We pray for you a Happy and Blessed New Year!
Today's Meditation is a reflection by Joan Chittister on Commitment to What Makes Life Worthwhile. Note also Soul Points and the poem by Terry Tempest Williams as the Poem of the Week.
We invite you to join us as we commit ourselves to working tirelessly to end systemic and structural racism in our society, in the church, in healthcare, in the workplace--wherever it shows up so that everyone may come to have more abundant life. May this meditation nourish our contemplative-active hearts and sustain all of us in action.
In the spirit of our philosophy of co-creating community and our awareness that the Spirit speaks through each of us, we invite you to share your meditations with us as well. We truly believe that it is God's economy of abundance: when we share our blessings, our thoughts, our feelings, we are all made richer.
We hope and pray that you find peace, healing, hope and the infusion of joy in your life!
With our love and care,
Jean and Ron
MEDITATION: Joan Chittister: Commitment to what Makes Life Worthwhile
What makes life worthwhile for you? Read Sister Joan's reflection on endurance, "trying to do the impossible" as she describes it.
Commitment to what makes life worthwhile
Everyone is defeated sometime. Many then simply quit the fray. But the really strong, the really committed, do not. They decide whether or not the mountain is worth the climb. And if it is, no amount of wind can force them from the face of it. They live to finish what they began.
Endurance is not about being too stubborn to give up on the impossible. Endurance is about having heart enough to keep on trying to do the possible, even if it is unattainable. We nurse the dying through years of disability. We begin projects for the poor even when they don’t begin to make a dent in the problem of poverty. We hold on against opposition for the sake of the principle of a thing. Those endure who seek to do what is deeply important to them, no matter how difficult it may be.
The problem is that it is often hard to tell the difference between endurance and denial. It is a distinction that is necessary to the authenticity of the exercise. We are in denial when we fail to accept the fact that what we want to have happen depends on more than what we have to offer. If we do not have the basic musical abilities it takes to play the piano, no amount of music lessons will make up for a lack of natural rhythm or the size of our hands. Then, to set our sights on concertizing is denial. When we do not have the agreement of others that are needed to see a thing through, but cling to the idea anyway, that is denial. I cannot save a marriage, for instance, once the other person has already left it. Endurance, then, does not mean “success.” It means being willing to cope with what is until something else begins. It means being open to the possibility that things will stay the way they are, perhaps indefinitely. It means that I must be open to becoming something new. Then endurance demands that I bear what I must and be what I can.
The notion of endurance takes on negative overtones when I fail to realize that it is meant to bring out the best in me, not the worst. Endurance is not misery, not martyrdom, not spiritual masochism. Endurance means that I intend to survive the worst, singing as I go.
The person who endures does not have life taken away by forces devoted to their destruction. They devote their lives in tribute only to those things that make a life worth living. When my young widowed mother refused to allow other members of the family to raise her child so that “she could begin again,” she was not martyring herself. She was simply intent on enduring the struggle it would take to keep alive and vital the part of her life that meant something to her: raising me. Endurance is not negation of life; it is commitment to whatever makes life worthwhile.
We do what we do, not because we are sure to succeed at it, but because it brings out something good in us that nothing else can touch. We can endure anything for the sake of things we love. We can endure years at a bedside, years of study, a lifetime of practice, a career of service, the loss of good things we consider less worthy than the things we really care about. Endurance is the sacrament of commitment.
The gift of endurance is not to be wasted on trivia, on denial, on stubbornness, on posturing. We are given the gift of endurance for the sake of the great things of life. Endurance has as much to do with the kind of person we are as it has to do with the kind of situation we’re in. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
—from Scarred By Struggle, Transformed by Hope, by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans)
SOUL POINTSJanuary 23: Édouard Manet, the French modernist painter who inspired much of the Impressionist movement, was born on this date in 1832. His paintings, which drew controversy during his life, became some of the first examples of modern art. Click here to watch a short video describing his painting, The Railway.
January 24: “Be patient with everyone, but especially with yourself. Start all over again each morning,” wrote St. Francis de Sales, whose feast we celebrate today. Francis founded the Salesian Order and is the patron saint of writers.
January 28: “I said in my heart, here are my convictions. What shall I do? Shall I be inactive and permit prejudice, the mother of abominations, to remain undisturbed?” wrote Prudence Crandall, the schoolteacher and activist who died on this date in 1890. Crandall was a Quaker from Connecticut, who opened a rigorous and challenging boarding high school for girls in the 1830’s. When a black teenage girl asked to enroll, Crandall, who was an abolitionist, agreed to educate her, creating the first integrated classroom in Connecticut. This outraged the parents of the white students, who threatened to withdraw their daughters if the school remained integrated. In response, Crandall dismissed the white children and re-opened the school, now exclusively for black students. The townspeople were extremely hostile to Crandall and the students: shopkeepers refused to sell them goods, doctors refused to treat them, and others poisoned the well they used for drinking water. State legislators passed a law forbidding African-American students from outside the state to attend a school in Connecticut, and Crandall was jailed for continuing to teach black girls. The school was eventually forced to close, and Crandall moved west, where she took part in advocating for women’s suffrage, and where she opened a school for Native Americans.
POEM OF THE WEEKThese lines from the playwright Terry Tempest Williams raise the question: What is it that you pray to?
I pray to the birds.
I pray to the birds because I believe
They will carry the messages of my heart upward.
I pray to them because I believe in their existence,
The way their songs begin and end each day
—the invocations and benedictions of earth.
I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love
Rather than what I fear.
And at the end of my prayers,
They teach me how to listen.
—Terry Tempest Williams
Compiled by Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, Anne McCarthy, and Benetvision Staff
What's New: January 23, 2023
“SOMETHING NEW....MAYBE” COLUMN IN NCRJoan Chittister’s latest column is now available at NCR online. In this piece, “Behold I am doing something new … maybe,” Sister Joan muses on the increasing secularization of Christmas, and what even this may have to teach Christians today. Click here to read the full essay.
AUDIO BLOG ON SEEKINGIn her latest audio blog, Sister Joan says, “Life is a journey whose endpoint is always a stretch away. The more we have, the more we grasp. And then the realization dawns: Even if we have gained everything worth having in life, none of those things will ever satisfy the emptiness within.” To listen to her full reflection on this issue, which draws on wisdom from the Desert Monastic Abba Sisoes, click here.
MONASTIC WAY ZOOM On January 31, Benetvision staff Anne McCarthy, OSB, and Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, OSB, will host the monthly FREE Zoom discussion on the current issue of The Monastic Way, whose theme is “Of Dreams and Memories.” The call will begin at 3 p.m., ET, and will last for one hour. Click here to receive a link and be subscribed to The Monastic Way if you are not already receiving these monthly reflections.
“WALKING WITH THE PSALMS" ZOOM RETREATAs monastics, the prayers and poetry of the psalms are our companions in grief and celebration of life alike. Later this month, Monasteries of the Heart will offer “Walking With the Psalms” as an online Zoom retreat, sharing wisdom and creating space for reflection, bringing the psalms deep into each of our spiritual journeys of this moment. Join us on Saturday, January 28, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. Learn more and register here.
LAST CALL TO JOIN SPIRITUAL LITERACY PROGRAMSpirituality & Practice is once again offering a Spiritual Literacy Certificates Program: a guided journey into deep studies of what it means to be a vibrant spiritual being in service to a world brimming over with wisdom, life lessons, and deep connections in each and every moment. The second cohort begins January 28, 2023. If you register through our special links, Benetvision will receive commission on your registration! Learn more here.