Friday, September 25, 2009
Wisdom House is pleased to offer this reflection by Rabbi Rami Shapiro on Yom Kippur, commemorated on September 28, 2009. Rabbi Rami is Wisdom House’s Adjunct Faculty for Interfaith Wisdom Studies.
Yom Kippur, the Day of At-one-ment, is framed in an interesting metaphor. You are standing before the Gates of Righteousness. You are being judged. All your foibles are laid bare for you to see. You are humbled, perhaps ashamed, and you don’t know what to do. The Gates are open. Nothing stops you from entering. Yet you don’t move. You are frozen by your own sense of unworthiness. Then the Gates begin to close. Slowly and steadily until, as our liturgical day closes at sunset, we are reminded, “The Gates are closing. The Gates are closing. Enter! Enter now!”
Tradition tells us that we are to consider ourselves forgiven by God by the close of Yom Kippur, and that we can and have entered the Gates. But it isn’t that easy.
Yom Kippur is a fast day. We fast not to mortify the flesh (skipping breakfast and lunch is hardly a mortification), but to avoid the distractions of dining with others. This is a day for acute introspection, not schmoozing with family and friends over a meal.
Our liturgical day begins as sundown with Kol Nidre, All Vows. This is the most famous prayer of Yom Kippur, and originated during the period of forced conversions to Catholicism. More an affirmation than a prayer, Kol Nidre says that any vow we took under duress (i.e. the vow to be a good Catholic and abandon Judaism) is null and void. Over time the origin of the prayer is largely forgotten, and Kol Nidre is understood to absolve us of all hasty or thoughtless and unkept vows we may have made to ourselves and to God. The idea is to eliminate the need to focus on superfluous failures, that we might deal with the real errors we have committed.
The second most famous prayer of Yom Kippur is the Viddui, the confession. As a community we confess to twenty–two sins, listed alphabetically one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We confess as a community for the community. While you may be guilty of none of these things, as a member of the community you bear responsibility for all of them.
And now the Gates are closing. If you have truly looked at the quality of your life and how you live it; if you have taken seriously the thirty days of selichot (forgiveness) preceding the High Holy Days and sought forgiveness from family, friends, neighbors, and others, the final moments of Yom Kippur are humbling. Given all I have done wrong how can I enter the Gates of Righteousness and be at one with God?
Yet it is only this subtle hubris that stands in your way. Only your sense that you are such a great sinner that even God cannot welcome you keeps you from passing through the Gates. There is no guard. There is nothing stopping your but you. It is never humility that keeps you from entering; only hubris. Yom Kippur is designed to break your heart over the suffering you have caused others. If your heart is broken you have compassion for both self and others, and that is the key to entering the Gates. To be broken before God is to be embraced by God.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
“Jesus and the Culture of Peace” was the theme for the 2009 Exploring Catholic Culture program at Wisdom House. Jesuit priest John Dear is an international voice for peace, author or editor of 25 books on nonviolence and, in 2008, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In this video, John Dear emphasizes that the nonviolent Jesus is core to Christianity and that living in nonviolent ways is essential to being peacemakers.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sister of Mercy Mary Alice Synkewicz of the Collaborative Center for Justice in Hartford is interviewed by Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW, Wisdom Correspondent for the Conference of Churches' radio program, "Rich Answers."
The program is aired on WRCH, 100.5 FM, Sundays at 5:30-6:30 a.m. The program has a listening audience of 60,000 people. The Wisdom segment is usually aired at 6 am.
The Collaborative Center for Justice, located in Hartford, Connecticut, is a voice to enhance human dignity by responding to injustices experienced by people who are poor and alienated in society. The center does this through advocacy, education, networking and collaboration, guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Catholic social teaching.
In collaboration with St Joseph College, the Office of Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Hartford and sponsoring congregations of Women Religious, the center offers programs on Advocacy, Justice, Empowerment for Peace, Welfare reform, Faith and Politics, Human Trafficking, Immigration and Voting for the Common Good.
The supporting congregations of women religious are the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, Daughters of Wisdom, and School Sisters of Notre Dame.
For further information about the Collaborative Center for Justice or to support these justice efforts, visit www.ccfj.org
This interview with Sister Mary Alice will be aired on Sunday, September 27.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
At the entrance to Wisdom House is a shrine and reflection area in honor of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes. The shrine was built at Wisdom House around 1954 by Montfort Brother Alphonso Buonanomi.
Over the years, several stones at the base of the shrine became dislodged. The retaining wall is being repaired for safety, beauty and the continued welcome of all who come to this shrine at Wisdom House for prayer, solace and encouragement. The repair was completed on September 15, 2009, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener of West Hartford, CT is interviewed by Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW, Wisdom Correspondent for the Conference of Churches on WRCH radio, 100.5 FM. The program, "Rich Answers" is aired each Sunday from 5:30-6:30am. The Wisdom segment usually airs close to 6 am. The program has a listening audience of 60,000 people.
Andrea's book, Claiming Earth as Common Ground, was discussed in this interview. Its focus is the ecological crisis through the lens of faith and it clearly outlines the shared values of our faith traditions that energize our commitments to care for the earth. The book is informative, inspirational and concludes with suggested action to be taken to support and improve the environment of the cosmos.
"Claiming Earth as Common Ground," ($16.99) is available through www.skylightpaths.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview will be aired on Sunday, September 20.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Wisdom House is pleased to offer this reflection by Rabbi Rami Shapiro on Rosh Hashanah, commemorated on September 18,2009. Rabbi Rami is Wisdom House’s Adjunct Faculty for Interfaith Wisdom Studies.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish “New Year” (Rosh/head, ha-shanah/the year) actually falls on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, as ordained in the Torah (Leviticus 23:24).
Rabbinic tradition honors Rosh haShanah as the birthday of creation, and as such it is also the birthday of mortality. Not surprisingly then Rosh haShanah’s most distinctive piece of liturgy, Unetanah Tokef (“We proclaim”) focuses on the question “Who shall live and who shall die?” and proceeds with a litany of the ways people can and will die over the coming twelve months: fire, water, famine, etc.
Unetanah Tokef ends with these words: “But repentance, prayer, and charity, can stem the stern decree.” Most people praying the Unetanah Tokef imagine that on Rosh haShanah God writes your name into either the Book of Life or the Book of Death, and to get your name in the former you must apologize to God, beg God’s forgiveness, and offer God cash bribes. Ah, the horrors of folk religion.
The prayer itself is a litany of ways to die. It purpose isn’t to scare you, but to get your attention: “Hey! This could be your last year on earth. How do you want to live it? Enslaved to old habit? Obsessed with trivialities? Self-absorbed and clinging? Or is this a time to turn, reflect, and let go?”
You are going to die. If not this year, maybe next year, or the year after that. So death isn’t your problem. Your problem is how to live until you die. Unetanah Tokef challenges us to live with teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah. Teshuvah, weakly translated as “repentance” literally means “turning,” and is the act of turning from evil and doing good, turning from self to others, turning from fear to love, turning from self to God. Tefillah is prayer, and in Hebrew the act of praying (hitpallel) is reflexive: true prayer is seeing who you really are as the image and likeness of God and then acting accordingly. Acting accordingly means practicing tzedakah. Tzedakah, from tzedek, justice, is the act of uplifting the poor and enfranchising the disenfranchised. The highest form of tzedakah is seeing that people are gainfully employed and self–supporting. Tzedakah means earning your money honestly in a manner than does no harm, and using your money wisely in a manner that does great good.
So on this birthday of humanity, take a moment and remember your mortality, examine your life, and where necessary turn toward a deeper act of generosity.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Please click on the image above to enlarge it and find out more about the third Retrospective Art Show in the Marie Louise Trichet Gallery. The show will run from Sept. 12 to December 31.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
American Catholic nuns have been in the news recently regarding a Vatican investigation into the quality of their lives. Parallel to this story is a not-as-well-publicized look at their lives which spans their presence in America since the Civil War. This story is presented in a traveling exhibit, “Women and Spirit.” It captures the contributions of some American nuns in health care, education, and social justice.
An article about these sisters, written by Suzy Farren, appears in the September-October 2009 issue of Health Progress. For the full article, click here.