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"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20


Jean Vanier's 10 Rules for Life to Become More Human

Laura DeMaria

In just a little bit I will be meeting up with members of L’Arche as my sweet friend Laurie, a core member, is celebrating her 5th year anniversary of joining the community. We are celebrating appropriately, with beers served at an Irish pub and enjoyed in the late summer sun, followed by dinner at her house. I have a small card for her and will probably bring some prosecco. I am also pleased to be wearing tie-dye and a long hippie skirt, and know none of these things actually matter in the grand scheme, because at L’Arche it seems possible to recognize the beauty of people for who they are, not for what they do or bring.

I have been transformed by this community and movement, you know. I am struck again and again at its universality, the true family feel of the movement, even when I am encountering it in other parts of the country (or world). When L’Arche’s founder, Jean Vanier, passed earlier this year, it gave me much to think about: about his witness, like John the Baptist, pointing toward what is true and good (Jesus). His humility (“I am not so much the founder, as simply the first to arrive”); the way he exemplified the Beatitudes and lived the Gospel. He was the rich young man, except he answered the call and gave up everything. And he devoted his life to helping others see and understand their own identity as loved by Christ.

I recently came across something that was published last fall after he turned 90. Vanier made a YouTube video called “10 Rules for Life to Become More Human.” “Becoming Human” is the name of one of his books, as well as his general message of the human condition: broken, but loved. Below are the ten rules:

  1. Accept the reality of your body.

  2. Talk about your emotions and difficulties.

  3. Don’t be afraid of not being successful.

  4. In a relationships, take the time to ask, “How are you?”

  5. Stop looking at your phone - be present!

  6. Ask people, “What is your story?”

  7. Be aware of your own story.

  8. Stop prejudice: meet people.

  9. Listen to your deepest desire.

  10. Remember that you’ll die one day.

I believe I could look back over this list at various times in life and be struck in different ways by each. Some may call out to you particularly today, but not at all next year, because something else will be in your heart that challenges. Today, for me, it is #7 - be aware of your own story. I read it and think, “Do I have a story? What right do I to have a story? Who would benefit from it, and why would anyone want to listen?” Well, refer to #6: perhaps someone wants to ask you, what is your story? What is your name, who is your mother, what is your favorite time of day, which side of the bed do you sleep on, waffle or cake cone, coffee or tea, summer or winter, left hand or right, how did you get here and who or what do you love more than anyone in the world?

Jean Vanier, pray for us.

More on abundance

Laura DeMaria

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a fundraising workshop held at the Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center in Houston, TX. Houston: where houses (and driveways) are ginormous and small, earth-colored lizards act like they own the place (because they do, because they are ubiquitous, and they are probably already sitting on the bench you want to sit on. Too bad.).

During the workshop, which was led by the the brilliant team from the For Impact model of fundraising, we spent a bit of time learning about the “spirituality of fundraising.” Henri Nouwen wrote an excellent book of the same name. For Nouwen, fundraising is not a transaction, but an entering into relationship. It is a dance, a partnership, a give and take, of mutually transformative opportunity. One person has a mission; another has the opportunity to bring the mission to life and participate in its fruition. Together, both people walk toward a goal and share its outcomes. At the end, you give thanks to God for the cycle of ask, receive, create, and you start again.

For Impact as a model, however, is entirely practical (and this I like). There are a ton of incredible tips and pointers and behaviors we learned during the training, and I will share here two because of how I see them connected to the spiritual life.

  1. Don’t make a decision for the donor. By this, we mean, do not assume a.) they cannot give because, for example, they give X amount somewhere else; or we assume, “they aren’t the giving type” (whatever that means); we know their bills are so high, so there’s no way they can give; they already have a favorite charity they are devoted to; and on and on.

  2. Just ask.

Now, when contemplating the idea that God wants so much more for us than we can imagine (see theme of previous post), these two points are marvelous things to meditate upon. For God: do not make a decision for Him. Do not assume that he cannot give you as greatly as you need and desire, and so there is a necessity to settle - however that looks, and whatever it means for you in your life. Whether that’s in relationships, a desired career, a desired number of kids, a number of books sold or whatever the case is. How easily we assume that God gives in the small ways we can conceive of, and not on the grand, abundant scale in which he truly operates.

And returning to the point about prayer and abundance - just ask! Come to God in your prayer time with an ask, and ask again, and again. God does not hold out on us during prayer time to play games with us. He also does not ever tire of hearing from us. There is a story - if I can find it, I will share it - that St. Ignatius proudly said that during prayer, he came to Jesus with his arms out, asking like a spoiled child - and he meant it in the best way possible. Believe your Father hears you, and persist, and know that he wants to hear from you. Pray with hope, no matter how long it takes.

Don’t decide on God’s behalf how abundant he will be with you. And just ask.

By the way, even if you don’t see yourself as directly involved in any sort of fundraising, and therefore don’t need to understand, for example, the art of the ask - well, that’s not quite how it is, and you don’t get off that easily, you know. There are so many causes which need and deserve support, and there is no reason not to try your hand in aiding them. I imagine you know a ministry, a specific need, a neighborhood drive, a poor school doing great work, an intentional community in need of support. Why wouldn’t you be one to help? God put you on this planet after all, didn’t He? Being a part of the human family, and individually capable of effecting great change, it is not possible to opt out. If you do, the world misses your gifts. Here, now, we talk not just of asking or donating money, but of offering one’s non-monetary gifts, too. Invite a friend, write a poem, lead a prayer night, roll up your sleeves, rake leaves, can preserves, read a book to an elderly friend, knit a blanket, share a message, and on and on. Be the leaven in the movement that moves your heart. And believe in God’s abundance in every step of your life.

Prayer and traveling in the dark

Laura DeMaria

I heard a speaker once ask his audience how it is possible to drive across an entire country in the dark. If you think about it, he said, all you know is the few feet in front of you - what is illuminated by the headlights. And yet, you trust and know you will arrive at your destination.

This is a perfect metaphor for the spiritual life and the necessity of trusting God, even when - as is the case most of the time - we only know the next couple feet in front of us, and certainly not what lies ahead in the years to come.

The readings this week have recalled this concept to mind, as in a few places there were reflections on prayer and abundance. In other words, we pray, we stay close to God, and we must trust in His abundance, even when we are not sure of the outcome.

From Wednesday’s (6/19) first reading, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11:

“Brothers and sisters, consider this:

whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,

and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,

for God loves a cheerful giver.

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,

so that in all things, always having all you need,

you may have an abundance for every good work.”

Paul goes on to remind his readers that they are being “enriched” and that God will supply, multiply, and increase their harvest.

Enter Bishop Barron in his daily reflection on the Gospel from that same day:

“You also have to pray with persistence. One reason that we don’t receive what we want through prayer is that we give up too easily. Augustine said that God sometimes delays in giving us what we want because he wants our hearts to expand.”

The following day, June 20, the Gospel tells us one of the profound truths of prayer, and one which deserves meditation: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8)

Enter Bishop Barron again for the hard-hitting truth:

“Keep in mind that prayer is not designed so much to change God’s mind or tell God something he doesn’t know. God isn’t like a big city boss or a reluctant pasha whom we have to persuade. Rather he is the one who wants nothing other than to give us good things - though they might not always be the things we want.”

I connect these things intimately: prayer and trust. And, persistence in prayer. And what results from this prayer? Abundance. I have heard it said that God’s dream for us is so much larger than that which we can dream for ourselves.

The readings themselves, especially from St. Paul, urge a spirit of abundant generosity back to God. Indeed, I believe we must begin with our own attitude of generosity when we approach God, including in our prayer life. After all, everything we have, beginning with the first breath in our lungs, is a gift from God. We are merely giving Him back what is already His. To come to him in prayer with gratitude and trust in His abundance is maybe the whole point - because He already knows what we need. There is, of course, value in praying for specific things we need or desire, but there seems to be something to what Bishop Barron says, that the purpose is not to “change God’s mind,” but rather to be with him, close, trusting, which in turn opens us to His abundance. It is like the difference between having clenched fists to hold on to what you have, versus open hands to receive what God wants to give.

Happy Corpus Christi Sunday to you.