Listening When Everything Turns to Dust

In this issue of Thema, the articles, poems, and sermon give voice to struggle, loss, depression, and the absence of God. But as Muriel Rukeyser proclaims in her poem, “Elegy in Joy,” not all are blest, but the blessing is in the seed. 

The Bible often reveals new beginnings after much struggle. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi had lost her husband and her sons: yet her daughter-in-law, Ruth, traveled with her to a new beginning that ultimately became part of the ancestry of Jesus. After Jesus, innocent of all wrongdoing, was cruelly crucified, he was resurrected into a new life. The disciples despite their grief and fear were empowered by the Holy Spirit who gave them strength and purpose. 

Elegy in Joy [excerpt]

Muriel Rukeyser

Muriel Rukeyser drew on many different sources of inspiration and used her poetry as a mode of social protest.

Prayer in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Ellen Koneck

Even when I rehearsed the motions or sent my less-blemished self as an advocate in my stead, I can’t be sure I was praying, because I never really wanted to pray. I didn’t want to go out of myself. I didn’t have anything to say, and besides, what words would even work?

I didn’t want to leave my grief, myself; I didn’t want to return to the spaces I’d known God before, which were changed and also excruciatingly the same. I wanted to stay, still, in this darkened room.

A reflection …

Dr. Calvin Gross, MD

How can I possibly hear God’s voice in the middle of the cacophony?

Obituary for a Quiet Life

Jeremy B. Jones

When the notable figures of our day pass away, they wind up on our screens, short clips documenting their achievements, talking heads discussing their influence. The quiet lives, though, pass on soundlessly in the background. And yet those are the lives in our skin, guiding us from breakfast to bed. They’re the lives that have made us, that keep the world turning.

Clair de Lune

Dr. Jean L. Kreiling

Dr. Jean L. Kreiling takes musical inspiration from Debussy’s “Clair de lune” to pen a poem in memory of her mother.

What We Swallow

Chris Koellhoffer, IHM

How little we know of one another or the burdens we carry! How much we rely on appearances as ultimate truth. How often we completely miss the heartache of those closest to us as well as the pain of a suffering world all around us. All of these wonderings stayed with me as I entered into the holy work of companioning others in a directed retreat.

I’m Through With Love

Rev. Matt Gaventa

When I was 15 years old my father disappeared without leaving the house. His body didn’t go anywhere new, but he disappeared, and this pale imitation showed up in his place. In some ways, it was a pretty good copy. For a while, he could go to his job, he could go to the grocery store, he could drop off the dry cleaning. I’m sure the clerk at the gas station didn’t notice anything different. But we knew, mom and I, we knew. Or at least she knew.

A Pastoral Reflection on Children’s Grief and Two Movie Reviews

Rev. Dr. Rindy Trouteaud

There are comments we tell those struggling with loss that make no sense to them or us. I did not have an answer for Mary, but I knew she loved to color, so I invited her to find a pillow and come sit with me around my coffee table and color pictures. Years earlier, a skilled, creative spiritual director, Eileen Chwalibog, suggested that art has the power to open hearts in ways that speech cannot. She had a group of reluctant adults select cardboard cake rounds and, using construction paper, ribbon, glitter, glue, pictures and words from magazines, make collages that we would use to tell others in the group about ourselves. I hoped coloring pictures would open Mary’s confused, grief-filled heart in a way my words could not.

A Hymn for Children that Need Rescuing

Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

This hymn, to the tune of “Away in a Manger,” MUELLER, was written in 2018. Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette shares her words with others for their possible use in church and for their prayers and action. Carolyn gives permission for free use of this hymn to churches seeking to help immigrant children.

Book review for Spiritual Directors

Sharon Hart-Green

Loss, trauma, memory, and, above all, the ties of family and being Jewish are the elements that weave together this panoramic story. Come Back for Me travels through time and place only to bring us, ultimately, to the connections between generations.

Bandwidth and Boundaries

Alexandra Macey Davis

Our dominant cultural narratives tell us to carefully guard our time, talent, treasure, and energy, but they fail to explain, ultimately, why that matters. What’s the point of all our aggressive self-preservation? If setting strict boundaries gives us more time in our schedule, greater emotional reserves, what will we then do with that surplus of time and energy? And if we don’t, like most of us, plan to use them for any particular purpose, why do we continue to fixate upon our own internal resources?

The work of spiritual directors Cindy Neely and Eileen Chwalibog is highlighted in this issue of Thema, “Listening When Everything Turns to Dust”.