Category Archives: REFLECTIONS

Let Something Essential Happen to Me

O God,
let something essential happen to me,
something more than interesting
or entertaining,
or thoughtful.

O God,
let something essential happen to me,
something awesome,
something real.
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters,
a change that will burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears
or laughter or love that throbs or screams
or keeps its terrible, cleansing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me which is my real self, God.

O God,
let something essential and passionate happen in me
now. Strip me of my illusions of self-sufficiency,
of my proud sophistications,
of my inflated assumptions of knowledge
and leave me shivering as Adam or Eve
before the miracle of the natural–
before the miracle of this earth
that nurtures me as a mother
and delights me as a lover;
the miracle of my body
that breathes and moves,
hungers and digests,
sees and hears,
that works the most amazing messages
of what and when and how,
coded and curled in every cell
and that dares to speak the confronting word.

O God,
let something essential and joyful happen in me now.
something like the blooming of hope and faith,
like a grateful heart,
like a surge of awareness,
of how precious each moment is,
that now, not next time,
now is the occasion
to take off my shoes,
to see every bush afire,
to leap and whirl with neighbor,
to gulp the air as sweet wine
until I’ve drunk enough
to dare to speak the tender word:
“Thank you”;
“I love you”;
“You’re beautiful”;
“Let’s live forever beginning now”;
and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”

–by Ted Loder

in his Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, Fortress Press, 1984, 2005.

REFLECTION: David Brooks commencement speech in which he speaks of Dorothy Day

The following is from the baccalaureate speech given at Sewanee, the University of the South, by David Brooks last week. In it, he references one of his heroes, Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker. We thought folks might enjoy this.

brooks0116

Columnist David Brooks

… One of my heroes is a woman named Dorothy Day.

When she was a young woman, Day thought she wanted to be a writer and a bohemian. She moved to Greenwich Village in New York. She hung out in bars, listened to jazz and had a lot of boyfriends. She read Dostoyevsky as if her life depended upon it, and sometimes seemed to live like a character in a Dostoyevsky novel. But something about the disorganized nature of that life bothered her.

One night she was wrongly arrested and put in jail. She had done nothing wrong, but to her the arrest seemed to indict her entire style of life.

She wrote: “It was as ugly an experience as I ever wish to pass through. I do not think that ever again, no matter of what I am accused, can I suffer more than I did then of shame and regret, and self-contempt. Not only because I had been caught, found out, branded, publicly humiliated, but because of my own consciousness that I deserved it.”

Then a few years later, she had a very different experience. She gave birth to a child. She wrote that when her child emerged she felt like the greatest artist or the greatest poet:

“No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.”

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

Her need to worship turned her toward God. And with that came a passion, to be among the poor. She started a newspaper called The Catholic Worker. She started soup kitchens and homeless shelters and rural communes. She didn’t serve the way we often serve today, as affluent people going down to give the needy a hand. She embraced poverty and lived in the shelters herself. For her the service was not about the meals. It was a form of worship and way to honor God.

Day wasn’t one of these people who could separate public behavior from private morality. Day couldn’t just do good, she had to be good…

Click here to read the entire address (the Dorothy Day section starts on page 3.)

REFLECTION: Hope is our duty

From Wendell Berry:

It is not possible to look at the present condition of our land and people and find support for optimism. We must not fool ourselves.

It is altogether conceivable that we may go right along with this business of “business,” with our curious religious faith in technological progress, with our glorification of our own greed and violence always rationalized by our indignation at the greed and violence of others, until our land, our world, and ourselves are utterly destroyed. We know from history that massive human failure is possible….

On the other hand, we want to be hopeful, and hope is one of our duties. A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendants is to study our life and our condition, searching always for the authentic underpinnings of hope. And if we look, these underpinnings can still be found.

HOUSE NEWS: Welcoming our new live-in members

We were thrilled tonight to have over 20 people join us in a prayer service marking the beginning of a new semester. During the prayer service, we reflected together on the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet from John’s gospel, sharing insights about what the Gainesville Catholic Worker is all about, and then welcoming our new live-in house members–Tamra, Vickie and Daniel. After our gospel reading and reflection, we had each one of them introduce themselves and share with us one gift/talent/skill that they bring to our common work. They’re an incredible group of young people and we’re really blessed to have them living at the house this semester. We hope each of you who regularly make the GCW part of your life will get to meet them and know them over the coming months.

After Vickie, Daniel and Tamra shared their gifts, those gathered offered them a few insights and blessings for the next semester. During the commissioning ritual, we read aloud this passage from Henri Nouwen, in his book, The Wounded Healer:

In the middle of our convulsive world, men and women raise their voices time and again to announce with incredible boldness that we are waiting for a Liberator. We are waiting, they announce, for a Messiah who will free us from hatred and oppression, from racism and war—a Messiah who will let peace and justice take their rightful place.

If ministry is meant to hold the promise of this Messiah, then whatever we can learn of His coming will give us a deeper understanding of what is called for in ministry today.

How does the Liberator come? I found an old legend in the Talmud which may suggest to us the beginning of an answer:

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi came upon Elijah the prophet while he was standing at the entrance of Rabbi Simeron ben Yohai’s cave. He asked Elijah: “When will the Messiah come?” Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.” “Where is he?” the rabbi asked. “Sitting at the gates of the city,” answered Elijah. “And how shall I know him?” asked Rabbi Joshua. “He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds. The others unbind their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again. But he unbinds one at a time and binds it up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed: if so I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.’”

The Messiah, the story tells us, is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds one at a time, waiting for the moment when he will be needed. So it is too with the minister. Since it is our task to make visible the first vestiges of liberation for others, we must bind our own wounds carefully, in anticipation of the moment when we will be needed. We are called to be wounded healers, the ones who must look after their own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others.

All of us come to the GCW wounded, broken in some way. But we are not alone in this; it is our woundedness that connects all of us. Our woundedness can either close us in more deeply upon ourselves, or it can open us up, help us to identify with and empathize with our brothers and sisters, especially those who must carry their wounds around for all to see.

Thanks to everyone who came out for tonight’s service and dinner!

Mother’s Day Proclamation

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

- Julia Ward Howe, founder of Mother’s Day, 1870

REFLECTIONS: Word and Witness – Becoming people who light up the world in which we live

by John Zokovitch

Ed. Note: In his role as Director of National Field Operations for Pax Chris USA, John wrote this cover article for  JustFaith Ministries Spring 2011 newsletter, JustFaith Voices.

Before coming to work at Pax Christi USA, I worked with college and high school students at our local parish and Catholic student center. In talking about the gospel to them, one thing became readily apparent: they don’t want to hear about it; they want to see it. All the talk was just talk – empty and meaningless, if not outright hypocritical. If you didn’t in some way embody what it was you were talking about, you were easily dismissed.

Early on in my ministry I came to realize that students, and, indeed, real seekers of any age, aren’t interested in some dumbed-down, lowest common denominator form of Christianity made palatable to the largest number of people. As Dorothy Day once said, they had “a hunger for the heroic.” The great German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, worried that what passed for discipleship in our churches was really “cheap discipleship,” a pale imitation of the real thing.  But my students were telling me that they wanted the “real thing” – the “deep-down” thing – and they weren’t going to be moved by anything “plastic.”  I remember this feeling from my own childhood when, as a teenager, I was ready to chuck it all aside and go follow a mythical baseball player who had studied with the lamas in Tibet, slept on a straw mat, didn’t want the New York Mets to pay him any salary, and could throw a baseball 160 miles per-hour.  (Sidd Finch, look it up on the web, I swear, the perfect Christ-figure for a lonely, religiously-minded, 16 year-old baseball junkie.)

The point is that the gospel is – should be – transformative to people’s lives. It’s not simply a nice accessory that makes life a little better-looking. Rather, it turns everything upside down, provokes, even disrupts business as usual. It is, ultimately, a story fundamentally in conflict with so many of the major narratives of our time around which we build our lives. But our ears have become so numb to the words that they have lost all their power – because Word without Witness is dead, just as James tells us that faith without works is dead…

To read the rest of this article, click here.

REFLECTION: The function(s) of religion

oakland catholic worker mural

Religion has always offered two very important but two very different functions. First of all, religion acts as a way of creating meaning for the separate self.  It offers myths, stories, tales, narratives, rituals and revivals which help the separate self  to make sense of and to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

This function of religion does not usually or necessarily change the level of consciousness in a person. In that sense it does not deliver radical transformation. It does not deliver a shattering liberation from the separate self altogether. Instead, it consoles the self, fortifies the self, defends the self, and promotes the self. And as long as this separate self believes the myths, performs the rituals, mouths the prayers, or embraces the dogma, then the self – it is fervently believed –  will be saved, either now in the glory of being God-saved or Goddess-favored, or in an afterlife that insures eternal wonderment.

Religion has also served, in a usually very small minority, the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function of religion does not fortify the separate self – but utterly shatters it. What is experienced is not consolation but devastation, not entrenchment but emptiness, not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution. In short, not a conventional bolstering of  consciousness, but a radical transmutation and transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.

- Ken Wilber

EASTER: Dance, Wherever You May Be

I recently talked with a friend who, like me, goes through periods when she feels stuck in a long Lent – waiting for God or some new idea of God to manifest itself. “Religion” has let us down on occasion, and we both sometimes wonder where we belong. I described myself as a member of the The Church of Perpetual Wonder and Frequent Disappointment.  She says she’s a Follower of Dancing Matt. “You get out there and do your crazy-looking dance with as much joy and hope as you can muster – and sometimes people join you.”

The English words to the music in the background of the Dancing Matt video are from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. They point to something beautiful and true about every life: that we are connected to one another and to all of Creation – whatever our geographical home or spiritual state at the moment.

Stream of Life
by Rabindranath Tagore

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

This is actually not far afield from our Catholic roots. I found myself thinking of a more traditional hymn we had both sung often over the years, and I found a number of renditions on YouTube. Here is a sweet, vintage version by Tommy Makem (one of the most Irish-looking men I’ve ever seen!).

***

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said He
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said He.

I danced on a Friday when the world turned black
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body, they thought I was gone
But I am the dance, and the dance goes on.

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said He
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said He.

- Kelli

REFLECTIONS: To love your neighbor

Great love has the potential to open the heart space and then the mind space. Great suffering has the potential to open the mind space, and then the heart space. Eventually, both spaces need to be opened, and for such people non-dual thinking can be the easiest.  People who have never loved or never suffered will normally try to control everything with an either-or attitude, or all-or-nothing thinking. The closed system is all they’re prepared for. The mentality that divides the world into “deserving and undeserving” has never been let go of by any experiences of grace or undeserved mercy. This absence leaves them judgmental, demanding, unforgiving, and weak in empathy and sympathy. They remain inside of the prison of meritocracy, where all has to be deserved. Remember, however to be patient with such people, even if you are th target of their judgment, because on some level that is how they treat themselves as well .

Authentic love is of one piece. How you love anything is how you love everything. Jesus commands us to “Love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” and he connects the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor, saying they are “like” one another (Matthew 22:40). So often, we think this means to love our neighbor with the same amount of love – as much as we love ourselves – when it really means that it is the same Source and the same Love that allows me to love myself, and others, and God  at the same time! That is unfortunately not the way most people understand love, compassion, and forgiveness, but it is the only way they every work. How you love is how you have accessed Love.

- Richard Rohr, The Naked Now

 

REFLECTIONS: Advent Prayer – Waiting for the Light

During morning prayer today we considered the darkness in which we all live a good part of the time, but rarely talk honestly about.  So many of the things privileged people think they know do not hold up over time. We felt we knew so much for one thing! And we imagined that somehow we might be the ones to “get it right,” to live in such a way that we would be spared some of the suffering we see in others. What bittersweet knowledge we gain over time – that life is actually full of suffering, that no one “deserves” it, that no one escapes it. I came across this quote from Mark Vonnegut (son of author Kurt Vonnegut) during a particularly dark time in my own life and clung to its wisdom and hope:

“We are here to help each other through it, whatever it is.”

As much as we may rail against it, life is sometimes very hard.  We all will feel the rug pulled out from under us at some point – when the life we thought was solid suddenly melts away and we find ourselves grappling with a new reality.  Recognizing that it is like that for us all can bring a strange comfort; we are not alone. And we are at the same time empowered to help someone else feel less lonely in their suffering.

Several of my friends are about to spend their first Christmas without a loved one – a son who died of cancer after many years fighting it every way he could; the old college friend who was always there and is suddenly gone; the co-worker with the gift of listening to whom so many of us shared our troubles, and who died alone near Thanksgiving. This time of year is often so hard on people who are suffering. Grief and loss stand out in sharp contrast during a season of supposed “joy.”

This darkness we experience comes and goes in our lives. The season of Advent promises a Creator who suffers with us, who made the world ultimately “good.”  We can “help each other through it,” even as we struggle to see the light ourselves.

-Kelli

In our secret yearnings
we wait for your coming,
and in our grinding despair
we doubt that you will.

And in this privileged place
we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than we do
and by those who despair more deeply than do we.

Look upon us
in this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and in this season of yearning
which becomes so easily quarrelsome.

Give us the grace and the impatience.
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edge of our fingertips.

We do not want our several worlds to end.

Come in your power
and come in your weakness
in any case
make all things new.

- prayer from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth – Prayers by Walter Brueggemann

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