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May Musing

New Springing Forward

It is the middle of May and May first is known as the half way point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. This all to say, we are still in the season of awakening. However, when speaking of a spiritual awakening most often it involves rebirth or being reborn, but not as much about being new. There are similarities, but are different.

In looking first at new; we might get a new TV, a new phone or a new sofa. Though seldom has it been heard of a TV being reborn or the sofa experiencing a rebirth. Although some fresh upholstery the sofa may feel a rebirth and a repaired TV May feel reborn, there is still a difference than new. The similarity is in the change.

The desire for spiritual change, is the most common reason people go for Spiritual Direction. This process takes a look at spiritual experiences and knowledge, to identify where there may be an opening toward awakening. It might be a gradual process of letting go of old habits or thoughts, while also being open to new habits and thoughts.

Although we read about dramatic transformative moments from saints and laypeople, most transformative moments are not like a bolt of lightening. The transformation that most people experience is gradual and happens while awareness becomes new. This does not make the newness within an awakening any less important or any less valid, than an awakening that happens like a bolt of lightening.

The ability we have to see newness in our life begins with the willingness to be open to new. The obstacle most often experienced is thinking there is control in opening to newness. This is where the letting go of the fear of not being able to handle something new, opens us to the meaning of having faith. To have faith that whatever is experienced, can be handled or there will be assistance in some way. This is where we are surrendering to God and being open to that grace. To remember that spiritual awakening does not occur with the intent to do us harm. This even if initially it might feel uncomfortable, to remember there are often adjustments moving toward new.

It might seem more dramatic to say reborn or rebirth, because those words almost command attention as a way to say starting over. Although, a spiritual awakening can feel dramatic, words often fall short to describe spiritual shifts. The danger with dramatic language, is the opportunity to miss all the subtle spiritual shifts. In this way, Spiritual Direction can be like baking a cake. While baking a cake requires a little something added here and there, slow transformation of blended ingredients, taking form, releasing of the old form and a more newness added and evolving with each step. The cake is not reborn, it is new.

Just like in spiritual direction learning what to add, identifying possible distractions and noticing those gradual shifts of awareness, opens up the opportunity to newness. As a Buddhist teacher once said to me, “each moment lets go and becomes a new moment, continually evolving into newness. We may remember the old moment, but with a new way of seeing in each new moment”.

As the season continues to shift into summer, see where newness may appear. See how what may evolve into something new or what may be needed to continually evolve and grow as we spring forward in life.

May Saint of the Month Saint Damien of Molokai

Saint Damien of Molokai

The unofficially-official patron Saint for the Outcasts and Saints Blog.

Feast Day:

May 10

The day of his death April 15, is a minor holiday in Hawaii. His feast day in the Episcopal Church is recognized on April 15.

Patron Saint:

Those with Hanson’s Disease (leper is a slang term), outcasts, Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii and Unofficial patron Saint of living with HIV/AIDS.

Saint Damien of Molokai, was born in Belgium and given the name Jozef De Veuster. After joining The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, in 1860, he took the name Damien after Saint Damian a martyr from the sixth century. Initially he was not selected to go to the colony in Kalupapa, Hawaii, but volunteered after his brother had fallen ill.

In fact, Saint Damien, was initially told he could not join the monastery, because he lacked the necessary education. He left school at thirteen, to go to work to support the family. Saint Damien was, fueled through inspiration of his calling toward missionary work similar to Saint Francis Xavier (the same that was the inspiration for Saint Katherine Drexel, the Saint of the month in March). Though he did not stop seeking his spiritual calling, but started using every opportunity to learn what was needed.

The beginning of Saint Damien of Molokai’s life and the struggle that he had to move toward his calling of joining a religious order, is one of the common threads seen in the lives of saints. He as many other saints did not accept the action of others attempt to cast them out. Although it might be seen as perseverance, for a holy person it offered an opportunity of aligning oneself with Jesus. This is where Saint Damien was able to take the connection to Jesus he experienced, to expand even further into his spiritual life, as he aided others in finding their life.

The connection that he already had with Jesus, moved beyond the doubters of faith, making it possible to humble himself to become a part of a community deemed as unworthy to be part of society. It is said that Kalupapa was selected because of the rugged terrain and the rough seas, making it an almost impossible trek to make. Not really for someone to accidentally happen upon, but so that the residents of Kalupapa who had compromised health could not leave. In that, alignment with Jesus, with those on the outside of the community Saint Damien asked to become a part of that community of outcasts. Upon his arrival, he said, “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all with Jesus Christ”. He understood, he too had to be an outcast to fully understand his faith.

Eventually Saint Damien did succumb to Hanson’s Disease, but not before aiding a community to find their worth. He did not wait for someone close to him to be infected with the disease, before he was able to see the worth of individuals, to have proper housing, a place to worship, healthcare or the many basic needs to care for our whole self, in body, mind and spirit. Saint Damien already knew these people, because he knew Jesus. It was his practices of striving to align with Jesus that he was able to continue toward an even stronger spiritual connection. The connection was strengthened by his actions of bringing more people to Jesus, finding themselves within scripture.

Saint Damien, first found a connection where he could and initially felt familiar. This awareness enabled him, to then fully surrender to God, to meet the needs of people he did not understand, but accepted. He was able to see that we are all God’s children and that the more of us who learn and live this, the stronger we all are.

There are many benefits of having Canonized Saints and Holy People in the church, because it helps us to see ways we can put action into scripture. Such as Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was also known to have put herself into communities not welcome as a part of the greater community.

These holy people through their daily faith practices, would cast themselves outside of their community to align with one of the teachings from Jesus, to not see the divisions we create as humans. They were able to experience within their practices the awareness of how, anyone being separated from Jesus and their community, weakens our spiritual fabric for everyone. The gift we each bring is unique, but first there needs to be an opportunity to be an active participant.

For example, about a year ago, I was part of a group that was asked to look at our life, for a time when we have not felt a part of a group, our family or in some way holding a different experience than the majority. The answers were broad, ranging from having a different gender than co-workers, living through addiction and recovery, to living with cancer, chronic pain, and even having a different spiritual belief than their family. These were moments where each of us felt like an outcast. While also becoming aware, of how this isolation impacted their spiritual life, because of not feeling a part of a community.

This type of awareness offers an opportunity of looking inward. To ask; how did we feel having a different set of experiences than others? Or to be the same person, before someone knew we are different than they initially perceived? This is similar to the experience Jesus had, when people suddenly turned on him. He was still the same man as before, one person made a case against him to lead to his crucifixion. Jesus was cast outward to live his last days as an outcast, setting before us a living example of vulnerability.

As outcasts and saints, we can hold a different awareness to people similar to us, in our human form, enabling us to connect scripture into actions. The sacred thread connecting us into the fabric of our faith, continues to weave throughout our lives. We first have to be open to receive the grace of God. As many holy people, saints and Jesus have demonstrated, everyone is worthy of that grace. Perhaps, our lives can begin to look similar to that of Saint Damien of Molokai, to see the worth of people society has seen as outcasts to strengthen our divine fabric. Thankfully, there are saints who walk upon the Earth to help fellow outcasts to experience their connection to the divine.

April Musings 2018

Communion with the Saints

In 2016, as we were preparing to walk through the Holy Doors, of Saint Peter’s Basilica, during the Year of Mercy, I prayed to and for “our ancestors of spirit”. I was caught by that phrase I had not used before and soon there after, I was able to connect to a deeper meaning of the “communion of saints”. If unfamiliar, “the communion of saints” is part of the final lines that we recite in the Apostle’s Creed, which is suspected to have first appeared in a letter to Pope Siricius from Saint Ambrose of Milan in 390A.D.. The design of this creed is to be a reminder of our faith, as an individual within a spiritual community.

In the final lines of the Apostles Creed (found on page 96 in the Book of Common Prayer) reads, “I believe…., in the communion of saints”, which appears in the middle of several other declarations to connect us into our faith. We make this declaration out loud whether it is in a rosary group, morning prayer or in the privacy of home. This is also how we acknowledge our place as one of those saints when we accept the Eucharist to become a part of our body and the Church body.

It is also where I found further understanding of faith communities. The communion of saints, are our collective stories that continue on when we no longer walk upon the Earth or even at our home Parrish. The saints we sit beside in chapels, naives, Parrish halls and sanctuaries are a part of the communion of saints, not just the holy people we honor on feast days. Each encounter we have is a part of that thread of communion that continues, beyond our immediate existence.

The continued thread of communion moves toward the other parts of our lives, outside of church buildings. The communion of saints, connects us in all directions of time, as there are saints yet to come. We are accepting within our declaration an inner understanding of what the holy people who came before us learned, as we awaken to what we already hold within us. That awakening can unfurl along our contemplative journey of sitting with the Apostles creed. The act of saying the creed whether with a group or privately, helps to connect us with all others declaring these same beliefs of faith around the world.

The connections that may be easy to miss, are our actions that we take out into the world as a part of that communion. Taking ourselves out of our own story within acts of kindness or condolences or a smile or friendly greeting are a few other ways to participate in communion. In Buddhism kindness, sharing compassion such as a smile toward others, is also seen as generosity. Our generosity branches out even beyond our spiritual homes, when we are offering kindness toward others.

There are parishes and churches in different spots in the world that we have visited and participated in some way, whether morning prayer, private prayer in a pew or mass. We become a part of that spiritual thread, taking those traditions into our spiritual experience that we share with others. The thread of “the communion of saints” weaves through other areas of our life during travel and visiting with friends who have moved or friends we have met and grown close to through social media. Whether abroad or to a neighboring city, we carry the wisdom and generosity the saints from our home parishes have shared. We leave our footprint behind, in more ways than our ecological footprint.

Furthermore, I have been able to recognize on recent trips, which included visiting with friends and even friends visiting us, that we are taking that thread of communion into other parts of our lives. Even if it did not include worship or sitting down at a table and even if they do not believe spiritually the same, we were a part of a community melding together our collective life experiences. The generous offering of time and space to those we care about, further connects us to the communion of saints in all directions of time.

Our experiences in faith are personal in that only we understand the relationship we have with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, within our spiritual lives. We do not ask others to get to our understanding in our spiritual life, but we meet our friends where our relationship is and it grows from there onward. This awareness of the “communion of saints”, in a way makes us diplomats of our faith and spirituality. Although, we do not have to have it all figured out and expected to be a theological scholar, we do need to be present to openness of our own spiritual presence. The “communion of saints”, is also the opportunity to choose how others see parts of our spiritual life and how we weave the universal thread of loving-kindness.

April Saint of the Month Saint Mark the Evangelist

Saint Mark the Evangelist

Feast day April 25

Patron saint of: notaries, Barristers and Venice

It can be challenging to relate our everyday life, with scripture, with canonized saints and holy people. Unless we have had a divine experience to connect with to angels, Jesus, Mary or whomever, we can be left struggling to find a connection. Though one way might work for the majority off folks, another way might be more effective for others.

One way is to find a connection in our hobbies, professions, personal experiences and so on, through the lives of patron saints. Such as beekeepers when their bees begin to awaken from hibernation might find a prayer to “The Honey Tongued” Doctor of the Church Saint Ambrose. This offers something that is tangible.

Another is how the Eucharist is a link to the communion of saints, which takes us all the way back when Jesus broke bread with the disciples. (Mark 14:12-25) From that day forward we have a link within the action of accepting Jesus into our life. For anyone who attends a service with communion offered on a weekly basis, this is a weekly reminder, that we are connected and also into scripture.

A creative way I have found to connect to canonized saints and into scripture is through the book Drinking with the Saints. There is also an app for that. A unique book that goes through a whole year learning about some of the canonized saints, their lives and connect us with a beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) of some sort. This is a different kind of tangible, something that adds an action into our connection.

Instead of inventing the wheel so to speak; here is the excerpt on Saint Mark the Evangelist, as found on page 87 and 88. You are about to learn why we have a weeping cherry tree in our garden, that we call Saint Mark, in conveniently named Saint Mark’s Garden.

“St. Mark the Evangelist (d. 68) is traditionally believed to have been a disciple of St. Peter, whose memories of Our Lord Mark recorded in his Gospel. Many also conjecture that Mark is referring to himself when he mentions the man who fled naked for the Garden of Gethsemsne (Mark 14:51). Saint Mark eventually journeyed to Alexandria to spread the faith, where he was martryed by being dragged through the streets. The Coptic Church honors him as it’s founder. Later, the Roman Catholics wanted a piece of him too—literally. In AD 828, Venetian merchants sneaked his relics through a Muslim check point by hiding them in pork, which was unlawful for the Mohammedans to touch. St. Mark’s remains are in the grand Basilica of San Marco in Venice, and the evangelist’s symbol, the lion, became that of the city.

Because St. Mark’s Day is associated with a particular legend about Pope St. Gregory the Great, it has become an occasion for eating cherries—or in our case drink them….

Last call: The battle cry of the Venetian was Piante Lione — Plant the Lion! May St. mark the Lion plant the faith firmly in our hearts.”

St. Mark

3/4 oz. gin

3/4 oz. dry vermouth

1/2 oz. cherry liqueur (e.g., Cherry Heering)

1/2 oz. groseille (red currant) syrup or grenadine

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass.

+Non-alcoholic (Not a part of the book. Always important to include those not of age or dry.)

3/4 oz. cherry juice

4oz. of ginger ale

Add the cherry juice on top to allow the color to fade throughout.

Happy Easter

28

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he* lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead,* and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

11 While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12After the priests* had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13telling them, ‘You must say, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” 14If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ 15So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew+28

March Musings

Healing and Ghosts

Earlier this month I was traveling with my partner in Europe. There were a few sacred spots on our itinerary, one was a visit the ruins of a monastic community at Fountains Abbey. It is tucked into a valley, by a river in North Yorkshire, England. There is a shell left of what was once a Cistercian monastery, still it remains a mystical space.

A friend asked me if I felt it was crowded with all the spirits walking around, when we visited Fountains Abbey. People close to me know I see angels, spirits and in many ways see things most people do not see. I do not believe that I am special and believe everyone can see otherness. Not just, what some people see as supernatural.

If we think about the life around us, like a stage play or some other stage performance, there is the show that happens in front of the audience and a show that happens behind the curtain. If we only want to recognize one part of the performance, taking away portions of the, the cast would perform in the same clothing from beginning to finish of the performance, set pieces would not shift, and lights would not move our attention to other places. The experience and performance would look a lot different. The removal of any one part, changes the translation of the story of what is happening on the stage.

Many things went through my mind while walking around Fountains Abbey. It did not feel crowded as my friend asked, it felt peaceful and wise. I could still feel the chants that were sung through the naive, beginning in the 12th Century. The Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) could still be felt among the remaining pieces of the abbey telling a different story than originally intended.

I wonder if our curiosity of supernatural and understanding things we cannot see the same way we see buildings and material things, is because of our own fear to look beyond what we have right in front of us. To overcome the fear of the unknown. This same fear can have us watching movies or putting ourselves, even unconsciously, into harms way; to project ourselves into a situation to contemplate how we would respond. This leads to the question; if something is not tangible, it is it real or not?

We give power to what is important in our lives, tangible and intangible. Our memories are not something we hold, though inanimate objects might remind us, these things are not the memory. At Fountains Abbey I saw walls, people walking about, trees, rocks and a river. We all carried our story, now the story of the abbey through our own filters and awareness in life. If any of us are lucky at sacred sights, possibly the presence of peace and maybe a spiritual awakening.

For me, I know a time in my life, I would see nothing more than a shell of buildings, I would see the destruction and the violence committed upon a non-violent community. I would have gotten lost in the violence and seeing it everywhere. Instead I saw how we can carry this monastic community around with us. We all see life through the filters of our life experiences. Some of these experiences limit us, while some lift us up, these are our ghosts. We decide which of these ghost we want to give power to, to tell our story. We choose to keep the spirit alive.

Just as the ritual of Baptism unites us to the Holy Spirit, we have to choose to be baptized and to also accept the Holy Spirit into our lives, from that day forward. We give power to the inanimate things in our lives, such as sacred places, a saint medallion we wear or prayer beads we move through our fingers, reminding us of our spiritual life. Ultimately, we decide which material objects and what actions hold power and how much power. The story that tells my life and all our lives, is up to us. Just as some stage performances can have multiple acts, so can ours and we have the opportunity to decide where light is projected.

The ghosts I saw and were aware of, were my own. I saw the ways I have put fear based limitations on myself. I became aware of how in the Baptism I had in the sixth grade connected me to the Holy Spirit, I decided when to fully accept God into my life. That every moment I have the opportunity to renew that connection, much like any stage performance it does not happen without attention, focus and practice. The actions of power and greed can try to eliminate the sacred, but spirit cannot be taken away. We always have the opportunity to begin to heal the wounds of our past, while walking forward in love. It starts with our courage and which ghosts we want to pay attention to.

I will conclude with a prayer that I found myself praying while walking around Fountains Abbey. It was written for people who suffer with HIV/AIDS. However, disease has many names, it is the evil mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, negative thoughts, cancer, material wealth, distractions and _______ and….. Think about the disease (dis-ease) in life and see where the Holy Spirit can be more fully present.

“Disease is so limited;

It cannot cripple love.

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot corrode faith.

It cannot eat away peace.

It cannot destroy confidence.

It cannot kill friendship.

It cannot shut out memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot reduce eternal life.

It cannot quench the Spirit.

It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

In God’s love we rest. Amen.”

March Saint of the Month Saint Katherine Drexel

Saint Katherine Drexel (1858-1955)

Feast day: March 3

Beatified November 20, 1988

Canonized October 1, 2000 by Pope Saint John Paul

Patron saint of: philanthropists and racial justice.

Image of statue in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC

Saint Katherine Drexel, born into a wealthy family in Philadelphia, PA. She is the second canonized saint born in the U.S., just after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Growing up, Saint Katherine Drexel had the ability to study and learn, though always feeling called to serve in faith.

An impact and one reason that led her to seek a spiritual director, was the long suffering from cancer, her mother experienced. Her long term Spiritual Director was Father James O’Conner and also experienced the dedication to prayer from her father each night for 30 minutes.

One of the first acts of charity she and her sisters performed was to donate a portion of their wealth to St. Francis Mission of South Dakota’s Rose Bud Reservation. This was possibly left over desire from a family trip to the western states where she wanted to help the Native Americans they saw, who needed help.

While touring in Europe, she and her sisters had a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, who recommended her to become a missionary. Saint Katherine took her first religious vows on February 12, 1891. She would dedicate the remainder of her life working for American Indian and African Americans, until her death in 1955.

She dedicated all of her inheritance to found a number of primary schools and Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic African American University. In addition to building the first mission schools for Native American children in Santa Fe. In addition to finding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891. They are still active today, continuing on Saint Katherine Drexel’s devotion to the Eucharist.

There are many saints and spiritual people who, like Saint Katherine Drexel, Saint Francis, The Buddha and others who founded communities and were driven to aid the poor, were first born into financial comfort. For example, The Buddha, much like Saint Katherine Drexel, left the comforts of their wealth behind to focus on their spiritual life.

These individuals had already experienced life that included all they needed, while still knowing it did not bring them happiness. They each experienced suffering of sadness or something that forced them to ask those spiritually deepening questions. For Saint Katherine Drexel, the question was asking how she could be of assistance to Native Americans and African Americans, during a time of racial divide and lack of understanding.

Saint Katherine Drexel donated all of her inheritance from her family, to build schools and universities and meet the needs of underserved populations. She knew that money could not bring her happiness, knowing there so many others in need around her. As a fellow saint, she cast herself out, to be one with others in need, she found happiness within divine things and not human things.

*Image with a quote some from the public domain.

*The image statue was taken by me in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.

February Musings

Wisdom and Compassion

The word compassion, might be one of those words or a part of a catch phrase, frequently tossed around these days. Although, it might be used without understanding the whole value it holds in our everyday existence. For some, compassion can look scary, while it can be comforting to others. Hopefully it is something we all experience or have experienced in our lifetime.

It may possibly be our human construct of black and white thinking, that limits our ability to fully embrace compassion. This black and white view, most common around us, can alter the full benefit of compassion and can even leave some feeling taken advantage of. Furthermore, some believe compassion is an all or nothing act, making this exhausting view of compassion to seem unattainable. This ultimately limits the full benefit of compassion. If we first have a healthy relationship with compassion we are better able to take action to empower or lift others.

As outcasts, experiencing compassion be limited, if at all. As humans if we do not understand something or someone, our first reflex is to remove the cause of discomfort. While some spiritual practices, teach us to sit with the discomfort gaining understanding of the source, not all spiritual practices have this. The practice is to not allow discomfort to control our thoughts and actions. We begin to live in fear, when we allow our thoughts to control us. By sitting with the discomfort we can let go of thinking, we do not become our thoughts. Our thoughts are part of our egos which, does not include compassion. In addition if we are constantly thinking and trying to think our way through a discomfort, we can get lost too far away from our current moment. This is the mindful look at compassion because, it is not possible to think about how a discomfort will be in ten minutes, we are not there. In ten minutes the discomfort may have subsided. Acting with compassion allows us to care for our current needs first, then to plan as best we can for the future. If we are already calm, then we carry calm into the next moment. This is a part of compassion for oneself.

To help with understanding compassion, it is also necessary to look at wisdom. Few people want to see someone else hurt, neglected or in some way experiencing pain. Again, nobody wants to experience discomfort and studies show, our brain responds with empathy when we see someone else experiencing discomfort.

It is possible to experience offering so much compassion, that it becomes hard to be compassionate. Compassion fatigue is a real thing. The aspect wisdom offers is what balances compassion. Wisdom balances compassion, because it helps us to understand how we can be of assistance, while sustaining our own existence in compassion or returning to self compassion quicker. This enables us to continue offering compassion, in more situations and to more people. Although we would like to think we could give of ourselves until we could not any longer, in truth we cannot do that long term. Even Saint Mother Teresa, who worked tirelessly with outcasts in Calcutta, was known to take days off and take time to rest and for personal care. She practically embodied the example of compassion in action, by also remembering herself.

It is wisdom that also reminds us, the most important person that deserves compassion, is ourselves. It is when we are able to show ourselves compassion, that we are able to offer the most care for others. This is when we love our neighbors as ourself.

Looking for how to add wisdom before moving into action, is a way of offering sustainable compassion. I once had a spiritual mentor who said to ask these questions before jumping into action; Can it or does it harm me or anyone else? Are the actions I am taking for my benefit, for someone else or the person in need? Though these can offer somewhat vague answers, only we know what will work best for ourselves.

The wisdom in compassion is being able to tell if the compassion offered is helping someone to empower themselves. If compassion becomes doing it all for someone else or taking on all their pain, then nobody gains any wisdom in life. The best compassion is to meet someone where they are, to guide others while living our own life and remembering self compassion.

It is the generosity of compassion, that feeds souls. That the most subtle kind of compassion, of kindness or a warm smile, can reach past our realm of comprehension. There is a lot of beauty in compassion and even more beauty when compassion also holds the balance of wisdom and the awareness of spreading compassion in all directions. This wise compassion moves, both inward and outward.

*Image and quote of Saint Mother Teresa obtained and used, from the public domain.

February Saint of the Month

Absalom Jones (1746-1818)

Feast day: February 13

This month the Saint of the month is not a canonized saint with the Roman Catholic Church, as the previous few have been. Saints come in many ways and from many spiritual paths, Absalom Jones is recognized in the Anglican Tradiiton for the devotion he showed and the gifts he left behind. All while refusing to accept the limitations society tried to give him as an outcast.

Part of being an outcast, is knowing who we are inside and knowing our own self worth, then moving beyond the obstacles society tries to limit or condemn us by. These obstacles of all sizes might be some of the hardest parts of being an outcast, by accepting the awareness others are not going to like us because of our race, addiction, sexual orientation, gender-identity, poverty, and so on. It is part of the journey of our own path, to show a different way of living is possible, no matter how small a shift of broader awareness it may be.

Many of the leaders or catalysts for social change may not be recognized for theIr contributions during their lifetime. The need is seen. Then someone will plant the seed and leave it to nurture and grow. It takes someone to first break and stir up the soil, then plant the seed. The life of Absalom Jones is just that, a seed planter. Although he was born into slavery, purchasing his freedom in 1784, after he paid for the freedom of his wife six years earlier. He taught himself to read, continuing to see the need and the opportunities for other African-Americans.

He is not the first African American to be ordained in the U.S., that goes to Reverend Lemuel Haynes. However, Absalom Jones, is the first Ordained African American in the Episcopal Church in 1795 and also founded the first all black church in America, St. Thomas Episcopal church in Philadelphia. The church was made up of members from the Free African Society, that Jones and friend Richard Allen (1760-1831) started when black church members were asked to sit apart from the white members of the church, in either the balcony or the narthex during services. St. Thomas is still serving the community today, along with some 90 other churches that were at one time all black churches. St. Thomas celebrated their two year anniversary in 1992. Later on, Absalom Jones, again with Richard Allen now ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, started the African Methodist-Episcopal Church (AME).

Bishop White is the person who ordained both Richard Allen and Absalom Jones.

It could be said that part of being an outcast and a saint is love for self and the love of others. To take opportunities to build communities that are empowered, uplifted and recognizing the value everyone holds. As an outcast, we are able to see the presence of God when we learn to turn toward God for comfort and celebrations of life. However, that looks for each of us, with music, in meditation, contemplative prayer or however we are able to hear God’s inner guidance, leading us toward being whole.

Absalom Jones, heard God’s calling. Just as with the disciples, God does not call the prepared, God prepares a way for the called. He saw the need and opportunities for everyone to be of service to one another, not being stopped with limitations society tried to lay upon them because of their race. For Absalom, this way included starting multiple churches that reached out to an underserved community. This enabled a place for all God’s children to hear the word of God and to have the opportunity to be fully present in service.

The life of Absalom Jones continues with congregations who are a part of the Episcopal and AME Churches that he and others helped to establish and more. Then well into the future, in Atlanta with the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing carries on the mission of meeting the needs of the community. Absalom planted a seed, he did not see or know how far reaching the impact would reach. Though it may not be a church, it might be an outreach of kindness to another person, being a guide for someone, prayer and so many other ways we can be present to people around us and to God. We like Absalom Jones hold the same opportunity to start a ripple for God, that can expand beyond our comprehension.

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