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Coffins and Cribs

What a story
this small twig can tell,
lying gently in my hand.

This offspring of an oak
that once stood stately on Earth,
wood became lumber.

Making shelter for the homeless,
cribs for the newborns,
coffins for those born again.

What a story
this small twig can tell.

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Meadow Time

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Earth is a sacrament,
a divine presence
that permeates your soul,
envelops your awareness.

Perhaps a memory
an engaging recollection,
has bathed you
in a living, energizing presence.

Sink deeply
into a sacred recollection
of when you felt touched
by the wonder of it all.

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Rosary for the New Story

Prayer is joy, emptiness, wonder, imagination.
Prayer heals the soul with acts of justice.
Prayer is following the guidance of Rilke,
who tells us to love the questions themselves.

Prayer is joy, sorrow, creativity, change.
Prayer is pottery, painting, drumming, tai-chi.
Prayer is the openness to be like Teilhard,
a pilgrim of the future who is returning from the past.

Prayer is an act of the true self.
Prayer is the new story arising in action.

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It Is Easter Again

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We have arrived at the defining moment Christians call Easter. These days, not only do we celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; we also remember and give thanks for this new moment in human/Earth history. We celebrate the emergence of the cosmic Christ, whose presence and creativity infuse a divine presence into every resurrection moment. At the same time, we celebrate that it is spring again, and we are grateful for each blade of grass, for each wheat field, and for each creature of creation that gives life to its offspring and cares for its young.

As new life and beauty triumph over the darkened days of winter, we welcome the fresh energy that rises across the land and expresses hope-filled anticipation. With joyful salutations, we welcome the wonders of the empty tomb, signified by the struggles and everyday experiences of loss, pain, and discouragement.

Together this day, despite the inevitable experience of Gethsemane moments, we dare to proclaim our alleluias to the world. Despite our disappointment and pain, we reclaim the image of the empty tomb.

Today, despite good Friday, we stand up as planetary people to protest the cosmic crucifixions in Syria and Iraq, the gun madness in the halls of learning, the loss of precious dreams and lives laid waste on the battlefields racial strife, economic imbalance, and the lack of gender justice.

Today, I ponder the Paschal mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of the historical Jesus and the coming of the cosmic Christ.

At this profound moment, I recall the prophetic journey of the soon-to-be-canonized Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and his courageous proclamation to his people: “If they kill me, I will rise in the people of El Salvador.” His words are powerful and true. When I visited there every classroom, clinic, chapel, and home was adorned with the picture of this prophetic martyr of the people.

Inspired by Saint Oscar and others, I raise my voice and say on behalf of our endangered planet and all planetary people: “I will rise. I will rise in this era of violence and unrest to welcome the dawn of a new day.”

It will be a day of empty tombs, a time when this dark night will not have the last word. Rather it will be a time that welcomes the dawn of a new tomorrow, a time when wen joyful alleluias will echo across the land, as all planetary people proclaim, “It is Easter again, a time when all people and all of God’s creatures sing Easter alleluias with full hearts.”

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A Pilgrim’s Prayer

Creator God,
source of love and life,
be with us now
as we venture forth.

May all our days be flooded
with precious gifts
and great anticipation,
enveloped with fresh energy.

May we discover
new doorways,
opening to the unfinished journey
that awaits us.

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A Mysterious Invitation

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A mysterious call
echoes in your heart,
calls you forward
into an unplanned life.

In this a moment,
you are called to shake off
the inertia of life,
to awaken to new awareness.

Now is the time
to embark on untrodden paths.
Find a life aligned with purpose,
activate the summons
woven deeply into your soul.

This time of transition
calls you to return
to your early years.
With a beginners’ mind,
celebrate all that is promising and free.

Today embrace gratefully
what is still possible for you to do.
Through recollections,
struggle and fulfillment,
look back and begin again.

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Longing for Running Water

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Do you remember a time when you were thirsty, and what it felt like to take that first sip of cool, fresh water? Perhaps it was after a vigorous sporting event. Someone offered you a glass of water, and you rejoiced as the cool liquid trickled down your throat and quenched your thirst.

The gift of water may quench our physical thirst, but thirst comes to us in so many ways. We experience thirst as a deeper longing. Just as we long for food to nourish our body, for example, we long for friendship when we are lonely. We long to end pain and suffering. We long for meaning and purpose in our lives.

In the midst of our longing lies a consistent and enduring theme. This theme is notably found in the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast, who describes our seemingly unquenchable thirst as a search for “the More” and points out that “we will always want to have something else or something more.”

As I set aside my paper and pen and turn on the radio to listen to the news of the day, I almost unknowingly and without intention ingest the anxiety of our polarized world: the war in Syria; conflicts across the Middle East; gun violence in school classrooms; and the precarious state of the many undocumented, whose lives are soaked in uncertainty.

In the next moment, an unbidden awareness floods the landscape of my soul. I rejoice in the realization that today, as planetary people who live in the midst of turmoil, we can be reconciled and healed as we move forward to quench our thirst for “the More” as we take the balm of love that is like running water to the soul and mend what is broken, bring peace, overcome injustice, and renew the face of the Earth.

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Watershed Moment

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We live in uncertain and anxious times. Bullets ravage the lives of children as they plan their futures, determined to make our world a better, safer sacred place.

In the wake of the loss dear friends, they find their voice, speak out boldly to those who inhabit places of power—from the White House to state offices and more.

They rise up amidst their tears and broken hearts to speak out and take action against corporate greed, patriarchal power, cultural pathology, runaway capitalism. They call out to the nation and the world for a resurgence of beauty

We discover ourselves today at a watershed moment. We are at a crossroads between suicide and resurgence.

Let us join our hearts and minds with these young courageous ones who dare to transform greed into generosity, the destructive power of corporate elites into a fresh energy.

May every child’s dream, every parent’s prayer, and every new adventure overflow with abundant beauty and surprise.

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Imagine

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Imagine a world in which we cross over into a thundering new awareness, a time when we emerge into the flood of a vast new understanding.

Imagine yourself gathering among a cluster of colleagues who declare to our endangered planet, “We are your first responders. We are here as planetary people, to bring healing, to tell our story at this terminal phase of human/Earth history.”

Now is the time to look back and imagine how things came to be as they are, to see how they are now, and to move from diagnosis to becoming a healing people dedicated to respond to the cry of the Earth.

I invite you to imagine a wonderous future in which every sacred impulse will call us forth, to imagine a new world order where everything is holy, where every culture, language, color, rock, meadow, and tree can become a new paragraph in the great story.

When we ingest this joyful wisdom bubbling up from the recesses of our imagination, a fresh new ocean of grace will pour forth to accomplish whatever needs to be done. Beauty will call us forward as we are seized by the vision of a future not yet imagined.

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Grow Your Soul

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Flags at half mast,
children dying,
the pop-pop of bullets
shatter the silence.
Guns terrorize our land.

When will the madness end,
the guns be put away?

I hear the young say,
“Never again.”
Listen to their voices.
Let violence cease.
Grow a soul of peace.

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Young People, Rise Up

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I join the people of Parkland, Florida, as they mourn the loss of precious lives taken from their families and friends by the misguided, violent rage of a young man.

I share the tragic moment of a heartbroken mother who is asked to pick out a dress for her daughter’s funeral. Now she will never look forward to the day when she and her daughter pick out a wedding dress.

The students cry in one voice, “Enough!” Enough killing. Enough pain. Enough sorrow and loss. As they mobilize to march on Washington, their voices are heard around America.

"Never again,” I hear them say. How long must we weep over the stolen lives of our people because of the cultural pathology of gun violence in this country?

This plea for peace follows me into my sleep. In a dream, I met someone who was important in my life, but from whom I became estranged. However, in the dream, we reconcile. Forgiveness is granted, and gifts are given and received. It is truly a peacemakers’ dream.

The next morning, I feel moved all the more strongly to join with the hearts and minds of the youth of America, to listen to their courageous voices calling us to be a people of peace.

 

photo: Evan Vucci/AP

 

 

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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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