Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 171

I talked with a friend yesterday who said that political events in this country and in the world were chiseling hope from her soul. She was desperate for hope and sought for signs of it with a fierce tenacity. She told me that she had attended a poetry workshop the weekend before because the poet leading it promised a sprig of hope.

It got Old Monk thinking about how she keeps resuscitating hope so it doesn't gasp a final breath. Here are a couple ways.

On the windowsill of my study, I have a colorful wooden sign of the word "Imagine." Behind me on the wall I have a photo of the Imagine mosaic that is set in the center of Strawberry Fields, the area in Central Park that pays tribute to the late Beatle John Lennon. I have Lennon's song "Imagine" on my iPad and listen to it at least once a week.

Lennon's lyrics are global—imagine there's no countries, imagine no possession, imagine all the people living for today, sharing all the world, living in peace…. Lennon paints the peaceable kingdom in broad strokes and leaves it for us to imagine how to make that world a reality. As Joan Chittister wrote in the January Monastic Way, you have an imagination "to determine how to make what is better out of what we have at present."

So, I keep imagination at my right hand and I surround myself with stories, some heroic, some ordinary, of people who not only imagine a better world, but make it happen.

For example, I recently read this story from the Holocaust Memorial at Quincy Market in Boston:

Isle, a six-year-old in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, finds a raspberry in the camp. She carries it with her all day in her pocket and at night, with eyes shining, gives it to her friend Guerda on a leaf. "Imagine a world," writes Guerda years later, "in which your entire possession is one raspberry, and you give it to your friend."

After I read that story I copied it into my commonplace book so I could keep it near. It helps. Our circumstances are not in any way comparable to Isle's, but she shows me how to keep hope alive. When the evil of the world threatens to overtake, I click on the iTune app and listen to "Imagine" and I also imagine millions of little Isle's out there, all doing what they can to recreate a new earth. I imagine me. And I imagine you.

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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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