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AUTHOR
Mark  »

As Jean Vanier wrote in Living Gently in a Violent World:

The Word became flesh to bring people together, to break down the walls of fear and hatred that separate people. That's the vision of the incarnation — to bring people together. ...

Maybe the most important thing is to learn how to build communities of celebration. Maybe the world will be transformed when we learn to have fun together. I don't mean to suggest that we don't talk about serious things. But maybe what our world needs more than anything is communities where we celebrate life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we need signs that it is possible to love each other.

 

Some years ago I read that excerpt of the late great Jean Vanier on a retreat. It resonates with me, especially as we progress from holiday gatherings to the newness of time in this New Year. We’ve gathered. We’ve celebrated. But, alas, have we built communities of celebration?

 Sometimes Christmas parties may seem like “forced fun” insofar as we’re obligated to spend time with folks we may not want to. Sometimes we think the only way we can have a celebration is by having a potent beverage in our hand. But striped of liquid courage or of family obligations, immersed in total freedom how would we choose to love one another? How would we build communities of celebration? In the bleakness of winter how are we going to be a sign that life, and love, and our relational nature is both possible and hope-filled? I, for one, plan on asking a specific question: What do you need? For I believe we can only build community when we know what we’re building with.

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What is Peace?
AUTHOR
Mark  »

December, draped in Advent, invites us to define the word, “peace.”

And so, what is peace to you?

But wait, before you answer that, or to best answer that, perhaps meditate on a few other questions that might lead you to a good definition of peace.

Who are the peaceful people in your life? Is peace accompanied by silence or can it be found among sounds, be they cacophonous or melodic?  When you recall instances you yearned for peace, what were you looking for -- perhaps understanding, calm, love, or togetherness? Lastly, is peace only external; is peace only a gift received or generated outside of yourself or might you be able to find peace inside, receive peace from yourself?

Advent covers most of the month of December and Advent is a time of anticipation leading up to the joy of Christmas, leading up to ‘peace on earth’?  What is peace to you and how do you plan to birth it this season?  

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Share A Cup of Hospitality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Being hospitable can be a most challenging trait. At the Cenacle we borrow the line from the Benedictines: when a guest comes, Christ comes. The idea being that we must be welcoming and hospitable to all. It is easy to have a very narrow gate, to allow just a few worthy souls to enter and receive your hospitality, at the appointed hour; it is quite another, to have an expansive sense of hospitality, which includes the unscheduled and unexpected.

“Do not neglect hospitality,” Sacred Scripture reminds us, “for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Again, it can be easy to prepare for the times we expect to be hospitable, when holidays approach or planned gatherings happen. This we know and thus prepare to be hospitable perhaps by cleaning up, making arrangements, by preparing gifts or food especially things our planned guests may like. It’s the unexpected, the welcoming, the hospitality at the many unexpected guests and instances where we didn’t plan to have a comfortable cup of tea ready, or our time expended in listening to another. Try as we might, being hospitable is not dependent on being proactive (though it helps to be prepared). Being hospitable is a mindset, and a choice: a choice to welcome, a choice to share, a choice to lay previous plans aside to honor, help, and welcome another whether or not they are expected. Having a hard time with hospitality? I’ve found that gratefulness is a regular companion with hospitality. Perhaps there are other ways to engender a spirit of hospitality, to encourage us to say yes, and to understand that, whether angels, persons, or Christ himself, when someone approaches us we can choose to be hospitable.

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The Son Remains
AUTHOR
Jill  »
It’s the constant rotation around the sun that offers us a delightful optimism each year. This steady orbit grants us the seasonal evolution to shape and form our most fundamental occasions. Whether it is sharing a laugh with a friend or holding the hand of someone we love-each obtained second flows into the next. The minute into the hour, into the day, and so on we find ourselves growing and maturing spinning around the sun. As the golden rays turn the leaves into various hues of chestnut and auburn; our lives also lead their very own seasons. Some seasons are transformative and some are just formative, but in due time we will be propelled into another portion of life.

 

 There is an unwavering grace in each season the Son reveals. In every unwelcome circumstance mercy and hope resides there. During the transition between seasons we must have faith and sow seeds of thanksgiving. When the nights grow longer or there is a pain from a loss or disappointment, the Son will remain. And when the days are yielding the sunlight across all spaces overwhelming us with immense joy, the Son will remain. The sun is steady but never changes, as our world transitions season to season our God the creator of all things great and small will remain.

 

Are you looking toward the Son to help transition you through your greatest and most challenging seasons in your life?

 

  

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Ah... Autumn!
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Many people look to spring as the time of new life, renewal, and emergence.  Maybe it is a carryover from my school days of many decades ago but for me the cool nights and changing leaves bring to mind the anticipation of another school year and the possibility of a new (and smarter and more popular) me! Of course this came with the anxiety of what this transition from the old me to the new me might require of the current me.

But I must say with age and the wear and tear and resiliency which inherently come with age I am finding I can still tap into that excitement and anticipation which autumn stirs in me without the anxiety. I have come to recognize that the foundation of that anxiety free anticipation is my ever growing awareness that "God has this." God is with me as I feel the pull of some new activity, person or way of looking at my life and the world.  I can enter the transitions needed to grow, adapt and prepare for the next season of my life with a hope of and faith in God's love and presence. 

Where is transition happening in your life, and how are you growing from it? For me the mystery which I can only call Grace continues to transform me from day to day.

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AUTHOR
Mark  »
A change is not a transition. For instance on September 23, we had the Autumnal Equinox and seasons changed from summer to fall. The change may have happened formally, officially, seemingly at a specific minute or day, but the transition from summer to fall began well before September 23 and continues even today. The earth’s axis has been in transition and continues to transition itself and our seasons. In the North, our daily duration of sunlight has been transitioning from its peak in June through diminishment that leads up to the winter solstice. Trees do not wait for the equinox and all at once shed their leaves; trees transition like all flowers from growth, to bloom, to fade.

It is a shame, or so I believe, to equate transitions with changes. Transitions lead to changes; transitions are the little pieces that crescendo to the change, be it a season, or any other event. What helps me honor the difference between transitions and changes is being observant. Being observant helps me see the transitions around me – and in me. Being observant and seeing transitions helps me prepare for the completed transition, the change, when it arrives. The diminishing sun, the tinges of orange on otherwise green leaves helped me understand the transitioning into fall and the change of season when the time came. 

How are you observing the transitions in your life and in the world around you?

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First Day of Autumn
AUTHOR
Joan  »
autumn treeIt is the first day of Autumn and the air is crisp and full of anticipation.  Probably a holdover from our school day, but this time of year seems to inspire a sense of renewal and hope. The prospect of new shoes and school supplies is replaced by thoughts of programs and activities to get us moving after the leisure of summer.  

Whatever the reason, be sure to look at the offerings the Chicago Cenacle has planned.  And even a simple visit for a day of prayer or overnight retreat might sound like the perfect way to start a new season.  The Chicago Cenacle is a wonderful place in all seasons, but the autumn trees of Lincoln Park and the brisk breeze off the lake will set the seasonal tone for you whatever your plans.  
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