Tag Archives: Joan Chittister

Apr 10 – After Easter – Now What?

Below is a repost of a provocative reminder from Sr. Joan Chittister.


What Easter is Really About

“The true division of humanity,” Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “is between those who live in light and those who live in darkness.” Victor Hugo, it seems, understood Easter.

We love to think of Easter as the feast of dazzling light. We get up on Easter Sunday morning knowing that the sorrow of Good Friday is finally ended, that the pain of the cross has been compensated for by a burst of brilliant victory from the gates of the grave, that Jesus is vindicated, that the faith of the disciples is confirmed for all to see, and that everyone lived happily ever after. We love fairy tales. Unfortunately, Easter is not one of them.

On the contrary, Easter is raw reality. Easter stands in stark witness, not to the meaning of death, but to the meaning of what it is to go on despite death, in the face of death—because of death. To celebrate Easter means to stand in the light of the empty tomb and decide what to do next. Until we come to realize that, we stand to misread the meaning not simply of the Easter gospel but of our own lives. We miss the point. We make Easter an historical event rather than a life-changing commitment. We fail to realize that Easter demands as much of us now as it did of the apostles then.

Most of all we miss the very meaning of the Easters that we are dealing with in our own lives, in our own time. 

Easter is the feast that gives meaning to life. It is the feast that never ends. After Easter, the tomb stands open for all of us to enter. If Jesus is risen, then you and I have no choice but to go into the tomb, put on the leftover garments ourselves, and follow Jesus back to Galilee where the poor cry for food and the sick beg to be taken to the pool and the blind wait for the spittle on their eyes to dry. All the fidelity in the world will not substitute for leaving the tomb and beginning the journey all over again. Today. Every day. Always.

That’s what Easter is really about. It is the “division of humanity” to which Hugo refers in his dramatic rendering of the struggle between light and dark. Yes, Easter is about dazzling light—but only if it shines through us.

              —In the Light of the Messengers: Lenten reflections by Joan Chittister, OSB 

Feb 7 – A Heart of Flesh (1, 2, 3, Infinity)

Today’s senryu: Heart of Flesh

First heart of gold then

a greater truth – heart of flesh.

I and Thou are All


Neal Young sings of his search for a Heart of Gold while racing against the time of getting old. (See https://genius.com/Neil-young-heart-of-gold-lyrics)

Martin Buber‘s explains in, I and Thou, that “human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships.”(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_and_Thou)


Joan Chittister‘s book, Heart of Flesh, broadens these concepts to say that “the full humanity of women, leads all of us to new, better ways of being and relating.” (See https://joanchittister.org/books-page/heart-flesh-feminist-spirituality-women-and-men)

The feminist image of God is humble and feeling, nonviolent and empowering. Jesus, the feminist image of God, cures and loves, is vulnerable and receptive, laughs and dances at wedding feasts, cries tears and feels pain. This glimpse of God is the glimpse of otherness at its ultimate. It is in this model of otherness that the feminist puts hope for equality, for recognition, for respect, for the end of the sexism …

The world needs the voice of this otherness in order to hear the cries of the whole human race. The world needs the presence of otherness to redeem it from its headlong plunge for profit, power, comfort, control, individualism, and dominance. The world needs respect for this otherness, not simply patronizing approval.

 —from Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Menby Joan Chittister (Eerdmans)

Yin, Yang, Qi, All

Perhaps another equation worth considering comes from the Tao Te Ching, verse 42:

Tao gives birth to One,
One gives birth to Two,
The Two gives birth to Three,
The Three gives birth to all universal things.
All universal things shoulder the Yin and embrace the Yang.
The Yin and Yang mingle and mix with each other to beget the harmony.


Feb 20 – Darkness Is the Way

Repost from Joan Chittister’s Vision and Viewpoint @ https://joanchittister.org/

Darkness Is the Way We Come To See
The spiritual life does not come cheap. It is not a stroll down a Mary Poppins path with a candy-store God who gives sweets and miracles. It is a walk into the dark with the God who is the light that leads us through darkness.Darkness, I have discovered, is the way we come to see. It creates the depressions that, once faced, teach us to trust. It gives us the sensitivity it takes to understand the depth of the pain in others. It seeds in us the humility it takes to learn to live gently with the rest of the universe. It opens us to new possibilities within ourselves.Darkness is a very spiritual thing.

Myra B. Nagel has written, “The season of Lent is a time to reflect on the cross and its meaning for our lives.” There is no doubt in my mind that the cross is significant in any life. Who ever carries a cross and is the same at the end of the journey as they were at the beginning? The only question is the nature of the change. I have so far always been stronger at the end of a struggle than I was at the outset. But I have always been more independent, distant, isolated, as well. That hasn’t been all bad—but it has, at the same time, taken its toll.

I have discovered over time that the cross is supposed to take its toll on us. It forms us to find God in the shadows of life. Ironically enough, it is the cross that teaches us hope. When we have survived our own cross, risen alive from the grave of despair, we begin to know that we can survive again and again and again, whatever life sends us in the future. It is this hope that carries us from stage to stage in life, singing and dancing around dark corners.

But hope is not a private virtue. Hope makes us witness to the invincibility of the spirit. The hope we bring to others becomes the one sure gift we have to give to those in pain.

The God of the Dance beckons us out of the caves of the soul to faith and trust and new beginnings. It’s when we get trapped in the past—in its details, and its shame, and its narrow boxes and short leashes—that life stops for us. When life is defined for us by others, we limit our sense of ourselves. Then we dismiss the God of Possibility from our lives. We refuse to become the more that we are. We sit on the dung heap of our past and make it our present. We fail to believe that God is. That God is in us. That God is calling us out of the darkness into the light.

Darkness is one of the ways to God, provided we see it as leading to the light. Provided we don’t turn it into the death of our own soul.—from Called to Question by Joan Chittister (Sheed & Ward)

Jan 17 – A Poet More People Should Know – Mary Lou Kownacki

Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
November 29, 1941 ─ January 6, 2023

“Sister Mary Lou published several books of poetry as well as chapbooks of prayers and poems. Her writing appeared in National Catholic ReporterSojournersCommonweal, and others. She compiled and edited numerous books during her time at Pax Christi and later for other publishers including Orbis Books … Her book Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan (Eerdmans) won a first place Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in 2005.” https://eriebenedictines.org/story/memoriam-sister-mary-lou-kownacki-osb

“Of the hundreds of poems that Sister Mary Lou wrote, this one, published in her 2004 book, Between Two Soulsseems especially relevant now.

A Friend’s Funeral

She never gave in to weakness
The eulogist said.
And I prayed my mourners
Would hear a friend who preached:
She gave in to every weakness,
All commandments broken with abandon,
All vows stretched to the altar rail and
Pushed through the pews.
In this way
She immersed herself in the human condition.
Weakness was her strongest virtue.
       —Mary Lou Kownacki

from this week’s Vision and Viewpoint e-newsletter from Joan Chittister.

Here is my humble senryu in response: I Wish We’d Met Sooner

our paths crossed too late

to share a bright high noon – yet

sunsets still bring smiles

Thank you, Mary Lou Kownacki, Joan Chittister, and this week’s e-newsletter “compilers” Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, Anne McCarthy, and Benetvision Staff. See https://joanchittister.org/~joanchit/content/newsletters

Jan 15 – Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Change is difficult, for us and for the collective. Unfortunately, when we make progress, it’s easy to assume that it will continue without our continued effort. No, we must not give up. Our efforts to sustain the progress is needed today and everyday going forward. It takes all of us to make a Beloved Community.

Today’s senryu: Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

listen to prophets,

become a prophet, and change

the future for good

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh statues in the Beloved Community Garden at Magnolia Grove Monastery https://magnoliagrovemonastery.org/photo-gallery/#bwg2/25

See today’s daily meditation from the Center for Action AND Contemplation below and here: https://cac.org/daily-meditations/disrupting-the-status-quo-2023-01-15/

Disrupting the Status Quo

Richard Rohr describes how speaking truth to power is an essential part of the prophet’s mission:

One of the gifts of the prophets is that they evoke a crisis where one did not appear to exist before their truth-telling. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. was blamed for creating violence—but those who had eyes to see and were ready to hear recognized, “My God, the violence was already there!” Structural violence was inherent in the system, but it was denied and disguised. No one was willing to talk about it. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others said, “We’re going to talk about it.”

Prophets always talk about the untalkable and open a huge new area of “talkability.” For those who are willing to go there, it helps us see what we didn’t know how to see until they helped us to see it. That’s how we begin to recognize a prophet—there is this widening of seeing, this deepening of a truth that was always there.

Prophets generate a crisis, so it’s almost understandable why they’re usually called troublemakers and so often killed. They generate the crisis because while everybody else is saying the emperor is beautifully clothed, they are willing to say, “No, he’s naked.” We’re not supposed to say that the emperor has no clothes!

It’s the nature of culture to have its agreed-upon lies. Culture holds itself together by projecting its shadow side elsewhere. That’s called the “scapegoat mechanism.” René Girard, Gil Bailie, and others have pointed out that the scapegoat mechanism is the subtext of the entire biblical revelation. It’s the tendency to export our evil elsewhere and to hate it there, and therefore to remain in splendid delusion. If there isn’t a willingness to be critical of our country, our institution, and ourselves, we certainly can’t be prophets. [1]

When the prophet is missing from the story, the shadow side of things is always out of control, as in much of the world today, where we do not honor wisdom or truth.

It seems the prophet’s job is first to deconstruct current illusions, which is the status quo, and then reconstruct on a new and honest foundation. That is why the prophet is never popular with the comfortable or with those in power. Only a holy few have any patience with the deconstruction of egos and institutions.

The prophets are “radical” teachers in the truest sense of the word. The Latin radix means root, and the prophets go to the root causes and root vices and “root” them out! Their educational method is to expose and accuse with no holds barred. Ministers and religion in general tend to concentrate on effects and symptoms, usually a mopping up exercise after the fact. As someone once put it, we throw life preservers to people drowning in the swollen stream, which is all well and good—but prophets work far upstream to find out why the stream is swollen in the first place. [2]

[1] Adapted from Joan Chittister and Richard RohrProphets Then, Prophets Now (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2006). Available as MP3 download.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Soul Brothers: Men in the Bible Speak to Men Today (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), 31, 39, 40.