Welcome to the first annual Monasteries of the Heart Christmas Gift Exchange. I asked the staff of Monasteries of the Heart this question: “What Christmas gift would you like to send to the membership?” They selected the following gifts for you. We invite you send us a few in return, even belated ones, please.
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
What is the meaning of Christmas? Whenever the question rises in me, I remember a story I read by Susan Griffin who heard it from Odette, a holocaust survivor.
The Talmud teaches,
“The beginning and end of Torah
is performing acts
of loving kindness.”
And the Dalai Lama preaches,
“My only religion
And a Christian mystic wrote
“Do you want to be a saint?
Be kind, be kind, be kind.”
I don’t know about you
but I find it easier to memorize
the catechism and cite quotes
in the Summa to prove the existence of God
and wax eloquent with insights
into the scriptures
and meditate for hours
and keep a chart of how many times
I participated in an online interview recently. Here are some of the questions that I was given and my answers. How would you have answered these? C'mon, give at least one a try.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
Nonviolent social change, imagination, rights of women in the church, good food, a new face of monasticism for a new world, 90 minutes of solitude and silence in the morning, friendship, my Polish heritage, poetry, loyalty, creating beauty in places of violence and poverty, and golf…in no particular order.
I mentioned in an earlier blog how the novel All Quiet on the Western Front turned me into a pacifist. Today I’d like to tell you what book turned me into a revolutionary.
But first, I want to tell you about an opera, Satyagraha by Philip Glass that I saw as a film last month.. What a gift the Met has given by making its productions available for cinema distribution once the curtain closes on the live performance. I can’t fly to New York for every opera, but a movie of the live performance is second best.
Poetry always goes to the “heart of the matter.” So once a month this blog will present a poem for you to play with. To get things started I ask a few questions and put in a writing prompt that I play with.
by Joy Harjo
I don’t remember many birthday gifts in my life, but I do remember one. I’m not sure how old I was even—8 or 9 maybe—when I opened a package from my parents and found a pair of beautiful black and red bookends, shaped like books, and four brand new children’s classics: Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer and Little Women. Prior to that birthday gift, all my reading came from libraries; now I was beginning my own personal library!
No light yet. Old Monk pours
steaming hot coffee in a mug and sits.
Same ritual, morning after morning—
the years a blur. “If upon awakening
your first thought is of God,
you are a monk,” Wayne Teasdale wrote.
What if your first thought is of coffee?
What does that make Old Monk?
“A lover of pleasure”
would do as an epitaph.
And that epitaph would be enough. As Suzuki said on his deathbed,
“Thank you. Thank you.”
Patron of food
This is a week to celebrate food. I know, I know, Thanksgiving is about gratitude and blessings and feeding the hungry. Absolutely. But it’s also about food.
“I am neither Christian, Jew, Parsi, nor Moslem. I am neither of the East nor of the West, nor of the land nor of the sea….I have put aside duality, I have seen that the two worlds are one; I seek the One, I know the One, I invoke the One. The One is the First, the One is the Last, the One is Outward, the One is Inward….” –Rumi
Based on that quote, I wish Rumi had been with me last week when I met with a group that wanted to learn about Monasteries of the Heart. We began by reading aloud from the Introduction of “The Monastery of the Heart” by Joan Chittister.