Often, unexpectedly, especially graced moments appear in our lives. This is how I would describe the weekend of March 21-23.
At the very last minute, Tim and I decided to attend a weekend at the Wisdom House, in Litchfield, Connecticut, with theologian, Christopher Pramuk. Tim had met Chris at the International Thomas Merton Conference last year and had found Chris’ book, Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton, a wonderful resource when working on his doctoral dissertation, a third of which is dedicated to the study of Merton. Since I got the chance to be #1 proof reader, I felt that some how I also had met Dr. Pramuk.
I choose to write about our weekend because I found my experience of this teacher and his work was an amazing confluence of themes that have laced through my life—a wonderful medley of 80 years that I had just celebrated the week before.
In many ways one might think of Pramuk as an extraordinary/ordinary man. . .the mix of human and divine/secular and sacred/the theology of everyday and the liturgy of sacred mysteries. Chris and his wife Laurie, whom he refers to as an amazing pediatrician with a particular passion for the underserved, live in Cincinnati where Chris is associate professor of theology at Xavier University. They have four children—two are adopted Haitians. Chris is a musician deeply interested in art, music, and the beauty of all things including the natural world.
While his book, Sophia, focuses on the intellectual and spiritual journey of a monk become famous for his writings, Chris’ second book, Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line, published in 2013 fleshes out what our lives and our world would look like if taken seriously. We would behold the transparency of the divine presence all about us, but foremost within ourselves. I experienced how Chris lives this, especially in the manner with which he engaged those present (about 30 men and women). There was a quality of listening and speaking, of PRESENCE, in this teacher that said to all, “I see you, I hear you, I value you.” This in turn brought forth a responsiveness that enriched both teacher and students. This attitude is one to which we can all ascribe—one that can nurture and encourage us as we simply SIT in the stillness of the zendo, GAZE on the beauty of the ocean, the sunset, the forests, OPEN our hearts to really listening to our children or grandchildren. LISTEN DEEPLY to the heart of others as they share their fears and their hopes, their uncertainties as well as their wisdom.
A treasure that I brought away from this weekend with Pramuk was a reminder, for me, once again to reflect on all I learned years ago about the deepest meaning of hope. I first learned this through the writings of Etty Hillesum, a young holocaust victim who was able to go to her death in the camps singing. She reminds us, as Camus puts it, “In the midst of winter I found within myself an invincible summer.”
All of these lessons and so many more about racial, sexual, and religious prejudice of which Pramuk speaks in Hope Springs are learned and strengthened in our meditation, contemplative practice. May we be enriched, enrich each other and our world.