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Gird up the loins of your mind

by davesandel on March 1st, 2022

Tuesday of Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, March 1, 2022                        (today’s lectionary)

Gird up the loins of your mind

Many that are first will be last. And the last will be first.

Ten or so years ago Margaret and I, along with our pastor Jeff Augustine, visited the Abbey of Gethsemani for a week of silent retreat. But on Thursday of that week I took two field trips, one to the churches and college near Springfield, Kentucky as well the Makers Mark distillery, and in the evening to Loose Leaf Hollow in nearby Bardstown for a session of centering prayer.

My spiritual director buddy Sister Barb told me to visit St. Rose Priory and Church to get a taste of the “worst Catholic art I’ve ever seen” (actually, it wasn’t that bad!).  and to visit Loose Leaf Hollow just to meet Joe Zarantonello. Joe is a poet, teacher, retreatmaster, and along with his wife, the inspiration behind Loose Leaf Hollow.

Joe taught high school in Bardstown and writes a monthly column for the newspaper. Bardstown is the center of Kentucky’s Holy Land, and Joe puts his peace-making, put-the-poor-first beliefs into every column. For years he has traveled to Haiti at least once a year. It will be interesting to see what he writes about the invasion of Ukraine. He embodies the words of Thomas Wolfe, “Do not go gently into that good night,” and his proposals are rarely modest.

But … each week Joe emails out a poem. And yesterday he invited us modestly into a gentle style of life:

 A Gentle Proposal

Go gently into the streets to protest the war.

Go gently into discussions with your neighbor

about the price of oil and human life.

Go gently into your own kitchens and living rooms,

into your schools and workplaces.

Go gently into your houses of worship,

into your hospitals and prisons.

Go gently into your opinions of world leaders.

And go gently, ever so gently, into your own mind.

Otherwise, what have you really accomplished?

If you go with aggression, you may win the battle

but you won’t stop the war — for aggression is war.

All wars are lost as soon as they’re begun.

So go gently into the very thick and heat of battle.

Go gently, and even if your cause does not prevail,

there will be more peace, in the world, than before.

Yep. On this Mardi Gras less than a week after the Russian invasion, I needed that. It’s too easy to dream of redemptive violence when headlines scream about wrongs which multiply day by day. I had to laugh when our pastor prayed that an olive would choke the prominent “wrong-doer” of the week. He sort of apologized – well, not exactly. “Sorry, that’s just the way I pray.” Joe is offering a gentler way to pray. Eat the olive, and keep on praying.

Live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Merton spent exactly twenty-seven years at the Abbey of Gethsemani (12/10/41-12/10/68), leaving only for short trips to nearby Louisville and then at the end of his life for an extended trip to friends in the southwest and California and on to an interfaith conference in Bangkok. Fr. Merton didn’t make it back from Thailand alive; a fan short-circuited and he was electrocuted when he touched it after taking a shower.

A few of Merton’s friends at the Abbey, in their late 90s, are still alive, still kickin’ and still praying. They have been monks for most of a century. Their job as monks is, and has always been, to pray, just PRAY, for the world around them. I think that matters more than anything. Rather than praying around their work, they work around their prayer.

The more I get to “know” God, the more prayer like this makes sense to me. Jesus called the unity between God and his children the Kingdom of heaven. Living there changes everything, and when I pray I participate in that unity. As Jesus sometimes said, “The Kingdom of heaven is near.”

So roll up your sleeves, get your head in the game, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16, The Message

(1 Peter 1, Psalm 98, Matthew 11, Mark 10)

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One Comment
  1. Mark cousert permalink

    How fiiting and insightful

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