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)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Your Voice

This brings me back to thoughts of the voice of God…remembrance of when the choir director told me that notes are made up of harmonic waves.  What if the note of the voice of God is also made up of these waves?  Those waves being bits of the wind, bits of laughter, wailing, loving, soothing, shouting, mourning, foghorns, ram’s horns, car horns…elements of the noise of life’s fullness harmonizing into the note that is the voice of God.  (KMK on CTL, April 8, 2009, “Harmonics.”)

I don’t usually think of you in gendered human terms… but while listening to music recently, I realized that the feeling I get when listening to a rich alto sing is a feeling I associate with you…so relaxing, so open, so soothing, inviting… 

I remembered a conversation I had once at Xavier after John found me flat on my back in the middle of the center aisle, looking up at the ceiling.  (I had thought I was alone.) Then, I started thinking about other sounds: The sirens that pass by day and night; the caffeinated gurgle of the coffee pot; the wind, brushing out the knots and tangles of tree branches at dusk; the panicked shout of parents looking for their child; the fish breaking surface in the wide-quiet of a lakeside morning; the first cry and the last breath; the wake cut by a low flying swift skimming through crops; the rain; the pounding of feet running away in fear…all of this…all of this comes together in your voice. The harmonic waves of all that it means to be alive and part of creation in the midst of our messy and glorious world…they meet in your voice. 

Yours is the voice of understanding; the sigh of awe; the steadying ballast; the strength to let go; the beckon; the scrape of the chair when someone we trust moves closer to listen; the metronome of every heart; the music that bears us home. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Simply A Good Weekend

In my imagination, I could see myself picking up words, looking through them at what lay beyond; draping them like shawls; offering them on raised hands—lifting them up; scooping them from puddles and pools, allowing them to wash over me and make me laugh and smile; drinking them from waterfalls, filling up with the life their waters contain…allowing them to take my shape and feeling my own shape change and swell with liberation as they lived into my marrow and whispered their secret beauties. (KMK on CTL, May 6, 2009, ‘Playing with Treasure’)

~Vincent VanGogh, in his letters to his brother, Theo, outlined a life filled with the tangible.  Vincent loved to look, to touch, to smell, and to taste the world about him.  Most of all, he loved to look, and then feel, with his hands grasping the charcoal or brush, what he had just seen.  His hands roamed all over his mind, trying to decipher the different grains of thought and emotion…~Writer Lucy Grealy in an essay called “My God.”

I spent the last several days at the Religious of Atlantic Canada conference which took place at a local university.  The theme was “Keep your Hand on the Plough.” Over the course of the gathering, I found myself talking about things that are important to me with around 40 other Sisters from at least six different congregations:  It was so refreshing to splash my hands in the pools of my heart and draw forth JOY…draw forth DELIGHT and FREEDOM…to feel the sustaining vibration of LAUGHTER as it saw new light… Each of these words are filled with experience…they wriggle with those grains of thought and emotion; they wriggle with the divine stuff of life that cannot be contained…and it was gift to hear and to feel them whisper their secret beauties once again. 

That was gift, just as it was gift to hear the life-words of others…to hear the sound of voices merging when we prayed by singing…to have newly met many people who have also said Yes to God and to great mystery and grand adventure with all that they have to offer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

With Pen and Fork and Fog

From my notebook...
I love hanging out with you in the kitchen…I love celebrating the diversity of textures and flavors, taking them in, arranging them, marveling at the science and delighting in the sensory experience. I love eating poetry that I created…I love the freedom that comes with the time to concentrate and the space to let go. I love fiddling, experimenting, using basic ingredients in different sorts of ways to achieve contrast, harmony, cohesion, surprise, intrigue, comfort, interest, nourishment.  I love that this time with you is more about learning through intimacy rather than complexity.  I love that carrots are more carrot-y when roasted simply with olive oil and sea salt on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. I love knowing that tomato paste makes red lentil lemon soup eversomuch more punchy without leaving a trace of tomato taste and also knowing that something would be discernibly missing without it.  

I love cooking with you and I love writing with you and I love that those two activities are not so different, really.  Putting a thought to paper or screen, putting a meal in a bowl or on a plate, and sharing them via blog or print or the place setting across from me… They are manifestations of your delight made known in the universe; your love made known to the senses.

Somehow especially these days when the world around me has been shrouded in fog and steeped in rain, these simple wonders, these deep joys, have been like the brilliant “new green” leaf bundles at the tips of the branches brushed clean by the wind outside the room where I pray: a great delight, most welcome, and dearly satisfying.

Mushroom and Red Pepper Stroganoff over Rice

A bit less than a tablespoon of oil and a small blop of butter into a hot skillet

Two handfuls of chopped onion into the skillet to cook for some minutes

A healthy teaspoon and a half of paprika and a good pinch of chipotle pepper into the skillet

Stir and shoosh around

Add a handful of red bell pepper (in pieces about a quarter inch wide and about an inch long)


Add sliced/whole mushrooms (cremini hold up well)

Shoosh around until mushrooms have reduced in size and most of the liquid is gone

Add a glug or two of cooking wine or dry white wine and stir

Sprinkle a bit of flour over skillet contents and stir to thicken

Cook until a good gravy clings to everything and there isn’t too much extra liquid.

Add cooked rice to skillet, stir, and serve

Friday, April 28, 2017

Divine Gravity

In one way, this began yesterday with a walk in the rain and an RSCJ sister (who blogs here) who wrote in praise of ordinary happiness.  In another way, it begins when I listen to the news every day, so little of it good, so much of it a picture of potential or actual devastation on a scale that makes me shudder.  And yet...and yet...I know there is more, something foundational, that is also real... I know...I believe... I find that I must.

Divine Gravity

Amidst the grey and the grim,
when the luminous theorems of physics
with their lenses and prisms and mirrors
bending light into beautiful
melt into the dampness and certainty wavers,
hold fast to the promise of divine gravity
that grounds us in the hope,
the in-breaking salvation,
of elemental joy.

When forsythia blooms her symphony;
The perfection of a plum’s design;
The unforgotten possibility of flight
at the height of the arc of a swing.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Grace, 2017

Easter Grace 2017

You ask each of us to hold with our lives
a portion of this Holy Chaos—
a portion of what it means to be human,
made in your image and likeness,
and yet, and still, and completely, free.

So it is that we make our way
and we find our lives holding
the Truth of our world and the truth in faith
of who you call us to be, by your life, your witness. 
It is a sometimes contradictory fullness, that Truth:
Bombs, blooms; evil, awe;
Love, Humanity; Love, Divinity;
Love, Death; Love, Resurrection;

We ask your blessing
upon this meal we are about to share
and upon the company we keep
so that by the nourishment of both
we may continue to live and move and have Being
as Easter people.  As a people who believe
that there is a light no darkness can overcome;
that death does not hold us bound;
that Love will be what sets us free

to Rise; to Rise; to Rise.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Radical Style, Holy Chaos

From my notebook…

11 April, 2017

6:45 AM…Cat on the window sill, coffee in the mug.  With the window open about an inch, fresh air eases the closed in feeling of a winter whose time has past.  It’s nice.  This, from the reflection in Give Us this Day, before reading the front sections of the paper…
~The death and resurrection of the Lord is not a past event we re-enact through the tableaus of Holy Week.  Rather, it is a dynamic mystery that plays out in the holy chaos of our lives.~  Fr. Edward Foley

I like that…and then, I look at our world and wonder—Is it *holy* chaos, the bombings of whatever sort in Syria; the Coptic church bombings in Egypt; the lorry-as-a-weapon crashes in London and Stockholm; the volatility of Russia’s relationship with nearly anyone of late; the fact that Arkansas wants to execute seven inmates in one week? 

There seems little that is holy in any of that. And an enormous amount of chaos.

And then I remember the Kandinski mobile of evening light on the buildings last night during prayer.  I recall seeing seams of earth splitting with the life force of a stem less than a centimeter long.  I notice that Lauds is again being sung by a robust choir of songbirds, recently returned from unnamed adventures during their migration. 

There seems plenty holy in that. And a healthy amount of chaos too, though of an entirely different sort.

When I hold both of these sets of observations together, I arrive at a somewhat unexpected place. In the middle of our General Chapter 2016 document.  Specifically, I find myself considering one of the four calls named by the Chapter:

To live more humanly:

In the radical style of Jesus of Nazareth, we wish to be in closer relationship as sisters with one another and with others; we wish to be simpler, more human and closer to people and their experience, in order to show forth the joyful and compassionate face of God and to be at the service of Life, wherever we are sent.

To hold as much truth as we can is an extraordinary amount of chaos to bear.  And if I am honest, I hold my portion best when I am at my most human.  Most vulnerable.  Most free, transparent, honest… because that makes room within me for Love.  Love is what allows me to hold Truth, to bear the chaos that comes with it and not be completely undone by it.

Love allows me to enter the whole mess of Truth that is what it means to be fully human.  Bombs. Blooms. Evil. Awe. Love. Humanity. Love. Divinity. Love. Death. Love. Resurrection. Love.
And my model is Jesus. Who was hated and loved. Rejected and followed. Who was anointed and who blessed. Who cleared the temple, wept, and asked that “if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”  Who died on a cross. Who rose.

Radical style…holy chaos...indeed. 

Should it be your will, O God, may I have the courage through Love to enter in so entirely and with such fullness of Humanity.

 (NB:  Image is of an icon painted on the wall in the RSCJ novitiate in Poland)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Steady me, Steel me

Steady Me

Steady me, steel me,

soften me, gradually

to take in the Truth

that Love has found me.

Found me foolish, found me free,

found me in wonder,

found me.

Found me, is bound to me,

blooming, astounding,

loosing and grounding,

enticing, revealing,

opening, healing.

Moving the rock,

rolling the cloth,

calling my name,

calling me forth

to the world,

to the Cross,

toward grace, toward yes.

Steady me, steel me,

Love has found me.


Thank you.

Shall we?


Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

World Poetry Day, 2017

World Poetry Day, 2017

If I was a poem-me, I'd be
a circus juggler meets Sor Juana
with a niggle of Neruda and a 
waltz of Walt.
The swing of Hughes' blues
and the scat-patter of Fitzgerald
would herald speaking of light 
like May Sarton who for pages
places flowers in vases
and I'd illuminate the letters
as did my brothers and sisters
who in convent and monastery
took up quills and honestly
worked to open the windows
behind the Word so the world
could see what was being heard
when proclamation occurred
and the glory of the story
was suddenly off the pages for the ages
free to fly, do or die--

You and I
decide now, today,
that Poetry stays:
To nourish, to heal, to delight, to praise,
to call, to soothe, to challenge, 
to be
where people can meet in full humanity.

If I was a poem-me,
that's the sort I'd want to be.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Love in a Time of Lent

The other day someone recited a passage from Isaiah 43 to close a conversation we'd had. 
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia[a] and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you...
As I listened to these words, I knew I had heard them many times before. In a way, some measure of the truth within them is with me always and there is a strengthening comfort in that familiarity. There was more, though...more than the familiar...there was the feeling of new, of first glimpsing this mystery of Love and feeling the bloom of awe and the shiver of proximity to something so absolute, so Always and Everywhere, and freeing, and Home, all at the same time... 
The idea that both of those feelings could be true at the same time thrilled me and humbled me and had me give thanks.

After Listening to Isaiah
I realized how comfortable
we are drying dishes
beside one another, old familiars.
I also know that I could still
drop a plate when you call my name
and promise me forever.
Your love has 
that shimmy effect on me.
Always has. Always will.

Kimberly M. King, rscj

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sliding back the door: RIP Stuart McLean, teller of tales

From my notebook this morning…

20 February, 2017

Leaning on the counter, waiting for the coffee to gasp and gurgle into wakeful splendor.

Fell asleep listening to the most wonderful obit/tribute to Stuart McLean, 20 year host of Vinyl Café, who’d worked at CBC for over forty years. They played different clips from his career.  It was interesting to hear his style carried through different kinds of broadcasting. 

He was absolutely a storyteller, a raconteur.  I especially liked the clip of Dave and Morley skating on the canals in Holland. 

When he begins—either a report on Gordie Howe trying to get his 1000th NHL goal or the last official bare knuckle boxing match or skating on the canals or gravy on the lightbulbs and Butch the turkey—a barn door is opened.  The latch is slid back and bit by bit, this wide door is pulled open.  And everyone waits to see what is inside, moving to the side in relation to the progress of the door, in order to crane and see the most that can be seen.

That was the way he seemed to see things—whether the world around him or the world within him—as something to be revealed, shared, shown, and he thought that HOW the revelation happens makes a difference.  His approach was slow and deliberate.  But it never felt sluggish—no, it was detailed, invitational so this drawing back of the barn door was a part of the experience of coming to know what was inside.  Each wedge made visible was as important and equally worthy of time and consideration as the whole. In fact, when the door IS open all the way, when the report or the story/episode ends and the whole is revealed, my accumulated feelings of participation, curiosity and presence settle into the praise of a culminating sigh.  A sigh of fullness and gratitude and knowing.  Because Stuart McLean has revealed the beauty of the journey itself, step by step and detail by detail.

Thank you, storytellers, writers, talespinners of all sorts…the reporters, the broadcasters, poets, preachers, painters, composers and singers, symphony musicians and subway buskers...  Thank you for revealing the details of this journey. For helping us walk in truth and in faith, in beauty and in hope.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Cache of Beauty, A Journey of Light

From my notebook this morning…

Wow…you’d think those who put together the Give Us this Day (nb: monthly publication of readings and reflections for the liturgical year) had been having premonitions when they put together the volume for February… Today, the call in Isaiah to ~share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them and do not turn your back on your own…~

(From somewhere in Isaiah 58:7-10)

Do not turn your back on your own…seems pretty clear that for Jesus, who asked Who are my mother and brothers and sisters?, that this category is NOT bound by nation, race, politics, religion, or any other measure, save the doing of the will of God, who is infinite Love.  Not infinite security in the here and now, not infinite safety or ease…Infinite Love.

~ If you remove from your midst/oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;/if you bestow your bread on the hungry/and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday.~ (From somewhere in Isaiah 58:7-10)
If we remove “alternative facts,” baseless pronouncements, off-the-cuff insults, blatant exclusion…then maybe this cloying gloom that has descended, that has swathed, bound and constricted, the political scene not only in the United States but around the world, will give way or at least loosen; maybe then we could see more clearly and be about that Love, about justice, be about openness, welcome, a bigger table with more chairs and not a higher wall.

And from the accompanying reflection by Bl. Oscar Romero... ~each of you who believe must become a microphone, a radio station, a loudspeaker, not to talk, but to call for faith.~

In the midst of all that is real right now…travel bans, mosque attacks, marches, phone calls, letter campaigns, suffering, action, fear, confusion, righteous certainty, and finding out exactly how narrow is the brink on which we stand, I’m also thinking about squirrels.

Squirrels that store up nuts, squirrels who pack their cheeks with reserves and go looking for more, squirrels who have caches of what they need to be nourished through the winter.

Huh…in so Many ways, it feels like winter.

I am aware that to make it through This winter, to have something to offer to those with whom I live and move, have being, have purpose, have whatever portion of hope that can be mustered, I too need caches.

Of late, I have been aware of storing up beauty….beauty of all sorts.  Sunrise at the harbor; the conversation with a stranger on the street about her hat;  people marching in peace; people encircling mosques here in Halifax as well as in Quebec and Montreal so that prayers could go on in peace inside; the kissy, jowly, reunion joy of the dog in the back of the SUV ahead of me, parked at the curb at the airport; the exquisite beauty and perfection of metaphor in the writings of a newly discovered author; The friend who wrote so honestly and simply, “I often find myself in love, particularly when people are living with passion and authenticity...”; The smell of sautéing onions, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and tomato paste that forms the base for red lentil lemon soup;  the clean line of a fine point pen on a fresh sheet of paper; the swell of full bodied Gospel music and opera arias and dancing to old-school Rock in the kitchen.

There are many moments…and I find myself writing them down, underlining them, telling people about them, finding ways to let them live beyond a moment, let them sustain my soul, let them help center-me-down to be grounded on the journey, so that I can be present and do all that I can for others walking with me, for those who can’t make the journey, for those who are to come, who are to inherit, whatever it is that we help to create.

I am scared of what might be a part of the Winter yet to come, there is no denying that.

At the same time, with each footfall forward, I pray that the new day's creation be infused with Light.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Voices of Good Company

There is something to be said for the effect of the company we keep—clearly.  One of the things that brought me great joy as a teacher was when the right students found each other and became friends—when those who could bring out the best in each other got a hint or a taste of that possibility and decided to give friendship a try.  I know that to be true for myself too…those people nearest my heart make me a better person, a more whole person.

There is a corollary within the library world—The right book for the right reader at the right time.

A while ago, I met someone who shelved their books according to affinity… the books that ‘got along’ in some way were next to each other.  I loved that idea because it speaks to the “voice” of text, the power of the written word, the company a book can be.  It is that voice that calls to the reader, perhaps makes the mind move in ways it almost but not quite moves on its own, or proposes something totally other, adding depth, perspective, new swaths of horizon, to the ways in which a reader thinks, creates, acts.

I have written before about my relationship with certain books…how I find it satisfying to know that there is a particular volume in my bag, even though there are times when I might not have a chance to read it over the course of the day.  There are times when that company is more important to me than others.

These last weeks when so many voices have been tweeted, chanted, berated, raised in protest, stifled, barred, printed, cascaded across the expanse of our world, it has been all the more necessary for me to ground myself in the company of a voice that touches on or draws out something generative, something thoughtful and creative, from my experience of all that is happening.  And to walk with that outside voice nearby.

The author Rebecca Solnit has walked around with me, had coffee with me, eaten with me, and simply hung out with me, for the last number of weeks. 

I mentioned her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost in this post and that post from January.  Her paragraphs have been part of my writing, my conversations, my prayer, my thinking, from the first drawing back of the cover.  The margins of my copy are filled with my own commentary, my own leaning in toward an interesting encounter that I am not ready to end.

A friend is borrowing that conversation and hopefully adding to it… meanwhile, Hope in the Dark has filled the pocket in my satchel.

The title alone would be enough to entice me during these times.  For a kinship to be maintained, however, more is needed.  And Solnit offers much to make firm my affinity for her voice, for her way of expressing her perspective, for the content of her thought and action.

The hope I’m interested in…You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings. (p. xiii-xiv)

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen.  It’s also a nightmarish time.  Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both. (p. xii)

Thus it is that the world often seems divided between false hope and gratuitous despair. Despair demands less of us, it’s more predictable, and in a sad way, safer. (p. 20)

I wanted to write this in part as a thank you to her and with the Internet, who knows—maybe she’ll read it.  If not, my gratitude is no less.  I write it too in part to say thank you to all of those people whose voices I carry with me and who make me a better person for others, the people who inhabit my hope, inspire my actions, and sometimes haunt my dreams.  The people who teach me about solidarity and suffering and what I do not know.  The people who listen to my voice, my chapters.  The people with whom I stand and among whom tomorrow’s horizon of justice, compassion, and Love, will rise and beckon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chrysalis of Change

The strange resonant word, ‘instar’, describes the state between two successive molts, for as it grows, a caterpillar, like a snake…splits its skin again and again, each stage an instar.  It remains a caterpillar as it goes through these molts, but no longer one in the same skin.  There are rituals marking such splits, graduations, indoctrinations, ceremonies of change, though most changes proceed without such clear and encouraging recognition.  ‘Instar’ implies something both celestial and ingrown, something heavenly and disastrous, and perhaps change is commonly like that, a buried star, oscillating between near and far.  (p. 83;  A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Rebecca Solnit)

 When are you going to wake up and see how it really works? When are you going to see that the world is NOT a warm and welcoming place? When will you stop being such a Pollyanna?

 These are questions I remember being asked between middle school and high school.  At that time, I had nothing to offer by way of acceptable response.  I simply needed to believe that there was hope.  I needed to know in my bones that there was reason to believe in something bigger, something more.  I could not bring myself to give in to darkness nor could I offer an acceptable defense of my seeming aloofness to another’s perceived reality.

 I have been asked those questions by others in my adult life too.  When will I wake up?  When will I see the true state of things? 

And I still don’t have an easy answer that can be penned into an appointment slot or plotted on a
Google calendar.

But here’s what I believe: I will see the true state of things when I die…when I Become. When I witness a driving rain transformed into light.  (The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery) Then I will truly see as God sees and I will know as God knows.

Until then, I live with the tensions.

The tension of lax money-grubbing, gun laws that allow the mentally ill to own guns and accrue ridiculous amounts of ammo.

The tension of discriminatory immigration policies based on fear, power, finance, and privilege. Policies that affect people I know, people I love, and people I do not know…people who are fleeing their home with nothing and seeking refuge.  People who need safety before they can believe in tomorrow.

The tensions of racism, classism, radical nationalism, gender-ism, sexual orientation/gender identity-ism…and   a multitude of –phobias… all of which seek to elevate distinct groups, set them aside as good and better and best, while other groups are to be scorned, feared, blamed, ridiculed, beaten, starved, exiled, stoned, shot…

 The tensions of a political situation in my country of birth that I find shameful, blind, and profoundly dangerous. 

These issues and so many others are pulling at me.  Pulling at my hands to write, my feet to march, my eyes to be open, my voice to proclaim, and my heart… my heart…

Oh, my heart…it hurts sometimes. Deeply.  It hurts with wounds and it sometimes hurts from so much grace.

I see all of this as tension, though.  Tension…not laxity. Tension…because there are forces pulling back.  There are forces within me that are stronger.  There are forces in world society that are stronger.  Energy for good.  For hope.  For justice, compassion, inclusion, solidarity.

Sometimes the balance pulls to one side, sometimes to another…sometimes heavenly, sometimes disastrous…oscillating between near and far...

So, when will I "wake up?"  I've been awake. Awake because of Hope; Awake to Love; Awake for what lies ahead...the work, the tension, the grace.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Six Years and a Smooth Stone

I recently began a book that has quickly become a warm smooth stone in my pocket, a book I am pleased to have with me whether I have a chance to read it or not.  When I do have the concentrated time to savor it, usually in the morning, I do so with a pencil in my hand…bracketing things, starring sections, freely annotating, carrying on a running commentary with the text/author.  It is as much a gift when this intimacy happens with a book as when it happens between friends.  

 A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit had me won over in just a few pages.  She begins with the distinction, “losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing.” (p.22) And by referencing Walter Benjamin, a twentieth century philosopher-essayist.  “To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away.  In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.” (p. 6) 

This speaks so directly to my deepest desires about God and to those moments I have known when I am certain that with just a bit of effort and a bit more letting go of gravity, I would rise and be enveloped by what was present to me…Listening to the choir at Saint Francis Xavier in NYC, listening to a live performance of Handel’s Messiah, staring at the Pieta and being captivated by the aliveness of the question in Mary’s upraised hand, feeling the depth of silence created only when a community gathers to weave stillness together…

Rebecca Solnit has another phrase that delights me as well—“the blue of distance.”   How easily and readily I can lose myself in this blue…how it calls to me.  Standing against the wall in Assisi, looking out over the textured patches of land and history, out toward the horizon; Sipping coffee and having an apple turnover by a window looking onto Halifax harbor on Saturdays at the farmers’ market; stepping outside the hospital at sunset and looking past the mountains toward the unknown ahead when my father was dying… This blue draws me, entices me… “These nameless places awaken a desire to be lost, to be far away, a desire for that melancholy wonder that is the blue of distance.”   
(p. 41)

And she closes this chapter with a knowing reminder—“Some things we have only as long as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.” (p. 41)

These first chapters have me thinking about Augustine’s restlessness of heart and my own.  A restlessness born of desiring God.  Born of a call to the blue of distance.  Born of a desire to be fully present, in uncertainty and in mystery.

January 30th will mark the 6th anniversary of my final vows, when I gave my life to Love, forever, in the Society of the Sacred Heart.  I like that this book will accompany me as I mark the date and wonder at where the journey ahead might lead.