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Being Benedictine

Living Benedictine values in everyday life

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spiritual journey

O Holy Spirit, You are the Mighty Way

O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which everything that is in the heavens, on the Earth, and under the Earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness. -St. Hildegard of Bingen

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“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place….All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.”—Acts 2:1

They came from many different places and, yet, they understood each other. They were connected as one in Spirit, united in understanding by the One and Holy Life-Giving Breath of God. Despite their diversity, each person had a uniquely mystical experience. Their different languages were not erased, yet unity was accomplished.

It’s as if for this one day, in this one place, God blessed our diversity and showed that our differences need not divide.  It’s as if for this one day, in this one place, it was “on earth as it is in heaven.” All people understood what the other said. They saw themselves as a part of the whole, that their God—the Giver of Life, the Great Communicator and Unifier—resides in them and the other.

on earth as it is in heaven

The Holy Spirit was sent to bring us into communion with the Divine and with each other. Day to day, we may disagree, and especially these days we seem to be so divided, yet we must remember—we are in this together. We breathe the same breath. We long to belong, and, yet, we cannot achieve this belonging alone. Through the events of Pentecost, we are shown the potential for unity, an exemplar of what can happen if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, to transform us.

God’s breath is our very breath, the purest evidence that we are made in the image of God. “The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale–Yah; exhale–weh. By our very breathing, we are speaking the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.” –Richard Rohr

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If only we would let the Breathe of Spirit work. If only we could remember to call upon Yahweh—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—with our every breath. If only we could remember to breathe in our circumstances and breathe out peace, breathe in the troubles of the world and breath out love. We can say the name of God with our every breath.

The Psalmist prays, “Send forth your spirit Lord and renew the face of the earth.”  God knows, we cannot bring unity to a divided world alone. It is only in God that we even have our breath, this life. We are in constant need of renewal, of forgiveness, of transformation. Let this be our prayer—

Holy Spirit, come into my heart, and in your power, draw it to you. -St. Catherine of Siena

wage peace

O, Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way. May I “wage peace” with my every breath. Help me remember that I share more connection with others, despite the differences. Help me remember to breathe, to remember that it is through your Spirit that understanding comes. 

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
Breathe out whole buildings
And flocks of redwing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fall and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothespins, clean rivers.

Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
Imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of a fish.
Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don’t wait another minute.

-Mary Oliver, Wage Peace

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A Story Behind Everything

“However well satisfied you are with your own skill or intelligence,
never forget how much there is that remains unknown to you.”
-Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis

There’s so much we don’t know, so much we don’t see, so much we can’t understand. There is a story behind everything.

On a recent country drive, I stumbled upon a cemetery I had never seen before. It was an old cemetery surrounded by, likely, the original iron fence and arched gate.

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I find the old gate breathtaking: the rust over the exquisite spirals and twists on the finials and posts; the contrast of brown and green grasses; the juxtaposition of birth and death, new and old, all at once. I wonder: How many people have passed through that gate? How many tears shed at the graves of loved ones?  I wonder when flowers were last placed on a grave.

The gate remains locked now, and instead, a simpler entrance and a few graveled paths intersect to help visitors find their beloved. Only symbolic now, the fence and gate remain part of this sacred site and its story.

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I continue my journey for miles down a country road, passing no houses, or people, or other cars–truly, a solitary journey. In a wooded area, I notice several old vehicles behind the limbs and brush, so easily missed that I turned around at the next intersection to drive by again. Taking a closer look from many angles and directions, I photographed the old truck. I wondered when it’s dying day had come and it was left to become part of the landscape. When had it last been driven to town? How many children had ridden in the back of the truck, wind blowing in their hair, or perhaps more recently, used it as a jungle gym? Continue reading “A Story Behind Everything”

Easter of Light… and Darkness

“We love to think of Easter as the feast of dazzling light. We get up on Easter Sunday morning knowing that the sorrow of Good Friday is finally ended… that Jesus is vindicated, that the faith of the disciples is confirmed for all to see, and that everyone lived happily ever after. We love fairy tales. Unfortunately, Easter is not one of them.” (Joan Chittister)

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During the Holy Triduum, we remember the events leading up to Easter. Each Holy Day is significant to the fullness of Jesus’ story—his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ life was full of joy—learning, teaching, helping others, growing in his authentic identity, and embracing his essence—but, also, as the Gospel of John poignantly states, “Jesus wept.” Even Jesus could not escape his own suffering—the death of a friend, concern for political and religious corruption, the betrayal of his disciples, his own physical persecution, and, finally, his fear of abandonment, that he had been forgotten by God and everyone. No doubt about it, Jesus experienced both joy and suffering.

Jesus’ life is an archetype for our own spiritual journey. There is nothing that happens in our lives that Jesus didn’t also experience. When we live out our own Good Fridays, mini-deaths that bring us face to face with darkness, we know we are not alone. We may feel betrayed by loved ones, blamed for problems we didn’t create, forsaken by those we trust. We grieve the loss of loved ones and lament our own mistakes. We are depressed or sad.

Our Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, enduring or resting, perhaps a respite from problems, a time when we can separate from our pain for moments, even days at a time. In the tomb, we wait for healing. Perhaps, we allow others to mourn with us and wait with us in hope. Our waiting is a gray space of in-between.

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This darkness is not what we want—and anytime we experience something unwanted, or conversely don’t get what we do want, we live in some shade of darkness. Truth be told, we simply want peace and joy. We don’t want to be patient, to feel bad, to hurt. There are times when we cling to the darkness and choose to stay in a place of suffering, but we can both honor the darkness while looking towards a glimmer of light, to Easter. Continue reading “Easter of Light… and Darkness”

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