Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 203

Whenever I hear the name Francis of Assisi, I think of Saint Claire—they were a spiritual super team. But after reading my saint of the day feature in Give Us This Day, I now have to associate Francis with Blessed Jacoba of Settesoli. I’d never heard of her, but today I learned Francis and she were intimate friends. It was Jacoba that Francis called to his deathbed—Claire was still alive—and he was buried in the shroud that she brought him. Francis even insisted, despite his community’s strong objections, that she be allowed into the friary to stay by his side until he died.

Journal Entry 202

What is forgiveness? Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes that forgiveness is not forgetting, excusing, accepting, denying, or numbing yourself to pain. What is it then? Forgiveness is letting go, not clinging to memories and feelings of pain that you caused others or others did unto you. That’s a definition worth memorizing and living.

Journal Entry 201

Mary Oliver is dead. I can’t believe how sad I am knowing her work is finished. I’ll never get another email from my friend Mary H saying, “Hey, Lou, do you know a new Mary Oliver book is coming out next month?” I had the good fortune of hearing her read in Cleveland once and consider that a top ten highlight of my life. She was a mirror of her words—simple, unassuming, humble, holy. Definitely at home in solitude. And playful. And able to make you lust for her wonder and amazement.

Journal Entry 200

I only made one new year’s resolution this year. It came after reading Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s commentary on God’s call to Abraham to “go forth (lech lecha) from your land, your nation, from your parents’ house and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1). Shapiro writes that a more accurate translation of “lech lecha,” is “walk toward yourself” rather than “go forth.”

All these years, I thought God was calling Abraham to start a new nation, and here God is telling him to take a more difficult trip, one that each of us has to trek.

Journal Entry 199

Someone told me once that whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do the rest of the year. I don’t even believe it, but I prepare as if it were part of the Creed. So, on the Eve I made a list of what I want to do in 2019 in hope that this will be the perfect year.

Journal Entry 198

It’s almost Christmas and I’m enjoying the nativity scriptures because I am mostly in the company of women. Today’s gospel was the Visitation and so I got to spend a good part of the day with Elizabeth and Mary, two women “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

I’ve always had a solid devotion to Mary and it intensifies when I travel the Advent road toward Bethlehem. What draws me to Mary?

A few years back I wrote a prayer that traces her life and its challenge to me. Please accept this as my Christmas gift to you.

Journal Entry 197

I found an Advent poem to memorize. All Advent we pray, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and, if my prayers are answered, this is the Jesus that I want to be born in me.

“Once a young woman said to me,
“Hafiz, what is the sign?
of someone who knows God?”

I became very quiet,
and looked deep into her eyes,
then replied,

“My dear, they have dropped the knife.
Someone who knows God has dropped
the cruel knife

Journal Entry 196

Some thoughts on gratitude.

Journal Entry 195

“I believe in empathy,” is how Azar Nafisi begins her essay in the book, This I Believe. She also believes that we can grow in empathy by reading good literature—stories that teach us more about ourselves and others.

Journal Entry 194

I’m reading This I Believe, a book of short essays from eighty famous and ordinary people who write about a core personal belief. For example, the poet Joy Harpo believes in the sun as a relative that illuminates our path on earth. Elvia Bautista believe that everyone deserves flowers on their grave. Norman Corwin believes in common courtesy. Newt Gingrich believes that the world is inherently a very dangerous place and that things that are now very good can go bad very quickly. And so on.


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