January 26, 2009

Perspective

How we choose to look at things matters so much in the spiritual life. As I practice watchfulness of thoughts and daily mindfulness, which patterns of thinking do I nourish and which ones do I reject or allow to pass by?

This came home to me when I read beautiful reflections here and here on a visit to the house where I live. In the course of a day, do I choose to focus on the difficulties and distractions of parish ministry or worse, on my own sins and failings projected onto others? Or do I watch my thoughts so as not to nourish such as these, but to notice "a long and joyous past" and "a profound sense of brotherhood and self-sacrificing love."

Spirituality, and the spirit of prayer and devotion which must be at its heart, is an exercise of true freedom. And to be free is to be able to choose the right and the best. This goes for our thoughts and perspective on each other and our situation in life as much as it does for anything else. Let us choose God's interpretation of the world around us and see with His eyes. May I learn to watch my thoughts with peaceful vigilance, so that I may see with the Vision of the Holy Spirit.

2 comments:

Matt G. said...

I'm glad at least someone found those reflections useful besides me! haha

Anyway, in your defense it is a lot easier for someone from the outside to see things in a different way than someone on the inside. Despite all the beauty I saw while I was there, I can see why, perhaps, life there could be difficult, especially as one of the few young friars among a community of retired friars, some of whom require constant attention.

Either way, sometimes I like to think of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem "As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame," which goes like this:

"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to flight out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves-goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is-
Christ-for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
to the Father through the features of men's faces."

I find that last stanza rather revealing, particularly the part "for Christ plays in ten thousand places,/ Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/to the Father through the features of men's faces." From a purely philosophical standpoint, all things that are exist only by the grace of God. Those things which are not of God do not exist in real terms but only exist as a lack of existence, so, for example, as darkness is the absence of light so is injustice the absence of justice. Those things not of God are dependent upon what is of God. When one can see the reality that all things exist in and for God well then the whole world becomes just a little more beautiful.

I have to emphasize "when" in that previous statement, however, because it is not always easy. I'm sometimes not all that good at it myself. There are good days and bad days, easy days and difficult days. You certainly notice things I don't notice and certainly possess a lot more knowledge on many things than I do, so that's all in your favor.

Peace, brother, and pass along my regards to the brothers at St. Clare's... I certainly do miss that place.

4narnia said...

hi Fr. C!
those are such beautiful reflections! thanks for sharing them! i agree with what you say, that "how we choose to look at things matters so much in the spiritual life." although i don't see things from the "inside," as you do, i see that mostly all of the Capuchin friars that i have met and who i know, all seem to have a "real sense of brotherhood and self-sacrificing love," as you put it in your post. and, you, Fr. C, seem to always see things with the "peaceful vigilance" that you pray for and i think that you do see things and look at things with the "vision of the Holy spirit." you're always so kind, considerate and encouraging to everyone. like Matt G says, we all have our "good days & bad days; easy days & difficult days." so, as you also say, "spirituality, and the spirit of prayer and devotion which must be at its heart, is an exercise of true freedom." PEACE!
~tara t~