Thursday, April 27, 2017

Br. Paul Quenon & Thomas Merton

I recently made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Gethsemani, a monastery in Trappist, KY, to sit down with Br. Paul Quenon – poet, author and novice of perhaps the most influential American contemplative and monastic writer of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton. Br. Paul was a gracious host who invited me to None (afternoon prayers), a visit to Merton’s hermitage and a tour of the grounds, and then loaded my arms with several boxes and varieties of his homemade fudge (a true penance in the thick of Lent!). Ora et labora: prayer and fudge.

The memory of this day with Br. Paul - reciting poetry, recalling the lives of saints and sharing stories about his beloved novice master (one of my spiritual heroes) - is one I’ll never forget.

Learn more about Br. Paul Quenon and read his wonderful poems at And if you haven’t read Merton, I’d suggest you start HERE with his #1 bestseller and autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain.

In this episode:
0:00 How Thomas Merton experienced God
2:23 Introduction to Br. Paul Quenon
3:01 How Br. Paul became a monk at Gethsemani
3:52 How do you experience God?
4:49 On mystical experience & apophatic spirituality
6:21 What was Merton like?
8:05 Merton’s interfaith work
9:42 How do we build bridges in the spirit of Merton?

11:42 Union with God & other lessons from Merton

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mindy Corporon: SevenDays

Photo credit Kansas City Star
Today’s guest is the remarkable Mindy Corporon with SevenDays, whose father and son were killed in a hate crime in 2014 outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, KS. Ever since, Mindy has become a champion of building bridges with people of other faiths and defeating hatred with lovingkindness. SevenDays 2017 will kick off with events the week of April 16, culminating in the SevenDays walk in Downtown KC on Monday night, April 24. Learn more at 
0:00 Mindy’s experience on the day of the hate crime that took her father and son
4:08 About Dr. William Corporon, Mindy’s father
6:40 About Reat Underwood, Mindy’s son
8:56 Why this evil didn’t swallow her
10:37 The hate crime outside a mosque that expanded Mindy’s mission
17:18 What other faiths can teach us about our own
24:12 Mindy’s visit to a mosque
26:43 About SevenDays & 2017 events
28:06 SevenDays First Fridays Art Show
28:35 4/18 “LOVE” - Kickoff Celebration & Panel @ B’nai Jehudah
29:52 4/19 “DISCOVER” - American Public Square Civility Panel @ UMKC
31:07 4/20 “OTHERS” - An Unbroken Bond with Edie Lutnick @ Church of the Resurrection
31:39 4/21 ”CONNECT” - focus on organ donation & blood drives; Mindy speaking @ St. Anthony’s Parish
34:48 4/22 - “GO” - T.A.K.E. Defense class and Improv. Workshop for Anxiety & Grief @ LDS Church in Olathe
35:51 4/23 - “YOU” - Interfaith Youth Workshop @ Cleveland University
37:19 4/24 “ONWARD” - Walk departing from Union Station

38:22 SevenDays 2018 - save the dates (4/10-4/16/18)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Happy Pesach!

It's month 4 already on my Year of Faiths adventures, and for this month I've chosen to focus on Judaism. As part of this experience, I had a wonderful opportunity this week to join the Sonnenschein family in celebrating the Passover Seder, the most celebrated holiday in Judaism, and a chronicle of the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt. Here are some of the photos from that night of the festive array of food and friends.

Every element on the table was deeply symbolic, from the bitter herbs (horseradish, a reminder of the bitterness of slavery) to the candles (below left, one made on their trip to Israel, the other they made from beeswax) to my favorite, an orange. Once, a man declared that a woman belongs in the role of preacher every bit as much as an orange belongs on a seder plate. Hence, the new tradition!

One of the things that stood apart was that, in the midst of this very traditional meal, my friends kept it both reverent and fun. There was laughter, singing, and a few readings tucked in-between that conjured challenge, conviction, and truth delivered in a bemusing and sometimes appropriately subversive way. I loved it!

Sheila and I (left) and friends from around my table, Emily, Sarah and Morgan (right).

I'm so grateful to have shared in this tradition in a home so full of hospitality. Happy Pesach!

Monday, April 3, 2017

LDS General Conference

April is the month I'm dedicating to Judaism, but like the Hindu Holi festival in March, not every religious experience I hope to gain this year falls neatly into a single month.

The Mormon missionaries I had contacted for my copy of the Book of Mormon (I haven't chosen the month yet, but I will also be learning about the LDS Church as part of my "Year of Faiths" experience) stopped by my home again a few days ago, with a schedule of their General Conference.

The entire LDS world spends two weekends a year hearing from their prophets at this conference, which is held in Salt Lake City, Utah, but shown live on TV and through the Internet. So this weekend, I spent a lot of time in front of the TV (still am - catching up!) tuning in to the conference, in-between hanging shutters on the house.

(I'm drinking coffee as I watch - which is wholly against the Book of Wisdom, for which I suffer a little guilt - and parsing Greek verbs for a quiz.)
I'm struggling with the fact that the speakers are all males, mostly white (there is a special women's session in which this is not the case), but I'm going to try and listen with an open mind and heart, and hear what they have to say. My LDS friends, after all, strive to stand apart as a "peculiar people," and they live their lives in a way that indeed sets them apart - some of the hardest workers, strongest families and dearest friends I've ever had. 
What is standing out about the conference to me, in particular, are the commercials in-between sessions. They are so focused on families - messages about the sacredness of time spent with our children, and building up our homes. There also is a theme that surfaces in the talks - little, daily efforts of devotion to faith produce great fruit. This encourages me to be more faithful to my own tradition in daily life.
You can find the conference here:

March Year of Faiths Review

What a WILD month March has been in my immersion into monasticism. I survived tornado warnings and hail stones and dined with the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Lamb in Kansas City...
... read through one of my now-favorite books, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ, who it turns out was inspired by Thomas Merton to become a monk - fitting, as I also visited Merton's hermitage this month in Kentucky, and interviewed Br. Paul Quenon (podcast to come)...
We also attended the fish fry each week at our local Catholic parish. I hardly felt penitent - what a feast!

A few nuggets of wisdom, to sum up my focus on monasticism:
1) The importance of desire in spiritual discernment
2) The very practical, Ignatian exercises - their use in making decisions
3) We need not focus on some grand purpose for our lives - God is most pleased when we walk in obedience to the Spirit, one small step at a time
4) Merton, like St John of the Cross who so inspired him, struggled terribly - there is room for struggle/challenging authority/rebellion in the spiritual life; indeed, it is to be expected!
5) The Little Brothers and Sisters of the Lamb were the most joyous souls I've ever met - begging for all their needs has taught them a rare TRUST in God (my word of this year). 

So grateful for these experiences and my gracious hosts along the way!