Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 165

I am still conversing with the Japanese Buddhist nun and poet Rengetsu, “Lotus Moon.” I read one of her poems and then respond.

Pouring rain,
Evening gloom,
In the mountain paddies:
Other than a scarecrow
Not a soul around.

Pouring rain,
Morning sadness,
On the inner-city street:
Other than the young prostitute
Other than the slow-moving car
Other than the feral black cat
Only Old Monk and her beads.
—Old Monk


I recently read a Bible quote from Leviticus that I hadn’t noted before: “Thou shalt not stand idly by.” That hit Old Monk with quite a wallop. What would it mean for us to live a life without standing idly by?

When I googled the quote, I found that Leviticus 19:16 had an ending: “Thou shalt not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened.” But I like the abridged version, because it leaves room for us to fill in different endings, “Thou shalt not stand idly by… when an unjust tax law is proposed… when women are groped and assaulted at whim… when children are denied food… when bullying or gossip or maligning of another takes place in your presence… when nuclear war becomes a casual, reoccurring threat by your president…” And I guess that, in the end, anything that is wrong or immoral does threaten someone’s life. Perhaps that is the only definition of sin that we need: sin is to stand idly by…

Saint Nicholas feast
are those tears on a child’s face?
Don’t stand idly by

To view or make comments you must be logged in to Monasteries of the Heart. If you are not yet a member, you can create a free membership account at now. A real person authenticates each new member account to avoid spam accounts so you will not have immediate access. As soon as your account is verified you will receive an email with further instructions.

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.

Previous Posts Posted