcome it. Stop fighting it. Stop splitting and blaming. Welcome the grief. Welcome the anger. It’s hard to do, but for some reason, when we name it, feel it, and welcome it, transformation can begin.
Don’t lose presence to the moment. Any kind of analysis will lead you back into attachment to your ego self. The reason a bird sitting on a hot wire is not electrocuted is quite simply because it does not touch the ground to give the electricity a pathway. Hold the creative tension, but don’t ground it by thinking about it, critiquing it, or analyzing it.
When you’re able to welcome your own pain, you will in some way feel the pain of the whole world. This is what it means to be human—and also what it means to be divine. You can hold this immense pain because you too are being held by the very One who went through this process on the cross. Jesus was holding all the pain of the world; though the world had come to hate him, he refused to hate it back.
Now hand all of this pain—yours and the world’s—over to God. Let it go. Ask for the grace of forgiveness for the person who hurt you, for the event that offended you, for the reality of suffering in each life.
I can’t promise the pain will leave easily or quickly. To forgive is not to forget. But letting go frees up a great amount of soul-energy that liberates a level of life you didn’t know existed. It leads you to your True Self.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 6 (Sounds True: 2010), CD.
Curious about the Joan of Arc statue on Washington Street? Explore the mysteries of her story through music, movement, and drama. Arts educators from five area churches collaborate for a memorable …
“The rule of friendship,” the Buddha said, “means there should be mutual sympathy between them, each supplying what the other lacks and trying to benefit the other…” The words ring true. Friendship is not as much a matter of happenstance as we are inclined to think.
Perhaps one of life’s most precious lessons is that we must learn to choose our friends as well as to find them. The corollary of this insight, of course, is that we must learn not to allow ourselves simply to fall into alliances and acquaintances that come and go like starlight on the water, exciting for a while but easily forgotten. We must learn, in other words, not to make life a playground of faceless, nameless people—all of whom are useful for a while but who never really touch the soul or stretch the mind or prod the conscience.
On the contrary, the realization that friendship is one of the great spiritual resources of the human existence drives us beyond the superficial to the meaningful. It leads us to create relationships that count for something, rather than to simply wander from one casual social affair to another.
It may, in fact, be the friends we make who most accurately measure the depth of our own souls. For that we are each responsible.
To grow, then, requires that we provide for ourselves the kinds of relationships that demand more of us than continual immersion in the mundane. It requires us to surround ourselves with people who speak to the best part of us from the best part of themselves. It means that we must actively seek out as friends those who have something worth saying. And then we must learn to listen well to them so that they can hone our own best intuitions, challenge our least profound assumptions, point out directions that take us to another level of thought and care and determination. At times when life is most unclear, most confusing, we need … this quality of friendship. But only an awareness of our own limitations can possibly prepare us for it.
—from Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible, (Blue Bridge) by Joan Chittister
Forgive me, if this seems too harsh, but it seems to me that much of religion has become a preoccupation with forms rather than with substance. People like Augustine of Hippo, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, and Karl Rahner tell us that the discovery of our deepest self and the discovery of God should be the same discovery. That’s why good spirituality and good psychology operate well together.
Too much of both religion and common therapy seem to be committed to making people comfortable with what many of us call our “false self.” It’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, which is going to sink anyway. To be rebuilt from the bottom up, you must start with the very ground of your being. The spiritual path should be about helping you learn where your true ground, your deepest truth, and your eternal life really are. Our common phrase for that is “finding your soul.”
I believe that God gives us our soul—our deepest identity, our True Self, our unique blueprint—already at our very conception. Our unique little bit of heaven is installed by the Manufacturer at its beginning! We are given a span of years to discover it, to choose it, and to live our own unique destiny to the full. The discovery of our own soul is frankly what we are here for.
Your soul is who you are in God and who God is in you. We do not “make” or “create” our souls. We only awaken them, allow them, and live out of their deepest messages. Normally, we need to unlearn a lot of false messages—given by family, religion, and culture—in order to get back to that foundational life which is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Yes, transformation is often more about unlearning than learning, which is why the religious traditions call it “conversion” or “repentance.”
As a young friar, I remember being very confused about Jesus beginning his preaching with the word “change” (Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2). What was I supposed to change from? I was a good Catholic, a Franciscan, soon to be a priest, and trying to keep my vows. I assumed he meant it for other “bad” people. But those roles and identities were still all “forms,” not necessarily the substance of my soul. I hope you get the point. The false self is all the more delusional the more it appears to be “good.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), ix-xi;
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 13, 16; and
True Self/False Self, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 2003), CD.
Confronting the fear of aging
An ancient monastic story tells of the holy one who asked his disciples a question about life. “Tell me which is greater,” he said to them, “wisdom or action?” And the disciples answered, “Why, it’s action, of course. What good is wisdom without action?” But the holy one answered, “Ah, yes… but what good is action that comes from an unenlightened heart?”
Stories like this challenge modern thought to the center of the soul. We can forget that every stage of life has both purpose and gift. For the young, the purpose is growth and the gift is possibility—the young give us hope. For the middle aged, the purpose of life lies in generativity and the gift is responsibility—the middle-aged give us direction. But to the older generation, we look beyond the stages of public action for experience and the gift of reflection. As the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “The first forty years give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” Or, so we tell ourselves… But, somewhere along the way, something seems to have shifted. In the world as we experience it now, the elders disappear quickly from the public stage, the middle-aged bear the burden of the system, and the young are the focus of attention. …
The fact is that there is nothing a youth-centered culture needs more than it needs its elders. If ever we are meant to have a real role in life, it is surely now. It is precisely at this stage in life that we discover that our real purpose in life is to understand it, and then to pass that wisdom on. … Youth without insights risks action without wisdom.
Elders have things to give that no other segment of society can possibly match and, in the giving of them, come to see the past newly and the future with new faith. They come to know that the future, whatever it is, is not to be feared. What elders have to give a world worshipping at the shrine of newness and energy is memory, experience, objectivity, wisdom, and vision. They know now what really matters, what life is really about—beyond body-building, money-making, and social standing. …
It is the perspective that comes with age that sees failures as the beginning of growth… and it is spiritual persons who come to appreciate the depths of life more than the cosmetics. When we learn to value experience rather than to avoid it, when we value life more than we do the approval of the social police we harbor in our heads, then we are ready to go on growing. More than that, we are ready to be the role models of the generations coming after us. By living fully and well, we can be an antidote to a society that thinks that being high is the only way to be happy.
—“Confronting the Fear of Aging,” by Joan Chittister. CareNotes, Abbey Press.
DAYS OF PRAYER AND WORKSHOP
Cost: $35 – Deposit: $10
(non-refundable and non-transferable)
DAY OF PRAYER
August 12, 2017
9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
VISIBLE PRAYER IN THE FORM OF A MANDALA
Presenter: Lynne Clarkin, AND (Associate of Notre Dame)
Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning center or circle. It dates back to ancient times and has resonated throughout many traditions and cultures. This is a day to experience the process of creating visible prayer, your own prayer! We will begin with quiet prayer, allowing our being to enter into a place, neither here nor there. We will look at “a circle” drawn on paper helping us to focus and using the simple materials provided, such as colored pencils or pens or markers, you will begin! The way you arrange your space and the colors you choose will be your own. You are invited to pour out the mystery that is within – letting it flow and letting the unconscious speak! Ample time and a prayerful setting will add to your experiencing the process and we will be there to assist and to help you open the meaning of your own mandala, your visible prayer. There is a wonder in creation unfolding! A new way of birthing form into light! This is about process.
DAY OF PRAYER
August 12, 2017
9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Guide: Pat Curran , SNDdeN
Christian and Zen perspectives blend in this reflective day on the Ground of our Being. It will be a day when “all living things of the Earth open their eyes wide and look me in the eye.” (Fredrick Frank) and you return the gaze. Just bring a pad of paper and pencil for contemplating and drawing. No art ability is necessary to walk this sacred path.
DAY OF PRAYER
October 21, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
LISTENING TO THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT:
IGNATIAN DISCERNMENT WITHIN THE PARISH SETTING
Presenter: Nancy Sheridan, SUSV
Ignatian discernment within a parish setting offers us the opportunity to approach decision making from another perspective. Let’s acquaint ourselves with how this gift to the Church might enhance the life of our parishes.
Illustration by Julie Paschkis.