Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 199

Someone told me once that whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do the rest of the year. I don’t even believe it, but I prepare as if it were part of the Creed. So, on the Eve I made a list of what I want to do in 2019 in hope that this will be the perfect year.

The first thing I planned to do after plugging in the percolator was to take down last year’s calendar and hang my beautiful new one on the wall in my study space. The coffee was boiling, but when I went to remove the calendar the small nail ripped out and I couldn’t find it. So much for the perfect beginning to the perfect year. I gave up dreams of perfection, threw the calendar on the chair, and went on to the next “favorite task.”

So far –it’s mid-morning—I’ve read for half-hour, ate my favorite breakfast sandwich at Panera’s, called a friend and sang “Sto lat,” listened to good music, and now I’m writing. Here are two poems

My mother’s rosary
near my pillow;
another sleepless night.
Outside my window
The moon struggles to be whole.

Living in the monastery
I have grown old.
No longer interested in emperors,
enthroned clergy, community babble—
I cling to my prayer beads.

As I mentioned before in this blog, I keep a list of all the books I read and on New Year’s I check the list and see if I remember anything I’ve read. Of the 40 books I finished, these had a strong impact:

Best spiritual book: A Taste of Silence by Bieke Vandekerchhove. I’m not really into the mindfulness sitting in silence all day movement, but this book rang true.

Best novel: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson. Charming and irresistible.

Best lectio book: Happiness: 25 Ways to Live Joyfully through Art by Christophe Andre. Loved this contemplative reading of great art by a renowned psychiatrist and meditation teacher.

Best poetry book: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver. Needs no explanation

Best nonfiction book: The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl. It is the monk’s vocation to perfect the art of holy leisure and Hampl shows the way.

Best memoir: Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home by Natalie Goldberg. I think her narration of a cancer scare is the best thing she’s written since her mega-seller Writing Down the Bones, mainly because this memoir is bone honest.

Okay--I’ve done all of these wonderful things and it’s not even noon. What I have yet to look forward to is copying a few favorite passages in my commonplace book, soaking my feet in Himalayan salt, starting an exercise routine of dancing the polka for 15 minutes in the basement, and sharing a traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner with dear friends and family.

Oh, how I cling to the aphorism that what you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do all year long. Lucky me that the nail fell out of the wall first thing this morning, reminding me how rare it is that anything works out the way you plan it. Praise God.

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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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