- This issue begins with Alan Krema’s reflection on some important lessons of the past three months.
- We provide a listing of many online and in-person contemplative events and retreats available to us this summer.
- Next, we get a book recommendation from Jeff Ediger – a newly published work from Victor Frankl.
- A new article about Sanctuary from Alison Hine.
- June Insights come from Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and William Meninger.
Please give us your thoughts on Spirit Journal by emailing the editor at the address provided at the end of the newsletter. It would be wonderful to hear from you!
When “Virtual” Is Truly Real
by Alan Krema
We are now well into summer and we are all learning a new way to live, interact, even pray and raise our consciousness. We have so much in this edition of our Spirit Journal to access as online contemplative experiences, as well some emerging opportunities to gather in person while taking special care to protect health and safety.
During the past three months, we have been learning to gather in zoom sessions for centering prayer, welcoming prayer, and a variety of spiritual conferences. I heard a description recently that even though when we gather there is a computer screen, camera, and microphone between us and the rest of our group, we are present in body and soul. There is no “virtual me” and there is no “virtual you,” when we gather.
When we are engaged in a mutual zoom conference, I am truly present and you are truly present, not virtually. I can enter awareness of my presence as I observe my thoughts, my body sensation, and my emotions. Then, with my contemplative practice I can enter awareness of a more spacious sense of Being wherein my source of Being is shared as the same source of your Being. I can then lean into a shared awareness of true communal Being that is shared by each of us in the meeting, but is not at all “virtual.”
Some of our communal sharings are very visceral and we must place ourselves into a field of loving welcoming in order to process the energy of them. These elements have come to us so blatantly in recent events of our time. We see these online or on television and we are struck with the sense of heaviness and force of them. I think this is true of many issues that we are faced with: the violence and murder of Black people in our society, to the protests, the Covid-19 pandemic, the political divisiveness, and climate change stress on our planet and in our lives.
The fruit of our centering prayer and contemplative practices brings us into an awareness of our True Self, our larger Being, and in this place, our personal divine indwelling is common and shared with the divine indwelling of all our human family. In this space we can hold the heavy experiences and our thoughts are not able to dominate us or drive us into uncontrolled anger and rage. As Richard Rohr and others have pointed out, contemplative consciousness is a necessary precursor if we hope to take effective action toward meaningful change.
Recently at Moontree Studios, we held sessions of contemplative experience for an extended period, after which we shared a space of communal Being, holding awareness of societal issues in common loving awareness. We will be working to offer more such sessions in the near future, and I invite you to look for them and participate.
In Great Love,
Many Contemplative Gatherings, Events, and Activities This Summer!
Let’s be honest, it’s been a difficult three months. As pandemic-based fears and disappointments morphed suddenly into a crisis of human rights and social justice, it’s been a challenge to maintain any semblance of equanimity. But contemplation – the quiet, inward awareness of God’s constant presence and love – remains the best inoculation against pessimism and the most effective preparation for creative and compassionate action.
You may wish to consider participating in some of the following opportunities for spiritual growth during what we hope can be a peaceful and productive summer.
Eight-Day Intensive and Post Intensive Retreats July 12-19 – Benet Lake Wisconsin – Please Register by June 25
Extended Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats offer you an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support. These eight-day retreats are offered every summer, alternating between Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin (2020) and Contemplative Outreach Chicago (2021).
This summer, the retreats will take place at the beautiful St. Benedict’s Monastery and Retreat Center located on the state line of Wisconsin and Illinois, midway between Chicago and Milwaukee. It is easily accessible, just 10 minutes west of Interstate 94. Yet it is still uniquely remote, surrounded by approximately 450 acres of woodland and rolling hills on the south shore of serene Benet Lake in southeastern Wisconsin.
Great care will be taken to protect the health and safety of participants, including mask-wearing and social distancing. For more details on these safety precautions, please click here. Complete information and registration are available on the Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin website. If you plan to participate, please be sure to register by June 25.
A Talk on Julian of Norwich by Father William Meninger on June 27 via Zoom
Father William Meninger, OCSO will offer a talk and Q&A on Julian of Norwich on Saturday June 27 at 3:00pm Central. This session continues a previous talk on Julian’s milieu and will move on to discuss some of the revelations or “showings” Julian shared in her well-known 14th century book. The previous talk and other teachings by Father Meninger are available on his Youtube channel.
Father Meninger is 87 years of age. He is one of the originators of Centering Prayer, along with Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington. He is the author of “Julian of Norwich: A Mystic for Our Times” among other classic spiritual books.
Summer Lineup of Events from The Well
The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park is offering an ambitious summer program of contemplative retreats and special events via Zoom. Their intent is to connect with new people, fascinating ideas, and expansive spirituality from all over the country and around the world.
Here’s a summary lineup:
Retreat With Diarmuid O/Murchu
A Discerning Heart for a time of Pandemic
Monday, June 22 – Friday, June 26
Topics: Adult Faith Today, From Devotion to Spirituality, Paradox and Spirituality, Images of God for our time, Incarnation.
Online Directed Retreat
Monday, July 13 – Friday, July 17, 2020
Spiritual Directors: Pat Bergen, CSJ, Maria Hill, CSJ, Diane Pfahler, SND, Bridget Sperduto
If your soul has been desiring a time of quiet and reflection, give yourself the gift of five days of “time away” during this Pandemic, in the safety of your home.
Retreat With Kathy Sherman, CSJ
Praying with the Song of Your Life
Monday, July 13 – Friday, July 17
Begin each morning and afternoon on Zoom with Kathy Sherman, CSJ, and other retreatants, with a short reflection and a song. The rest of your day is for contemplating how God’s song…how Love’s song is being sung through you and your life. Regroup in the evening, to gather the graces of the day and share insights.
Retreat With Mark Burrows
The Sense of Wonder: Learning to Thrive in a Time of Pandemic
Monday, August 3 – Friday, August 7, 2020
This retreat will develop simple practices of attentiveness that encourage us not simply to reduce ourselves to “managing,” but to go further in thriving. For, in the midst of all the uncertainties facing us lies a greater certainty, one rooted in the deep and inviolable beauty of this life.
Practicing Wonder in a Time of Pandemic
Or, how our “sixth sense” might still save us
Wednesday August 5
This talk is an invitation to learn again how to hone our “sixth sense,” the capacity to wonder. In this mid-retreat reflection, Mark Burrows will share in condensed form some of his learnings and teachings on this “sixth sense.”
For details and pricing on all programs, please visit The Well’s website.
Workshop on the Enneagram at Healing Gardens on July 11
This workshop will help you gain a greater understanding of yourself and others using the Enneagram – a powerful, spiritual tool for transformation that will help you overcome inner barriers and realize your unique gifts. The presenter will be Enneagram expert JoAnne McElroy, life coach/spiritual director. Attendance is capped at 14 participants, so you are encouraged to register early.
For further information and registration for these and other events, please visit the Healing Gardens website.
To let us know about any additional events you’re aware of, please write to: email@example.com
Participate in Centering Prayer Groups via Zoom
Here are to three invitations to gather with Chicago-area Centering Prayer groups via Zoom! Listed below are the groups, times, and contact information.
St. Clement’s Centering Prayer Group every Saturday 9:30-10:30am. Contact Bill Epperly at firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Katharine Drexel Church every Tuesday 8:30-9:30am. Contact Lori Dressel at email@example.com
The Healing Gardens second Friday of each month, 10:30am-12:30pm. Contact Deb Marquis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Epperly has also invited everyone to Interspiritual Sundays which gathers Sunday from 9:00-10:00am and Mindfulness Tuesdays 7:30-9:00pm. You may contact Bill at email@example.com and he’ll be happy to share more information with you.
(Other Centering Prayer groups may also wish to consider meeting online for now. If you need help in setting up, please contact Sandy Janowski: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Offerings in the Contemplative Outreach Meditation Chapel
The national website of our parent organization features an Online Meditation Chapel that is very easy to use and provides the opportunity to see, hear and join in silent prayer with others from all over the world.
Meditation Groups – 130 meditation groups meet weekly! They meet via Zoom at all hours of the day and night and are open to anyone. There is no cost/fee to attend, charging is prohibited. A friend writes: “I have been attending meditation in the virtual Keating Chapel and had a lovely experience. The facilitator was very good!” For further information, visit the calendar or chapel listing.
Two new Welcoming Prayer live sessions – These are 30-minute practice experiences of the Welcoming Prayer. Experienced Welcoming Prayer facilitators will guide you in this practice of consenting to God’s presence and action manifesting in what you are experiencing in your bodies in this moment. As the body is the warehouse of the unconscious, this practice supports each of us in embracing what we are experiencing and letting it go. No prior experience is needed. The sessions are offered every Thursday 7-7:30pm Central Time, facilitated by Therese Saulnier and every Tuesday 9-9:30am Central Time, facilitated by Mary Dwyer in the Peace Chapel. Please go to the Meditation Chapel to register and receive links to these sessions.
Healing Together: A Gathering of Consciousness – In silence we focus on an intention for peace and healing in 2020. The format is an opening prayer, a short reading, two 25-minute sessions of silent prayer with a short break in-between and closing prayer. These sessions are scheduled every Thursday from 11:00am to 12:00pm Central Time (US & Ca) in the Thomas Keating Chapel with Mary Lapham. You can contact Mary at email@example.com.
“Say Yes to Life”: A Book Recommendation
by Jeff Ediger
Into these world-wearying times has come a book from the past, written in the aftermath of the holocaust but only recently published. It is a proverbial breath of fresh air for which my soul, at least, has been gasping.
You may be familiar with Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” – perhaps you’ve read it more than once. (And if not, then you have two breaths of fresh air in store for you!) What you may not know is that Frankl wrote a second book, or at least he recorded several lectures that were gathered into a second book, titled “Yes to Life In Spite of Everything.”
I offer this taste:
Frankl quotes this short poem by Rabindranath Tagore:
I slept and dreamt
that life was joy.
I awoke and saw
that life was duty.
I worked – and behold,
duty was joy.
To which Frankl then adds, in part, this commentary:
So, life is somehow duty, a single, huge obligation. And there is certainly joy in life too, but it cannot be pursued, cannot be ‘willed into being’ as joy; rather, it must arise spontaneously, and in fact, it does arise spontaneously, just as an outcome may arise: Happiness should not, must not, and can never be a goal, but only an outcome: the outcome of the fulfillment of that which in Tagore’s poem is called duty, and that we will later try to define more closely.
…the question can no longer be ‘What can I expect from life?’ but can now only be ‘What does life expect of me?’ What task in life is waiting for me?
…Living itself means nothing other than being questioned; our whole act of being is nothing more than responding to – of being responsible toward – life. – “Yes to Life In Spite of Everything,” pp. 32-33 (emphasis added).
Having read what I’ve just quoted, I realize that having pulled it out of context could lend to it a puritanical spin which is far from what Frankl intends! Suffice to say I recommend the book to all who are weary of mask-wearing, not being able to shake hands, the politics of the day, fear of survival of many kinds/projects/dreams, difficulty in accomplishing previously simple tasks, and all manner of upheaval into which our lives have been cast.
Sanctuary in the Cracks
by Alison Hine
[Some readers may recall the Rev. Alison Hine’s workshop on Mystical Poetry, using digital images she created, which was an important part of the Living Wisdom program in 2019. She is a long-term student in the Diamond Approach, a contemporary mystical school founded by A. H. Almaas. Alison is the manager of the Small House for Contemplation, an interfaith outreach of the Episcopal Church of Incarnation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She leads and facilitates spiritual groups and retreats, focusing on the practice of presence and the wisdom of Jesus through the Gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Philip.]
These reflections are inspired and draw upon the 20,000 word essay I, Coronavirus. Mother, Monster, Activist by Bayo Akomolafe
A year ago, I wrote these words at the end of some reflections about Sanctuary. In these times of crisis and turbulence it seems that there is a crying need for sanctuary to return to its holy, sacred roots. We need small communities hidden in plain sight, offering safety, a breathing space of silence, a concentration of praxis and prayer, a place to touch deep into Wisdom’s treasury.
Community is the natural outgrowth of placing presence and spirit at the center of sanctuary. In fact, community becomes sanctuary. It is invisible to the outer world but findable for those who smell the sweet scents of praxis and worship. Sanctuary— a nature preserve— invites the wildness of spirit so currents of joy, creativity and beauty can bloom in the darkest of times These words now seem tame in the light of a pandemic and the systemic collapse that we are witnessing in real time. Is sanctuary just a place of escape, a flight from danger; a place of refuge among spiritual friends; a place for deepening and growing; a place of safety; a place to hide, hibernate and rest? Or is it something else?
And then this landed in my inbox: “May our roads be rough, and the disturbance our sanctuaries.”
I believe that Christianity is concerned with human crises, since Christians are called to manifest the mercy and truth of God in history.
– Thomas Merton
Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not there, I feel the ocean would be less by missing that drop. We don’t have to think in numbers. We can only love one person at a time, serve one person at a time.
– Mother Teresa
You are a steward of God’s mysteries.
– William Meninger
Please write in to contribute your ideas or to comment on any of the items in Spirit Journal. Let us know if you are aware of an upcoming event you think others should know about, or send us an inspirational quote you’d like to share, or information about a book, website, podcast, or video you recommend. You can contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.