Much of life is the one hour you wait for the medicine to kick in, and this week is the hour we are waiting in America. I am waiting.
I was at my monastery in Atchison, Kansas, and overheard one of the sisters say that a sniper had shot police officers. Mealtime discussions with the sisters always include talk of family, teaching, travel, politics, and racism. One sister told me, “I used to live in Kansas City. I was elected the neighborhood watch, so I would sit on the porch and call the police when I saw someone with an automatic weapon.” So she wasn’t nervous that time she visited New York City, right? She was not nervous.
The last month I have spent may hours waiting for my cold medicine, advil, or anxiety meds to kick in. That hour. It’s so long.
I read a lot at the monastery. I read this:
During the Bolshevik revolution… suspects were randomly questioned, rounded up, stripped naked, and shot one by one in the back of the head…. The victims usually requested a chance to say goodbye and because there was no one else, they embraced and kissed their executioners.
I went to see stars, sit out on the hill, they call it “the mount,” but is a Kansas “mount,” a hill you’d only be a little winded to climb. I could only see the small moon, the chimney in town that smokes, the dark edge of trees, the flowers planted around the cement cross. I decided I was tired, and I wanted to get up for eucharist, and I went back inside and climbed the stairs to my room.
I read: “Jonah was the only prophet of Israel sent on a personal mission to the Gentiles…. Not just any foreign territory, Ninevah was a byword for brutality and oppression.” About two years ago, Sunni jihadists blew up the shrine to Jonah in (formerly) Ninvevah. They were supposed to believe Jonah was a great prophet, too. But I guess they didn’t.
When I say I went to the monastery not believing in God, I mean that. I skipped the first few rounds of prayer because I wasn’t ready.
Other sisters and I chatted about dementia. They are an aging group. No one leaves the monastery, they just move to the nursing facility which is part of the campus. One sister with dementia started ripping all the pages out of all the books in the chapel. They had to hide all the prayer books.
People are so angry. And it is summer. American city people know summer means guns and death. My heart is broken, again and again, especially when my former students post their frustration, their losses to gun violence, their fears about the police, a decade of my life working, hoping to be helpful, and was it helpful, did it matter?
I read, “Only fine arts and torture change a man.”
Accusations, so many accusations, of people saying the wrong thing, not having the right feelings, not saying things when they should speak.
We’ve been working on this, though, lots of us, on racism, violence, and, because it’s connected, poverty and crime and education and family health, mental, physical, and spiritual. We’re still working. Lots of us. It’s okay to say “we” even if you’re on a break (I am) and you don’t have to be perfect, or have all the right feelings or knowledge or always say the right thing to be a good person. To care and be helpful.
I spent my whole first morning at the monastery, after I finally woke, reading and crying and reading and crying and crying about a lot of things, everything I hadn’t had time to fully feel.
I wrote, I sat in the chapel, I sat in the cemetery where 150 years of sisters are buried, right where they knew they would be.
Mourn, my people, mourn. Let your pain rise up in your heart and burst forth in you with sobs and cries…. Cry for freedom, for salvation, for redemption. Cry loudly and deeply, and trust that your tears will make your eyes see that the Kingdom is close at hand, yes, at your fingertips!
What I read, in order: The Yellow Brick Road by William J. Bausch, who also quoted George Bernard Shaw, and The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser, who quoted Henry Nouwen on mourning and redemption.