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The Call

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There comes a time in life when a mysterious call echoes in your heart and calls you forward. You are called to shake off all inertia and respond to the mysterious voice echoing in the recesses of your awakening soul.

This voice calls out to you, “Now is the time to begin again. With a resurgence of energy and hope, embrace the only life that is yours to live.”

This call, perhaps previously unrecognized, awakens a new awareness. Listen deeply to it at this uncertain time. Forge a new beginning that is aligned with the trajectory of your life purpose, which is woven into your ageless soul.

In this place of the great unfolding mystery, rest and imagine, and be prepared to begin again. Sensitive to the signs of this defining moment, plunge into the turbulent waters of your life. With your mind and heart immersed, venture forth into the fetal waters of your wondrous and unfinished life.

Now is the time for a great transition, a time to retrieve precious memories while anticipating your return to the land of your soul. Once again, take on a beginner’s mind. Celebrate all that is new, promising and free.

Listen, my friend, to the promptings of your heart. It is never too late to embrace what is possible for you to do. Embark on the untrodden path. You belong here. You always belonged here, in this place you call home.

 

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Quest for the Living God

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Today I ask, “What gives meaning and purpose to your life?”

When I reflect on this question, I surrender my tendency to believe that I can know God the way I can solve a problem in mathematics. I acknowledge that God is a mystery I can only grasp intuitively and ponder in my imagination—an oceanic experience beyond conscious thought that resides in deep interiority.

Yes, each of us and all that exists is enveloped in the divine presence. That presence is something we cannot see, feel, hear, or touch, yet it is fully present in everything we can.

As I reflect on the question of God, I remember the barn in our backyard and the chickens that lived there. Sometimes when I collected eggs for our mother’s table, I would feel a little chick pecking inside the egg shell. It was as if that chick had exhausted the available nourishment and felt motivated to discover new resources for its journey. Time to be born into a new world!

Or think of a tiny fly riding for its whole short life on the back of an elephant. Suddenly that fly overcomes its inertia and flies off the elephant. When it looks back, it sees the elephant for the first time with a fresh perspective—much like the early astronauts who looked back and saw the earth as a blue-green bulb, hanging like a Christmas ornament in the deep dark cosmos.

As we continue our journey, we realize that mystery is God’s other name. As we simultaneously explore our own deep interiority and the vast cosmos, an experience the living God is available to us in a mysterious burst of awe and wonder. It is only as wee come rest in the unknown yet felt sense of the sacred that we dare to discover meaning and purpose in our lives.

 

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Books!

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I have an affinity for books. The books in my collection are my friends. They contain the words and wisdom of people I admire. They contain memories and stories, and doorways into unexpected moments.

Even in today’s digital age, when smartphones and laptops and the Internet provide an easy means of communication, books remain a valued source of wisdom. I glance at the bookshelves in my room and recall the titles of published works I value. In each, a thoughtful writer has commented on the significance of global events and offered insights into the causes and consequences of life-changing times.

Books are my good companions. They keep me company, along with Shelley the dog, here at the Pine Cottage in the Hermitage, among the trees in South Carolina, that I now dare to call home.

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Today in America

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Politics has been called the art of the possible. Some say the first act of politics is compromise. Other say you campaign with poetry and govern with prose. Today in America, I ponder the place of poetry in our discourse and I mourn its absence in the news of the day.

As I glance at the television screen and gaze into the well of the Senate, I see men and (a few) women who have been entrusted with the fate of our nation seemingly unable to do what I believe Thomas Merton meant when he said, “True poems seem to live by a life entirely their own.” What would it take, I wonder, for politicians to “live by a life entirely their own”?

I feel the need to search for the wisdom available in lyrical language and am encouraged by the words of Derek Walcott, who wrote many years ago, “The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.” Today, we might say “in love with the Earth,” as well.

During this time of danger and anxiety, perhaps poetry can provide a new way of seeing—as the art form of the mystic and the clarion call of the prophet, and as the voice of the women and men who take to the streets, in the hope that tomorrow may be a time when life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness flourish on Earth.

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Taking Back Our Country

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From Los Angeles to Boston and from Minneapolis to Miami, women and men joined their hands and hearts this weekend to call out for justice and peace in our nation. They announced to the country and the world that and “we must care for our common home,” that "black lives matter,” and that it is past time for women to take their place in the halls of government and wherever important decisions are made. I heard a call for inclusiveness and for more beauty, wisdom, and truth to echo in the streets and homes where people live in fear of deportation. Yes, now is the time to take back our country. It is a time to march in the streets and to march to the ballot box. Today we realize that there is much more that is possible for us to do and that the founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are our legacy and are within our reach. Today is a new time when every child who is born should be able to look forward to a future full of promise where his or her destiny can be fulfilled.

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Time to Pray with our Feet

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On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am stunned by the incredible display of disparity in our country. Dr. King was a man justice; he was a voice for the poor, and for the equality for all people, regardless of the color of their skin. Yet, we have a president who has insulted not only the people of this county but those around the world whose race he does not respect.

We deserve the legacy of Dr. King, not a legacy of racism. So let’s pray with our feet at the next election, and join with those who march in the streets for civil rights, economic and gender justice, and protection of the planet. This is the most powerful way we can wish Dr. King a “happy birthday.”

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New

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One more New Year.
New of course,
it never happened before,
not even once.
This moment is entirely new.

It’s yours to live
as never before.
Each new moment is
a time to create,
to make life matter.

Each new day is
a precious gift,
to breathe, laugh and play,
as if you never
did before.

 

 

 

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At Swan Lake

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At Swan Lake,
creatures of divinity sail by,
paddling across velvet waters.
They greet all who wander
the shores of their tranquil lake.

Stately swans,
some white, some black,
glide and fly,
then gently come to rest,
on this Swan Lake afternoon.

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A Spirituality of Heart and Fire: Thoughts on Teilhard

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            Like Copernicus and Galileo, Teilhard de Chardin challenged the cosmology of his religious faith. When Copernicus proposed that the Earth rotated around the sun, he challenged the worldview that held the Earth as the center of the universe; for this, he was criticized by the church. When Teilhard embraced evolution, he challenged the worldview that God created the universe and then deposited humans in their place. Teilhard proposed instead that evolution was a sacred story, one that encompassed galaxies, planets, a myriad life forms, and humans.

            Teilhard was a man of great intellect and profound Christian faith. He possessed a sacramental imagination; for him, all matter was sacred and permeated with divine presence. He advised us to spend more time on creation and less on redemption. He challenged us to see that our human story is a dimension of the universe’s story. According to him, there is only one story, and we as humans are chapters and paragraphs in the greater story. He also proposed that there is a psychic/spiritual dimension in each and every creature, and implied that consciousness, which emerged into fluorescence with the human race, has existed from the beginning of time.

            Teilhard’s vision and insight are foundational to what we embrace today as the universe story and the new cosmology. Through his work, science has become a source of wisdom that addresses basic questions of origin, destiny, and purpose. According to Teilhard, when we experience creation through our senses, we experience the divine. For him, creation itself becomes a primary scripture, a primary revelation, and a source of awe and wonder.

            Through an appreciation of science, we are able to see with new eyes, and to understand that at the heart of the universe lies an emergent energy. This is the heart of God, or as Teilhard called it, the divine milieu. He saw the entire world as a theater for the sacred, a source of cosmic energy that culminates in the fullest expression of divine presence and embrace.

            A touchstone of the Judeo-Christian tradition is “the word become flesh.” Teilhard’s vision challenged this view. He revealed the depths of sacramental insight and theology, and declared that all matter is sacred and immersed in the divine. For him, “the flesh became word.”

            Teilhard espoused a keenly felt aesthetic theology. He affirmed that spirituality resided more fully in the imagination than in the intellect. To give expression to these deep wells of human experience required the use of symbol, imagery, and sound. For Teilhard, sacraments give expression to what lies within us at a level beyond conscious thought.

            For Teilhard, matter was a source and vehicle of divine presence. This vision had profound implications for his view of the Eucharist because, for him, the Eucharistic elements signify the presence of the divine in and through all creation. His cosmic vision expanded our sense of the divine’s numinous presence, and laid the foundation for an evolutionary faith.

            Although he died before his work was published and appreciated, Teilhard was a mystic and prophet of what was to come. In the words of Brother Jeffrey Gros, FSC, “Teilhard was in fact a ‘prophetic voice of a great transition.’” He was a bridge builder who challenged people of faith to see with fresh eyes the universe before us. He became a resource for the spirit and vision of Vatican Council II, which called people to a more personal and engaged spirituality. Retrieving the best of his Catholic tradition, he evoked and called for a new exegesis of creation and a new literacy that integrated faith and science, and called forth the emergence of a sacramental imagination.

            As we pick up our email messages today or send a text message to someone across space and time, perhaps we will reflect on the cosmological vision of Teilhard, and see that his understanding of the noosphere—the sphere representing the interrelationship of human consciousness—has by now extended and expanded worldwide, through scientific insight and means.

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From Sea to Shining Sea: Thoughts on Canada

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“O Canada, our home and native land”: these words, accompanied by lyrical music, resonate deeply in the mind and heart of every Canadian. From the western shore of Vancouver Island to the awesome eastern cliffs of Newfoundland, the dominion of Canada includes us all and is justly governed by a parliamentary democracy that honors both unity and difference today.

Our country welcomed First Nations People, the first to settle on this land, born out of the struggle and companionship of our French/English ancestors. This proud bilingual country has proclaimed her identity from the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia; to the awesome wonder of Banff Hot Springs and Lake Louise; to the amazement of polar ice caps in the North; to the mighty St. Lawrence River, which brings wonder and fresh water to its people.

Often remembered as a people of song, this bilingual family has given to its country and the world:

  • The poetic ballads of Leonard Cohen of Montreal
  • The folk lyrics of Shania Twain from Kirkland Lake       
  • The voice of poet and song writer Gordon Lightfoot 
  • The liberating voice of Gord Downie of Kingston     
  • The sounds of k.d. lang, Anne Murray, John Allan Cameron and many more
  • The home of the fastest game on ice, Hockey Night in Canada sounds familiar to every Canadian

Our country has been prophetically governed by great statesmen of yesterday and today. Among them are John A. MacDonald, Wilfred Laurier, Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jean Chrestian, and Justin Trudeau today. Each has a proud legacy and story to tell about a people who for many years have proclaimed, “Je me souviens” and the “Maple leaf forever.”

Canada tells the world its story of a multi-cultural mosaic. From the Iroquois, Chippewa, Potawatoni, and Métis to the immigration of the French and English, we forged a bilingual nation of both inclusion and distinct identity. This great dominion was born from the cooperative movement of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to the social gospel initiative of the West, and became a beacon of hospitality and purpose for all who venture to its shores.

Canada is a place of health care for all. We give great thanks to Reverend Tommy Douglas, a member of the United Church of Canada and former Premier of Manitoba, who brought it to his province, only to see it spread across the country. Yes, our home and native land, born into being in 1867, ventures forth today, a place of patriot love and a home for all who cherish Canada.

 

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Canadian Night Owl

Canadian night owl,
offspring of Ontario

ancestral grace,
being of wisdom,
child of river and of earth,
source of all guidance
shining in the darkness
on this autumn moonlit night.
Here at the confluence,
we give great thanks

to our wise and friendly friend.

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Wait

Inspired by each movement of the spirit
that stirs us deeply,
we sink below the turbulence
and pay attention to the promptings of the heart.
Enveloped in the gaze of Jesus,
preoccupations and plans melt away.
In and through this intimate approach,
we surrender to the ever-present now,
and undefended before our loving God
in silent expectation,
we listen for the voice that calls us forward.

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An Economy in which People Matter

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There is an old story that when a reporter asked the billionaire John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” and the answer came back “One more dollar!” There are various versions of this tale, and we don’t know for certain that any of them are true. But the point is still taken.

I’ve always been a fan of country music, and I especially like the song “A Satisfied Mind,” written by Joe Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes, and made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, and Porter Wagoner, among others. Hayes said he wrote the song after his father-in-law asked him to name the richest man in the world. His father-in-law said all his answers were wrong: the richest man was the one with a satisfied mind. In fact, money can’t buy what we most value in life, and not one rich person in ten has a satisfied mind, as the song tells us.

One glance at the news today, and it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the pain, poverty, and homelessness affecting people in many cultures and countries around the world. As I write this, only 5 percent of the population in Puerto Rico has electricity almost two weeks after the hurricane. More than half are without drinking water. Yet the president of this nation is comfortably ensconced in his golf club. The question that comes to my mind is: do we have a culture and an economy in which people matter?

When E.F. Schumacher wrote Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered in the 1970s, he prophetically asked readers to consider what would the economy be like if it were designed as if people mattered, rather than based on a philosophy of bigger is better.

Pope Francis offers his critique of the global economy when says we have made money our god. He laments that while people will die of starvation tonight, food is reserved only for those who are able to pay for it. We consider a drop in the stock market to be “a tragedy,” he says, while homeless people dying in the streets is not newsworthy. The economy, he says, “should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home.” I am reminded of Schumacher’s words when I hear Pope Francis tell to “put the economy at the service of peoples.”

Nevertheless, there are ministers on the airways today who preach a so-called prosperity gospel proclaiming that if the economy rewards you in this world, you will be assured of God’s reward in the next. It is ironic that many who follow this gospel are themselves poor. Instead of seeking a satisfied mind, or seeking to become planetary people who care for the needs of the Earth and its peoples, their highest striving is for “one more dollar.”

I suggest that we foster the growth of an economy that can transform objects into subjects, guilt and grief into gratitude, and isolation into love. Only if we start from the premise that the Earth and its people matter, can we begin to discover how much—of what we have, and what we want, and what we need—is enough.

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Emergence

When hopes seem dashed,
and faith diminished,
when all we thought was promised
begins to dissolve and shatter before us,
we descend to the floorboard of our souls.
There, caught in the turbulence of the moment,
we search for the still point of the sacred.
In that place of uncertainty,
we open to the unexpected
welcome the possibility of the new.

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Ocean of Grace

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We gather today,
friends of Doug and Camille,
to launch and celebrate
a buoyant new beginning
on their adventurous journey.

Here on the shores
of the mighty Pacific,
may they be carried forward
into this new time.

May their new home
become a place
of wonder, belonging and love;
a sacred place
where their lives flow
into new oceans of grace.

In this place
where newness happens,
peace presides
as their blue boat home
sails confidently
into fresh adventures
yet untold.

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At the Feet of the Cosmos

In this journey of faith, we discover the palpable presence of the divine. A growing global awareness anchors us in the cosmos. The divine presence awakens primordial energies in our bodies, and we feel ourselves connected with all of creation. Our prophetic contribution to the universe captivates and enchants us. Cosmic wisdom unfolds life’s surprises. Our privilege is to be open to the moment of the unexpected.

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A Lesson of Solidarity

Astronauts, such as Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days in space, are able to view our planetary home without the national boundaries we impose. The cosmic principle of communion opens us to the interconnectedness of all things. Experiencing the universe as one enhances the meaning of global solidarity. On the global level, we focus on our commonalities. We rely on trust and communication. Above all, we hold humanity and the Earth in an embrace of compassion.

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Letter to a Young Poet

I sit in my apartment in Berkeley, California, pick up a pen and a pad of paper, and begin to write. For a period of time, inspired after I attended a reading by Mary Oliver, I took up the challenge each day to listen deeply to the spirit speaking softly to my soul and commit that to paper.

Poetry affords the opportunity to have a dialogue with the pad of paper. The paper serves as a dialogical partner, a spiritual companion, whose empty page is the willing recipient of whatever lies in my heart and longs to be heard.

Sometimes I think of poetry as a dream on paper—a way to translate the impulses of the soul into shareable forms.

 

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Unspoken Hunger

Mary Grey says,
“If we long for God,
we long for the satisfaction and fulfillment
of what we genuinely desire,
far and away beyond the titillating enticements of the market
which have blocked the wisdom to know.”

Guardians say,
“I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but humbly offer myself as
a guardian of nature.”

Rilke says,
“Let everything happen to you:
beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.”

Gail Straub says,
“Without the out-breath of
compassionate engagement our
inner work implodes upon itself.”

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee says,
"Deep within the heart there is the primal pain of longing,
the cry of the soul separated from its source.
This pain comes from the memory
of when we were together with God.”

John O’Donohue says,
“The contemplative has broken
through to that sanctuary
in the soul where love dwells.”

Miriam MacGillis says,
"Each of us must take our place
in the unfolding mystery that is
at the heart of the Universe.”

Brother David Steindl-Rastsays,
“Our heart is that center where
we are one with ourselves,
with all others, and with God.”

Thomas Berry says,
“We need to move from a
spirituality of alienation from the natural world
to a spirituality of intimacy with the natural world.”

Rumi says,
“Longing is the core of mystery.”

Mary Oliver says,
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life,
I was a bride married to amazement.”

Dorothy Day says,
“The mystery of the poor is this:
That they are Jesus,
and what you do for them you do for Him.”

Albert Einstein says,
“The most beautiful experience
we can have is the mysterious.”

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