Struggle Transforms Us -Joan Chittister

When we find ourselves immersed in struggle, we find ourselves trafficking in more than the superficial, more than the mundane. That’s why maturity has very little to do with age. That’s why wisdom has more to do with experience that it does with education. We begin to feel in ways we could never feel before the struggle began. Before a death of someone I myself have loved, someone else’s grief is a simple formality. We don’t know what to say and we don’t know why we’re saying it because we never needed to have someone say it to us. Before feeling humiliated ourselves we can never know how painful the daily paper can be to those who find themselves in it with no way to defend themselves to the great faceless and anonymous population out there that is using it to judge them. Silently, harshly, even gleefully, perhaps. Until my own reputation is at stake, I can look at another person’s shame and never have the grace to turn away.
After we ourselves know struggle, we begin to weigh one value against another, to choose between them and the future, rather than simply the present, as our measure. Some things, often quite common things, we come to realize—peace, security, love—are infinitely better than the great things —the money, the position, the fame—that we once wanted for ourselves. Then we begin to make different kinds of decisions.
We begin to see beyond the present moment to the whole scheme of things, to the very edges of the soul, to the core of what is desirable as well as what is doable. The bright young man who had worked the pit in the futures market, planned a big international career in trading, and worked hard to start his own business, changed jobs after the collapse of the World Trade Center. He stood in shock a thousand miles away as television cameras watched the building go down with dozens of his friends in it. All of them young, like he was. All of them bright, like he was. All of them on their way up, like he was. But to where? He had lost too many of his hard-driving young friends, he said later, to ignore the meaning of life any longer. He quit his job in the center of Bigtime. He went back to Smalltown, USA, to hunt with his dogs and fish the streams and buy the average family home in a small cul-de-sac in a local suburb.
Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister 
No one comes out of struggle, out of suffering, the same kind of person they were when they went in. It’s possible, of course, to come out worse than we were when we went into the throes of pain. Struggle can turn to sour in us, of course. But it is equally possible, if we choose to reflect on it, to come out stronger and wiser than we were when it began. What is not possible, however, is to stay the same.

—from Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans)

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DO NOT GIVE UP Read Sister’s Joan’s reflection on the 4th step of humility.


Do not give up

“O snail, climb Mount Fuji, But slowly, slowly…” the haiku master and lay Buddhist priest Issa writes. Some might call that a Japanese version of the fourth step of humility (Endure the Pain of Development and Do Not Give Up). Psychiatry might call it recognition of the place of patience in life. The monastic might see it as a call to the virtue of endurance. But if endurance is such a universal part of life, what is the human question that drives it? 

The haiku, in its short, sharp way makes three points:

In the first place, there are great, important things to do in life however small, however frail we feel, however stacked the odds are against us. 

And yet, at the same time, there is more to life than speed. What’s the use of speed? The mountain is not going to go anywhere as we climb it. Conditions may well change as we go and demand a revision of both our plans and our schedule. 

Finally, of course, the difficulties involved in the project must be confronted head-on, but it’s unlikely that they can be resolved immediately. After all, a mountain is a mountain with everything that has to say about what can be learned as we climb and everything that will need to be endured as we go. 

Obviously, what is needed for the long haul is not heedlessness or a series of senseless attempts as we get more and more tired, more and more frustrated, more and more stressed. What is needed is patience. 

It takes patience to come to know God. We must give ourselves a lifetime to do it. 

It takes patience to appreciate every stage of the climb—the hard beginning, the lofty but unreal schedule, and, most of all, the wearying repetition of the process. We must be willing to immerse ourselves in each of them. 

It takes patience to overcome the impulse to frustration, the kind that comes from demanding from ourselves instantaneous results. Frustration ruins the journey by pushing on blindly, past the joy of the goals met and the sense of achievement in the understandings gained, and the comfort of security that comes from forming friendships along the way, and joy of reaching one plateau after another. By allowing frustration to cloud our vision, we miss the scenes and views, the flora and fauna on the way. 

The snail’s journey is clearly, like the fourth step of humility, a call to live life with a quiet mind. The climb toward humility points to the effect of frustration on the spiritual life and the spirit of patience it will take to succeed.

 —from The Radical Spirit:12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister (Convergent)

Blessed Among Women

No one ever taught us Marian theology in any organized academic way. They didn’t need to even try. It came with the May altars we built in grade school. It came with the crowning of May queens in high school. It came with the rosaries we said in October and carried in our purses and fingered in the dark before sleep at night. It was the DNA of religion in our bones. And it was all about Mary, the Theotokos, the Eastern church called her: the Mother of God.

The feasts of Mary in the liturgical year are a virtual catalog of the works of God in humanity and the collaboration of humanity in the Incarnation of the divine in our midst. She is, the ancient prayer reminds us all, “blessed among women.” She is simply a woman like ourselves whose acceptance of the will of God changed the trajectory of humanity. The implications for the rest of us are awesome. The implications for women as women are particularly impacting. If God worked through one woman to bring redemption, how is it that anyone can argue that God does not go on working through other women as well?

Recognition of this relationship between God and humankind in the ongoing creation of the world is one of the most ancient teachings of liturgical theology. If it applies to Mary, it also applies to us.

The proper place for devotion to Mary is a clear one: she is the mother, the woman, the human participant in the work of redemption by her Son. She is the one who heard the Word of God in her heart and followed it to the end, whatever the cost to herself. By her unconditional fiat, she became the perfect recipient of God’s will that each of us would like to be. Her life belongs not simply to her own life but the life of the world as well.

It is in Mary that we see God’s creative will being done. In her, God not only prevails over the inherent weakness of mortality but brings it to the fullness of life for all our sakes. In the memories of the May altars, the crowning of May queens, and the droning of a thousand decades of the Rosary, all those ideas came to life in me and generations of others, came to heart in us, came to stay forever.

—from The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister (Thomas Nelson)

Joan Chittister Event-7/15/17 Register early-Limited seating- This will sell out!

Consistently…. A Speaker who continues to reshape Christian thought and imagination!
Consistently…. A prophetic voice for 21st Century Spirituality!
Don’t miss internationally known and highly respected speaker,Joan Chittister, OSB.
address a critical topic for our time: “The Role of the Public Intellectual”.
Seating limited!  Register early!!


To see differently

To see differently

Feast of Saint Benedict, March 21
Of all the stories told about Benedict of Nursia, this one may be the most impacting of all on our lives. Most of us will never work miracles or found monasteries, but one thing we can all learn to do is to see. This story is about a special kind of seeing.

Benedict left the company of a neighboring abbot after an evening’s conversation about the spiritual life. The period predates both universities and books, remember, let alone televisions and computers. Personal conversation was the key to learning then—a factor that may well explain the popularity of gurus and spiritual masters in that culture. At any rate, people came in droves to talk to Benedict about their spiritual questions, the great no less than the simple.

On this particular night, it is Abbot Severanus, a deeply prayerful person himself, with whom Benedict has been talking. But then, returning to his own room, alone and filled with ideas on the spiritual life, Benedict suddenly began to see what he had never seen before: the sky filled with light “more brilliant than the sun, and with it every trace of darkness cleared away.” Then according to his biographer, Benedict “saw the whole world as a single ray of light.” Benedict had developed sight and insight.  Benedict had begun to see things differently.

The implications for us and our own lives abound.

•What Benedict saw outside of himself is what he already had inside of himself—breadth of soul, compassion and openheartedness.
•The spiritual life enlarges a person’s vision.
•When we begin to see as God sees, we see far beyond ourselves.
The Radical Christian Life by Joan Chittister•When we fail “to see the whole world in one ray of light,” we imprison ourselves inside our own small selves without ideas, without experiences, without love.
•Remember that it was after they had been discussing spiritual things that Benedict’s vision was enlarged to include the whole world. It takes a spiritual sensitivity to hold the whole globe and all its needs in our heart. Any spirituality that makes our hearts narrower than the globe is a bogus spirituality for sure.

—from The Radical Christian Life by Joan Chittister (Liturgical Press)



What needs to change in us?


What needs to change in us?

Changing the way we go about life is not all that difficult. We all do it all the time. We change jobs, states, houses, relationships, lifestyles over and over again as the years go by. But those are, in the main, very superficial changes. Real change is far deeper than that. It is changing the way we look at life that is the stuff of conversion.
Metanoia, conversion, is an ancient concept that is deeply embedded in the monastic worldview. Early seekers went to the desert to escape the spiritual aridity of the cities, to concentrate on the things of God. “Flight from the world”—separation from the systems and vitiated values that drove the world around them—became the mark of the true contemplative. To be a contemplative in a world bent on materialism and suffocated with itself, conversion was fundamental. But conversion to what? To deserts? Hardly. The goal was purity of heart, single-mindedness of search, focus of life.
We do not need to leave where we are to become contemplative. Otherwise, the Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Galilee surrounded by lepers and children and sick people and disciples and crowds of the curious and the committed was no contemplative either. Jesus the healer, the prophet, the preacher, the teacher, by that standard, was not engrafted into the mind of God. The thought appalls. No, surely contemplation is not a matter of place.
“Flight from the world” is not about leaving any specific location. “Flight from the world” is about shedding one set of attitudes, one kind of consciousness for another. On the contrary, we simply have to be where we are with a different state of mind. We have to be in the office with the good of the whole world in mind. We have to be on the corporate board with the public at heart. We have to be in the home in a way that has more to do with development than with control.
What needs to be changed in us? Anything that makes us the sole center of ourselves. Anything that deludes us into thinking that we are not simply a work in progress, all of those degrees, status, achievements, and power are no substitute for the wisdom that a world full of God everywhere, in everyone, has to teach us.

To become a contemplative, a daily schedule of religious events and practices is not enough. We must begin to do life, to be with people, to accept circumstances, to bring good to evil in ways that speak of the presence of God in every moment.
     —from Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

Lent starts in one week

Here are a few Lenten resources:

From Center for Action and Contemplation-Richard Rohr

Companions for Your Journey through Lent
Explore the meaning of this liturgical season (Lent begins March 1) through contemplative reading. Two excellent books for personal devotions and group study:

Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent
by Richard Rohr

God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter
featuring Richard Rohr, Kathleen Norris, Ronald Rolheiser, Luci Shaw, and others
Find these and other resources at

Living Lent Daily

Click Here for Lenten Resources from Loyola Press


Click Here for Lenten Resources from Monasteries of the Heart


Click Here for Lenten Resources from USCCB



Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day
Ananda, the beloved disciple of the Buddha, once asked his teacher about the place of friendship in the spiritual journey. “Master, is friendship half of the spiritual life?” he asked. And the teacher responded, “Nay, Ananda, friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.”Love is something learned only by the long, hard labor of life. It is sometimes over before we’ve ever known we ever had it. We sometimes destroy it before we appreciate it. We often take it for granted. Every love, whatever happens to it in the long run, teaches us more about ourselves, our needs, our limitations, and our self-centeredness than anything else we can ever experience. As Aldous Huxley wrote: “There isn’t any formula or method. You learn by loving.”

But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we live long enough to grow into it in such a way that because of it we come to recognize the value of life. As the years go by, we come to love flowers and cats and small infants and old ladies and the one person in life who knows how hot we like our coffee. We learn enough about love to allow things to slip away and ourselves to melt into the God whose love made all of it possible. Sometimes we even find a love deep enough, gentle enough, tender enough to detach us from the foam and frills of life, all of which hold us captive to things that cannot satisfy. Sometimes we live long enough to see the face of God in another. Then, in that case, we have loved.

—from 40 Stories to Stir the Soul by Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister LIVE -Women and Moral Leadership

Joan Chittister Live Webinar: Women and Moral Leadership

“People get the leaders they deserve” is an old adage. But is it true?

Join Joan Chittister for “Women and Moral Leadership,” a live-streamed webinar, as she articulates why church and society are locked in a leadership crisis in an era when we have never needed vision more.

Joan Chittister will address impacting questions such as:

  • What is leadership and is it possible?
  • What kind of leadership is needed in today’s world?
  • Where are the women? And why?
  • If women were leaders how would it change anything?
  • How would the presence of women leaders change church/state?

Date is Saturday, October 22, 11:00 a.m. to Noon EDT.

Cost is $30 and includes SIX MONTHS ACCESS to the presentation after the webinar concludes.

Register here.

Please note this webinar is not hosted on Sister Joan’s website. There is a link to FAQ and support in the upper left of the registration page if you need help with registration.