Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 208

Every Good Friday the community does a contemporary Stations of the Cross through downtown Erie. I came down with a bad bout of bronchitis and missed it for the first time in 39 or more years. I’m sorry that I missed this one because it centered around the Sorrowful Mother grieving the death of a son and our Earth Mother grieving the death of the globe.

At the Erie Cathedral, site of the first station, there was a strong challenge to the church to change its theology of domination, its glorification of patriarchal power enshrined in the male gender. “The theology of domination provides justification for the oppression of women and the abuse of the earth,” we read at the door of the cathedral, in the presence of the local ordinary.

What I appreciated about the stations was the blend of head and heart, facts and poetry. You had Mary and Earth Mother, who wore a crown of flowers, offering their lament at every stop. As the pilgrimage weaved its way by train tracks that carry “bomb trains,” by government offices that sanction pollution, by Lake Erie fishing docks under toxic threat, and finally to the monastery itself as a symbol of hope, there was a merging of the classical and contemporary. The pilgrims intertwined stanzas of the contemporary chant “Ancient Mother, I hear you calling,” with the Aramaic change of the word ABWOON, the word used by Jesus for his Mother/Father when he taught his disciples to pray, with stanzas from the classic hymn, “Stabat Mater”:

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?

I agree with Geoff Wood who writes that what the Passion commemorates is our complicity in the killing of the Poet. “We kill people who envision and insist upon a world of mutual forgiveness and therefore Beauty…. In repudiating those visionaries, who for us are all summed up in Christ, we repudiate the very Creator of the universe—the original Poet who articulates this marvelous world we live in—and even ourselves as potential poets, purveyors of beautiful deed.”

Though I agree with Wood, I’m not sure that message is clear to those who still attend Holy Week services. But this year’s stations, carried by feminine images, went a long way in making us face our tendency to either kill or tolerate the execution of extravagant love, forgiveness, and the beautiful in society and in ourselves. But the central sign of Christianity is not death. Christianity is about imagination, possibility, and hope. And so were the stations. On the Lake Erie Bayfront, for example, pilgrims were invited to, “Come, take flower petals. Cast beauty upon the waters of this bay. Do it as a promise to love and protect this treasure so that all creatures may have life for generations to come.” So be it.

Old Monk raises an Easter toast to the poet in you that no one and nothing can bury forever. Alleluia.

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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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