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.
From the Bible I chose two saints. There is David, who abandoned himself to praise and danced naked before the ark. How I love the anonymous woman in the gospel who poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in an outrageous and extravagant gesture of love. Mary Gordon says of this woman’s gesture: “ …in the moment of the washing of the feet, Jesus insists that beauty matters: that the aesthetic can take precedence over the moral…love wins over duty, passion and the body’s joys eclipse justice.”.
I’ve met mystics through books and poetry. The Sufi Rumi who says of God, “I leapt from you and you devoured me.” Thomas Merton who wrote that if we could see with the eyes of God our problem would be that “we would fall down and worship one another.” Julian of Norwich, anchoress and seer, shown visions of the Mother image of God.
I stand in awe of those who trusted their truth and forged a broader vision. Joan of Arc who remained true to personal conscience through pressure, threats and eventual death at the hands of the church. Teilhard de Chardin, scientist of the cosmos, who held fast to his dream of a new heaven and earth despite exile and excommunication. Dom Bede Griffiths who married the East and West, and unveiled the Divine Feminine at the heart of the world.
Some saints revealed God through music and art. Vincent Van Gogh swimming in yellow sunflowers and starry, starry nights. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer of Holy Mystery, who bathed the world in beauty. Hildegard of Bingen, the greenness of God, who poured juicy, rich grace on all creation.
I bow before God’s favorites, of course, the prophets who cry out against injustice and war. And if I had to chose one such prophet it would be Dorothy Day whose 50 years of sheltering the homeless, resisting war and incarnating holiness as bread for the hungry has molded my life.
I don’t know about you, but I need figures of light, reflections of the Divine, beside me as I try to walk through the dark valley of life. Especially now. In my country, a land of lengthening shaows, I want the light of beauty, truth, and goodness to transform fear, enmity and despair. Old Monk has the models, now all she needs is the courage to walk beside them.
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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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