Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 124

Lots of people commented on Old Monk’s journal entry that followed the national election. I’ve read all of them and they evoked some responses.

First, Old Monk wants to thank all of you who wrote a comment. It’s a small act of courage to own what you think and feel and say it to others. Because I believe we are in for hazardous four years, I, too, want to be honest about what I think a monastic stance requires in perilous times.

Journal Entry 123

When I awake each day I say a short prayer. This morning I had to force every ounce of integrity to pray it. I am heartsick over last night’s national election, in anguish for what this mean-spirited political view, now unchecked in all three branches of the government, will mean for the poor, for women, for refugees, for the sick, for all the vulnerable. I am frightened of what military force we will unleash around the world without an ounce of concern for the unarmed civilians in its wake.

Journal Entry 122

“Memory… is the diary that we all carry with us.”—Oscar Wilde.

Journal Entry 121

I started a three-month writing class with our novice this week, part of an “art or literary elective” that women in formation take as part of their monastic training. The book I chose to read together is the grand classic, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. We began the class by reading the introduction together.

“For many years I had a large class of people at the Minneapolis YWCA,” writes Ueland. I think I was a splendid teacher and so did they.” And she ends the introduction with this vignette about the great U.S. poet, Carl Sandburg. She writes:

Journal Entry 120

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”—Simone Weil

I love this quote by Simone Weil and ruminate on it often in life. Most recently I saw it in action at a family funeral.

One of my nephews, Ted, spoke for the family at the memory service for his mother, my sister-in-law, who died young (67 years old) from Alzheimer complications after 10 long years of struggle. He asked his five siblings to send him a memory they wished to share.

Journal Entry 119

When I was in the novitiate eons ago, my Novice Director used to talk about “tribes.” To be in a “tribe” was to be associated with people that you weren’t related to by blood, or occupation, or even friendship, except that you felt a strong kinship with them personally. There was an intangible that bonded you—an approach to life? a value system? an undefinable attraction? You knew, but couldn’t clearly define, that you were in the same “tribe.”

Old Monk off for the month

Old Monk is off for the month and will return after Labor Day, September 5.

Journal Entry 118

I was pontificating before two young women about how writer and mystic Andrew Harvey was enlightened. I was telling them that he was in India visiting temple after temple in his mad pursuit of the divine when one day he got lost and found himself by a stream. As he sat there he noticed the way the sunlight had alighted on a few large rocks and… “Satori”—he was enlightened.

Journal Entry 117

For two years now, we’ve had a summer intern who works with Joan Chittister’s ministries during the day and lives at the monastery. Breanna Mekuly, a Masters of Divinity graduate of Vanderbilt Univesity, joined us for 10 weeks this year. While she was here, one of our sisters died, and I was surprised at how some of the “passing” rituals the Benedictine Sisters of Erie practice impacted this member of the millennial generation.

Journal Entr 116

My journal pages are blank much too often. When this happens I remember advice from Ernest Hemingway.

"The writer's job is to tell the truth," Ernest Hemingway said. In his memoir, A Moveable Feast he explained that when he couldn’t write he would tell himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

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