Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: 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.

Which brings me to this morning. I was getting a cup of coffee in a drive-through and was parked at the window. In my rear-view mirror, I noticed the couple behind me fighting. The man was obviously yelling and the woman was crying hard. She kept putting her hands to her face and I wondered if he had hit her. When the clerk came to the window I said, “There may be a domestic violence case behind me. The woman is crying and he keeps yelling. I didn’t see him hit her but I’m not sure. You may want to call 911 or get the license plate.” Then the clerk disappeared. The man kept screaming. The woman kept crying.

I couldn’t take it so I jumped out of the car, turned, pointed my finger at him and yelled, “Did you hit that woman?” He yelled back, “She’s my girl.” I repeated, “Did you hit that woman.” “No,” he screamed. “Well you better not,” I said and got in my car. The clerk was back by then and handing me my coffee. “Sorry,” I said. “I just can’t take abuse.” “I understand,” she said.

I pulled away and the guy behind me followed, not stopping for his food. I stopped the car and he pulled up beside me, rolled down his window, screamed some expletives, and then gunned the motor and drove away. I followed letting him know I wasn’t afraid.

God knows what I would have done if he had come after me. He was in his 20s and muscular and very volatile. But I felt good about what I did. I don’t mind getting shot or beat up for taking on bullies.

Yes, I know, I should have tried to disarm the situation, rather than confront, but that 10-year-old girl wouldn’t rest and I’ve always been a great advocate of Saint Augustine’s insight: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Today was a gallon of anger and a teaspoon of courage.

What might appear to be an inverse of this quote in action can be found in our newest and youngest staff person, Jacqueline Small. On Sunday, the Feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux she went by herself and stood on the steps of the Erie Cathedral with a sign asking that the Roman Catholic Church ordain women. Because Therese of Lisieux desired to be a priest, the Women’s Ordination Conference called for public demonstrations on that day. To protest injustice in society takes courage but to protest injustice in the church—all alone at the local Cathedral––defines courage anew. Jacqueline says, “I seethe with anger over this issue,” but anyone who approached her on Sunday wouldn’t know it. She greeted the most derisive comments with a gracious kindness. I agree, Jacqueline is a better portrait of Saint Augustine’s understanding of hope than is Old Monk. She is more Gandhian, too. As for Old Monk…she holds on to Jesus, whip in hand, entering that temple and knocking them all out.

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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