Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 183

Love is such an overused and battered word that it can become stale, deadly, meaningless. But today Old Monk heard a PBS interview with a poet that gave “love” a fresh face. Christian Wiman, award winning poet and professor in religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, who “found” God again after falling in love at 30 with the woman he married, quotes a poet friend, Spencer Reece: “All I know is the more/ he loved me, the more/ I loved the world.” If you’ve ever been lucky enough to fall in love, isn’t that the truth?

Journal Entry 182

“Lectio Divina,” reflective reading of God’s word, is the Benedictine gift to the development of spirituality in the church. In the Rule, Benedict allots daily time for this practice, and more time on Sunday and feasts. The traditional lectio confined itself to Scripture and the writings of the church fathers and mothers, but in recent times reflection on “God’s word” has expanded to nature, music, art, the daily news, poetry, and the ordinary things of life that are all sacred.

Journal Entry 181

“Don’t start working with the poor unless you’re willing to be eaten alive.” A sister who had spent long years bandaging wounds and trying to jump start seemingly hopeless lives gave me that advice over 40 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Though I’m still not sure I understand it completely. I think she meant that if you steer your life toward those in the margins and hold back or don’t engage with an expanded heart, it won’t work. If you don’t feel up to the call to be present to whatever is needed, whenever it is needed, don’t open a soup kitchen.

Journal Entry 180

Old Monk enjoys a brief conversation most mornings with poets, hermits and Zen types, and seekers of all stripes. Here are some recent ones:

Journal Entry 179

I got a new insight into the gospels that we hear during the Easter season, the ones where Jesus appears to followers in locked rooms or to those feeling abandoned and hopeless who meet on dusty roads or seashores.

The commentator Geoff Woods reminds me no matter how tightly I lock the doors of my days or how grey and uncertain the hours unfold, there are moments when Christ can suddenly appear and restore a taste of the victory over death.

Journal Entry 178

Since we’re in the season of resurrection, of rising up again from the death blows of life, let me tell you about a beautiful Easter book I read recently.

Journal Entry 177

A book I’m reading by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, gave me a good insight into the Palm Sunday procession where the crowds waved tree branches and shouted to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.”

Journal Entry 176

Now and then it’s just best to forget words and let the visual take over. I feel that way about this week’s blog. On the day of the National School Walk Out against gun violence, I received this photo from my nephew’s wife, Tara. Attached was a note explaining how my grandniece, 11-year-old Kira, stood up all by herself in math class, took off her sweatshirt to reveal an official “Enough” T-shirt with the names of the students gunned down at Parkland High School, and kept standing in the front row for 17 minutes. She was all alone. No one joined her.

Journal Entry 175

One of the best couple hours I spend each month is with my women's writing circle. It's an open circle so the number of participants vary. This month thirteen women walked in and at least 6 were first-timers. What draws them is an itch to write, of course, but being in the company of other women can't be underestimated. "I like it that this is just for women," said one of the newcomers, "although we're each different, we have so much in common that we share."

Journal Entry 174

Sometimes Old Monk reads something so simple and clear on God talk that she wonders why or if any other words ever have to be penned. That happened today (March 3) on the death anniversary of William Stringfellow, the Episcopal theologian, lawyaer, and social critic who harbored his friend Dan Berrigan on Block Island when he was underground and being hunted by the FBI for a civil disobedience action during the Vietnam War.

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