A Note from the Staff
At CAC’s monthly staff meeting, we’ve instituted an agenda item where one staff member introduces themselves. When it was my turn to share, I spoke about my role as one of tending the container of transformation that is the Living School. I came to the Living School with six years of experience as registrar for another institution that nurtures spiritual transformation. There I learned that loving and prayerful attention to details can create a structure for deep spiritual exploration; this encourages vulnerability, allowing our real self to peek out from its hiding place.
In this newsletter you will find support and inspiration for your continued spiritual exploration and openness to vulnerability. Risking being seen opens the door to solidarity with the vulnerable. Richard offers a reflection on what draws students to the Living School. Carolyn Metzler gives an update on the alumni retreats. We feature Ellen Haroutunian in our alumni spotlight. Alana Levandoski reviews The Divine Dance. And finally, some news from the Living School and its parent organization, the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Gigi Ross, Administrative Coordinator for Education
Faculty Reflection — Richard Rohr
It is exciting and affirming that so many people are seeking something—usually at considerable cost to themselves—that might seem esoteric, optional, or dangerous to some. As so many theology schools, seminaries, and retreat houses have been closing in the last decades, we are often asking ourselves “Why?” Why do they want to come here? Why would they trust us?
The only answer we can come up with is that people go where the Spirit chases them! You did not choose us, we did not imagine you; we have both been chased into one another’s arms. It is anything but a bother.
Ellen Haroutunian (’16) reflects on her experience at Standing Rock Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota.
I had planned to go to Standing Rock long before the soul crushing results of the election. Afterward, the choice to divest oneself of comfort and safety, to stand with the marginalized and affirm their dignity, seemed more important than ever. That has always been the Christ path, but perhaps we are now going to be awakened to it with more urgency. But no matter the outcome of political machinations and the strivings of empire, there is a quiet stream of loving resistance that values the true riches of the Kingdom of God—the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the marginalized. It is the way that leads to Life. . . .
“Water is life!” the Lakota elders shouted, and the crowd called back, “Water is life!” Then “Water is life” was called out over and over in multiple languages, including many Native American languages, Ukrainian, Dutch, Farsi, and even Hebrew. Water is life, and all of what is happening in this far, cold corner of the world is so much bigger than any religion, government, or institution can manage or legislate. The river is flowing and growing, down to the sea, we sang. There’s a larger flow that carries us all onward.
Read Ellen’s full reflection here. Also of interest is Mark Longhurst’s (’15) interview with Teresa Pasquale Mateus (’15) on her trip to Standing Rock.
The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell — Reviewed by Alana Levandoski (’15)
Whether you’ve read the book already or have it on your list, I recommend reading it the way I did on my third time. Pretend you didn’t attend the Living School and have never heard of Richard Rohr. Pretend you’re stuck somewhere in the spiral dynamic that divides the field (let’s face it, there are parts of us that still are stuck).
I am happy to report that reading with a “beginner’s mind” not only “cleanses the lens” but refreshes the depth of the good news. Through their use of science, poetry, tradition, and Cynthia Bourgeault’s insights on “Trinity as a ternary system,” Richard and Mike give us what we need for these dark times. The paradox of the book is that it gives us unbearable hope, but also absolutely no license to “spiritually bypass” current conditions on our planet.
May we delight in the discovery of “what is true, and true everywhere,” as Richard says, and allow Trinity, wherever it lies dormant in our consciousness and body, to spiral into life.
What did I glean most from this book? When in doubt, dance.
What are you reading? If you would like to share with us, send a brief reflection (150 words or fewer) to Carolyn at [email protected] with “Alumni Book Review” in the subject. We’d particularly like a review of Cynthia Bourgeault’s book The Heart of Centering Prayer.
Alumni Retreats Update
A Trinity of Gatherings!
As I write, we are three days away from welcoming the first twenty-nine hardy souls to the Bosque Center for the first gathering of Living School alumni in contemplative retreat together. They come from all over the United States and Canada for three full days of deepening community, for exploring contemplative practices together, worship, and open times of rest. Seven alumni will be facilitating contemplative practices that have been meaningful to them. These practices include:
- Exploring the volcanoes above the city of Albuquerque (the only place in the world where the words “cute little volcanoes” can be used in the same sentence!);
- Contemplative photography;
- Deepening meditation and mindfulness;
- Starting contemplative groups in your area;
- Discerning the Holy through the creatures that share our lives;
- Exploring the mindfulness practices of Bernard Lonergan;
- Opening ourselves to our own contemplative creativity through creating art pieces.
The beautiful Bosque Center is ready and eager to receive them. By the time you read this, it will all be history.
But despair not! There are two other opportunities to participate in similar gatherings: May 1-3, 2017, and June 6-8, 2017. These retreats are three full days, so plan to travel on the days before and after. You will be receiving an invitation soon with more information and registration for both retreats. After registering you will have the opportunity to submit an application to offer a contemplative practice that has been meaningful to you.
These are all pilot programs, from which we expect to learn much about how to continue best supporting you post-Living School. Please consider coming! Find yourself in community again for mutual support and joy-making. And please consider sharing some of the deep wisdom you have accumulated in the course of your journey.