Spirituality Café

Back to school

On this doorstep I stand
year after year
and watch you leaving

and think: may you not
skin your knees. May you
not catch your fingers
in car doors. May
your hearts not break.

May tide and weather
wait for your coming

and may you grow strong
to break
all webs of my weaving.

(Evangeline Paterson, cited in When In Doubt, Sing by Jane Redmont, Harper Collins)

Fading shadow
The late Cistercian Abbot M. Basil Pennington wrote this reflection on Psalm 102 shortly before his death: “I have trod on this earth three score and 10 [years] plus a few . . . I do not know the day or the hour, but I have full confidence that the Lord will complete the work that God wants to do in and through my life, and then take me home.

“I am withering like grass. I seek to sanctify my diminishment. Sometimes it is a struggle. I seem to have to give more and more time and attention to the care of this aging body: trips to the doctors and specialists and the hospitals and labs; medications, therapies, and exercise programs . . . But I move toward the great light. If anything shadows my life, it is the light of what truly is and will be. . . .

“My days are numbered. I shall soon pass to join my fathers and mothers. Even the heavens and the earth will pass away. God’s handiwork through the ages will perish, but the Lord will remain the same. God’s years will never end. There’ll be a new heaven and a new earth. And we shall all live on in the joy of the Lord forever.” (Psalms: A Spiritual Commentary, Skylight Paths)

As the bomb exploded, we saw the entire city disappear. I wrote in my log, ‘My God, what have we done?’ ”—Robert Lewis, commander of the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945

In practice
David L. Goetz draws on spiritual practices from the monastery to help prevent Death by Suburb, the title of his book on “How To Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul” (HarperSanFrancisco). For example, to combat covetousness, refrain from things that feed your ego and spend time with people who are different from you.

To those who spend more on a venti-decaf-hazelnut latté than much of the world makes in a day, he advises: “Forget trying to live a safe, gated life. Religion isn’t about your piety, it’s about loving your neighbor (not his house).”

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