Weekly Word

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


 

Catching Center

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Every week on Fridays at 10:00am, my Study From Afar Program mentor and clay instructor, Sarah Wells Rolland, is on Facebook demonstrating a throwing technique by making a teapot, a pitcher or other clay forms.  It’s a wonderful 30 minutes and I try to catch it live. Otherwise, I watch the saved version.

She has the most wonderful way with clay, great command of the clay and can make it do just about anything. I love watching her throw and talk about technique, the little tips, and small details that capture what it means to “throw with excellence,” in her words. (Here is a link to an 8-minute YouTube video of Sarah making a pot) It’s part of a Vessels of Hope series, but that’s a topic for another blog.

Potter Sarah Wells Roland

There is a particular aspect of throwing clay on the wheel that is brand new to me and it has a great practical connection with spiritual life. Sarah talks about catching center. This means that in the process of centering clay on the wheel, and lifting the clay into a tall cylinder, you continually make sure that the clay remains centered. There is no wobble or swim, the walls are even in their thickness, there are no thin spots or bulges. In shaping the clay and stretching it to its limits, a well-thrown pot remains centered. Sarah can catch the center at the top of the pot or in the middle or anywhere it needs to return to its invisible axis. She coaxes the clay into its natural place of rest while it spins.

So too in the spiritual life, I sometimes need to sharpen the skill of catching center, of being able to return to my own invisible axis, on which my world turns, the interior space where I can sense God’s presence within. A still space amidst the turning world around me. Being centered is a contemplative practice, an awareness of who I am and who I am before God. It might happen purposefully in a time set aside for prayer or reflection. It might happen as I finish making my bed, when I sit down to gather my energy and focus for the day.

Catching center might occur when I look out the office window and watch the trees blow in the wind. It’s a private moment, all it takes is breathing and listening.  And being aware that being centered is an active and engaged way to become internally quiet. Catching center is when my day is over and I come to rest, I return to the quiet with gratitude.

 

Dear God,

Help me to hear your invitation to catch center, to not miss the moments of the day that invite stillness even as my world spins around me.    Amen.

Posted in Weekly Word

What Were You Taught?

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

The Broadway musical South Pacific debuted in 1958. 60 years or so later, one song from the play is so timely, it is scary!

The song is “You’ve Got to be Taught”. The lyrics have such phrases as “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…..”; “You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade…”

So what were you taught? Growing up,I was never exposed to many people of color and hardly had any experiences with them until later in life. But as a child, I did learn to hate politics, and still do. Not for the reasons you might suspect, but because my Dad was a Democrat and always had to worry about the election of a Republican Governor. Dad worked for the State of Ohio DOT as a certified carpenter. Before 1975, if you drove on the interstates in Ohio and stopped at a rest area, my Dad probably built the structures on the sites. After the election of Jim Rhodes, Dad was demoted to road crew, just based on politics. I sure didn’t want my Dad to lose his job, and to this day the memory of Jim Rhodes is not one of my favorites. Thus my strong dislike for that system.

So see, it is easy to pick up a little fear and even hate for things or people that do not work well in your life, whether as a child you fully understand them or not. We could get into the whole nature or nurture issue, but that is for another time. Right now, I am just wondering, are there things or people you fear or even hate, and do you know where that fear or hatred came from? Have you learned anything that helped you dissolve the fear or hate, or do you find you still hold on to some of those feelings? Or have you been in a family where no one has ever hated or feared anyone?

These days we are confronted with fear and hatred in almost every news report or media interview. Where did it all come from and how can it all go away? Guess it is up to each one of us to confront the things we have been taught and maybe relearn them.

Posted in Weekly Word

“Being Human,” a Poem from Nature

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, during one of many zoom calls I attend, Carol Davis, OP shared with us a poem that turned my thinking and heart upside down.  It’s a beautiful way to understand the natural world —  I was captivated by it. Later, I shared the poem at two other meetings and it sparked a different kind of creativity in our conversation. Sometimes a gift like this comes your way and it stays with you a long time.

I share it with you now. Even if you feel self-conscious about it — read it out loud to yourself and imagine what the words are asking and be amazed.

 

Being Human

By Climbing PoeTree
PUBLISHED IN SUMMER 2018

I wonder if the sun debates dawn
some mornings
not wanting to rise
out of bed
from under the down-feather horizon

if the sky grows tired
of being everywhere at once
adapting to the mood
swings of the weather

if clouds drift off
trying to hold themselves together
make deals with gravity
to loiter a little longer

I wonder if rain is scared
of falling
if it has trouble
letting go

if snow flakes get sick
of being perfect all the time
each one
trying to be one-of-a-kind

I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before they die
if they need to teach their young
how to shine

I wonder if shadows long
to just-for-once feel the sun
if they get lost in the shuffle
not knowing where they’re from

I wonder if sunrise
and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met

if volcanoes get stressed
if storms have regrets
if compost believes in life
after death

I wonder if breath ever thinks of suicide
if the wind just wants to sit
still sometimes
and watch the world pass by

if smoke was born
knowing how to rise
if rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right

I wonder if lightning sets an alarm clock
to know when to crack
if rivers ever stop
and think of turning back

if streams meet the wrong sea
and their whole lives run off-track
I wonder if the snow
wants to be black

if the soil thinks she’s too dark
if butterflies want to cover up their marks
if rocks are self-conscious of their weight
if mountains are insecure of their strength

I wonder if waves get discouraged
crawling up the sand
only to be pulled back again
to where they began

if land feels stepped upon
if sand feels insignificant
if trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand

if branches waver at the crossroads
unsure of which way to grow
if the leaves understand they’re replaceable
and still dance when the wind blows

I wonder
where the moon goes
when she is in hiding
I want to find her there

and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
listen to her
stir in her sleep

effort give way to existence

-Naima Pen

Posted in Weekly Word

I have seen the Lord

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

“MARY” “RABBOUNI!”

She heard her name, at first soft, a voice she didn’t quite recognize. Mary. Mary, whose eyes were dim with disappointment and blurred with grief and tears and whose imagination couldn’t reach as far as Risen from the dead–

Mistook Jesus the Christ for the gardener until he called her name. “Mary” he said again, and his voice rang in her like a bell—opened ears she didn’t know she had, both  stunned her and embraced her in depths she had never plumbed.

“RABBOUNI” she gasped, perhaps In a voice she didn’t recognize as her own.  In that moment, all had changed. Jesus wasn’t just Jesus –and she was not plain Mary anymore.

She was not to cling to, to hold onto that Just-Jesus; and she was Mary-with-a-message: GO. TELL. And the message the likes of which had never come from her mouth before—its source a place deep within, a groan, a  shout of exultation, a sweet, sweet song.

Go. Tell my friends…..Mary, the Apostle to the apostles, the first evangelist.

Easter Morning: Mary meets Jesus, Word Collage by Sr. Jan

I HAVE SEEN THE LORD.

…. his name and hers, entwined in an exchange of delight and power that would forever be true.

One thing Mary knew. The only name that now mattered was spoken in that piercing, lovely ringing, singing exchange.  MARY. RABBOUNI.  Recognition and transformation. Given, giving, taken, taking, she became what he was for her: Teacher.  GO. TELL.

In our gardens, we too hear our name called, so tenderly, so melodically, a lifetime of forming and transforming. We catch it, tuning in, humming the parts we can follow–a song around us, a melody flowering within us, a call and response, a harmony made of earth and heaven united.

Our name and God’s name, resounding through time and space, a perfect chord embracing  the One Name we share in Trinitarian bliss:

Beloved. Beloved.

Posted in Weekly Word

Pray Always

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

I once saw the movie Secondhand Lions, from 2003; don’t know if any of you ever did. It is an intergenerational movie, pretty-male centered and parts of it are tough to watch, but the quote below is from it. A friend of mine posted it recently, and I gave it some reflection.

“Sometimes things that may or may not be true are the things that a (person) needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good, that honor and courage and virtue mean everything. That power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this: that Love, true Love never dies. Doesn’t matter if any of this is true or not. You see, a person should believe in these things, because these are the things worth believing in.”

The old guys in the movie are trying to impart some wisdom to their new young ward, and they do it in some eccentric ways, but this quote seems to fit into all that we have going on today. The rise in violence, physical and emotional, against people who are not white or straight or male or Christian is growing more and deeper. So, I guess those perpetrating the violence do not believe that people are basically good but that maybe only some people are good and the rest, well they just get what they deserve.

Our country and our church have some heavy responsibilities these days and the citizens and members of each one look to leaders to give guidance and direction for the choices we make. We do not have to follow the direction we are given, but true believers want to do just that to stay in the good graces of the leaders. Some of us are beginning to question which leaders to follow, and everybody has his/her favorite and will defend them to the death (slight exaggeration, but only slight).

We may or may not have needed this year of pandemic or the protests over the shootings of so many people of color, but it is what has exposed some deep and bloody wounds in our “great America” that we have tried to butterfly stitch, cover with gauze or just ignore and hope they would heal on their own. That remedy does not seem to be working very well at all, so where do we turn?

Prayer, faith, prayer, faith, prayer! We can all say that we have been praying and keeping the faith and look where we are. I can say, keep praying and be faithful, persistent and trusting! Reflection will reveal where God has been working in spite of us. It is hard, and I am tired, but God never tires and will hold me when I need it.

Posted in Weekly Word