Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

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!
--Issa

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.

Journal Entry 188

My friend Mary leaned over to me, tears in her eyes, when the congregation was singing the soul-stirring-hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” and said, “We can’t let them wreck what is still so beautiful.” We were at the Sunday Morning Worship Service at Chautauqua Institution and she was referring to the horrific Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic church that had just been released. What does she mean, I wondered?

Journal Entry 187

“Don’t just do something, the Buddha said, stand there”-- Dan Berrigan.

A friend gave me this saying on a paperweight in the 1970s and I’ve kept it nearby ever since. Berrigan gave the quote after participating in the Catonsville Nine action when he and eight others took draft records from a government office and burned them with napalm to protest the Vietnam War. He said it to explain why he participated in the action in broad daylight and stood there until police officers arrived to arrest them.

Journal Entry 186

I left the house today in plenty of time to arrive at the Silent Peace Walk, a monthly event organized by our local Benedictines for Peace group. For almost a year now, people have gathered at a designated place in Erie—a neighborhood, a park, a landmark—and walked in silence for 20 minutes. The purpose is to reflect on the violence lurking in our hearts and hopefully take a step or two towards becoming a more authentic peacemaker. I drove toward Perry Square, the gathering center of downtown Erie, and was met by barricaded streets and NO Parking signs everywhere.

Journal Entry 185

“…Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are,”

wrote Mary Oliver in a poem I read and used for lectio during our annual Benedictine community retreat. As you know, Benedictines take a vow of stability and I’ve kept this one pretty well. The other two are obedience and conversion of life and I’m so-so with them. But stability? I have committed myself to the local community and I haven’t even moved from the

Journal Entry 184

Our women’s book club is just finishing, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver. All 442 pages of it. Oliver herself selected the poems for this anthology which is numbered from her most recent to her earliest publication in 1963. We began in January and read about 40 poems a month and then shared the two or three we liked best and why we selected them. So, a great part of the 90 minutes was spent with club members reading their favorites aloud. I’m 76-years-old and don’t ever remember experiencing such a regular group immersion in the reading aloud of poetry.

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