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It’s important for people to understand that in a democracy, there will be a full investigation. In other words, we want to know the truth. In our country, when there’s an allegation of abuse … there will be a full investigation, and justice will be delivered. … It’s very important for people and your listeners to understand that in our country, when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act. And we act in a way in which leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. … In other words, people want to know the truth. That stands in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator wouldn’t be answering questions about this. A dictator wouldn’t be saying that the system will be investigated and the world will see the results of the investigation.

click here to see original antemedius posting where I picked this up!

86252944CS009_SOJOURNER_TRU                                                    LET FREEDOM RING

WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday reflected on her own family’s rise from slavery to the White House as she helped to unveil a statue of abolitionist Sojourner Truth the first black woman to be so honored at the Capitol.

“I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America,” Mrs. Obama said to loud applause at a ceremony at the Capitol Visitor Center. 

An early crusader for women’s rights to vote who also for an end to slavery, Truth met presidents Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and Ulysses S. Grant in 1870, and delivered her signature “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. She tried to vote on two occasions, but was turned away both times. She died in November 1883 at her home in Battle Creek, Mich.

Thanks to Huffington Post. (click photo caption to go to rest of article)

My Weekend at St. Meinrad’s 

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I was turning 50 and in a spiritual rut. Until I got the strangest birthday present ever…

Happy Birthday!” said my friend Lurlene, handing me a neatly wrapped present.

“Thanks,” I said. I could tell it was a book. A new devotional or an inspiring novel, maybe? I held it up to my ear and shook it. Lurlene giggled. It was my fiftieth birthday and Lurlene knew I’d been feeling restless lately.

My morning prayers and Bible reading felt stale. And no matter how involved I got in church—giving the children’s sermons, serving as a deacon—the activities didn’t fill my soul the way they used to. Spiritually I was in a rut.

Finally I unwrapped the present. It was a book all right, but a surprise, a travel guide, listing monasteries across the U.S. that took overnight guests. “Pick a place,” Lurlene said, “and I’ll treat you to a weekend.  You need to get away, Mary Lou.”

But to a monastery?  I wasn’t Catholic.  I’d never met a monk and wasn’t even sure what they did all day.  Still, I couldn’t turn down a gift.

There were several monasteries right here in Indiana. One in particular intrigued me, Saint Meinrad Archabbey, a five-hour drive away.  The monastery was over 150 years old, founded by a group of Swiss monks who followed the ancient rule of St. Benedict.  All guests were to be greeted like Christ himself.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, but the rule stressed two virtues that did sound familiar: work and prayer.  Just like life on the farm where I grew up.

I signed up for a three-day retreat called “Lectio Divina—Praying with Scripture.” The monks would be my teachers.

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On a bright spring day I found myself standing outside the biggest church I’d ever seen. Its spires seemed to poke the sky itself.

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I checked in at the guesthouse. The monk behind the counter rolled up the sleeves of his robe to type my information into his computer. “Peace,” he said. “Dinner is at 5:30, right after evening prayer. Have a blessed stay.” He handed me my key.

The room was lovely—simple and comfortable. I looked out the window at rolling hills, paths winding through trees, and the huge chapel, like a piece of old Europe dropped on the Indiana soil.

Listening to the bells toll, I felt like I was in another world.

In class, I met some other guests. I needn’t have worried about feeling out of place. There were Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and, yes, Catholics. But our teacher, Brother Brendan, gave us another name. He called us pilgrims.

“You’re travelers on an inner journey,” he said. He bounded around the room in his robe and workout shoes—workout shoes!—and explained lectio divina. The phrase meant “holy reading,” an ancient way of reading the Scriptures. He started by lighting a candle and calling forth the Holy Spirit.

“Create a ritual that sets your study time apart,” he said. He smiled impishly and added, “This is your homework, so take notes!”

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We were to choose a Bible passage and read it aloud three times. The first go-around was to understand the facts—who, what, when and where. The second time we should picture ourselves as both storyteller and audience. The third time we were supposed to stop and rest with the words that appealed to us.

“Be alert to whatever calls to you,” Brother Brendan said. “Ask yourself why it’s important. How is it inviting you to practice your faith?”

This was what he called the meditatio, a time to meditate on the words. Then came contemplatio, sitting in silence and listening for the voice of God.

“Visualize a white expanse,” he said, “where you can erase every distraction.” This was going to be hard.

The last phase, the oratio, was for expressing our thanks to God for whatever we’d discovered.

Class was dismissed. I went for a walk around the grounds. The monks attended service five times a day. In between they taught classes and worked for St. Meinrad’s publishing business. Some even worked in a carpentry shop producing poplar caskets, the abbey’s newest business, a brochure explained.

I slipped into the church for noontime prayers. Outside it seemed massive and heavy, but inside the space was filled with light and was surprisingly intimate. The marble floors had an intricate design of buttercream and garnet tiles that created a huge star of David under the four arches. As I took a seat in the back row I noticed something I’d never seen in a church before. The rows of chairs faced each other, the monks in front and us guests in back.

A monk rose to read the Scripture, his voice resonating in the cavernous space. When he finished there was a pause. What was next? The silence lengthened. I looked to see if anyone else was standing up. Had someone forgotten his part?

Then I realized: No one was in a hurry. This was a holy time to be savored.

We sang from a small leaflet then prayed the psalms. It was wonderful, really, to lift my eyes from the printed sheet and see my fellow pilgrims speaking the ancient prayers to me.

I looked toward the monks and imagined them doing this five times a day for years. It put a whole new perspective on time. Not always rushing to do the next thing, but waiting, listening, making time for what was important.

That night I tried lectio divina. I did all right on the first part, reading the passage three times, but my mind wandered at the contemplation stage. “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil,” I read, and caught myself thinking of fresh strawberry preserves we made on the farm. I couldn’t visualize the white expanse Brother Brendan talked about.

“The closest I got was a pale blue,” I told him the next day.

He chuckled. “Keep practicing!”

I kept at it, alternating my reading with long walks, services, meal times and talking to the monks. There was something thrilling about waking before dawn to begin my day the same way monks have for centuries.

On the last day I was determined to try lectio divina once more, this time in the church. It was after the evening service and I was all alone, the smell of incense lingering in the cool shadows.

Recalling Brother Brendan’s admonitions, I sang softly into the stillness, “Come, Holy Spirit, I need you.” Then I turned to the passage I’d picked out.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to search and a time to give up,” I read aloud. Once, twice, three times. The words that seemed to glow, that drew me to them, were “season” and “search.” I closed my eyes and asked what those words said to me. Was this a new season for me? What was I to search for?

Instead of trying to come up with answers, I sat back in my chair. I let my mind, my whole self, settle into quiet. And I listened. In the silence, in the sacred space, the word that came to me was strong and clear. Me, God seemed to say. Search for me.

I didn’t have to think up new projects or volunteer for more assignments at church. I wasn’t supposed to do anything. What God wanted was for me to be with him. To rest in his love. That was what I’d been yearning for.

Just as my friend Lurlene hoped, I returned home spiritually reinvigorated, with a new way of reading Scripture and growing closer to God, and, yes, being a pilgrim in the silence.

To find more inspired places to renew, restore and recharge!

More pictures of the retreat here.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory