Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 15

Old Monk is very interested in the correlation between justice and peace and beauty. So she was grateful to spend a few days with Brother Mickey O’Neil McGrath, an artist whose studio is in the heart of the inner city desert of Camden, NJ. Camden, as you might know, is one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the country. Brother Mickey was the guest speaker for the community weekend and told stories while showing his paintings of five holy women-- Thea Bowman, Dorothy Day, Therese of Lisieux, Georgia O’Keeffe and Kateri Tekakwitha.

Journal Entry 14

This week is one of Old Monk’s favorite happenings—April 24 is “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” Organized by the Academy of American Poets as part of National Poetry Month, people are encouraged to select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/406

Old Monk always wanted to organize a citywide event here in Erie, but never took the time to do it. Then she had another idea—why not a Poem in Your Pocket weeklong celebration with Monasteries of the Heart?

Journal Entry 13

Old Monk attended a writing conference last week in Grand Rapids, MI: Festival of Faith & Writing. It was quite a rush to be in the company of hundreds of people who love writing and spirituality and to hear such luminaries as James McBride, 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction; Mary Szybist, 2014 National Book Award Winner for Poetry; 85-year-old poet Luci Shaw, and best-selling author, Ann Lamott.

Journal Entry 12

Old Monk just read Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible by Alan Rusbridger, a journal account of how the author committed a year of his life learning to play one of Chopin’s most difficult pieces. What made this commitment unique is that Rusbridger, an amateur musician, didn’t take a sabbatical to learn the piece, but continued as editor of The Guardian, during one of the paper's most tumultuous years—WikiLeaks, the war in Afghanistan, terrorist bombings, the transition from print to digital publication, and finally the British phone hacking scandal.

Journal Entry 11

What is the Dalai Lama’s favorite prayer? When asked that question the Dalai Lama said it is the one recited by the bodhisattvas, the enlightened ones. The bodhisattva is able to reach nirvana but delays it out of compassion for those suffering on earth. The prayer is:

For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
--Shantideva

Journal Entry 10

Old Monk attended a community Lenten discussion last weekend on the book, Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. We read five chapters together and each sister was asked to copy her favorite sentence from the chapter and tell why she chose it.

Journal Entry 9

Old Monk would like to visit the cave in Subiaco, Italy where Saint Benedict began his spiritual journey as a hermit. Because of his reputation for holiness, Benedict was soon asked to form a community. And then another. And another….

Journal Entry 8

What’s your best inspiration for understanding God? Nature? Liturgy? People? Scripture? Old Monk puts a lot of stock in literature. It is through poetry and novels and plays and song lyrics that she gets a glimpse of godness.

She agrees with St. John of the Cross:

They can be like a sun, words.
They can do for the heart
what light can
for a field.

Journal Entry 7

Old Monk is not a big fan of Lent. She’s more of a Christmas person, blasting carols the day after Thanksgiving until the Feast of Epiphany. Old Monk likes angels and peace and just the glory and awe of “God with us.” Lenten childhoods of candy and movie deprivation and spending long hours at extra church devotions, including those numbing Stations of the Cross, and no eating between meals and no flowers or joyous singing left its mark. To say nothing of Holy Week where Old Monk participated in the spiritual contest of kneeling for three straight hours on Good Friday.

Journal Entry 6

The Emmaus Soup Kitchen in Erie is celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Old Monk helped found the kitchen and so was asked to write a short reflection for its anniversary newsletter. Old Monk wrote:

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