Saturday, 21 July 2012

on where to find God

Sister Helen Prejean CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking, writes:
I was forty years old before I realised the connection between the Jesus who said, "I was in prison and you came to me, I was hungry and you gave me to eat," between that and the real-life experience of being in situations where I was actually with people who were hungry and people who were in prison and people who were struggling with racism that permeates this society...

My image of finding God is that our little boats are always on the river. We often are in a stall, and we wait and nothing moves, and everything seems the same in life. But when we get involved in a situation like this -- for me it was to be involved with poor people -- it's like our boat begins to move on this current. The wind starts whistling through our hair, and the energy and life is there...

To me, to find God is to find the whole human family. No one can be disconnected from us. Which is another way of talking about the Body of Christ. That we are all part of this together.

And I feel that everybody needs to be in contact with poor people. That in fact, as Jim Wallis... has said, we need to accept that one of the spiritual disciplines -- just like reading the Scriptures and praying and liturgy -- is physical contact with the poor. It's an essential ingredient. If we are never in their presence, if we never eat with them, if we never hear their stories, if we are always separated from them, then I think something really vital is missing.

from How Can I Find God? edited by James Martin

Friday, 20 July 2012

on wealth and poverty

An Indian parable told by Anthony de Mello (1931-1987):
The sannyasi [wise man] had reached the outskirts of the village and settled down under a tree for the night when a villager came running up to him and said, 'The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!'

'What stone?' asked the sannyasi.

'Last night the Lord Shiva appeared to me in a dream,' said the villager, 'and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I should find a sannyasi who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.'

The sannyasi rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. 'He probably meant this one,' he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager. 'I found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have it.'

The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond, probably the largest diamond in the whole world, for it was as large as a person's head.

He took the diamond and walked away. All night he tossed about in bed, unable to sleep. Next day at the crack of dawn he woke the sannyasi and said, 'Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily.'

quoted in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: a spirituality for real life by James Martin, SJ

Thursday, 19 July 2012

on avoiding rash judgement

Turn your attention upon yourself and beware of judging the deeds of other people, for in judging others a person labours vainly, often makes mistakes, and easily sins; whereas in judging and taking stock of ourselves we do something that is always profitable.

We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.

If God were the sole object of our desire, we should not be disturbed so easily by opposition to our opinions. But often something lurks within or happens from without to draw us along with it.

Many, unawares, seek themselves in the things they do. They seem even to enjoy peace of mind when things happen according to their wish and liking, but if otherwise than they desire, they are soon disturbed and saddened. Differences of feeling and opinion often divide friends and acquaintances, even those who are religious and devout.

Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)

on being gentle with ourselves

One form of gentleness that we should all practice is towards ourselves. We should never get irritable with ourselves, fretting at our imperfections. It is entirely reasonable to be displeased and feel sorry when we have done something wrong, but we should refrain from being full of self-recrimination, fretful or spiteful to ourselves.

... We should regard our faults with calm, collected and firm displeasure. Just as a judge, when sentencing a criminal, functions much better when guided by reason, conducting the proceedings with tranquility, rather than allowing himself to have an emotional or violent response to the case; so too we will correct ourselves better by a quiet persevering repentance than by an irritated, hasty and passionate one.

... When your heart has fallen, raise it up softly, gently, humbling yourself before God, acknowledging your fault, but without being surprised at your fall. Human infirmity is infirmity; human weakness is weak; and human frailty is frail. Own your fault before God, and return to the way of virtue which you had forsaken, with great courage and confidence in the mercy of God.

Frances De Sales (1567-1622)