Benediction

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


Bless those who curse you, pray for the ones who mistreat you.

Luke 6:28

Three decades past,
I was blessed to be among fisherfolk
by the banks of Amazon.

Regularly, I found myself surrounded
by swarming clouds
of chattering children.

“Me dê uma benção!Give me a blessing!”
they begged and beamed,
as they clambered all over me.

Putting palm to each holy head,
I extended the expected benediction:
“Abençoado! – Blessed be you!”

So frail in the face of so many challenges,
I wondered about their future
as I willed and worried and prayed for wellbeing.

Even after all the years,
I can recall their shining faces and joyful voices.
And echoing that benison, still I wonder what became of them.

That singular command
I do not understand,
Bless what there is for being,
Which has to be obeyed, for
What else am I made for … ?

W. H. Auden

In the end, how we respond
to the momentous challenges of this time
will determine who and what will endure.

When cursing, we careen down a slippery slope,
till, head over heart in tumbled-down rancor,
we are left with bruises that add ignominy to animosity.

But blessing is the fulcrum between blight and beauty,
since those who know their blessedness
bring benediction to our holy mess.

Blessing transforms
the sub-stance (under-being) of our experience
with under-standing.

Choosing benediction – to speak well –
cannot make any one or thing
any more holy than it already is.

In blessing we buff for shining display
what is already sacred,
and somehow this changes everything.

Such blessing power, given us all,
presents us with the luminous authority
to re-consecrate whatsoever has been desecrated.

Blessed the clear-hearted who see the Holy One (in everyone and everything).

Matthew 5:8

In unsettled times,
Jesus preaches scandalous subversion
that goes against the grain of meritocracy.

Unmasking myopia, with penetrating perspective,
he presents a corrective
to sharpen our seeing and brighten our holy being.

Because you are simple, humble and mourning,
peace-loving, justice-hungry, lost or forsaken;
you are welcome; you are already holy; you are blessed.

Blessed too are you who are targeted
because you stand,
sullied with the exploited of the earth.

Blessing simply gives voice
and intention
to our deepest motivation.

And we become beatitudes
by welcoming these benedictions
and extending them broadly.

Beneath that look
behind those eyes
benevolence in abundance lies.

Have you beheld
the blessed gaze
that pierces pain-filled, hateful haze?

To gild each hurt and hope in life
such power to you is given,
dissolving loss back into love with that gracious glare of heaven.

joe

May you be moved
to transfigure the substance of daily experience
by blessing whatever graces your gaze.

So fragile the petal the earth, as fragile as love.

Mira

As you cast a caring eye across your life-scape,
squint if you must to see love’s golden hue
reflected in strangers and friends and enemies too.

Choose to burnish the good
and put a shine
on these tarnished times.

Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

So, while there is breath within
and a sparkle in your eye,
waste not this fleeting chance

to let the weary world know
just how much in love with life you are,
just how blessed it is to be here together with You.

joe

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A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT


Linked by Loss

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

[In memory of Br. Luigi (Gino) Masseroni SX, a dear heart who succumbed to Covid 19 in Parma, Italy.]

Seeker, How have the losses you have endured leavened your heart with love?


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Mark 15:34

As walls and barriers
become means of communication
and stumbling blocks turn into stepping-stones,

so too isolation
becomes a vehicle
for deeper levels of connection.

As silence and darkness
can isolate and insulate,
so too do they integrate us all under their pall.

As islands share the same ocean,
so too are we
all alone together.

As the wordless prayer,
released from the core,
speaks of depths that mouths cannot utter,

so those who are deeply in love
find ways and means
to communicate and connect.

Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.

Simone Weil

Suddenly in shutdown we mourn
those easy opportunities to meet, gather, hug and hold
while we fast from the tender touch of human companions.

Consider the loved ones whose touch you crave,
whose presence is a sight for sore eyes,
whose smile a tonic for the soul.

And then, there are always those neighbors
(near and not so nearby) who are fringe-dwellers;
whose roof is a bridge, whose home a tent.

And we have kin in homes and centers
who are already familiar
with solitary days and lonely nights.

Now too
are we given some small taste
of the bitter boredom of incarceration.

By love, pain becomes healing.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī

There is no vaccine
to immunize us against
the pang and powerlessness of loss,

and isolation cuts
most deeply into those scarred souls
already sidelined by society.

The Christ said…
My hands need to touch you again,
my divine senses and eyes require
your soul’s beauty near.
Forgive me, my love for the suffering
our separation brought.

Thomas Aquinas

For in the largesse of loss,
are we not all intimately linked?
Therefore, we can grieve together.

Seclusion opens that silent space
in which we welcome a world of worry,
joining so many suffer with us.

And in this disquiet, devoid of solution,
resolution can coalesce,
born of suffering shared.

For without darkness
there can be no enlightenment,
without solitude, no true experience of intimate communion.

And might the perspective,
gained for distancing,
also invite us to re-imagine our collective lives

as our ache for togetherness
whets the appetite
for joyful reunion?

Spirit of the living Christ,
even in our darkest moments,
in the searchings of our mind,
in the longing of our hearts,
in the pains of our bodies,
we thirst for your presence.
And all around
the broken people and places of our planet
also thirst for you.
Enlarge our vision,
calm our hearts and walk with all
who travel the road of our worlds’ suffering and pain
.

Peter Millar

May separation
draw you into a deeper embrace,
in solitude and stillness at the eye of this storm.

joe

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Visit my website: inthestormstill.com

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Quiet Disquiet

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


Early in the morning, while still quite dark,
he got up, left for a quiet place, and prayed there.

Mark 1:35

{Concerning this critical time.
No-one is
immune to suffering.

As we wake up to the awareness that,
whether we like it or not, we are on a painful journey together,
isolation and distancing can feel like cruel medicine.

Yet, our collective suffering
can be a crucible of transformation
where social confinement becomes gestational.

For in the quiet disquiet
we can also make space to welcome a worried world
where so many suffer with us.

It is within disquiet, devoid of solution,
that resolution can coalesce,
born of suffering shared.}

Seeker,
Do you know you are loved? How do you know?

As ceaseless waves and booming surf,
while filled with agitation,
can also calm our anxious thoughts, our fussing and frustration,

so, even in our trying times,
when fraught with troubled task;
we still might find tranquility and in the quiet bask.

If we will be quiet and ready enough,
we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
Henry David Thoreau

We often speak
of background noise,
but fail to notice ambient quiet.

For every stirring sound or commotion
comes gift-wrapped;
soaked in all-surrounding silence.

In silence God ceases to be an object
and becomes an experience.
Thomas Merton

More than lack of noise,
pervasive sound-less-ness is the vehicle
for every breathed or bellowed expression.

Nor is such stillness
determined by or limited to
immediate surroundings.

Quiet is, more precisely, a disposition;
a state of mind and heart; a way of being;
a presence as much as a place.

No matter
where we locate our lives,
it is possible, though not always easy,

to welcome
silence amid clamor, stillness in agitation
and solitude in a throng.

How we present ourselves—
awake or unavailable– shapes how we perceive
and participate in the real.

Lead us from the unreal into the real. Upanishads

There is quiet within disquiet, and vice versa.
And the singular precondition for stillness is desire;
a readiness to attend it.

No amount of recitation and ritual
can draw us into quiet disquiet,
unless we are willing to be led.

Quiet presence opens minds,
readies hearts to receive, and makes accessible
love in the pause that punctuates each breath.

Love is the Holy One,
so any who reside in love
abide in the Holy One,
who likewise abides in them.

1 John 4:16

It is apt to speak
of “falling silent” as in letting go,
sinking or surrendering.

So vast, that dark noiseless blanket
we call “space,”
in which every vibration is carried, absorbed, dissipated.

Yet, falling into this quiet obscurity
we are re-minded of the whispered secret
that breathes us into being:

“You are beloved.
And so too everything in the arc
of compassion’s radiance is loved into being.”

The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whisper’d in the sounds of silence.

Paul Simon

We cannot erase disquiet.
The struggles and sorrows of living
are not background noise.

Love is also a verb;
momentum to disturb complacency
with passion that pains, burning as it heals.

Those aches, hopes, hurts—
gritty and global—
are not a side-show we can ignore.

So, drawn into quietude,
with heart attuned to that spot beyond thought
and the reach of answers,

may you listen through the clash of events
to the resonance beyond the strike,
and heed its silent plea:

Wherever disturbance, seek the still-point.
Wherever peace, look also for disquiet.
Wherever distress, make space for compassion.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A new book by Joe Grant:
https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace


Embers of Wisdom, Glimmers of Hope

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

You are light for this world.
A city built on a hillside cannot hide.
Nobody lights a lamp to put it under cover, but places it on a stand
to share its light with all in the household.

Matthew 5:14-15

When this darkness dispels
as all darkness eventually does,
we will emerge into a quite different world, thanks be to Thee!

For the culture that helped cultivate
the terrors of today
is not capable of truly dispelling them.

Lacking care and cohesion,
fractured interests and segregated systems,
fail to rouse, respond, reassure and inspire radical compassion.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. William L. Watkinson

So, it falls upon each of us to kindle love’s light;
to quietly take the initiative presented by necessity,
and boldly don the mantle of moral leadership in critical times.

How we creatively and carefully respond,
even in forced isolation,
will define the kinds of people and communities that emerge.

This broken world is in our hands.
There is wisdom here to be mined,
lessons to learn, questions to pursue in the school of shared suffering.

This period of painful separation
invites us, in homes, towns and cities, to listen hard and long,
and pay our dues of attention to needs and neighbors.

In the crucible much is melted.
Molds must be made to forge,
shape and hold new ways of being human together.

In the fevered firelight
cruel lessons are revealed
teaching us just how interwoven we are with each and every other.

Share your experience with others.
Share joys and double them.
Share pain and cut it in half.

David Steindl-Rast

Plagues present paradigms. Pandemic need not lead to pandemonium.
In its wake we can awaken and respond
with a contagion of kindness and demands for just systems.

We live by hope that is ours to share.
In dark times our senses heighten.
We keep our eyes peeled, ready to be surprised.

There is a gift between
the lines of the news,
but we will have to dig for it.

We heed our fears, so we are not led by them.
We listen longer for deeper wisdom
that glows with hopeful promise that we can rewire this world.

For wisdom and hope appear
when we are sorely seeking and hungry,
devoid of easy answers or quick fixes.

Only in the dark do we perceive
the constellation of a trillion tiny acts of kindness,
countless blessings, heartfelt petitions.

Consider the heroism of everyday workers,
beacons of the human spirit who step into the dark
to guarantee light, food, health care, security.

As events unfold, in ways we cannot fathom,
we walk by faith, not knowing.
Since our story is not yet written, we look ahead for pathfinders.

And you are the spark that ignites a flickering lamp and lets us see again,
face to face, the holy light reflected in every other.
Since we are not abandoned, we must refuse to abandon one another.

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

Scottish Blessing

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
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A Quality of Presence

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

He was at prayer in a certain place,
and when he finished, one of the disciples asked,
“Master, teach us to pray…”
Luke 11:1

Seeker,
Has anyone ever asked, “How are you being?”

Though “doing nothing” and “being busy”
may seem contradictory in essence,
they each describe a certain quality of presence.

A vague memory
stirs of early
school days,

when our overwrought teacher
sought to educate us
on verbs and nouns.

“Verbs,” she extolled,
“are ‘doing words’.
They tell about something we can DO.”

Offering a few examples,
she tasked her eager pupils
to make lists of ‘doing words’.

Quickly, I exhausted those activities
that easily stream into a young mind;
“running, fishing, playing …”,

till I was arrested, mid-flow,
by a conundrum:
Is ‘being’ a ‘doing word’?

For the first time,
I witnessed hesitation in my teacher as,
unselfconsciously, I shared my simple query.

Blissfully unaware
of philosophical ramifications,
I was merely interested in one more word for my list.

“Yes, ‘being’ is a verb,” she asserted.
“But it doesn’t tell about WHAT we are doing.
It tells us HOW we are doing … the way we do something.”

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God,
who regards not the greatness of the work,
but the love with which it is performed.
Brother Lawrence

It is helpful
to keep in mind
how we have named ourselves.

Human beings,
are ‘BE-ers’ who can DO,
not only ‘DO-ers’ who can also BE.

Nor are being and doing
ever mutually exclusive.
There is always , in both, a quality of presence that bears attention.

No matter where we place our self,
we bring with us a state of mind and heart
that extends some degree of engagement.

How and how deeply
we choose to relate and connect
determines our action and the way we are affected.

Where can I escape your spirit
or flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

Wherever I am, You are already there!
Praying, it seems, is a ‘being word’;
a way of being present and engaged.

Whether in the infinite experience of mountain-top amazement
or awe-filled intimacy of the vale of shadow and pain,
prayerfulness invites a quality of presence and attention.

Whenever we fall – body, mind, soul –
into un-self-conscious presence, we become receptive
of the raw reality of being in presence engaged.

Whether walking, washing dishes, tending to garden or neighbor,
when we set the heart a-wondering,
the soul will surely seek out connection.

This quality of being prayerfully engaged
may be practiced
but not programmed.

If I have faith enough to move mountains but I am lacking love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

But, if we fixate on the mechanics of meditation,
‘doing it right’, or the correctness of our ideas, ‘being right,’
prayers and presumptions prevent us being in loving relationship.

No wonder the Teacher
avoided offering pupils
a method on which to hang the properties of prayerful engagement.

Christ above us, beneath us,
beside us, within us,
what need have we for temples made with hands?
George MacLeod

Rather, the Master modeled
prayerful attention and waited
for the hunger to present itself.

Helping hands are better than praying lips. Mother Teresa

In your rising and laying down,
may you let that quality of Omnipresence
envelop, assail and inspire you to engagement.

joe

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Pilgrim Heart

Photo Joe Grant @ 2020

Yet today, tomorrow, and the next I must be on my way… Luke 13:33

Seeker,
What is it you are looking for, and where has it taken you?

A tale is told
of a lad who lived
by the bonnie banks of a highland loch.

On rare sundrenched mornings
when the misty veil lifted, he noticed,
along the farther shore, light sparkling on distant windows.

He dreamed up a wondrous place—
a whitewashed cottage
nestled among the heather at the foot of a glen.

And he yearned to undertake
the long trek around the loch
to visit that magical place and discover who lived therein.

So, he rose before midsummer dawn,
when light lasted longest,
to set out on his quest.

It was evening when at last
he rounded the shore and, in the gloaming
glimpsed a humble home not unlike his own.

From the upper window
a young lass
called out her greeting,

as she pointed
to the faraway head of the loch and lilted:
‘See that light, how lovely must it be there.’

Following her gaze,
his eyes fell upon the windows of his far-flung home,
that captured the amber glow of the dying day.

‘Aye,’ he nodded,
‘surely it is a holy place.’
And turned his face homeward.

When the Spirit makes thin the canvas
we see that the universe is a creation.
Gwenallt Jones

Whether we know it or not,
we are
always travelling.

Even standing still,
sojourners and voyagers all are we,
on a pilgrim planet adrift in a cosmic sea.

No matter where
we lay roots down,
still we ache for home unfound.

There is no such beauty
As where you belong.
Rise up, follow me
I will lead you home.
Stephen Paulus

And who has not felt that pang
we named ‘nostalgia’—
pain for a place long past.

Between questing and resting,
our hearts reach for places
not quite familiar but longed for and loved.

The goal of spirituality is homecoming. John O’Donohue

The draw of seasons
and celestial cycles
urges creatures, in migrating millions, to move.

And, as perennial nomads,
we too feel a lust to wander and explore
landscapes wild, within us and behind each horizon.

Like the cries of geese on the wing,
the lament of exiled, refugee, migrant and homeless souls
whets our ache for homeland.

Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee. Augustine of Hippo

The meandering path
of pilgrimage leads us
to leave and to leave behind;

a quest that begs questions:
What are we walking away from?
What are moving toward?

The only true voyage of discovery,
the only fountain of Eternal Youth,
would be not to visit strange lands
but to possess other eyes…
Marcel Proust

Weaving inner labyrinths,
walking ancient paths, seeking sacred centering,
pilgrims depart hoping to return renewed,

so that in homecoming
they might look lovingly upon the familiar
with vision restored.

The compassing of the God of life upon thee
The compassing of the Christ of love upon thee
The compassing of the Spirit of grace upon thee.
The compassing of the Three preserve thee.
Carmina Gadelica

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my new website: inthestormstill.com

A New Book by Joe Grant