“Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life”

by Melannie Svoboda SND on December 7, 2020

There’s a large book on my shelf (608 pages) that I’ve had for a number of years (the copyright is 2006). It’s entitled Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life. The authors are Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat, a couple in New York who have devoted their lives to discovering resources to aid people along their “spiritual journeys.”

The book is a collection 650 “readings” about daily life from a wide range of contemporary authors—spiritual writers, filmmakers, poets, naturalists, novelists, essayists, social activists. Names include Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, Robert Fulghum, Eduardo Galeano, Barbara Kingsolver, Henri Nouwen, Helen Prejean, John Dear, Toni Morrison, Gunilla Norris, Wendy Wright, Megan McKenna, Samuel H. Miller, and many, many more.

The book is divided into categories: things, places, nature, animals, leisure, relationships, body, illness, death, and others. The book also includes practices from a wide range of traditions that can help us to catch glimpses of the Divine in ordinary life. I am about to donate this tome to our library here on this Notre Dame campus. But before I do, I copied out a few excerpts to share with you today.

  1. “Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what life is like inside someone else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Frederick Buechner

2. “In time of such destruction, our lives depend on this listening. It may be that the earth speaks its symptoms to us. With the nuclear reactor accident in Chernobyl, Russia, it was not the authorities who told us that the accident had taken place. It was the wind. The wind told the story. It carried a tale of splitting, of atomic fission, to other countries and revealed the truth of the situation. The wind is a prophet, a scientist, a talker.” Linda Hogan

3. “The words ‘genius’ and ‘generous’ come from the Latin root ‘genere’ meaning ‘to beget.’ To have a genius for life is to possess the ability to generate warmth and well-being in others.” Wendy Lustbader

4. “The universe is made of stories—not atoms.” Muriel Ruykeyser

5. “A teacher asked a class, ‘What is the color of apples?’ Most of the children answered red. A few said green. Kevin raised his hand and said white. The teacher tried to explain that apples could be red, green, or sometimes golden, but never white. Kevin was quite insistent and finally said, ‘Look inside.’ Perception without mindfulness keeps us on the surface of things, and we often miss other levels of reality.” Joseph Goldstein

6. “Nothing is obvious. Everything conceals something else… Spiritual awareness is born of encounters with the mystery.” Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

7. “We all need a certain amount of fallow time… Watching the grass grow, sitting on the hillside, staring out the window daydreaming. When we don’t have it, there is a deeper intelligence that won’t come forth.” Sue Bender

8. “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” Thich Nhat Hanh

9. “There is an art to wandering. If I have a destination, a plan—an objective—I’ve lost the ability to find serendipity. I’ve become too focused, too single-minded. I am on a quest, not a ramble. I search for the Holy Grail of particularity and miss the chalice freely offered, filled full, and overflowing. Cathy Johnson

(photo by Tatiana Twinslol)

10. “A boy and his father were walking along a road when they came to a large stone. The boy said to his father, ‘Do you think if I use all my strength, I can move this rock?’ His father answered, ‘If you use all your strength, I am sure you can do it.” The boy began to push the rock. Exerting himself as much as he could, he pushed and pushed. The rock did not move. Discouraged, he said to his father, ‘You were wrong. I can’t do it.’ His father placed his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said, “No, son. You didn’t use all your strength—you didn’t ask me to help.'”David Wolpe

Did any of these excerpts speak to you today? Do you know why?

Do you cultivate any “practices” that help you to “read the sacred in everyday life”?

PS: I ask your prayers for an Advent retreat day I will be facilitating this Saturday, Dec. 12. It is sponsored by the St. Francis Center for Renewal in (appropriately!) BETHLEHEM, PA. Thank you very much!

For today’s video, I chose the beautiful Advent litany, “Litany of the Word” by Bernadette Farrell. The refrain is “Alleluia” and “Maranatha” meaning “our Lord comes.” I couldn’t find a version with the lyrics, but if you google “Catholic Hymn Blogspot Advent Litany” you will find the words and the same video that is below:

I welcome your responses below. But (as you know) I am still having technical problems. For some reason, my blog isn’t accepting responses. I’m very sorry about that because I value your responses so much!

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