Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

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.

Journal Entry 193

A snail on a fern is the art photo for this month in the “Meditation” wall calendar that hangs in my study nook. I’m drawn to it because it reminds of a favorite haiku that I copied in a commonplace book about 50 years ago. The translation by R.H. Blyth reads:
O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

Mount Fuji is the highest and most sacred mountain in Japan, the site of many pilgrimages and the subject of many paintings and poems. Recently I copied a different version of the poem, this one translated by Richard Jones:

Journal Entry 192

During the final Senate vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, I was at a funeral. Apropos, you might say. And it was. The funeral service was at our Unitarian church and I was there for Kelly, a longtime friend whose father died.

Journal Entry 191

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change,” the Buddha said. I copied that quote in my commonplace book awhile back and read it often hoping that someday I’ll understand it.

Journal Entry 190

This summer I read The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl and remember two great passages. In the first chapter, Hampl recalls being prepared for her First Confession and learning as an eight-year-old that daydreaming was considered an “occasion of sin.” That’s what the Baltimore Catechism listed in its “examination of conscience.” Hampl writes, “I don’t hesitate. I throw my lot with the occasion of sin. I couldn’t care less what it’s called. It’s pure pleasure. Infinite delight. For this a person goes to hell. Okay then.”

Journal Entry 189

I just finished reading At Play in the Lion’s Den: A Biography and Memoir of Daniel Berrigan by Jim Forest and I’m surprised at the chapter in the book that I keep thinking about. As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, Dan is my peace hero. I got involved in protests and civil disobedience, starting in the late 60s, due in large part to his prophetic witness.


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