Archive for the ‘excerpt’ Category


I was gifted with a couple of books this weekend. (people know me sooo well.) On the bus today, I opened Joan Chittister’s Illuminated Life from Orbis books:

Silence frightens us because it is silence that brings us face to face with ourselves. Silence is a very perilous part of life. It tells us what we’re obsessing about. It reminds us of what we have not resolved within ourselves, from which there is no escape, which no amount of cosmetics can hide, that no amount of money or titles or power can possibly cure. Silence leaves us with only ourselves for company.
Silence is, in other words, life’s greatest teacher. It shows us what we have yet to become, and how much we lack to become it. “Wherever I am,” the poet Mark Strand writes, “I am what’s missing.”
Silence, the contemplative knows, is that place just before the voice of God. It is the void in which God and I meet in the center of my soul. It is the cave through which the soul must travel, clearing out the dissonance of life as we go, so that the God who is waiting there for us to notice can fill us.
To be a contemplative we must . . . go inside ourselves to wait for the God who is a whisperer, not a storm.



Joan Chittister’s From Where I Stand columns

photo: brother jacob

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While it may not be the truest joy in the Franciscan sense, a quiet house after a Sunday out is very close – and rare. Most weekends at this time, after our various church visits and outings, the house is bustling. 60 Minutes would attract its followers into the common room. The doorbell rings. Friars in the kitchen would be assembling something quick for dinner, fridge: opens and closes, maybe pans clang, but the microwave certainly whirs. In the dining room, people might share their crib notes from sermons preached and activities after church. Ten men living together, religious or not, make noise at home, joyful or otherwise.

haight street fair

The neigborhood where my church is has a wildly popular street fair every year and it was in full swing today. Every block had a different stage with punk and rock bands. People walking on the street were drunk – even at noon, screaming and hollering in excitement. Parking was a contest of agression and car honking. I had to take the bus a couple of times and each were so packed with fair goers that I got off the bus and walked – people were turned away at stops. It took hours to get home with only two errands.

But I am alone in a mostly quiet house. The wind is howling. It tunnels through the house. We live across from a park and the summer’s afternoon wind blows through open space, until it reaches our block’s row of houses. And it still demands to blow through. The sound is eerie and persistent. It is almost a low note of train whistle. The sound outside reminds me of the howl sound wind makes through wild fires in drought season on the tv news. Or of desert.

It is a bittersweet quiet (wind quiet), peopleless quiet. Donald left this morning. Christopher as well. I’m next and last on Sunday. This house of ten is becoming a house of seven. Maybe this deep unfailing wind is the sound of change, but really I’m not as sentimental as all that. But change, yes, and goodbyes, yes, are present.

One of the most difficult goodbyes was today – saying goodbye to my church on Corpus Christi – the feast day of my baptism – my big hello to the Christian life. It’s one of the best days of the year in church as it makes for wonderful preaching and the music is great as is the Mass, which is as rich and deep and soul nourishing and Christ filled as any other day of the year – Easter included, maybe even Ascension day. And of course, its my (re)birth day. They even had cake at coffee hour.

My goodbye was public and emotional, the rector’s eyes tear filled as he testified on my behalf and as he blessed me saying the words of Francis. So the other silence of today, is of quiet contemplation. But walking down the hill home today, I thought what joy it is to love a place and community so much and to be at home there and be loved in return. I’m a lucky brother.

True joy – Franciscan joy — walking in the snow miles wet, freezing, exhausted, maybe even after having gotten lost, going to a monastery and asking for a night’s rest only to be loudly denied, sent back out in the cold, told to go to some other monastery. I’m not there yet- seeing that as true joy. Few are. But the idea was that by living in God, Francis hoped his patience would be great and that he wouldn’t get upset or frustrated — that isĀ  even misfortune has no affect on the real happiness of following Christ. Francis’ footsteps like Jesus’ are large – almost incomprehensibly so.

photo: francis experiencing true joy in blizzard

photo of haight street fair: greg z on flickr

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A pious Jew is not one who worries

about his fellow man’s soul and his

own stomach; a pious Jew worries

about his own soul and his fellow

man’s stomach.

– Rabbi Salanter

Everyday Holiness: the Jewish Spiritual Path of the Mussar by Alan Morinis (2007)

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