Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Warrior and the Pacifist

There is a young man who works at the food coop with me, I'll call him "D". Last week he told me way too much of his life story for having just met me: I want to tell him not to cast his pearls before swine, not to throw what is holy to the dogs. But that's a different subject. This morning I want to write about the path of the "warrior".

D told me he was violently abused by his father until the age of 12, when he was rescued by his mother (from whom his father had kidnapped him), with the help of his father's sister. His father was habitually violent to women as well as to his son. D says he once saw a woman jump from a 2nd-story window to get away from him ... and then come back for more. Parental violence is nothing like parental discipline, and D said "there was a special seat for me in the principal's office." When he next saw his father, as a young adult, he prepared for the meeting by getting smashing drunk.

He told me all this after I expressed surprise at overhearing him, a guy who just exudes peace and love and gentleness, talking very enthusiastically about a boxing match the night before. He was discussing the match with a friend, at length, in terms that made it clear that he was a great follower of the sport. So he said it's no contradiction -- he's all about being a "warrior". I also asked about the tattoos on his forehead, and he said one represents his "third eye", and the other a martial art form that he is developing (a warrior discipline).

Now, I've heard of this concept of the "warrior" as related to a spiritual path, but I confess I have never paid it much attention. I have always been a rather radical pacifist. I'm too young to remember Dr. King (born in 1967), but nonetheless his sermons seem to have shaped my view of what is right and true and good. I've always thought, if "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies" -- and Jesus's own example on the Cross -- means anything at all, it means that even self-defense is not a valid motive for a Christian to react violently. I know the Church has a doctrine of Just War, but I've ignored it because it just seems wrong to me. Is it really possible for a Christian to defend herself from violence violently? King and his disciples suffered violence, not to mention Jesus and His disciples, how many holy martyrs? What does that martyrdom mean, if we say it's OK to strike back in self-defense?

Now before I go any further, let me make it clear that I have not spent my life pondering this question from the safety of some walled enclave. On the contrary, I have lived in some pretty dangerous inner-city neighborhoods, heard gunshots from my front steps multiple times, been personally in-my-face threatened with mugging. Then again, when I was raped, it was out in the "safe" suburbs. It seemed the mugging didn't come off because the guy was so taken aback by my serene, fearless smile -- I was on the way home from some 12-step meeting, my spirit was strengthened, and I was communing with my "Higher Power": nothing could touch me! I must have been glowing. Those 12-step programs formed the rock-solid foundation of my faith in God, and in them I met in loving communion with some of the toughest, baddest, meanest and dirtiest, most humbled sinners you'd ever want to know. I used to live in fear, but by then I had lost it in discovering God -- it was a honeymoon time for me with God -- and I also knew the heart of street thugs and addicts. There was nothing to fear, because nothing, not mugging nor even murder, could separate me from the love of God as I had come to know Him.

Then what is this "warrior path" about? It is obviously genuine, a legitimate spiritual path. D, in particular, is as I have said a loving, gentle, peaceful man, who strives to be a "warrior", to cultivate a "warrior spirit". Then again, I have no doubt that I am capable of killing a man, in anger or in self-defense, as upsetting as it was when I had to kill a chick that had been mauled by a raccoon. I don't know. I still believe in radical non-violence, but ... I don't know. I want to understand the other side of this, how violence can in some way be even sacred. I will work at the co-op again tomorrow, and maybe I will ask D to tell me something about it.

Blessings to you, and to D, to all victims of child abuse, and conversion for their abusers, and for all those desperate, broken-hearted street thugs and addicts. If you come across this blog, please pray for me, too.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I had an insight today. It popped into my mind when I passed someone walking a dog while I was walking around the lake. I had met with my spiritual director, Fr. H, in the morning, and he also heard my confession. We were talking about the sin of sloth, and I was feeling a little discouraged, because I just can't seem to break out of my lazy habits. Well, when I saw the dog I remembered something T told me about training dogs: you have to give the dog a chance to do its thing, too, and then you have to establish a clear signal so the dog knows when it's time to heel, and when it gets to pull you around by the leash and sniff and pee on every trunk and lamppost. The signal might be a command, a stance, a different collar or lead, as long as it is clear to the dog when it can play and meet its own doggy needs, and when it should obey and behave according to your needs.

The point? Maybe I can train my unruly brain in the same way! I need to work productively, and I also need "holy leisure", time to pray, read meditatively, or especially, just contemplate. Instead, I spend too much time being guiltily unproductive, playing computer solitaire or some such. Maybe if I set aside a certain time each day and give myself explicit permission to "veg", I could use that leisure time more restoratively, contemplatively, and still be willing to be more productive during other times of the day. E.g. to set a minimum daily period, let's start with what Fr H says is his community's rule: 1/2 hour lectio divina and 1/2 hour meditation daily. They also have daily Mass and community prayer (Divine Office) at morning, noon, and evening, as well as reading something edifying over supper. We talked about that in the morning; what the dog-training analogy adds is the feeling that mandating prayer & meditation time might actually work, that I might actually change a little as a result.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that spending one day out of seven in leisure is one of the ten commandments? Yes, it is right up there with "thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not commit adultery". It is that important!! But so is work, and I pray God to help me find a better balance.

.... On a less serious note .... was I the only one giggling at Mass this morning? The Old Testament reading, Jeremiah 13:1-11, was pretty graphic, and kinda gross. Don't you think? Phew.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Came back from Mass and Crow was nowhere to be found. T drove around the neighborhood looking for her, Mr H went to see if she was back by the railroad tracks, nothing. Then T got back and noticed her lying in a heap by the porch steps, in among the thistles. Was she hurt after all?? No..... she's sitting on another clutch of eggs! The last batch of chicks are only 2 months old! This time she did a better job of hiding her eggs from me, so she managed to accumulate 6 of them. 6 sky-blue eggs. Last time, since I was collecting eggs every day, and once she goes broody she doesn't lay any more, she hatched out 3 of Bebop's eggs, none of her own. Bebop lays white eggs, so they are easy to distinguish. I cleaned out the Eglu, put in fresh clean bedding, and moved her amid loud protestations. She will be safe in there. Bebop, LoverBoy and the chicks (sex still uncertain but I am provisionally calling them Henny & Penny (Henrietta & Penelope)) can stay in the Poulet Chalet. Bebop has gotten the habit of laying her eggs there, anyway. Whew... always drama in the chicken world!

So why am I letting her hatch out another clutch of eggs while I'm trying to sell or rent my house? What am I going to do with all these chickens?? I dunno. I went through all that doubt with the first clutch. I went through all that doubt when it was time to plant my vegetable garden this spring. It seemed to be the thing to do, and so far it is working out. In fact, the couple that almost bought the house wanted to keep the chickens! We will find a home for them. It might sound silly, but in my mind, in midst of this spiritual metamorphosis I am undergoing, it is all a part of letting go, letting God. Trust. Do the right thing and let Him take care of the consequences.


The Prodigal Hen

She's back. Whew. The next-door neighbor, AKA Superman, found her down across the street and somehow managed to catch her (she's not easy to catch!) and brought her back. I right away threw her some scratch grains (treats for the prodigal hen). The neighbor is AKA Superman because one time, he jumped the back fence (he's 70 y.o, mind you) and chased a fox that was chasing my rooster, around the house to the front where it stopped and faced him, and he kicked it until it let go of the rooster. That time I found the only vet in Maryland (I'd bet on it) that is willing to treat chickens. The rooster's name is LoverBoy, he's a pet.

What an exciting way to start the morning. Off to try to get my head together and pray the Office of Readings.

By the way, I've added some links, including one where you can find the Office of Readings for yourself (

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Missing hen!

My black hen, Crow, didn't show up at the coop for bedtime this evening. I'm worried.... Couldn't find her anywhere in the yard. She's gotten a bad habit of jumping the fence lately to get to the neighbor's bird feeders. Then again, we do have plenty hawks, raccoons, and sometimes even foxes. I have lost a hen to a hawk or fox before, but that time I found the feathers strewn around the yard as evidence. I didn't see anything like that today. Hopefully she'll wander back tomorrow. It is worrisome sometimes, being responsible for these little lives. I can't even imagine what it must be like to be a parent!

Poverty and Fasting

A year ago I had a very good income, for a single woman without dependents. I ate out often, drank wine daily, shopped impulsively. Then I jumped ship.... Also, I am a foodie ... oh, I love food. I revel in all the tastes and textures, always buy too much at the farmers market, let leftovers go moldy because there's something else I want to eat today instead. I planted too many cucumbers, and if I don't get around to making pickles TODAY, they will not last. Tomatoes are starting to ripen, am I going to let them rot on the counter again or am I going to can something? (actually something is taking bites out of the green, hard ones, right in the garden. Got to do something about that)

There are two interrelated issues that I am just beginning to explore: fasting and poverty. Both imply not always eating whatever I feel like eating whenever I feel like eating it. Meat is expensive. Wine is expensive. Everything is expensive if I waste half of it because I don't eat the leftovers, or I don't put up the excess for future. I have boxes and bags of grains and beans in my pantry; if I run out of bread, I can take the extra time to cook a pot of rice, or quinoa, or pasta, or Kashi, or barley, or grits, or ... or... or...... I have all those things and more besides, right in my pantry. Add beans and I don't need meat every day. Anyway I have laying hens, free protein (well, not really -- they eat bought food. But it's a lot cheaper than meat). Fasting and poverty also mean effort, inconvenience, working for my keep. The extra effort to bake bread or cook rice or scrub potatoes, instead of buying bread. The extra thought that goes into keeping track of what is in my refrigerator, and eating the things with the shortest shelf life first. Making those pickles, canning those tomatoes. Watering the garden, tending it so as to maximize the harvest.

Anyway I am overweight, and low in energy, and this body is a temple of the Holy Spirit: working for my meals, and eating less quantity and more mindfully, are good things all around. That said, I am off to take a walk around the lake, for my physical, mental, and spiritual health (tending the temple).


Good morning, world. My name is Regina, and I am in the midst of a "back-to-the-land" midlife crisis -- thus Regina Terrae, the nickname given me by my spiritual director. The other, more important part of my little "crisis" is a more intense dedication to God (thus the spiritual director).

I left my 19-year job as a bureaucrat almost a year ago, at the time firmly convinced that I would enter a convent of cloistered Benedictine nuns who support themselves in large part by farming. Now that I've made the jump I am much less stressed about the future, much more trusting in God, and I realize that security was a significant part of the attraction to the convent. But I still want to live my life for God ... I MUST, I can't stand to live a mediocre, unexamined life, it drives me into depression and I don't want to go back down there again. To be happy I have to immerse myself in God; He makes me become more than I thought I could be, and less, too, in that I can shed the meaningless, unnecessary ornaments that I used to mistake for real aspects of my identity, discovering my Transcendent Self.

Lately, I am drawn more and more to the solitary life, and having recently discovered that the Church (Catholic, that is) now officially sanctions and consecrates what it calls Hermits, I am excitedly exploring that path. Why do I care if my lifestyle is officially sanctioned and consecrated? Because as a consecrated woman I could have the Blessed Sacrament in my own little chapel tabernacle. I could, as it were, cohabitate with my beloved Spouse.

Meanwhile I have a house in town, with attendant mortgage, that needs dealing with. So here I am, on my little half acre in the city, with my little vegetable garden and 5 chickens, my books and my prayers, trying to figure all this out. I attend Mass and meet with my spiritual director at a local Benedictine monastery, where I also work a few hours each week as a secretary to help cover my bills. I work a few hours also at the local food coop to help with the grocery bills, and am learning to spend less money since I gave up the 6-figure income. Preparation for that vow of poverty.

I am not good at keeping a journal. I hope that I will keep it better online, but we shall see. Bear with me. Maybe if people stumble across this blog and post comments it will encourage me. I am not an exhibitionist, and I won't blog about absolutely every thought that crosses my mind. But I am willing to share my spiritual journey in case it inspires someone else who is teetering on the edge of "yes, Lord", and in my confidence that if it's not worth reading, this blog will remain obscure anyway. The Internet is amazing that way.

I will start with what's on my mind today, in a separate post. I'm not going to write my whole autobiography here, if something lacks context and you want to understand it, feel free to ask questions in the comments. Or just wait and see how it unfolds.

Blessings upon all who happen upon this blog, and then especially, blessings to those who don't -- because they can't afford a computer, can't get internet access or the electricity to run it, or can't read or write. Let us keep the poor always in our prayers.