David Steindl-Rast

PRAYER: Fullness And Emptiness—Alive by Brother David Steindl-Rast

March 19, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer This book explores ways of coming more fully alive.  Self-fulfillment is a value of which we are conscious today.  But we sometimes fail to notice that people who live fulfilled lives are surprisingly selfless.  At moments when we experience life in fullness, we are, if not selfless, at least self-forgetful.  Don’t we all know this from experience? The fullness for which the human heart longs is always available.  But we cannot lay hold of it.  We cannot grasp it.  Fullness flows into us in the measure in which we become empty.  T. S. Eliot states: In order to possess what you do not possess you must go by the way of dispossession. In order to arrive at what you are not you must go [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part Five) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

March 12, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Home Peace is the fruit of love.  The “yes” to our belonging to God’s great household is the seed from which peace unfolds.  D. H. Lawrence suggests this in a poem which he entitled “PAX,” the Latin word for “peace.”  There is a close link between the Roman concept of pax and pietas.  This poem hinges on the link between the two. All that matters is to be at one with the living God To be a creature in the house of the God of Life. Like a cat asleep on a chair at peace, in peace and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress, at home, at home in the house of the living, sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire. Sleeping on the hearth of the living world, [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part Four) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

March 5, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer A Heart Turned to God Let us make sure we mean what we say: Contemplation in Action, not contemplation during action.  This may be a fine point, but it will help us define still more clearly what we mean.  My mother knits all kinds of sweaters for her children and grandchildren and for her great-grandchild.  And while she is doing so, she likes to pray the rosary.  Now, that is contemplation during action.  During her knitting, my mother savors God’s faithfulness, mystery by mystery, and her faith is nourished by that food.  She enters the world of prayer most typical of faith.  We called it Living by the Word.  But she is also entering love’s world of prayer, simply by knitting lovingly, [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part Three) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 26, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Thou Shalt Love In love?  Here we come back to Johnny and Betsy, to the experience of falling in love.  Now we see what falling in love is meant to do for us in life’s plan.  It is to open our eyes.  Love makes blind, one says.  True enough.  A pleasantly selective blindness strikes us when we fall in love.  But in a different respect love opens our eyes.  We suddenly see the bliss of belonging.  And, deep down, that sense of belonging is all-embracing.  On the surface, it may focus only on the limited object of our infatuation, that charming creature with freckles.  But it is as if a window had been opened onto one little corner of a wide landscape.  This is a start.  If we keep [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 19, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer My and Mine We can test this understanding of love against the precept to love our enemies.  Now things look different.  The notion of romantic love just wouldn’t fit.  But we and our enemies certainly belong together – obviously not in the same way as friends belong together, but it is a belonging, nevertheless.  Moreover, by choosing our friends, we choose our enemies.  If we have no enemies, maybe we have never had the courage to take sides.  The command to love our enemies implies that we must have enemies.  How else could we love them?  God certainly has enemies.  “As it is written: Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated,” (Malachi 1:2f; Romans 9:13).  Yet, the same God is [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 12, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Belonging In the two preceding chapters we have seen that faith and hope are always there when one is grateful.  We saw that one must have trust in the giver before one can give thanks.  But trust of this kind is the very core of faith.  And we recognized also that one must be open for surprise before one can be grateful.  Deep down, every gift is a surprise.  But openness for surprise is the essence of hope.  Faith and hope, in this sense, are two aspects of the divine life within us.  The third one, often mentioned in the same breath, is love.  It, too, is intimately tied in with giving thanks.  The ties between love and gratefulness are what we shall explore in this chapter. In getting at [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Seven) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 29, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The Surpassing Surprise Beauty is useless, superfluous, like all great things in life.  Is not the universe itself a totally superfluous firework of divine glory, and therefore so priceless?  Useful things have a price.  But who can assess the value of a poem in dollars and cents?  Who can put a price tag on a kiss?  If God’s glory is really all that matters, then the totally useless is not to be relegated to moments of spare time once in a month of Sundays.  We may have to learn that the useless deserves prime time.  The superfluous comes first in attention anyway.  To acknowledge this truth might mean a far more drastic transformation by divine glory than we were prepared to undergo.  It [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Six) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 22, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer A Fascinating Aura Of Awe Silence and hope.  They do belong together.  Only in the silence of hope can we find our deepest communion.  “We are all one silence,” says Thomas Merton, “and a diversity of voices.”  How can we keep our ears attuned to the silence of our common hope when the divergent voices of our hopes distract us?  How can we tune in to their ultimate harmony, audible only to the ears of the heart?  Only by being still.  Only by nurturing in our heart a stillness that grows big enough to embrace even contradictory hopes, a stillness strong enough to go beyond all hopes in hope. Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion” opens with an interplay between the two halves of a [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Five) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 15, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Pure Hope Hope, as passion for the possible, gives us a realistic alertness for practical possibilities.  It gives us a youthfulness that sees the possible limited merely by an ever receding horizon.  The princely spirit of hope initiates and determines our moral engagement.  For it is rooted in the heart, where each of us is most intimately united with all others – and so responsible for all.  Everything depends, of course, on how pure our hope is, how deeply it is rooted in the heart.  There is ample room for self-deception here.  So how can we check ourselves. Maybe we could subject our hope to a simple test.  It’s not a foolproof test.  Nor is it very precise.  But it may give us a [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Four) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 8, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Spiritual Wholeness We must distinguish, of course, between feelings and virtues.  Hope is not merely a feeling.  Hope is a virtue, a firmly established attitude of the heart, a basic bearing of the whole person.  And yet we need only think of despair, the opposite of hope, to realize that feelings play an outstanding role in this area.  Intellect, will, and emotions are all engaged in every virtue.  The virtue of faith, for instance, characterizes every aspect of a faithful person’s life.  And yet here the cognitive power plays a predominant part.  The virtue of love, as we shall see, transforms the whole person.  Yet, at its core, love is an attitude of the will.  In a similar way, the [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Three) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

December 18, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The Stillness Of The Soul Hope is realistic.  The realism of hope is humility.  Most of us think of realism as a virtue.  But humility?  It is time to reclaim that beautiful term from pietistic jargon.  After all, humility is directly related to “humus” and to an earthiness we are rediscovering today.  Humility is down-to-earth.  It is, therefore, related also to “humor” and to plain “humanness.”  Only when we are down-to-earth can we laugh about ourselves; and that makes us human.  The etymological connections may be doubtful.  But the psychological connections hold.  The truly human is marked by the humor of humble realism. Wouldn’t it seem, though, at first sight that [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

December 11, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Between The Already And The Not-Yet In the Bible we find, again and again, one key image for the quest of the heart: the image of the way.  This image will yield a deeper significance if we keep in mind that the Biblical way is always the way of a pilgrim.  It is the way on which one step, surprisingly, may lead us to the goal, and the goal may turn out to be, surprisingly, the first of many further steps on the road.  The image of the way tells us that we need not fear losing the thrill of the search, even though we find.  Nor need we fear losing the joyous possession of what we have found, even though there is no end to exploring.  T. S. Eliot, in his Four Quartets, speaks of the paradox of [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

December 4, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer A Passion For The Possible In moments when we are truly alive, we experience life as gift.  We also experience life as surprise.  Faith is the heart’s response to life as gift.  The heart’s response to life as surprise is hope, as we shall see.  The more the insight that life is freely given takes hold of us, the more our life will be a life of faith, a life of trust in the Giver.  Of course, that trust itself is gift: God gives us faith to respond to God’s own faithfulness.  And so we come to understand faith as an aspect of God’s own life within us.  Hope is another aspect of that same fullness of life.  The more the insight that life is surprising takes hold of us, the more our [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—From Fear To Faith by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 27, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer There is no telling how many times in the course of a lifetime we may have to go through this process of creative dying.  (The more creatively we live, the more often we shall have to die, I suppose.)  But one thing is certain: in the end, no one can be spared this passage.  There is a staggering variety of dishes set out on the banquet table of life.  Each one of us gets a different menu.   The final course, however, is the same for all of us: It is one big rock.  “Sorry,” says our Host, “but now it’s time to die.”  Will we be ready by then to “swallow up death”?  If so, it will be a dying into fullness of life.  We know this.  We know it, not because someone else told us [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—The Faithfulness At The Heart Of All Things by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 20, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The idea behind all this [living by the Word of God means feeding on it] is one of the deepest insights in the Bible: God speaks.  What does this mean?  It is image language, of course.  But what experience stands behind the idea that God speaks?  It is the experience of listening with our heart.  For there is an aspect to that experience which we overlook all too easily.  When we truly listen with the heart, we do not merely overhear something that is going on “out there,” with or without us, regardless.  No. We find ourselves addressed.  We realize in a flash: Whatever is “out there” concerns us, because it is somehow concerned with us, it is “toward” us in some mysterious [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—The Ascent Of Faith by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 6, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The faith of the heart, our primordial faith, is something we have all experienced in our peak moments of aliveness.  How did we experience it?  As simple trust, as confidence: trust in life; confidence that we won’t be let down.  At those moments, when we live from our heart, we are in touch with the heart of things.  Spontaneously we realize: “There is faithfulness at the heart of all things,” as Oscar Cullmann put it so well.  Spoken or unspoken, this conviction of faith is the root from which our beliefs spring.  It is the touchstone also to test beliefs.  If they are genuine, they will express that core conviction and so serve as helpful reminders.  Beliefs can never replace the [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—The Heart Of Faith by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 30, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Faith is trust and courage.  Its opposite is fear – or, rather, fearfulness, unhealthy fear.  What, do you think, is the most often repeated commandment in the Bible?  Think twice.  It is this: “Fear not! – Be not afraid!”  If it is the courage of faith that makes us perfect, what we must most urgently get rid of is fear.  Faith courageously sets out toward the Promised Land, but fear holds on to anything it can get hold of, and so it weighs us down, slows us down.  Faith is courage to let go.  Fear clings. There is something healthy in this clinging of fear.  Doctors or midwives sometimes test a newborn baby by shaking the table on which it is lying or by causing it a little fear in [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—Faith Walks by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 23, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer There is another decisive beginning in the Biblical history of faith, the starting point of God’s covenant with Abraham.  This time the account starts by telling us that Abraham was now ninety-nine years old.  Since one hundred stands for perfection, we are alerted here that our Father in Faith is still not quite perfect.  So God appears to Abraham and says, “I am El Shaddai,” (Genesis 17:1).  That means, according to one way of reading that Hebrew name of God: I am the One who sets the limit; who tells you what “enough” means, who determines the measure of fullness and perfection.  And what is it that Abraham is still lacking?  “Walk in my sight and be perfect.”  This is [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—Trusting Courage by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 16, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Suppose our argument thus far is convincing.  Suppose we agree that gratefulness is that fullness of life for which all of us are thirsting.  Then the task ahead is simple enough: to learn to live gratefully.  The key question is: How shall we go about it? Earlier on, when we spoke of learning to live prayerfully, I suggested that we take the most prayerful moments in our daily life and start from there.  This gives us the advantage of starting with something we already know from experience.  In certain situations we have experienced an inner attitude that we consider prayerful; now the task is to approach not only some but all situations in that attitude.  At least we already know what it is [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—Responding From The Heart by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 9, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Contemplation Leisure (ideal) (give) Vision (order) Meaning (yourself) Play (practical) (take) Action (realization) Purpose (in hand) Work As we recover this comprehensive sense of the term contemplation, we are restoring a key term of Christian spirituality to its full significance.  But we are doing much more.  We are rescuing contemplation from specialists and returning it to all those to whom it belongs as their birthright, to every human being. Far too long has contemplation been regarded as the private domain of contemplatives.  Contemplatives in this impoverished sense were only those who were preoccupied with the vision of meaning and withdrew from purpose and action.  They often set an [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—To Work Playfully by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 2, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer This brings us to the topic of leisure.  To recover a healthy understanding of leisure is to come a long way toward understanding contemplation.  But few words we use are as misunderstood as the word “leisure.”  This shows itself right away when we speak of work and leisure as a pair of opposites.  Are the two poles of activity really work and leisure?  If this were so, how could we speak of leisurely work?  It would be a blatant contradiction.  We know, however, that working leisurely is no contradiction at all.  In fact, work ought to be done with leisure, if it is to be done well. What then is the opposite of work?  It is play.  These are the two poles of all activity: work [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—Building The Temple by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 25, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Those who first introduced the term “contemplation” into our Christian vocabulary, in spite of the fact that it still was a technical term of the rival Roman religion, must have found it irreplaceable.  They may well have been aware that contemplation stands for a primordial and universal human reality.  They realized, for sure, that the concept was central to Biblical tradition.  It stands behind a whole theology of the temple, connecting Moses, the great contemplative, with Solomon’s temple and with the temple that Divine Wisdom builds; with Jesus Christ, in whom both Wisdom and the temple are seen personified; and with his body, the new humankind, temple of the Holy Spirit. [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—The Sense of Measure by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 18, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Stonehenge, the mysterious monument in England, more than three and a half thousand years old, is a circular arrangement of enormous rock pillars.  There are scores of them up to thirty feet in height and fifty tons in weight.  No one knows by what ingenious means they were moved to this place from a quarry twenty miles away or how they were capped with huge slabs of rock for lintels.  No one is even sure who accomplished this feat.  Neither the ideas that bound them together nor the ideals that inspired their common effort are known to us.  All is shrouded in the darkness of pre-history.  We look at the intricate pattern of pillars, ditches, banks, and pits as we would look at runes inscribed [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness—Genuine Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 11, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Once we realize how the interplay between prayerfulness and prayers builds the temple of our prayer life, we should be able to ask the right questions to see where we stand in this process and how we need to proceed.  Our prayers have a twofold relationship to our prayerfulness, as we have seen.  Prayers both express and reinforce our prayerfulness.  Hence we need to ask two basic questions: Are my prayers a genuine expression of my prayerfulness?  Do they make me more prayerful? Since these two questions go to the heart of the matter, we can use them to check both prayers in community and prayers by ourselves.  The context will be so different, however, that we shall here test these two areas [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

August 28, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The Art of Prayer We need only watch little children in their playpen to realize how perfectly they combine concentration with wonderment.  Often they are so concentrated on sucking the ear of a toy rabbit or simply on wiggling their toes that you might have a hard time trying to divert their attention to something else.  If only our children could grow up without losing their power of recollectedness.  How often adults destroy that gift with the best intentions.  Children have a need to stand and look.  A simple thing may absorb their attention for a long time.  But then you see everywhere adults pulling children out of their wonderment and concentration.  “Let’s go.  We have no [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

August 21, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Making Prayers Prayer May we presume that everyone knows what prayer is?  From one point of view the answer is, “yes.”  Every human being knows prayer from experience.  Have we not all experienced moments in which our thirsting heart found itself with surprise drinking at a fountain of meaning?  Much of our life may be a wandering in desert lands, but we do find springs of water.  If what is called “God” means in the language of experience the ultimate Source of Meaning, then those moments that quench the thirst of the heart are moments of prayer.  They are moments when we communicate with God, and that is, after all, the essence of prayer. But do we recognize these [...]

PRAYER: Aliveness And Wakefulness (In Place of an Introduction) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 3, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer This book is about life in fullness.  It is about coming alive.  I could summarize it in two words: Wake up! A poet like Kabir is able to say these two words with a freshness that makes us sit up.  Kabir’s poems have power.  They wake us up to an aliveness we never thought possible. Do you have a body? Don’t sit on the porch! Go out and walk in the rain! If you are in love, then why are you asleep? Wake up, wake up! You have slept millions and millions of years. Why not wake up this morning? In my own way, I try to get the same message across.  And people are hungry for it.  All around the world I have been invited to speak about it.  And people always ask, “Why don’t [...]

SATURDAY READING: Gratitude As Thankfulness And As Gratefulness by David Steindl-Rast

February 20, 2016

From The Psychology of Gratitude At this early stage of concerted scientific research concerning gratitude, it is essential to fine-tune our terminology. Precise terminology is a necessary instrument for clear thinking. Scientific terminology differs from conversational usage by its precision. Emmons and Shelton noted, “Given that gratitude is a commonly occurring affect, it is remarkable that psychologists specializing in the study of emotions have, by and large, failed to explore its contours.” Because we have failed to explore even the contours, we lack the terminology necessary for more detailed exploration. My effort at precision is twofold: linguistic and psychological. Here, I examine idiomatic usage and etymological derivation [...]

POETRY: A Good Day by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 17, 2016

A Gift Of Gratitude You think this is just another day in your life?  It’s not just another day; it’s the one day that is given to you… today It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the one appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day of your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well. Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. [...]

PRAYER: Faithfulness, Not Performance — Building A Daily Practice, by Jane Redmont

February 17, 2014

Excerpt from When in Doubt, Sing Good-bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven’t time. I’ll come back, I can’t wait, I haven’t time. I must end this letter—I haven’t time. I’d love to help you, but I haven’t time. I can’t accept, having no time. I can’t think, I can’t read, I’m swamped, I haven’t time. I’d like to pray, but I haven’t time. (Michael Quoist)   We give you thanks for this food which is our life, for the fruits of the earth, conceived in darkness rooted in the secret soil. We offer you our part in the mess of creativity. We wash, prepare, cook, present; we eat and taste and enjoy with our bodies; we clear away the mess. We embrace with you the chaos that fulfils, the secret labor that maintains life. [...]