I had the privilege of leading a retreat at Bethany Spring Retreat Center near Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky last weekend. The topic was “Contemplative Living and Nonviolence: Jesus, Gandhi, and Merton.”
As you can see from the picture, Bethany Spring is a farmhouse and a cozy center for small retreats. There are two hermitages on the campus in addition to the farmhouse. The director of the center is Jonathan Montaldo who is Associate Director of the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living http://www.mertoninstitute.org/
Part of the joy of Bethany Spring is the opportunity to attend the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours with the monks at Gethsemani Abbey, the home of Thomas Merton. I regained a sense of the beauty of chanting the psalms. In my morning prayer, I now pray the Psalter but I have made a change. I recite the words out loud. It is really helping me get into the flow and meaning of the Psalms.
The retreatants came from varying backgrounds but were bound by a common interest in Merton, contemplation and nonviolence. We bonded quickly. Using the contemplative dialogue method developed by the Institute, we were able to reflect deeply on Jesus, Gandhi, and the spirituality of Thomas Merton. I have invited the retreatants to use this web site as a means of keeping in touch and of deepening our understanding of contemplative living and nonviolence.
I invite other regular readers of this blog to join us. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will set you up to comment and post your own reflections on the site. I will send you your user name and password via email.
In today’s world where civil political and spiritual discourse seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur, we need to deepen our understanding and practice of contemplative living. Truth seems not to matter. Why seek truth when aAny distortion of the facts will suffice to serve our political agendas.
Senator Kennedy has passed. I am afraid that we are going to miss the civility he brought to the Senate by his uncanny ability to passionately pursue his goals and at the same time maintain a friendship with his political opponents. His death has spurred much discourse about him and the good he did. It also unfortunately has spawned some hate discourse—“look at all the “bad” things he did.” C’mon. We are all human. We all sin and Jesus did not mince any words when he told us not to judge others. The meanness in the negative comments is another indicator of political incivility run rampant. Perhaps, just perhaps, our practice of contemplative living will attune us to look for the good in others.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples to “Stay awake.” This is the stuff of contemplative living. Tony DeMello, Thich Naht Hanh, and Merton, among others, encourage us to wake up, to tune into the depth and meaning of our lives. They encourage us to deepen our union with God.
In future posts, I will comment more fully on some practices which can help us deepen our union with God—prayer, centering prayer, discursive meditation, lectio divina, and walking meditation. This is the ultimate purpose of our lives and our spirituality.
Be contemplative. Be in union with God, one another and all of creation. Be civil. Judge not. Love as Jesus loved. Forgive one another. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Shelter the homeless. Care for the sick and give them access to adequate health care. Visit the imprisoned and set them free. Welcome the immigrants.
This is the stuff of contemplative living. This is the stuff that will help us bring a modicum of civility to political discourse today.