Friday, June 6, 2014

Montezuma Castle National Monument


Montezuma Castle is one of a number of well-preserved ancient dwellings in north central Arizona.  An imposing 20 room, 5-story structure built into a recess in a white limestone cliff about 70 feet above the ground, a multi-family “prehistoric high rise apartment complex." When first discovered the ruins were thought to be Aztec in origin, hence the name bestowed on them by early explorers, but they are now known to belong to the Sinagua Indian people who farmed the surrounding land between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, before abandoning the area.  

Since 1951, visitors have not been permitted to climb up to the ruins due to their unstable condition. The Visitor Center gives the history of the site and it's people including artifacts that were discovered.   Amazingly, the interior of the castle remains almost completely intact, including many of the original ceiling support beams even though they were installed more than 800 years ago. 

Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small church set within the rock mesas.

My Mom & Dad loved to take trips in the great southwest. Just outside of Sedona, AZ is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Chapel appears to rise out of the surrounding red rocks. The towering cross and awesome panorama of buttes, valley and sky are a source of inspiration inviting rest and reflection
Built in the 1950s, the chapel’s front façade is comprised of windows and a cross that juts from a 1,000-foot high rock wall and rises 90 feet into the air. It’s easy to access on Chapel Road. The church is modest, which seems fitting for its special spot set in the rocks, and offers seemingly endless views of the area. 
Chapel of the Holy Cross belongs to the parish of St. John Vianney in Sedona and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. Visitors are invited to attend a brief evening prayer service on Monday evenings at 5pm.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prepare the Inflammable Substance


God alone can teach us to love God. All we can do is prepare the inflammable substance as best we can and, as the physicists say nowadays, wait for the chain reaction. All we can do, within the limitations of our miserable egotism, is listen for and help along that feeble cry which struggles to say, Father! Abba!

The conversion of the mind is difficult enough, but how much more so the conversion of the heart! For the love of God is total, embracing all things, and jealous; it is at once personal and transcendent. It beckons us to that path which leads to His heart of hearts, for God is love. He is not too weary after all the miracles, nor all the miseries in which we founder, nor all the extremities through which our fortunes lead us, to reveal Himself to us as our one hope of salvation. - Paul Claudel, I Believe in God (appearing in The Magnificat)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The journey stretches out with a beat of a heart - The mystery we call Labyrinth

Chartres Cathedral, about 1750, Jean Baptiste Rigaud
A wonderful poem by William Stafford, from Smokes’ Way (1983) puts into words the experience of walking a labyrinth.

When God watches you walk, you are/
neither straight nor crooked. The journey stretches out, and all of its reasons/ beat like a heart. Coming back, no triumph, no regret, you fold into the curves,/
left, right, and arrive. You touch the door. The road straightens behind you./

It is now. It has all come true.

Gil Bailie elaborates further on the poem: "Our lives meander all over taking different turns, running into dead ends and reverses and suddenly, with God’s grace we arrive at where we are going. We touch the door and the path straightens out behind us. I have a friend who says that if I met myself back when I was 20, he would not recognize me, but I would recognize him. Well, the door for us is the Cross and the scriptures straighten behind us. When we touch that, then we go back and read it again. We read it for the second time and we say: Christ is the answer and the Cross is the cure.  Now we can see what is happening in this story." 

And now, as Simone Weil reveals, we take our place at the mouth of the labyrinth:

"The beauty of the world is at the mouth of the labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening" (1951, Waiting for God, pp. 163-164).

The eleven circuit Bon Secours Labyrinth is the focal point of a one-acre sacred space surrounded by tall shade trees, plants, flowers and meditation benches.
My first experience with a labyrinth was here at the Bon Secours Center during a Shalem Institute "Soul of the Executive" program in October 2000. During the first residency, a 6 day retreat, I walked the labyrinth 4 times, each time coming away a bit disoriented as my memories were being stirred and quieted at the same time. Each leaving of the center of the labyrinth I sensed a fear, as in a loss of balance with an unsettling peace, not one I had been accustom. 

Over time and with spiritual direction I came to realize that this dis-ease was "me" being displaced at the center of the universe - of the labyrinth if you will. A major part of this disorientation was that my memories were being transformed, so as they were no longer "my" memories but Christ's in which I shared. I admit that It seems all so scary as I came to understand what St Paul proclaimed, "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). The re-visualizing of my memories is nothing short of this "I" that clung to a false security formed by this world - putting "me" at the center, to the constitution of a new "I" in Christ, now alive through His life, death and resurrection at the center.

So as Simone Weil describes, I too, after exiting the labyrinth, found myself near its entrance ready to nudge the next passerby into the mystery.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

If freedom for all is universal then responsibility for all is universal.

Excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The words of  the deceased Priest and Monk, the Elder Zossima


"Mother darling," he would say, "there must be servants and masters, but if so I will be the servant of my servants, the same as they are to me. And another thing, mother, every one of us has sinned against all men, and I more than any."

Mother positively smiled at that, smiled through her tears. "Why, how could you have sinned against all men, more than all? Robbers and murderers have done that, but what sin have you committed yet, that you hold yourself more guilty than all?"

"Mother, little heart of mine," he said (he had begun using such strange caressing words at that time), "little heart of mine, my joy, believe me, everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything. I don't know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even. And how is it we went on then living, getting angry and not knowing?"

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Standing near the entrance of the labyrinth - Simone Weil

Simone Weil 

The beauty of the world is at the mouth of the labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening.
 (1951, Waiting for God, pp. 163-164).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Great video "I am struggling with confession"


From Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction blog Fr. John and Dan Burke talk about common struggles with confession and how we can better understand and enter into the grace of this sacrament.