Monasteries of the Heart

Heart of the Matter

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

Why a Poetry Park?

On Sunday we dedicated a Poetry Park in the heart of Erie’s inner city. We demolished two ugly, houses—garbage from floor to ceiling, basement to attic—and created a space of beauty. An hour-long open mic poetry reading, attended by 185 people, preceded the dedication.

I’d like to share three items from that afternoon. Why? Because one of the missions of Monasteries of the Heart is to celebrate beauty, to find ways to transform the assault of the ugly into a tsunami of beauty that feed the soul and uplift the human spirit.

In Good Times and Bad

I read a Jewish story, a Hasidic tale, recently that I’d like to share with you.

A great Rabbi was asked by a student, “Why has no one ever heard about your grandfather since great rabbis, like yourself, usually come for a line of prominent rabbis?”

The Rabbi answered, “My grandfather was one of the 36 Hidden Saints whose goodness enables the world to survive. During the day, while working as a goldsmith, he studied the Torah; then he rose at midnight to meditate on the Kabbalah, and he always set aside a tenth of his earning for the poor.”

Poem--September 2012

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.

Orchid

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music

I just attended my favorite weekend of the year—the annual Polish festival in Erie called Zabawa (celebrate.) It’s held each year at the parish where I grew up—about 250 families put on this extravaganza for thousands and thousands of people from Erie and around the country. For this event parishoners hand made 9,000 pierogi, grated 500 pounds of potatoes for placki, potato pancakes and wrapped 3,500 golabki, stuffed cabbage rolls.

Old Monk 10

When Old Monk reaches for her pen, a moment of shock.
Whose hands are these, she asks?
Deep blue veins rise to the surface, prominent
against rice paper skin, cracked like desert clay.
Only one thing left to do.
Old Monk puts pen to paper and waits.
Maybe today words will flow
Maybe not….Tomorrow she will begin again.

LCWR Journal

The following are journal entries from the Annual Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious held in St. Louis, Aug. 7-10 that dealt with the mandate from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to reform LCWR. The Vatican assessment ordered LCWR to revise its statutes, programs and affiliations and place itself under the authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain.

Historic Gathering

I am at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Conference in St. Louis this week. Because I am on the Council for the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, I am a member of LCWR and decided to attend this historic gathering.

Prior to leaving a friend sent me this prayer by Lynne Hybels, a columnist for Sojourners Magazine. I plan to pray it all week. Please join with me in praying the “Dangerous Women Creed.”

Poem--August 2012

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.

Ryokan poem

Story 35

An aged woman had a camel. It was her only source of income. But then it was stolen. Near to her lived a rich man who had thirty camels. The woman visited him and among his herd she found her camel. Everyone was amazed. Would a rich man steal a poor woman’s only camel? And how was it possible for her to know that a certain camel was hers? She insisted it was hers. “But how can you prove it?” the rich man asked. The woman answered, “I can prove it. Kill her and open her chest. On her heart you will find a scar.” The camel was killed and there on the heart was a scar.

A Healthy Path

How do you know if you’re on a healthy spiritual path? I always use as my measure the quote by an unidentified mystic, “Do you want to be a saint? Be kind, be kind, be kind.” It’s a good indicator of whether I’m on a healthy path or, despite the shelves of spiritual books, lost in a pathless jungle.

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