Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vision and Viewpoint

I'd like to plug the only e-newsletter I read regularly: Vision & Viewpoint produced by Benetvision Publications whose offices are right across the hall from mine. I help proof it every week and occasionally offer an item for it and I still read it every Monday when it comes through on my email. Why? Easy, it's short, informative and very well-written.

Vision & Viewpoint shares the latest from our community's small but powerful publishing ministry. It keeps readers up on Joan Chittister's latest publications and upcoming lectures, even carrying an excerpt from one of her books each week. It also shares a little, but not too much, on topics of interest to the staff and Benetvision supporters.

I've tried to duplicate this week's issue, but it's a poor attempt what with much better graphics and layout...but at least it will give you a flavor. Sign up here and give it a chance. I think you may like it, too.

Ideas in Passing
Joan Chittister

"Beyond Proofs and Beliefs"

The basic truth of the spiritual life, I am convinced, is that there are great mystics in every tradition. Mysticism is not a Western, Christian phenomenon. Mystics are people in whom the living God is a living reality, independent of denomination, irrespective of the brand of scriptures that underpin it. The Hindu Upanishads teach, “As rivers flow into the sea and in so doing lose name and form, even so the wise one freed from name and form, attains the Supreme Being, the Self-luminous, the Infinite.” Rabia, the Muslim mystic, writes to God, “I have set up house for you in my heart.” The Jewish Kabbalah teaches that we are all sparks of the divine. And the Tao te Ching, The Book of the Way, teaches, “The Tao is always present within you.” The God-life is not stranger to mystics anywhere; it is the very breath they breathe.

And, without doubt, it is in us, too. But the shape and cultivation of the God-life is a very personal thing. It touches each of us in the same way — and yet differently. The sense of the presence of God is almost natural to many and a real struggle to some. But whatever our natural inclination for God, there are, nevertheless, some givens: We must be open to the God within us. We must be free of the shackles of the mind. We must be willing to forgo everything we have been told about God to this point. Realize that all of it is inadequate, partial, well-meaning, but fallacious to a fault. We must not fear to go beyond proofs for the unprovable, or beyond belief to the unknown. Just because we do not know does not mean that we do not “know.” As the Tao says, “The Way that can be told is not the eternal Way.”

Once we empty ourselves of our certainties, we open ourselves to the mystery. We expose ourselves to the God in whom “we live and move and have our being.” We bare ourselves to the possibility that God is seeking us in places and people and things we thought were outside the pale of the God of our spiritual childhood. Then life changes color, changes tone, changes purpose. We begin to live more fully, not just in touch with earth, but with the eternal sound of the universe as well. From Called To Question: A Spiritual Memoir (Sheed & Ward)

May 4, 2009

MOTHER’S DAY: A reminder that we have four items on sale as a Mother’s Day special. The sale ends Monday, May 11. Click here. Of Mother’s Day, Sister Joan writes: “The Irish call it ‘Mothering Day.’ The title manifests the growth of an idea. The fact is that — man and woman alike, parent and guardian alike, friend and stranger alike — we must all learn to mother. Mothering is the art of releasing what is gentle and loving and patient and receiving in all of us. Who are the people who mothered, who nourished, who comforted you in life? Thank God for them.”
RADIO INTERVIEW: If you missed the interview with Joan Chittister on Oprah radio on Monday, April 27, click here to listen to a short segment.
LET’S DO JUSTICE: As a Mother’s Day gift you might want to make a donation in your mother’s name (or in the name of another mothering person in your life) to FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance.) FINCA supplies poor women with small loans that enable them to start or expand small businesses. Worldwide, their clients post repayment rates of over 97%.

After 15 years in exile, Fatima Mohammad Mussah returned to Afghanistan becoming one of the first women to join the initial group of Jebrayil women to receive a microloan from FINCA. She and five friends formed a Savings and Credit Group called “Fuladi” (or “Steely,” after the strength the members see in their new group), and each received a loan of 6,000 Afghanis ($125) to invest in their small businesses: tailoring, sewing, and food processing. As their businesses grow, so will their FINCA loans allowing them greater security and the ability to improve the quality of life for their families.
SOUL POINT: This video has inspiring quotes and photos. Enjoy.
PRISON CHAPLAINS WRITE: You make it possible for us to send materials free of charge to chaplains and volunteers in 70 prisons across the country. Here are two notes from chaplains who benefit from your generosity. To donate, click here.

Dear Friends at the Fund for Prisoners, Many, many thanks for the beautiful handouts I will be sharing with the women who are in the Wyandotte Detention Center. It’s a county jail and has very few programs or offerings for the inmates. Currently I see about 16 women a week. They are in individual lockdown most of the time so these brief reading materials will be most helpful. Blessing on your good work.
B.M. Kansas City, KS

Our Catholic community has been receiving The Monastic Way for quite some time now, because of your generous donations. I can’t begin to tell you how much these are appreciated by the population. They have begun to ask for them. This is a huge help to my ministry. I am very often unable to provide the ladies with any spiritual materials because of financial inability. You should be proud of all that you do for the incarcerated. It is vital that they not become the forgotten in our society. Thank you for all that you do to make a difference. M.A.D. Central California Women’s Facility
Dear Sr. Joan, Right now a dear friend is dying of brain cancer, my sister is dying of ALS, my mother-in-law is deep in Alzheimer's and my father-in-law is grieving his wife of 60 years. I am trying to take care of all of them. And I read your book Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope and it gets me through one day at a time. Thank you from an Episcopalian woman in her late 50's. L.G.

Dear Benetvision: I have discovered a way of reminding and refreshing myself of the many valuable statements and insights present in each monthly issue of The Monastic Way, which your viewers may like to consider. It is simply this: Don’t throw away or store past issues of The Monastic Way. Use them as bookmarks to mark your place in books you are currently reading. They are colorful and sturdy and make very good place markers. G.M.S.