At a recent fund raising dinner for Interfaith Paths to Peace I had the privilege of hearing a reflection on "how I go about peacemaking in my daily life." There were many creative examples of furthering peacemaking in one’s everyday life. I would like to share a few.
Widen your circle. No one is a stranger. We are all just branches of the same tree. When I help you, I am helping myself. This is true, but difficult to see unless we are willing to look deeper and see our common roots. Genetically we are 99.5% the same. Let's build on that circle.
Keep a good question in front of you. A good question focuses our attention without closing off discovery. What does compassion want for ______________ (name of your city/town). Sit with that question for a lifetime.
There is a growing group of individuals who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious" (SBNR). Though the phrase can have different meaning for each individual, it generally means that the person sees themselves as spiritual people, but they do not subscribe to organized religious traditions. With its own Facebook page and website, the SBNR phrase seems to resonate with a good number of people, especially in the younger generation who are seeking deeper meaning and spirituality in their lives, but have become disillusioned with traditional religion for a variety of reasons.
Pope Francis concludes with three intertwining topics: Personalizing the Word, Lectio Divina, and an Ear to the People. In Personalizing the Word and Lectio Divina he makes it clear that we must allow the scripture to "penetrate (our) thoughts and feelings." Not only must we attentively walk through the Word but we must allow the Word to walk through us. People want to hear the Good News from a witness, or as put by homiletic writer George Sittler, someone who comes "still trembling from the encounter with the Word." Although we are humbled, even tempted to silence by our flaws, we keep "growing and wanting to grow,
In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain resented this and was crestfallen. When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He answered, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" - Genesis 4: 3-9
In Genesis we read the tragedy of Cain and Abel, a metaphor for violence in human history. Two sons, representing light and shadow, symbolize the light and shadow within every human.
This past weekend I attended the fourth annual Associates Retreat, "Peace-full: A Journey in Prayer," held at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, NY. I didn't have to go far to get there because the retreat house is a five-minute drive from my home. It was an intense weekend filled with other Associate's personal experiences using different prayer styles. It wasn't a typical retreat with presentations, group discussions, and large gaps of time for individual prayer and reflection. But I was afforded the opportunity to experience some new options for personal prayer or enhance some I already use. I listened with no particular expectations from anyone. I was also able to meet or get reacquainted with Sisters and Associates of Peace from other areas; enjoy some delicious food; and participate in Liturgy.
"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Recently I was able to take some precious time away for retreat in the great state of Maine. One day, with another of our Sisters, I had an opportunity to walk along a very special path there called "The Marginal Way." This narrow path winds and stretches for a mile high up along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean where the views of the sea are pretty spectacular. There are some shaded spots along the path too with benches nestled between trees, trees that seem barely connected to the craggy rocks. These invite walkers—perhaps pilgrims—to pause and drink deeply of the beauty and majesty of God's creation.
Pope Francis suggests to us the kind of study and prayer which should be brought to preaching, and much of it is familiar to you. First, the call to contemplate: to take time,"a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection, and pastoral creativity," with the passage itself in prayer and study, striving to grasp its original meaning and intent using the biblical research now available to us. Additionally and of equal importance, is the time one gives to contemplate the Word in light of the people with whom one ministers. He asks for a "broad and profound sensitivity to what effects peoples' lives." This leads the pope into a discussion of the principal message of the text, and the principal effect of the text as it comes from the author.
Every few minutes my e-mail is binging with yet another message on the September 21 People's Climate March in New York City, NY. This may be the "mother of all marches." According to those planning the march, hundreds of thousands of activists from around the country will take to the streets to share their concerns about the most critical social issue of our time. While it is important to make phone call, send e-mails and sign petitions to our legislators demanding action on climate change, nothing focuses the attention of those in power as a huge crowd of determined people calling for action.
From the demonstrations to end segregation in the 1960's and 70's to the "no nukes" movement of the 1970s and 80s, activists have worked relentlessly for a belief in what is right and urgent. The time for serious action on global climate change is now.
This theme was quite evident as Dominican Associates and Sisters gathered at Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, KS, August 8-10, for their Commitment Retreat. Marcia Berchek, Tammy Jones, Joan Dreher, Verlene Wilson and Ann Axman were received as new Associates. Sr. Jolene Geier opened our time together reflecting on Luke 10:38-42. Associates Russ and Connie Ginest shared how their hearts were changed working with Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger in Africa. Sr. Teresita Huse's enthusiasm and love for the Nigerian missions was highlighted in her comments.
The candlelight procession around the Garden of Our Lady of Peace reminded me of those held each evening at the Grotto in Lourdes, France. Candles were carefully shielded with paper lanterns, rosaries swung from the hands of old and young alike and the voices of more than 40,000 pilgrims rose like incense before God. This Procession and Opening Mass marked the beginning of the 37th Annual Marian Days Festival.
I was unprepared for the swell of emotion I felt as I watched the people walk, sing, and pray with such joy and deep faith. I could feel God's presence with us as we walked along with them. In the background the crickets and tree frogs sang along on this muggy August night in Carthage, MO. It was as if all of creation was singing along.