Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 231

A kind of malaise has taken over. I suppose it’s my cancer diagnosis and the weekly trips to the cancer hospital in Pittsburgh for my clinical test procedure. The first three overnight stays were not pleasant as far as side-effects go, but that has settled down and I am not experiencing any physical pain or discomfort—just some tiredness and inner malaise. And, of course, there’s my brother’s death. My personal writing has suffered as a result and I’m not journaling much.

Journal Entry 230

It was a Memorial Day like no other. Normally I would have attended my brother Joe’s annual picnic. Every year he and my sister-in-law Michele came from California to spend the summer at their cottage and this holiday picnic for family and at least a dozen of my friends began the good times. But not this year.

Journal Entry 229

I’m grateful for my Irish friends but some of the stuff they tell me spooks me out. Like the one about a bird flying into your window means death is on its way. A couple weeks ago when the crabapple tree outside my study window was filled with white blossoms, I heard a bird hit my window once, twice, three times…. until I ran and closed the shade. It happened again the next day when I was preparing my morning coffee. I repeated my ritual believing, I guess, that by drawing the shade I was preventing death from arriving.

Journal Entry 228

During the “stay at home” pandemic, I’ve spent hours reading through journals that date from 1976 to 2020. Here are some random selections and updates as I read.

Journal Entry 227

Only nature continues to celebrate as if there is no pandemic. The tulips, daffodils, hyacinths arrive on time in the backyard garden. My inner-city street is awash with white blossoms from flowering cherry, crab apple, and pear trees. Nature lives its life when we cannot. And it will continue its cycle long after we are not. Very humbling to realize we are not the center of anything.

Journal Entry 226

All the sisters in the community were asked to bring “a memento, gift, quote, prayer, etc. that represents your own monastic life and explain its significance to the group.” This invitation was in preparation for a recent Lenten faith sharing at the monastery. Those of us who live in the city and were following the “stay at home” injunction during the pandemic, joined from a distance.

I brought a quote (surprise!) to represent what I think it’s all about. The quote is by the Cistercian monk Andre Louf:

Journal Entry 225

I think of myself as having the vocation of a solitaire. For most of my adult life I have risen before dawn and spent two hours in silence and solitude, reading and writing and daydreaming while looking out the window at the rising light. These two hours are the best of the day for me. When illness or travel or circumstances make these impossible, I am a bit bereft.

Journal Entry 224

How does one listen to the advice of Saint Benedict to “seek peace and pursue it” in a time of pandemic? The offices of Benetvision and Monasteries of the Heart are closed as requested by the governor and the staff is working from home. Like cities across the world, Erie’s schools, small businesses, restaurants, libraries, and taverns are chained shut. The monastery is on a three-week lockdown. Our Benedictine soup kitchen is preparing portable meals and handing them out at the door. Our food panty continues to operate under very strict safety guidelines.

Journal Entry 223

I had the chance to go South for two-weeks recently. I was anxious to see if I could hit a golf ball with one eye. And, yes I can. Life is good. Reading is still a pleasure and I managed half-a-dozen books, mostly on Kindle where the font size can be adjusted. Of course, writing is no problem, at least not an eye problem. Writing, for me, is always a problem of the will and of self-confidence. I did manage these thoughts.

TAKE ONE A DAY

On my shelf
a bowl
shaped by a master potter—
a gift
to hold my ashes
++

Journal Entry 222

This quote by Rumi surprised me:

To pray and fast,
to go on pilgrimages,
to give alms, and
to resist jealousy
are the gems
in our hearts.

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