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A Very Good Man 


Br Dunstan + died to this world yesterday within hours of being transferred to hospice. Those with him at the time said he seemed to be at peace; unquestionably the fruits of having lived a life of peace. 

He now merges into the vigor of Divine Light having brought so much of it to all of us who were so profoundly blessed by his tuition. We mourn the passing of this dear and very good man, rejoicing in the Christ that blazed within him. May we who survive live half as large in doing the same in a world full of shadows. 

Thank you ” Dunny” for your love and joyful living. 

My spiritual director, a Franciscan Friar of over 64 years, ( starting with membership in the Third Order), lies dying at the age of 93. Born Wendell Walton Jr., Br. Dunstan is the epitome of the Franciscan charism: a man who saw Christ in all people and in the natural world. A master gardener who genuinely loved plants and animals alike, ” Dunny” was often overheard speaking to his flowers and wild animals. A striking and memorable scene was his perfect repose seated in the garden outside Little Portion Friary as a chipmunk walked up his leg and came to peaceful rest on his shoulder: a true brother of all God’s creatures. 

This simple man with so genuine a spirit was the ” real deal” and those privileged to know and love him need no convincing that they walked with a living Saint. How does one repay the great debt of fellowship and learning from an elder soul such as this? There is only one way: to honor his gift to me by offering myself to Christ as he did; to walk in the way of love and authenticity and to embrace the freedom of living with open Heart, Mind and Will. 

Brother Dunstan would often break out in spontaneous song much as Francis himself was said to do. On one occasion, he sang praises to Christ with his own lyrics to the tune of ” Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” This humble man brought perspective to issues by his centered presence alone and his prayerful way of life and a smile and attention that clearly recognized Christ everywhere. 

Of the lessons I’ve learned from Dunny none are greater than this: Every moment and every breath is a great Amen and every action is prayer. 

I pray if it be the Will of God, that he recovers against all medical odds and has more time with us. His has been a good and extraordinary life. 

Rest my Brother, be at peace, dear Father. In God’s time, we will surely sit together again and talk over the greatness of small and simple things. 

In Passing


This is an interesting idiomatic phrase we use and hear all the time. We mention things ” in passing,” like: “Her name was said in passing.” It means an incidental and oblique reference on the margins of a central theme or message. 

I find that what is said ” in passing” often has more import than the subject in principle focus. Close cousins of the ” in passing” remark are the parenthetical and qualifying comments. They may say more than even the speaker realizes. 

In this year’s US political theater, no one makes more use of complex, nested parentheticals than Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The ” in passing” clauses are the message. 

An example:

Trump said in one recent speech , “Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know, I have to give my, like, credentials all the time because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”

So, what’s the real message? 

I think it boils down to something like, ‘the bad guys are out-maneuvering our politicians and making us small, so what we need is “me”, Trump,  someone strong, with smart genes and a proven record of winning. ‘ 

Trump uses the parenthetical to amplify the real message which is all about emotion, and which contains no actionable policy whatsoever. It’s about the promise of the proportionately ever smaller white, blue collar demographic feeling big again. 

Interestingly, Trump often uses the made up adverb “bigly”to talk about why he is the man for the job with an outsized cure for all that ails is.  It is pitched straight at the heart of those feeling especially vulnerable. 

While the 2016 political drama offers colorful examples, I am inclined to listen more intently for the “in passing” remarks that I use and that I hear others use. It seems these are more likely to give voice to the  “shadow” ( what it is we fear, our unconscious anxieties, and that part of ourselves from which we are inclined to turn away). 

In passing, the language of our fears can be heard in our digressions and qualifications ( i.e., the small print of our minds). Attending to it is a path into our individual and collective unconscious. 

© The Harried Mystic, 2016 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Living sacramentally demands an enduring centeredness; an elusive blessing for most of us who move almost breathlessly through intense doing. As technology creeps into every part of our lives, the juggle of so many things gets ever more complex as our busyness extends to keeping up with email, social media, tv programs we are following, and seemingly longer and longer work days and weeks.

The consequence for this normalized neurosis of mad dashing from one activity to another acts to draw us away from center. Being in Christ becomes eclipsed by doing whether in His name or in fulfilling our secular responsibilities. An important dimension of the Franciscan life is living simply and recovering the contemplative dimension of our lives.

We imagine Francis doing much walking both alone and with his brothers and sisters seeking after ” the invisible, hidden things” spoken of in Hebrews 11. This is no luxury but a necessity if our faith is to deepen and our relationship with the Living Presence is to be visceral.

Add to busyness our insatiable attachments to stuff of which the rapid growth of storage facilities attests. Things attach to us and our sense of self quite readily. Consequently, with each new possession we are more deeply possessed and drawn further yet from the ” Center”. The more we accumulate the more we need to protect.

This week, our new car of less than 3000 miles was stolen from our driveway as we slept. Awakening to find it missing was truly terrible. Feelings of anger and sadness and of being violated all rose up in an instant. By the time I called in police and the insurance company and waded through the involved paperwork, I was exhausted.

Our attachment to the car was real and we are, in effect, in mourning over its loss. The teaching in it is an important one: Become less encumbered by stuff and then rest in deeper stillness.

Accumulations of things to own and worry about are blocks to the divine light. Kenosis, or self emptying,  begins with downsizing the things that work counter to the centripetal force that brings us back home to soul and what is truly real and important. The blessing of loss, while painful, is to examine our faith and refocus with vigilance on the movement of Christ within and among us.

© The Harried Mystic, 2016 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

As a Franciscan, I marvel at the depth of the intellectual tradition that is as much a part of Franciscan history as is the way of the heart. 

Much springs to mind when we think of Francis that revolves around his way of doing: hospitality, living and caring for those cast aside by society, simplicity and love. 

All of these acts of compassionate living are certainly central. Yet, there is also a way of Being that emerged in the thinking of influential Franciscan Friars in the high Middle Ages who worked at the intersection of reason and faith. Notable for the impact he had that continues in our theological reflections to this day is the Blessed John Duns Scotus. 

Reacting to Aquinas’ and Abelard’s dedicated use of logical and dialectical reasoning, Scotus sought to find the sweet spot between a reliance on rational thought and blind faith ( or faith without understanding).  

His work was focused on avoiding the trap of making our reason greater than God’s. He argued that, far from being trapped inside His own creation, forced by having breathed the universe into being, to being bound by it, that Divine Will was without such boundary. Said differently, Scotus argued that God was not an artist whose freedom was constrained by all he created. 

This is, like so much of Scotus, a subtle threading; hence, the Church confered on him the designation “Subtle Doctor” of the Church. How does this inform our living as Franciscans? 

We catch a glimpse of God in all the wonders of creation yet we remain vigilant for the eternal now and the fresh ongoing creation that is happening in and around us. God’s presence is not an historical one though we spend a great deal of time looking back.  

He is arising just now. Right there in the moment of fresh rain, in the sudden breeze, in the warm embrace, in the next breath, in the fires of new worlds being formed around distant stars and in the moment of awe when we recover our sense of creatureliness. 

We feel the tension between a God of the Book and of the moment. Life is at its richest, most illuminating and truly grand, when history and the moment collide. This is a beautiful and creative tension that leaves us ever watchful for the Presence and the Revelation. 

© The Harried Mystic, 2016 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Prayerful Mind Maps

Mind-maps are structured associations that have long been used to organize thoughts, capture them and playfully rearrange them, and discover new connections among ideas. They have been used as a kind of nonlinear storyboarding and a way to organize tasks for creative intuitives ( e.g., the NPs on the Myers-Briggs).

Another use I’ve experimented with lately is as a meditative tool.

Start with a keyword at the center and then close your eyes and breath very slowly for some time. Some centering words that have occurred to me include: Holy Spirit, Compassion, Penitence, Christ, Savior, Silence. There are so many words one might use.

Then, open your eyes and allow free-form branches to grow spontaneously out of that center in heart and mind with sub-branching off of the primaries.

Once you’ve reached a point where it simply feels good enough, stop, close your eyes again, return to quiet breathing and then close with a short prayer.

As a final step, allow your heart to wander until attaching to a next keyword to explore in a next session of contemplative mind-mapping.

Perhaps you’ll try it out. I’d love to hear how it works for you.

© The Harried Mystic, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

What a20130413-110504.jpgre we really if not a bramble full of often stray ideas and images conditioned by memories, fears, delights and expectations – themselves ideas.

I write seated on our couch before the unlit fireplace with the Christmas tree standing opposite all adorned with brilliant ornaments both old and new. It stands as an homage to Christmases past and as Hope for those yet to come.

The space-time of my sitting is comforting and yet also a tad nervous.

A palpable tension lies beneath as yet another man-made year passes and the possibilities of this new one are infinite. Dark news of the world, and my lifelong search for what is right and true, commingle in my heart. Only a time of true inner silence resolves the dance of so many dilemmas.

God is process – a continuous evolution toward ineffable fulfillment at the center; a love sensed in every breath, a heartbeat echoed in my own.

Maybe I’ll light the fireplace.

Happy New Year.

© The Harried Mystic, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 

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