Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 221

Saint Benedict had a soft spot in his heart for the young and instructed the seasoned monks to pay special attention to their ideas and opinions because “God often reveals what is better to the younger." I thought of Benedict’s off- beat insight when I received a New Year’s card from a friend who is also a grandmother. The handmade card was a photo of a tablecloth upon which her 9-year-old granddaughter Lucy had printed this message with a ballpoint pen: Met Jane Goodall, got glasses, changed the world little by little & was awesome. Peace (read a lot) L.G.

Journal Entry 220

Thank God that Old Monk still has one good eye and that means she can still read. I still don’t know if sight will return in full or in part to my left eye, the one with the cancerous tumor. Loss of eyesight was one of the risks of choosing radiation treatment. Meanwhile, the tumor seems to be shrinking but I won’t know the final result until spring. And, yes, the cancer is aggressive with high odds saying it will metastasize. But Old Monk has always bucked the odds with gusto and will give this one a rousing effort.

Journal Entry 219

Thank you for your kind comments and promised prayers. The first half of my eye radiation therapy is completed, and I will return for the second procedure in early November. I have no pain and the reduced and blurred vision (temporary, I hope) has actually helped me to see more clearly all the loving friends and family that surround me. Old Monk hopes to get back to her blog in late November. I’ve always loved the quote from The Little Prince, “What is essential, is invisible to the eye.” Now I know the truth of it.

Journal Entry 218

A funny thing happened to me on the way to preparing for my monthly gathering, “Writing as a Spiritual Practice.” The poem I had selected for reflection and writing prompts dealt with writing a will. The poem’s narrator is told by the lawyer to attach a letter to his will detailing which of his “personal effects” will go to whom “…to prevent/potential discord over artifacts/valued only for their sentiment.”

Journal Entry 217

I was interviewed this week by Frank Fromherz for a biography that he’s doing on Bishop Tom Gumbleton, retired auxiliary of Detroit, who is a long-time friend from Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic Peace Movement. Tom and I worked together for about 13 years when Tom was Bishop President of Pax Christi USA (1972-1991) and I was chair of the board and then National Coordinator.

Journal Entry 216

Holy leisure is my favorite pillar of Benedictine spirituality. It’s probably why I entered the monastery—I wanted to live a life of holy leisure. And that intent is the bedrock of my call, the one that keeps me here.

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.

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