Everytime I listen to New York States Governor Andrew Cuomo I come away relaxed. He’s a leader in a time of crisis. New York is a big state and I’m a long way from the New York City which is the epicenter of this crisis. Yet, I feel a connection to friends and relatives who live there. I am connected to many people around our country and around the world. In the past week I have found myself thinking of Assisi, Italy where I’ve spent ten or eleven days in the past couple of years. I remember the shopkeepers and our hosts at Casa Papa Giovanni and the Hotel Posta Panoramic where I stayed in May 2019. I have thought often of the shopkeeper where I purchased olive oil and wine to ship home to family. All these people are in my thoughts and prayers.
I have thought of our hosts in Rome at the Casa Tra Nois. How are they? Are they sick? Have they died from this pandemic? What about the pilgrims that I was with the past two years? Are they sick? Are they well? Are they frightened as I am? As horrible as all of this is, it is a reminder that we are all connected. We are one. We are not separate as we might imagine or as some power brokers would tell us.
Governor Cuomo reminded us that we are, “socially distanced but spiritually connected.” Indeed we are. It doesn’t matter what we believe, whether atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, liberal, conservative or whatever we are spiritually connected and in times like this we feel, think and pray for each other. May we continue to send positive energy to each other and our world. Namaste, Shalom, Salaam, Pax, Pace, Peace.
Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk in the woods. I was on an old trail that used to be the haunt of four wheelers and snowmobiles. I don’t think its used much anymore. It was just what I needed in the midst of this pandemic. Luckily for me I live in a small village a long way from any major metropolis. Yet, I feel the anguish and anxiety of people who I will never know in this life. The woods and its’ trees have always been a cathedral for me. I feel closer to God when I’m in the woods. Sometimes I want to hold hands with Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh and retreat into the woods forever. That’s not realistic perhaps but it’s a yearning that I have. There is also a small pond near my home and I like to go there and just sit next to one of the large trees that are adjacent to the pond.
Today is Sunday. It’s the Fourth Sunday of Lent and other years I would be on my way to Mt Irenaeus for Mass and brunch but today that’s all a memory as churches and retreat centers are closed. Instead I found myself re-reading quotes from Thomas Merton who is one of my favorite authors. I’ve loved Merton most of my adult life and his writing resonates with me. Like him I am drawn to mystical prayer. In the midst of this chaos and suffering there is a spirit that some might call God. Some may call it a higher power and others may only long for peace and communion.
“Whether you teach or live in the cloister or nurse the sick, whether you are in religion or out of it, married or single, no matter who you are or what you are, you are called to the summit of perfection: you are called to a deep interior life perhaps even to mystical prayer, and to pass the fruits of your contemplation on to others. And if you cannot do so by word, then by example.
Yet if this sublime fire of infused love burns in your soul, it will inevitably send forth throughout the Church and the world an influence more tremendous than could be estimated by the radius reached by words or by example.”
― Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
Today I saw in the news that the President of the United States is asking that Sunday March 15, 2020 be a day of prayer. That’s a great idea and coming from anyone else it probably would have been better received. He has after all been an incredibly divisive person who has done much to discredit the press, science and anyone else who has disagreed with him. However, that is not important now. What is important that we focus our collective energies on stopping this pandemic. We have seen many examples around the world of people reaching out to help others in their midst. Whether you are a believer or not is not important but each of us is made of energy and we can focus that energy in positive ways to stem and perhaps change the negative energy around us.
As an older person I’m very concerned for my own personal safety and as a person who could be a vector for the transmission of this deadly virus. I’ve been washing my hands much more than usual and use alcohol and bleach wipes which have dried my skin. I’ve prayed because that is something that I am comfortable doing. A little religion goes a long way for many in this world and its been one of the most divisive sources on our planet that anyone could ever imagine. Therefore my appeal is for a focus of positive energy. If you are religious that is fine. If you are not religious that is fine too. I practice yoga and I know that there are energy centers which we can summon and project out to help others and to help our world. I am hoping that you will join me in focusing this positive energy on the world around us.
Beyond PTSD: A Spiritual Journey into Wholeness and Love by Gregory J. Masiello
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a wonderfully insightful book which I read in less than a day. I simply could not put it down. There are many great insights about healing and wholeness for anyone who has experienced PTSD or trauma in their lives. This author uses personal experiences and everyday language to deliver keen insights and hope for recovery from traumatic stress and depression. Having just spent five days in Assisi with Greg and the staff of Franciscan Pilgrimages made the book all the more meaningful.
One of my favorite Bible quotes is from Chronicles.
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. — Chronicles 7:14
Are we willing to pray for our land, our president and our leaders? Are we willing to turn from our wicked ways? There are some who interpret this to mean that individual moral failings. I mean are we willing to turn from greed? Are we willing to elect leaders who lead us away from corporate governance and greed? Are we willing to end wars whose only purpose is to create jobs for contractors? Are we willing to turn from this sin. Earlier today I reflected on another passage that is a favorite of mine. Micah 6:8, “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” Too often justice in our country plays out as retribution but biblical justice is about restoring the bonds of relationship and it’s related to the quote from Chronicles. We need to restore the bonds of relationship in our country. We need to step away from this either/or mentality and move to both/and. It is possible to be for one thing without being against another. Both/and creates win/win and that’s a direction we need in our country right now and it would be good for the world too.
I have no power. I’m just one guy asking that you stop what you are doing right now and pray. If you don’t have words that’s okay. A few moments of silence is enough. Pray for our president, our country, our leaders, our people. Pray for the people you find it most difficult to follow. I believe God will heal our land. Even if you don’t believe anything I’ve written just pretend you did and that will be enough.
Parker Palmer has been a favorite of mine for a number of years now and this recently released video of his upcoming book, Healing the Heart of Democracy really speaks to a topic that I wrote about yesterday. We have to get past partisanship and bickering to solve our larger issues as a country or we will soon find ourselves no longer a country but a people literally at war with each other.
Follow this link to the video, http://couragerenewal.org/democracy
This morning I got a preview of an epic televised special which will be airing on PBS next month. It is a topic near to my heart, not because I am a Native American, but because my life is so closely woven with those who are. One of the people I have been privileged to call a friend in my life was a Seneca. He and his wife drove my wife and I away from the church on our wedding day. My father worked with the Seminole and Micosukee natives of South Florida and the Yurok and Karoks of Northern California too. Nearly everywhere I look and all of the land I own was once theirs. In fact it all really belongs to the Creator as they call him.
Thanks to Public Broadcasting System for bringing us this special television event. We who have been quick to condemn others in the world for ethnic cleansing have our own past for which to atone. Lent is a time of rebirth and renewal. I hope this special can awaken one for us too.