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Autumn…Falling Leaves…Rising Hopes

A post about the passage of time AND an introduction to a courageous woman – Sr. Joan Chittister, who’s not afraid to speak TRUTH to power.

Reconnecting with old friends after many years is a powerful way to experience the reality of the passage of time – much more than looking in a mirror. In a looking glass, our reflection ages ever so slowly, hiding time’s advances from our awareness. When we come face-to-face with old friends, their faces become our true mirrors…

At the start of Fall 2019, I received the following poem from a guy named Buddy who was from my old Queens neighborhood. He sent it as a reply to another email on which I had been copied. The original email came from Richie, a surfing and hanging out friend that I had recently reconnected with after almost 40 years. Richie copied both Buddy and me on that first email.

Here’s the poem…allow its imagery and truth to mix in with the fallen/falling leaves of your own lives…

On the edge of autumn

September has a strange and wonderful feeling. It is the best part of the summer and the hardest part of the summer. Just when summer gets perfect—fresh nights, soft sun, casual breezes, crushingly full and quietly cooling trees, empty beaches and free weekends—it ends.

Life is like that, too. Just when we get it right, it starts to change. The job gets easy and we know just how to do it and they tell us we’re retired. The children grow up and get reasonable and they leave home just when it’s nice to have them around. The days get less full of work but we’re older now and too stiff to play. The money we never had enough of to spend on “extras” abounds after the mortgage is paid off, but the desire for expensive travel and clothing and entertainment has waned.

We celebrate the autumn equinox this month—one of only two days of the year in which daytime and nighttime are of exactly equal length. From now on daytime will begin to wane.

But there is nothing to fear from this diminishment of the kind of life associated with sunlight. The night times of life have their beauty and their lessons, too.

That’s life on the edge of autumn. And that’s beautiful. If we have the humility for it.

Humility is a natural virtue. It’s one of those things that everybody has to get eventually or else die in misery. Diminishment, for instance, is one of the facts of life that breeds humility and diminishment is part of every experience. We get to practice it all our lives. Humility is the survival mechanism of life.

—from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister

From her site:

“Passion for God

Passion for justice

Passion for life”

From her site:

Joan Chittister is one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time. For 50 years she has passionately advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and church renewal. A much sought-after speaker, counselor and clear voice that bridges across all religions, she is also a best-selling author of more than 60 books, hundreds of articles, and an online column for the National Catholic Reporter. She has received numerous writing awards and honors for her work, and is a noted international lecturer as well as a former fellow at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University, England.

Joan Chittister currently serves as co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the UN, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders.

Guest Appearances

In 2019 Sister Joan was the featured guest of Oprah Winfrey on "Super Soul Sunday," about her book, The Time is Now. Her first interview with Oprah was in 2015. She has appeared on “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert, “60 Minutes,” “CBS News,” “NOW” with Bill Moyers and numerous BBC and NPR programs including “Weekend Edition Sunday” with Liane Hansen and “On Being” with Krista Tippett. She is one of the most popular and requested speakers at the iconic Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York State.

In 2014 the Joan Chittister Lecture Series was inaugurated at Mercyhurst University, Erie, PA, in conjunction with the dedication of the The Helen Boyle Memorial Archive in Honor of Joan D. Chittister. In 2015 Sister Joan was "In Conversation" with Maria Shriver, and in 2017 with Cokie Roberts for the lecture series.

She was an adviser for the groundbreaking report, “A Woman’s Nation,” led by Maria Shriver (2009) and was a member of the TED prize-sponsored “Council of Sages,” an interfaith group that developed a Charter for Compassion (2009) being promulgated worldwide with all faith organizations.

She served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization of the leaders of Catholic religious women in the US, president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses, and was prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie for 12 years. She received her doctorate in speech communications from Penn State University, the primary site of her archive collection.

Joan Chittister is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. She is executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality and the founder and animator of Monasteries of the Heart, a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers.

“Life must be lived forward but we can only understand it backwards... an archive holds the key to the imagination that drove [the work] it preserves and the results that evolved. An archive exposes the lighthouse and the hermit cave where old ideas are kept and new ideas can begin.”

—Joan Chittister

End of citations from her site

A Woman Who Speaks Out WILL Attract Attention and Censure

“Chittister describes her focus as empowering women in the church as well as laypeople, but the Eighty-three-year-old nun has long been a vocal advocate of feminism within the Roman Catholic Church.”

Whenever 2 or More are Gathered…There WILL Be Power to Transform

“World-renowned contemplatives, Sr. Joan Chittister and Fr. Richard Rohr take us deep within the human spirit to show us that quest for spiritual life leads us unavoidably into our deep connection to all life and all people. We find there new eyes to see and new ears to hear. At the depths, we wake up to the realities of all human experience and discover that we cannot turn our backs on any suffering, any oppression or any injustice. To nurture the human spirit is to discover that we live in a sea of human connectedness.

Disk one contains Sr. Joan’s two provocative presentations: The Divine Feminine: Its Place In Our Lives, parts one and two, and Woman, Power & Peace: A New Way to Tell the Story, parts one and two.

Disc two contains Fr. Richard’s compelling lectures that focus on the progressive stages of human spiritual development. The lectures are: The Human Spirit, parts 1-4. Disc two also contains a closing Q & A session in which Sr. Joan and Fr. Rohr respond to questions from the audience.”

Wisdom from Sr. Joan

Compassion: The ability to feel pain that’s not our own

· Science has discovered that our brains are hard-wired for compassion

· At the heart of all religions is some form of a golden rule: “Do to another and you would want them to do to you.”

· How we deal with our own pain is how we’ll deal with the pain of another. Richard Rohr says it this way, “If we don’t transform our pain, we will transmit it.”

· We need to find our ways into the lives of those who suffer, until their sufferings scrape away our indifference to them. (Come join me in working with the Poor People’s Campaign – this group is helping me apply Sr. Joan’s wisdom.)

· We must model compassion in our actions so we become role models for our impressionable youth, who often idolize poor models.

· We need to join with others & groups whose very purpose is compassion.

Others have echoed her last offering...

Peace, tOM


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