Sending you deep green, lush Irish blessings from "the waters and the wild" of Ireland! I trust you are well. I receive e-mails and FB messages from many of you and I want to say how good it is to stay in touch. Your encouragement is sustaining. Thank you.
I'm writing to you on the day of turning or the winter solstice: the shortest, darkest day of the year. But immediately following , each day receives more and more light. The ancient Celts and those megalithic peoples before them were very much aware of this moment in time, a turning point for them.A threshold and a time of wonder. Out of this darkness - light. In the midst of our deepest darkness -a light shines. Here at Ireland's New Grange, the 5,000 year old ritual site, on this day a single shaft of light enters and illuminates the whole inner chamber. Are we not this chamber? And doesn't the Celtic Christ , the Cosmic Christ shine even now in all of us?
It seems like a long time since we have been together. Living here in Ireland these past months has been a time of study, reading, writing, journaling and much reflection. In my own darkness...searching for light. Living on a relatively small island gives one a keen awareness of the mystery and powers of nature. The winds, rains, and surrounding sea seem at times to want to carry this little island away. So far we're still here with our feet on the earth.
Starting this past August immediatley after returning from two weeks at Rolling Ridge/Stillpoint in West Virginia for the Pilgrimage of Peace I began post-graduate studies in spirituality at a little college called All Hallows in Dublin. It is a fine place, a lovely little garden surrounded by a rock wall. Remember the story of the shepherd and the sleeping king and the opening in the rock wall? A very good place to think, pray, imagine and generally go inward. About twenty people from all over the world have come together here to pursue their studies in spirituality. It is a joy and an education to meet and listen to stories and perspectives from Ethiopia, Brazil, Africa, Indonesia, Myranmar, India... Deep listening to one another, one to one, and in small groups is a regular practice here, part of the program. My own focus is on Irish Celtic Spirituality. There is much to learn and being here in this ancient Celtic land of light and darkness , wind and waves, being with the Irish people, is a very good way to learn it. The Irish have much to teach us. The implications of this earthy, lyrical, imaginative and community centered way are profound both for individual and societal transformation, not to mention my own. And being in spiritual direction again is an essential part of it all. More light... more darkness...
One of the authors/teachers whom I would share with you is that of John Moriarty. He died some years ago. He was a great story teller , a philosopher and a mystic. You can check him out on youtube or find a copy of his book called Invoking Ireland ( Maybe Tom at Potter's House has a copy). But be warned- he is a wild man! At any moment he may leap off the page on you! Several of the stories that I tell now are from him. I'm coming to see these ancient stories as more than mere tales. They are ways of seeing; ways of being in the world. They take us back and in and out. Back to ancestors and earth, into depth of soul and spirit, and then outward to engage and to even re-create the world, knowing perhaps a little bit more of who we really are. By entering these stories we can re-mem-ber something of our soulful self that once lived( and still does) in harmony with wind and wave. I love these stories and look forward to sharing them with you.
Another author, full of light, whom I have encountered is Etty Hillesum. Writing at the time of the Nazi occupation in Holland around 1942 this young woman's Diary is full of insight and wisdom; a liberated and liberating companion , for sure. Especially worth noting is her capacity to always see the beautiful, the good, the meaningful . Her love of life is voracious. And her continual decision to love and to learn to love in response to the horrors of the Nazi persecution is something to take slowly, gratefully into the body, like light in the early morning.
One last name I want to share with you is that of Vaclav Havel, a shining light in the midst of a politically repressive society in the 1960s and 70's. His essay called " The Power of the Powerless" is full of the most beautifully clear and penetrating thoughts on what it means to be a free human being within the structures of any society. I heard that he died just the other day. During this season of darkness and light we honor this man who dared to shine a great light into a terrible darkness.
Each one of these authors offers us a way of responding to the ongoing violence in our society. Each one a unique path of peace and companion along the way.
The light continues to shine... The democratic risings continue to grow calling more and more people in every country to wake up and see the urgent need for economic justice and a more fair distribution of resources. Over the past few months I have been encourgaged by the Occupy movement as more and more people join in with body and soul to ask important questions and raise issues of fundamental significance. Some have criticized the movement for not having the answers and being too diverse in their concerns. But I see all this as a strength. They don't have the answers. But in their diversity they are rasing the questions of justice and equity. Essential questions. Urgent questions. And they can be very creative. I love the "mike check" they create in order for one person to speak to a large gathering. And many of them, perhaps most are from the younger generation. " And the young shall lead them..." Shall we not join in and support them in our common democratic struggle?
I look forward to seeing many of you in the U.S. this summer in retreats and workshops. Here are some dates and places:
JUNE 30 - JULY 1
Los Angeles, CA
St. Matthew's Parish
Holy Family Parish
Retreat of Song and Silence
Bon Secour Retreat Center
4th Annual Pilgrimage of Peace
Still Point Retreat Center
Harpers Ferry,West Virginia
The 4th annual Pilgrimage of Peace is sponsored by the Friends of Silence and held at Stillpoint Retreat Center in West Virginia from August 10- 26. This year we are creating a fund to help support those who wish to come but need financial assistance. If you wish to contribute to a solidarity fund for the Pilgrimage of Peace you can make checks to: ""Friends of Silence", memo line Pilgrimage Fund, And mail to: Lindsay McLaughlin FOS Retreat Ministry 120 Jubilee Lane Harpers Ferry, W. Va. 25425.
This year 2012 we hope to create a new CD here in Ireland. Should be ready by May. For other CDs keep in mind that you can download them at:
www.cdbaby.com/cd/sawaligur Blessed are the Peacemakers
www.cdbaby.com/cd/sawaligur2 Celtic Mass/Songs and Chants
Purchase at the Potter's House in Washington, D.C.
and Episcopal Bookshop in Memphis , TN
In the midst of these days of darkness I send you the love of my heart, dear friends, and I wish you the ever present blessings of Light at Christmas time!
P.S. A poem ,by Seamus Heaney, beloved poet of Ireland, appropriately called "Postcript":
" And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among the stones
The surface of a slate grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans
Their feathers roughed and roughling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or crestin or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
Peace of Christ Always,
Your little brother,