Tuesday of this week I was ordained a deacon in God’s church. It was a joyful and moving service. Friends and family from various communities that have supported me in my life of faith and discernment joined the bishop, the monastic community, and me to witness this moment in my life, a moment that is also a moment in the life of the church and the life of our monastery.
Last Tuesday, All Saints’ Day, I renewed my monastic vow for two years. I hadn’t anticipated what an emotional experience it would be. I figured that I had made the big commitment the year before and that renewing that vow was a bit pro forma. But like all things having to do with God and vows, this action of mine mattered. I was aware as I read out and signed the vow for the second time that I was, perhaps even more than the first time, surrendering my whole life to God in the monastic context.
Since my retreat in Glendalough a few weeks ago, I’ve been aware of a new and more expansive freedom in my interior life. My intuition tells me that that retreat brought to an end a 10 or 12 year period of searching and healing in my life. It isn’t that there’s not more internal work to do, more freedom to walk into, more healing and transformation to undergo. There always is. But I can say that I am freer than I have ever been, that I have forgiven many of the hurts from childhood, that I have let go resentments that have followed me for many years.
Dear regular readers,
I’m writing to let you know about some updates to the blog site, two opportunities for pilgrimage, and an exciting new endeavor here at Holy Cross.
As always, thank you for subscribing to the blog, for reading, for sharing, and for commenting. This project has become an essential aspect of my monastic and Christian life. I have the opportunity, and sometimes the challenge, of reflecting regularly on my life in God and the privilege and responsibility of sharing that life with you, my extended community. Thank you for participating in this ministry.
If you’ve been to the main blog site in the last week, you’ll notice the site has a different look. I wanted to make the site more complete and more fully and obviously integrated with the other aspects of my life and work. You’ll now find easily accessible links to the monastery website, to a twice-monthly video podcast I put together about my life as a knitter and maker, to information about upcoming pilgrimage opportunities, and to the website for the Holy Cross capital campaign. I also hope to put together a list of resources on contemplative and eco-based Christian spirituality soon.
After my recent two-week pilgrimage to the UK, I have caught the pilgrimage bug. I’m excited to let you know about two upcoming opportunities to join me on pilgrimage. In January 2019, Fr. Matthew Wright and I will lead a group to southern India to immerse ourselves in the Christian ashram movement and the conjoining of the Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. And in May 2020, I’ll lead a group on a contemplative immersion to Iona and Lindisfarne, including the 62-mile St. Cuthbert’s Way. For more information, and to sign up for e-mail updates about the pilgrimages, please click here.
Open Doors, Open Hearts
Some of you may know that we at the monastery have just launched a capital funds campaign. With the Open Doors, Open Hearts campaign, we hope to raise $3 million to renovate the monastic church and parts of the guesthouse and to increase our endowment to help meet future capital projects. The good news is that we have already secured pledges in excess of $2 million! But, we need your help to make the rest of our goal.
Please take a moment to watch this short video about the capital campaign. Then, take a moment to visit the Open Doors, Open Hearts website where you’ll find detailed project information and a pledge calculator. I hope you’ll consider making a pledge, which can be payable over three years, to support our life and work, of which these weekly meditations are a part. Please also consider sharing our need with your community. We can’t do it alone!
Thank you for however you’re able to help.
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for reading the blog and offering your own experiences and comments. I have grown a tremendous amount from my engagement both with you and with my writing.
For my lectio recently I’ve been praying the story of the creation. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.
Sitting with these words, allowing them to reverberate in the silence of my heart, I know that that beginning, formless and void, was a time when there was only God. God with God, God loving God. No separation. Like the time between conception and birth when mother and child share the same heartbeat and the same breath. Or like the moment of union in sex, when not only is one body joined to another, but two souls become one as well.
During my retreat in Glendalough, I’ve been praying a good deal with the image of two men in my life who always seemed more absent than present: my father and grandfather. They were (or are, in my father’s case) very different men. My father was gone before he was ever there: drawn away by drugs and drink. From my earliest memories he is an absent presence and a present absence. My grandfather was always there, always expressed how much he loved me, gentle and kind. And yet, there was something absent about him, too, some secret place shut tight, all but forgotten. I’ve always had the sense that his gentle, kind exterior hid multitudes.
I’m nearing the end of our two-week Celtic pilgrimage, after which our group of 32 will fly back to New York, while I fly on to Dublin to make my way an hour and a half south to Glendalough. There I’ll stay in a hermitage for my annual retreat.
It’s been a wonderful pilgrimage, and surprising in so many ways. On the first night of our trip, weary from flying and then driving on to our hotel in Shrewsbury, I talked with our group about the difference between pilgrimage and tourism. A pilgrimage, I told them, is an outward journey that marks an inward one. It’s about seeing places made holy by the devotion of our forebears, yes. But it’s about much more than that. It’s about our own inward journey to the heart, where we find Christ and our own truest self.
St. Aidan’s Day
I seem to have come through a crisis moment with my health. I went to the doctor with one concern, and, after running a quick test, he became concerned that I might have various forms of cancer. I underwent more tests, all which came back clear. No cancer.
Still, for nearly a month, I was left looking down the long, dark road of my future. What if I were going to die much sooner than I had anticipated? It was an intense month. I felt all the feelings: anxiety, fear, anger, grief, peace, acceptance, surrender, trust, joy. I began to have the sense that God was setting my life on fire. The whole world, my friends and family, and I myself seemed lit from within, radiant.
And then, mercifully, the test results came back clear, and the moment of crisis passed. Now, I find I have to face into the possibility of a long life, which is a different kind of challenge from facing into the possibility of a short one.
In the wake of the eruption of white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, and on the last night of our vacation, my brothers and I sat down for Eucharist. We had no idea that the Sunday lectionary would so perfectly speak to the situation we have been facing into as a nation.
With tears in our eyes, we read about the jealousy, fear, and hatred that led Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. And from Paul, we heard one of his many reminders of our common humanity: “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.”
As we discussed these readings, some very human and very familiar dynamics began to rise to the surface. It was his brothers’ fear and jealousy that led them first to cast Joseph into a pit to starve and then to sell him into slavery. At each point in the story these men not only made peace with evil, but negotiated with it in order to attempt to wash their hands of wrongdoing. Each compromise was a further acquiescence to the darkness inside them.