LISTENING: A Taste Of Silence by Sue Monk Kidd

June 30, 2016

From Firstlight Often I feel like that famous contemplative, Charlie Brown.  My favorite Charlie Brown story is about the time he and Lucy were sailing on a cruse ship.  Lucy, great philosopher that she is, said, “You know, Charlie Brown, life is like a cruise ship.  Some people take their deck chairs to the back of the ship to see where they have been.  And some people take their deck chairs to the front of the ship to see where they are going.  What kind of person are you, Charlie Brown?”  He pauses reflectively, and then says, “I’m the kind of person who can’t get my deck chair open.”  In the contemplative life, I’m still trying to open my deck chair. Somehow, as a young woman with a [...]

LOVE: A Listening Heart by Joan Chittister

June 20, 2016

From The Monastery of the Heart Listen carefully to my instructions…and attend to them with the ear of your heart. (The Rule of Saint Benedict) There is a magnet in a seeker’s heart whose true north is God. It bends toward the Voice of God with the ear of the heart and, like sunflowers in the sun, turns all of life toward the living of the Word. This listening heart is pure of pride and free of arrogance. It seeks wisdom— everywhere, at all times— and knows wisdom by the way it echoes the call of the scriptures. The compass for God implanted in the seeker’s heart stretches toward truth and signals the way to justice. It is attuned to the cries of the poor and oppressed with a timbre that allows no interruption, no [...]

SATURDAY READING: Listening by Esther de Waal

June 11, 2016

From Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict How great is the freedom to which you are called. Right at the start of the Rule of Saint Benedict had the vivid image of the crowded marketplace and the Lord calling out very loudly, trying to arrest the attention of passers-by in the crowd to what is on offer.  This is an open invitation, a general offer to anyone who cares to stop and listen.  It is not highly selective at all; in fact it is addressed to each of us personally.  The Bible of course presents us with some spectacular calls: Moses was alone in the desert, Samuel was dragged out of sleep, Paul was blinded.  But then Simon and Andrew, James and John were merely at their usual daily jobs, fishing and mending the nets, and Amos [...]

LISTENING: The Voice “In Here” by Chris Lowney

June 9, 2016

From Heroic Living The Hebrew prophet Elijah finds God speaking.” We’re told that Elijah witnessed a “great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces.” But Elijah perceived that “the Lord was not in the wind,” or in the earthquake or fires that followed. Instead, later on, there was a “sound of sheer silence.” And Elijah heard God speak out of that silence. Those of us who heard this story as children may remember the poetic King James language for this encounter — Elijah heard God’s “still small voice.” Perhaps, if we attune ourselves to hearing that still, small voice, we will find it whispered all around us and, more important, from within us. As the Quaker minister [...]

PRAYER: Teach Me To Listen by John Veltri

June 9, 2016

Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me, my family, my friends, my co-workers. Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is, “Accept the person I am. Listen to me.” Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me – the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished. Teach me to listen, O God my Mother, to myself. Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside – in the deepest part of me. Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, for your voice – in busyness and in boredom, in certainty and doubt, in noise and in silence. Teach me, Lord, to listen. Amen.   [...]

RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT: Listening by Lonni Collins Pratt and Daniel Homan

June 7, 2016

From Benedict’s Way The Rule Listen carefully, my children, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. (RB Prologue: 1) Other Voices The Rule of Saint Benedict opens with the word… listen.  Properly understood, this is the key to this whole spiritual teaching.  A monk should be above all a listener.  So indeed should every Christian.  The whole spiritual life of the Christian is a process of listening to God, “inclining the ear of the heart,” as the Rule says.  This image of the inward ear, the ear of the heart, shows us that our listening is not merely an intellectual or rational activity; it is intuitive, springing form the very core of our being; where we are most open [...]

LECTIO DIVINA: The Way Of Friendship by M. Basil Pennington

December 4, 2014

From Lectio Divina This question is often raised at workshops and retreats: “What should I read at my lectio?  How do I know what text to use?” As Saint Paul told Saint Timothy: “All scripture inspired by God is useful for teaching and refutation, for correction and putting us in the way that is right with God, for communication and communion.”  For our lectio we can use any text of scripture we want.  Some like to open the Bible at random to see what the Lord has to say to them today.  This is fine, though we should avoid all superstitious attitudes, looking for the Lord to give us through the Bible infallible answers to particular questions.  That is not usually his way.  He has given us a mind to use and [...]

HEALING: Listen, or Approaching Unforgiveness

October 23, 2014

It was a direction that came during my evening contemplative prayer.  The time of prayer in my day that I had been dedicating to “working” on an unresolved anguish. Listen, he said. The directive did not come from the God, the Father, as is most usual for me.  Instead, it came from his son, Jesus. I felt, almost immediately, how different a command from Jesus was from one from his glorious father.  I trusted it more, if that is the right word.  Trusted it in terms of feeling that it would be “easier” to follow; not yet another offering of inscrutability that would take years, if not decades, to unravel.  The command, listen, from God, the Father, could very well end up meaning, sing the Alleluia chorus [...]

THE CALL: Listening by Robert Benson

July 17, 2014

From The Echo Within My life is a listening.  His is a speaking. My salvation is to hear and respond. (Thomas Merton) It was early fall, and it was late afternoon, and I was walking through old Carolina pines with a new friend.  We were near the ocean, near enough to hear the surf as we walked along a broad path through the forest. I saw I was with a new friend.  I only spent five days with him, and I had never seen him before and have not seen him since.  He and I were two of about sixty people at a retreat, and I was the speaker. “I think I am being called to go to seminary,” my new friend said.  “Do you think I am?” He was wrestling with a question that almost always arises whenever questions of calling are [...]

LISTENING: The Gift In Receiving by Mark Nepo

July 14, 2014

From Seven Thousand Ways to Listen Can you hold the door of your tent wide to the firmament? (Lao Tzu) We usually think of giving as more important than receiving.  Yet only by receiving light can flowers grow into their beauty and pollinate the earth.  Only by absorbing rain can the earth grow what feeds us.  Only by inhaling air can our bodies walk us to each other.  Only by accepting each other’s pain and vulnerability can human strength grow between us.  In these ways, receiving involves absorbing, inhaling, and accepting the life that flows through us, between us, and around us.  These are deeper forms of listening. On the surface of things, giving and receiving are about exchanges.  I need.  You give.  I feel [...]

LISTENING: Listening To Henri by Kevin Burns

June 14, 2014

From Genius Born of Anguish: The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen I never met Henri.  I remember reading his books and articles back in the 1980s when I lived in western Canada.  I recall thinking of him as a part of the Catholic furniture, someone who was just “there” whenever I took the time to notice.  He was a familiar presence in the press.  I can remember hearing him on the radio and seeing him in a few television clips.  He was that Catholic priest and writer who instead of wearing a collar wore a long knitted scarf and who would come up with a new book every few years.  Each new work would receive a lot of attention in both mainstream and Catholic newspapers, back in that pre-internet era.  Canadian Catholic journalism [...]

LISTENING: Two Ways Of Listening: John and Peter by J. Philip Newell

June 7, 2014

From Listening for the Heartbeat of God The stream of Celtic spirituality, from Pelagius in the fourth century to George MacLeod in the twentieth, is characterized by the expectation of finding God within, of hearing the living voice of God speaking from the very heart of life, within creation and within ourselves.  It is a spirituality that recognizes the authority of Saint John and reflects his way of looking and listening for God.  At the decisive Synod of Whitby in 664, where two distinct ways of seeing, represented by the Celtic and Roman missions, came into conflict, the former allied itself to John.  Coleman of Lindisfarne argued that the Celtic tradition originated from Saint John, the disciple who was, he said, “especially [...]

LISTENING: Birdsong — Learning The Difference Between Listening And Waiting To Talk by Anne D. LeClaire

June 6, 2014

From Listening Below the Noise When she first arrived at her uncle’s estate and was exploring the grounds, Mary Lennox caught sight of a bird with a bright red breast sitting on the topmost branch of a tree, “and suddenly he burst into his winter song – almost as if he had caught sight of her and was calling to her.” On one particular morning my friend Ann and I were sitting in her backyard, which is bordered by woods.  Suddenly Ann leaned forward, her body as poised as a hunting dog in point. “Listen,” she whispered. “What?” I concentrated. Ann cocked her head.  Her face was lit with delight.  “Carolina wren,” she said. From the woods, I heard the call.  Three clear [...]

PRAYER: Listening by Murray Bodo

June 5, 2014

From Song of the Sparrow The art of listening.  How hard it is to cultivate.  We seem to be able to listen to others only so long before we start talking ourselves, usually about ourselves.  It is that way with prayer, too.  The hardest part is the listening, the quiet, the patience it takes to be still and wait upon God.  We always want to start talking, and yet what more can we say beyond the words Christ gave us in the “Our Father”?  If we spent time in prayer saying the “Our Father” once and then listening for the remainder of the time we set aside for prayer, it would be one of the best disciplines possible in learning to pray.  But we are uncomfortable with silence, with waiting for the other to speak. [...]

POETRY: The Listener by Billy Collins

June 4, 2014

I cannot see you a thousand miles from here, but I can hear you whenever you cough in your bedroom or when you set down your wineglass on a granite counter. This afternoon I even heard scissors moving at the tips of your hair and the dark snips falling onto a marble floor. I keep the jazz on the radio turned off. I walk across the floor softly, eyes closed, the windows in the house shut tight. I hear a motor on the road in front, a plane humming overhead, someone hammering, then there is nothing but the white stone building of silence. You must be asleep for it to be this quiet, so I will sit and wait for the rustle of your blanket or a noise from your dream. Meanwhile, I will listen to the ant bearing a dead comrade across these [...]

POETRY: Listen by Charles Simic

June 4, 2014

Everything about you, my life, is both make-believe and real. We are like a couple working the night shift in a bomb factory. Come quietly, one says to the other as he takes her by the hand and leads her to a rooftop overlooking the city. At this hour, if one listens long and hard, one can hear a fire engine in the distance, but not the cries for help, just the silence growing deeper at the sight of a small child leaping out of a window with its nightclothes on [...]

POETRY: I Am Listening by Franz Wright

June 4, 2014

I could not get out of bed for sixteen years a day. I could not rouse myself to take a bath. How resubmerge this broken body in the waters of electrocution— how return, redescend to find it a book or wash its bruised clothes the basement stairs to the site of its hanging, a failure even at that? Delivered, I’m still stung by my abandonment of those unmeetable ones who still live there in Hell. Tell me. Could I be allowed with them a quiet word? And what might that word be? There must be a way: how assure them, remind them they too come from the light at the beginning of time. Proved faithless, still I [...]

LISTENING: Take Care How You Listen by M. Basil Pennington

June 3, 2014

From Listening: God’s Word For Today As Jesus was making his way through the towns and villages preaching, he often told stories, drawing upon the everyday events around him and the creation which he loved – for he had made it.  The Twelve were with him as were other disciples such as Mary Magdalene and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and Susanna.  In the evening, after a long day of ministry they would gather for a quiet time with Jesus.  One evening he said to them: “Take care how you hear, for anyone who has taken care will be given more, while from anyone who has not taken care, even what he has will be taken away.” That was the day Jesus had spoken about the sower.  As he sat in the village [...]

SATURDAY READING: Poetry, Community And The Flourishing Heart by John Fox

May 3, 2014

From The Healing Art of Writing Poetic Medicine As a Catalyst For Resilience and Connection Within a Hospital Setting By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings on this planet and what we mean to each other. (Rita Dove, US Poet Laureate 1993) People don’t listen to understand.  They listen to reply.  The collective monologue is everyone talking and no one listening. (Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) We often associate the statement “Know thyself” with Socrates (via Plato), forgetting that “Know thyself” was the major inscription on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and that Apollo was the original god of both medicine and poetry – in Apollo [...]

FURSA IN LENT: Day Thirteen by Paul Wallis

February 27, 2013

From Be Thou My Breastplate Let the hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears. (Fursa’s Breastplate) The lyre has been used since the most ancient times in the praise of God.  A lyre can produce a single note or a chord.  It can also sound any number of chords. The resonance of the instrument is such that, if one lyre is fingered to sound an E major chord and strummed, every other lyre near it will respond.  Every string that matches a note in that first lyre’s chord will begin to resound – untouched by human hand.  Thus something of that first chord passes on invisibly from instrument to instrument. If a player fingers a second lyre for an E major chord, he need not strum the chord at all.  The sound of the chord [...]