Joan Chittister: ‘A Lust for Joy’

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“Sitting out in the middle of the channel in a little nineteen-foot fishing boat with ocean freighters and large sailboats passing us on both sides, I remember the wild and crazy joy of it: no desk, no phone, no speeches, no airplanes. Just four of us, a hot sun, an empty fish bucket, a parade of boats, and the rocking of the waves. I cast with all my might, caught the top of the channel light, and, laughing my heart out, cut free just in time to avoid wrapping the next sail in fishing line. Life, bare and simple, is a wonderful thing. How do we learn that? And what does it mean for the spiritual life itself?

We learn it by seeing it, I think. When I was a young sister, in the days before the church had negotiated a kind of truce with the world and the monastery reflected the emotional sterility that the standoff implied, Sister Marie Claire, steadfastly opposed to the suppression of joy in the name of holiness, went to her music room every Sunday afternoon to listen to records of symphonies, scores of operas, collections of piano performances. We didn’t go to concerts in those days, and only music teachers were allowed to have record players. She would sit in her rocking chair all afternoon and simply listen. I remember being very moved by the model of such bold and wanton delight in the face of such institutionalized negation of it. The lesson served me well. There are times in life when the only proper response to the dreary and the difficult is to ignore them. The person of hope, the person who knows that God is in the daily, knows joy.

Embodied love, with all the joy and pleasure and beauty it brings, has been made the great enemy of the spiritual life, as if learning to be dour were a dimension of sanctity. We were trained to beware the beautiful and the pleasurable, as if beauty and pleasure distracted us from the God who made the world beautiful and gave us all a capacity for pleasure. “There is no such thing as a sad saint,” the poster says. Having come out of a Jansenist spirituality, it took me a little while to get beyond the sourness of sin to the delight of fishing boats and party times and wedding feasts at Cana. But I finally came to understand that there is no such thing as “loving God alone.” If we love God, we love everything God made because all of them are reflections of the Love that made them.

To lust for joy is to lust for the God of life. To make joy where at first it seems there is none is to become co-creator with the God of life. When we make joy, we make a holier, happier life.”–Joan Chittister, OSB

Excerpted from Called To Question by Joan Chittister

‘We’re all Fishermen Now’

6a010535dbab09970c01156e53958a970c-320wiI love this story below that Obama told at Notre Dame yesterday about Fr. Hesburgh creating “common ground” among members of Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Commission. What held them together was fishing.

The way Obama turns the image at the end is phenomenal and not without some Christian resonance. Lovely.

And years later, President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how on Earth he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs. And Father Ted simply said that during their first dinner in Wisconsin, they discovered they were all fishermen. (Laughter.) And so he quickly readied a boat for a twilight trip out on the lake. They fished, and they talked, and they changed the course of history.

I will not pretend that the challenges we face will be easy, or that the answers will come quickly, or that all our differences and divisions will fade happily away — because life is not that simple. It never has been.

But as you leave here today, remember the lessons of Cardinal Bernardin, of Father Hesburgh, of movements for change both large and small. Remember that each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we all seek the same love of family, the same fulfillment of a life well lived. Remember that in the end, in some way we are all fishermen.

Read the full transcript here.

Obama at Notre Dame: Read it Yourself

6a010535dbab09970c01156e53958a970c-320wi1I’m posting the full transcript of Barack Obama’s excellent speech yesterday at Notre Dame.

This is the level of adult discourse that I’ve come to expect from Obama. It’s rich, deep, wide, and deals with things that are true. This speech models a quality of discourse that seeks and makes for “a more perfect union.”

Transcript: Obama’s Notre Dame speech
May 17, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, congratulations, Class of 2009. (Applause.) Congratulations to all the parents, the cousins — (applause) — the aunts, the uncles — all the people who helped to bring you to the point that you are here today. Thank you so much to Father Jenkins for that extraordinary introduction, even though you said what I want to say much more elegantly. (Laughter.) You are doing an extraordinary job as president of this extraordinary institution. (Applause.) Your continued and courageous — and contagious — commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all. (Applause.)

Good afternoon. To Father Hesburgh, to Notre Dame trustees, to faculty, to family: I am honored to be here today. (Applause.) And I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to be a part of your graduation.

And I also want to thank you for the honorary degree that I received. I know it has not been without controversy. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but these honorary degrees are apparently pretty hard to come by. (Laughter.) So far I’m only 1 for 2 as President. (Laughter and applause.) Father Hesburgh is 150 for 150. (Laughter and applause.) I guess that’s better. (Laughter.) So, Father Ted, after the ceremony, maybe you can give me some pointers to boost my average.

I also want to congratulate the Class of 2009 for all your accomplishments. And since this is Notre Dame —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Abortion is murder! Stop killing children!

AUDIENCE: Booo!

THE PRESIDENT: That’s all right. And since —

AUDIENCE: We are ND! We are ND!

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

THE PRESIDENT: We’re fine, everybody. We’re following Brennan’s adage that we don’t do things easily. (Laughter.) We’re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes. (Applause.)

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