Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mary Oliver - Praying

Mary Oliver

In this poem by Mary Oliver, she reminds us that our prayers don’t need to be elaborate or perfectly worded or even beautiful. They need to be authentic. They need to come from our hearts. They need to pay attention to the world and its details. As we enter the season of Advent, we need to pay attention, to be awake, to be ready for the miraculous birth, and to pray, in whatever form that praying takes.


Mary Oliver 1935

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

St. Francis - In Giving, We Receive

St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that In Giving, We Receive. That phrase may seem at first glance a total contradiction, but some of my sweetest memories involve my receiving as a result of my giving. I remember one of my mentors told me the summer before I started teaching that there were only two things I needed to know to be a successful teacher: “You have to love your subject, and you have to love your students.” In short, you have to be passionate about what you teach and whom you teach. Teaching is a relational affair among teacher, student, and subject matter. You give a great deal of yourself, of course – your knowledge, your expertise, and your care. But no matter how much I have given, I have received even more – trust and gratitude from my students, a deepened understanding of both the literature I have taught and the students I have mentored, and something I didn’t originally anticipate - a deeper understanding of myself. Teaching has been a profound gift that has enriched me in every way possible – and given me gifts beyond measure.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Benedict - Serious Faults

In The Rule of Benedict, when Benedict discusses serious faults and subsequent excommunication from the community (in this case, the monastic community), he reminds us that  we all make mistakes and transgress against our communities and, consequently,  often need time “to decide if being out of the community is really what [we] want, really what [we] need, really what will bring [us] happiness “ Time for reflection and self- examination can give us the opportunity to explore with focus and conscientiousness what we need in order to lead us back in the community with renewed commitment and vigor. Hence, the value of sabbaticals or long vacations or discernment retreats. As Sister Joan Chittister says in her commentary on the rule, “a human being needs help to be a human being.” We need one another in community.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Navajo Nation

I have recently taken hikes on land in the Navajo Nation and sensed the power of that landscape – majestic and mystical, supremely mythical, and even eerily other-worldly at times. We know how sacred the land is to the Navajos and other Native American cultures.

It is easy to feel that sacredness when walking through the mesas and arroyos, the canyons and peaks, gazing upon the multi-colored sandstone. As we notice the petroglyphs on those sandstone walls, we realize through those primitive pieces of art and records of a culture just how long we humans have been on this earth. The humans who carved the petroglyphs on those walls are our ancestors and family, and the landscape is our precious legacy.