Prayer is a noun. To pray is a verb.

Prayer happens when we gaze, bathe, soak, listen.

When we pray, we become enveloped in the divine presence.

To pray can be understood as engaging to be freed from an unlived life.

To pray is to notice, pay attention,

tell our story and the story of the universe.

To pray is to be grateful, embrace mystery,

become unself-conscious.

To pray is to encounter, imagine, experience beauty.

Prayer happens as we engage in justice, dialogue,

become one with an experience of beauty.

Pray, dream, live the question, have an emotional moment.

To pray is to embrace solitude, to wonder.

In prayer, become curious, become a prophet, a mystic,

experience a spark of grace, see God in all things.



Thomas Berry Tells Our Sacred Story

On a Thursday afternoon in the fall of 1984, Thomas Berry, CP, was the guest at our graduate program on Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names University. Prior to that day, I had frequently heard of Thomas and the annual colloquiums he led at a retreat center on the shores of Lake Erie. Our paths had crossed, but I had not yet met him. His most significant work, The Dream of the Earth, would not be published for another four years.

 As I listened to his words on that afternoon, I knew the man before me was a person of towering intellect and a special kind of Passionist. He was a member of the Congregation of the Passion, and his passion was enthusiastically expressed in his passion for the Earth. He was 70-years-old but he was on the threshold of a new era in his life. Deep in his sensitive soul, he was moved by a foreboding that had enveloped him since childhood, and that had overflowed in his heart in an ecstatic moment as he wandered in the meadow across the creek on the property where his family was building a new home. Even early in his life—a time just on the heels of the second industrial revolution—he had sensed the devastation that was about to come. Now he was propelled into the most fruitful years of his great work.

 The 1970s and 1980s were a time of existential angst across the Western world. Members of the believing community were unaware of the sacramentality of their tradition. The stories from scripture about the beginning of things seemed distant and incapable of touching the recesses of their souls.

 Having read the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas knew the insights of evolutionary science were compatible with spirit and replete with activating energy. He also saw that the story of the universe as told by science was inadequate in itself because it lacked a sense of the sacred. He was convinced humanity needed a new story to breathe “fresh energy and a zest for life” into the Christian tradition inherited from the Bible.

 Thus, the universe story was being born within the mind and heart of Thomas. In the future, he would develop it further, together with evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme and scholar of Eastern thought and Taoism, Mary Evelyn Tucker.

 The universe story has been studied and taught in many places around the world in the years since, especially by religious women, the prophetic wing of the Church. I joined with other colleagues and friends to design graduate programs that reflected the magnitude of Thomas’s work and vision. On that fateful afternoon, however, I was unaware that what I was hearing marked a significant beginning to what I and many others now celebrate was his great work.


Elephant Memories

A friend of mine told me this story some years ago. Once there was a man who lived and worked in Africa. It came to pass that he befriended a herd of elephants who had gathered in the area.

The elephants eventually wandered off into the jungle. Some time later, the man died.

Without any message or communication, the elephants traveled to the place where the man had lived. They remained there for some time, before returning to their natural habitat. Through some mysterious means, they knew of the passing of the man who had become their friend, and they went to mourn his passing.

I believe we have much to learn from our four-legged friends. Not only do humans have memories, but so do others among God’s creatures with whom we share this planet. Such was the case with this herd of elephants.

This story reminds us that we are capable of nonverbal communication, and that we don’t need words to create memories. Memory is a special gift. When we remember, we recall the formational moments of joy and sorrow, sunlight and showers, dawn and dusk that mark each day.

One of the tragedies in life is when people lose their memories. When there is no memory, there is no story, no recollection of the sacred moments that have nourished our life.