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 Purpose of Work is to care for the other." Don't miss scrolling down to the write up on Tolstoy and the Poem: "What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade" by Brad Aaron Modlin.
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 Purpose of Work
In this Labor Day essay, Sster Joan writes, "Clearly the function of work is to complete the creation begun by God but meant to be completed by us."
This reflection from Sister Joan is in honor of Labor Day.
The purpose of work is….
An old man said, “I never wanted work that was useful to me but loss to my brother. For I have this expectation, that what helps my brother is fruitful for me.” —Sayings of Desert Monastics
If there is anything that demonstrates the different mindsets between the Desert Monastics and the modern world, this may well be it. In the twenty-first century, in our lifetime and in this culture, jobs become the center of life. What we do determines who we are—and whether or not what we’re paid for doing is worth a life. We ask children as young as six years old what they want to do in life and why. We ask high school students to decide on college courses according to what work they hope to do when they get out of school. And, most of all, we link our definition of success to whether or not we will be paid for doing what we say we want to do.
As a result, some of our children grow up engineers who will get in on the ground floor of the new companies who frack for gas, while others will become lawyers who fight the development of fracking on the grounds that fracking affects the purity of the state’s groundwater. For every interest, we create a counter-interest. We develop bankers who create hedge funds to increase borrowing. Then we create boards of government regulators who expose the false profits that borrowers are counting on. In fact, work is what divides the modern community.
Today, the question of who or what will be hurt by the work I’m doing is yet to be part of the social conscience. Urban planning marks out residential areas and commercial zones in order to define and separate one from the other. But no one asks whether what is done in one part of town might not be threatening the livelihoods of other people in that very same city.
The results are obvious. Our lives are lived in the hope that our own choices are life-giving for others, but we have yet to accept the principle that what is not good for others—nuclearism, genetically modified farming, fossil fuels—is not fruitful for us, either.
It is time to prove to ourselves as well as others that the way we earn our own living is life-enhancing for others as well. “I never wanted work that was useful to me but loss to my brother,” the old man says. Yet before that can ever be the situation again, we are all going to need to understand why we were created in the first place.
In God's Holy Light by Joan ChittisterClearly the function of work is to complete the creation begun by God but meant to be completed by us. Yet the planet is being farmed by the industrial world to profit the industrialized world while African resources are being poached everywhere. Indian children are working for slave wages to clothe the children of the West. The seas are being fished out with little or no concern for their replenishment. And, all the while, the gifts of humanity are being spent on the degradation of creation.
The purpose of work is to care for the other. And the desert monastics have shown us how that can be—must be—done. Until the consciousness of the importance of my work to the development of the world is universal, we will all simply continue to work for our own good. Which, ironically, will be exactly the decision that destroys our own dreams as well as everyone else’s.
—from In God’s Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics by Joan Chittister (Franciscan Media)
What's New: September 4, 2023
The Future of Monasticism
Later this month, Joan Chittister will speak by Zoom to the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum, the international gathering of Benedictine women. These annual meetings are intended to be a time of mutual support and exchange of ideas and experience among Benedictine women, fostering the development of women’s monasticism. Sister Joan will be speaking on the future of monastic life.
Creating a Sabbath CultureA recent blog post on Patheos draws on the writings and wisdom of Joan Chittister in order to make a case for the importance of Sabbath and sabbaticals. Referring to Sister Joan as, "one of the most powerful voices for peace and justice in our world who happens also to be a Benedictine nun," the writer of the piece quotes her commentary on the Rule of Benedict. The essay can be read here.
SOUL POINTSMary, the Mother of JesusSeptember 8: Today we celebrate the birthday of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She was in awe of God and she saw God’s will as better for her than the conventions of the society in which she lived. She accepted the invitation to be the Mother of God. Because of that kind of humility—of self-knowledge—we were all given the chance to rise above our otherwise diminished selves to become Christ-bearers in our own time.
–from A Monastery Almanac, by Joan Chittister
Leo TolstoySeptember 9: “Everything that I understand, I understand only because I love,” wrote Leo Tolstoy, the great author who died on this date in 1910. Tolstoy was born into an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, and is best remembered for his major works, including War and Peace, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and Anna Karenina. But Tolstoy was also a spiritual seeker, an advocate for nonviolence, and an anarchist. As a young man, he fought in the Crimean War, in which he was traumatized by the brutality and violence. He became drawn to Christian pacifism, returning to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, and his writings would inspire a young Mohandas Gandhi, who corresponded with Tolstoy for the final year of the writer’s life. He died of pneumonia, at the end of a long train journey, and spent his final hours lecturing the other passengers about the importance of love.
Jesse OwensSeptember 12: Jesse Owens, who encountered racism and discrimination throughout his life, but became a four-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field, was born on this date in 1913. A gifted athlete, Owens attributed his success to the encouragement of his junior high school track coach. His incredible performance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin put the lie to Hitler’s claims of Aryan supremacy, but at home he was ignored because of his race—never congratulated by President Roosevelt or invited to the White House. Struggling to find work when there were so few jobs available to Black people, at one point Owens had to make a living by racing against horses. After his death, President Carter wrote, "Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry.” Here is a brief video on his amazing Olympic feat.
POEM OF THE WEEK
School is back in session in most places, or will be this week. This poem, by Brad Aaron Modlin, evokes some of the melancholy that comes from thinking back on school days—and on everything that comes after.
What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.
—Brad Aaron Modlin
Compiled by Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, Anne McCarthy, and Benetvision Staff