My Reflection on “Finding God at Home” and “Finding God in the City”

    

I had just been going through the first few paragraphs of the 1st chapter of the book, “Finding God at Home”, when it startled me to discover I was reading something about myself, or rather something about my quest for something akin to what the author calls ‘Life on the Edge.’

A longing to meet a deeper reality could aptly describe that stage in my life when, without my recognizing it for what it was, the need to overcome or resist some norms in my normal Catholic upbringing started to surface. A high school student at the time, I didn’t know the reasons for such need. Nor do I now remember exactly what those norms were.

I had been brought up in a deeply religious Catholic family, and had been educated in an exclusive (all-girls) Catholic school run by nuns. Later, I pursued my Psychology course at the oldest university in Asia, a pontifical university. All throughout my childhood until I got married, life at home had been characterized by daily family prayer-time, regular Sunday Masses, and various church activities like singing in the choir.

My parents were both active members of our parish with my father as a lay minister and a member of the Knights of Columbus, while my mother as a member of the Apostleship of Prayer. One of my younger sisters is a member of the contemplative order of the SSpSAP (‘Pink Sisters’), and a brother is a priest.

Perhaps then, even in this kind of family atmosphere, I had not been able to define what ‘Spirituality’ was, because honestly, I thought it only belonged to the priests and nuns. At the same time, I had prided myself for being a part of such a family.

Years later, I slipped away from that kind of religiousity, and went on to question some practices like praying the rosary, ritualized prayers, and novenas. Although by not praying in my traditional way, I also felt not Catholic,and I felt some guilt and fear because I no longer had a sense of belonging.

Yet, I kept moving between the Church and some other Theosophical thoughts. I once thought I was perhaps looking for some easier way to connect to God, or for some justification why I shouldn’t be praying the traditional way because at times I found them tedious or too much of a ritual.

Becoming a mother didn’t stop me from that kind of “search.” I even experienced what the author described in the chapter on “Life at the Center” as ‘to feel energy, talent, hopes and ambitions all being slowly drained’ because I felt I was always another person for someone else, for some people, never for myself.

If our lives are our gifts to God, our offering to Him, then I didn’t somehow realize this, as it was like I was full of many things, but was nothing at all.

However, after more defining experiences that brought in wisdom and maturity, answers – good answers have started to take shape in different ways. Now a single parent and a grandmother, this book seems to give more meaning to what I am now. I may be like the first kind of soul: I am a bow in your hands, Lord, draw me lest I rot.’ Reading the book, I have realized here are newer and fresher insights.

The article “Finding God in the City” is a very good example for me of life being lived ‘on edge’ and ‘at the center.’ The author’s 7 principles are inspiring and worth living by, too.

Like crystal waters, the thoughts and examples presented by these two authors came to clear my mind of some doubts.

 

Note: I share this as one example of how students can write a personal reflection based on an assigned reading. Again, students are advised to follow their professors’ specific guidelines/requirements.

Shanghai By The Moonlight

 

 

This is a poem I wrote in 2000, inspired by both Enya and a postcard of a Shanghai Buddhist Temple. Though it is in poetry form, it is also a good example of how to write vividly by using descriptive details that are concrete and specific. Doing so can help our readers use their imagination to see, or hear, or feel what we as writers present in our composition. (my note to students)


Like folded hands steepled in prayer

The Longhua Pagoda solemnly beckons –

Where are the stars that paint the sky;

Only the gentle moon silently casts its light

On the mysterious city of Shanghai…

What a cold, lonely night

As I walk through its snow-laden grounds

And I behold the haunting sight

Of winter trees and stones;

And hues of blue and gray and white

Dance to the eerie sounds of silence…

Upon its lace-mantled bosom

A golden light glows

A solitary glimpse of warmth

For a distant soul in hope

Of Memories and a China Rose…


Poetry Prompt #17 – Dreamflights

My Reflection on “The Song of the Bird” by Anthony de Mello, S.J.

 I cannot fully describe my total experience while going through each of the pages of this extraordinary book “The Song of the Bird” by Anthony de Mello. When I set out to read, I tried to put myself into a proper frame of mind, and created a mood in order to get a feel for what the author says: “the mystical.”

I knew being mystical was more than just feelings, so I seriously followed the third suggestion of how to read the stories – in a prayerful manner. Most of all, I tried to open my mind, heart and spirit for the grace of wisdom I would hopefully gain.

Story after story I went and slowly some things would strike me now and then, but only superficially, I felt. Later I discovered I must not predispose myself in a way too expectant nor too presumptuous, for what I found most enlightening were those that I read in a humble way.

Like what most of the stories have to say, we must not be too engrossed with the future, nor should we be buried in the past, for we must live in the present and be aware of what the present has for us. If we do so, sooner or later the beauty of the moment unfolds before us to savor, to experience, to have. Then we cannot just analyze nor rationalize; we just have to let each moment be, and let us be still in the moment, be in the silence of the present.

Like the fish who keeps looking for the big ocean, I learned I must keep still, and listen to the silence of my self, to the lessons that were being imparted to me here, little by little. I should only let my heart be open and let my mind be still and stop walking ahead, wandering around because I cannot just force wisdom into my heart just because that was what I intended to find.

I also learned that this is how we usually go through life. We race ahead to the directions or goals we have set for ourselves as if the future is all there is to life.

What also strikes me about the book is the varied sources of inspiration drawn from different religions and they all speak of searching for the Truth, being one with Creation, and most of all, finding God in our everyday lives.

And though we are of different faiths, of different races, we all have the same stories to share, the same longings for our same God, the same aspirations and ideals. We all can learn from one another.

I was most struck by one story here, “Change the world by changing me.” I believe that this is one powerful prayer that could really ‘move mountains’ if only we were humble enough to first transform ourselves and ask God to help us.

Because I was definitely changed somehow by most of the stories, I decided to share the book with my second son and asked him to write his reflection. May I then take the liberty to share with you what he wrote verbatim:

Reading this book has made me strengthen my faith in God. I am grateful that as I was reading, a lot of questions stirred inside my heart, meaning I am not contented with my spiritual life because being contented means that I already know everything there is to know about God which I think is an impossible feat.

My questions led me to the fact that I was created in His image, a little lower than the heavenly beings which makes me greater than all things here on Earth but that God is infinitely higher so there is a vast difference between us. He knows all the answers to my questions but He may not reveal those to me since He said that there are things that are hidden and are for Him alone. And it is a good thing because His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts. So seeking answers that are not meant for me may be dangerous to do.

And to those questions that are answered, I will keep always in my heart knowing that those will help me experience God better. Also, it will help me lead more souls to Him. I am always looking forward to questions to pop in my mind because each question answered will help me become a more mature Christian.

 

I intend to read this book again and again, for each time, new insights are revealed.