Sunday, July 7, 2013


Three points (of light?) I shared with my novice brothers when it was my turn to share on Tuesday.

1. Brothers are a mystery, not a puzzle. You can't solve them. You enter them. For all the knowledge we gained about each other through personality tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the enneagram, we found ourselves making mistakes in attempts to get along, anyway. Puzzles like crosswords and jigsaws are fun to finish, but that is precisely their point, to be finished. Persons cannot be dismissed so easily; they are not to be "finished," or dismissed, period. For the enthusiast, puzzles can be ego-boosters because they reveal mastery. But human beings are not things to be mastered, but persons to whom we relate. Puzzles appeal to us because they give us a sense of control: to every question there is an answer, to every clue a meaning, to every piece a place where it fits. But human beings are not to be handled so objectively. They are mysteries, not puzzles. I distinguish one from the other this way: you can understand why Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is a great work of art, you can comprehend how it "works" visually and why it succeeds as a composition, but in the end you either succumb to the charm of Mona Lisa's mysterious smile or you don't, which is the point of mystery. And so it is with brothers: you can figure out what makes them tick and never connect with their souls. You must regard them in their phenomenality and let them into your life; and you must try to enter their lives. This is the meaning of communion. (One final subpoint: whereas puzzles conceal their truth, their reality, mysteries reveal their shining truth, their luminous reality, though that light is not easily apparent. It's kind of what we mean when we say something is "hiding in plain sight.")

2. Like and dislike get in the way of love. Don't let them. I have waxed philosophical about liking and loving before, but this year my words, though they grasp truth, were proved hollow by my deeds and omissions. The day of recollection we had on the Gospel of John and the San Damiano Cross in late November challenged me to the core, and I blogged about this at the time. Over the year I learned that if I want to love the brothers, I need to abandon even the desire to love them insofar as such a prayer turns the focus back on myself and away from the other who is to be loved. Stop praying selfishly to be a lover, and just love already. And if you cannot speak or act in love for your brother, at least begin to pray for the brother that he may be loved. I cannot begin to describe the miracles that such simple prayers wrought in my interpersonal relationships. Grace does indeed transform nature turned inward.

3. Fraternity without minority is blind; minority without fraternity is lame. To the first half of that statement: I found myself being a better brother to my religious family when I was able to share the gifts of our fraternity with the poor of the world, particularly the prisoners in Lompoc, and the Catholic Worker community in Guadalupe. To the latter half of that statement: Jesus of Nazareth, confessed to be the Christ, the Messiah, emptied himself ... for whom? Saint Paul says Jesus Christ made himself poor ... for whom? If I rejoice in the assurance that I have been freed from sinful ways of living, is it for my own sake alone? I am being over-obviously rhetorical. If I have discovered the secret of holy poverty, will I share it? And will I cease to be so self-righteous, and so self-deceiving, as to prefer to grant all my charity the people I agree with politically and philosophically, or the people I do not have to interact with daily, and deprive the people with whom I make a home, or the people I regard coolly?

Okay, enough for now. I will return to this thread throughout the week.

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