Just follow what comes into your heart. Send some love out.
A neighbor, age 41, father of a two year old, died yesterday morning of a heart attack. We didn’t know the family well; they kept to themselves. But that has nothing to do with anything. The neighborhood, which includes my church, is reaching out. What to say? What to do? We can pray, however we do it, whatever that means to us. We find ourselves praying because rayer is what what human being do. We don’t have to be Religious with a capital R to pray.
Just follow what comes into your heart. Send some love out.
Here I am, holding the space of silence, solitude, and simplicity for the world. I’m serious when I say that. I’m also humbled, guilty, and grateful. Here I am in my cozy home, with food in the refrigeration, books on the table, friends a mile or an email away, and a strong faith. Perhaps it is my faith that is keeping me hopeful even when at times I am not optimistic.
Prayer is open to everyone and for everyone, even when evil seems to have taken over. Close your eyes and imagine light surrounding all the people of the world—refugees, everyday people, soldiers, leaders and politicians. I mean ALL.
Oh, those fires. A friend from California writes that she see the smoke and breathes it in all the time. “The experts are predicting this fire will last until Oct or Nov once we get some rain and cooler weather. Pretty scary for sure.”
I am aware that the worries in the world are testing me second hand, in a less visceral way than for many, including my California friend. Climate change, Afghanistan, the big lie, Covid, gun violence…. We have our individual lives to concentrate on, and then there are these bigger pictures that take over .
As I sit in the comfort of my home, I don’t feel smug; I feel grateful for the moment. My life can change in a moment; maybe not in a devastating way, but it will change. What can I do? For a start, be prepared.
And, I can pray. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you are aware that I keep my personal faith out of my posts. But prayer isn’t only a God idea, it is also a human idea, a human need. When we want something good to happen, we are praying. When we are grateful for something that has happened, we are praying. When we sit in the silence, either in our homes or out in nature, we are praying.
So, with that definition of prayer, I ask you, “What if everyone in the world prayed?”
Three more churches yesterday morning, and the count was up to ten. Sant’ Agnese fuori le Mura and Santa Costanza are in the same complex outside the walls. Outside the walls because Sant’ Agnese has as a catacomb, where early Christians were buried. Rome had a policy that no one could be buried inside the city. Then to gaze at Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria. I’m glad I had my bus pass. In the afternoon I found myself praying for me in seven more churches. As of last night the count is up to twenty.
My intention to pray for peace in churches has me aware of all the people I pass along the streets. The sheer numbers, the multiple skin colors, body sizes, ages, languages. I am not other; I am one of them. Our uniqueness makes us one.
And then there are the obviously loving people, most likely parents, who accompany their children with special needs. At the altar at the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano a mom was supporting her adult son who was draped on her. As he drooled, she wiped his mouth. Then they walked on, arm in arm.
As I sit in this little park in the early morning it comes over me that regardless of what praying for peace means to each of us, when we think peace we become aware of the equanimity between all people. In wanting peace for myself, I have to want it for everyone.
The other day I had lunch with a group of long-time friends. The six of us get together every three of four months, and lately we’ve developed the ritual of checking-in. Around the table we go, one by one telling what’s going on in our lives. Although we keep in touch individually, this communal forum offers a venue for a more public, on the-record-account, thus making our group time together sacred.
Knowing there would be a formal check-in, I found myself planning ahead what I wanted to say. I gave an update on the doings of my family, and then albeit awkwardly, I talked about how important my faith is to me, not just as a way to do nice things for others, but as the only way I know to be humble. I mentioned that I grapple with my white privilege; that being a good person on my own isn’t enough; and that my faith leads me to confront judgments, critiques, pride, impatience, and arrogance that keep me from being humble. In other words, I can’t be humble all by myself on my own doing. AND, I desperately need humility because it the only way of being that leads me to peace.
To my surprise I ended by saying, “I believe that right now in my life I am supposed to pray for people.”
Honesty among old friends.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (“The Serenity Prayer”)
Whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual but not religious, agnostic, atheist, or something else, I trust that the Serenity Prayer speaks to you today. This is all I have to say of this election morning.
“Seven Days Writing in Florence” is on the backburner, relegated to the ‘save’ file on my computer. Writing the article had become a burden, not a joy, usurping silence, solitude and simplicity. I was living with a ‘to do’ list, rather than a ‘to be’ attitude. Now I am back being rather than doing.
Letting go of a project is a challenge for me, because I’m a project person. And so, I have renewed an old one, knitting prayer shawls, which is meditative and process oriented rather than mental and deadline driven. Writing my blog, on the other hand, is a joy not a burden. I’ve been a little slack about it lately—I can write just so much in a day—but I’m back in the flow, attending to silence, solitude and simplicity wherever I am. A cottage-by-the-sea is my life style.
Curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline, and perseverance: Martin Dugard’s seven traits necessary for those who embrace the challenges of life, both as explorers out in the wilds, and as adventurers in mainstream of life out in the world.
How do these apply to those of us who long for silence, solitude and simplicity? Here’s my take on my own sense of curiosity, which I humbly admit is probably my weakest trait. Truth be told, I’m not an incredibly curious person, at least not about the physical universe. Exploring the Nile would never be on my bucket list. Yes, I love to travel, but curiosity isn’t what gets me on a plane or down the river.
But, I am curious, curious about God and how the Holy participates in my life: Why are we here? How did we get here? Is there a divine plan? What makes us content? What is the meaning of life, life in general and my life in particular? What should I do and how should I be to tap into this mystery?
I’m curious about the part that silence, solitude and simplicity plays. Or, more accurately stated, I’m curious that silence, solitude and simplicity is absolutely essential to the exploration of these questions.
Um, I do have an explorer’s curiosity.
What if every woman (and man) in the world started praying for the women abducted by Muslims of Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist network?
At church this morning we were given a little piece of paper with the name of one of the women. Actually, I took three: two with names, Falta and Saratu, and one with ‘Child of God, name unknown’. There has been some concern about privacy in publishing the names—I guess I can understand, well a little. But I am particularly sad for the nameless women, nameless not but not soulless.
That got me thinking about the world-wide prayer idea. Don’t get hung up on the word prayer; substitute your own word or phrase--send positive energy, think positive thoughts, meditate. You know what feels comfortable to you. Just do it.
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