Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 138

I got a call from Michael Leach asking if he could reprint an article of mine in the Easter edition of the National Catholic Reporter. Mike is publisher emeritus and editor-at-large at Orbis Book and a columnist for National Catholic Reporter. Though his writings have received numerous awards, a great work of his that will never receive the public acclamation it deserves is how he is currently caring from his wife, Vickie, who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s.

Journal Entry 137

I went to a lecture last week and the speaker repeated a quote by Gustavo Gutierrez, that I can’t shake. Gutierrez’s words were: “So you say you love the poor? Name them.” Old Monk’s been thinking all week about who she could name. At one time in my life, dozens of names would slip off my tongue, but now…maybe one dozen that I know personally. That I can name.

Journal Entry 136

Why do we tell stories? Because these stories encourage us and critique us, writes John Shea, a master storyteller himself.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Old Monk would like to recognize a few saintly women from the monastic family who both encourage and cause me to examine my life.

When I learn that in the 4th century, self-educated Marcella led public attacks against the heresies of her day, I become less fearful and more courageous in speaking my truth.

Journal Entry 135

I have, over the years, conversed in writing with Japanese and Chinese poets and monks. I copy one of their poems and respond with my own. I’ve used this lectio process with Saigyo, Ryokan, Han Shan and, sporadically, with Ikkyu. Two of these dialogues have become books: Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan (Eerdmans) and Old Monk (Benetvision).

Journal Entry 134

About the only thing I like about Lent is choosing the new books I will read for the next forty days. This morning I began The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang which was a big hit in the 1940s.  I learned about it from another book that I read recently, Books for Living by Will Schwalbe.

Journal Entry 133

Mechthild of Magdeburg tells us
that all creation has one gift:
to live with its own nature.
She sees human nature as being inclined
toward God and enduring all things until
we dissolve into God. I believe the saint
but find little evidence to support her insight.
Such hatred and vile tongues flooding
the airwaves. Yet this morning
Old Monk looks to the longleaf
pine trees swaying with all their heart
in the slightest of breeze and knows
the truth of Mechthild’s words.

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On Vacation

Old Monk is away for a winter break. Her blog will return the end of February.

Journal Entry 132

A week ago, I marched with over a million women in Washington and got filled with enough energy and hope—mainly from the hundreds of thousands of strong young women present-- to carry me through my remaining years. Then came a seven-day onslaught of Trump mania and warning enough that I am going to need every step of that March to resist and withstand his hundred-armed relentless attack on all values and issues that I hold dear.

Journal Entry 131

On Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I went to see the movie Hidden Figures. I was feeling a bit guilty because there was a march in his honor taking place at the same time, but I made the right decision. The movie is based on the true story of three brilliant African-American women at NASA--Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson--who were instrumental in the space operation that launched John Glenn into orbit. Talk about battling and overcoming the odds.

Journal Entry 130

I read an essay by Pico Iyer on his love affair with chapels, “A Chapel Is Where You Can Hear Something Beating Below Your Heart.” He calls chapel “emergency rooms for the soul” and his essay deals with nine chapels that have sustained him in life. Iyer is a widely published travel writer who came to the insight that the best place to travel is Nowhere. That is, the best place to travel is into stillness.

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