Tag Archives: Formative Spirituality

Spirituality of the Mundane

In the spiritual life we are prone to sensation.  We love a great story. Yet, we so often loose sight of the ordinary.  For that is where God loves to work the most.  It is a tortoise and the hare thing, I guess.  And in the process of using our spiritual imaginations, we loose sight of our limits. We are often unsure how the Lord uses our imaginations and how our imaginations use the Lord.

I came across this passage today on the spirituality of the mundane.  From Adrian van Kaam, “On Being Involved.”

On the way toward living a spiritual life, I become aware of the relevance of really being with whatever I am doing. To be whole-heartedly with people, nature, and my task fosters spiritual growth.  Not to be there means that I may grow less or not at all.  If I am serenely committed to the task God gives me to do or to the person He allows me to meet, it matters little what engages me.  Even the simplest task assumes a new dimension, a deeper significance. Regardless of its simplicity, each event becomes an encounter with reality, with all being, with the Lord  himself…

At the moment I am no longer simply and wholly with and in the situation, I become split, tense, and broken up.  This is true not only of decisive events, which may fill only a small part of my life, but even more of the innumerable simple, seemingly insignificant actions and meetings that make up most of my days.  The secret of growth, the source of peace, the hidden source of spiritual living entails being dedicated to the humble events which bind my days together.

Spiritual Retreat: Home Again

For the previous few days,  I posted a series of journal entries I made on a retreat last winter.  Every six months I try and take a few days away to regroup and focus on one spiritual master.  Last year, it was The Cloud of Unknowing.

——————————

Day 4: Home Again

I leave my cabin now with bags packed, stuffed with wool, upon my shoulders.  And the sun has turned the ice ferns into mist thus laying branches bare. The melt has begun, which will leave this countryside a brown and grey pre-Spring mud.  I see clearly from this side of Friday that what I call my faith slips often and easily into anxiety and disappointment.  Yet, something of this day now grows inside me convincing me just more that a great Mystery is closer than I often realize.

And like the slow unfolding journey of faith itself, I find myself renewed and just noticeably matured.  I come to realize more that hope does not abandon us even in instances of apparent hopelessness, and that the storms about which we often fear the worst tend to become the very experiences that bring us ever upward into the image and presence of God.  Onwards with resolve.

Spiritual Retreat: A Winter’s Walk

For the next few days,  I will continue posting a series of journal entries I made on a retreat last winter.  Every six months I try and take a few days away to regroup and focus on one spiritual master.  Last year, it was The Cloud of Unknowing.

——————————

Day 3 Afternoon: A Winter’s Walk

As I loose myself in this grandeur, two panting breaths pull me back to earth.  A golden lab and his younger and darker brother find their way through a thicket adjoining some neighbor’s house.  Surprised, I wonder what disposition these hounds might bring to my morning.  We acquaint, and our friendship sparks.  Indeed, I will not be alone this morning to enjoy scenes left undiscovered.

The pathway calls me deeper, and though my toes and bones now feel the chill, I listen to the onward beckon.  I quietly turn another corner.  A flutter high above catches my eye.  I look to my surprise and find two cardinals, deep in red, jumping through branches.  Somehow, this sets my spirit ablaze in awe.  Has any other man seen such beauty of cardinal upon perfect blue sky and among the whitest of branches? The dogs take little care, and as the birds flit off, I am caught up in sheer wonder.

A deep peace flows over my body and spirit as I think of yesterday’s reflection.  My life’s future is unclear, and I have been fighting off a nagging apprehension, but now, in this moment, I am abandoned to this great Mystery who now seems so capable to lead me onwards. What kind of Creating Mystery would make a trillion trillion ice ferns for only one man and two dogs to see? Whatever the intricacies of this living God, I sense now that whatever may come, I will be cared for in a very intricate way and that wherever my path will lead, those Mysterious eyes will be waiting not for me to seek His benefits, but that I would simply learn to cast to Him my love and receive His in return…

Spiritual Retreat: Ice Ferns

For the next few days,  I will continue posting a series of journal entries I made on a retreat last winter.  Every six months I try and take a few days away to regroup and focus on one spiritual master.  Last year, it was The Cloud of Unknowing.

——————————

Day 3: Ice Ferns

Dreams come and go, and I am stirred from my bed early today.  After sipping some water, I am drawn to my window again.

Then, it hits me like a thousands rays of light: the clouds have passed, the sun has freshly awoken, and the frozen world gleams.  I must get out among this wonder.

I practically jump into my wool and boots and pack my breakfast quickly.  Before I know it, I too have become part of this magnificent morning.  Perfectly deep blue skies grace this unfolding gift of a day as I walk into a vista that makes my jaw drop and spirit soar.   A trillion trillion ice crystals have formed on the slumbering, leafless limbs of these woods.  At closer look, each miniature crystal is like an ice fern with ten to twenty leaves.  One branch hosts perhaps a hundred crystals perhaps a thousand, and before me the blazing morning sun reveals a whole frozen wood, a greatly frosted forest.  Later, I learn they call this hoarfrost, where the temperatures dip more quickly than the trees, and the cold literally freezes the air vapors in millions of magnificent patterns.

On this one-decade day, I sit in awe of the detailed and careful artistry and know that in a few hours, all will melt.  The aged dichotomies of science and faith fade from my mind; I see this intermingling world of wonder and precision and, Oh, how the Mystery must be rejoicing at this beautiful artistry.  I alone will be its witness…

Spiritual Retreat: Anticipation of Snow

For the next few days,  I will continue posting a series of journal entries I made on a retreat last winter.  Every six months I try and take a few days away to regroup and focus on one spiritual master.  Last year, it was The Cloud of Unknowing.

——————————

Day 2: Anticipation of Snow

The day passes quickly as I read, and eat, and sleep some.  I rest, no doubt, but my mind is mingled with struggle, to let my work and worries pass away in a cloud of forgetting and to come naked before my creator.  This is not work for the faint hearted, coming to terms with hidden pride in places you would rather not look yet letting waves of mercy transform one’s deformed and dissapointed heart.  For many unwanted things can grow on the windows of one’s soul when the cares of life demand your concern.  And though I have come here for clarity of direction, to wipe the window clean, what I find is the eyes of a living Mystery looking back at me and leading me into depths of faith unfathomed where I must go and leave my pre-packaged questions and answers behind.

Indeed the day of solitude quickly passes, and as night comes again I heed the primordial call to rest, having no idea of the oncoming gift (consolation) that lies in store for me the next morning…

A Spiritual Retreat for a Fragmented Age

For the Next Few Days,  I will post a series of journal entries I made on a retreat last winter.  Every six months I try and take a few days away to regroup and focus on one spiritual master.  Last year, it was The Cloud of Unknowing.

—–

Day 1: A Winter’s Retreat

The snow came while the world slumbered, and the people of central Kentucky had braced for the worst. Winter advisories warned of inches, perhaps five or six: an unusual accumulation this far south.  Last year, an ice storm blanketed the region cracking limbs, killing power, and shutting down society for half a week.  But five inches of snow, that would be an event of a decade.

So when I heard of the looming forecast that coinciding with a weekend where wife and child were visiting grandma, I hurried for the Kentucky woods to a familiar Catholic retreat center. With large decisions on our life’s horizon, these two days would be the perfect chance to breathe deep and listen to the Mystery’s leading…

Spirituality for the Fierce Man

I once asked a great spiritual director if spirituality was gendered.  Her response: up to a certain point.

It is true that as men and women, we are wired for different spiritual experiences, yet when we move the highest levels of union with the divine, somehow gender realities seem to evaporate.

For the souls our men, we must rethink the soft and hard archetypes that drive us to our knees in brokenness.  We must be driven to our knees in some other way.  We have been offered an image of a fiercely compassionate Son of Man who sometimes unleashes aggression against injustice.  How can we learn to protect ourselves without annihilating or even wounding our enemies?  How can we transform our wounds into the greatest gifts for humanity?  How can we find such confidence in our worth and acceptance from an ancient source? How can our women and children find rest in a situation that evokes their best selves?  How can we learn to love our brothers and stand beside them like the Son of God who became our deepest image of true manhood?

In the end, as we move into the heights of spiritual experience, and as our gender fades, union with the Son of God becomes that which can pull us out of the pride-stroking power vacuums of this world.  As we embrace our destiny as a great bride, we feel our veins pumping with vibrant strength.  We turn our gaze back to this warring world and learn to suffer for a peace never won through violence.   We have been transformed from the savage man into a son of the most high Wild Man himself.   Can I get a testimony, my brothers?