Summer. Savor. Stop. Slow. See. Some Stories.

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Story One. I was  second in the line in the express (12 items or less) checkout at the grocery store. Ahead of me for a much longer time than I thought possible, was an elderly, thin, obviously confused person who kept fumbling with the money required for payment. I will never be venerated as the most patient of saints, and well, an express line is an express line, so I leaned forward to see if I could help, kindly saying “Ma’am, could….” And stopped right there. I realized first, that she had a beard so I got that one wrong. But I also saw more clearly what was happening in the transaction, and noticed the kindness and patience shown to him by the young grocery clerk, gently, not exasperated, going step by step with him to help him figure it all out. I stopped, and saw clearly, and was touched. And taught.

Story Two. Some years ago, in a motherhouse community that shall remain unnamed, there was a disagreement about the pace at which the Office should be recited. There were two camps. One group wanted the psalms to be  prayed at a contemplative pace, and the other felt that Dominic’s encouragement of his brethren to sing the office “breviter et fortiter” meant to keep up a brisk pace. And there were days when there was both pulling and pushing, speeding up and slowing down, the louder faction seeking to make its will known , sure evidence of the lack of accord. One day, the “fast” faction was definitely pushing the pace. And when the last notes of the “O Lumen” were sung, a member of the community who was known for her clear assessment of situations and her lack of hesitancy in naming them, approached one of the leaders of the “breviter” group and said to her, “And what exactly were you going to do with the two minutes you just saved?”

I imagine that question as a part of our life’s end dialogue with God at the Pearly Gates.                       What exactly did you gain from all your impatience and the efficiency you required of yourself and others? How exactly was the Reign of God served, the people of God better loved, the face of Christ manifest to the world by your rushing about, always in the passing lane, getting things done? And we could have, perhaps, another billion or so years—or there being no time in God, a very long “now”—to come up with an answer.

Summer flowers among us. The light of Christ, the breezes and streams of the Spirit call us to attention and contemplation of the flowering of all that is so precious to God. We want to be there, don’t we, present to that endless moment, to share and to celebrate the sight of “all creation groaning in one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8).

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

What an Unmade Bed Can Tell You

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I make my bed every day.  On the rare occasion when I don’t for some reason or another, a part of the day feels a little wonky. I imagine that most of us do the same thing. As adults, the act of making my bed is more important than what it actually looks like.  A made bed is a great start to the day, offering a sense of accomplishment before you even leave the house for work or school or whatever takes up your day.  A made bed creates a small moment of external order in life. It also offers a welcomed space to return to at the end of the day.

I have been interested lately in the 12 Laws of Karma, something I have recently written about and continue to find interesting mostly because these laws exist in just about every cultural tradition in some form or another. It’s a basic rule for living “awake”.

Rule 2: The Law of Creation. You can understand this law by seeing that things outside yourself can tell you what’s going on inside. If you have not made your bed in a long time, it’s a sure sign something is going on inside. If you can’t find the floor of your office because it is covered with paper and stuff, surely something is amiss inside.  If you don’t like your life the way it is now, surely there are external signs of it.  The Law of Creation says that it is up to you to look inside and see what might be causing you to be unhappy. The Law of Creation invites you to actively move in a new direction. Creating happiness involves your own capacity to have your inner life match your outer life.

Our external life mirrors interior life on lots of levels. If I am grumpy to others, I’m probably out of sorts inside myself and might be spending a great deal of energy just to put on a happy face. You don’t need to hold a Ph.D. or be a holy shaman to know that.  Jesus understood that when he said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets”. (Matthew 7:12)

According to the Karmic Law of Creation, we need to be active participants in our lives if we want to get what we desire. We cannot simply wait for things to happen to us, or worse, blame others for all our troubles. We should aim to see how much our inner life mirrors how we act in our outer life.

So what does an unmade bed tell you? That a happy and creative life requires active participation, and starting with small things. Fullness of meaning, happiness, satisfaction with where we are in the world, does not come by accident. Rather, God expects us to engage, to jump in, to take steps that bring our external world into sync with our internal realities. It is not something we do alone or without context.

For Christians, God’s grace plays an enormous role. We can, by God’s grace, see that our inner life mirrors our outer one. When I reach out to others with kindness, I am creating a more peaceful world. But that reaching out in kindness begins with a kindness inside myself. Sometimes making the bed is the beginning of a peaceful day, in which I indeed do for others what I myself would want for myself.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

JUNETEENTH

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared freedom for all slaves in the United States. On June 19, 1865, this great news finally made its way to the Black men and women being kept as slaves in the great state of Texas. Two years after the proclamation? We know news traveled slowly in those days, but did it really take two years? Yes, it did.

Was the messenger murdered on the way? Was the news deliberately withheld by the slave owners to maintain the labor force? Did the federal troops actually wait for the slave owners to reap the benefits of the last cotton harvest before they spread the news? History has not recorded why the delay, but a delay there was.

So June 19 has become known as the date for the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery. It is known as Juneteenth, and it is a day when people come together to pray for peace and liberty for all; a day when we can all take one step closer together, to better use the energy that many of us waste on racism.

OFFICAL JUNETEENTH POEM

By

KRISTINA KAY   1996

From Africa’s hurt we rose, already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,

We rose.

Skills of art, beauty and family,

Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose.

Survive we must; we did.

We rose

We rose to be you; we rose to be me,

Above everything expected, we rose

To become the knowledge we never knew.

We rose.

Dream we did. Act we must.

Posted in Wednesday's Word

Reflections on “The Case Against Hope”

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

I recently read a piece with the above title in the New York Times, written by Roxanne Gay, who offers an overview of worrisome situations in the government, international issues, immigration, wars, hunger, the climate crisis, and so on. She ponders what advice she would offer this year’s graduates if she were giving the address about their potential and their futures. One thing is sure: “I don’t traffic in hope. Realism is more my ministry than unbridled optimism. Hope allows us to leave what is possible in the hands of others.” She continues, aligning hope with apathy, complacency, and indecisiveness.

I think she actually is referring to optimism, a state which can be a bit thin and ethereal, and easily lost. I do not think she is describing the Hope we Christians share, which is far more a roll-up-the-sleeves and get-down to business venture. We call it  a theological virtue, which means it is both gift and practice, shared with us by God and by us with each other; in the service of God’s future, the gathering of all creation, all peoples, into One—a future for which we have a shared longing but cannot fully embrace. Nonetheless, God has placed us, fired by the Spirit of Christ Jesus, in a world in which he himself suffered amid the trials of human life in an unfinished universe.

Encouraging each other, taking on the burdens as we can and forging on, struggling to remain open to God’s presence among us and God’s design revealed a little at a time to us and through us; praying, singing, preaching, listening, consoling those who are burdened and those who cannot see or feel at this moment, we are buoyed by Hope– not crushed by defeats, bemoaning our helplessness, or yielding to fears that keep us stopped or stuck or hiding.

A huge amount of work is involved in loving and serving God’s people, God’s creation. And here Hope helps us to discern our place in this divine-human entanglement. We are not in charge and we should not take ourselves so seriously. Our lives are a miniscule part of the thousand energies involved over the eons of the Trinitarian adventure; we will not finish the mission. We are weak, and have our faults, we anger and grieve one another, and will never perform to our own satisfaction.

In hoping, we welcome God as the energy, the source and the goal, who is ever gracious and merciful and knows and loves us deeply. Hope keeps us attentive to our limits, as well as to the special call we have, the specific Word we speak, each of us given unique purpose, a labor to love.

Emily Dickinson writes a tribute to hope that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul/ and sings the tune without the words/and never stops at all.”

Her poem charms me, and has its own truth. But I’m tempted to start with “Hope is the thing with muscles.”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word