A Sudden Scream in a Public Place

Sitting in a cafe today enjoying my lunch when a sudden scream is heard. I look around and there in the corner is a young girl about 13 years of age sitting in a wheelchair, her body twisted and her head looking down and to the side. Her parents feeding her and not saying a word. Then suddenly another scream, and another. More will follow that. I sit back realizing that for this girl there are probably many screams in the course of her day. But each time she screams something in me responds. The waves of painful emotion seem to wash up against my body each time like a relentless tide. I begin to pray...for her, for me, for all of us in that cafe. Somehow , I pray, may we all feel something. May we embrace this young girl, her suffering, her parent's suffering, our own suffering, in some secret loving way . And if possible, may we communicate to her our gratitude and respect. For this person and her parents are people of courage. Perhaps, in some sense, her screaming is a reminder . It may be that our silence in the midst of all the insanity and needless suffering in this world is indeed the stranger response. God give me the courage to scream, to cry out in a public place when everything in me says -" Enough !"

Br. Stefan


The Story of a Great People Who Lost Their Soul...and Found It Once Again

This is the story of a great people who lost their soul...and found it once again. It happened this way:
A long time ago, an invading people landed on the shores of Ireland. They were a fierce people, mighty and shrewd. They believed it was their right to conquer and take whatever they pleased. And so, a great battle ensued. Many on both sides were maimed and killed. And it seemed that there was no end in sight. But then, one night, the chief wizard from the invading people crept in to the Irish camp while they slept. It was as though he was invisible. He went straight to the center of the camp and stole their most prized possession -the sacred harp. This harp was a great comfort to the people. Every day and night they played upon this harp and souls were soothed and spirits inspired. In fact this harp had a name: HARMONY WITH ALL THINGS.

Now, in the morning, when the people discovered their sacred harp had been stolen, a great lament went up. Weeping and wailing throught the entire camp. It was as thought their very soul had been removed. And the piper tried to play but no sound came . The flute player picked up the flute but no melody was to be heard. The chief singer opened her mouth but no song could be sung. A great despair spread among the people.

Just then, a small boy came forward. His name was Owen. Owen announced that he would go to the enemy camp and bring back the sacred harp. " You're mad", they said. " You'll be killed". But that didn't stop Owen. He had made up his mind , and that was that. So he gathered enough food and drink for the long journey and off he went.

It was indeed a very long journey, especially for a small boy. All day and night he walked. And while he walked he sang and chanted. And it was the song that kept him company. Now, something happened to Owen as he walked along with a lovely melody and a steady rhythm by his side. And we'll tell that later.

When he arrived at the camp of the enemy he walked straight passed the armed guards, right into the heart of the camp , found the sacred harp and walked back out again and while all saw him , no one raised a hand to stop or harm him.

Arriving back among his people there were great cheers that went up. " Hooray, Owen has returned. And he's brought back our sacred harp!" That night gathered around the fire the question that everyone was eager to ask was put to young Owen: " How did you do it? How did you walk right into the heart of the enemy camp and come out alive?" Owen thought for a minute and then said: " It was a long journey. So, to comfort myself I starting to sing some of our songs. As I did, something strange began to happen to me. I fell into a kind of trance. The song took me to a place I had never been before. The further I walked the deeper the song became . It was like the song was singing me! Then images began to appear in my mind. Faces of the enemy. Their children's faces. Beautiful faces all. It all became blurred and I could not tell their faces from my own. So that when I walked in to enemy camp they were no longer my enemy and I was completely visible. When they saw my face I believe that they saw the faces of their own children. They smiled . Some cried. And no one did me any harm."

"Rubbish", cried an old man. C'mon tell us what really happened. You snuck into the camp and stole it. Didn't you?" But there were some who believed his story.

Now Owen never spoke about it again as long as he lived.

As for the invading people...they were so moved by what they saw that they decided to leave Ireland and end their war-making altogether. And they erected a standing stone which, if you look hard enough, you can still see to this day. For they had learned the most valuable lesson: to make war and to do violence on another people is to make war and to do violence on yourself.


It's Been A While... Thoughts from on the road...

It has been a while since I've made a blog entry. A lot has been happening.
For the past three months I've been on the road visiting colleges, retreat centers, churches and gatherings sharing a simple prayer of song and silence. The simplicity and beauty of this is something that nourishes and inspires. The music seems to be going deeper and deeper. And it's been very good to see old friends and to make new friends. How to express my gratitude ? The journey continues. Next stop - Harrisonburg, VA tomorrow night where a gathering of students, pastors, and friends will sing and pray the beginning of the season of Lent.

This Lent is a time to look inward and to realize even more deeply the direction and purpose of my life. " Deep Within a Song is Heard..." is the title of a new song. It expresses the joy and peace of hearing and following one's calling, no matter how confusing and contradictory it seems at times. This Easter time I plan to take traditional monastic vows as a first public step in living the life of a monk and in forming a monastic community here in the U.S. I cherish your prayers.

Why be a monk? To respond to this question I refer you to an interview between Oprah Winfrey - yes, Oprah Winfrey - and the Zen Buddhist monk Thick Nhat Hanh. His response to this question is simple: " to transform and heal oneself so that I can share this transformation and healing with others." A monk is someone who takes time to do this. There is no greater joy than this.

Looking ahead... I encourage you to be in the quiet during Lent, to be still, in the moment, to listen even more deeply to all that is within, and to be open to the voice of the One who loves you passionately, completely and always. This is the purpose of Lent - to let go of everything , yes, everything and choose that " one thing". There's a lovely phrase - " It's always been between you and God .." Lent is a time to renew this relationship and this love. Lent is a time to ignite the fire and become - a living flame.

Remember the story: Two monks were sitting quietly one evening when the younger monk said to the older: " What else should I do? I pray every day. I give money to the poor. I study the Bible . I work hard. I visit the sick. What else should I do? Upon hearing this, the older monk stood up and raise his hands to the sky . As he did his whole being became like fire and he said, " You could become a living flame."

In the Midst of It All...
The Love of God,
Your little brother,
Stefan Andre