IN SEARCH OF THE PATH

“I am willing to leave everything. Let me be your disciple.”

“How does a person choose his Path in life?”

“Through sacrifice. A path that demands sacrifice is a true path.”

The master accidentally bumped into a bookcase. A very rare porcelain vase fell off the shelf and the lad flung himself forward to catch it before it hit the ground. He fell the wrong way and broke his arm. But he was able to save the precious vase.

“Which sacrifice is greater, to see the vase shatter into pieces on the floor or breaking your arm to save it?”

“I don’t know.”

“So then, do not try to guide your choice through sacrifice. The path is chosen by our capacity to compromise with each step we take along the way.”

Source: Based on a story I heard  first from Paolo Coelho

CONSIDER THIS

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.” – John Schaar

EVEN TEACUPS TALK

A grandfather and a grandmother are in a gift shop looking for something to give their granddaughter for her birthday. Suddenly the grandmother spots a beautiful teacup.

“Look at this lovely cup!” she says to the grandfather. He picks it up and exclaims, “You’re right! This is one of the loveliest teacups I’ve ever seen.”

At that point something remarkable happens – something that could happen only in a children’s book. The teacup says to the grandparents, “Thank you for the compliment, but I wasn’t always beautiful.”

Instead of being surprised that the teacup can talk, the grandparents simply ask,  “What do you mean when you say you weren’t always beautiful?”

“Well”, says the teacup, “once I was just an ugly, soggy lump of clay. Until one day someone with dirty wet hands scooped me up and threw me on a potter’s wheel. Then she started turning the wheel faster and faster until I got so dizzy I couldn’t see straight. ‘Stop! Stop!’, I cried.”

But she repeated, ‘Not Yet!’

“Finally she did stop. But then she did something even worse. She put me into a furnace. It got hotter and hotter until I couldn’t stand it.  Again I cried out, ‘Stop! Stop!’

“Still she said, ‘Not yet!’

“Finally, when I thought I was going to burn up, she took me out of the furnace. Then some short lady began to paint me. The fumes from the paint got so bad that I felt sick. ‘Stop, stop!’ I pleaded.

“The short lady too said, ‘Not yet!’

“At last she stopped. But then she gave me back and that other woman put me back into that awful furnace. This time it was hotter than before. And I shouted, ‘Stop! Stop!’

“The woman peered in and said, ‘Not yet!’

“Now, at long last, she took me out of the furnace and let me aside to  cool – ‘Phew.’ When I was completely cooled, a young boy put me in a box with straw all over me and other teacups too. Then a pretty lady put me on this shelf, next to this mirror.

“When I looked in the mirror, I was amazed at myself. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was no longer ugly, soggy, and dirty. Now I glistened. I was beautiful, firm, and clean. Oh, how I cried for joy.

“It was then that I realized that all that suffering was worthwhile. Without it I would still be ugly, soggy and dirty. And it was then that all that pain took on meaning and made some sense to me. It passed, but the beauty it brought remained.”

Source |  Brian Cavabaugh, Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement: Fifth Planting
(Paulist Press; 5th edition, 1998) pages 21-22

CONSIDER THIS

Like clay in the hands of a master potter, so are we in the hands of Life.

 

 

THE GIFT OF AUTOPSY

There was a man who was feeling very poorly, so he went to the clinic for a complete checkup.  When it was all over, his wife asked what the doctors had decided was the problem.  “I really don’t know,” replied the man.  “They wouldn’t tell me a thing.  But I  did eavesdrop a little, and I heard one of them say something I can’t quote figure out.  He said they’d find out for sure at the autopsy!”

Source Dennis R. Clark, Sunday Morning, Reflections on the Word

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • “I do not believe that sheer suf­fering teaches. If suffering alone taught, then all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. All these and other factors combined, if the circumstances are right can teach and can lead to rebirth” | Anne Morrow LindberghHour of Gold, Hour of Lead
  • Not all news is good news. Bad things do happen to good people. Sooner or later every heart gets broken. And even the youngest and tiniest among us know what big hurts feel like.
  • How do we respond to the hurts and losses that stab out hearts?  One creative way is to receive them without fear, naming them with eyes wide open, taking them in, not running away, but walking through them. As we do that, we find that tucked in right next to the hurts is a source of  life, a seed of fresh possibility.

THE STORY OF BAMBOO

Once upon a time in the heart of the Western Kingdom lay a beautiful garden. And there in the cool of the day the Master of the garden liked to walk. Of all the creatures of the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was a gracious and noble bamboo tree. Year after year Bamboo grew yet more noble and beautiful, conscious of her Master’s love and watchful delight, but always modest and gentle.

And often, when the wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside her grave stateliness to dance and play merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance  of the Garden,  which delighted the Master’s heart.

Now one day the Master sat down to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy, Bamboo, in a passion of adoration,  bowed her great head to the ground in loving greeting. The Master spoke: “Bamboo,  I would use you.”

Bamboo flung her head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which she had been made, the day to which she had been growing, hour by hour, the day in which she would find her completion and her destiny. Her voice came softly:  “Master, I am ready. Use me as you will!”

“Bamboo,”  – the Master’s voice was grave, “I would like take you and cut you down.”

“Cut … me … down! Me, whom you, Master, have made the most beautiful in all your garden … cut me down! Not that, not that. Use me for your joy, O Master, but cut me not down!”

“Beloved Bamboo,” – the Master’s voice grew graver still –  “if I do not cut you down, I cannot use you. 

The garden grew still … Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent her proud and glorious head. There came a whisper: “Master, if you cannot use me unless you cut me down … then … do your will and cut!”

“Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I need to cut your leaves and your branches from you also.”

“Master, Master, please spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust, but would you  also take from me my leaves and branches?”

“Bamboo, if I do not cut them away, I cannot use you.”

The Sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low, “Master, cut away.”

“Bamboo, Bamboo, I would also split you in two and cut out your heart, for if I don’t  I cannot use you.”

Then was Bamboo bowed to the ground: “Master, Master … then cut me and split me.”

So did the Master of the garden took Bamboo and cut her down and hacked off her branches and stripped off her leaves and cleaved her in two and cut out her heart. And lifting her gently, he carried her to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then putting one end of broken Bamboo into the spring and the other end into the water channel in his field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo. The clear sparkling water raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo’s torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted and the days went by, and the shoots grew, and the harvest came.

In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in her stately beauty, yet more glorious in her brokenness and humility. For in her beauty she was life abundant, but in her brokenness she became a channel of abundant life to her Master’s world!

Source | Daniel O’Leary, Year of the Heart: A Spirituality for Lovers, (Paulist Press 1989), pages 85-87

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Amidst brokenness, how do we become channels of abundant life?
  • Contemplate the story through two different frames: First, be the bamboo. In a second reading, imagine yourself the master. How do you respond to the two readings? 
  • “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. | Mark 8:34,35
  • “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

 

 

ON PERFECT JOY

One winter day St. Francis was coming to St. Mary of the Angels from Perugia with Brother Leo, and the bitter cold made them suffer keenly. St. Francis called to Brother Leo, who was walking a bit ahead of him, and he said: “Brother Leo, even if the Friars Minor in every country give a great example of holiness and integrity and good edification, nevertheless write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”

And when he had walked on a bit, St. Francis called him again, saying: “Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor gives sight to the blind, heals the paralyzed, drives out devils, gives hearing back to the deaf, makes the lame walk, and restores speech to the dumb, and what is still more, brings back to life a man who has been dead four days, write that perfect joy is not in that.”

And going on a bit, St. Francis cried out again in a strong voice: “Brother Leo, if a Friar Minor knew all languages and all sciences and Scripture, if he also knew bow to prophesy and to reveal not only the future but also the secrets of the consciences and minds of others, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”

And as they walked on, after a while St. Francis called again forcefully: ‘Brother Leo, Little Lamb of God, even if a Friar minor could speak with the voice of an angel, and knew the courses of the stars and the powers of herbs, and knew all about the treasures in the earth, and if be knew the qualities of birds and fishes, animals, humans, roots, trees, rocks, and waters, write down and note carefully that true joy is not in that.”

And going on a bit farther, St. Francis called again strongly: “Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor could preach so well that he should convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that perfect joy is not there.”

Now when he had been talking this way for a distance of two miles, Brother Leo in great amazement asked him: “Father, I beg you in God’s name to tell me where perfect joy is.”

And St. Francis replied; “When we come to St. Mary of the Angels, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the Place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: ‘Who are you?’ And we say: ‘We are two of your brothers.’ And he contradicts us, saying: ‘You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away’ And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls – then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that that porter really knows us and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there!

‘And if we continue to knock, and the porter comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows like bothersome scoundrels, saying; ‘Get away from here, you dirty thieves – go to the hospital! Who do you think you are? You certainly won’t eat or sleep here’ – and if we bear it patiently and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts, Oh, Brother Leo, write that that is perfect joy!

And if later, suffering intensely from hunger and the painful cold, with night falling, we still knock and call, and crying loudly beg them to open for us and let us come in for the love of God, and he grows still more angry and says: ‘Those fellows are bold and shameless ruffians. I’ll give them what they deserve.’  And he comes out with a knotty club, and grasping us by the cowl throws us onto the ground, rolling us in the mud and snow, and beats us with that club so much that he covers our bodies with wounds – if we endure all those evils and insults and blows with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for love of Him, oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy!

‘And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo. Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God’s, as the Apostle says: ‘What have you that you have not received?’ But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: ‘I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.'”

Source | Brother Ugolino, The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi, pages 17-18

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • What is perfect joy for you?
  • Where and how do sufferings, insults and persecution fit in?