I write, speak, invest, network, and question to stimulate fruitful conversation. Let's talk about human flourishing! It begins with freedom. Holy leisure is the key to human being, freedom and generativity. Please join me in the adventure of realizing Christ!
St. Teresa of Avila had such great advice for us on how to pray. Her ‘method’ is simple, but profoundly helpful. I’ve noticed that the simple, interior hospitality toward God is the most helpful disposition to cultivate in order to avoid intellectual confusion and ideology that interferes with that sweet communion of the heart.
I love her imagery of having a little fire going within to warm us as we talk together. “A few little straws,” she says, are “of more use for kindling the fire, than any amount of wood” if those straws are laid down with humility.
I concentrated on Teresa’s third step in prayer – the response – and showed how superbly, elegantly perfect it is to insist on this last step whenever we talk about prayer. With that response, our free will grows, and with it our interior freedom. The more free we are, the more capable we are of responding, of acting in freedom, and thus, of loving God and responding to the world as He would. I had written an article for Canticle magazine on St. Teresa’s teaching about prayer, but hadn’t connected that method with an approach to freedom, or creativity.
Later, when I gave the first ‘Triangle Talk,’ I realized how critically necessary it is to carry out a resolution that embodies what Fr. Luigi Giussani calls the ‘judgment with heart in it.’ St. Teresa would have loved that phrase, I think, as her method involves both mind and heart in a way that generates a creative resolution to act.
Unity: one-ness, integrity, wholeness, continuity, undividedness, solidarity, relatedness and harmony of the parts of a whole, consistency; a quality: the attribute or characteristic or nature of something that is, that has being, that is real.
The word unity describes the relationship between things and thus it is specific to the perspective from which you view those two things; a living work of art, of beauty, that Christ is creating among us. Because its elements are alive – human beings – it is constantly a ‘new thing’, a dynamic thing formed of the movement between elements and not a static thing formed once and for all.
In this talk, I took the St. Paul’s plea to the Ephesians that they “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4: 1-3) and looked at four ‘faces’ of unity to see what that unity looks like with the different people in our lives.
1. Unity with Unbelievers
2. Unity with ‘Taskmasters’
3. Unity with Spouses
4. Unity with Self
This was an interesting topic to work on, and I like the handout I developed for it: Damned Lies and Divine Truths. If I give this talk again, I’d like to include mention of the spirituality of unity as understood by Chiara Lubich, foundress of the Focolare movement. I had a wonderful experience with Focolarini in Ottmaring, Germany during which they taught me priceless lessons from her insights into this crucial quality of community. The key, they say, to unity: identification with Christ forsaken.
Here’s a post about becoming small so as to create unity with another person, to facilitate loving communication.
How do you get from three wishes to magnifying God to lions and seeds and Holy-Holy-Holy to rubber bands, balls and balloons?? Well, I’ll tell you! You ask for this talk. It’s a lot of fun to give, and very hard to sum up in a short precis. I’m giving a picture of the glorious freedom of the children of God as fully real, fully realized, three dimensional, whole. To do that, I have to get my audience to speak that same language. We do that with concrete examples of three kinds of balance. I hate to say it, but you really just have to be there!
: appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful; also : responsive to or appreciative of what is pleasurable to the senses
Just in case you wondered whether mothers have a role in the aesthetic education of their children, I give you these definitions. Maybe it seems obvious to you, but to many moms at home it’s news that they have a key role in the development of this essential aspect of their child’s being. Feeling frumpy, house not as clean as it should be, no adult conversations all day, no time for extras like art and music…does this sound like any young mom you know? It sounds like lots of young moms to me. That’s why I enjoy encouraging them that even with all those realities, they still make a priceless contribution to more than the mere physical care of the little ones.
To make a case against two opposing ways of un-making beauty, I invented two characters, Dishrag Dora and Pushy Polly, who grow more like Beautiful Beatrice the more they respond to Christ’s call to the narrow way, the via media. The beauty that is becoming YOU, becoming realized in and finding expression through you, is not something you must generate, but something you must accept, grow into, possess, allow to develop, learn to dwell in, cultivate. Because the Beauty is Christ, is already real, is working to be made fully manifest. Dora and Polly lose capacity for that Beauty when they fail to cultivate heart freedom, responsiveness, the affective dimension.
‘My’ moms learn to suffer well, to be affected and so to develop their children’s capacity to be affected and to make judgements with a reason informed by the heart’s sense of what is good, pleasing and perfect. There’s so much more to this one, yet it is all another way of saying that true freedom, true beauty, true education, true relationship with Christ all go together on that narrow way.
I love Dorothy Sayers’ book The Mind of the Maker, and enjoy taking people through it to share her insights into the creative mind of God. She and I are both struck by the strange truth that, though God is (above all things?) a Creator, and we are made in His image, there is not much attention paid to developing an understanding of what ‘being a creator’ means.
It seems extra-spiritual, perhaps, but isn’t this right to the point? If we care what it means to be a good father, a wise ruler, a truthful judge (because these metaphors help us understand God and our own roles in life), but we care nothing about learning to be a creator, a storyteller, a dramatist, a musician, a poet, an artist of any kind, what does that say about our ‘spirituality’??
Yet rarely do I see Christians taking a drawing class, for instance, because they assume there is something huge to learn there about God and His ways; about themselves and their ways. But there is! When you realize it is the whole person who sees and not just the eyes or brain, you begin to realize how much more there is to see than you have understood.
When you try to act, but cannot release yourself to allow the giving of the character to a waiting audience, you find out something about your self-consciousness, and understand more deeply what the Incarnation cost Christ. When you think you have sound (even great) ideas, but never put them to the test of struggling to articulate them, opening them to scrutiny and judgment and comparison, you are missing something about who you are and what virtue is.
Well, I could go on and on, and wouldn’t have to if everyone would just get on board and read books like this! Being a creator, an artist, a maker of form, is a path of spiritual growth, if you understand the potential and the limits of this metaphor.