Stories Seldom Heard – January, 2018

Stories Seldom Heard
222nd Edition
“Winter” Treasures:  January 1, 2018


Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard.  I want to thank so many of you who sent Christmas cards and donations.  We greatly appreciate them.  I would also like to welcome the interfaith retreatants who gathered for an Advent Day of Prayer in Petaluma, CA., as well as, the families from St Ignatius of Antioch, CA. Who celebrated an Advent Evening of Prayer.

The end of the year and the beginning of a new year allows us time to reflect more deeply on our lives.  Many of us are filled with gratitude and a great appreciation for the people we love and the world in which we live.  Others of us might have lingering feelings of regret that need to be reconciled or grieving that still needs time to be healed.  All of these feelings and more bring us to sober moments of reflection as we begin this new year.

Even though in the San Francisco Bay Area we still have clear skies and relatively warm weather, January is noted for its winter storms and darkness. We often think of the words “dark” and “darkness” as having only negative meanings.  But on the eve of this new year many of us will spend time in church or at home in prayer and reflection.  In this way, we could say we will enter into a kind of darkness – a place of mystery and silence.  It is not the darkness of winter storms and power outages.  Rather it is a darkness that holds the presence of God.  It’s the darkness of which Isaiah speaks.  “I will give you treasures out of the darkness, and riches that have been hidden away.”  (Is. 45:3)  According to Isaiah “darkness” can be a place where treasures are found and savored.  Rainer Marie Rilke, a poet, offers us a similar insight.  He reminds us that it was out of darkness that we were born and within this sacred darkness all things are held in the presence of God.

“You, darkness, of whom I am born –
I love you more than the flame
That limits the world
To the circle it illumines
And excludes all the rest.

But the darkness embraces everything:
Shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
People, nations – just as they are.

It lets me imagine
A great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.”  (1)

T.S. Eliot, also a poet and writer, reminds us that this darkness can be a lonely place because we become aware of our limitations and our yearnings, but it can also be a place where we meet and are drawn into the Mystery of God.

“I said to my soul, be still, and let
The dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.
As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings,
With a movement of darkness on darkness…..

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light,
And the stillness the dancing.     (2)

It does not take long when we listen to the words of scripture, prophets and poets to realize that even though we are people who sit in the darkness of suffering, incompleteness and doubt, we are also people waiting for guidance: people waiting to be enlightened.

This waiting time can be hard because it is during this time we often become even more aware of our vulnerability, as well as our deep connectedness with all humanity.  It can be a bitter-sweet experience.  Meister Eckhart speaks of our search in this way.

“What is darkness?
What is its name?
Call it: an aptitude for creativity
Call it: a rich sensitivity which will make you whole
Call it: your potential for vulnerability.”  (3)

I felt this creative, sensitive and vulnerable spirit many times during the Advent/Christmas season.  Even as I did my usual Christmas visiting I found there was a quieter more serious spirit dwelling in the gatherings of family and friends.  There seemed to be a deeper appreciation of little kindnesses. There certainly was an attempt for everyone to “engage” in conversation.  People didn’t just talk.  They listened and asked curious and considerate questions.  No one claimed to have “the” answer, but they were listening carefully for whispers of truth and hope.   I felt God was working in our conversations and prayer gatherings.  God was actively present in our small and large efforts as we reached out to others.   God incarnate – God with us – is alive and well in a variety of ways: prayer, seeking the truth and in good deeds.

Saint Teresa reminds her followers and us that we must become who we are created to be – lovers of God and one another.  Mechtild of Magdeburg put it this way, encouraging us to have the joyous Christ-Spirit throughout the year.

“Heal the broken
With comforting words of God
Cheer them gently
With earthly joys.
Be merry and laugh

With the broken
And carry their secret needs
In the deepest silence of your heart.”   (4)

We often hear that God works in mysterious ways.  May this new year give us the gift of deep listening and deeper understanding.  As my final offering for your consideration on this first day of the new year, Wendell Berry gets the last word.

“It may be that when we no longer know
What to do
We have come to our real work
And that when we no longer know
Which way to go
We have begun our real Journey
The mind that is not baffled
Is not employed
The impeded stream
Is the one that sings.”

A blessed and peace seeking new year!  Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.

  1. Rilke’s Book of Hours, edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, Riverhead Books, New York, 1996.  p. 57.
  2. The Complete Poems and Plays, T. S. Eliot, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1952.  This quote comes from East Coker, one of the poems that makes us the Four Quartets.   p. 127
  3. Original Blessing, Matthew Fox, Bear and Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  This quote from Meister Eckhart is on page 157.
  4.   Meditation with Mechtild of Magdeburg

Special thanks to Maria Hetherton and Mary Ellen Green who have helped in editing this article.

 “Stories Seldom Heard” is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.  Sister is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California.  This service is offered to the Christian community to enrich one’s personal and spiritual life.  The articles can be used for individual or group reflection.  If you would like “Stories Seldom Heard” sent to a friend, please send a note to ““.