Lent begins as an open door for things spiritual. I am taking an “e-course” this Lent, based on G. I. Gurdjieff’s “Obligonian Strivings” (it sounds scary but it isn’t!), facilitated by Cynthia Bourgeault, the spiritual writer, Episcopal priest, and contemplative. Called, “Becoming Truly Human,” the course begins by reflecting on Gurdjieff’s first striving, “To have in one's ordinary being-existence everything satisfying and really necessary for the planetary body.”
Bourgeault asks, “Is it Feast or Famine?” She hears Gurdjieff challenging the way we might typically approach the “ascetical” nature of Lent. Bourgeault shares a well-loved story told by Fr. Thomas Keating, founder of the Centering Prayer movement, about his own initiation into the deeper meaning of Lenten observance. As a zealous young novice master, Fr. Thomas set considerable store on following the monastic rule of life with a rigorous scrupulosity. Among his monastic brethren he was much admired, and not a little feared. As Lent approached, both he and the novices under his direction hunkered down for what was sure to be a season of stringent fasting.
On Ash Wednesday, in accordance with traditional monastic custom, the abbot called each monk in for a private audience and gave him his individual Lenten discipline, to be strictly observed throughout the full six weeks of Lent.
Thomas Keating nearly fell over when he received his Lenten discipline. Under strict monastic obedience, he was ordered to gain twenty pounds!
Today, nearly seventy years later, this beloved monastic elder still turns a bit red-faced as he recalls having to sit in the refectory slurping down milkshakes and ice cream while his brethren were eating watery soup and hard bread.
But his abbot was indeed a wise man. For he had spotted that the real tempter in this case was what monks traditionally call "vainglory:" Thomas' attachment to his self-image as the most rigorously ascetic of all the brethren.
Like many of us, I have been thrust into the “liminal space” that enters our world when we experience the loss of “a great One.” I speak of Hank Wisniewski, a person of profound presence and deep faith. I could share many “ascetic” moments I experienced with this wonderful disciple. Yet here, speaking to the “need to let go of the attachment to our self-image” as a Lenten opportunity, I recall a story that, through his great humanity, Hank “witnessed” a great and holy truth.
It was a few years ago and I had gone to visit Hank at Christiana Hospital. He was in standard hospital room, in the “B” bed, next to the window. As I entered the room, I noticed that the curtain was pulled between the beds, but not encircling Hank’s bed. I heard Hank’s voice, a gruff, complaining combination of sounds… as well as the voice of his daughter (a saint!) pleading with him to “let her help.” I moved past the curtain and could see Hank, his back to me, hospital gown wide open, as he vigorously tried to climb back up onto the bed (he was returning from the “rest” room). The old joke about the person who invented those hospital gowns having the name, “Dr. Seymour Butts,” was most “obvious” at that moment.
Realizing it was me, Hank smiled and then started to laugh. We all laughed. And Hank announced, “Father Greg, now you’ve seen my better side!”
I could share so many beautiful memories of Hank that are emblazoned on my heart. During the past year, Hank inspired all as we witnessed his great strength, holding tight to that 3-legged cane and moving with power, driven, like a prophet on a mission, as he made his way to the Ambo during mass, to proclaim the Word of God to God’s holy people. In his distinct proclamation, we heard the voice of divinity. Thanks be to God!
May we always remember.
Much love….even more gratitude,
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Those of you who have reached “a certain age,” may well remember the song “Truckin’” and its infamous line, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
For me, indeed, it has been “a long strange trip.” And it’s been a trip, a journey, that has been chock full of blessings and experiences that have been so wonderful and renewing that I have no doubt that only a Divine Force of Love, generating and bestowing an even greater gift of Life and Love, could be the origin, the present action, and the future hope of this entire “pilgrimage.”
I am experiencing much as I learn and embrace the multifaceted nature of “healing.” Thanks be to God! I know from the story of Jesus and the 10 people with leprosy that “healing” does not mean “being cured.” Healing has its own complex and demanding components. But there’s no view from the top of the mountain without one’s willingness to climb.
I am so grateful that I have been given this opportunity, the ongoing support of so many loving, good people, in a journey that, on my own, I would never have had the courage to undertake.
But these past months I have been following a Path, travelling from Delaware to California to Pennsylvania to Indiana to New Mexico to California and now back to New Mexico again… and here, now, I am… on the mend. It has taken me a long time, perhaps too long, to get here. But, Thanks be to God, I am here. For here, and now….”healing” is my new companion.
Thank you. Please know that I truly am doing so much better. I am still impatient and this “teacher” requires a willingness to accept the help of others… the acceptance of what is… and a transformation that can only be gifted by the holy Spirit herself.
Pray that I might continue to accept the grace that is being offered to me. And be assured that I hold you always in my heart and in my prayers.
Much love, and even more gratitude…..
First, let me say: Thank you and abundant Blessings to you and yours. I continue to be amazed by the goodness and heartfelt prayers of so many friends. I so appreciate your notes and good wishes.
A brief Medical Update: one small issue after another have made this process longer than expected. We recently finished a series of new evaluations in order to get final medical clearance for the cervical surgery. And we got the final approval...Yeah!
While waiting, I decided to go on retreat. I went back to the monastery where I started out-- the Benedictine Archabbey of Saint Meinrad in southern Indiana. Here, 8 years of formation took place. It is a place that holds deep and holy meaning in my life. So I am praying for you and writing you this note from "the Holy Hill," and using this opportunity of being in this beautiful place to send a couple pics. They have done some amazing renovations since I was last here, and yet it's always been beautiful.
I'll be leaving here soon to go back to Los Angeles. After the surgery, I will be in the capable care of good people at a wonderful facility in Culver City. And it's Catholic!....I'll be saying mass there and they'll get to hear my boring, brief homilies!).
Much love and a very grateful heart,
A Note from Fr. Greg Corrigan…
Blessing to all! I feel your prayers and hope you feel mine for you. I LOVE the Pacific Ocean. And sunshine and eighty degree weather ain’t so bad either!
I have gone through more exams and medical testing and feel very confident as a patient of Dr. Wolf. At this point, he is recommending a surgery that would be less demanding than what other doctors have recommended. Given his busy schedule, it will take time to get on his calendar. There are also other tests and clearances and pre-approvals required before a date can be chosen. I'll keep you posted.
The surgery would require harvesting bone graft (STEM cells) from my hip. As with any surgery, there are no guarantees. But the prognosis is good.
At this point, I am “discerning” (in the Jesuit sense of the word). I have met with a wonderful person, a Catholic Sister, who is my “Spiritual Director away from home.” We’ve agreed that I should engage a time of Silence to ask the grace of God to guide me. I began this Silence on November 11, a day to remember. It happens to be the day on which my nephew Greg was born (1991), the day my good friend, Father Keith Zavelli died (1997), and the day I met and received the blessing of the Dalai Lama (1998). A day full of grace, to be sure. Blessings to all.
Thanks be to God...
November 10, 2016
It's been in the 80s and 90s this week in southern California. Each day...early morning, afternoon, and, of course, the beautiful mystical hours of sunset...I find myself walking, standing, and simply sitting in gratitude and awe on the beaches here: Redondo, Hermosa, Long Beach, and Buenaventura (yes, on the 'Ventura Highway').
It's been so magnificent in every way. All of my senses have been held captive to the bold "everything" that envelops me: the crashing waves, the clanging buoy, the Tarheels.blue sky, the salted mist, the distant fog, and people walking in tanned and natural promenade. This is life in all its beauty. It's all good...so very good. I am so blessed.
I brought one book with me on this trip...Mary Oliver's new book, Upstream Selected Essays. Here's what Mary Oliver writes:
"One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people--a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lillian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousands of leaves tremble! What a life is ours! Doesn't anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the
middle of the night and
In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be. Wordsworth studied himself and found the subject astonishing. Actually what he studied was his relationship to the harmonies and also the discords of the natural world. That's what created the excitement.
I walk, all day, across the heaven-verging field."
View Here - Homily from the Barn