Saturday, October 21, 2017

Feel Profoundly, Live Poetically

I was asked earlier this week to offer a reflection for the general meeting of the alumnae/alumni association for the Sacred Heart School of Halifax that took place last night.  The idea was to lead into Saturday when there would be a talk on each of the calls of General Chapter 2016 and do this with a sense of past, present, future.

I thought the result would work for a blogpost too so I offer it here.

NOTE: ~ ~ denotes a quotation from the article I was reading.


Someone once asked me about my creative process.  I believe the actual question was the honest, if blunt, “How do you DO that?” I answered—I appeal to the Muse, the Spirit, for inspiration and trust in her kindness and generosity.  I try to remain open, to listen, and not to take advantage.

Such was the process this past Tuesday afternoon when a certain PPIINNG broke through a serendipitous bit of reading on-line.  There was the Facebook message inviting me to offer a thought or three today.  Once we’d worked through my initial “Um.  Sure?  Some context would be helpful…” and I’d clicked close, I looked afresh at the article I had been reading about ee cummings.

Thank you, Muse; Thank you Holy Spirit; for always having my back.

In this article from the online journal Brain Pickings, Maria Popova includes several excerpts from a collection of cummings’ essays. 

~Almost anybody can learn to think, or believe, or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel.  Why?  Because whenever you think or you believe, or you know, you’re a lot of other people:  but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.~

~The moment you feel…you’re nobody-but-yourself.~  The moment we feel…we begin to flesh-out the call we each have to be who we were created to be.  The moment we allow ourselves to interact in a heart-centered, bone-deep, intimately, inextricably, organic way with our world and are affected by that, made vulnerable, by that…then we begin to become Ourselves, uniquely and divinely, with a measure of glory and sometimes a measure of mess. 

Considering this had me look at the relationship between feeling—this Becoming—and emotion-the expression of feeling.  Turns out, the word emotion comes from the middle French—to set in motion. So, when we feel and lay claim to the call of who we are—heart-bone-mind-spirit-intimate-vulnerable-in relationship-in the midst of This World of ours—we set ourselves in motion, that is, we act. We participate.  We influence and affect. One way or another.

What we…or the world…thinks, believes, or knows, changes over the course of time.  And sometimes over just a short time, in the grand scheme.  New discoveries are made, new truths are revealed, new beliefs develop based on new experience…but the process of interacting honorably with the new, the process of contemplation, feeling, being uniquely in motion, open, vulnerable, willing to change…the process of learning to Love… within the context of whatever is most real in the world wherever each one is…that is as old as creation itself.

ee cummings’ way of looking at this was a new and refreshingly startling way for me to consider that when we feel, we are engaged in an expression of the unique relationship we each have with God.  How incredible to allow myself to feel—not only think, know, and believe— the idea that being made in the image and likeness of God is something that goes so far beyond the physicality of my humanity that I see in the mirror and reflected all around me, in you, in the trees, in the textures and colors … 

He goes on to write, ~to be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle a human being can fight; and never stop fighting…. If at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.~

It is hard work to offer our line to the world…to allow ourselves to feel and to use what we know, believe, and think in ways that are good for the world. It is hard… and perhaps like some of you here, sometimes…sometimes I don’t feel. The motions are there. But the contemplation, the vulnerability, the realizing of implication and responsibility and going forward anyway…sometimes that is not there. And what I put forth is not out of my fullness, the plenitude of God’s unique inspiration for me to offer to the world for good, for Love…an offering that helps make it okay for others to live out of their fullness too.

If I am not feeling…is it because I am overwhelmed? There is too much of a muchness happening in our world?  Perhaps that is a call to create silence, a space of respite, a welcome spaciousness…

If I am not feeling…is it because I believe myself to be unaffected by plaguing realities in our world—realities like hunger, poverty, climate change, war, violence, massive displacement of people… Well, maybe that is a call to be and act increasingly as One Body…to be in solidarity and allow ourselves to feel the weight of someone’s truth and be affected by it…to work for justice and reconciliation…and to feel the commonness of our humanity which does nothing to diminish its greatness.

Am I afraid to feel?  Perhaps my boundaries need expanding… a call to new frontiers that challenge me to grow in freedom, grow in relationship…

Is it that I have grown numb with all that bombards my senses and sensibilities? What a call to live more humanly…to live into the vulnerable glory, confusion, and wonder of what that could mean.  To live open to Love.

~(love’s a universe beyond obey/or command, reality or un-)~

~love is a place / & through this place of/love move / (with brightness of peace) / all places.~


~A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses [her] feelings through words.~

Perhaps it could be said, then, by extension, that a member of the Sacred Heart family is one who feels and who expresses their nobody-but-yourself-ness through making a positive difference in this terrifically needy world.

What is taught, known, thought, believed, might have changed…might be changing…but the call to be fully, obviously, who we are created to be by God in order to make a positive difference, has not. 

Small scale or large…limerick, sonnet, or haiku…

Let us feel profoundly; let us live poetically…

Cummings said… ~This may sound easy.  It isn’t….Does that sound dismal?  It isn’t.~

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Longing, the Universe, Cinnamon, and You

Photo used with permission  of Denise Pyles
When I was in undergrad, I had not yet joined the Catholic church. I was in the midst of learning a whole new vocabulary for my relationship with God and a friend  told me that the church just off of campus was open late into the evening and perhaps I would enjoy going over there to sit and pray in the quiet stillness.
I remember well exploring different aspects of St. Thomas'.  I would trace the smooth spirals in the ends of the pews and marvel at the worn wooden statue of Mary that had such a kind, human face to her.  I remember the slightly spicy, waxy smell and the feeling of nearness.  And, I remember finding the book.  There was a place to write to God!  I thought this was fantastic.  

I wrote pages and pages in this book over the course of my evening visits.  Only later did I realize that the book was actually the community book of petitions... 

Truth be told, though...even today, sometimes the only thing I know to do with how I feel is to write to God…

Longing, the Universe, Cinnamon, and You.

There are times I ache

when beauty presents herself…

When she surprises me

with her seasonal finery

stitched of colors and textures

too astounding for store-bought.

When she sighs and loosens and fills

acts of simple human kindness,

the touch of another that grounds,

that reminds, that knows and that sees.

And sometimes,

sometimes the ache spills over

into syllables on a page, into a tear

on a salt path home to the ocean,

into a feeling woven gently

of longing and the universe and

cinnamon and you.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fully Alive

On December 4th, 2015 I wrote a piece in response to a mass shooting in San Bernadino. 

Sadly, I can't even cry out "UNBELIEVABLE." Because it isn't at all unbelievable.

And yet we wonder.  We consistently wonder and act surprised.  Or worse, accept these shootings as a part of our reality, as part of the price we pay for the right to own a gun. 

It was this entry that I referenced about six months later when writing about the shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. 

Before this, there was Sandy Hook and Columbine and Charley Hebdo and many others.
And between then and now, there have been I don’t even know how many other instances all around the world of people deciding that a gun…or a car…or a knife…or a bomb… will make for a bigger voice than they will ever have on their own, a voice that yells down, that strikes fear, that suffocates the life, out of others.

It’s easier, somehow, to believe that this sort of behavior happens when someone is ‘radicalized’ by a cause or movement.  That left to his or her own devices, this behavior wouldn’t happen.

Nearly 60 people were killed in Las Vegas last evening by a single man whose family said there was no reason to believe he’d ever do something like that.
And yet, he did. 

How many of us would say of our children, our relatives, our students, who will grow up to be lawyers, judges, police officers… there’s no reason to believe that they are racist.  That they are prejudiced. That they will shoot to kill someone who is unarmed, that they will acquit against proof to the contrary, that they will run their car into counter-protestors at a white supremacy rally?  

And yet, it happens.  With frightening regularity.

Prayers were offered to the families of victims who died in Las Vegas by governmental leadership who can’t see fit to change gun-control laws.  

NFL players who bend a knee at the National Anthem in protest of the prejudicial actions of law enforcement are scorned.  One is even publically referred to as a son of a b****. by the highest elected official in the United States.

And we try to make sense of it all.

Sadly, I think there’s none to be made.

For me, the salvation is that it doesn’t need to make sense now for me to believe that something better is possible.  If I give up wrestling with sense making, I can put that energy into the only thing I know for sure. 


And love makes no sense either, really.  Not the way we are called to live it.

But that’s just it.

According to my faith tradition, the glory of God is the human being fully alive. (Saint Irenaeus)

Love is something we are called to live.  We need to be alive to do it.  Alive together. Alive in diversity of perspective.  Alive in hope. Alive in faith.  Alive in moving forward. Alive in fullness and freedom. Alive.

I help you live and you help our neighbor and the neighbor knows someone in the next village over, the apartment building down the street, and is in touch with the guy on the corner.

Together we hold the tension.  Together we make space for us all…Which is making space for the Glory of God.  Through Love.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Greatest Mystery, Greatest Perspective

A book I began recently, Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippett, proposed the idea that We can construct factual accounts and systems from DNA, gross national products, legal code, but they don’t begin to tell us how to order our astonishments, what matters in a life, what matters in a death, how to love, how we can be of service to each other.  These are the kinds of questions religion arose to address and religious traditions are keepers of conversation across generations about them. (Speaking of Faith, p. 8-9).

How to order our astonishments…a wondrous phrase that made me sigh into a knowing yes-nod.   Such a particular word, astonish or astonishment.  The specificity of choosing that word was part of the attraction for me because I find myself considering the concept not infrequently.

Shock, astonish, surprise…linguistic cousins, but not triplets.

One of my thoughts re: surprise/astonishment is that it’s the difference between “EEK!” and “Wow! Seriously? Huh…” 

I wondered what others thought about the nuance of the words so I posted a question to friends on Facebook.  “Is there a difference for you between being surprised and being astonished?  What’s the distinction, if any?” 

One friend explained that for her, it was simply an issue of gradation.  Her talking parrot uttering an insightful thought= surprising.  Her dog= astonishing.

The first comment, though, and its subsequent 8 likes by others was enough to confirm a common leaning of multiple friends.  One is being caught off guard and startled, the other being amazed by the outcome.

One of the qualities of Jesus that I most admire is that he is never seems surprised.  Enter the chaos, don’t contribute to it.  Receive people as they are, send them forth confirmed or consoled or challenged to change if they so choose.  Hope for the best, deal with what is.

Astonished, though? Perhaps.  I mean, there’s no lack of emotion or the slightest hint of a flat affect… Could NOONE stay awake??” Astonishment.  Sorry, Mom, Dad… you were actually looking for me and didn’t think to look here?? Astonishment.

My own astonishments could certainly use some ordering these days.

That the president of the United States is still allowed to Tweet: astonishing.  That the great focus of this past week has been on football players peacefully bowing down to one knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality when a country that is a US territory is still without water and electricity after a devastating hurricane= Astonishing.  The perfection of a dahlia flower=Astonishing. The generosity of God, the compassion and cohesion, of feet on the ground humanity after a disaster=Astonishing.  The fact that grown men, the leaders of two powerful militaries with access to nuclear armaments are taking up international headlines because they are calling one another names= astonishing. The wonder of chemistry that allows for vinegar to be added to soup and the whole potful of goodness brightens and blooms=astonishing. 

And so I find myself with all of this and with God…and together astonishment seems to bloom.  Not into understanding, perhaps…rather, into perspectives…

Sometimes the perspective is a scary one…to lay witness to the devastating potential of the worst aspects of human nature…greed, egoism, narrow-minded righteousness, fear…

And sometimes the perspective is humility, is grace, is love, is awe.

Both are real and how I react to them has consequence that goes beyond me. 

Like the rich man who walked away; Like those who went home when the offer came to throw the first stone. Like the women who stayed. Like those who sat on a hillside, offered what they had for the good of the whole, thought about a bigger picture, and in so doing left everyone satisfied.

Please help me live in the here and the wow. Help me order my astonishments and hold them together in truth, hold them together in the fullness of your heart, the greatest Mystery, the greatest perspective.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

On the Cusp

On The Cusp

You make me strong-
strong to sing down my fear
with the rise, the uplift, the
choir robed Gospel embrace
of voices in praise and strong
with pencil and line and just enough groove
to write my psalm of
the world is crazy on the cusp,
and a roiling mess
of ego and power and potential.
are potential.
is potential.
is potential.
is potential.
The breathing
is getting anxious-
choosing time
has come.
That power
is ours.
by you.
What, world,
crazy on the cusp,
will it be?

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Grace: One small act at a time

Missiles are being launched and countries that are armed to the gills and seething are being taunted.  Presidents are pardoning racists and proclaiming them upstanding.  The heavens have opened and floods are plaguing creation.  Gunmen enter libraries and kill.  Cars are driven into crowds; people are "disappeared," trafficked, bullied, ignored.

All of this and still, grace abounds.  In fact, I think it is at world moments like this that grace flourishes.  It might look like the Cajun Navy setting off with every means of conveyance to lend a hand in Houston.  It might look like someone tapping out a smoke and sharing it with the shaky guy on the corner or strangers helping those who are injured.  I think she can sound like laughter; can sound like Big Quiet; can feel like the warm wrap of someone's embrace; taste like coffee, like cold water, like meatloaf and mashed potatoes or red lentil lemon soup.  Grace, a fullness of presence/kindness/mercy/awareness/recognition/wonder/welcome, unsolicited and freely shared... I think it can save us like nothing else can.  It does not run.  It abides.  Not to mitigate help us make our way within it as humanly as possible.

I have the sense too that she dresses simply, at least the grace I know.  It's easier to move that flow, dance, crouch, shimmy, sun salute, dig a hole, plant a seed, tend a heart.  It's also easier to recognize her that way.  Not so many layers.  She reminds me of my favorite of the 99 Names of God...Al-Latif...the Subtle One.

I have had several encounters with her within the last week.  Moments that since they happened are never too far away from present to me...right there, in the corner of my heart...swooping up, abuzz like a hummingbird.

The first, I got a haircut.  A simple task.  But the forty-five minutes to an hour every couple of months that I spend with the woman who cuts my hair is time I anticipate with joy.  She cares about the art and technique of her craft, to be sure.  It's more, though.  She seems to care about how she makes her way in the world and honors the Being of others. We have wide ranging conversations--one from last week being about 'the nearness of voice,' and what it is to walk with a voice of Love inside-and to experience that love through voice in a variety of ways--laughter, shared quiet, serious conversation, reading aloud, etc.  The conversation and the time was a gift.

Next, I went to the Farmers' Market as is my usual habit on a Saturday early morning.  This time, all of the table spots were taken, so I went out to the skinny deck off the second floor and claimed a bench.  About fifteen minutes later, a more fashionable version of myself was standing beside me asking, "May I share your bench?"  She was about my age, similar hair, glasses, backpack, a hot drink in a travel mug.  I said, "Of course--please.." and scooted my backpack closer while continuing to read.  That was all we said to each other until I got up to go about a half hour later.  "Have a good rest of your Saturday," I said with a quiet smile.  She looked up from her e-reader--"It's been a great way to begin it-- Thank you."  So simple.  So lovely.

Then, I was the only person who showed up for a program at the public library.  The library had been collecting people's suggestions all summer about "What Halifax should read next!"  on Post-its and this was to be a conversation about the results--the data had been collated, a bibliography produced, etc.  I walked in the room and there was the librarian...and an empty semi-circle of chairs.  She showed me the bibliography and was mentioning other programs...passing a reasonable number of minutes to allow for any last minute stragglers to enter the room.  No one.  So she and I started talking.  We spent over an hour talking about books on the list and off, book covers, what worked and what didn't...the joys of walking around with a book in your bag whether you get a chance to read it or not...and laughing, laughing, at times...  I stood to leave and said "I'm really sorry that no one else came to your program after all of the preparations--but I have enjoyed myself thoroughly!  Thanks!" She responded--"And, if only one was going to show, I'm glad it was you!"   We closed with a handshake and an exchange of names.


One small act at a time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville...Showing up...and Beauty

The news of Charlottesville, Virginia puts the lingering thoughts of my retreat, from which I returned a week ago, into stark relief.

In a way.

On the other hand, my notes help provide a way to structure my response to the hatred, the fear, the violence, that includes and goes far beyond and far deeper than what made the news on the 12th of August in one particular town in one specific state of a nation seen by many in the world as sliding precipitously down the steeply pitched path to implosion.

The question that came back to me while listening and watching the news…the armed militiamen, the KKK, those who joined their voices to theirs and those who protested that presence with voice, chant, placard, and as a group of clergy did, with a silent witness of peace…comes from a book that accompanied my retreat—Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett.

In it, she recalls an interview she did with Jacqueline Novogratz who posed the question—What are you doing when you feel most beautiful? (Becoming Wise p. 78)  This was within the context of a larger discussion on beauty which included John O’Donohue’s musing beauty isn’t all about niceness, loveliness.  Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming.  And when we cross a new threshold worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth and also a kind of homecoming…of your unfolding life. (Becoming Wise pp. 76-77)  

Looking at the pictures, watching the video clips, reading the articles, accounts, tweets, and formal responses, I found myself wanting to ask the militia with their weapons and camouflage; wanting to ask the Klan and other white supremacy groups; wanting to ask them all –THIS?? Could THIS possibly be what you do when you feel most beautiful? Stand for hate; stand for exclusion; stand for violence; Believe yourself better than; run a car into a crowd and kill a woman?  And to those people who have offered a response—Did writing your words feel like a help toward healing patterns of repetition?  Did the words seem to invoke or inspire a sense of depth, a call to grace or elegance, or did they recognize and condemn the inciting longstanding blight of racism?

Are our actions, our responses, the best we have to offer?  If that is what the world witnessed on August 12th, the best and most beautiful we have to offer, God help us.  

If we can do better, God help us so that every aspect of our being is oriented toward that fullness of dignity and character to which we are all called. 

We need to do better.

Calling one another to that means a building up of relationship; it means letting go in freedom and walking toward in peace; it means standing with; it means the difficult honor of love; it means solidarity.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Wingspan of One's Voice

This morning I was listening to a recording of a radio interview featuring two folksingers—Elise Witt and Sara Thomsen.  During the conversation, Elise made mention of “the wingspan" of voice. How fortunate I felt that such a lovely expression was one of the first things I began to consider as I sipped coffee. It led me to think about my own voice and what fits within its wingspan… How my voice has learned to stretch, to shelter, to take flight…

Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read out loud.  Words felt good in my mouth.  I was amused by them, curious about what they meant, and they made me laugh.  I can still remember reading poetry aloud to myself while sitting cross-legged on my bed and repeating over and again the parts that were especially delicious to me.  My mother and father both read aloud to me and did so with intention and meaning.  I was aware of the connection between the sound of voice and sense-making, Intonation and what it could convey.

Then there was the speech class requirement in high school-- a dread I put off until the final semester of my senior year.  At one point I had to do a personal experience speech and for a host of reasons, I did not want to share an actual experience of mine with the class. I asked the teacher if I could make one up and he gave me permission.  I developed a ten-fifteen minute talk about the day I met the Queen of England. The entire class believed me.  This was a different sort of power that I began to associate with voice.  To speak well in public was a way to have people attend to what was being said.  People would listen and care about what I had to say if I spoke with confidence (or freedom), with strength, and with a sense of story.

Combining these two essential bits of knowledge—the connection between sound and sense-making and speaking with freedom and a sense of story—has helped to both shape my sense of self and given me ways to express it.  My voice, in both its internal and external expressions—whether vocal or written, is a way for me to connect, to communicate, to discover and to reveal…

The wingspan of my voice

Oh glory what can gather
in the wingspan of my voice…
a way to release-ha…
a way to sing-yeah…
a way to call-mmhmm…
These wings, my voice-
oh the pleasure 
when it flies,
when it smooths and when it
pauses; when it rises;
when it follows a sonnet’s contours,
when it wails and when it laughs;
when it is freed on the power
of a spiritual truth and wakes
the Word from the page
and conforms to it, tastes
the story and speaks the feast;
These wings, my voice.
Oh, Job said…
that my words were written down,
that they were inscribed in a book!
For I know that my Redeemer lives.
I know my Redeemer lives—
what I do not yet know, what I consider,
in awe and curiosity,
is how far this voice,
can stretch.
I want to use these wings until
at day’s end they are weary
and can go no further.
I want
to soar
on the currents of God.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ten Perfect Raspberries

Ten Perfect Raspberries

Retreat, 2017 at Martin’s River

When it begins 
with being able to call dinner a feast,
(Dinner is a pair 
of hard-boiled eggs
and ten perfect raspberries,
eaten with my feet up,
and the door open and the light
resting easy and the air
all soft and salty and cool, full 
of the nearness of you.) 
it must be
that I am writing a love letter.

I wasn’t sure
until I blew a handful of soap suds
into the sunset and laughed by myself.
Alone, but not really… in fact,
not at all.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Playing Tag in the Kitchen

Playing Tag in the Kitchen with God

I love
that you find new ways
to play tag with my delight:
the zap-tang surprise
of vinegar on my tongue;
the patient tap on each shoulder
from chili and cinnamon after chocolate
makes her resplendent entrance;
the prismatic shimmy
of sponge and soap bubbles
steeping in the rice pot tub.

--Kimberly M. King, RSCJ--

Monday, July 3, 2017

OH memory

Perhaps it’s the news of late…perhaps it is the proximity of Canada Day to Independence Day…perhaps it is summertime or the fact that I am about to return to the United States for the first time in a while.

Whatever the motivation, the other day I made a list of things I remembered about my years growing up in Ohio before middle school.  I know it is not the whole story; I knew it as a child too.  These are things that stay with me, though.  And I am grateful.

Ohio Childhood

Hay rolls and MailPouch barns;
Balsawood airplanes, bread bag kites.
Kool-Aid ice cubes in old yogurt cups;
Husking corn, shelling beans,
(Don’t touch the peppers);
arrow heads in the fields;
A praying mantis; pill bugs curling;
honeysuckle, fireflies,
black-eyed Susans beneath the kitchen;
the big yellow slide;
Snapdragons talking,
rolling down hills,
climbing into the sanctuary,
the green, cool, sanctuary,
of the buckeye tree
at the top of the gardens;
a length of rope, an old telescope,
and time and imagination;
resting on a boulder
dropped by a glacier
so that I might have
a place to read.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Moment recorded in Italics

24th June, 2017

7:25 AM

Among many other things, I am thinking about the other day in the Gardens, with the rain and the evening tones and how exquisite everything looked…the deep greens, the flower colors, the way the rain was shot through with light…Part of what I was aware of was how that whole, right at that moment, was part of my vision of heaven.  As though we’d walked right into it.  Being here, now, in the Market, I realize that the warm rumbly murmur hanging over this space is a part of that vision as well.  And there are so many things that are a part of that sound… the greetings of the “50,000 coyotes can’t be wrong!” purveyor of lamb to the right of the table where I am sitting; the singing of the woman working School House Gluten Free Gourmet on the other side; Conversations between passers-by and the woman by the steps peddling the Street Beat; the quiet between older couples walking by and holding hands.  And then to draw into this all of the textures and singular beauty of plants, vegetables, woven baskets, people…the textures and all of the colors…and the little girl in the long pink batik dress who just skipped by wearing a jacket with a dinosaur tail running from the peak of the hood to past the hem.

Thank you for this. For the nearness, for the light by which I see, for the heart that lets me feel, for such a fullness of grace.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Feast of the Sacred Heart, 2017

"Cosmic Christ" by Annett Hanrahan, RSCJ
Around the world today, wherever RSCJ are, we will renew our vows.  Around the world… in whatever circumstance…be it precarious, flourishing, just coming to be, closing, changing, unsure…we will renew our vows.  Some years, this act might offer hope,.. in other moments, perhaps it inspires the daring needed to set sail or the strength to stay put and move forward from precisely There.  We renew them on this feast of “spacious union,” where what is most completely human meets what is most gloriously divine… The feast of “Everything has a place,” of “Space at the table,” of Welcome.  It is fitting that it is named for the Heart, an image of intimate center, when it feels like so much of what we see is the fruit of external lashing about.  Let us be about soothing those wounds, be about light on new paths, by letting love pour forth from the Heart, through our own wounds and vulnerabilities, and into our broken, wondrous, and sacred world.  

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

In Exchange

The other day, I read an opinion piece in The Chronicle Herald, Halifax’s local paper.  It was at once brash, harsh, and held elements of truth taken to an extreme.  (Click here to read) Elements of truth or at least shards of a mirror.  On that same day between the front section of the local paper and the front section of The Globe and Mail, there were articles about the case against Bill Cosby ending in mistrial; the acquittal of the cop accused of fatally shooting Philando Castile; the fatal shooting by police of Charleena Lyles in Seattle; the death count from the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower in London; the death count from a forest fire in Portugal; a Dal medical student being found guilty of first degree murder for killing a fellow student from whom he was buying drugs to resell and finance his university studies. 

Venezuela has been in the papers; congressional hearings in the US; the shooting of a Republican congressman; a change in the laws about how many days someone can be put into solitary confinement in Canada’s prisons after an indigenous prisoner spent over a 1,000 days there; Vans driving into crowds

And on and on and on.

The issues are huge and the price is dear. In some ways, it seems the world is asking for our humanity in exchange for surviving reality. 

In asking for our humanity, we are invited to become numb.  Sink in to the anesthesia of over saturation, of violence, and ride the highway to/through hell in a handbasket car.

Or in asking for our humanity, the world is crying out for the best we have to offer. To take notice; to act with mercy, compassion, generosity; to bear the mantle of love’s sometimes difficult honor.

Both of these reflect our human nature. Indifference/self-interest/self-preservation and offering the best; welcoming; reaching out; believing in something grander and that something else is possible. The rich man who walked away; the good Samaritan who stopped.  Those calling for the woman to be stoned; The father who welcomed his child home again. 

There are terrible truths in our world.  But I can’t believe that’s the whole of it.  I need to know, to believe, that it isn’t a matter of having the world on one side of the scale and our job is to balance it out on the other side.  It’s about how we are making our way through…

We choose over and again on a very local, intimate, level, how we interact with what is real.  Sometimes, though, that “how” is the question.  How, when things loom so large, do we try to live out of our humanity in a way that helps the world spin a bit more smoothly, with a bit more decency, kindness, and joy?

So I asked people, 295 or so of them, if they’d be willing to compose a statement beginning with “I believe…” that reflected their own attempts at living that way in our world where beautiful and terrible things happen.  What follows is the result.

I believe that love is stronger than hate and love is stronger than death, and that all creation is ultimately held together in its embrace.

I believe that every person has a sacred worth and value.

I believe things can be better.

I believe in the power of love and the power of words and that both make a difference.

I believe Jesus cries with those who suffer and challenges people who are comfortable.

I believe happiness is a choice and love is the answer.

I believe smiling has a positive effect on friends and strangers.

I believe that women supporting other women is the most powerful magic in the world.

I believe that, although words are powerful, sometimes silent presence is our best gift to one another.

I believe that every life is precious—even the people in front of us every day.

I believe kindness is underrated.

I believe each person has a ‘core’ of goodness because we all were born with a good heart.

I believe in a higher power and the goodness of others.

I believe that treating people with consistent kindness is not just pleasant and right, but also logical and useful to everyone in the long run—meaning that it is pleasant, right, and smart.  I also believe that art (understood broadly) is one of the most important things human beings do or have.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

I believe that we should seek the face of the Divine in everyone we encounter…and be that face to them.

I believe in wearing faith like a loose garment.

I believe that I am a work-in-progress and that self-reflection leads to growth.

I believe in kindness.

Thank you to those who responded.  Thank you for those I encounter daily who make these and other similar beliefs manifest.  World reality challenges me to look at my own behavior and my own humanity on scales large and small and make conscious choices about how I am in this world.  It is good that we journey together.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In your Sanctuaries

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
(Psalm 63:1-4)

I have laid witness to you, O God, in many sanctuaries these days... 

In the sanctuary of pages... 

Gutenberg's Fingerprint by Merilyn Simonds ... He takes the page from me and holds it flat, at eye level.  Instead of reading the words, I look across the terrain of paper, shaped now into hills and valleys, pools of commas, fjords of t's and f's, rushing rivulets of s's.  'Words make an impression,' he says. (p.12)

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit...To hear is to let the sound wander all the way through the labyrinth of your ear; to listen is to travel the other way to meet it. (p. 193)

My Bookstore, an anthology... There is no community without a common resource. (Dale Bates, an architect in Ketchum, Idaho, speaking about the bookstore, Chapter One.)

In the sanctuary of nature...

You welcome me with open stem and petal and leaf these days.  You say 'there is room for you within me, within the embrace of my branches and the undulation of my wind.' 'Feast!', you invite me.  On color, on texture, on line or arc or overlay, on shadow and hidden wonder... (From my notebook)

In the sanctuary of the kitchen...

Leaping Greenly Soup (an experiment that worked...named for ee cummings' poem)

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 big cloves garlic, diced
a bit of fresh ginger, (diameter of a quarter and two quarters thick), diced
3 good sized zucchini, sliced
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced
3 or 4 baby bok choi, bottoms trimmed off, rough chopped
a fist sized thin skinned potato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
a shake or two or three of garam masala
Chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil

Olive oil in the soup pot--onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, salt, garam masala into pot to sautée
Zucchini and apple into pot...shoosh around a bit
Bok choi into pot; potatoes into pot
Add stock to cover
Let burble for a half hour
Adjust to taste

In the sanctuary of the sky...

In the sanctuary of your quiet company, joy, delight, and love.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stardust and Song

I went to hear the University of King’s College Chapel Choir late this afternoon in the Anglican cathedral down the street and over a half block.  I have been to several of their concerts this season—each one absolutely exquisite. Listening to them sing stirs me…draws me down and sets me loose at the same time… I ache with beauty and longing…

There is a sense for me of being drawn into a breathing, flexing, living shape of praise… a murmuration comprised of sound instead of birds.  There is One Great Sound lifted into the universe…a sound that moves with incredible grace… The precision of it, the way all of the notes are bound into this shape, this sound, because of this precision… fascinated me.  There is cohesion and there is movement because of how the notes fit with one another.

In the midst of this glory, I began to think about the Roman aqueducts of Segovia, Spain… there is nothing holding the stones in place except the precision of how they fit together…because of that exceptional exertion of forces working together in union and harmony, water was carried to citizens from the second half of the 1st century CE on into the 20th.  

This music, this encompassing swell of glory...augh...these notes bending and blending with one another…they too bear something.  They carry forth our desire, our aching, our prayer…so enticing is the tidal draw of their bond, their breathing, I could feel myself opening to allow as much room as possible for the music to pass through me and bear my offerings too.

Someone was giving a presentation at Barat Spirituality Centre this past Saturday and reminded us all of the basic law of physics that says the matter that IS is the matter that always has been.  There is no more of it, there is no less.  It simply takes on different forms.  So these notes, sent forth by humans...humans made of the same stuff as stars...they don't disappear.  They become.  If this One Great Sound is part of what has been, what is, and what will be, beyond the confines of time or space...  then this music that took on the shape of the wind this late afternoon can be felt by my sisters and my brothers who are suffering, who hurt, who are scared, who want to hope yet fear tomorrow.

Saturated with stardust and aching and prayer, may this music now loosed into the universe serve as a balm for the wounds of our world…

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Eggsestential Poetry

A Course in Omelettics

With a sliced chord
of onion, purple and white,
removed in one movement
from an uprooted underground 
well layered minaret;
With translucent pages
knifed cleanly away
from the contoured spine
of red-pepper quires
that meet in bright binding;
With albumen and yoke
binding all to all 
in simple, in graceful,
I cook; I praise;
I delight in the glory of creating.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Grace and a thought for Saint Madeleine Sophie

I went to a funeral this year on the feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat.  It was a funeral that was important to have someone from the community attend...two others were away and the third was occupied at the school next door.  We had decided to celebrate the Feast tonight instead.  There was dinner with the Associates, some of the community members who live in a building with Sisters of Charity about fifteen minutes away, and the 99 year old mother of a community member.   I helped spearhead the preparation of the main dish--the rest was being brought by others who were coming.  I was also asked to do grace.

It was a different grace than if I'd composed it for her actual feast on the 25th.  I've read two things since was a double page spread article in The Globe and Mail (TGAM) on Saturday, May 27th. "The Forever War," by Mark Mackinnon was a thoughtful piece about becoming a culture acclimatized to acts of terror.  The other was a line in an essay about the bookstore Chapter One in Ketchum, Idaho.  "There is no community without a common resource." (Dale Bates, local architect)

The combination of those two things had me wondering, "What is our common resource?"  What is it that we put out there for the use of the Whole:  the big Whole and the smaller wholes...  It makes sense that an abundance or a scarcity of Resource shapes the community who uses or needs it.  Water; Freedoms; Food; Hate; Shelter; Fear; Stability; Ignorance; Love....  

What is our common resource and how does it shape our identity as community?  In our best moments, I pray that the resources we put forth serve to build up, to console, to lead community toward greater ideals.  And to bring in the article from TGAM, do we make the acquisition or manipulation of those resources into contests of superiority or quantity...or do we see sharing what builds us up as a community as a call to offer it because we have it to offer for the good of the Whole and the wholes?

Anyway, this is what I was thinking about as I wrote grace for Saint Madeleine Sophie's feast.  Thank you, Sophie, for understanding why it was a couple of days later than usual this year.

Grace for the Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie, 2017

The print on pages,
staining fingers and
provoking a sigh already
at a day’s fresh rising,
has said “The memorials are always sad
and beautiful, but
the fact that they’ve become common scenes
tells us love
isn’t winning the contest
with hate.”

Madeleine Sophie, you
lived a revolution
of fire and vision;
courage, challenge, and
strength measured in Love.

For you, it was never a contest to win;
it was a call to answer…
A life to live for the sake of a child,
for neighbor, for Sister, for All.

We ask that you bless each of us.
Bless each of us who desire to
make known with our lives the Love
that is the Heart of Jesus:
a heart that is wholly given,
given without reservation,
so that tomorrow may be met
with hope, in faith, and with the confidence
that we are not alone.

May this meal nourish us and strengthen us
that this might be so.


(Quotation: Mark Mackinnon in “The Forever War,” The Globe and Mail, 27 May, 2017; written in the aftermath of the suicide bomber in Manchester, England)