Dear Friends,

As we build the Beloved Community, we pray for you every day that you might continue to bring it about in your little corner of the world.

Today's Meditation is a reflection by Joan Chittister on "The Reason for the Sabbath." She lifts up again the importance of rest and sees the day of rest as God's gift to human dignity and the equality of all people.

She also reminds us that today is the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, the great teacher of non-violence. With all the violence in our world, I find myself praying and struggling to take on Gandhi's non-violent spirit.

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,

Ron and Jean

MEDITATION: Joan Chittister: "The Reason for the Sabbath"

In her reflection on the Sabbath, Sister Joan writes, "The Sabbath is God's gift to the dignity of all humankind."

The reason for the Sabbath

“Be still and know that I am God,” says Psalm 46.

Two images surround this theme of Sabbath and leisure for me. The first memory lies buried in old poetry, the second in a rabbi whose name I cannot remember.

The first incident happened during my first year of high school, I think. I had somehow stumbled on the works of the French poet Charles Péguy who wrote, “I love. The one who sleeps, says God.” The words didn’t mean much to me at the time; if anything, they seemed a little silly, or at the very least, confusing. But interestingly enough, those words have stayed with me ever since. Now, decades of monastic life later, I have come to understand the wisdom of them. I have begun to realize their importance. Sleep, I now understand, is a sign of trust. The ability to rest gives the world back to God for a while. Rest, Sabbath, leisure all release a part of us that the corsets of time and responsibility every day seek to smother and try to suppress.

The second incident happened during a trip to Jerusalem years later. A local rabbi had joined us for the meal that celebrated the opening of Shabbat. I remember as if it were yesterday his final example of the perfect Sabbath observance.

“You see this?” he said, taking a pen out of his breast pocket and twirling it in his fingers. “I am a writer and on the Sabbath I never allow myself to carry a pen. On the Sabbath I must allow myself to become new again.”

In those two moments, I discovered what the psalmist tries to teach us in Psalm 46, about learning to be still. It is more than the simple observation that everyone needs to let go a little, to get rested enough to work harder next week, to change pace from the hectic to the chaotic. It is far beyond the fact that everyone needs a vacation. What this psalm verse teaches us is the simple truth that a soul without a sense of Sabbath is an agitated soul.

The first reason for the Sabbath, the rabbis teach, is to equalize the rich and the poor. Safe from exploitative labor on the Sabbath, the poor lived for at least one day a week with the same kind of freedom that the rich enjoyed. The Sabbath, in other words, is God’s gift to the dignity of all humankind. It forces us to concentrate on who we are rather than on what we do.

The second reason for the Sabbath, the rabbis say, is to lead us to evaluate our work. As God did on the seventh day, we are also asked to determine whether or not what we are doing in life is really “good.” Good for ourselves, good for the people around us, good for the development of the world. If that is true, then the reason we have nuclear bombs and pornographic movies and underpaid workers is precisely because we have lost respect for the Sabbath.

How long has it been since you’ve taken a day simply to reflect on the way you live—how fast, how balanced, how sensible, how realistic is it? The sad thing is that too often, we choose to fret about life, rather than reflect on it.

—from 25 Windows into the Soul: Praying with the Psalms, by Joan Chittister (Benetvision)

SOUL POINTSJanuary 30: Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian teacher of nonviolence, died on this day in 1948. One of the greatest pacifists of all time, in 1948 Gandhi was himself assassinated by religious conservatives who promoted the political division he sought to overcome. It would seem that Gandhi failed. Yet, multitudes around the world, including Martin Luther King, Jr., have followed his tenets. To allow your own life to seed another’s, is fruit enough to last a lifetime.

—from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister

February 1: Today is the feast of Saint Brigid of Kildare, abbess, miracle-worker, and patron saint of Ireland. There are many stories told about Brigid, highlighting her unusual degree of compassion for the poor and hungry. Tradition also holds that when she was consecrated as a nun, the bishop who was performing the rite went into a trance and said the prayers that raised Brigid to the level of bishop. Brigid was abbess over a dual monastery, with men’s and women’s communities, and for centuries afterward, the abbess of Kildare was regarded as the head of all Irish monasteries. Under her leadership, Kildare became a center of the arts and poetry. Last year, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Traditional Music Archive collaborated on three short films showcasing newly composed traditional music to commemorate Brigid’s feast. Watch one of those films here.

February 1: “The night is beautiful/So the faces of my people./The stars are beautiful/So the eyes of my people/Beautiful, also, is the sun./Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people,” wrote the Black poet Langston Hughes, who was born on this day in 1901. Hughes, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, celebrated Black culture in his writing and his political work. As Black History month begins today, click here to listen to him read his poem, “I, Too.”


The World Has Need of You

I can hardly imagine it

as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient

prayer of my arms swinging

in counterpoint to my feet.

Here I am, suspended

between the sidewalk and twilight,

the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.

What if you felt the invisible

tug between you and everything?

A boy on a bicycle rides by,

his white shirt open, flaring

behind him like wings.

It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much

and too little. Does the breeze need us?

The cliffs? The gulls?

If you’ve managed to do one good thing,

the ocean doesn’t care.

But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,

the earth, ever so slightly, fell

toward the apple as well.

—Ellen Bass

JOAN CHITTISTER ON MARY LOU KOWNACKI'S IMPACT"The woman beamed goodness. It was not a struggle for her. It was an outpouring of her very self. She just let you know that happier people are peaceful people,” Joan Chittister told the Erie Times-News in a recent interview about Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, her friend of sixty years and the director of Benetvision for over two decades. Read more about Sister Mary Lou’s legacy, and her influence on Sister Joan, by clicking here.

MONASTIC WAY ZOOM ON DREAMS AND MEMORIESTomorrow at 3 p.m. ET, join Benetvision staff members Anne McCarthy and Jacqueline Sanchez-Small for a FREE Zoom call about the January issue of The Monastic Way. The hour-long Zoom call includes time for discussion in break out rooms as well as large group reflection on the theme of this month’s Monastic Way, which is “Of Dreams and Memories.” Click here to receive a link and be subscribed to The Monastic Way if you are not already receiving these monthly reflections.

LET’S DO JUSTICEWorld Women's Observatory (WWO), a program of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO), an organization that has had a long relationship with the Vatican, has developed a survey for women in positions of leadership in the 2021-2024 Synod. The survey is in response to concerns regarding the role of women in the church expressed in the Working Document for the Continental Stage. Click here to take the survey, to share your insights and concerns on this subject.

WUCWO is also looking for stories of women who, working for and in the Church, have developed innovative and productive activities, unknown to or not appreciated by the Church, women who have been groundbreaking in their work for the people of God, preferably at the grass root level.

If you want to share your own testimony or if you know someone whose testimony would be valuable to spread, you can relate in 2 paragraphs what you/she have/has done for the church and send your thoughts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Then WUCWO will contact you/her for further instructions.

Compiled by Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, Anne McCarthy, and Benetvision Staff