Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 215

What did Mary Oliver read to inspire her? According to an article I read in a recent issue of Parabola, she read a poem by Rumi every day. The touching piece, written by Tricia Spoto, a woman who was one of Oliver’s caretakers during the last weeks of her life, told me a few things about Oliver that I didn’t know. Her extravagant generosity, for instance.

Journal Entry 214

I did something over the weekend that I never did before—I attended a military exhibition. Travis, one of the boys that Sister Mary and I helped raise, is an Iraq war veteran and he brought the national traveling exhibition, “Eyes of Freedom” to the Erie Civic Center.

Journal Entry 213

I loved the movie Late Night with Emma Thompson, one of my favorite actors, and Mindy Kaling, a young Indian-American who also wrote the screen play.

Journal Entry 212

I’m on retreat this week as I am every year in June. Since I entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie in 1959, which means I’ve been attending the annual retreat for 60 years. It’s a great anniversary retreat since it’s being led by our own Joan Chittister. She’s using the theme, “All You Holy Women,” and is building every conference around nine of our deceased sisters who exemplified a quality essential to monastic life.

Journal Entry 211

I’ve just finished facilitating an eCourse on mindful writing for members of Monasteries of the Heart. Using the Benedictine method of lectio divina, sacred reading, I spent three weeks with over 300 participants reflecting on a poem, responding with written prayer prompt and suggesting how to make the practice an integral part of daily life.

Here is a sample of the “lectio with poetry” process that participants who enrolled in “Monastery Scribes II” received three times a week.

hag riding

Journal Entry 210

Here’s a good quote for all writers to tape next to their keyboards. It’s from the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe:

The poet who is not in trouble
With the King
Is in trouble with his work.

Journal Entry 209

May is one of my favorite months since I have such tender memories of May altars, Mary devotions, and dropping rose petals in my parish’s outdoor May procession. A prayer that I’m saying during this month is new version of the “Hail Mary” offered by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. During a pilgrimage he led to the Holy Land, the group visited “The Spring of the Virgin Mary” in Nazareth, the site of the Annunciation. As is his custom at Marian sites, Shapiro said a Hail Mary and then he claims he heard a woman’s voice in his head saying, “Thank you, but it is time these words change.

Journal Entry 208

Every Good Friday the community does a contemporary Stations of the Cross through downtown Erie. I came down with a bad bout of bronchitis and missed it for the first time in 39 or more years. I’m sorry that I missed this one because it centered around the Sorrowful Mother grieving the death of a son and our Earth Mother grieving the death of the globe.

Journal Entry 207

Meinrad Craighead, one of the great pioneers of woman-centered religious art, died last week. In 1978 when she was a Benedictine nun in Stanbrook Abbey, England, I interviewed Meinrad for my book, Peace Is Our Calling. I was asking high profile people in monastic orders and in the peace movement what the Benedictine motto “Pax” meant to them. Did it have anything to do with building a more just world or was it only about interior peace. Of all the interviews I did, I remember hers the most.

Journal Entry 206

I’m reading today’s Gospel that opens “Jesus move about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel to Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him.” (Jn 7:1-2. 10. 25-30). And I’m reminded that what bothers me about Lent is praying a theology that I don’t believe in. It has to do with why Jesus died.


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