Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Cross - 02/11/2008

You are here to console, not so much to be consoled.

(when the Little Monk was drowning in a sea of melancholy)

Life: What a Day.

Above is a link to a blog I wrote last week, and what a blog it was... the Little Monk inspiration today makes me think of the events of that day; it also makes me recall the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. It seems like, over time, I am called to be there for others. And it's not that there's nobody there for me when I need it, but usually- when it gets to a point where I need someone- whatever is going on in my life is too intense for anyone to process... My priest calls me a modern mystic, in a sense, being able to feel the Spirit, to channel people's needs the way that I do, to be able to identify with their emotions the way that I do.

At first it scared me. What does it mean, to be a "modern mystic"? To be able to see visions, to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, to know when a person's soul is crying out before they even know that their soul is crying out... who am I to be so special, so "special" that God feels I need to be a part of this??? I have a lot of books that I've been reading, but they're intimidating, all these men and women who had these awesome and amazing experiences... sometimes it seems like too much, but lately I've felt that I have the strength to open myself up to help God.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

...from the apprentice years of the Little Monk... 03/22/07

I. You are always on call

(when the little monk didn’t want to be inconvenienced)

Such a simple phrase, so much meaning! While most of society hasn't taken the vows of the Little Monk, and have not voluntarily said they would always be on call, I think that it still applies- we are always on call, there's always someone who will see your actions or hear your words, always someone who's life you will impact whether or not that was your intention, just as there is someone who will do or say something without even thinking about the repercussions it might have in your life.

Everyone that I do and don’t meet has an impact on my life, who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I’m going. They might not know that their very presence- or lack of- helps to shape my being.

Who has shaped you? Who have you shaped?

II. Better to pray for others than to judge them

(When the little monk’s nerves were being tested)

As important as it is to understand what you're doing, I think it's also important to understand the why and the how of it, and be genuine in these answers. The college experience comes to mind, for me. I went to a private, religious school, and there were numerous faith-based groups on campus, some of them very vocal and boisterous about preaching their beliefs to the student body, at any expense. This caused a lot of controversy on campus, especially when one of the groups began to pray for the souls of students outside of their dorm rooms because they "lived in sin".

Let's take a look-

WHAT: praying (publicly forcing others to be exposed to their beliefs)
WHY: because it went against what their religion preached (the students felt it was their job to judge the "sinner's" soul and save it)
HOW: passively protesting (and alienating the students who did not choose a lifestyle that fit their "rules")

These students felt they were being good Christians, showing everyone that they were strong and secure in their beliefs, hoping to bring more people to their belief system.

To someone questioning their faith, their beliefs, how did these "prayerful students" witness to the community? They alienated those who were different, they passed judgment without understanding, and they flat-out hurt a lot of people. As an outsider, why would you want to be involved with that kind of community? They let their need to make a statement tarnish their intent. As it is, they created more of a rift between the communities, students felt the need to either keep their “self” a secret or to come back strong and choose sides, resulting in very hurtful and hateful events.

People, protestors, pastors- they all say “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

I say “love the sinner, accept the sin” because it’s not our place to judge. Hate is a strong word, and if the “sin” is just as much a part of the person as their left arm, how can you separate that?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Prayer - 03/21/2007

When you go to the ends of the earth, you will find traces of God; if you go to the depths of your soul, you will find God Himself. (When the little monk dreamt of finding God)

I wrote a poem for a Spanish Speak-Off in high school (actually took first place with it):

Busco por mi alma,pero mi alma no buscaría.
Busco por mi Dios,pero mi Dios me eludío.
Busco por un amigo,y entonces descubré todos a tres.

I looked for my soul, but my soul I could not see.
I looked for my God, but my God eluded me. I
looked for a friend, and then I found all three.

It's amazing how inter-connected these things are - Soul, God, a Friend in your Self - and I think that today's blog can directly intertwine with yesterday's topic. How often have you really, truely looked into the very depths of your soul? It can take as little as 5 minutes of calm, where you hear nothing but your heart beating; tune everything else out, and just see WHO you are....
I haven't done this for quite some time- it means listening to the silence, and for me that's still a place I'm not ready to go alone. Once again, afraid of the weakness, I have pushed away my "self", and I have pushed away my God. Not to say that they are synonymous, by any means! I just mean that they go hand in hand, for me. Even when I have doubted the existence of a God, even when I have felt that life is one big cosmic joke, there has always been a bit of faith that remains lit, deep inside. That faith helps bring me back and allows me to see that I am not alone, for in the depths of my soul, I find God was there the whole time.

Find a place at the "ends of the earth" where you can go to search. I turn to the water- a bath, a pool, a creek, a river, a lake, the ocean- there's something about the water that calms my soul and helps me listen to the silence, helps me to find God Himself- or Herself, depending on the day.

Where is your "end of the earth"?

Silence - 03/20/2007

Rather than trying to keep quiet, listen. (when the little monk had something interesting to say)

In my building here at work, we have speakers in the rafters that put out "white noise" to help us focus... and I have my radio on, and my fan at my desk, and am usually tapping my foot or clicking my pen or making some other sort of noise- swearing that it helps me focus on what the client is saying.

I've come to find there is a fine line between the balance of noise-to-focus and actually spinning out of control.

What's so scary about silence?

For me, I've found, at times, that being alone in my head can be terrifying, although usually it's not so bad. It's a place to find healing, to work through the day's events, and to prepare for what might be lying ahead. It's most often where I hear my faith ring true. So why am I so afraid? Silence scares me because it makes me feel weak. There's a verse somewhere in the bible that I've heard TOO many times- in our weakness He finds strength, or something like that. That's a hard concept to grasp, blind faith, especially if you're questioning your faith, your beliefs, and your support system that you always thought was there doesn't feel as strong as it used to be...

These are the times when it's most healing to listen to the silence.

The image comes to mind of a jar full of odd and randomly shaped rocks. At first you can see spaces in the jar, and so you add more rocks, smaller rocks, even sand. The jar's going to be heavier when it's filled like that, it's going to be harder to carry, and it will wear you out fast.

Sometimes that space is ok.

Silence is not easy to listen to, and sometimes it can be more difficult to listen to what we hear in the silence, but I challenge you to try it.

The Cross - 03/19/2007

When you weep for others, are you certain you're not weeping for yourself? (on a day of anxiety)

My grandmother is dying. She is in her early 80's, has severe depression, and is now the sweetest, simplest, shadow of the Italian Spit-fire she once was. These last two years have been quite a tale, but I wouldn't trade them for the world. Her most recent stay in the hospital has been the most dramatic so far.

Her liver count is off, her kidneys are shutting down, and she has a huge blood clot in her thigh. It started last Thursday, and after being in the emergency room for 7 hours they said the beds were full and they sent her home. The next day her doctor called and said to get her in asap, that she should have been admitted no matter what. So... back to the hospital she went.

At some point in time, all of us cried. Raffaela Lina (Donzeli) Mitchell is my mom's mom, she's been my dad's mother in-law for 30-some years, and she's been "Nonna" to my brothers and myself all our lives... but I don't think that any of us cried for the loss of what could have been if she was healthy... we've been watching her die a little more every day. This time around, I think we've cried for ourselves. Perhaps Dad hasn't cried yet, but you can see it in his eyes. His mother was killed in a car accident last January, and Lina's the last link to that era for us. My mom had her breakdown over the weekend, just before we brought Nonna back home. I don't know that I have cried for me just yet, but I know I will.

I've been able to identify that my guilt comes from what I've been looking forward to doing after she passes away. For the last two years I have not been able to work overtime, I have not been able to go swing dancing on a regular basis, and I have been living back home with my parents to help them. Will I be able to rejoyce in participating in the things I love, working and earning a few extra bucks, and look forward to a place of my own? I didn't think so, at first. But then I remembered... Lina Mitchell was the very image of an Italian beauty, a lively and vital woman who sang and danced and survived her way through WWII and Nazi occupation, raised 5 wonderful children after her husband left them on a farm in Joyce WA, became an "American-a Citizen" after being a contributing member of society for 40-some years. Up until last August, she still let me lead her around the kitchen, tried to Charleston when I played my swing tunes, and knew every word to Torna Surriento, O Sole Mio, and every song Dean Martin ever sang. These are the things I'm going to remember, and I am going to celebrate in her life. The tears you will soon see- that might spontaneously trickle down my cheek- are tears of joy more than anything else.

When you cry with someone, are you crying for them, or are you crying for yourself? Either way, it's ok to cry.

The Little Monk

Ok- So, a few of these blogs that I will be posting are old, I'm re-posting them from my VIRB blog because I think they need to be shared... The insipiration comes from the book "The Little Monk", and this is a copy-paste of the first blog.

I really feel like I can identify with the author on this one- the love of her life left her for the church... This is a collection of her aphorisms that I plan on using to inspire musings to share with you all and help me process and cope with the curve balls that life's throwing lately. Please, feel free to comment and contribute!

Love and prayers