Saturday, August 18, 2007

St. Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
                the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
                and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

- Galway Kinnell

Audio at

Inspired by reading Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom by Joseph Goldstein.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do Nothing or Change (or keep mixing up the game)

Seeking spiritual wisdom and insight can sometimes lead to odd results. Ann Fontaine recently wrote a piece called "Do Nothing to Change Your Life" over at the Episcopal Café based on a book recommended by the Archbishop of York.

Meanwhile, my email newsletter from Benetvision contains an article by Sr. Joan Chittister that asks "Why Can't I Change?"

Needless to say, there's food for thought in both pieces. But I especially liked the humor and wisdom in this story Sr. Chittister had to tell:

Then we come face-to-face with the flat face of the soul, that part of us that grows only in increments and insights, never by trampolining from one self to another. This kind of change only comes slowly, only from one struggle to another, only barely.

The spiritual masters, given to whole lifetimes of confrontation with the self, knew it all too well.

Once upon a time, Abba Poemen said of Abba John that Abba John had prayed to God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care.

“And, in fact,” Abba John reported to him, “I now find myself in total peace, without an enemy.”

But Abba Poemen said to him, “Really? Well, in that case, go and beg God to stir up warfare within you again, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.”

And after that, when warfare came, Abba John no longer prayed that it might be taken away. Now he simply prayed, “Lord, give me the strength for the fight.”

- from Welcome to the Wisdom of the World
By Joan Chittister

Do read the whole piece and Ann's as well.