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I said: What about my eyes?

God said: Keep them on the road.

I said: What about my passion?

God said: Keep it burning.

I said: What about my heart?

God said: Tell me what you hold inside it

I said: Pain and sorrow.

God said … Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

~ Rumi

The image is of a broken vessel I repaired during a retreat I host annually at Mount Saviour Monastery.  Last weekend twelve women gathered for this year’s Keys (unlocking your creative spirit) retreat. Our theme for this year was ‘Women as Vessels’. We explored being perfectly imperfect … perfectly unique … and more….

A reminder to all….

Kintusgi

On the days when you feel ashamed of your scars, your mind only registering how ugly they are rather that the beauty they prove of you having survived, remember that there is an entire art form dedicated to filling the cracks of broken things with lacquered gold.

And entire art form that proves that even the broken and damaged history of an object is beautiful and should be treasured.

Remember how much more you are than an object.
Remember your survival, your journey, your scars deserve to be treasured too.
~ Nikita Gill

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Somewhere I read that …. A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

That is what Br. Justin was for many people. He was often the first person one would encounter when visiting Mount Saviour Monastery. He embodied Benedictine hospitality. He was a friend to all and a prayer warrior unlike any I’ve known.

Sadly, my Benedictine brother, the one who gave me my oblate name of Sr. Hildegard, who loved my extended family as if it was his own, and who never hesitated to take me to task when he thought I was not being the best version of myself that I could be, died suddenly on April 4th.

I realized later that his death coincided with the anniversary of the death of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., someone he admired greatly.

I miss his smile and greeting every morning, how he would often bow to me or ask for a blessing. And how the sound of his laughter could be heard through the monastery.

Yet, while I miss his physical presence, I have no doubt he is still laughing loudly, full of joy and bowing in peace and love.

Rest in Peace dear brother. You are much loved.

I fell asleep on the window seat last night while reading a book on my ipad. The moon shining large and bright woke me at 3am. Rather than go back to sleep, I stayed up to watch the moon. It occurred to me that I am often looking towards the light, be it the sky, the sun, a window, candles. Sometimes that light shines on me, other times I can only see it from a distance, shining on something or someone else.

Now as I watched the light reflected on the water, it shimmered, it danced.

And as I watched the moon, I thought about the last few days, weeks, and months that felt like darkness for many and how each night I looked for the stars and the moon in the sky. Because I knew in the darkest day and in the darkest night there would still be light. I also know that sometimes only in darkness will I notice light, it is there all the time but I do not see it.

One of my favorite places to sit in darkness is in chapel during Compline when the cooler weather brings longer nights. A couple of candles are the only source of light and the dark chapel feels like a blanket I can wrap around me. Everything else fades and all I can see clearly are the candles. At times like these, I am reminded that night and darkness can be holy, but with our limited vision, we need light from a source, so we can find our way.

During my pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, my group stayed a night in a hotel located in a fairly busy part of Tui, Spain. My room had a small balcony and I looked out to see how much would be illuminated and if I might be able to see the dark sky that night. I felt disappointed at all the buildings and street lamps I could see in the distance. I would not be able to see the night sky.

After a late supper, a few in our group decided to go for a walk. As we stepped outside, we noticed lights strung high above the streets. Some of them were arranged in the shape of a shell, similar to the one pilgrims on the Camino wear. The shell design is everywhere, some of them pointing in the direction we should go. This the shell I wore on my pilgrimage.

And the lights welcoming pilgrims on the way..

We noticed that we could hear music and shortly after saw more lights strung across some of the streets.

Although we knew we had to be up early to start our hike, we decided to follow the lights and the music. Down a side street we caught a glimpse of colored lights and walked towards them. We discovered a festival!

And music!

We didn’t stay long because we were hiking the next day and the festival hadn’t quite started, people were just arriving when we were leaving. I didn’t see the moon and the stars that night, but I certainly saw plenty of light (and celebration!) in the darkness.

Light comes, it always does. Knowing that, we need to look for it, for what may not be obvious. In today’s reading, a blind man calls to Jesus as he approaches Jericho. He calls out “Jesus, son of God, have pity on me!”

” I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.”

My word for 2015 was Dance. Dance, I have. On the first day of the year I joined a fitness club after hearing about the yoga and dance classes offered. Since then along with the usual walking and activities I do daily, twice a week I practice yoga, twice a week I dance. With little change to my diet, the extras pounds I was carrying have vanished. I am stronger, I have regained my balance.

As movement became easier, my reactions to everyday situations have become, if not always easier, at least more grace filled. Having rediscovered the joy of doing something I love, I am more open to trying new things or returning to some things I’d enjoyed but had set aside. How I use my time and my hands, how I interact with others, how I live, all have changed.

Towards the end of summer I agreed to care for a women’s guest house and guests at a monastery where I am an oblate. Shortly afterwards I co-facilitated a women’s retreat there. Surrounded by trees splendid in their autumn colors, we celebrated the seasons of our lives, we danced.

I tried not to think about my word for 2016 while still embracing the word Dance. Still, several words kept showing themselves to me. Most had to do with walking, way, path. I dismissed these words thinking they came to me because I am planning a walking pilgrimage sometime in the future and thoughts about preparing for such a walk is often on my mind.

Then as I do yearly, I celebrated Winter Solstice and the anniversary of my mother’s death and birth into a new life by participating in a group candlelight labyrinth walk. As we gather in a circle around the perimeter of the labyrinth, the candles are lit, participants blessed, the readings shared, and then the walk.

Up to the evening I’ve had a full day. A companion and I met with a man who restores books, documents, sacred texts. After a pleasant drive I was able to spend hours with this gifted man, exploring his workshop and tools, listening to his stories about traveling to other countries in order to help protect or restore their precious books and papers, looking through his photos.

I shared my experience of working in book repair and restoration in a library when I was a teenager. And about my love of old books and my knowledge of fibers and papers. Recognizing a kindred spirit, he gifts me with handmade paper and a video of the process for making Japanese paper. He also offers to give me ‘tuition’ in book binding when he comes to the monastery for a visit. Afterwards a meal with my companion feels like the breaking of bread, a blessing.

My ‘day’ is still with me as the solstice celebration starts, my mind wandering. When my candle flame flickers and dies out, I approach someone near me so I can relight my candle. My thoughts wander again, my flame flickers and dies, I once again light my candle. The third time the flame dies I notice that I am the only person having this problem. I feel as if my mother is nudging me and I think “alright already, I’m paying attention” and although my mother passed into her new life nineteen years ago, I feel her presence.

As I walk the path of the labyrinth I look down at my feet, at the pavers forming the path. They remind me of the floor around the altar at the monastery and how they form a star pattern. I often gaze at the bricks and stone in that floor and how they form a path that one could walk on. I think about walking, pilgrimages, my path in life and a song, Psalms chanted in chapel, that includes the words ” and walk in his way”. I am thinking that maybe there is a word in there somewhere and open myself to receiving what comes.

Two words have chosen me.

One of them is Mother.

The other is Pilgrim.

When I think of Pilgrim, I think of a pilgrimage, portal, ingress, guide, inner journey, mission. I am reminded of something I read by Henri Nouwen. He speaks of the questions we often ask about our futures, to which there are no answers. He suggests that instead of a great beam that would take shadows away, what we need instead is just enough light to see the next step: to do what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. That when we are able to trust there will be enough light, we can walk with joy and be surprised at how far we go.

I am also reminded of something else by Henri Nouwen, it may have been from the same discussion or book. He speaks of times when we have to ‘step over’ some things, negative feelings and places. It does not mean we should ignore them, but that at some point we need to be done with exploring them and then move on, leaving them behind.

My Pilgrim prayer is that there be just enough light for me to see the next step, and what to step over, as I practice the art of living a step at a time.

Photos show the stone floor in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at Mount Saviour Monastery and the entrance steps to the chapel.

Often during Lent I will participate in a group study or group retreat. This year, being already quite busy with organizing several groups, I decided to take a step back and do a personal retreat, setting aside a time every morning and evening to explore a topic and reflection for the week guided by the ‘Called To Be Saints’ Lent retreat on the Pray As You Go website.

Meanwhile, last week my niece visited and gifted me with a pendant that is a crystal. It is roughly egg shaped and I like that it reminds me of ‘birth’.

Then 3 days later we had a mild day and I decided to do a little garden work on the flower bed at the monastery where my Stepping Stones group meets weekly. I packed some tools to take with me, unsure of what I would need. Since there was no noon prayers that day I decided to pull a few weeds from the garden before my group met. While doing so I noticed something sparkle in the soil. I dug out a small crystal, receiving it as a gift. Later I returned and finished trimming most of the winter debris from the garden.

Arriving at home I found a very heavy box from my son in Florida. In it I found 4 large crystals! I show my 12 drum in the photo as a size comparison. My son asked that I pick one for myself and then give one to my daughter, my sister, my niece. For myself I chose the one at the top, clear in color with little bits of sand or soil in the crevices. This reminds me that I sometimes feel God’s love and light the most when I’m in the garden digging in the soil. But the color of this ‘soil’ in the crystals has a gold tone to it and it reminds me of things that don’t tarnish, that even when they get dirty, they can be cleansed.

The next morning I listened to the next segment of the Pray As You Go Lent Retreat. The focus this 5th week of Lent was our role in a wider community of faith. For part of the prayer you are asked to choose an object and then examine how it is unique, focus on its qualities and on the words from Romans 12:3 – 13.

Listening to the prayer I am reminded that I am as unique as the object that I began my prayer with, the crystal from the monastery garden. That we each have our strengths and weaknesses, talents. And I’m invited to examine my relationship in community, how I care for and support them and how they care for and support me.

The retreat link is included for those who would like to explore the Lent prayers or visit the main page for daily prayers, music and reflection.

http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/

My WORD to walk with in 2014 is Reconciliation

R- related to
E – everything, we are
C – connected, we are all
O – one, with
N – none left out in
C – community, where
I – identity is important, where
L – love is present, all are
I – included, embraced,
A – and accepted, as we are,
T – trusting, seeking,
I – Integrity guiding us, so we may be
O – open to sharing our gifts,
N – now and forever!

To me It speaks of
– humanity, identity, dignity.
– home or sacred, safe place, where others can take their shoes off
– honesty, having a passion for truth
– hospitality, benedictine – a welcoming presence
– humility, modesty, listening to others
– hope, a healing heart

And it speaks to me of the past …
“The transgressions of the past are water under the bridge yet the bridge remains burned despite the charred timbers having long cooled.” found in my notes..

It prompts me to serve the community by building bridges of reconciliation and restoration. To experience the peace and presence of God, to experience grace and integrity through hospitality

Some favorite quotes:

“Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you
for everything.”
–Mary Oliver, What Do We Know

“Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.”
– Rachel Naomi Remen

“Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane.”
Thich Nhat Hanh – Source: Peace Is Every Step

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

+++

Photo is of artwork purchased from the gift shop at Mount Saviour Monastery. It is titled .. The Burning Bush. What drew me to it was sandals… The reminder to take off my shoes and pause … so that I may be open to blessings.

I’ve been seeing and hearing many comments about people being exhausted and stressed along with discussions about goals and resolutions for the New Year.

Reading yet another comment this morning on all that needs to be done before Christmas … here is my personal refection.

I am a gardener and so I tend to think in gardening terms and I have learned ….
for everything there is a season …. does this sound familiar?

Every year I put my garden to bed for winter. As I do I reflect on what flourished and what withered away or simply didn’t take hold. What did I learn from it? What can I do differently to get a different outcome? What do I need to be patient with? What do I need to let go? I make notes of these things so I can come back and review them when I need direction. Then I let it go, enjoy the snow on the bare branches and in January sit down again and set some intentions for the garden, knowing that my plan is only a temporary guideline that may change throughout the coming year.

Many other gardeners do the same. We know there is a time for everything. That no matter how much we plan and do, we can’t control the outcome of some things or what sometimes blows our way and we learn the rhythm of the seaons.

Moving into the New Year works the same way. We can’t move on till we have put the ‘old’ year to bed. Before we make resolutions, set our intentions, pick a word to walk with, set goals or whatever it is that we do each year, we need to sit with the old year a bit. What were the joys and sorrows? What did we learn from them? Where did we grow, where did we plant seeds and help others thrive?

But for right now …. stop for a moment… BREATHE! … and think about the season we are in. What does it mean to you? What would you like it to be? Don’t do what everyone else is doing just because it is expected of you. If you don’t enjoy shopping, crowds or long lines.. like me… don’t do it! If you are exhausted from going to concerts, celebrations, too much preparation, don’t do it! Give yourself the gift of rest, time for walking, eating well, time with those you care about. And remember the best gift you can give someone is the give of yourself, your time, your attention.

The New Year will come soon enough …

A recent dream caused me to stop and take notice about what I teach and who I teach it to. In the dream I am helping a young man learn how to care for his motherless infant triplets, one of them I called Hope as I carry her. In reality other than the men in my family, I almost always teach or facilitate women or groups of women. I’ve been comfortable with this, because often the women feel safe in their sharing in the company of other women what they would not feel comfortable sharing with men. And having grown up in a family with many aunts, sisters who were very close and who were the shakers and movers, I was accustomed to women gathering together with the men in the margins.

I think about the men in my life, other than family. The ones I’m drawn to, ones I consider brothers as well as friends. Most are artists, gardeners, lovers of music, poetry, nature and creation in some way or other, some are monks. Quite a few of these friends were raised by single mothers, or by their grandmothers, or had a mother with health or other chronic issues. Some had no siblings or were the youngest.

When I was a girl, some tasks and responsibilities were still divided, those done by men and those done by women. But many of my ‘brothers’ were taught skills and rituals that would have been taught to daughters, either because there was no daughter or because the man was raised by someone who saw the value in teaching him these things and took the time to do it. They were also taught to care for others.

As I set up my nativity set that reminds me of children in a Christmas Pageant, I can’t help but look at Joseph and gently touch his face. I’m drawn to him this year. What do I know about him? Scripture tells me he was a righteous man who did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, a man of honor, even though he had to be experiencing a bit of dismay. I know that he is considered the patron saint of families, fathers and orphans, pregnant woman, married couples, carpenters, teachers, lawyers, laborers, working people … and more.. He is also considered by some to be the unofficial patron against doubt and hesitation.

I see men (and women) I know as I look at Joseph. The people whose greatest gift is to support others in whatever it is they need to do, often having to take a different path than what they themselves had planned in order to do so. They have a gift of compassion, being honorable, faithful. They do what is necessary to protect those they love. And many of them take the time to teach children, both the girls and boys.

This Advent season I’m teaching my 8 year old grandson the tradition of lighting the Advent candles. This is a new practice for us, by next year he will remember having done this and it will become a tradition for him to share with others. I want to teach him family history, tradition, knowledge. But I also want to teach him to be a Joseph. To be open to supporting others. To listen to messages that will guide him.

As I gather with women this coming year I will encourage them to not only share what they experience and learn with other women, sisters, daughters, but to also remember the men, brothers, sons. We often invest so much time teaching girls and women, empowering them, sharing knowledge, passing on traditions and rituals that we often forget to teach our boys the qualities that will help them grow into compassionate, faithful and honorable men.

While going over material for what I refer to as the ‘Wednesdays at the monastery’ group or Moth (monastery of the heart) group, I got to thinking about the difference between what is urgent and what is important.

Preparing a meal is important. The phone that rings while I’m preparing that meal is urgent, but not necessarily important.

Reading a book, or studying, being creative, playing, praying, is important. Constantly checking email or texting, rushing around to do more, acquire more, be more … all urgent.

There are times when things are both important and urgent. Stopping whatever you are doing to provide loving care, for the crying infant, the neighbor who comes knocking at your door with a need, the old blind dog confused because someone moved the furniture…

So how do I measure what is important and not just urgent? Beauty…

I’m reminded of a conversation with my 11 year old granddaughter regarding criteria for things we bring into our new home which is about 1/4 the size of our last home. We decided that something had to be beautiful. As a gardener and artist I often see beauty in a different way than others might, so something also has to serve some purpose to come into our small home and not just be another thing that we continue to pay for over and over again in terms of time and space. That purpose is sometimes just to remind us to smile and play.

It is easy for me to use beauty as a measure for what is important because it is something my Mom taught me early in life. We understood that she meant beauty to describe what we did, how something made us feel, would it be pleasing to God. She’d often remind us that… God doesn’t like ugly. And so I passed what Mom taught me on to my granddaughter so she would learn to see beauty in a different way. And have some way of measuring what is Important and what is Urgent.

Photo is of the Guava pastries and Tres Leches cakes served at the Sunday dinner during retreat weekend at Mt Saviour Monastery. Traditionally the monks and monastery guests join us for this meal. The theme for this year.. Cuban fiesta. Breaking bread with others… Important…

Last year about this time I was thinking about a ‘Word’ for the New Year 2011. I considered Peace and also Growth.

Peace– because it was something I’d been seeking for some time. I’d been feeling too busy, pulled in too many directions, crowded and owned by too many things and people. And while I missed the old large house we’d recently moved from and the large gardens, I was looking forward to having less to care for and a simpler life in our cottage sized home. I wanted time to slow down, be still and time to write again.

Growth– because in my busy-ness, I was neglecting reading, studying, meditating. The only real growing was what was happening in the garden. Again I wanted to slow down, have time to listen, explore and be creative again.

The New Year started with me not having decided between the two. I knew it would come to me and forgot about it till much later. As it turned out both words ended up having great meaning for me.

What I learned about Peace:

When you pray for Peace, be prepared to be the one to fight for it and to be the one who provides Peace for others. You know how that is.. you pray for patience and then have plenty of opportunity to practice it.

That Peace is a blessing, a hope and a promise, our legacy, our mission, a lifestyle. It is not just something to practice on Sundays in chapel or in good times.

Peace requires humility and willingness to share with others.

That even in the most difficult situation, I can find inner Peace and Joy.

– I wrote a special poem titled Waging Peace, as part of a writing prompt for the MOH group. Something I enjoyed very much, a posting for another day.

What I learned about Growth

That a good way to grow is to help others grow.

That I can learn from anyone and every situation if I pay attention. Sometimes I learn something that I can use to live a more meaningful life, but just as important I sometimes learn how not to be or what not to do.

That in order to see things clearly I sometimes need to see things with new eyes.

That in order to grow, some pruning needed to be done.

2011 brought with it many stressful situations. I’d like to say that I faced them all with grace and patience but I did not. I can say however that I did find ways to bring peace to others and that many times I was pushed way out of my comfort zone, forcing me to grow in many ways … and … that while it was painful, it didn’t kill me.

I found that it can very hard to accept some situations, but that sometimes we must even if it means doing so mentally kicking and screaming. Then I learned that the kicking and screaming really do not help much and it is so much easier if we try to accept things with grace and with the faith that all will be well.

I was reminded of how hard it was to raise a child and wondered how I raised four.  But I was much younger then. I applaud all the parents trying their best to be good parents.

Instead of getting my studio in order after our move, or working on the new garden, I spent most of the year, particularly the summer, keeping kids busy … it was work but it was also fun!

Special Blessings this year:
8 months with a granddaughter here.
Frequent visits by a 16 year old grandson.
Successful cancer treatment for a young grandson.
Family support.
Starting of the Monasteries of the Heart group at Mt Saviour Monastery. So thankful that I was granted permission to use that space for my Stepping Stones Community. It has allowed us to grow while exploring the Rule of Benedict away from distractions.

So much more… I am grateful

Lastly I am loving the sweet gifts shared the last few days …. and I don’t mean cookies. Time with family and friends, singing in the chapel by candlelight. The hospitality of the community of Mt Saviour Monastery. Thoughtful gifts that allow us to do the things we like to do and enjoy life, fun stuff such as a ukulele for Ruben from our daughter. But also practical things.. The best gift of all from Ruben who took me on a trip down memory lane.. started with ” Do you remember when you were 13 and I was 14?”. One memory after another…

Recent Comments

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