Posts Tagged With: compassion

Our Lady of the Refugees and of “High Revolt”: Pope Francis, Compassion, Justice and the Christmastide Mary

Reflections on the Mystery in the Manger, the Word made Flesh, must bring us round to other Flesh that needs our particular care and attention.  In the way that Jesus enters our world and human chronicle we see a sensitivity for the poor, the wandering, the vulnerable.  Pope Francis has been aptly reminding the world of this in his words during this Christmas tide.  I was very struck yesterday, with the words below that he added to his prepared text of his New Year’s Message on the spot.

“What on earth is happening in the hearts of men?
What on earth is happening in the heart of humanity?
It’s time to stop!”

Continuing the daily contributions from word-artists through the Epiphany, January 5th (as promised!), I offer two today in light of Pope Francis’ passionate questions and (indeed) command to our day.  TIME OUT!

The first poem is another of Sister Maura Eichner’s – this one on Mary’s connection to refugees.  In our day, this is more than apt.  If it prompts you to prayer and compassionate advocacy, you might find it a good to check out the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website on migration and refugee services for further info and action possibilities.  National Migration Week begins this Sunday (fittingly) with Epiphany and runs January 5th-11th.  http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/

migration week 2014

Our Lady of the Refugees

Mother who knew
what hardship shakes
a woman bundling clothes
and putting by her wheaten cakes;
Mother who urged the donkey
(making happy riot
on the struggling stones)
urged the beast to be more quiet;
Mother who heard the Child
whimper beneath the thin blue shawl,
our aching prayer cries out to you,
Mother, pray for them all.

A thousand Bethlehems
mask dark tonight,
the lamps of friendly homes
have lost their light;
pathetic heaps of poor and homely things
are laid aside;
a small bird sang where a latched door swings.
Mother whose sad Egyptian flight
preceded all of these,
guide them in faith beneath familiar stars,
Our Lady of the Refugees.

Sister Maura Eichner, SSND

This second piece is poetry-hymnody.  The writer, Frederick (Fred) Kaan, was a United Reformed Church minister, a pacifist, a worker for peace and justice and, in his day, quite active with the World Council of Missions, along with his prolific hymn writing.  He reflects on the Magnificat, and bids us enter Mary’s work for justice.

Magnificat (Hymn)

Sing we a song of high revolt;
Make great the Lord, God’s name exalt:
Sing we the words of Mary’s song
Of God at war with human wrong.

Sing we of God who deeply cares
And still with us our burden shares;
God, who with strength the proud disowns,
Brings down the mighty from their thrones.

By God the poor are lifted up;
God satisfies with bread and cup
The hungry folk of many lands:
The rich are left with empty hands.

God calls us to revolt and fight,
To seek for what is just and right.
To sing and live Magnificat
To ease all people’s sorry lot.

Fred Kaan

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Categories: Christmas, Justice-Service, Mary of Nazareth, Pope Francis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Last Judgement – A Story Telling

This All Souls Day, I am reminded of a powerful image passed along to me, oh, about 25 years ago.  It seems appropriate to re-gift it today.

A volunteer catechist for high school youth that was working with me at a parish at the time gave me a reflection on the Last Judgement.  It didn’t have a source, but was a favorite of hers.  I was pleased to receive it, and have never forgotten it.  Over the years, I have, of course, embellished it!  And so what follows is a combination of the original, and subsequent thought and prayer.
 SAMSUNG

For this judgement after death, you crawl into God’s lap and tell him the story of your life… all of it.  This takes a LONG time.  Tears, of course, ensue… and whatever else you might imagine to be fitting for you.

Hours later, exhausted, still in those arms, God looks deeply into your eyes and asks if it might be El’s* turn.  You nod, pinned and held in El’s gaze.  God then tells you the story of your life with great love, truth, humor, compassion.  There are more tears, yes, but also laughter, deep joy, wonder, wholeness, humility, grace, healing, compassion, connection, forgiveness, celebration, communion and community, wisdom, understanding, surrender, and an intense sense of being safe and sheltered, while receiving even more energy to love, as you unite with the One whose life in love always flows outward.  Imagine it.

I hope that encounter for all we love this day, surrounded by clouds of saints and souls, hoping and loving for and with us.  They are anxious that all those now living would share in the mission to communicate about the tenderness of God’s wondrous action in lives.  Trusting God with each chapter of our mixed up and wondrous story, mended with mercies and lavished with love, we are sent to tell others of this grounded way of living and hoping.  May we all, part of ALL souls, support and pray for each other’s journeys and lean on and in the Love that created and draws all of us, all the time.

I’ll meet you there.

*  Long ago, in reading Madeleine L’Engle’s works, I discovered that she solved the problem of an appropriate pronoun for God by using “El”.  El is short for Elohim – a Hebrew name for God, found throughout scripture.  I have claimed its use here, happily. 
Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

IF Work and Life are Art…

…very much like the art of giving something/someone birth or flesh – THEN we should expect to spend a lot of time pregnant, at the edge, on the verge, hungering for odd things, perhaps cranky, wonderfully hopeful, terrified, thrilled, tired, focused, experiencing, kicked, part of something magical and stupendous, at the service of amazement and mystery, wanting to share the wonder, needing support, surprised, glowing, crampy, bloated, a part of creation in a whole new way, expecting pain, anticipating birth, in search of experienced companions and caregivers, in touch with the small in life and the huge in existence, amazingly practical, full of vision, doubting, celebrating, dancing, crying, and plodding along day by day in anticipation, certain of life wriggling and reaching within which will one day burst forth with its own needs and gifts.

I have been reading a good bit of Madeleine L’Engle’s work (again) of late on art and creativity.  (See especially Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and a lovely collection compiled by Carole Chase titled Madeleine L’Engle: Herself.)  Madeleine eloquently tells us that if we are given a work, we are invited to be a servant of this work, humbling learning a little of what it would teach us.  The work that is our life and our lifework has gifts for us, if we would be open to being learners.

Try these examples.  If you are a teacher, your teaching teaches you.  A writer is taught by the process and characters and images, and finds herself written.  A musician is tutored by the notes and progressions and feel of music and quality of sound and tone.  A painter finds himself painted by the colors and shapes used and emerging.  A parent finds him or herself in the child and in the expression of the ongoing relationship that is mysterious.  A physical therapist is entranced by the wonder of body and movement, and the process of freeing that calls to her in others and herself.  A mathematician joys in the logic and mystery of numbers, and their description of the universe, and finds himself counted and measured.  An architect uncovers truth in the process of design and the ways things combine and create, and the ways various components support and make beautiful each other.

In spirituality studies, we say that the study of spirituality implicates the student.  Of course it does!  Are there other ways your life and your work tutor you, as they emerge?

We are all artists and creators, and we are engaged in the mundane and meaningful everyday duty and privilege of serving the life and work we have been given, that emerges through every moment of our story’s unfolding.  We often don’t know the ultimate direction or flow of our life or work but we can awake to the wonder of what’s really going on (most religions call this awareness or recollection or waking up).  We can find joy in serving the mystery of new life unfolding and can even sometimes shape to varying degrees, with due respect for the rules that govern our art, the expression and direction of this gift with our agency, our physical and mystical fingertips!

Today my musings lead me to wonder how our perspectives would change if we understood ourselves truly as artists in this way, engaged – with God – in every moment in the creative process that is the dynamism of life, giving and creating through our living and our work.

  • How would I understand when I feel blocked, stuck, unable?  What would tell me if the block is a normal response to being inbetween and something not being entirely ready yet to emerge – or if it is the result of a practice that keeps me from taking care of nurturing the life and gift I have been given?
  • What new compassion might I have on my own – and others’ – struggles in acting in new ways or taking new paths, given the complexity of the process of ‘birthing’?
  • Where would I find the best midwives for various aspects of my life and work, who would help hearten me as I go, yet keep me moving and nurturing, breathing and pushing, and leading to new births?
  • What systems and practices would I create, or reinforce, that enable me to reflect on my living, so that I don’t lose track of what my life and work would like to teach me?  (journaling? theological reflection? praxis exercises? right brain creations? lists and records?)
  • Who are my immediate ‘family’ of fellow journeyers, and how can we encourage and challenge each other as life-work artists?
  • Who is the God of the artist’s journey – of yours and my journey? Does this lead to any new or sideways glimpse of God-with-us, or reinforce other images?  What images of God are we invited to explore, or to leave behind, as we meet the living, loving, creating and creator God?
  • What are the everyday, mundane, practical, pragmatic, consistent practices that will support you and nurture the creative process?  What one thing might we add?  What one thing might we let go of?  Need more sleep?  Less rich food?  More quiet, reflection?  More time in nature?  More time with ‘midwives’?  Less cluttered space?

IF WORK and LIFE are ART….     how do you finish the sentence?  What question for the rest of us would you raise?

Categories: Art in Life and Work, Coaching, Spiritual Direction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tears are Sacred

Tears are truth.   They are the heart’s external echo – fragile moist beacons of the soul’s sighs.  Tears rise from within, and mark the face with rivulets of the inner reality.  They come in silence or with sobs.  However they come, they usually erase the distance between outer and inner – between heart/emotion and body/physical.  They let the body mourn and be marked with what the heart already is encompassed by.  They make of the cry-er one person, united.  There is no need for further dissembling.  What is, is. 

Comforting one who cries is always about being with them, not stopping the tears.  Tears are sacred signals of something very important in process.  They hold messages about what the heart feels and believes.  And they need tender attention, not abrupt dismissal. 

Many many years ago, during a difficult year, I cried much.  I lived in a mountainous area, and saw the waterfalls that came down the mountains nearly everywhere in small sheer drops as near sacramentals.  The waters were natural – and almost seemed to rejoice in their filling little bits of spaces in a rock and then flinging themselves down and over and further down.  They sought pathways.  I wrote a song about my own tears really –  “Crystal waterfalls, flow heavy down these mountains.  I’ve never known them to move so hard or so fast.  Crystal waterfalls run right beside the roadways.  Wherever you travel, they are right in your path.”   Somehow, the mountains’ small rivulets which ran with abandon comforted my soul, though it did not stop my tears.  It made me refer to the waters – and my tears – as “white jewels” and see how they watered the fields, external and internal.  I was looking for reasons and words to soothe the pain of that year – and I found images for rain watering grain that dies and life coming anew.

Yesterday’s Gospel reminds us that tears are sacred.  Jesus wept.  At loss, at death, because of pain, because of deep relationships… at Lazarus’ tomb.  His human heart sent waters to his own eyes to fall and mark his face with the truth within.  God knows in Jesus the experience of human weeping, and what it is to breathe and be in tears and through tears to the next moment.  The Gospel accounts next moment is one of prayer through tears, action for healing, seeing death’s reversibility, and commanding that the community free the one who is bound. 

Whatever the source of our – or others’ – tears, they deserve the opportunity to simply be.  They may tutor us.  They may water something that will grow.  They may move us to something else.  They may bring healing or freedom for us or others.  But, in a moment, they simply need to be honored by us and allowed and accepted as the truth they are – whether or not we understand them.  Especially, we need not to be looking beyond them or around them for what is next or what might be, short-circuiting the encounter with our own souls.  God’s comfort of us in those times too is an honoring.  Covering tears or denying them no longer seems to me to be the appropriate stance.  Like the bush that is not consumed by fire, but burns, before Moses – tears do not harm us, but they express great emotion of all kinds.  We may find, if we honor them, new invitations to know God with us – new invitations to be a person who is “one” – new capacities for compassion with others and ourselves.

So, if we’d be with yesterday’s Gospel and Jesus’ tears – let’s you and I just see them emerge in his eyes and run down his face.  And be silent.  Perhaps then speak our comfort or presence, as we can — and perhaps reach out to do that  to others we know in our lives, our neighborhoods, our families, our world under the rubric of  ‘whatever you do for the other you do for me’. 

Where we ‘tear up’, let us be compassion and gentleness with ourselves.  Where we see these sacred drops or rivers flowing from others eyes, let us be whatever we can to help them too know their sacredness. 

For our reflection:
“The Lord has heard my weeping.” Psalm 6:9
“Before God, my eyes drop tears.” Job 16:26
“My wanderings you have noted, are my tears not stored in your vial?” Psalm 56:9
“Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” Psalm 126:5
“The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25:8
“I have heard your prayers and seen your tears. I will heal you.” Isaiah 38:5
“My eyes, a fountain of tears.” Jeremiah 8:3
“She stood behind Jesus at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.” Luke 7:38
“Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you might be pained but that you might know the abundant love I have for you.” 2 Cor. 2:4

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