The Latest from Joe Zarantonello – Ed O’Rourke

Joe and I were teachers at St Thomas High School in the early 1970s.  He and Pam run a retreat center in Bardstown Kentucky.  He sends out his thought on Mondays.  I invite you to see the latest.



The Wisdom and Power of Vows There are many different ways of knowing. Our Postmodern culture thinks that thinking is the only way to gain knowledge. Most perennial wisdom cultures value and integration of rational thought along with emotional, somatic, imaginal, aesthetic, epiphanic and volitional ways of knowing. Vows, properly understood, can lead to a profoundly deep level of volitional knowing. Commandments are meant to be kept or broken; vows, on the other hand, are more aspirational and directional, more like the North Star. Even though you can’t ever reach the North Star, following it can help you course-correct when you’ve lost your way. The reason folks set out on a path, and the reason they stay on the path, are not the same reason. The reasons change as the path and the years unfold; yet, if we can manage to hold onto our vows — a kind of precious, cumulative, experiential knowledge emerges that’s impossible to get in any other way. Here are three vows that have kept me growing on the spiritual path for more than 50 years. Through all sorts of “spiritual weather” — difficulty, boredom, doubts, depression and serious wrong turns — the willingness to follow the vows of Listening, Presence and Transformation have pulled me out of many a ditch, and back onto the path. The Vow of Listening depends on the Heart. The ego-mind is like a “24/7 talk radio station,” but the Heart listens in silence. I start my day listening to other voices — by reading the words of the saints, sages, mystics and sacred scriptures from all the perennial wisdom traditions. This helps me to be more open to other people’s voices and views. The Vow of Presence is about Showing Up and Letting Go. Every morning and afternoon, I practice “formally showing up” by sitting in silent contemplation, and simply “letting go.” The more I show up and let go, the stronger the presence of the Spirit becomes. Over time, the Ultimate Mystery becomes the Ultimate Presence. The Vow of Transformation is about Aspiration. St. Athanasius of Alexandria urged all of us to make this Great Vow because “The Divine became human so that humans could become Divine.” Thomas Merton said this, “What we have to be is what we are.”  Both of these great mystics are urging us to aspire to no less than total transformation! At the end of the day, our postmodern culture will ask, “What’s in your wallet?” At the end of this life, the Ultimate Presence will ask, in its Wisdom, “What were your vows?”

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