Joyce Rupp, an important figure in our Living Spiritual Teachers Project, introduces this new book with a foreword about her old friend, fellow spiritual writer, and Benedictine sister, Macrina Wiederkehr, whom you will find in our Remembering Spiritual Masters Project.
Sister Joyce writes: “At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I drove to St. Scholastic Monastery in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to be with my beloved friend who was dying of brain cancer. She asked me to be with her in whatever time she had left.” That remaining time turned out to be three weeks, during which Wiederkehr handed to Rupp the journal that is published here.
The journal is dated from July 1985 to September 1986, when Macrina was reading and meditating on the teachings and writings of several classic authors, including the fourteenth century teacher Henry Suso, the thirteenth century Gertrude the Great, and Thomas Merton.
There is a palpable movement throughout the entries, which are all brief and introspective, of a writer sifting material for future projects while still navigating a spiritual life of increasing intimacy.
She begins with a strange quotation from 2 Corinthians chapter 2 — “We are the aroma of Christ to God” (v. 15) – and ponders, “I guess this is sort of like being a smell for God: the fragrance of our lives ascending to God.”
Then she continues to ruminate on this theme in different guises. “Every glance of mine is to find you more deeply,” she confides to her journal.
Several days later, she writes: “ ‘Now’ is a good word! If something is important, do it now, especially something as important as loving.” And similarly, later: “It seems that I need to walk through my day remembering what a treasure I am carrying.”
She wants, in her life as well as her writing (the two are almost one) to learn to do what 2 Corinthians 6:13 says, “Open wide your hearts also.” This is the inspiration for the titling of the private journal into a book that seems most ideal for creatives seeking spiritual direction.
Some passages feel designed for those facing writer’s block or artist’s block of any kind: “Pale bits of sunlight keep trying to break through the clouds, and they seem successful in holding it back. The clouds are like me. How often the light of God tries to break through to my life, the depth of God tries to rise to the surface, but like a cloud I hold it back.”
Another example of this comes in the form of reflecting on a verse from 2 Timothy chapter 1, which says “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you.” Wiederkehr reflects, “I have this idea in mind and heart these days: I would very much like for my gifts to be fanned into a flame. I know I have many gifts, yet so often I feel as though I am not as present to my gifts as I could be. A little fanning might help.”
Near the end, Wiederkehr reflects in a way that speaks to every creative person who aims to share their work: “It isn’t how many books you’ve written, how many awards you’ve won, or even which teams you play on. It isn’t how much money you make, how organized you are, how many friends you have, how intelligent you are, or who you know…. It is by your love for others that you will be recognized — recognized as Jesus’s disciple. I tried to swallow that truth today. I felt so overwhelmed with my need to love, to love more purely, to love radically.”