Saint Benedict tells us to “keep death before us always.” I don’t always follow that invitation but I do pay special attention to death during November. The church uses death as bookends for the month, opening with All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day and intoning the final rites of the liturgical year at November’s end. And where I live in Pennsylvania, it’s thirty-one days of attentive listening to creation’s death rattle. Nevertheless, it’s my favorite month, this bittersweet mingling of memory and grave digging.
What is Heart of the Matter? For most of my adult life I’ve kept copybooks filled with stories, prayers, art, quotes poems—anything that gives insight to the human journey. It is my favorite spiritual practice. It is also an ongoing source of monastic formation: the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. Now I have a blog copybook called Heart of the Matter. Welcome. —Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator
I was stewing about writing a Thanksgiving blog and came upon this Hasidic tale:
A boyhood friend of the renowned Rebbe Menachem Mendel was asked if he remembered anything unusual about Mendel’s childhood. “No,” he began, “the Rebbe was just an ordinary boy like all the others….except for one time. It was a special day and our tutor took us all out for a picnic held high in the mountains. After the picnic, we all returned home together. All, that is, but my friend, Menachem Mendel. He was no longer among us.
An anonymous Japanese poet wrote:
“Chanting Buddha’s name
Is the deepest pleasure
Of one’s old age.”
The poem posted on the Lectio page on Oct. 19 was titled "Miracle" and it went like this::
the burning bush
it would have been
The monk poet Ryokan writes:
You musn’t suppose
I never mingle in the world
It’s simply that I prefer
To enjoy myself alone.
“Don’t be afraid to speak,” writes Joan Chittister. “Be afraid of what will happen to the whole truth if you don’t.” Fourteen year-old Malala Yousufzai certainly lives those words. As I write this she is in a hospital in Great Britain “resting comfortably, but not out of the woods yet,” the victim of a murder attempt by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy for girls’ education. Despite warnings, this fearless Pakistani teenager spoke her truth over and over again.
What is it about the musical Le Miserables? I always leave the theatre a sobbing basket case, yet inspired by the human spirit—its ability to transform soul-wrenching tragedy into raw beauty.
I’ve just seen it for the third time and am more overwhelmed by this one—presented by our local playhouse--than the previous two that I saw in Cleveland and Toronto.
Best selling women spiritual writers are a rare breed. Rarer still are best selling women spiritual writers who are not nuns.
So I’ve always been grateful that as a novice I came across the writings of British laywoman Caryll Houselander. I’m thinking about her because I subscribe to the monthly, Give Us This Day (Liturgical Press) and in addition to a daily commentary on the scriptures, there is a daily reflection on a “saint.” And this week, Houselander is remembered on her death anniversary, Friday, Oct. 12, 1954.
Poetry always goes to the “heart of the matter.” So once a month this blog presents a poem for you to play with. This year we are doing what German theologian Dorothee Soelle called “theopoetry”—doing theology by communicating with God through images that spring from our everyday experiences. Once a month I present a starter poem from the Japanese monk poet Ryokan and my response to it. Then it’s your turn. I invite you to join the conversation.
During Erie Benedictine meetings in summer we had a small group discussion around the topic “What is your image of God?” That’s an important question because, as the late Jesuit spiritual writer Anthony De Mello reminded us, “we become like the God we adore.” One sister said her image of God was a circle of fire, a great energy. Another said that for her God was a dark cloud of unknowing. “Not a heavy cloud,” she assured us, “but a cloud that hides all certainty.”