Friday, May 24, 2013

If I Could Change the World I Would . . .

How cool is this? Outside The Cove restaurant. If you could change the world you would . . . . . 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We are God's Hands

From Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson:
As the wreckage of Oklahoma's tornado confronts us with our own vulnerability, let us affirm the Biblical wisdom that God is not in the wind or the storm, but in the countless responses of rescue, caring, and goodness. We are God's eyes: to witness, to cry, to see. We are God's hands: to salvage, to embrace, to redeem and rebuild. May God's persistent, resilient love be visible through our renewed efforts of prayer, voluntarism, and support for the victims of this eruption of nature's power.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thomas Merton's Epiphany: "Overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people . . . "

The peaceCENTER's Ann Helmke and Susan Ives just returned from a week in Louisville, attending the International Summit on Compassionate Organizations, Louisville's annual Festival of Faith, including a talk by the Dalai Lama. Thomas Merton is Louisville's adopted son (he lived in the hermitage at Gethsemane, about 40 miles south)  and this marker commemorates his "epiphany." Merton wrote of this moment:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. Not that I question the reality of my vocation, or of my monastic life: but the conception of “separation from the world” that we have in the monastery too easily presents itself as a complete illusion: the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being, pseudo-angels, “spiritual men,” men of interior life, what have you.
Thomas MertonCertainly these traditional values are very real, but their reality is not of an order outside everyday existence in a contingent world, nor does it entitle one to despise the secular: though “out of the world,” we are in the same world as everybody else, the world of the bomb, the world of race hatred, the world of technology, the world of mass media, big business, revolution, and all the rest. We take a different attitude to all these things, for we belong to God. Yet so does everybody else belong to God. We just happen to be conscious of it, and to make a profession out of this consciousness. But does that entitle us to consider ourselves different, or even better, than others? The whole idea is preposterous.
This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: “Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others.” To think that for sixteen or seventeen years I have been taking seriously this pure illusion that is implicit in so much of our monastic thinking.
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.
I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
This changes nothing in the sense and value of my solitude, for it is in fact the function of solitude to make one realize such things with a clarity that would be impossible to anyone completely immersed in the other cares, the other illusions, and all the automatisms of a tightly collective existence. My solitude, however, is not my own, for I see now how much it belongs to them — and that I have a responsibility for it in their regard, not just in my own. It is because I am one with them that I owe it to them to be alone, and when I am alone, they are not “they” but my own self. There are no strangers!
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Compassionate Mother's Day

"Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts, 
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, 
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. 
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn 
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. 
We, the women of one country, 
will be too tender of those of another country 
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” 

Continue reading this Mother's Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe 
and learn more about the history and original purpose of a 
Mother's Day for Peace

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Already a compassionate city: the Katrina example

We're collecting examples of ways San Antonio is already a compassionate city. Here's one from 2005 that defines compassion:

In a better world, Phil Hardberger's decision might not have seemed extraordinary.
Four days after Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans and left hundreds of thousands of people struggling to escape, San Antonio's then-mayor announced on CNN that the city would open its arms and its pocketbook to anyone who needed help.
While other cities were closing their doors and nobody knew how San Antonio would fund the effort or absorb a growing mass of evacuees, Hardberger faced questions about logistics with answers from the heart.
“We want to give them back their dignity and put some stability in their life. And whatever we need to do, we're going to do,” Hardberger said. “We're going to go ahead and write whatever checks need to be written right now to take care of these people and let them know that people in San Antonio love them.”
It was a flash of humanity amid the ugliness and despair of the disaster. It also was a defining moment for Hardberger's administration, a decision that would capture national recognition, become a source of local pride and forever burnish the city's social and cultural landscape.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fable of the Forgiving Father

This version of the parable of the prodigal son was a great hit during the last session of  our book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life."

Feeling foot-loose and frisky, a feather-brained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the farthings. He flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune, feasting fabulously with faithless friends.
Finally facing famine and fleeced by his fellows-in-folly, he found himself a feed flinger in a filthy farmyard. Fairly famishing, he fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from the fodder fragments. “Fooey, my father’s flunkies fare far fancier,” the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, frankly facing facts.
Frustrated by failure and filled with foreboding, he fled forthwith to his family. Falling at his father’s feet, he floundered forlornly, “Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor. . . .” But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fixed a feast.
The fugitive’s faultfinding frater frowned on the fickle forgiveness of former folderol. His fury flashed—but fussing was futile. The far-sighted father figured, “Such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivity—for the fugitive is found! Unfurl the flags! With fanfares flaring, let fun and frolic freely flow. Former failure is forgotten, folly forsaken. Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortitude.”
Adapted from Luke 15:11–32. Originally published in HIS magazine, October 1977, © InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Author unknown.

Compassionate San Antonio: Community garden to feed the homeless

Another example of San Antonio being a Compassionate city!

Signing the Charter

Thanks to the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue at the Turkish Raindrop House for giving San Antonio CompassionNET time during their program of Compassion in the Holy Books to introduce the Charter for Compassion and give the participants the opportunity to sign the 3'x6' vinyl banner. We were especially excited to obtain the signature of Beytullah Solak, whose mother lives in Gaziantep, Turkey -- the first predominantly Muslim country to be recognized as a Compassionate City! Photograph by Chuck Gibbons.