Mindfulness, St. Benedict, and the Monastic Way

Leave the first response May 25, 2009 / Posted in Meditation, Mindful Leadership, Mindfulness

Forty Memorial Days ago, I set out on a 55 mile run to the Benedictine Abbey in Oceanside for a silent retreat. The run and the retreat was my way of reflecting on the 10 years since leaving the monastic life as an Augustinian. Twenty Memorial Days ago, I was with Kip, and my daughters, Erin and Allison, visiting Mary Scheckelhoff in Washington, D.C. We visited the Vietnam War Memorial Wall and ceremony which was lightly attended because of the light but steady rainfall.

Both Memorial Days are moments indelibly imprinted on my soul because of deep feelings and emotions occasioned by the experiences. In the former by being present most every step of the way and the latter with the overwhelming awareness of a cost of 58,159 lives memorialized on that granite wall. And written between the lines the “3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, and 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians” who also died.

Here is a sharing from Joan Chittister, Order of St. Benedict, on her reflections of this Memorial Day from her Ideas In Passing:

Memorial Day Thoughts
“The scene is burned into my mind to this very day. At the foot of the casket of my twenty-year-old cousin, an only child, killed in Vietnam just weeks before his military discharge, my gentle uncle recited again and again for all to hear his one consolation: his good boy, he said, “had at least died a hero.” I thought of the burning villages and displaced children and raped girls and defenseless dead farmers left behind in other graves in another place that day and, with nothing heroic in sight, went silent and looked away. I knew that young soldiers were victims too.


I have never been able to forget the sight of the mass graves in Russia. They held the bones of 20 million young soldiers who died in World War II defending the country in their own backyards. In city after city the mounds covered the landscape, raised like huge welts on the national body as far as the eye could see. It was an entire generation of Russian manhood gone. I remember, too, the looks of horror on the faces of Russian women left behind in that war when they pleaded with our small, pathetically unrenowned delegation, “Peace, please.” They have been haunting memories. Most of all, these graves, these faces, have acted as filter for every story of war I have ever read since: Bosnia, Rwanda, El Salvador, Iraq, South Africa, the entire litany of political sin, all the deaths, all the pleas for peace.


At the first Iraqi-American dialogue convened by the Women’s Global Peace Initiative in New York on March 29 (2006), the differences were plain. The women’s first agenda did not concentrate on who did what or who profited or lost by the doing of it. “Take the oil. We don’t care about the oil,” one woman cried across the room. “We never got any value from it anyway,” she went on. “Never mind yesterday,” another woman said in answer to the Sunni-Shi’ite tensions. “Forget who did what to whom. We must turn the page now. We must rebuild the country.”

“And what is the first thing that must be done to rebuild the country?” we asked them. I sat with my hands over the keyboard, sure that the list would be long and varied. I was wrong. To a woman, the call was clear: “Take care of our children.”

— from There Is a Season (Orbis) and Joan Chittister: In Her Own Words (Liguori)

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