A Few Remarks about Inspiration & Joy
As A Birthday Reflection…
And What is a Modern Holy Man, Anyway?
One of the ways I try to start my day, or at least include in each day, is some time for reading and reflection, meditation and contemplation… Over the years in ministry and in my personal search for both inspiration and meaning, I have acquired quite a few books that are aimed at a daily reflection… 365 musings on life, God, relationships, etc., that I have collected from very wide sources- from Prayers for Healing, to Meditations for The New Age… From Collections from the Christian Saints to various contemporary holy people such as Thomas Merton, from widely diverse sources such as such as Vedanta, Emerson, The Cherokee, and a few Islamic sources such as Rumi…
Each of these collections offer me a particular window on the world- a personal and often an experiential spiritual perspective that can serve to startle me, console me, and almost always inspires me…
One such source is the collection put together by the prolific psychotherapist, ex Roman priest, and biographer of Pope John XXIII, ( my favorite Pope!) Eugene Kennedy. His classic text on counseling for nonprofessionals truly has been valuable during my ministerial experiences, and his critique of Roman hierarchy and its stolid response to change was insightful.
In starting the year and my cycle of reading again, and as I approach my birthday, Dr. Kennedy offers these two thoughts on joy: and what it means to be a holy person…
“Joy comes into our lives the same way that peace does– after we have made certain decisions about our goals and about the things that are of value to us. Joy is not for sale; it slips into the soul when we are serious about life’s sources of meaning and when we are honest about our personal commitments…
Jesus has a simple message that tells us that joy and peace are the prizes for those who take on the flesh of their humanity with courage and love…. It flows from being human, from affirming our own incarnation, and from finding our way through pain together.”
A Birthday Reflection
Life, as a whole, remains an unfinished process of risking and finding, reaching and discovering, learning and experiencing all the ways that make us human and that make life meaningful… Each year, renews itself as a sacred invitation to wholeness…
The lifelong journey towards authenticy and embodiment of divine principles requires that we receive wisdom from our experiences and that we learn active compassion for life’s challenges, tests and trials…
As both an invitation and a challenge, we need to assure yourself daily that we are capable of taking an expansive view of our lives and not get bogged down in details, isolated events, or petty emotional wrangling. Life is too short to allow one’s ego to triumph, or for the cares of the world to obscure the light, life, and love that comes from the many sources of divine dialogue- with nature, friends, pets, lovers, in soup kitchens, or standing up for justice… My goal is to learn how best to live fully in dialogue and in a full heartfelt correspondence with the Holy for me…
Each year we spin the wheel of life, we take another step in the endless soul’s deathless journey, and we moves ever so slightly forward in self discovery, or if you will, learning how best to live from God/Spirit perspective so that is fully infused into our lives, and finds its rightful residence, its sacred place, at the very core of our being…
From May Sarton’s poem, Gestalt at Sixty….
Who wakes in a house alone
Wakes to moments of panic.
(Will the roof fall in? Shall I died today?)
Who wakes in a house alone
Wakes to inertia sometimes,
To fits of weeping for no reason.
Solitude swells the inner space like a balloon.
We are wafted hither and thither on the air currents.
How to land it? …
I worked out anguish in a garden. Without the flowers,
The shadow of trees on snow, their punctuation,
I might not have survived.
I came here to create a world as strong, renewable, fertile.
As the world of nature all around me, I learned to clear myself
as I have cleared the pasture, learned to wait,
Learned that change is always in the making
(Inner and outer) if one can be patient,
Learned to trust myself.
I did not come here for society
In these years. when every meeting is collision,
The impact huge, the reverberations slow to die down.
Yet what I have done here, I have not done alone,
Inhabited by a rich past of lives, inhabited also by the great dead,
By music- Yeats, Valery stalk through this house.
No day passes without a visitation- Rilke, Mozart.
I am always a lover here, seized and shaken by love.
Lovers and friends, I come to you starved for all that you have to give,
Nourished by the food of solitude, I am a good instrument for all that you have to tell me, for all that I have to tell you.
And we shall talk of first things and last things,
and listen to the music together….
No one comes to this house who is not changed.
I meet no one here who does not change me.
I am not ready to die, but I am learning to trust death
As I have trusted life.
I am moving toward a new freedom, born of detachment,
And a sweeter grace– Learning to let go.
I am not ready to die, But as I approach sixty
I turn my face toward the sea.
I shall go where tides replace time,
Where my world will open to a far horizon. …
There are no farewells.
Praise God for His mercies, for His austere demands,
For His light, And for His darkness.
Eugene Kennedy… On The Person Who is Living by The Spirit…
The person living by The Spirit, gives time, energy, and all the other human responses that are appropriate to our needs– but does not make us feel as if we owe them anything…. He may not seem pious by older standards, may not, in other words, have the mannerisms, or otherworldly looks of a supposedly holy people.
That is all to the good, because it helps others to recognize their own possibilities and frees them from feeling that being good demands more than being fully themselves.
He does not work miracles, talk in tongues, or seem in any way to need what we might, with kindness, call “sensational demonstrations”
of his relationship to The Spirit. …
A contemporary holy man does not make you feel that he has plans for you as much as he helps you to discover your own (plans for yourself)
He does not have all the answers for all your questions; in fact, he is just discovering many of the right questions himself. He helps us ask these questions and then stays with us as we search out our own answers.
At times, the most he can do is to make the hard questions bearable enough through his commitment to us as we try to answer them. …
There are saints all around us in the world, loving it and redeeming it with the gift they make of themselves in the service of others.
Sometimes, as it has been true of saints for centuries, they are in trouble with authorities, and sometimes they are involved in great controversy. That is because they have the most distinguished mark that a holy person can possess- The mark of being alive both to eternal truths and to temporal affairs.