I’ve seen many memes and aphorisms on Facebook with the general theme of “pray for peace.” Nothing wrong with that, but as the woman in full hijab rang up our purchases at Wal-Mart in Grand Forks ND three weeks ago I got to thinking about how results might be better if we were more specific.in our intentions.
My thought is to imagine a place where you have been (or want to be) that invokes serenity. For me it’s the forest, quiet and green. I envision a circle around a campfire where many people can sit comfortably and see each other easily.
I would invite people to sit and share their vision of America. The woman in hijab, my African-American cousins, several of my neighbors here in Port Townsend and maybe that guy with the pick-up truck with the Confederate Battle Flag in the rear window. The refugee from a war-torn country seeking a place for her family and a member of the DAR. The guy who runs a pharmacy on Main Street. A grandchild or two. The nurse who cared for me whose husband had died and was living paycheck to paycheck. Just folks. You can make up your own invitation list.
We’d go around the campfire and share our vision for America and how we might achieve it together. Deep down, what is it that gives us pride in where we live? What values can we share to build us up as communities and not tear apart? What is about our country that makes us grateful?
America has always been an experiment in self-governance. We are an imperfect nation that paints over our flaws with myths and symbols that perpetuate that imperfection. I’d ask my group what new myths and symbols would help us build a country that was inclusive and compassionate. Can you envision such myths and symbols?
The campfire would close with an affirmation to hold these specific hopes and dreams in our hearts and to look forward to a fresh new direction for all of us.
Two weeks ago I fulfilled my quest to listen to Fr Richard Rohr celebrate Mass at Holy Family Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Father Richard has been a teacher of mine for several years, offering non-dualistic thinking and an appreciation of Jesus that, he has repeatedly said, many Christian churches miss.
I read and reflect on Fr Rohr’s daily meditations first thing every morning and enjoy several of his books, but I wanted to hear him in the context of Church. He preaches the alternative Franciscan orthodoxy and I wanted to be present to this within traditional Catholicism. I sat down in the middle of the church amidst mostly Hispanic parishioners. The church is large and it took a bit to adjust to the sound system, including the large built-in projection screens (which I abhor as they detract from my focus on the liturgy). Some of the responses and now we have “consubstantial” in the creed, which ihave been changeds certainly in most parishioners’ daily vernacular.
The title of the homily was “Jesus’ Inaugural Address“, and I was struck by how Fr Rohr’s essential messages were preached inside such a traditional and unchanging institution (Pope Francis aside, of course). The rest of the liturgy was from formulations of late antiquity and medieval theology. Sin, died, went to hell and, of course, “consubstantial with the Father”. The best Fr Rohr could do with that was “sisters and brothers” not the usual.
For me, I’ll keep the rites as part of the conversation, but, for me, contemplation, mysticism and the simple teachings of Jesus need no connection with 4th Century Imperial Christianity.
I did get to shake Fr Rohr’s hand and offer him my own blessings I left church feeling spiritually uplifted. I stepped out into the sun and it had worked!
Note: The statue of St Francis sits in the courtyard of the Albuquerque Museum of Art. The facial expression is so unlike the usual backyard statuary.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I am enjoying the community of Christmas this year. Christmas in the Western world, like God, is not something, but, it seems, everything. Christmas has a long list of traditions during the dark winter near Solstice. Santa Claus, family and winter festivals. Lights and decorated trees. Retail. The birth of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t make it into Matthew or Luke until decades later. The birth narratives have their problems with historical accuracy and Christology and, on the literalists side, too many would like to claim pieces of the season for their own and criticize the rest of it. We can choose to respond to our egos and be rigid, or smile and enjoy the birth, however it happened.
I choose the mystery over anger. As the poem says, “I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.” I enjoy Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Proclamation of the birth of a poor peasant boy who captured the imagination of millions and silliness are not mutually exclusive.
I am very much encouraged by the Light, regardless of what were early attempts to cherish this Birth story a long time ago.
I like to travel a great deal. We have a small motor home and have also recently enjoyed trips to Mexico and the British Isles. One of the things I enjoy doing is visiting historic places. These might include events like the Battle of Culloden in the Highlands of Scotland, where the Jacobite army of Charles Stuart was crushed by Great Britain. Or standing at Dismal Nitch near the mouth of the Columbia River across from Astoria on a rainy day.
In either case, standing quietly, breathing deeply and holding what happened in 1746 or 1805 in my mind and heart now is witnessing. I do the same thing when I pay respects at a Civil War battlefield. The blood is in the ground. No need for poetic words or patriotic music. Just my silently being fully present is enough.
Witnessing is not passive for me: I can feel the metaphysical connection with the people who were there. It is an honoring of those in the past who lived and lost their lives there. By taking the time to receive the energy I can return to these sites in my mind’s eye whenever I want.
The thought occurs to me often that those players who are still connected to a site may not care for the souvenir shops and zip lines many pilgrims believe are essential.
Your thoughts? Where have you been able to witness?