Asleep in the Storm

“Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst out of the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!” PS 107:23-24

“A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” MK 4:35-41

Storms signify difficulty. Storms make us run and seek cover, dodging the rain and lightning. And yet, what’s better than listening to the rain on the roof, thunder crashing in the distance? Continue reading “Asleep in the Storm”

What’s In A Name: Solemnity of The Nativity of John the Baptist

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The name that was chosen for him was not Zechariah, like his father, but John. What is the meaning of this name? “Yahweh is gracious.” Therefore, the very name is one of gratitude and praise to God on the part of the parents. Elizabeth chooses this name for her little son, the boy who will “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.” Her husband Zechariah, mute for months on end after not believing the angel Gabriel who told him Elizabeth would bear this child, agrees by writing, “His name is John.” With this acknowledgement of God’s graciousness in giving them this special boy, Zechariah is able once again to speak, and he proclaims one of the great canticles, The Benedictus, beginning “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.” Continue reading “What’s In A Name: Solemnity of The Nativity of John the Baptist”

The Connection Between Compassion And Happiness

In the news recently is the “world’s happiest man,” Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and close confidant of the Dalai Lama, whose brain was studied by scientists and was found to have the highest recorded propensity for joy. The monk, when asked his secret, has shared that he was meditating on compassion when his brain was studied, and it is that meditation upon what he terms “enlightened altruism” that is the force behind his happiness.

How often do we as a society worship egotistical pleasures, only to find a false and hollow reward? What can Buddhism teach us about happiness? Meditate on compassion, Ricard answers. Continue reading “The Connection Between Compassion And Happiness”

Divine Comedy

Happy 125th Birthday, Stan Laurel!

(Born June 16, 1890)

How Joyful Laughter Can Strengthen Faith

What is an antidote for anxiety, worry and generally feeling down? Laughter is one of the truest lights in the darkness, especially when the humor that inspires it is not mean-spirited or crass. Laurel and Hardy, two kings of comedy, are also kings of innocent humor, making fun of themselves and each other with a spirit of love, making us laugh with a delight that brings us back to the most happily unguarded moments of childhood. Continue reading “Divine Comedy”

The Balancing Act : Waiting as an Act of Faith

Today’s art is a wonderful Vermeer: “Woman Holding a Balance.” Ah, a symbol of the elusive quest for balance in life… a search not unique to this age! Art Historians argue about whether or not the woman depicted is meant to be pregnant, or if it is merely a style of dress that is reminiscent of those worn in maternity. It is enchanting that we are left to wonder, as it lends the painting an air of mystery. Continue reading “The Balancing Act : Waiting as an Act of Faith”

Found in Loss

This weekend marks the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint for the recovery of lost items. How happy we are when what had been lost is found, when the purse turns up hidden beneath the car seat, or the missing person comes back home. In the words of the Prodigal Son’s father, “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” It is good when prayers are answered and losses are recovered. But what about when something is just utterly lost? Continue reading “Found in Loss”

Happy 150th Birthday, W.B. Yeats!

You are cordially invited to a birthday party. Here’s how to celebrate: Come alone at night, row to an island in the middle of a lake. Like John the Baptist in the wild, you will dine on honey. The air is a-pulse with the sound of bees, but you don’t mind them and they don’t mind you. Though you arrived alone, you will soon realize the island is abounding with other souls, quiet in their festive outcry of peace. Best of all, each soul there is like family. Each of them has received the same invitation: to follow the path to the deep heart’s core. Is this heaven or is this a poem? Continue reading “Happy 150th Birthday, W.B. Yeats!”

Divine Beauty

As a focus for today’s post, I am linking to an excellent article written by Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick in Our Sunday Visitor back in April.

I was honored to be quoted in this article, among so many colleagues who are so soulfully engaged in the art of the religious imagination and whose work I highly esteem. This article lives up to its title, showing how beauty, through the arts, indeed “points the way to the divine.” Continue reading “Divine Beauty”

To Idle and to Loaf: A Recipe for “Creative Silence”

As pointed out this week in an excellent article in Time about van Gogh, Vincent considered himself an idler. In one of his many fascinating letters to his brother, Theo, he clarifies that there are two different types of idlers. About each type, Vincent assures Theo, “You may, if you think fit, take me for such a one.” The first type of idler is just plain lazy.

But the second type of idler, Vincent likens to a bird in a cage who other birds might think is just perched at his ease, but whose heart longs for something elusive in the shape of nest-building and mate-finding, the details of which are vague and fuzzy to the inexperienced and immobilized bird. Van Gogh writes, “In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for; he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it.” It is clear by the poetic and heartfelt way Vincent describes this second type of “idler,” and the greater amount of time and attention he spends doing so, that he identifies with this type: someone who feels frozen, caged, deeply longing for something just out of reach and all the time judged by the other birds.

Continue reading “To Idle and to Loaf: A Recipe for “Creative Silence””

Aging in Love

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone, just before they got married, had the chance to see their beloved as an elderly person, and could honestly vow to that vulnerable, wrinkled, beautiful person that he or she would still be someone worthy of all their love, and would still have a devoted spouse by their side, loving them with all their honest imperfections and authentic sublimities?

In this video a young couple, soon to be married, agree to submit to makeup and costume changes that will allow them to see what each other might look like over the decades. These adorable and clearly in love people look at each other in their projected fifties, seventies and nineties, and see deep beauty and gratitude for the chance to glimpse what a long life together might look like, reflected in their partner’s face. Continue reading “Aging in Love”