In our current social and political climate, I think it is important to stop and reflect on two values that are important to building healthy relationships and stem from the core of what religious life is all about: community and contemplation. These are not unique to Christianity but are found among all the world religions.
Below is an excerpt I wrote for a planning retreat at my ministry site, the Eco-Justice Center sponsored by the Racine Dominicans.
Freedom, responsibility, dialogue and integrity are key ingredients to building community. They provide a context for sharing experiences with others in grappling with common issues. These shared experiences help build relationships of trust through hospitality. Once community is built it offers companionship and support.
In today’s world, we are called to broaden community to a diverse group of people: those who are present, those virtually connected, those of different faiths or no faith, and those of different cultures and races. Dialogue helps strengthen a community that will welcome all with respect.
Here at the Eco-Justice Center we see community built among our volunteers and participants in our programming. We believe community includes both human and all life. We nurture relationships which enhance the wellbeing of persons, the earth, and all beings. All life is dependent on earth for nourishment and physical survival.
Contemplation means the act of looking or gazing attentively. Contemplation allows you to draw closer to the mystery of life through active silence. It helps integrate body, mind, and spirit. It can make you more attentive to being in the moment.
When you take time to contemplate in a group there is a sense of connection with others while you are sitting in silence. Often times a deeper dialogue results from a group spending time in silence first. The silence allows us to be with others who share a similar contemplative openness and offers the hope that each will be led to new perspectives, mutual respect and understanding. We need more of this in our world today.
As part of National Catholic Sisters Week this past spring, a group of sisters who live in Wisconsin got together and created a Transformative Circle process. This process revolved around community, contemplation and dialogue. I also facilitated a circle at the Eco-Justice Center that explored Laudato Si and invited youth to participate as well. This was one way of planting seeds of community and contemplation in our world today.
In what ways are you planting seeds of community and contemplation today?
Content paraphrased from brochures Meeting the Charism Again/For the First Time: Dominican Values-Building Community and The Contemplative Tradition 2003.