Weekly Word

Be inspired and encouraged with a weekly reflection on God’s Word and every day life.


 

STUDIOBe

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

“The blueprint for a better tomorrow lives in the collective imagination.”

These are words that greet visitors to STUDIOBe, an art space in New Orleans. Recognizing the importance of art as expression and, for Dominicans, as preaching, STUDIOBe seemed like a perfect field trip for the Peace Center and our neighborhood kids. The founder of STUDIOBe, Brandon Odums, is a local African American street artist, which made our visit, so close to Black History Month, even more appropriate.

While STUDIOBe is a popular tourist spot here in New Orleans, Brandon’s backstory is one that we wanted to share with the students from the Peace Center. Brandon is a NOLA native who graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), where he studied visual arts. He worked as a filmmaker and became interested in spray paint “street art” as a hobby. After Hurricane Katrina, he created a series of murals of Black revolutionaries in abandoned houses in the Ninth Ward. His installation attracted other young creatives to create an underground, guerilla art hub, which Odums named #PROJECTBe.

PROJECTBe was open until the Housing Authority of New Orleans shuttered the Florida Housing Development where it was housed. In the documentary “Strong Light,” Odums asked, “Why is this space still here, eight years after Katrina? Could be it’s a response to neglect… a response to the fact that New Orleans has so many eye sores right next to communities that are trying to rebuild?”

This is an important point to consider. New Orleans has faced so many disasters, and often the poorest, those of color, those who have the most resilience but also the fewest material resources, are left to recover in the shadow and wreckage of tragedy. This speaks to the mission of the Peace Center… where we work to provide a place of peace to strengthen those who want to build a peaceful life.

The larger-than-life images at STUDIOBE capture some fun nostalgia from former days, like a pay phone, a doll house and a Nintendo game system. More important, some of these images  reflect the reality of being Black in a White world, giving us an opportunity to discuss these realities with the kids.

One wall showed a painting of a young Black boy drinking from a water fountain with the sign “WHITE ONLY” pasted on the side. I asked one of our boys what he would do if he found one of those signs on a fountain in his school. His response was immediate, “Tear it down!”

I asked him what he would do if the cops came and he said, “Go down on my knees and raise my hands.” At the age of 12 he had had “The Talk.” He has learned as a young Black man, he needs to be more careful when he “protests,” even when he is in the right.

We are grateful that we had the opportunity to share this amazing exhibit with the kids from the Peace Center. We hope that Odum’s lesson of using art to inspire, to question, and yes, to preach, helps the youth that we serve find a new way to build peace.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Merry and Happy!

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

At least once a week, as the season changes, we can watch the squirrels during morning prayer as they cross the power lines in front of us. They do it well but seem to know if the crossing should be energetic or slow or just steady. How do they know? Beats me. In any case, they never seem afraid to cross (well there was that one morning when the crows were a little more pushy than usual!). The squirrels take one step and then another and then run or saunter or whatever gets them across. There is no evidence of fear as they navigate the thin power line. They just know they have to get somewhere!

As we celebrate Christmas and enter the new year, what will our power lines look like? Will we have fears about crossing them? Will we saunter or walk briskly or run? We know we have to cross them wherever they are or whatever they look like. There will be crows now and then, too. What will guide us? I’m thinking prayer, prayer and probably prayer. That keeps us grounded even when we dangle high in the air on our life’s journey which is now embarking on a new year!

Rejoice in the glories of Christmas and look with expectation and hope to the new year.

Posted in Weekly Word

Be Led by the Light of Joy

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

 

 

 

Recently, my direction in glazing pots has been moving towards underglaze surface decoration: reds, blues, purple, black, greens, and a yellow that’s got a hint of orange.

 

 

 

 

More notably, I have discovered these marvelous little birds that I create that I think I must have seen somewhere — because I don’t think it’s an original idea. Regardless, I like the whimsy, I like the spontaneity of drawing them and I see them as a simple way to bring joy to the beholder. They’re just plain fun. I have also explored stylized red poppies using thin black lines to help create the shape and it is so spontaneous for me — a welcomed shift away from feeling somewhat constrained by my glaze palette of commercial glazes that I used for a very long time. So I feel like I’m in a new moment.

My deepest desire is that my pots make a connection with another human being so that when someone is using a bowl or mug or pot of mine it becomes special for them, not because I made it, but because it holds meaning for them. The real source of joy for me is the meaning-making in making art. So when Sarah, my mentor, and I talked about these cute little bird mugs, I was mildly embarrassed by them because I thought they were just fun and not to be taken too seriously. Much to my surprise Sarah saw something different than what I saw in them and I think that’s what meaning is all about — it depends on what the other person sees.

“Do you want to know what I see?” Sarah said. “I see diversity, community, and they are intergenerational.”

Wow! And I was worried people would not take my work seriously. Like most serious potters, I put so much attention and time and love into my pots that it is important to me they be valued by the people who ultimately own them. Not speaking even about monetary value, but the value of excellent pots, worthwhile objects that bring joy, that connect one human being to another.

What strikes me the most in this Advent/Christmas Season — and having just celebrated Gaudete Sunday when the pink candle is lit–that the moral of this story today is: pursue what brings you joy. Throughout this Advent/Christmas season, given all that we have been through the last two years of pandemic, we surely have realized that true joy is being with people dear to us.  Be led by the light of joy, that comes from a sense of belonging and cherishing what is truly important to you. Be led by the light of joy and take what you have learned from the pandemic that has made a positive impact on your life.  Be led by the light of what matters most to you.  Celebrate that this Christmas.

 

Posted in Weekly Word

A Joyful Mind 

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

A few months ago, someone shared with me a daily email published by author Richard Rohr entitled, “A Joyful Mind”.  The title alone attracted me. And as we look toward celebrating Thanksgiving Day soon, I come back to it now, I guess because this feast of giving thanks remains the one national holiday that maintains its singular purpose. We give one day to knowing that all that we have and all that we are to one another, is essentially God’s gift to us. And joy is the fruit of that realization.  

In Rohr’s book, the Naked Now, (and how’s that for a title?) he suggests ways to practice the way of a joyful mind. So I want to share some of those ways here in the hope that they might be a spiritual preparation for celebrating Thanksgiving in a way that increases the joy of our families and friends in whatever way we gather. 

A joyful mind is: 

  • When your mind does not need to be right. 
  • When you no longer need to compare yourself with others. 
  • When your mind can be creative, but without needing anyone to know. 
  • When you can live in contentment with whatever the moment offers. 
  • When your mind does not need to be in charge but can serve the moment with gracious and affirming information. 
  • When your mind follows the intelligent lead of your heart. 
  • When your mind is curious and interested, not suspicious and interrogating.  
  • When your mind does not brood over injuries.” 
  • When your mind does not need the future to be better than today. 
  • When your mind can accept yourself as you are, warts and all. 
  • When your mind does not divide and always condemn one side or group. 
  • When your mind can critique and also detach from critique. 
  • When your mind can wait, listen, and learn. 
  • When your mind can live satisfied without resolution or closure. 
  • When your mind can forgive and actually forget.” 
  • When your mind does not need to complain or worry to get motivated. 
  • When your mind can find God in all things. 

Dear God, 

Help us to begin this season of Thanksgiving as a season of joy. Help us to observe this season as a respite from tension, from worry, from excessive control. Help us to be satisfied with the light we have and learn to trust that you guide our footsteps. Help us embrace the ways of a joyful mind and enjoy each other’s company. 

Amen. 

Posted in Weekly Word

Persisting through Frustration

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

Frustration is that feeling you experience when even the most simple of task is suddenly insurmountable, and there does not seem any reason for it. From untying a knot in a chain to changing the systems that control our lives, we experience times when it seems we can do nothing to change anything. That is frustration.

But there is that one thing that keeps pushing us to try. I know someone who does this well and treats frustration like a “dog with a bone.” There will always be a way and no one can take it away from us.

Have you been reflecting on the daily Gospel passages these last weeks? Jesus is so frustrated he even resorts to name-calling; something we never advise people do. ‘Hypocrites’ is his word to describe those leaders who keep denying that they do not know who he really is. They cannot accept what they know because it will mean their lives and strategies will have to change and they see no good coming out of that. They will lose power, have less influence on people’s lives and, in general, won’t feel as important as they think they are. Jesus sort of says “Get over yourselves. There are greater needs and needier situations than you being frustrated that life as you know it has to change.” Easy for Jesus to say.

How frustrated have you been about a little thing like wearing a mask? How frustrated have you been about the lack of decision-making coming out of Washington? How frustrated have you been since the storms (they have been all over the country) when you try to get disaster relief? How frustrated have you been when your child turns to drugs or alcohol and there is seemingly nothing you can do to help. How frustrated have you been with medical issues and paperwork? How many times have you said, “I am so frustrated?”

Jesus’ frustration was real and intense, but like that dog with that bone, he persisted. He continued to speak truth to power and work towards the goals he knew were for the common good. We must do the same, and even in the simplest moments of frustration, don’t look for the easy outcome; look for the outcome that will serve the kingdom!

Posted in Weekly Word