During the diocese’s concentration upon the consecrated life open house Sunday at the Center for Pastoral Leadership seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio, I decided to videotape this sister’s lecture, testing for the first time my new camera’s video capabilities. I spoke with the sister, impressed with her disposition and words. Unfortunately, the battery for my camera ran out, and like a dummy I forgot to pack the second one still charging at home. The entire lecture was as good as this clip. I love the sister’s focus upon attention. Paying attention to the details of life, aware within the moment, is a powerful prayer discipline. The effort the nun puts forth is a spiritual exercise able to strengthen one’s prayer life. Observing with an open heart and mind, the process eliminates imagination, fantasy, manipulating, plotting and scheming as a way of life. Thoughts are corralled and kept in line with the Creator by lovingly tending to the environment surrounding. Wandering thoughts, memorized words, self-centered petitions, prideful ambitions, distracting sloth, negative dispositions are all usurped by attentive perception. The senses are acute and utilized to perceive the beauty and wonder of creation, the splendor of God displayed.
I think of a commanding story I read once. An artist friend, a spiritual free thinker, an intellectual centered within what I consider sixties hippie thought insisted I read the book ‘The Wind is My Mother’. The man is an incredibly kind and loving individual, always a pleasure to encounter. He is quite an expert at playing penny whistles, fifes, and wooden flutes he carves himself. He would not stop praising the book, challenging me to read it. I could not let him down, and once I finished the book I admitted it was one of the most incredible books I ever read. The author of the book, Bear Heart, is a Native American Shaman, an amazing man who embraced not only the traditional spiritual and healing arts of his ancestors, yet he expanded to excel as a university student, earning honors as he graduated with a doctorate in psychology.
Within his autobiography, Bear Heart told a story from his days in the United States military. He was being interviewed for a prestigious officer position. Many candidates were interviewed. When Bear Heart sat down before the interviewing officer, the officer surprised him. He proclaimed he was going to ask him one question. The same question he asked all of those being interviewed. The officer said: “You just waited over an hour in the lobby to be interviewed. I want you to describe to me the details of the lobby. Tell me what you saw out there while you were waiting”. Bear Heart preceded to describe the lobby down to the minutest detail. Wide eyed, the officer was stunned, proclaiming that the other candidates at best could only come up with vague descriptions, futile efforts to describe detail they were not clear about. The other candidates were so consumed with the interview; possibilities, projections, speculation, their imagination dominating their state of being. They were so consumed with the future they paid no attention to the moment. Bear Heart, through his extensive spiritual training, allowed the interview to wait until its proper time, trusting and confident, absorbed within the moment of waiting in the lobby, noticing and aware of all that surrounded him. It is a wonderful lesson.
Before the Eucharist, our mind should be so disciplined. Focused, centered within the moment. We give all of our attention to the Lord, pleading with the Lord to gaze upon us, supplying wisdom, intoning the Holy Spirit to shower gifts, acknowledging Our Holy Mother as the dispenser of grace to be bountiful in her efforts, loving in her placement. Our attention is absorbed singularly in adoration.
Of course the mind will wander. My mind just wandered. I am going to follow it, allowing it to explore. I thought of the ending of the first movie in the Apu trilogy, ‘Pather Pancali’. I posted a video clip from the movie the other day. Consider the ending, I found it splendid, evoking spiritual charm. Young Apu admiringly loved his older sister Darju, his only sibling. Darju, impoverished, reduced to meager clothing and accessories, still dreamed of beauty, fascinated in one scene by the fanciful wedding gown of a young Indian bride. The scene I posted Darju is applying eyeliner before dotting her brow with a cosmetic third eye, captivated by the possibility of being an alluring beauty. There is a neighbor girl whose family is antagonistic toward Darju, always claiming she is stealing fruit from the orchard, branding her a thief to the community. The orchard once belonged to her family, however the irresponsible deeds of an uncle cost the entire family ownership. One afternoon, the neighboring family appears enraged with accusations that the thief Darju had gone too far by stealing a beaded bracelet. Crying, the neighbor girl insisted she knew it was Darju because Darju could not put the necklace down, hypnotized when she held it. The girl’s mother roared with threats and incriminations. Confronted, Darju vehemently denied the theft, going to great lengths to proclaim her innocence. The event passed, time transpired. In the end of the movie, Darju becomes critically ill with a fever. During a dramatic storm scene, all nature in an uproar, the young girl passes away. Apu is shattered by the loss of his sister. Rummaging through her room, lost in melancholy, Apu finds buried in her things the beaded bracelet. Tears fall. Within the tremendous love of his sister he confronts the reality she was a thief and a liar. Crying, he runs outdoors, throwing the bracelet into the swamp water. In an amazing scene, the bracelet sinks below the surface of the water, the plant growth covering the water is burst open as the bracelet splashes into the water. The films holds the striking moment in a fascinating cinematic effort as the plant growth reforms into an unbroken covering. The splash of the bracelet is made nonexistent. Within the consuming love for his sister, Apu accepts her imperfections and weaknesses. He protects her. No one else will know of her misdeed. Love is the only thing he will allow to embrace the remembrance of his sister.
The short lecture clip Pay Attention.