Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 211

I’ve just finished facilitating an eCourse on mindful writing for members of Monasteries of the Heart. Using the Benedictine method of lectio divina, sacred reading, I spent three weeks with over 300 participants reflecting on a poem, responding with written prayer prompt and suggesting how to make the practice an integral part of daily life.

Here is a sample of the “lectio with poetry” process that participants who enrolled in “Monastery Scribes II” received three times a week.

hag riding

is what i ask myself
maybe it is the afrikan in me
still trying to get home
after all these years
but when i wake to the heat of morning
galloping down the highway of my life
something hopeful rises in me
rises and runs me out into the road
and i lob my fierce thigh high
over the rump of the day and honey
i ride i ride
--Lucille Clifton

In the introduction to his poetry anthology, Joy, the editor Christian Wiman wrote that in the ten years that he was responsible for awarding the annual Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry for lifetime achievement, only Lucille Clifton “let out a spontaneous yawp of delight on the phone.” He then uses her poem “hag riding” to show how the poet captures the elusive experience of joy. And does she ever. There is such freshness and freedom in this poem. My favorite part is when Clifton says “and honey….” Try reading the poem without “honey” and see if it sounds or feels different to you. Why might that be? I also love the idea of a “fierce thigh.”

Read the poem silently and circle two words or phrases that strike you in a special way. Read the poem aloud and circle two more words of phrases that jump out at you. Why did you choose those words, phrases, lines? How did the poem make you feel? Explain.

1. Clifton awakens each morning to “something hopeful rising in me.” What is your predominant feeling or thought when you awake? Do you feel the same or different at the end of the day?

2. Have you ever known joy? When? How would you describe joy?

Write a poem or journal entry that begins:

Is what I ask myself…

Memorize this line and repeat it during the day
“…something hopeful rises in me…and honey, i ride, i ride”

Be conscious today of being a bringing a bit of joy to your encounters.

Monasteries of the Heart offers about seven or eight of these courses each year because study is an integral pillar of monastic life. And we keep the fee affordable, usually $20, so that its available to all. “Keep your prices lower than the market price,” Benedict advises in the Rule and we try to follow it.

Our next online course will explore the nature of contemporary community and be led by Erie Benedictine Sister Linda Romey and Katie Gordon, the 2019 Joan Chittister Intern who will be with us this summer. Katie just graduated from Harvard Divinity School and is the organizer behind “Nuns & Nones,” a movement that seeks to create communities and conversation between women religious and millennials without formal religious affiliations. That course will be followed by one with Joan Chittister on her new book, The Time Is Now; then a Mindful Eating experience, and finally an exploration of Nonviolence during the Advent season.

Through the centuries, monasteries have always pulsed with “the love of learning and the desire for God.” It’s incumbent then on Monasteries of the Heart to continue this life-beat of learning and longing into the future.

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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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