“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E.E. Cummings
November 7, 2021
I came across this quote again this morning and it made me so grateful, once again, for the mentors, teachers and spiritual guides who have believed in me. We all lose sight of the preciousness of our lives. We all lose sight that we are valuable. Our culture pushes us to find our value in external success and outward beauty. We can believe that we are only valuable ‘if’ I am this or that. Instead, when we truly are seen by another, we can awaken to the truth that we are simply valuable because we are. To know this is to discover the dignity of being human. We have forgotten so much.
We witness our forgetting in how we treat each other. Lately, I’ve been gut-wrenched at how I’m witnessing our treatment of one another and the preciousness of the earth. Social media is full of labelling and cut-offs in relationships. The news is full of how we are hurting the land we walk upon and call home. We are reminded of those suffering in war-torn areas, homeless and hungry. In the quiet places of listening to souls through spiritual direction, I hear the suffering of those who have known spiritual abuse, sexual assault and severe abandonment from those who should be trusted. My heart breaks again and again. Sometimes all I can do is cry with the suffering I hear and see.
Today, I walked in the woods for my prayer and meditation. What to do with the suffering we are inflicting on one another? Have we forgotten how to really ‘see’ another? Tears fell down my cheeks as I felt the pain of what I have witnessed this past week on a global, local and personal level. In that moment, a small bird came and sat on a branch close to me and cocked her head as she looked me in the eye. “Do not despair”, she said to me. “Do not lose hope.” Soon, a chorus of birds surrounded me, playing and singing and dancing among the fall leaves and bushes as I sat upon a log, listening to the nearby creek.
The Celtic way of spirituality is one that is guiding my life more and more… inviting me to pay attention to the messages of Creation, and in this moment, the voice of the bird. In his latest book, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul, J. Philip Newell writes, “… the Celtic tradition has been saying all along, that we cannot contain the sacred. Rather, we are to look for it everywhere, and we are to serve it and be liberators of it in one another and in the earth.”
He also writes: “In the Celtic tradition it was said that we suffer from soul-forgetfulness. We have forgotten who we are and have fallen out of true relationship with the earth and with one another. Thus, the path to well-being is not about becoming something other than ourselves or about acquiring a spiritual knowledge that is essentially foreign to us. It is about waking up to acknowledge that is deep in the very fabric of our being, and it is about living in relation to this wisdom.”
The Celtic way is one that acknowledges all of Creation is alive with the essence of the Divine. This is the essence of what the French scientist, Jesuit priest, and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin expressed in so much of his work and writings. J. Philip Newell writes of Teilhard de Chardin: “When we experience the beat of this sacredness deep within us or encounter it in the body of the earth or the body of another, we have a sense of being addressed by name, said Teilhard. In other words, the life at the heart of all life is not just energy; it is presence. The universe is radically relational. In and through matter we are born for relationship, and at the heart of relationship with the earth and one another is relationship with the divine.”
Teilhard was one of many mystics not understood by the institutional church and all his writings were banned by the church in his lifetime, with many reading his writings by candlelight in secret by those inspired by his insights. His words evoked a knowing and shimmer of light that is growing every year since his passing.
As I listen to many souls, I am hearing a growing chorus of longing and yearning for how to live out a spirituality that is connected to the truth of our being, to the earth, to one another that many don’t find through any institution.
A few years ago, I was struggling myself with where I fit with the institution of the church, the spiritual home I have known my whole life. Where is my spiritual home? My belonging? I was ‘too Christian’ for those outside of the church. I was ‘not Christian enough’ for those within the church. One day, I had a unique experience in expressing this inner struggle of belonging with two different monks. The first was a Carmelite monk and I shared with him my struggles of how to live out my ever-evolving faith and my questions of where I fit or belonged. He turned to me and said, “Cathy, isn’t it obvious? You don’t belong anywhere!” Well, that was shocking and a little bit disturbing. But was it true? I didn’t belong anywhere. He didn’t say it in judgment – just an acknowledgement of a truth.
A few hours later, I had another encounter with and elder Jesuit monk. I ended up sharing with him also – my struggle with knowing where I fit and how to live out my faith journey. He turned to me with great kindness and said the following, “Cathy, isn’t it obvious? You belong everywhere!”
I couldn’t believe it! Within one day, I was given the direction of my life. I don’t belong anywhere and I belong everywhere. My spirituality may not reflect the institution of my child-hood. That is OK. My faith continues to evolve and grow as I taste the Divine in all of creation as I did this morning in the song of the birds. I belong to this earth. I belong to you, my brothers and sisters in this human experience. I belong to my soul, this beautiful essence in me that lives in this body that I get to live in for this life. I belong to the Divine, Love, who is my true home.
Brother Roger said that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion, but to remind us that we belong to our Creator, our Source, our Life. We are all invited to pray, (as in the Aramaic), Oh Father/Mother of us all.
And so, in the midst of my tears of despair at how we are treating one another, the suffering of the world, the bird comes to me… and this gift of creation carries the hope of the Divine as she calls me to lift my eyes, my head and hope even yet.
May we, as in the inspirational words of e.e. cummings, remember to truly listen to one another, releasing curiosity and hope instead of cut-offs and despair, releasing love and beauty instead of pain and sorrow.
May the intimacy that Jesus knew with his Father/Mother be known in our hearts that we may radiate the ever abundant Love that is at the heart of the universe and available to us all if we only open our hearts and remember the truth of who we are.