Sunday, June 28, 2009

Spiritual Formation

Dear Abbey Members and Friends:

The second tenet of our common Rule of Life is: "Study Scripture and pursue a specifically selected spiritual formation activity annually."

I have tried to study scripture on a regular basis on my own, but have been unsuccessful. One discipline that I have been more successful with is the spiritual formation part. I subscribe to Weavings which is a spiritual journal published 6 times a year and contains a number of short articles, poems, etc., written on a specific topic for each issue. The current issue is titled "Cling Always to God." This is a wonderful issue. I want to share one poem by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, a regular contributor to the journal:

What to do in the darkness

Go slowly
Consent to it
But don't wallow in it
Know it as a place of germination
And growth
Remember the light
Take an outstretched hand if you find one
Exercise unused senses
Find the path by walking it
Practice trust
Watch for the dawn

I have come back to this poem several times now. There are parts that I find comforting [a place of germination; watch for the dawn] as well as those that are challenging [practice trust; take an outstretched hand]. I hope you will find this engaging to your soul as well.

Shalom and many blessings, George

Friday, June 19, 2009

Abbey Traditions

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

One of the early traditions of our Urban Abbey was to pray the Lord's Prayer at noon. We are a non-residential community and this was offered as a way to connect our members. Many of the original members of the Abbey continue this practice. I invite those of you who don't to consider this as one of the ways to live into the first tenet of our Rule of Life, "Pray daily, using the Book of Common Prayer or another Christian format, and worship regularly in community".

I like to include the following, along with the Lord's Prayer, in my noon prayers:

Give praise, you servants of the LORD; *
praise the Name of the LORD.
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed, *
from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down *
let the Name of the LORD be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations, *
and his glory above the heavens. (From Psalm 113)

Collect for the Urban Abbey. Oh God, you are wonderful and generous indeed. You sent your Son to be with us as our Guide, our Friend, and our Savior…we thank and praise You for that. Be with us now in our time together; open our eyes and hearts that we may be present and mindful of each other as You are ever present and available to us. As we cannot in our own strength do this or even with hope of success attempt it, we ask these things, O Creator, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord together with the Spirit. Amen.

Shalom and many blessings, George

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thought for Today

Dear Abbey Members and Friends:

I found today's reflection from St John's Abbey a wonderful reminder of the inclusiveness of God. One of the things I treasure about our Abbey is the willingness of our Abbess and those who plan our events to draw spiritual practices from other faith traditions. We have become such a rich community because of this diversity. But we also remember that, as Christians, we show our witness to the world through our belief in Jesus Christ and how Jesus embodies God's unflinching love for each of us. The challenge is to continue to be open to seeing God's love in action in the world around us and in spiritual practices of other faith traditions while remaining grounded in who we are as Christians.

Shalom and blessings, George

One problem a collection of reflections like this might have competing on the Internet with other Web sites of "spirituality" results from the inclusion of the Christian perspective. Books with wider public appeal do not betray or give preference to any such "narrow" perspective as the critics would call it. A friend asked me if a book of my reflections would be an appropriate gift for some Jewish friends. I had to say that I didn't think so. No effort is made here to exclude Jewish or Islamic or Hindu readers; in fact I am indebted to these faiths for insights. I believe with St. Paul that God has not left any part of the world without some witness to God's love for us. For Christians that witness shines out in Jesus Christ. But I don't think that we can say that it is only in Christ that God has revealed something about God's love for all human beings. On the other hand, to ignore Christ in the interest of a wider appeal would be turning our backs on what has formed and nourished us. Faithful Jews, it seems to me, must affirm that God has shown love for them by the care given the Chosen People and described in the Scriptures. Other religions affirm a similar message through entirely different images of God or of the power that cares for the world. It's hard to imagine -- impossible to believe -- that God does not make the divine love available to human beings wherever they are. Fr Don Talafous, SJA, 6/16/09

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dear Abbey Members and Friends:

Today's meditation by Fr. Don Talafous, St. John's Abbey, really struck me. The fourth tenet of our Rule of Life tells us, "Show Fellowship with a welcoming heart, seeking Christ in everyone I meet, offering comfort and celebration." Giving generously of our time is certainly part of that rule of life. In today's busy environment, it is so easy to overlook opportunities to be present for someone else, whether part of our family, church community, or even the wider community. What many of us do not have is someone who will give us a few minutes to just LISTEN to us. What a gift that is when someone does that! Fr. Talafous, I believe, has it right when he speaks to what we are given in return for opening ourselves to listening and presence for another.

Shalom and many blessings, George

"Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (Luke 1:43)? In the gospel event we call the visitation these words are Elizabeth's response to a visit from her cousin Mary. The pregnant and elderly Elizabeth doesn't give a self-centered response: "Where were you? It's about time" but "How did I ever deserve this?" Elizabeth receives the gift of Mary's time and effort as an unexpected, most welcome kindness, a gift. Daily life offers all of us opportunities to give generously and also to receive with gratitude and joy what others give. In our day phone calls and letters as well as convenient mobility make it possible for us to bring consolation, light, even some excitement to the lives of the lonely, the ill, the neglected, the suffering in any way. You could even include e-mail for some. Yet with so much technology-enhanced opportunities for communication and contact, we still so often plead no time. Visitation in some form or other of those who would benefit from it is a snap for us today compared to what it was in Mary's time. What keeps us from doing more of it? Perhaps it's our lack of identification with the selflessness of Christ, something He learned at least partly from His mother. Fr. Don Talafous, SJA, 6/01/09