Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I LIVE ON AN ISLAND: CATHERINE DE HUECK DOHERTY


One of my first and most faithful readers has been Dylan Thomas DeFreitas. Dylan is a poet and has several blogs of his own, including Dark Speech Upon the Harp that you might want to check out.

For my birthday he sent me a lovely green hardcover copy of a book by Catherine de Hueck Doherty--mystic, lover of the poor, contemplative hermit, founder of Madonna House, a training center for the lay apostolate--called I Live On An Island. [Note: Now available under the title Welcome Pilgrim, through Madonna House Publications].

Here are a couple of excerpts:

It is a strange mediation that comes to me as I look at this beauty beyond description, the beauty of autumn in a northern land. And as I look I ask myself the question: Is this the time of God's visitation? Has he taken up once more the cords of his just anger? Is he again cleansing the temple of all those who, in some way, are desecrating it?

Who could these people be? Are they the ones whose faces are still filled with racial hatred? Are they the violent, the warmongers, the traders in arms? No. These latter are the "cold" spoken of in the book of Revelation. We know God's attitude toward them.

Who are they? Not those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who have arisen on a pilgrimage of love. Nor those who desire with a great desire to live the gospel with their lives. These are the "hot ones" of the Revelation.

Suddenly the answer comes to me: it is the lukewarm the Lord is driving from his temple, the tepid whom he "vomits out of his mouth." They are people who are content with the letter of the law. They are those who never try to find the spirit behind the letter. They are the ones who are afraid to do so, the ones who prefer to live and teach a watered-down Christianity. They are the ones who have created unto themselves a Christ who has no resemblance to the Christ of the gospel. Yes, they are the tepid ones!

It comes to me during my meditation today that this might indeed be the time of God's vomiting the tepid out of his mouth. He desires, at long last, that his face be shown by those who hunger for justice, who pilgrim with passionate desire not only to find him but to give him to others. These, the "hot ones," will then be able to show the face of Christ to the "cold ones."

The river is quiet, reflecting the hues of the trees. The evergreens stand as an unchanging backdrop to these trees which sing to the glory of God with their variety of colors.


hydrangeas in my friend Judy's garden
Sometimes we are the cold ones, sometimes we are the hot ones, and so often I, for one, am the tepid one. Because there are all different kinds of ways of being tepid. Being more interested in glorifying ourselves than God. Thinking we alone "get" it and no-one else does. Letting the "good seed" get choked out by the cares and anxieties of the world. Thinking we need to or can be all things to all people, on the one hand, and on the other, wanting to exclude people whose views, beliefs, lifestyle, income level, enthusiasm, differ from ours. We can't have everyone "in our lives." We're not obligated to carry on a conversation and especially not an argument with everyone.  But we are obligated to not exclude anyone from our hearts and our prayers and our goodwill and our hope that someday we will all sit around the table together and share in the Kingdom.

My heart is filled with gratitude to God that at long last I am able to taste the solitude, to know the stillness, to be able to pray within it for the whole world, but especially for the Church, for the priests I love so much, for the young people. I am grateful that I will be able to put into practice that proverb of my people: "The house of a true hermit has no latch on the door."

Why? Because no one prays for himself, not even a hermit. He exists for others. Whatever his prayers and mortifications, he must give them away, even as he must share the humble food that is his with any visitor who comes. He does not belong to himself. He belongs to everyone, and so he must not only share his food, but his thoughts, the graces that God gives to him, and above all himself. Yes, I am grateful to God for my solitude whereby I can give myself to the whole world.


I just realized yesterday that I've been sharing my "food," my thoughts, the graces God has given me, such as they are, for a year as of August 6th on this blog. It's been an incredible labor, an incredible gift, and an incredible learning experience. I hope it's been one or two of those things for you.

Thank you for walking with me!
some of Judy's hydrangeas in my cell I mean my room

10 comments:

  1. Love Catherine de Hueck Doherty.
    A priest friend recommended her when I was in my late teens and now 40 odd years later I still can find freshness in her writing.
    Congrats on one year of blog- hope there will be more and good luck with new book.
    Blessings

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  2. Philomena, I, too, go back to Catherine Doherty again and again. Strannik especially...she's fresh and she also had the big heart and she was a contemplative and she repeatedly, quietly confirms the value of being a contemplative in a culture that does not value contemplation...

    Thank you for your readership and for your own beautiful blog--Blue Eyed Ennis (blueeyedennis-siempre.blogspot.com) folks!

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  3. From the heart (for your year of blogging, and for today's words)-- merci!

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  4. I don't always comment, but I drop in every day to taste your "food." Sometimes when I hear words of truth, wisdom and love like yours, it is as though I have no words -- too deep for words.
    I grew up terrified of the God of wrath that was preached in my youth. Thank you, Heather, for being an apostle of our Loving God. You and others like you (Fr. Barron comes to mind) are doing tremendous work for the evolution of our consciousness of God and the renewal of the Church.
    In appreciation,
    Maire

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  5. Has it really been a year, already?!

    I thank God for the day I happened upon you at Godspy.com two years ago, Heather (and see the piece is still there!). I hope that writing the blog has helped you as much as it's helped us who read it.

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  6. In as much as St. Therese is my big little sister in the faith, Catherine Doherty is a mother to me in the faith. As a convert to Catholicism, I was baptised, communed and confirmed -- which in Canadian terms would be considered a spiritual "hat-trick" for God -- on June 8th in a church not thirty miles from Madonna House. Unbeknownst to my family me and at the time (I was but a lad of twelve) this date was the local "feast" of Our Lady of Combermere. This was indeed a serendipitous occasion. It was six months later that we were introduced to Madonna House, and a dear priest of the community, who has journeyed with me ever since and continues to be my spiritual director. Catherine's spirituality of Nazareth, so harmonious with the Little Way of St. Therese, has been the meat and bread of my spiritual life for over thirty years now. It is always encouraging to encounter another person who is fed by the richness and wisdom of Catherine's heart and writing.

    And, Heather, while I have come late to your table and have only recently tasted the food of your thought, please allow me to thank you and to offer my most hearty congratulations on a year of laying open your mind and heart. Even in what little I have read, I have been edified.

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  7. The little way is working for you and for those of us who read your blog. Keep doing what you are doing. You are a gifted person.

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  8. Thank you, Heather, for your year of blogging -- it has helped, with God's grace, to bring much needed change and conversion in my life.

    Ad multos annos!

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  9. I enjoy your reflections so much, Heather! When I drink my tea in the morning or afternoon, I always home it's a "Heather day." Discovered you a few months ago after a trip to LA, where I grew up, and found I didn't dislike it as much as I remembered. There are blue herons in the LA River, by golly, and even if it is a very cement and concrete place, I love the tiny treasures of beauty here and there. We share the same stompng grounds of Hancock Park, Blessed Sacrament, etc, and love Catherine Doherty. You are even letting me think St Therese might be worth another look--she was a lot, um, sweeter than I am. Thanks for being part of my day!

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  10. Oh boy, thank you, people, for these supportive comments. I've been laying a bit low--where has the summer gone!?--but am so grateful to find sympathetic hearts and ears.

    I keep thinking of Karl Rahner observing that "The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all." Now, as in Christ's time, as ever will be, it is so hard to refrain from making our voice EXTRA LOUD, from trying to impose our views, persuade, coax, cajole...and then I've become part of the problem instead part of the solution, then I've become one of the Pharisees I purport to abhor, then I'm proclaiming non-violence in a way that's become violent...

    I think of St. Therese in that cloistered convent at Carmel, burning with love, bursting with the desire to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and with no apparent means of, and not the remotest sign that, she was even spreading it to her fellow nuns! And this is the path we're all called to walk, that Christ walked, that St. John of the Cross walked, that St. Francis of Assisi walked, that Anne Frank walked, that Catherine Doherty walked...dying to spread the joy!...finding it often falling on deaf ears...and yet, it does get spread somehow, as your beautiful comments attest.

    Just never at all in the way or per the timetable we envisioned...

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