Explore the Theme -
SHCJ 28th General Chapter – April 17-30, 2022 Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12: 24
For the past five months SHCJ and friends have been invited to unpack and explore the above theme in relation to the chapter. The invitation encouraged brief postings from various perspectives — arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, theology, scripture, personal pondering — whatever wisdom might shine light on the meaning and relevance of this theme for this chapter in the Society’s life at this time. To date, there have been 42 contributions, including two original works of music and an original poem and prayer. Contributions have come from sisters and friends of the Society, as well as from the editors for the project. Thanks to Society Communication Director Sam Strike we now have this flip-book of all the postings for your inspiration, enjoyment and prayer. But it’s not over yet! You can still add to this amazing collection right up until the close of the chapter by sending your exploration (in 200 words or less) to Sam. (email@example.com)
And please consider your viewing of this shared exploration as part of your ongoing prayer for the chapter.
Society of the Holy Child Jesus — www.shcj.org — April 2022
Explore the Theme — Except a Grain of Wheat a poem & a song explore the process of generating new life from seeming death
Except a grain of wheat
fall, catch the current of the wind, and lose all sense of direction, to rest in a place unbidden and foreign, it remains a single grain. Yet, unbridled or contained, and at the mercy of God’s faithfulness, it bears the seed for the new season’s harvest. It becomes new bread. Yes, I think it is that what often looks like death, or lack of fruitfulness, is instead, just the time it takes for the gift of life to flourish. And tears, and gestures, or words, the frustrated expressions from good intents gone vaguely wrong, or not as we would have determined; the love that appears to be in vain. They bear our heart’s cries as seed, while God’s purposes he sometimes shields, from our current understanding. So that just like grain, or leaves, or anything that falls, we find next season’s yield, is often stored, in the remains of the first. Apparent death just the shedding of the husk, that brings about new birth.
Ana Lisa de Jong New Zealand, June 2017
“I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone—a single seed. But my death will produce many new wheat kernels —a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:20-26 (Phillips)
“Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls into the Earth & Dies, Marty Haugen; https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=q6x4hDaLKWE
What does the poem or song say to me/us about the scriptural theme in relation to our general chapter?
Explore the Theme — Don’t Take Seeds for Granted! Brief selections from different corners of the world on the value & wonder of seeds
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12: 20-26
Don’t take seeds for granted — Adapted from BIOWATCH, SOUTH AFRICA for the National Seed Event, 2016: SEED: “a living organism that thinks, has knowledge and has incredible intelligence in itself, knowing exactly under what conditions to grow in order to pass on life through its fruits and new seeds. It passes on life to the next generation, just as we humans and other animals give birth to and nurture our own offspring. The seed is living, has both a body and a spirit, and derives life from the same source that we humans derive our life … from the Great Spirit which in our various languages we call Mwari, God, Allah, Umvelinqangi etc. It follows the very same life cycle as all other living things … to be born, grow, die and give up life for the next generation to take over.
What precious seeds do we SHCJ hold in our hands? What sort of seeds is our world calling for?
The GLOBAL SEED VAULT in Svalbard, NORWAY provides a back-up to the network of SEED BANKS around the world which store, grow and replenish thousands of varieties of crops which can be threatened by war, accidents and natural disasters. There are more than a million samples stored there.
If a good yield is completely guaranteed, what new seeds would we sow boldly? THE SEED KEEPER, recently published by Diane Wilson, is a novel about the importance of seed keeping across 4 generations of Native American women who have experienced austerity and discrimination through war and American Indian residential schools.
Explore the Theme — “Child of Night, Child of Light” a poem about seeds by Kate Holmstrom, SHCJ
“Child of Night, Child of Light” Kate Holmstrom, SHCJ — Apley Grange, Harrogate, England
“Do not go gentle into that good night …”* I’m just a small nasturtium seed, you know. Nasturtium: that is what they promise me, The hope that they hold out. (But I am scared!) Be buried, me? In cold, damp earth, so dark? Endure the night of winter, cold and raw? The night of solitude, of silent fear? No! “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” Resist the loss of sun, of warmth foregone? Much better, surely, to remain intact (Though small and hard and ugly, I admit). And yet … and yet … a glimmering hope tempts me: The hope that darkness, overcome by light, May not mean night definitive, in earth, But flowering forth, awakening to Day. Is beauty, flaming red or gold, for me? Can transformation happen, invade me? Can one small seed become a torch of fire? Can night give way to brightness, dancing life? I hope! * Dylan Thomas
Explore the Theme — Questions of Life & Death in Our World excerpts from “Impasse & Dark Night” by Constance FitzGerald, OCD
Today we come with the world inside us. Today, instead of realizing that the situations of impasse that we see all over our world provide a challenge and concrete focus for prayer and drive us to contemplation, do we give in to a passive sense of inevitability, so that imagination dies?
Adapted from “Impasse and Dark Night” by Constance FitzGerald, OCD, published in Desire, Darkness, and Hope; Theology in a Time of Impasse. Liturgical Press, 2021, pp. 94, 110
Can we really believe that if we surrender these situations of world impasse to contemplative prayer that new solutions, new visions of peace and equality, will emerge in our world? Can we dare to believe that a creative revisioning of our world is possible, or is everything just too complex, too beyond our reach? Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. John 12:20-26, The Message
Yet it is only in the process of bringing the impasse to prayer, to the perspective of the God who loves us, that our society will be freed, healed, changed, brought to paradoxical new visions, and freed for nonviolent, selfless, liberating action, freed, therefore, for community on this planet earth.
Death is involved here, a dying in order to see how to be and to act on behalf of God in the world.
Explore the Theme — “Imagine a Sower ... ”
a video about one of the many paintings of the sower by Vincent Van Gogh
Imagine yourself as a sower. What are your thoughts & feelings as you sow your seeds & ponder John 12:24?
Van Gogh had a special interest in sowers throughout his artistic career. and made more than 30 drawings and paintings on this theme. He painted the sower below in the autumn of 1888, at the time when he was working together with Paul Gauguin who believed that, in his work, Van Gogh should draw less on reality and more on his imagination. In this version of The Sower, Van Gogh used colours meant to express emotion and passion. He assigned the leading roles to the greenish-yellow of the sky and the purple of the field. The bright yellow sun looks like a halo, turning the sower into a saint. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam Below: The Sower — Vincent Van Gogh, Arles, France, 1888
“I’m telling you the solemn truth: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains all by itself. If it dies, though, it will produce lots of fruit.”
New Testament for Everyone
ENJOY THE VIDEO:
Explore the Theme — Tenderly Sown
Paintings by Grace Carol Bomer, with a reflection & prayer by her art student, and a haiku poem
The ground is covered with holes. The Gardener is stooping over, tenderly shaping and carving each abyss with a bare hand. It seems to us sometimes that there are holes in our lives everywhere. They feel random and purposeless. A friend commented, ‘think about how you have to dig a hole in order to plant something.’ What a great observation! God loves me and if it takes these things to refine me to be more who God created me to be then it’s worth every gouge in my heart in order to fill it with a seed that is worth growing.
So, Lord, continue to dig. Take out the rocky soil that I so desperately want to cling to. You have purpose in the placement of every hole. Make my life a fertile soil and fill the hole as only you can. Be the Keeper of the holes, the Gardener of my heart. Reflection by an art student
Seed tenderly sown but the heart’s hole, its abyss, feels the harrowing
“I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone—a single seed. But my death will produce many new wheat kernels— a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:20-26 – Living bible
Explore the Theme — Grounded in Reality
Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ reflects on the ecological context for growing wheat, or anything, today
“A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died.” The Passion Translation
This theme beautifully applies to Jesus’ self-giving, our personal calls, and the life/call of our provinces. To help ground it “… in the reality of our current situation, and that of the world….” I note that, despite God’s action there, wheat cannot grow on land — that is parched or flooded; degraded by toxic fertilizers and pesticides; eroded by industrial agriculture; polluted by oceanic salt water; and destroyed by war. At least 33% of the world’s food-producing land has been lost since the 1970’s, primarily caused by global warming and deforestation. The resulting starvation, migration, and extinctions affect millions world-wide. Families sometimes sell children to traffickers or for early marriages. Environmental racism, population increases, and war exacerbate crises.
As we consider individual justice issues, let us be mindful that “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork….” (LS, 217) can nurture increased unity among us. What does a grain of wheat dropping into the ground of a planet in crisis say to me/us for SHCJ GC22? 8
Explore the Theme — Don’t Treat Soil Like Dirt!
Watch a 4-minute video explaining why soil is one of the most amazing things on Earth
WATCH: Soil, the Wonderstuff Beneath Our Feet, by
Bridget Emmet, soil scientist, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
“Soil… it’s one of the most underrated, and little-understood, wonders on our fragile planet. Here’s why …
Far from being lifeless dirt, it’s estimated that in a single gram of soil, there could be as many as 50,000 species of microscopic organisms, or microorganisms than there are people on the Earth. But much of what lies beneath, in this hidden and deep universe, is still alien to us.”
“Soil provides us humans with almost everything we eat. It’s important we value, appreciate — and crucially protect —
soil for a whole load of other reasons too. Think about this for a moment. It takes more than 100 years to build just 5 millimetres — half a centimetre — of soil. But just moments to destroy, through chemical contamination, urbanization, landslides, erosion and more.”
What kinds of soil will our seeds fall on?
“It’s one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth,
and a vital part of the nitrogen and carbon cycle on our planet. But the sad truth is right now, soil hasn’t enough champions fighting for it. We literally treat it like dirt. And yet there is so much untapped potential, so much wonder, and so many secrets, just waiting to be discovered… in the ground beneath our feet.” If the grain of wheat falls on the road
it will be eaten up
by the birds of the air,
or if it falls on rocky places where the soil is shallow
it will be scorched by the sun, or if it falls among thorns,
they will choke all its new shoots. But if it falls on good soil, and dies,
it will produce a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. John 12:24 & Matthew 13:1-9
O Explore the Theme — O Holy Darkness!
Rosemary Mangan, RJM invites us to ponder the gift of darkness as the Northern Hemisphere marks its Winter Solstice & the global church bids Radiant Dawn to come
The light of the Sun begins a new solar cycle at Winter Solstice. The rays shine into the dark, and nurture the newborn life there to be cultivated. And this is mirrored in nature, as the seeds are buried in the darkness of the Earth, to emerge once again with the life-giving rays of the Sun. Winter Solstice 2021 in the Northern Hemisphere will be on Tuesday, December 21, marking the season when we experience the longest and darkest nights of the year and the shortest days with the least amount of daylight. In winter everything lies dormant in the silent earth, it is a sacred time of rest and reflection before the awakening and the slow build toward brighter days. Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue, Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm; Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung: Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.” The Wreck of the Deutschland by GM Hopkins
“Eye Mask” by Denise Levertov In this dark I rest, unready for the light which dawns day after day, eager to be shared. Black silk, shelter me. I need more of the night before I open eyes and heart to illumination. I must still grow in the dark like a root not ready, not ready at all.
“This [a time of darkness, waiting, impasse] is actually a hopeful time when theological faith, hope and love, the gifts of God, are being accessed. We are forced, as it were, to accept the alternative vision of faith, hope and love and so pass over into the perspective of God. The question is this: Can we receive the darkness of this empty time and barren space, personally and collectively, as the love and care of God in our lives desiring to purify our desire as persons and our national dream[s] as a people?”
Constance FitzGerald, OCD, “The Desire for God and the Transformative Power of Contemplation,” Desire, Darkness and Hope
LISTEN: “Holy Darkness,” Dan Schutte, ℗ 2012 OCP. All rights reserved. All selections BMI: https://www.you-
O Holy Darkness!
empty, barren presence:
Come, and cover the seeds of our faith & hope with your consoling love
Explore the Theme — The 13.8 Billion Year Story of Wheat video of cosmologist Linda Gibler, OP on learning to read the book of Creation & its Wisdom
WATCH: The Wisdom of Wheat, particularly from 15:23 to 28:25. Philosopher/Cosmologist Linda Gibler, OP urges us to learn to listen to creation and read the “book” of nature as a story of wisdom & hope. Within that frame, she tells the story of the evolution of wheat from creation’s beginning 13.8 billion years ago to today’s eucharistic bread. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLP3eEUw28s
“Everything in the universe will teach us a story about God when we ask. Then give to others the fruits of your contemplation. Read that book [of nature] if you want to know God! Read that book always, often! A supernova explosion that tears a star apart, but that is required for trees, birds, bushes ... to happen! The universe itself is embedded in the paschal mystery — life, death, new life over and over again in unimaginable ways permeates the entire story of the universe.” “... wheat [is] ... the center of Christian sacramental life if you’re Catholic or any other variety of Christian. HAVE I READ THE BOOK OF NATURE TODAY?
Unless the great star explodes into myriad particles, is annhilated & re-formed, it remains a single star; but if it follows the process of creation, it yields a universe of life in all its forms
Eucharist is the center of what we do so why wouldn’t we understand wheat from its cosmic origins all the way to our sacred banquet, and then ... see where we find hope; where do we find wisdom? ...”
Explore the Theme — Gleanings — 1
a miscellaneous assortment by SHCJ variously inspired by the grain of wheat
Oración de Esperanza / Prayer of Hope Nancy Bello, SHCJ
Estamos viviendo como comunidad global una transición, que nos llevará a cambios profundos en nuestra sociedad. El mundo está en proceso de transformación y nosotras como comunidad religiosa no estamos exentas a esa transformación, como lo dice San Juan 12,24 “Yo les aseguro que si el grano de trigo que cae en tierra no muere, queda infecundo; pero si muere, dará fruto abundante”
Cold Weather Seeds — Mary Hamilton, SHCJ
There are seeds that can only germinate in cold weather. One of them is milkweed, which is vital for the survival of the monarch butterflies. Perhaps there are some of us whose seeds will open only when we are feeling cold inside.
Personal Testimony — Patricia Duru, SHCJ
In the past months [of convalescence from illness] the words of Jesus in John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat ... ” have been my solace! Each new day brings joy and an aura of undying hope in Him who is my life. The paradox of my sickness is that it gives rise to new life in me daily which has become a source of enrichment even for everyone around me. I believe that every time we pass from one stage of life to another, something in us dies and something new is born.
Danos Señor la sabiduría que necesitamos para esperar que la semilla que ha caído en tierra brote y florezca en la forma que tu Señor tienes planeado. Y a nosotras danos la gracia de esperar con paz y entusiasmo ese florecer de una nueva humanidad que te espera. Como lo hizo Cornelia en su tiempo, permítenos responder a los signos de los tiempos con un espíritu alegre y valiente, esperando el nacimiento de esta nueva humanidad. Afina nuestros oídos, Señor, para escuchar lo que tienes preparado para nuestra comunidad y danos la gracia de ser fiel a tu designio. Amén. (English translation below) The global community is living a transition that will bring about profound changes in our society. The whole world is in process of transformation and we, as a religious community, are not exempt from that process, as the góspel of St. John says in 12:24...
Dear Lord, give us the wisdom we need to hope that the seed that has fallen on the ground may bud and flower in the way that you have planned. Give us the grace to hope with peace and enthusiasm for that flowering of the new humanity that hopes in you, just as Cornelia did in her time. Help us to respond to the signs of our times with a strong and joyful spirit, expecting the birth of this new humanity. Attune our ears to listen for what you have prepared for our community, and give us the grace to be faithful to your design.
I tell you the truth. A grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die. Then it makes many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed. International Children’s Bible
Explore the Theme — Gleanings — 2
a miscellaneous assortment by friends of SHCJ, all variously inspired by the grain of wheat
A Hidden Seed of Greater Wholeness .... There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness In everyone and everything. We serve life best When we water it And befriend it. When we listen before we act. In befriending life, We do not make things happen According to our own design. We uncover something that is already happening In us and around us and Create conditions that enable it. Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness Always struggling against the odds. Everything has a deep dream of itself and its fulfilment. Words of Rachel Naomi Remen, redone as a poem by Meg Wheatley, shared with us by Angela Rogerson, UK
The Sower “The sower needs hope in order to sow. In other words what leads him to sow is the hope that the seed will bear fruit in the future. I do not hold on to the seeds. I sow them every day. I do not hold on to my skills and my knowledge. I share them and I keep working, giving …” From Stories of a Generation with Pope Francis, Episode 2: “Struggle;” https://www.netflix.com/title/81306329
Roman friend Annie Kennedy, formerly a landscape gardener in Kennebunkport, Maine; her gardener’s reflection below:
Weeds The most important skills young gardeners acquire come from the “old timers”. They learn to differentiate between weeds and plants and how to eradicate what is not wanted. Weeds first germinate and surface in the spring masquerading as the very specimens being cultivated . . . . We are taught early that bending and kneeling are key to thorough work; weeds must never go to seed; and always remove the root . . . . Master gardeners have taught the next generation how to see. Unfortunately, these specialists are dying off, and the ones left find the new invasive species unrecognizable. New methods and will are needed to tend the landscape. Nobody seems to want to bend anymore. 13
Explore the Theme — “Hit the Ground Kneeling”
Stephen Cottrell explores the parable of the sower as a way of “Seeing Leadership Differently”
“... The sower is clearly incompetent, and any of Jesus’ first listeners, all of them peasant farmers who knew all there was to know about the careful and diligent sowing of seed ... would have been incensed that this idle and irresponsible fellow should have had such a copious crop.
Some fell on the path! What rubbish–any decent sower would not have been so wasteful with the seed! Some fell among thorns! How ridiculous— any sensible sower would have carefully prepared the ground! Some were snaffled up by birds! Inconceivable! Where was the scarecrow? Jesus’ listeners would have snorted with laughter when he suggested that this bungling sower should be rewarded with such a mighty yield.
But Jesus is deliberately speaking of an abundance that is beyond our deserving. Something that is not dependent on our wisdom or effort ... beyond our imagining. We are
not supposed to draw the lesson that we do not need to work. Sensible farmers still have to dig the earth, remove the weeds and water the soil. But beyond this, on the other side of our sensible and cautious expectations, lies a bigger vision ... that confounds logic ... that is much more than the sum of its parts ... that transcends the usual predictions. Those of us working in the Church always need to be motivated and inspired by this vision, which is both beyond us and yet, at the same time, conceived in our midst. But I also think that this same profligate hugeness can benefit any organization. Let us dream a vision that stretches beyond our usual
horizons. Of course, we will not get there all at once. Of course, there will be a sense in which such a vision always remains beyond us. But let us not settle for a small vision, one that fails to inspire or terrify.” Hit the Ground Kneeling: Seeing Leadership Differently” by Stephen Cottrell — https://amzn.eu/9cAC2OH “The Four Soils” by James Janknegt, Artist
Explore the Theme — Breaking Ground / Ground-breaking a poem, a ploughman’s reflection on his labor, & a book aiming to inspire a post-pandemic future
All the Years of Breaking Through the Soil Carol Bialock RSCJ
All the years of breaking through the soil, gasping for growth, straining to height and aroma and juice, heavy with effort, sweating it.
Breaking Ground: Charting Our Future in a Pandemic Year by Anne Snyder, Susannah Black, et al; https://amzn.eu/0Q58tLD
In response to the upheaval of a pandemic year, a new book grew from the seeds of a public, inter-disciplinary conversation between June 2020 and
And when the glory came and I breathed free and opened full, strange how only then did I know it was all gift. I hadn’t done anything. It was sun and rain and earth and air, I had only to rest in light, water, soil, only trust and surrender only be still to flower into beauty.
How much has to be done to a field before
its bed is fit for sowing! Ploughed twice perhaps; cultivated first one way then criss-cross; dragged twice; chain-harrowed and rolled; the couch burnt. Does the general public realize that all this is done to that field seen from the road, looking so silent, so deserted, as if no one ever went near it? Does the man on the road know that it has to be scratched and beaten and turned over like a rug, and scorched and burnt and knocked about? Does he know that before we can live even by bread alone, before bread can begin at all, all this must be done? I did not, when I was a man on the road and in the train. The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis
What soil have you labored to break through in your life? How has it been ground-breaking for you or others?
June 2021. Breaking Ground is “a record of human beings striving for humility before an onslaught of uncertainty and rapid adjustment — humility that is the necessary soil for hope to seed a more intelligent and humane future.” This collection of essays includes “voices from the spheres of politics and policing, education and journalism, medicine and business, theology and science, philanthropy and technology, and the family and household too .... [C]omplex truths have been aired in public, where conversation has been rigorous in its search for truth yet grace-filled in its respect for the human face.” It is written at a time when “nearly every corner of society, secular and sacred, has been stopped short at the question of unity.” .... [Its writers ] “have been animated by an encounter with a God who is alive and redeeming yet.” 15
Explore the Theme — “Re-alignment”
a poem, a theologian’s musing & a timely astronomical breakthrough probe the meaning of Christmas
“Christmas on the Edge” by Malcolm Guite
Christmas sets the centre on the edge; The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn, The fringe of empire, far from privilege And power, on the edge and outer spin Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars That edge a galaxy itself light years From some unguessed at cosmic origin. Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
If the injustice and unreality that corrodes persons, systems, relations between nations and with the natural world is no longer to hold sway, then something does need to be overthrown.... And if something new is to become possible in place of this old, there’s also need of judgement — a reckoning with the truth, making clear of the outline of reality and realigning with it....
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. New King James Version
And from this day our world is re-aligned A tiny seed unfolding in the womb Becomes the source from which we all unfold And flower into being. We are healed, The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb, For now in him all things are re-aligned.
To make any difference, to be What does re-alignment mean for me/ us today? effective, these ideals must be embodied. Somehow (and it can take a long time), we must live into them, be transformed by them from within. This is incarnation, Word and spirit becoming flesh. Jesus embodied this reconciliation in all his living and dying.
Launched Christmas Day 2021 to investigate some of the most distant events & objects in the universe
There must be an end to ‘former things’. Any of us who’ve suffered deep hurt, trauma, conflict know it’s not enough sincerely to profess ideals of harmony, forgiveness, integration.
This is why his birth is celebrated as a breakthrough in human being, the presence among us of a new humanity which (mysteriously) he enables us to share. “Advent Calendar,” Sarah Bachelard, 18 December 2021; Benedictus Contemplative Church: https://benedictus.com.au/ reflections/
Explore the Theme — “The Art of the Metaphor” a video on how metaphors help us understand ourselves & our world, & a reflection on the seed of love God sows in each heart
... we are the clay and you, our potter ... ... I am the bread of life ... ... You are the light of the world ... ... I am the vine and you are the branches ... ... you are the salt of the earth ... ... unless the grain of wheat ...
How do metaphors — like the grain of wheat — help us understand the world, & our own lives, better? Poet Jane Hirshfield explores this question in a 5-minute TED talk. WATCH: “The Art of the Metaphor” — https://www.ted. com/talks/jane_hirshfield_the_art_of_the_metaphor
What light does the poet’s teaching shine on Jesus’ use of metaphors to move us?
A Seed in the Heart
a Quaker perspective shared by SHCJ friend Ursula Seibold-Bultmann, Germany
Just as grains of wheat fall into the earth, God sows the seed of His love into our hearts. In life and beyond, we need nothing more than this seed. However, in order to find it and let it bear fruit, we have to empty ourselves of our self-will, our busy-ness, our desires and ambitions. In other words, we have to let big parts of us die. As the Quaker Isaac Penington wrote in 1661: “Give over thine own willing, give over thine own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.“ Isaac Penington: :Some directions to the panting soul 1671,” here quoted after Quaker Faith and Practice (published by The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 2nd edition, London 1999, § 26.70.
Explore the Theme — Sow Epiphany Seeds an epiphany reflection by hispanic theologian Carmen Nanko-Fernandez
Professor of hispanic theology & ministry, Carmen Nanko-Fernandez notes that the details in the story of the journey of the magi are like forecasts, or “seeds,” of future events that will come to pass in the life of Jesus. She says:
“The seeds of what is to come are sown throughout this narrative. The query about the “newborn King of the Jews” (2:2) at the beginning of the gospel reappears in the passion narrative inscribed as the charge over the crucified body: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37). Frankincense and myrrh were resins used not only in sacred rites but in healing as well as embalming. The revelation to the Magi upon the rising of a star ends on a fearful note with a warning to avoid Herod. The revelation in the last chapter of Matthew to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (28: 1-10) is accompanied by a call to avoid fear and announce the news of the Resurrection. In both instances, the encounter with the revelation of Jesus is met with responses of homage by the Magi (2:11) and the two Marys (28:9).” Read the full article: https://ctu.edu/2019/01/02/the-epiphany-of-the-lord/
What seeds of future life are offered to me & us as we contemplate the details of the epiphany story this year? How shall I/we sow them? LISTEN: “Carol of the Epiphany” by John Bell, Iona Community;
“What Child is This? by NACTV Apostolic Church, Pretoria; https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=2avlPxOc5KA
Explore the Theme — Has My Light Come? a look at the grain of wheat through the lens of Epiphany, our festival of lights
In the 4th century, St. Gregory Nazianzen called this feast the “Festival of Lights.” At Epiphany, we hear in Isaiah 60:1 — “Rise up, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.” The light is powerful and visible because of the darkness. In “Expedition to the Pole” Annie Dillard reminds us — “you do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.” Poet T.S. Eliot observes that “In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light … we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it … forever must quench, forever relight the flame … Choruses from “The Rock”
What Epiphany light do I find for the seeds we are sowing?
The magi were not afraid to search the Universe expecting enlightenment about the meaning of life on Earth. John Surette, SJ calls 21st Century believers to — “... be attentive to the powers and mysteries of the Universe. In so doing we will be blessed.”
Explore the Theme — “Rest in Hope”
In poetry & music, writer Wendell Berry and composer Andrew Maxfield invite us to rest in hope
The seed is in the ground Now may we rest in hope While darkness does its work. Wendell Berry
This poem has been set to music by composer Andrew Maxfield. He talks about space around the words; and the words ‘Hope’ and ‘Darkness.’ He says: “In the life of a seed, darkness is indeed the context of hope, where hope must be the greatest, before the realisation of that hope opens into the first glimpses of light and bits of green.” https://soundcloud.com/brad-miller-497000090/the-seed-is-in-the-groundandrew-maxfield
...unless the grain...
Explore the Theme — “An Infinite Potential for Being” A pod-cast of a 12-minute sermon by the Rev. Matthew Wright on Matthew 13:31-32
LISTEN: to MUSTARD, BIRDS AND BRANCHES — Sermons from St. Gregory’s by the Rev. Matthew Wright, Episcopal priest at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Woodstock, NY — https://soundcloud.com/stgregoryssermons/mustard-birds-and-branches
Is mustard a plant, a bush, or a tree? “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which, when sown upon the ground is one of the smallest seeds on earth … the kingdom that Jesus says lies within us and all around us is like a mustard seed that seems to be nothing and yet within it there is an infinite potential for being, for unfolding, and for embrace. It puts forth branches so that the birds of the air can nest in its shade.”
SING: “You Have Called Us by Our Name”—
words & music by Bernadette Farrell; vocals by Clare Cobb; music arranged & played by Peter Cobb, Preston, UK — https://www.shcj.org/wp-content/ uploads/2022/01/You-Have-CalledUs-By-Our-Name.mp3; 4th verse (below):
“You will nourish, you will lead, giving every gift we need, For your reign will be established from the smallest of all seeds.”
Seeds are used across the great sacred traditions to speak of the potential that lies within human beings, something that starts out small and seemingly insignificant but that contains within it the full truth and possibility of who we really are, the potential to become truly human beings. And the differences between these two possibilities within us is as vast as the difference between a mustard seed and a tree with branches that can hold all the birds of the air. And here Jesus does some classic Jesus, he exaggerates. Mustard is not actually a tree and yet in Jesus’ parable he has this mustard shrub put forth great branches, and in Matthew’s and Luke’s version of this parable they actually explicitly add that it becomes a tree. Mustard doesn’t do that. So Jesus is really emphasizing the seeming discontinuity between what we think the seed is and what it’s capable of. Between what the world tells us we are and what it can actually become.” Matthew Wright 21
Explore the Theme — Remember That Thou Art Dust ...
“Lent” comes from the Old English word for “Spring.” View the SHCJ Lenten Meditation which invites reflection on humankind’s essential connection with earth and soil and all they hold for us.
ASHES AND ECOLOGY by Fr. Rob Esdaile New Jersey Preventive Netork Blog (NJPN) Independent Catholic News, February 17, 2022
"Remember (wo)man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." Could these words be the key to tackling the ecological crisis? Could the ritualised remembrance of our earth-born frailty that marks the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday transform our relationship with our Common Home?
WATCH: SHCJ 2022 Lenten Meditation;
“Lent is a time for each of us to nourish that unique “good seed” planted in us by the One who created us so that we may flourish and bear fruit.”
Dear reader, I am the ultimate example of upcycling — and so are you. We are stardust in a surprisingly literal sense — and that's not an exercise in self-aggrandisement. Every atom in our bodies used to be something or someone else. And every atom will be bequeathed, passed on, reused. We are tomorrow's mulch. Perhaps the road to sane relations with our Mother Earth is the befriending of this glorious truth. The late Thich Nhat Hanh put it thus: “We often forget that the planet we are living on has given us all the elements that make up our bodies. The water in our flesh, our bones, and all the microscopic cells inside our bodies all come from the Earth and are part of the Earth. The Earth is not just the environment we live in. We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us … We need to recognise that the planet and the people on it are ultimately one and the same.” (Love Letter to the Earth, pp.10-11) CLICK to continue: https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/44090
Today let us pray and fast in solidarity with Ukraine. No moment is unscarred, there is no pause. In every instant bloodied innocence Falls to the weary earth, and whilst we stand Quiescence ends again in acquiescence, And Abel’s blood still cries in every land. One silence only might redeem that blood.
Only the silence of a dying God. Malcolm Guite
Explore the Theme — “Love-sowing God”
The SHCJ February Meditation combines the sung poem by Steve Garnaas-Holmes with Taryn Harbridge’s musical rendition of “The Water is Wide”
LOVE-SOWING GOD by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Love-sowing God, sow love in me. Sow seeds of grace abundantly. My soul be soil where love may root And grow and bear your precious fruit. Where habit’s feet and wheels have tracked, My anxious work the soil has packed, Soften my soul with bliss or pain So love may enter in again. My angry thorns, my selfish weeds, God, clear away, and sow your seeds, Despite the hungry, wanting bird, Love, plant in me your living Word. Love-sowing God, your labors done, Help me to trust the rain and sun, Receive your grace and faithfully Bear forth your love that grows in me. VISIT: https://unfoldinglight.net/about/ — the author’s website which offers “a daily reflection rooted in a contemplative, Creation-centered spirituality .... for anyone who wants to be a part of God’s healing of the world.”
Unless the wheat seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. If it dies, it brings forth much fruit. Love is patient, love is kind ... not envious or boastful or arogant ... believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Make “Love-sowing God” a sung prayer by singing it to the melody of “The River is Wide, “ also called “The Water is Wide.” There are many versions of this available on line, but the following composition for piano and violin works smoothly with it: LISTEN: “The Water is Wide” arranged and performed by violinist Taryn Harbridge, accompanied by her sister at the piano. Taryn describes herself as “a born again Christian” who loves “to share the amazing good news of the gospel with the world” — https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=uMYbop1wXNo WATCH: The FEBRUARY MEDITATION on https://www.shcj.org/american/ to enjoy the Garnaas-Holmes lyrics combined with the Harbridge rendition of the music. 23
Explore the Theme — Gleanings—3
a medley of thoughts in word and image: “in a pregnant space,” germination as “complete destruction” of a “protective shell”
The Demands of Germination “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” It wasn’t possible to find the exact source of this quote which is attributed to Marcel Proust and a few other people, as well. In any case, its accuracy is supported in Britannica (online): “The seeds of many species do not germinate immediately after exposure to conditions generally favourable for plant growth but require a “breaking” of dormancy, which may be associated with change in the seed coats or with the state of the embryo itself .... Germination in such cases depends upon rotting or abrasion of the seed coat in the soil.” https://www.britannica.com/science/plant-development/The-breaking-of-dormancy
Do Not Be Afraid
Patrick van der Vorst, Christian Art https://www.christian.art/en/daily-gospel-reading/1071
All of us have the seed of faith buried deep into the soil of our souls. As a seed, it has a layer of protection around it, to protect it from the elements. But once we water that seed, it grows and starts to shoot above ground, being exposed to the rain, the winds, the frosts, etc… all this whilst still being firmly rooted in the ground .... In my three years of seminary, studying Theology is what has ripped off the protective shell of that seed. It has challenged my faith, it has made me think, it helps me evolve, to grow, move and think in a different way.
What protective shell might I/we hope to lose? What newness needs its time in a pregnant space?
SHCJ Conversation Group Feedback, January 2022
“Unless a wheat grain ... ” We are in “a pregnant space;” this is the moment of bringing new birth in the Society, another foundational period. We need to take time to be in the pregnant space and let the vision of a new order emerge to accompany the action we want to take in the Society for the next few years. The tendency is for one to jump in immediately to want to change, repair or fix things. We all need to stop and think and do some “theological reflection” on our experiences so far and then see what is emerging for us.
Explore the Theme — Lent is about Baptism
we begin Lent and by our Lenten observance we take care to water the seeds we have planted
The seed is in the ground; we rest in hope as darkness does its work; and during this season of Lent we water the earth that nurtures our seeds. What seeds do I water? “Lent is about baptism.”
…. Water is a tricky element …. too much water wipes out almost all of creation. Following the flood, God makes a covenant not only with Noah, but also with all “bodily creatures” that such widespread destruction will not come again through water … Yet death by water is part of the sacramental sign of baptism .... Baptism is a spiritual drowning that is quite physically felt as we struggle to surrender the last breath of our old selves. Arising again above the surface, we gasp in ruah, the Spirit of God, who causes the flood waters to recede, who brings order from the watery chaos, who is breathed into and animates us (Gen. 1-2) .... Lent may not be where we want to go. We may fear that rather than confronting our temptations in 40 days of desert we will instead drown in them. The Spirit teaches us God’s paths, of which the psalmist sings. These paths lead to the wild water of baptism, to the stark sands of the desert. On these paths we learn to trust in God’s promise that we’ll not be destroyed, to believe that God’s salvation will lift us from death to resurrection once again, to rejoice that water is not only a symbol of death but also a sacrament of life. Amanda Osheim, Daily Theology.org
Unless the grain of wheat ... 25
Explore the Theme — “Soft Refreshing Rain” listen to “All Good Gifts” from Godspell & take a moment to sing out your thanks for the gifts “from Heaven above” that refresh the seeds you water
The seed is in the ground; we continue to rest in hope as darkness does its work, grateful that all good gifts are sent from Heaven above like soft refreshing rain. LISTEN: “All Good Gifts” from the 1973 show Godspell, led by Marcus M. Martin lyrics by Stephen Schwartz & John-Michael Tebelak
All Good Gifts We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land.. But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand.. He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain... The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain... All good gifts around us Are sent from Heaven above So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love... We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good, The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food, No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts! All good gifts around us Are sent from Heaven above.. So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love.. I really wanna thank you Lord! 26
Explore the Theme — Sowers Are Life-givers we continue to “rest in hope,” & dream with Irish sister-author Stanislaus Kennedy; view a short trailer from the fantasy drama The Secret Garden
Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy (1939-2020) was an Irish Sister of Charity and author of six books including Now Is the Time, acclaimed in 2009 as a “phenomenal instant bestseller for anyone searching for a deeper meaning to life.” In this excerpt “Sr. Stan” draws on the poetry of Sarton and Rilke to ground her own reflection on seeds, sowers, gardens and hope.
“The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope as darkness does its work.”
“The poet and spiritual writer May Sarton says, ‘It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it, and I do and always have, then there is nothing to do that is without meaning and nothing at all that exists that does not hold the seed of creation in it.’ That is the hope of the sower. That is the hope in the child who discovers the secret garden, the much-neglected place of beauty. Hope is what the children in the story The Secret Garden had as they weeded and cleaned the neglected garden and excitedly planted flower seeds in it and waited and believed the flowers would take root and grow— and they did. Sowers are Life-givers Artists are sowers. As one of my favourite poets, the early twentieth-century German lyric poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion entirely in itself in the dark in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding and with deep humility and patience, to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born, this alone is what it means to be an artist in understanding as well as in creating.’” ENJOY: the 2.5 min. TRAILER to the 2020 film The Secret Garden, from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett; https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=gHNOXDiD9Vk
As you “rest in hope,” what dreams do you have for your seeds?
Are there poems, stories, films, gardening books ... that water & feed your hopes & dreams for the life of the Society ? If so, will you send the titles to Sam Strike, please, so they can be part of a future posting? firstname.lastname@example.org
Explore the Theme — “Plant Dreams”
Lent is a growing season for the global church & the SHCJ, a time to listen deeply to Pope Francis’ dream that the Synod be a time for planting our dreams
FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON a time for every purpose under heaven . . . a time to plant . . . . . . a time to pluck up what is planted . . . Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
A growing season is the period of the year when crops and other plants grow successfully. The length of a growing season varies from place to place. Most crops need a growing season of at least 90 days. In tropical regions, [like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Chad] where it is warm year-round, the growing season can last the entire year. In some tropical places, however, the growing season is interrupted by a rainy season. During this time, it is too wet to grow crops …. In temperate regions, which have warm summers and cold winters, [like England, Wales, Ireland, France, Italy, USA and Chile] the length of the growing season depends mostly on temperature. Some growing seasons last as long as eight months. Europe and most of the Americas enjoy long growing seasons like this. Adapted from “Growing Season,” National Geographic Society
Lent is a growing season: The word
“Lent” means “spring.”
A General Chapter is a growing season: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies ...”
A Church Synod is a growing season, too: In the Preparatory Document for the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis repeats what he said in 2018 in his opening address to the Synod on Young People —
“We recall that the purpose of the Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.”
“The seed is in the ground. Rest in hope as darkness does its work.” What dreams am I planting in this growing season for our Society ,,, for our global church? 28
Explore the Theme — “To Be Fully Alive ...” Read what scientist Charles Darwin wrote of the insights he received into the mystery of the unity of all creation during an ordinary, local walk
On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859 [when Cornelia was forming new members and honing her educational vision at St. Leonardson-Sea]. Written by naturalist Charles Darwin, it is called a work of “scientific literature” and regarded as the foundation of his theory of evolutionary biology. In the final paragraphs of the book Darwin offers his poetic world-view of life evolving through the ages, using the metaphor of an “entangled bank,” like those in the surrounding hillsides where he often walked near his home.
“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of various kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth … these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other and dependent on each other in so complex a way. There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being, evolved.” In Alive in God1, Timothy Radcliffe, OP includes a chapter called “The Ecology of Faith” in which he talks about the essential unity of all creation and the Christian’s call to be one in heart and mind. “To be fully alive … is to live for and with each other.” (223) He goes on to say that “the unity of the Church is a sacrament of the mutuality of life that Charles Darwin famously witnessed [on his walks] …” (229) Timothy Radcliffe, Alive in God, Bloombury Continuum, 2019
Do you have an “entangled bank” where you feel the oneness of all of creation? Try to go there in mind or body for a few quiet minutes.
LISTEN: to 2 minutes
of birdsong. What do you hear? What does it say to you about the grain of wheat? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdlIbNrki5o
Explore the Theme — “Here Comes the Sun”
Enjoy a concert in celebration of the gift of sunshine, so essential for the transformation of the grain of wheat
A dormant seed SPRINGS TO LIFE through interaction with moisture, oxygen, LIGHT and soil The grain of wheat requires sunlight as well as darkness and death if it is to yield a rich harvest. People, too require warmth and kindness, both from themselves and from others, in order to grow. Jetsunma (Venerable) Tenzin Palmo is an English-born buddhist nun and teacher of buddhist wisdom and practice. As President of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women she spoke these words at a conference in Sydney, Australia in 2019: “If we have a garden — consider our heart-mind as a garden — then we can’t always be pulling out the weeds and not noticing the beautiful flowers … which need to be watered, fertilized, and appreciated. Flowers grow in the sunshine and so the flowers of our good qualities grow in the sunshine of our awareness and our appreciation …. In order for things to grow they need to be appreciated, cultivated, so we not only work to transform the negative in us, but we also strive to encourage the goodness in us. Inherently we are completely ok.”
When has the warmth of another’s kindness helped me grow? Do I offer that same warmth to others? to myself?
SING: with the Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun,” https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=KQetemT1sWc
SING IT AGAIN: with James Taylor & Yo-Yo Ma, https://www.youtube.
“Here comes the sun doo, doo, doo, doo Here comes the sun And I say it’s all right Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here .... And I say it’s all right”
SING: with Miriam Makeba, “Ask the Rising Sun,” https://www.youtube.
“.... For the sun sees every tender leaf That drifts to earth and trembles. For the sun sees every stricken
LISTEN: Pastoral Symphony, Movements #4 & 5, by Ludwig van Beethoven; https://www.
What warmth & light will enable our SHCJ seeds to flourish?
The music tells the story of a group of peasants enjoying a picnic in the countryside. A storm sends them scattering, then the sun gently, sweetly breaks through and they rejoice together with thankful praise.
Explore the Theme — SING A NEW SONG!
Learn this original song especially composed for SHCJ by Preston friends & musicians, Pete & Clare Cobb
Unless a Grain of Wheat Music arranged and played by Pete Cobb—© 2022 Pete Cobb Vocals by Clare Cobb Lyrics: © 2022—adapted from John 12:24
Pete and Clare Cobb are long-standing friends of SHCJ who lived in St Augustine’s parish in Preston, England. Pete, a teacher, has been appreciated also on the music scene for over thirty years, playing in various bands; Clare worked at the school almost next door to us. Their contribution to parish liturgy was outstanding. We thank them for their original composition and contribution to the exploration of the SHCJ General Chapter theme.
LISTEN: “Unless a Grain of Wheat” — https://www.shcj.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Unless-A-Grain-of-Wheat-22.mp3
CLICK: for musical score and guitar chords — https://www.shcj.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Unless-A-Grain-of-Wheat-22.mp3
SING: Refrain —
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, The life that’s held within it cannot thrive. x2
1. If we die to self we will rise to life in Christ R/ 2. The seed that falls on deep soil will produce abundantly. R/ 3. Those who sow in tears will be singing when they reap. R/ 4. Let us nourish acts of goodness and God’s word will blossom true. R/ 5. God’s reign will be established from the smallest seeds of love. R/ 31
Explore the Theme — “LEARN A JAZZY CHANT”
Learn to sing “a jazzy chant” composed by Elizabeth Mary Strub, SHCJ, and sung with her by Mary Sullivan, Veronica Ufomba, Lilian Eboh, Patricia Holden, Mary Talbot, Margaret Ogunlade
ARTIST, Sieger Köder, Germany
LISTEN & LEARN: “Unless a Wheat Grain” — a 30-second chant based on John 12:24: https://vimeo.com/
CLICK HERE: to download the musical score; https://www.shcj.org/wp-content/up-
Explore the Theme — “Sow Peace”
Take a moment to contemplate the global implications of war in Ukraine and “let your heart break for this world”
Russian war against Ukraine in ‘world’s breadbasket’ may threaten global food supply THE TIMES OF ISRAEL, March 6, 2022 BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Russian tanks and missiles besieging Ukraine also are threatening the food supply and livelihoods of people in Europe, Africa and Asia who rely on the vast, fertile farmlands of the Black Sea region — known as the “breadbasket of the world.”
Let your heart break for this world.
Do not be afraid to stay there at the wound of the world, weeping with those who weep. There is infinite strength and blessing there. But bear your sorrow gently; it is held by the One who weeps for us .... Take courage. Do not despair at the oppressors, who are captive to the spirit of pride and violence. Bear your outrage lightly; do not cling to it. Let it lead you toward compassion, not anger. Let every breath be an offering.
We have been sent to make gentle this wounded world, to dwell as healers among fearful souls, to shine light in this darkness. Don't despair that you are unable. It is not you who does this work: it is God in you. When you touch the world's pain God enters you. Let your tears be healing rains that bring life. You breathe gentleness into the air that all others breathe,
in the earth we all share you sow peace.
Ukrainian farmers have been forced to neglect their fields as millions flee, fight or try to stay alive. Ports are shut down that send wheat and other food staples worldwide to be made into bread, noodles and animal feed. And there are worries Russia, another agricultural powerhouse, could have its grain exports upended by Western sanctions. While there have not yet been global disruptions to wheat supplies, prices have surged 55% since a week before the invasion amid concerns about what could happen next. If the war is prolonged, countries that rely on affordable wheat exports from Ukraine could face shortages starting in July, International Grains Council director Arnaud Petit told The Associated Press.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes: www.unfoldinglight.net
Explore the Theme — “Seedtime, not harvest”
A song of peace by Chanticleer, the story of Alfred Delp’s resistance to the cruelty of Hitler’s Germany; the humble etchings of a Ukrainian artist in the Soviet era — thanks to Rosemary Mangan, RJM
SEEDS SOWN in OTHER ERAS — "One thing is becoming gradually clear — I must surrender myself completely. This is seedtime, not harvest. God sows the seed and some time or other he will do the reaping. The one thing I must do is to make sure the seed falls on fertile ground. And I must arm myself against the pain and depression that sometimes almost defeat me. If this is the way God has chosen — and everything indicates that it is — then I must willingly and without rancor make it my way." from With Bound Hands, Alfred Delp, SJ Alfred Delp was a German Jesuit who actively resisted the Nazi regime. After suffering brutal treatment, he was brought to trial, then offered his freedom if he would renounce the Jesuits. He refused, and was hanged for treason on February 2, 1945. His body was cremated and his ashes spread on an unknown field. While his physical remains disappeared, Delp left behind letters smuggled out of prison. They reveal a man of courage who told the prison chaplain accompanying him to his death, “In half an hour, I’ll know more than you do.”
PRAYER by Galway Kinnell
by Ukrainian artist Lanyak Dmitro Oleksiiovych 1976
Whatever happens. Whatever what is is is what I want. Only that. But that. LISTEN: “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace,” sung by Cantus & Chanticleer, from the album Where the Sun will Never Go Down; https://www.youtube.com/
if Jesus himself be our leader we shall walk through the valley in peace
Above: barefoot farmer sowiing seeds in a wheat field Right: man making bread/harvesting wheat, with child at his side
Explore the Theme — Our Ancestors’ Voices
Elizabeth Swinburne contemplates God’s “tender, caring work” as her sister dies; Radegunde Flaxman probes the many separations in Cornelia’s life; Cornelia embraces the deaths that make us into the wheat of Christ
EYE WITNESS — Elizabeth Swinburne, SHCJ (RIP) An extract from an article Elizabeth wrote while her sister was dying; published in an issue of the European Province News, in 2000. “Unless a grain …” So the hard husk, the outer shell of the wheat grain is soaked, frozen by the hard winter weather, softened and gradually split, to fall away under the thrusting pressure of the living shoot. In the same way God is tending the dying body, readying it for the springtime when it will fall away and free the spirit for glorious growth. So now I picture Molly passively accepting the loving, caring, tending hand of God. So, if we have eyes to see, God is giving special care to the dying to make them capable of receiving the glorious resurrection which he plans for them. “The Father works until now, and I work.” I can see again—if I have eyes to see—this tender, caring work in my own life .... Every day’s difficulties grate against and soften the hard shell. Every day’s happinesses, with the warmth and showers, encourage the spirit to develop. As always it is God who is working and I for the most part am passive, rarely aware of the work that is being done in me ....
SEPARATION UNDREAMED OF — Radegunde Flaxman, SHCJ (RIP) Address to 1992 General Chapter delegates
WHAT IS IT THAT DIES here in this manner? Cornelia Connelly (RIP)
Only that which is not worthy to live — pride, frivolity, vanity, caprice, weakness, vice and passion. We do not put to death, but, on the contrary, we reanimate and we fortify everything which is worthy of life, that is to say — strength and true courage, forgetfulness of self, virtue and oblation of ourselves to God. Yes, O my soul, it is necessary that you should be buried in the earth … but after this … you will reappear laden with fruits of true life. By means of this death you will have become the salt that preserves, the light that illumines, the food of souls, and the wheat of Christ. D64:67
One of the ways to think about Cornelia’s life is to approach it through the word ‘separation’ —how for instance, as Paul put it, the word of God working on her cut like a sword between marrow and bone — something very inner; how she grew into freedom through successive, long-pondered choices. They were lifelong inner separations; we could call them fiats, forward into unknowns. [And].... events in Rome levered it — the legal separation, led her into the depths of the paschal mystery, into separating undreamed of. That is, into the soil of our charism. Each stay here took her further along that path. [E]ach visit [to Rome] reveals a different aspect of her, and that in turn confirms for us something of who we are, even now. 35
Explore the Theme — IN THE TOMB
Cornelia’s devotion to Christ in the tomb; a contemporary pastor’s belief that “we are seeds” of the risen One; the keening of Ukrainian mothers for their dead soldier sons
“In her biography, Mother Francis Bellasis refers to CORNELIA’S SPECIAL DEVOTION TO CHRIST IN THE TOMB. This Cornelia learned early in her spiritual life, probably at Grand Coteau when she was first introduced to the writings of Fénelon [17th Century French theologian/poet]. She copied out the words: O Sauveur, je vous adore, je vous aime dans le tombeau. Je m’y renferme avec vous ... je ne suis plus du nombre des vivants ... je suis mort, et la vie qui m’est préparée sera caché avec J.C. en Dieu.” / “O Savior, I adore you, I love you in the tomb. I enclose myself with you ... I am no longer one of the living ... I am dead, and the life that has been prepared for me will be hidden with J.C. in God.” E.M. Strub
WE ARE SURROUNDED BY DEATH, and we are well, and we will be well…. We know we are dying, and we dance on our graves. We know how to love, how to forgive. We know how to live for the well-being of all life and nothing less— and nothing less can sway us ….
LISTEN: to the keening of women at the funeral of Ukrainian soldiers in Lviv, recorded by BBC3: https://www.shcj.org/wp-con-
We are seeds of the One who has already died and risen. We will sing of justice and mercy until the end days, for even at the end, life throbs and thrills and burgeons with grace. We will go on. We will be well. We will die singing. Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain of wheat; but if it does, it brings a good
Explore the Theme — DYING . . . DEAD
probing the death “movement” of the paschal mystery “symphony,” through the lens of nature
LETTING GO OF LETTING GO The flower blooms only briefly, Jesus Tree, carved from a dead cedar by Lebanese sculptor Rudy Rahme
but so sweetly. True faith practices grief, letting go and letting go of letting go, anointing our losses with perfume and tears, kneeling at the feet of the Beloved we can't possess or cling to, trusting that the love that aches bears us through, until grief becomes gratitude and sorrow an open heart, and loss becomes sowing. And we behold the blossom. Only the soul that seeks love and not happiness finds joy.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes www.unfoldinglight.net
NATURE HAS THE FREEDOM TO DIE .... [T]he changing of
the seasons expresse[es] a freedom that we might all seek. Trees shed their leaves confident that, after a period of cold, dark winter, new life will bloom. This freedom—grounded in trust—is what we might hope to achieve, if we were to take a lesson from the trees—and from Jesus. After all, that’s what we see in Jesus on the cross, right? We quite literally see the freedom to die. We see Christ who, shedding all trappings of riches, honor and pride, accepts whatever is to come—even if that is death, the apparent failure of his earthly mission. He freely gives his life, completely trusting in God. Eric Clayton, Jesuit Conference of WATCH: David Attenborough’s address to world leaders at COP26 —
Canada & US Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth & dies, it can only be a single seed...
THE PASCHAL MYSTERY refers to the unfolding of God’s plan of
salvation in Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection .... The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ are different movements of the same symphony of God’s extravagant love for us ... O’Brien, The Ignatian Adventure 37
Explore the Theme — PASSING OVER
there’s no way around dying, say CS Lewis, Ruth Haley Barton, Richard Rohr, & Erhabor Emokpae
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Struggle Between Life and Death, Erhabor Emokpae, Nigeria
Isn’t there any way we can be good enough so we don’t have to die? ….The Paschal mystery. It is not a rhythm that any of us would willingly choose or even know how to choose; it is usually thrust upon us. Even Jesus admitted to having mixed feelings about the inevitability of it all. Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say —”Father, save me from this hour?” No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. (John 12:27) “Really?” we might say. “We’ve come all this way, done all this work, become this good just to die?”
What area of my life at this time needs to be transformed through the rhythm of death, burial and resurrection?
“Holy Week — Practicing the Most Sacred Rhythm of All” by Ruth Haley Barton
“We all find endless disguises and excuses to avoid letting go of what really needs to die for our own spiritual growth … It is always our beloved passing self that has to be let go of. Jesus surely had a dozen good reasons why he should not have to die so young, so unsuccessful at that point, and the Son of God besides! It is always ‘we’—in our youth, in our beauty, in our power and over-protectedness—that must be handed over. It is really about ‘passing over’ to the next level of faith and life. And that never happens without some kind of ‘dying to the previous levels.’” Richard Rohr, quoted in Barton
Explore the Theme — What About That Harvest?
reflections by Sarah Bachelard on holding together tensions of joy & sorrow at harvest-time
… it’s important to recognise which side of this tension we ourselves find most difficult to honour ...[T]he tradition of reading Ecclesiastes at harvest means we’re not allowed to forget the realities of disillusionment, sorrow and pain, as we celebrate the good times.
But ... the yearly celebration of harvest means that suffering, and the sense we sometimes feel of futility aren’t allowed to eclipse the realities of blessing and gift. For some of us, it’s not sorrow we find it hardest to remain present to, but joy.
... how do we hold such tension, such juxtaposition, such painful awareness of the whole?
Harvest by Leon Zernitsky, Russia
If the seed falls to the earth and dies it yields a rich harvest.
What harvest do I/we hope for?
We’re gathering to celebrate our harvest, knowing all the while that in Ukraine, spring planting has been impossible and there will be no harvest there next year.
We come to give thanks for provision and the earth’s bounty, even as the earth lurches closer to ecological collapse. It’s hard to feel happiness unalloyed in the midst of all this.
I wonder if the deep wisdom of the Jewish liturgical calendar is its determination to be faithful to this difficult whole, its commitment to deny neither grief nor gladness but to hold the two together, inviting us to do the same.
Sarah Bachelard, “The Harvest of the Heart’s Work (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8),” March 26, 2022 — read the complete reflection at: https://benedictus.com. au/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/TheHarvest-of-the-Hearts-Work-260322.pdf
Harmony by Leon Zernitsky, Russia
In the Jewish tradition the harvest is linked with the book of Ecclesiastes which tells us there is a time for everything under the sun, a time to be born and a time to die, to plant and to uproot ... This wisdom appears in chapter 3 of a book which begins in its very first line with the lament “Meaningless! meaningless! … Everything is meaningless.” Scripture scholar Walter Brueggemann points out that Ecclesiastes is in profound tension with Israel’s general sense of hopefulness in the ultimate meaning and purpose of all life. Theologian Sarah Bachelard explores this tension in a reflection offered to her Benedictus Contemplative Church in Australia, as people of the southern hemisphere celebrate their harvest season in late March. Her thoughts can help us prepare our hearts for our own promised harvest-time:
How might I/we hold an awareness of the whole?
Explore the Theme — “Ready to be crucified”
a prayer from Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes joined with stations of the cross by Mickey McGrath
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Beloved, in love you have thrown the seed of yourself into the soil of us. You have sown yourself in the wound of us, the dark, rich humus of our sorrow and lostness. You have surrendered yourself to our pain and the taunting of the demons that haunt us. You’ve allowed the seed casing of your life to split open, and your love to reach out, fingering tenderly through the dark soil. You’ve already said, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.“ You have already died, and been raised to life that is eternal. So now you are ready to ride your little donkey toward us. Resurrected One, you are ready to be crucified. Steve Garnaas-Holmes www.unfoldinglight.net
Explore the Theme — AT A CROSSROAD
Joan Chittister asks, “Is religious life dying or coming to new life in some parts of the world?” Nuns & Nones create a new covenant community together
WHAT ARE WE SEEKING? . . . CARA, the [American Catholic] Center for
Applied Research in the Apostolate, tells us that there were 160,931 sisters in the United States in 1970. And today? …. Today CARA tells us there are 41,357 sisters left of the 160,931 of them in the United States. What happened?.... The question, then, is clearly a major one and will, indeed, affect us all: Is religious life for women over [in some parts of the world]?
.... One thing important to remember is this. The loss of large numbers of sisters in the last 50 years is not unique. In the 19th century, in fact, in the early 1800s, governments declared monasteries “useless.” Yet, as monasteries were eventually permitted to reopen, women gathered around them again, and began ... to give themselves to a life of spiritual depth and the social care that Gospel life implied. What had died had risen again! And out of that death, came another Resurrection.
Like an old seed bursting to new life, we see this emerging community as one among many flowers beginning to sprout in this moment of profound evolution and transformation in spiritual and religious life.
It was an entirely new form of religious life as women’s orders re-formed and We hope that our experimentation can relocated in great numbers to follow the various nationalities and serve the spiritual needs of each ethnic kind of emigrés to the New World .... We are be of benefit to the whole garden. N&N at a crossroad. Is the Resurrection of religious life for women possible here AN 18 MONTH EXPERIMENT . . . “Dear friends, As we round the corner into this last stretch of winter, our eyes are already on springtime. in a secular culture where the world is largely open to adult women, adult And as the planting season approaches, we, too, are preparing to place some seeds into fertile soil. After five years of building bridges between sisters and women leaders, adult women spiriseekers, we are heeding the call to create an intergenerational, interspiritutual leaders, adult women in almost every aspect of society? from “What Are al community. We Seeking? Old Orders or New? Or Not At All?” by Joan Chittister, OSB in Natonal Catholic Reporter, March 31, 2022 (1st of 3 articles)
Encouraged and inspired by the spiritual depth, steadfast commitment, and prophetic action modeled by religious communities, many of us who walk the borderlands of religious belonging have been asking: What does this way of life have to say to our own dreams and yearnings? In reverent continuation of this question, a group of 27 mystic hearts have embarked upon an 18-month experiment in covenantal community—the seed, we hope, of a longer-term commitment and community. We are seekers and sisters; artists and land stewards; a rabbi and a reverend; organizers and educators; healers and leaders. Ranging from our twenties to our eighties, we draw from an array of prophetic traditions and lineages, and claim many different cultural, racial, and gender identities; but we unite in our search for a way of life and structure of community centered around spirit and the work of repair.” from a communication from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Nuns and Nones,* an intergenerational, spiritual community who share an alliance with the RSM, March 3, 2022
*WHAT ARE NONES? the name given to persons in the US who do not identify with any religion; one-fifth of the US public — and a third of adults under 30 — are religiously unaffiliated today.
Explore the Theme — All Praise to Our Nearest Star a poem in awe at the wondrous gift of sunlight for a planet whose life depends on it; Easter praise for Christ our light
“The Sun” by Mary Oliver Have you ever seen anything in your life more wonderful
than the way the sun, every evening, relaxed and easy, floats toward the horizon and into the clouds or the hills, or the rumpled sea, and is gone — and how it slides again out of the blackness, every morning, on the other side of the world, like a red flower streaming upward on its heavenly oils, say, on a morning in early summer, at its perfect imperial distance — and have you ever felt for anything such wild love — do you think there is anywhere in any language, a word billowing enough for the pleasure that fills you, as the sun reaches out, as it warms you as you stand there, empty-handed — or have you too turned from this world —
or have you too gone crazy for power, for things?
The object that gives the Earth its light and heat is a massive ball of gas and plasma 93 million miles away. The sun is our nearest star. Thanks to the nuclear fusion reactions taking place at its core, the Sun has been shining for four and a half billion years. Without it, Earth would be cold and dark. No plants could grow, no fields of wheat, no animals, birds or insects. Nothing could live here. The sun keeps us alive. The energy in our food comes from the sun. — it’s solar energy! Unless the grain of wheat that falls into the Earth and dies is warmed by the sun, it cannot live; it cannot yield a rich harvest.
“Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently.” O Lord, we think of you when we look at him. Francis of Assisi
Lumen Christi! Deo Gratias! How will the dreams we sow, the seeds we plant, be for the good of our endangered planet as it circles the life-giving sun?
Explore the Theme — A HIDDEN WHOLENESS
Brian Draper probes the mingling of darkness & light, death & life as aspects of a great wholeness; Richard Rohr explores resurrection as a mystery of entering into the wholeness we’re made for
for other “Explore the Theme” postings visit: https://www.shcj.org/explore-the-theme
WITH A WHOLE HEART “... I like to get outside at twilight, to witness that threshold time between light and dark, and to meet it with love … [I]t’s an exquisite time to seek for what the Quaker writer Parker Palmer calls ‘a great truth’ hidden in the plain sight of nature. We discover, he notes, that ‘diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites. They are held together in the paradox of a ‘hidden wholeness.’ Such a paradox is never easy to compute with minds that merely work in binary. [With a whole heart] we’re better placed to yield to the rhythms of ripening and relinquishing, and to sense that we are part of all this wholeness, too. If we try to deny [these diminishments], don’t we deny something of the mysterious beauty of our own God-given self, too? It undoubtedly takes practice … but ‘when I give myself over to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising,’ says Parker Palmer, ‘the life I am given is real and colorful, fruitful and whole.’ from “Holy Ground” by Brian Draper, Britishwriter, speaker, pilgrim, guide; briandraper.org
unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth & dies it remains a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest
WE ARE ALL HOLONS! Resurrection is simply incarnation taken to its logical conclusion: what starts in God ends in God—who is eternal .... The Risen Christ represents the final and full state of every True Self: God-in-you who is able to see and honor God-everywhere-beyond-you too! In other words, Christ is more than anything else a “holon”—a scientific term for something that is simultaneously a whole by itself and yet a part of a larger whole, too. Jesus is telling us that we are all holons! We all participate in the one single life of God. “To God, all people are in fact alive,” as Jesus put it (Luke 20:38). We are just in different stages of that aliveness—one of which we experience as dying. from “Life-Death-Life” by Richard Rohr, November 23, 2018; cac.org
Explore the Theme — OUR HOPE HAS A NAME! The Easter Sequence calls Christ our hope. In an interview with journalist Lorena Bianchetti Pope Francis calls hope the anchor & hidden housekeeper of Christian life
HOPE UNDER SEIGE: Pope Francis in conversation with journalist Lorena Bianchetti, Good Friday, April 15, 2022 Pope Francis: Hope is a tension toward the future, toward Heaven as well. This is why the image of hope is an anchor: the anchor thrown over there “Brothers and sisters, our hope and I have the cord has a name: the name of Jesus” there, to arrive Francis, Holy Saturday, 2022 there, to resolve the situation, but always with that cord. Hope never disappoints, but it makes you wait. Hope is the housekeeper of the Catholic life, of the Christian life. It is truly the humblest of virtues. It is hidden, but if you do not have it in your hand, you will not find the right path. It is hope that makes you find the right path .... We like speaking about faith, a lot, about charity: Look at that! Hope is the virtue that is hidden a bit, the littlest, the littlest in the house. But it is the strongest for us. Lorena Bianchetti: [I’m] thinking of the young, the ones who see the future being ... snatched from their hands ... This is the reason why they don’t plan much ... don’t always believe in permanent relationships ... don’t form families .... So, what would you like to say to them?
Pope Francis: That they not confuse hope with optimism. We can buy optimism at a kiosk .... But hope is something else. Hope is being certain that we are moving toward life. There is an Argentinian poet – really good, a great poet – [there is] a phrase, a poem, that has always hit me, a definition of life: “Life is death that is on
the way”. No, life is not death on the way: perhaps life is going from death to life! Hope is strong here: it is the cord of the anchor. It never disappoints! But it is humble, it is truly the housekeeper of the Christian life. How many times it is the housekeepers who keep the life of family going ahead. LISTEN: Now the Green Blade Riseth, by Ely Cathedral Choir; https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=En28Je8ehDs Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain, Thinking that He never would awake again, Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain, Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain; Quick from the dead the risen One is seen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Jesus' touch can call us back to life again, Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
Explore the Theme — EASTER PLANTING
Ponder Pope Francis’ impassioned plea for peace in all parts of our world in his “urbi et orbi” address on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022; ask yourself “how can I be a sower & grower of peace where I am?”
“Today, more than ever, we need Jesus to stand in our midst and repeat to us: “Peace be with you!” Only he can do it. Today, he alone has the right to speak to us of peace. Jesus alone, for he bears wounds... our wounds. His wounds are indeed ours, for two reasons. They are ours because we inflicted them upon him by our sins, by our hardness of heart, by our fratricidal hatred. They are also ours because he bore them for our sake; he did not cancel them from his glorified body; he chose to keep them, to bear them forever. They are the indelible seal of his love for us, a perennial act of intercession, so that the heavenly Father, in seeing them, will have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. The wounds on the body of the risen Jesus are the sign of the battle he fought and won for us, won with the weapons of love, so that we might have peace and remain in peace. As we contemplate those glorious wounds, our incredulous eyes open wide; our hardened hearts break open and we welcome the Easter message: “Peace be with you!” Brothers and sisters, let us allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives, our homes, our countries!
I have a small grain of hope—
Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum Popularly known as Spath, Mauna Loa, or peace lily Plant Family: Araceae Country of origin: tropical rainforests of Colombia and Venezuela; popularized in Europe in 1870
PEACE BE WITH YOU! sow peace here & now!
one small crystal that gleams clear colours out of transparency. I need more. I break off a fragment to send you. Please take this grain of a grain of hope so that mine won’t shrink. Please share your fragment so that yours will grow. Only so, by division, will hope increase, like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower unless you distribute the clustered roots, unlikely source— clumsy and earth-covered— of grace. Denise Levertov