That Was the River, This Is the Sea


Sailing in a strange boat, heading for a strange shore,
We’re sailing in a strange boat, heading for a strange shore,
Carrying the strangest cargo that was ever hauled aboard.

Karen Armstrong was on “Speaking of Faith” eight days ago. She mentioned in an interview that the one thing the time spent in a nunnery does is help you concentrate on what is being asked of you. Although at the time she entered the convent, there was no focus by nuns in training on theology and theologians. In formation. “You go through a process of deconditioning. And then comes a form of reconstruction. You become oriented over time to something within.” Disciplined practice. It sounded a lot like the U. S. Marines. Ritual. Formation. Some of it came from religious practice.

Seasons and cycles that spur us on to change. To move. A Catholic education. I had one. The cost these days was beyond comprehension. The collective moment toward God.

There is a discomfort in the developed world over prayer. Or just to beg? Animals that we are, with the communal nature of prayer. Was there discomfort in letting the divine nature overcome the animal within? When half the populace did not worship on any given weekend. In the communal part of prayer. Prayer and begging.

I was at a silent auction on Friday night for the St. Joseph Worker Program, a one year volunteer experience for women….Turning flesh and bodies into souls. At a silent auction on Friday night there were 10 women from Grinnel College, Luther College, St. Olaf College, and the University of Minnesota. Of Catholic universities, there was one from Loyola and one from the College of St. Catherine.

November. Seasons and cycles that spur us on to change. To move. In search of the divine. Building up an institution through donated people and money. The need for young nuns and young priests in the world. And for the St. Joseph Worker. The program placed the women into places addressing the needs of the poor and marginalized. Payment included of room and board plus $100 a month. It seemed for these lay women the start of the begging part. Of prayer.

Formation. In search of the divine. And the personal nature of prayer, in a collective moment toward God.

The financial cost of the formation of all the young…..building up an institution…when the institution had so much conflict with the real world. Classical music in the age of divorce. Formation. Helping you concentrate on what is being asked of you. When I can’t get there on my own.

We’re sailing on a strange sea, blown by a strange wind
We’re sailing on a strange sea, blown by a strange wind
Carrying the strangest crew who ever sinned

I was out with two cousin after the silent auction. I heard Theresa’s story on Friday night. About selecting a high school, and the choice she was given about high school. And when she made the wrong choice, she was commanded where to go. By a father.

Twenty-four hours later there was a story from a different Theresa, on Saturday night. About selecting a college. A niece of this friend had not been talking about her college selection process. People do not change, I said. I never sought counsel about the choice of a college. Of those life decision, I told the story of my own announcement where I was going to a college out of state. My own choice when announced was not that well received. By my dad. It was German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who said that the first half of life “gives us text, and what follows supplies the commentary on it.” Since I was paying, I did not need to seek parental approval in the last stage of formation. When Judaism or Christianity is a comprehensive way of life, a well formed choice like a well written prayer is part of the lifetime search of the divine. I believe that parents in such a family should not select the college. Fourteen years later my father saw the affect of my college decision which added some chapters to his life story. It was the beginning of an answer to a prayer that was ongoing for almost the next 14 years. That college decision had decided a lot. If you believed that life involved movement toward God than a parent had to let a child select the college, based upon financial considerations and talent.

Those life decisions one day soon woul make a difference. You become oriented over time to something within. That was a mystery in the search of the divine.

After that silent auction on Friday night I heard another story from cousin Theresa . She had two children born in the most affluent time in world history. It was not their fault when they were born, but her children did not share in the affluence. One had a new addiction to the worst drug out there. I heard the news around Halloween. There was a 6 month wait to get into a treatment center. When in all probability her daughter would not live 6 months with her heroin addiction.

Treatment centers. Formation. Where you go through a process of deconditioning. And then comes a form of reconstruction. And a lot like Karen Armstrong, you become oriented over time to something within.

I learned by the age of 32 how much my prayers can make a difference. And it was not just my prayers. Prayer and begging. In search of the divine. And the personal nature of my prayer, in a collective moment toward God.

Regarding this addiction, there had to be some heavy weight praying going on, knowing her family. Having heard the news her daughter had been accepted into treatment this week, leaving the restaurant at the end of the night, cousin Theresa said as she reached her car the song playing as we went out the door was the song that her daughter heard that made her choose to go into treatment. It was a lot like that moment in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” when the bell rings. When you become oriented to something happening. Only a lot more real than that Frank Capra movie and a lot like those words of Michael Scott:

We’re living in a strange time, working for a strange goal
We’re living in a strange time, working for a strange goal
We’re turning flesh and body …into soul.
“Strange Boat” written by Michael Scott of The Waterboys

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