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Short Post, Swollen Knee

… God speaks in the silence of our heart.

Mother Teresa

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For God to speak, we must listen.

I give you a short story.

A short numbers of years ago, when I was a vowed religious Brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross living at the University of Notre Dame, I said to my colleague and Dear Friend Br. Tom (a remarkable guy in so many ways), “Tom, you look like you need a break.  How about we take a road trip.”  (I often drove Tom on over-the road journeys and on them we had some of the most insightful and restful conversations.)

Tom took the bait and suggested that we go to see a very special exhibit of the terracotta Chinese Soldiers at the Indianapolis Children’s Art Museum.

Arriving before our chosen exhibit opened, we noticed there was an early morning one-person play in memory of Anne Frank.  Just right for us.

So we entered a small theatre in which there was a set that replicated the small attic room in which young Anne hid from the German Nazis who were intent on sending her and other Jews to labor or death camps.

The theatre lights dimmed with Tom and I sitting alone at center stage.  Then a petite, dark hair young girl walked on stage and paused in the stage light to speak eagerly.  Indeed, she was offering us the words Anne had recorded in her extraordinary diary of those months in hiding.

Her words were hopeful and candid, youthful and optimistic.

The young actress instantly transported us back to that time and its deadly peril.  Yet, our guide was full not of dread, but of vitality and spirit.

The one-act performance lasted about 30 minutes and our young, lovely guide exited.

Tom and I sat unmoving.  Our still silence seemed right.  Our Anne Frank had brought us to quiet tears, humbled us, caused us pause, regret for those lost … shame for what we do when God is rejected, dismissed … ignored.

In young Anne – in her truth, and courage, and spirit  – we heard God speak.

We exited in time without a word – waiting moments to speak so we might live in the sound of God’s voice.

… be still … and hear God speak … 

Shalom.

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I would like to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue

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There is wisdom in what John O’Donohue says.  Indeed his words tell of our growth and mission in life, our divine identity – how we have been made to be.

A very smart and pleasant young doctor confided in me recently that he and his wife often wondered if they were doing enough with their skills to help others.  This, of course, is a wonderful way to think.  Their interest was to use their skills to help others.

Implicit in this desire is a proper and good orientation to life.  Their desire to serve registered with some urgency – they wanted not to waste a day in which they were not doing their best for others.

He asked my thoughts.

I offered him this: patience.  I assured him that life will unfold as it is intended and in the process he and his wife would know with a compelling certainty that there was a next step to which each would be called.  In what I said I was stating what O’Donohue has said, namely – be as the river and let life flow and in the flow unfold.

When you think about it – there can be no wisdom without a practiced patience and the peace and humility that patience brings.

The river does not get impatient, nor does it create its own sea into which it might flow.  Rather it merges with the circumstances of its path, the terrain it traverses.  Our life is no less river-like.

Yes, we can have a broad direction.  We can elect an orientation – to teach, to write, to paint, to build, to care for others or what have you.  But the details for our life await in life’s flow.  Our purpose is told to us over time, played out in time.

Yes, we know with reflection and life experience who we are.  This is a process that takes a lifetime – with definition being more refined as years pass.  But the key to the larger nature of our journey is to let the journey happen.  We are all on a sacred mission, called to be – and in this we must first of all relinquish command and let life happen to us.

Be as the river that flows and unfolds.

Shalom.

Back after a Knee Replacement

I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.  (Emphasis added.)  

Steve Maraboli, in Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

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This is a real gem that Steve Maraboli gives us.  It is a keeper.

Look around at our culture and politics – people are always trying to change.  They lobby for us to be as they are – often without any introspection as to who they themselves are.  This is really quite arrogant – ignorant – utterly unwelcoming and ridiculously foolish – destructive even.

I have been in the hospital from Monday (this week) to Wednesday (of the same week) to have my second total knee replacement.  Frankly, it was a very special experience from beginning to end.  I had the extraordinary pleasure of having remarkable men and women attending to me.  Many were from the Caribbean and African countries, one or two from India and several from the U.S.  Absolutely beautiful people – inside and out.  Loving, kind, pleasant, warm-hearted, and good at what they do.

It was interesting that more than a few cozyed up to me for conversation – excellent conversation – the type you have with a good next-door neighbor.  We talked about living at a spiritual depth, finding out how you might do the best for others with the skills you possess, having patience, aspirations, child-rearing, aging, the wonderful gifts women have, and retirement.

Such symmetry.  Those who helped me, gave me a chance to help them.  There is hardly anything that is so satisfying as helping one another.  These people were friends and I was made the richer for their friendship.  Strangely, some remembered me from my first knee replacement one year ago in February 2017.

The content of these conversations was just as Maraboli said: a help in which others are revealed to themselves.   Isn’t that the best we can do?  Isn’t that a blessing?  How fortunate we are!  People – just people, God’s children … not divided by gender, race, religion, ethnicity and such.  Sacred beings.

Shalom.

 

 

Humility is the truth about ourselves, the whole truth – about our weakness, our failures, our history, our virtues, our gifts.

Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B., in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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My life has taught me that humility is surely a natural goal as we age.  Humility leads to wisdom and there are no shortcuts.

Yes, you will grow in wisdom and stature from birth to death – if you simply and honestly learn from your life along the way – from your mistakes, misconceptions, errors, failures, losses, heart breaks, modest acts of good fortune and courage, from betrayals, deceptions and time’s fashionable untruths.  Indeed, life’s calamities are (when honestly received) the path to humility.

In living a long time, I have also learned this: people resist humility and doing so make a mess of life – their own and the lives of others.

Rather than grow, people resist recognizing their own human shortcomings.  People seem to prefer defense to honestly.  They deny their wrongdoing and miscues.  That, by the way, is often a signal of their own frailty.

Some see their education, or status, wealth, profession or possessions as designations that raise them above the common folk.  Ah … no humility in this diversion.

Elites almost by definition shun humility … no fun to be a commoner apparently.

Ironically, humility gives one freedom.

Life is easier when you see your capacity for miscues, for being wrong.  When you have that baseline understanding that people are imperfect – all of us, you included – and hence prone to mistake and endless folly, life actually becomes amusing, fun, far more relaxed, and quite entertaining.

To show the essential place of humility in life I offer just this one thing: Saint Bede cited the incarnation of the Son of God as an extraordinary act of humility.

Think about it: if God would offer Himself to us in such and action is it not sure indication that humility must be a central part of our human existence???  How could it be otherwise?

Think critically about your growth in humility.  Have you aged well in this regard?  You will know if life comes to you easily, without strain, with pathos and laughter, understanding, insight, mercy, compassion, and a divine humor and honesty.

Shalom.

Humility’s Absence.  Humility is scarce in secular mass communication culture.

Case in point: in a new book on the media by Howard Kurtz, Kurtz reports that young Jonathan Martin, a New York Times reporter, labeled Donald Trump and those that work for him as racists and facists.

Martin makes this claim as one with a simple B.A. in history from an obscure small college.  “Higher education” being what it is today, one might assume that Martin’s schooling is about the equivalent of a ninth grade education at a rigorous prep school of yore.

Today’s public discourse is flooded with under-educated people, lacking humility, throwing about all sorts of nasty assertions.  This, by the way, is a primary reason why I do not miss television and forsake newspapers but for The Wall Street Journal.  No sense taking on foolishness, now so common.  Humility absent, one’s access to truth is limited.  Listen and read very selectively.

The object of contemplation is the whole of human reality, which, subjected to perpetual necessities of love and death, is not subjected, however, to the right of perpetual recurrence.

Czeslaw Milosz

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I wonder why people listen to me.  Perhaps it is because I think about the world, human experience in our shared point in time and cumulative history.

That is to say I have made a habit of taking experience in, wondering about what I see, felt, observed and what others encountered and how life speaks to them.

Yes, I spend time in contemplation – hence time with history, incident, my heart and soul, the individual and the aggregate, religious narrative, psychology, story, good writers, others, being alone, in the quiet, listening, in my faith, with my Self, in prayer, consciously with God.

In all of this I think: what do I see?  What is happening?  What registers on the faces, in the actions and in the hearts of others?  What gives authentic joy – makes one blissful … and brings us to sorrow?  What evidence is there of love and its absence?  Contentment and dis-ease?  Stability and disorder?  Tenderness and hostility?  Truth and its opposite?

I have been like this all my life – since a small child … because life presented incidents that questioned my existence, as loved ones died early – and far too often.

Contemplation gave some depth and range – immersed me in life’s events and living itself.  Yes, gave me immersion and perspective that regularly produced laughter and tears, grew understanding and the ability to diminish fear and shrink death to something manageable.

In thinking about life my voice had words that others received.  People actually listened to me and often laughed a legitimate laughter of joy at something I said – as the product of my experience and contemplation.

I was once a child, then young – full of strength enough to collide with life and history’s moments.  In age my heart has grown, laughter multiplied, friends became plentiful, gratitude ever present, love lives inside and leaps between me and others.

In a contemplative life there is neither regret nor blackened heart, eternity is real and close at hand.  Oddly, people listen – receive me and my words.

Shalom.

Whacked-Out.  Want to see how lost we are?  Look at the boorish behavior of the political elites and entertainment “celebrities,” and female teachers engaging sexually with their under-aged students.

Is this not evidence enough that the “sexual revolution” has worn itself out?

No more pampering of the boorish louts and misguided under-developed – children still when well past thirty.  Enough of them and their childish disposition, action and ideas.  They only succeed in making life more chaotic.

Back to normative behavior, people!

… you can listen to silence and learn from it.  It has a dimension all its own.  (Emphasis added.)

Chaim Potok, in The Chosen

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Imagine if we were prone to quiet.  Wouldn’t life be different.  More restful.  More peaceful.

We are a noisy culture.  Many speak who do not think.  Thinking – real thought, the kind of thought done in silence, ought to be a prerequisite to those who speak.  No deep and probative thought – no silence – no prolonged silence and no speaking.  That Dear Friends would be progress.

Think about it.  If all of us were instantly brought before God – all of us, the entire population of the planet: would we be a chattering mob of pests or a reverent people readied for silence in the present of the Divine?

Today I ask: Who authorized all these people to speak, to twitter, to email, to profess and proclaim in the newspapers and magazines?  On television and radio?  Who thought this was a good idea?  Who presumes that social media is useful?  Good?  Informative?  Brings insight?  Peace?  Intimacy?  Knowledge?  Wisdom?  Truth?  Who?

Some years ago my son and I spent the post-Christmas time in a lodge on the edge of a lake frozen, covered in show in deep winter.  At night fall we went to the edge of the lake – the only sound our feet in the frozen snow.  We stood still in the crisp winter air under the starlit sky and he said to me, “Dad, listen.”  After a pause, he said, “Silence.”  He’s a smart guy, my Son.

“I don’t think …”  “Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland

Silence is like fasting.  It nourishes and teaches.

Shalom.

 

 

 

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Jn 4:42

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These are the words of Samaritan men speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well after having spent two days with Jesus.

You may recall that Jesus visited with the Samaritans after his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

The Samaritan men, like the woman at the well, heard Jesus words and began to believe. Each one heard and believed.

We are entitled, indeed invited, to take these words into our heart and life.  But do we?

We have had access to these words for centuries.  Some of us have done as the woman at the well and the Samaritan men.  Some have not.  Regrettably now we are excising these words and removing Bibles and Crosses from college chapels (so at not to “offend” others).  

I often say to people that we are privileged to be back in the First Century of Christianity … that we have the choice to believe and renew Christianity.  This is a rare call … a sacred opportunity.  We live in a very special moment, a decisive moment in America and in the West.

The question is: Will we be as the Samaritan men and the woman at the well?

It is up to you.  Do you read His words?  Ponder them?  Do you show your faith? Do you stand with Christ?  Do you repudiate those who attack faith?  Christ? His Church?  Or do you affirm godlessness in your silence?  Or in your pursuit of self-centered desires?

Many, many in the public square tell us in their words that they do not believe, that they are hostile to faith and to Christ.  Only you can counter their destruction.

Shalom.

 

 

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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