Wisdom of Two Monks
Several years ago, I was struggling with the issue of belonging. But perhaps, the surface issue was understood as ‘fitting in’. I grew up in a certain kind of religious context and it was all about ‘fitting’. We needed to believe the same thing and act in similar ways. Fitting in equaled a deeper human need – belonging.
Over the past 25 years in my life, many religious paradigms have shattered and opened to new realities. This has been a deeply personal journey which has impacted friendships, communities of faith, vocation, and more. Many questions have lived in me about where I belong now – and through some powerful conversations with two monks, I received a grace about true belonging.
I was in Niagara Falls at the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre during my time of training for spiritual direction. One of the Carmelites there, Father Michael, became a good friend and we chatted over many things. One day, as he helped me set up for an evening of music I was creating, I chatted with him about my sense of not fitting in or having a sense of belonging with any particular spiritual community in the way I had known in the past. I shared about the angst and lostness it created in me. He listened. And then, he stood, looked right in my face and said most pragmatically, “Cathy, don’t you know? You don’t belong anywhere!”
It was a forceful thing to say. And it shook me a little. I don’t belong anywhere? What might that mean?
About five hours later, it was time for dinner. I found myself sitting by Father Eric, a Jesuit monk who was a guest lecturer. We had a beautiful conversation and I ended up sharing with him in a similar way about my angst of not belonging, not fitting in. He also listened deeply and quietly. Gently, he turned towards me and quietly said, “Cathy, don’t you know? You belong everywhere!”
It was an astounding experience. These two wise men sharing seemingly opposite responses to my heart cry within hours of each other without awareness of the other! I laughed and cried as I experienced the synchronicity of the moment.
Could it be that these two responses were two sides of the same coin? I don’t belong anywhere, and I truly belong everywhere?
Was there a gift in not fitting in? I didn’t feel like Father Michael’s words meant to harm, but rather to invite me to a reality that I might feel out of place at times and to not take it personally. I felt an awareness that if I listened, I could find treasure in not fitting in, that there was wisdom to be gained if I didn’t run from the tension.
And then, the opposite reality – that I belong everywhere. This also felt like an invitation of wisdom. Could I know a reality of belonging – even when I didn’t fit in? Could I know a reality of belonging that was about being created in Love – and not about what others thought of me? Could it be that belonging was known through an inner reality, through the soul living from a deep truth?
As I pondered this kind of soul belonging, it allowed me to find peace in the tension of not belonging! This began to be a place of freedom within. Whether I was part of a social context or not, I could ‘carry’ an inner belonging that was rooted, kind, generous, and full of love.
In the beautiful work I am privileged of doing through spiritual direction, retreat work, and spiritual formation, I listen to the stories of many, many lives. One common thread I experience is of hearing many hearts who yearn for belonging. Many hearts who long for ‘home’.
Belonging doesn’t come from an institution, a country, a city, a group, a relationship. Belonging is a soul journey – of finding home within, knowing that we are made in Love and our lives our precious.
It is my passion to share this message – that you, wherever you are, are precious. Your life is significant. You matter. And, you belong.
I’ll close with this blessing from the book, Love Breathes with Me II
Face to Face
May you know the gentle hands of Love on your forehead.
May you know the sweet breath of Love on your face.
May you know the upholding strength of Love at your back.
May you know the undergirding support of Love under your feet.
May you know the well of Love’s creativity rising from your belly.
May you know the wideness of Love’s mercy in your heart.
May you know the kindness of Love in your eyes.
May you know the song of Love in your ears.
May you know the call of Love in your soul.
May you lose track of where you end and Love begins.
May you dance all your days in the flow of union with this Love
Until you meet
Face to face.
Cathy AJ Hardy