Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 163

It is Thanksgiving and I am remembering two people with a grateful heart—my mother and the poet Robert Lax.

Journal Entry 162

Lily Tomlin played in Erie last week and I’m still laughing…or at least smiling every time I think of her solo performance. What a woman. I’d be hard pressed to think of another 78-year-old who could deliver a two hour, no intermission, performance that included falling to the floor numerous times as part of a skit she was delivering and then standing “without any assistance,” she informed us. I haven’t laughed that hard in years…and more years.

The next day I was reading an excerpt from an Oprah interview with Norman Lear that read in part:

Journal Entry 161

In an interview, Wendell Berry wonders
why we don’t have a gross earth product
that counts the number of trees and the
apples since our lives depend on things
of the earth. Why celebrate a rising
gross national product when we should be
mourning a declining gross earth product?
He notes that we wring our hands over trade
deficit yet it pales when compared to
earth deficit. Berry’s words make Old Monk
wonder why we don’t have a gross kindness
product or gross compassion product that counts

Journal Entry 160

When writing about saints, theologian Walter Burghardt wrote, “Touch men and women like these and you will touch the stars, you will touch God.”

This week we celebrate All Saints Day, a time to honor those who mirror the Divine. I have a personal litany of saints, men and women, whose touch “struck me to the ground,” so intense, dazzling and radiant was their inner light.

Journal Entry 159

This haiku appears every time I wrestle with the issue of dignity and the poor.

the homeless man
takes off his shoes before
his cardboard house
-Penny Harter

Journal Entry 158

It was the last session of the annual Reader’s Retreat with Joan Chittister and she called on one of the women to read aloud from the book we were discussing. The woman opened her mouth to read but instead began to weep. Sister Joan waited. And waited. But the woman continued a cry. After a few minutes Sister Joan kindly prodded, “I feel there is something important you could tell the rest of the group. Give it a try.” Through chocked sobs the woman said, “Awakening…I am awakening.”

Journal Entry 157

Old Monk still has it. Growing up I was the one in the neighborhood that beat up bullies and protected all the little kids. So naturally that’s how the stories were told back to me: Mary Lou is the protector. Kind of a fearless one, too. I would go after any boy, no matter his size, fists swinging. And I usually won.

The trouble is that I’m now in my 70s and still have the mindset of that 10-year-old girl. So much for years of lectio and self-reflection!!! I still think I can walk up to any guy and deck him if he’s doing something wrong.

Journal Entry 156

Here’s a list of books that I’ve finished in the summer months…so far.

Journal Entry 155

It is 6:39 a.m. on Tuesday July 11 and
even though the sky is gray I am celebrating
the feast of Saint Benedict who was rather
gray himself with all his talk about moderation,
as if life was a gift to tippy-toe through
rather than streak across like a
bolt of lightning.

Journal Entry 154

This winter I subscribed to an excellent literary journal, Poetry East, and the first issue that arrived in the mail was devoted to food. Poems on food. Great art on food. Quotes on food
I read it slowly every morning, savoring every mouthful.


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