Archive - Feb 2018

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February 20th

Retreat Reflections: Matins

When Matins had ended I sat as other departed. I noticed that an end piece of the railing of one of the kneelers in the choir was strangle illuminated. It almost looked as if someone had left a cellphone there that was glowing brightly. I looked for the source of the light, guessing it was sunlight coming in from an unexpected angle.

As I left, I found the source. Over the statue of the Virgin Mary, holding the baby Jesus, and stepping on a serpent, there was a small stained glass window that the sun was pouring in through. The window at that moment appeared to depict Elizabeth talking with Mary about Mary’s pregnancy during the visitation, although I realize it was more likely an image of the annunciation.

It was striking, and I wondered what sort of message there might be for me in this? Am I like Mary, carrying something inside of me that I do not yet understand, something waiting to be born and change the world? Perhaps I need to speak with my spiritual midwife about this. Am I like Elizabeth? Is there a Mary in my life who is carrying something too wonderful to understand, who needs encouragement and words of wisdom?

I stood in silence and absorbed as much as I could.

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February 19th

Retreat Reflections: Early Morning

Reflections while on a silent retreat at Holy Cross Monastery on the banks of the Hudson River; February 17, 2018. As is often the case when I am travelling, my sleep was fitful, waking up at various times throughout the night.

At around 5:30, a little after my normal rising time during the week, but a little before my normal rising time during the weekend, I arose and went to the bathroom at the end of the hall. Someone noticed me and said, “Good morning” which was followed by what sounded like an embarrassed silence as he quickly left the bathroom.

After my morning ablutions, and a brief check of news and social media online, I headed downstairs and noticed the sun rising over the Hudson River. I headed out into the little cloister and sat on a bench to watch the sunrise. I took a picture which I shared online.

How much should I be online during a silent retreat? I think it was useful to hear, to read, some of the zeitgeist of my friends; mourning the death of a relative and feeling hopeless about America with its divisiveness and violence. Posting a picture of a sunrise from a monastery seemed like an appropriate level of engagement for this morning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about social capital recently, especially in terms of George Soros’ comments about social media companies. See Winston Smith’s Facebook Page for some of my recent thoughts on this.

If we carry Soros’ comments forward, and perhaps add a Marxist interpretation on it, perhaps we need to be thinking about alienation of social capital. We use our social capital and expend emotional energy in our posts online. Social media companies try to monetize some of that capital and energy by selling advertisements. Divisiveness is helpful for social media companies to get a clearer sense of what will sell best to whom. We become alienated from the value of our social capital and emotional energy.

There are various things we could do. We could spend more of our time, social capital, and emotional energy off-line. We could seek workers collectives to share our social capital, like Diaspora. We could let it influence how we act online and offline, by becoming less eloquent, hopeless, or maybe even violent. Or, we could become wiser in how we use our social capital and energy online, making it more effective, and perhaps even less alienating.

I have been experimenting with this in various ways. I did 100 days of gratitude, encouraging my friends to post things they are thankful for. Thinking about the book Help, Thanks, Wow, I tried to do this with days of wonder as well, but societal despair quickly found its way in. I’m trying to think of other ways to approach this.

As I watched the sunrise over the Hudson River, I remember an old saying, “The miracle was not that the bush was not consumed. The miracle was that Moses noticed.” I stopped and noticed the sunrise. Perhaps this will be a retreat of noticing God’s miracles in our daily lives. Perhaps, this is a discussion to have on Facebook.

Perhaps there is also something in this about becoming like a child. Jesus said, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven unless you become like a little child. In what ways are we to be like little children? Is some of it looking with wonder and awe at the miracles of daily life, that too many of us as adults, find little opportunity for?

February 1st

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. The Feast of St. Brigid.

O God, by whose grace your servant Brigid, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.

Half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, we celebrate the Feast of St. Brigid today and Candlemas, Groundhog’s Day, and my sister’s birthday tomorrow. Today is also the first of the month, so I start off with the monthly childhood wish for good luck, “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit”.

One old Celtic legend is that St. Brigid was the midwife to Mary when Jesus was born. Exactly how she went from Ireland to Israel is not usually explained in the legend. She is also known as the Patron Saint of Poets so perhaps we should think of her midwifery to Mary as metaphor.

It is a useful metaphor to think about. Who are you helping give birth to something and what are they giving birth to? Who is helping you in a similar manner and what are you giving birth to?

Recently, I got in to a discussion related to this and the idea of spiritual direction. It seems that for many of us, our discernment paths may feel more like we are in long painful labor with midwives assisting us than simply being told what we are supposed to do by a director.

I’m sure that people can spend a lot of time picking apart these metaphors, if that is what they choose, yet the questions remains, what are you giving birth to? Who is assisting you through this process? What are others around you giving birth to? How are you assisting them?

Happy St. Brigid’s Day.