Reflections and Musings

Prayer, Praise, Poem, Prose

How do you incorporate spiritual disciplines into academic study?

This is one of the questions we, at Apprentice, wrestle with in our undergraduate classes in Christian spiritual formation.

We’ve been reading Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle (which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it). So, as part of class last Tuesday, Jim set aside thirty minutes for individual prayer and reflection with the aid of a poem from Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully through the Hours of the Day.

So, armed with a fresh cup of coffee, the poem, and a notebook, we all set to find a spot on campus for silence and prayer.

It’s a morning class so we focused on Lauds (Morning Prayer/Praise).

Here’s the poem:

“What lifts the heron leaning on the
I praise without a name. A crouch, a flare,
a long stroke through the cumulus of trees,blue heron
a shaped thought at the sky–then gone. O rare!
Saint Francis, being happiest on his knees,
would have cried Father! Cry anything you please.
But praise. By any name or none. But praise
the white original burst that lights
the heron on his two soft kissing kites.
When saints praise heaven lit by doves and rays,
I sit by pond scums till the air recites
Its heron back. And doubt all else. But praise.”
–John Ciardi¹

And here’s my prayer/praise/reflection/poem/prose:

How can praise occur without a name? How is praise rightly attributed without a label, a tag, right credit due?

But this desire stems from a need to pick an object of praise from the pantheon; one God from many.

But are you not alone God? And is praise not rightly attributed when you are both the object and subject of praise? But praise of you lessens me. Or does it?

To praise you is to answer your call, to enter a dialogue, a conversation. But what I call scarcity, you have called good abundance.

To die in praise is to live fulfilled; not in objects or material wealth, but in your Spirit. I must decrease so that you might increase in me. You, who can be named only–“on the move”–I am who I am.

Your praise is not only, or even best, on pious lips, but in life lived, life shared, love spilled
over, into unceasing praise
a smile, a laugh, a cry, a tear.
In new wine poured from new wine skins,
vessels not broken, as eyes from the dirt see,
but formed into a particular posture of praise:
unique, but not individual.
The symphonic response to your conducting baton,
lives stamped with your rhythm, a tune unceasing.

¹ Poem from Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr (Sorin Books, 2010), 51.

Photo credit: kansasphoto.

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