Sunday, August 30, 2009

Finishing Up

My time here at the Maranatha House of L'Arche Stratford is coming to end. In this packed cocktail of emotions I am experiencing, I've deemed my time here very valuable and freeing. As I am writing this, everyone is in bed except Neil who just got up to put some random items in his room out into the hall. He does this every night, and over the months here I've come to understand this action as more than a humourous ritual, but as something that makes Neil really unique. The way the Neil and the other members of this household comfortably live out their uniqueness and faithfulness to who they really are creates not only troubles at times, but also a great environment where I as an assistant can receive a deep gift from them. That gift is permission for me to embrace who I am a deep level. It's a gift found in the radicalism of the core members, and how they live their lives of what Henri Nouwen describes as "passion". I leave here with the sadness of friendships that have been so life giving to me ending, but in the coming distance I know I will grow to value and hold onto the gifts everyone has given me here even more than I ever could here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Richard Rohr on Contemplation

"Without a daily contemplative stance, I would have given up on the church, America, many people, and surely myself a long time ago. Without a daily contemplative practice, I would likely be a cynical and even negative person by now, but by Somebody’s Kindness, I am not. With contemplative eyes, I can live with a certain non-dual consciousness that often allows me to be merciful to the moment, patient with human failure, and generous toward the maddening issues of our time. For me, it is the very shape of Christian salvation or any salvation. My sadness is that so few have been taught this older and wiser tradition, although many still come to it by great love and great suffering."
-Richard Rohr

I will share more of Rohr's ideas when I get my book back from Randell.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Importance of Celebration

I think L'Arche over-values celebration, this can be surmised given the amount of cake I've eaten in just the past week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Peter Maurin: Apostle To The World

Although, I haven't really read much of his writings and I would say my grasp on this ideas are pretty basic. Most of my understanding comes from a synthesis of his ideas written by others. But from what I have read, I find that Maurin offers an insightful and fundamental guide for what it means to be a Christian in pursuit of social justice. His ideas have provided me with the beginnings of a basis for understanding the experiences and stories of people I meet daily on the margins of society. He provides a vision of inclusion, rooted in Christian spirituality that for me provides an anchor for belief, as I often struggle to find faith to be relevant in this day in age. In many ways, we can describe Maurin as a modern day prophet. Maurin was a French peasant who emigrated to Canada and then the United States in search of his Christian vocation. He is likely best known has being a co-founder with Dorothy Day and the source of the personalist philosophy of the Catholic Worker Movement. Maurin falls within a Franciscan tradition of voluntary poverty, which Maurin expanded upon to mean a village economy, where crafts, farming, and a personal way of life could be established. The foundation of this life is a religious affirmation from which flow prayer and communal sharing. Poverty, in Maurin's view, opened one to the call of God and neighbor and made the person and the community dependent on both. For me this is significant as it gives legitimacy to a focus on social order and figuring out what it means to live missionary in regards to influencing and changing society as whole. Maurin thought that the social order had a singular mission: to protect and nurture the person's journey toward the mystery of God, thus promoting the possibility of salvation. The social order existed to mirror and express the spiritual dimensions of the person. The trappings of an order built for itself--large-scale industry affluence, and militarism--that we live in today are certainly elements of structural sin, that most of Christianity fails to even acknowledge. For Maurin the Catholic tradition provided the resources for personal and societal transformation. Jesus is at the center of this transformation, and to thus believe is to enter a new life of love and service. A person who follows Jesus is intimately involved in the life of a people who have been called to transform self and bid others to enter that transformation. Communities of Christians are formed precisely for these reasons; to praise God, to order personal life, and to reorder the large social life. For me, the spiritual life of these communities rooted in the story of Jesus and the traditions that have evolved from his life and death offer a rootedness providing for a profound level of renunciation commitment and sacrifice. Perhaps this can be seen here at L'Arche, where many for deeply religious reasons have commited themselves to lifetimes of living amongst people with devepmental disabilities. Even just from my four months here, I have gained a deep appreciation for what that kind of commitment entails. As I move out to Vancouver, I look forward to a deeper experience of what it means to live in a community similar to what Maurin advocates for. Keep reading my blog as I hope to share some of these experiences with you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spiritual Roots of Environmental Desecration

Ivan Illich, describes the environmental desecration that we are witnessing as being rooted in "a corruption in man's self-image". This assertion brings up very different implications than the "simple survival" motive for political action in defense of the environment. Illich says that the only solution to such a crisis is people learning to work together and care for each other. This can be deomstrated in that idea that its the same tools that destroy the environment also injure social relations. Our environmental destruction is a symptom of the deeper insolation that we have shaped ourselves into. Illich further expands upon this idea but discussing the difference between hope and expectation. Illich describes Hope, in its strong sense, means a trusting faith in the goodness of nature, it centres desire on a person from whom we await a gift. Expectation on the other hand means reliance on a results which are planned and controlled by man, a predictable process which will procude what we have the right to claim. Expectation results in the idea that "Man can do what God cannot, namely manipulate others for their own salvation". Illich points the many "tools" like our education, healthcare, and transportations systems, as well as capitalist industrial logic in general as being focused on expectation rather than hope. Are not these type of systems (or "tools" as illich terms them) built with little or no respect for the limits that the environment needs to exist? Are not these systems the ones that contribute to the isolation we experience in our society? How do we move our society from being structured around expectation, to one of hope which fosters "autonomous and creative intercourse between persons"? Such questions are not easily answered, but hopefully this is a starting point. Illich who comes from a faith background, hints at religion as one element that can provide a deep rootedness that can strongly counter many of the ills we experience today.