Basketball- a spiritual odyssey of an American Barrio

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The Philippines Basketball team is playing at the FIBA World Cup Basketball in Spain.  The Filipinos celebrates any moment they have to shine on a world stage, this world cup basketball is historic for the nation.  If you are a student of history, theology and spirituality, perhaps you can see why I see how sports weaves  the possibility of forgiveness, redemption and revenge.

The Philippines is a basketball-crazed nation ( the highest in the world per Capita). even though they have not qualified to play on the world cup the last three decades. Why?,  for many reasons; one of them is Filipinos are short people in the game favoring taller people. Evolution in the past perhaps understands how adding another feet to verticalness would make living near the equator more challenging. Evolution (climate change?) now perhaps might be the reason why we qualified for the first time in the last three decades, maybe.

FIBA, the governing body for world basketball, for the first time allowed one naturalized citizen to play in any team. Andray Blatche, a 6’11 ft American N.B.A player was naturalized recently to help the Philippine team compete.   The Phlippines lost 2 games with less than 5 losing points margin out from the last 3 games.

I wonder why and how the Philiippines’ basketball team  qualified to compete again after all these decades. Is having a tall American player anything to do with it? Is it because the nations’ former colonizer is hosting the game ( of course not ) Perhaps, Colonialism makes sense.

I think the Philippines is on this odyssey so there can be forgiveness given to the two former colonizers – Spain and the USA- if the Philippines wins against Spain ( highly unlikely ) maybe they will forgive and get their revenge,  and If they win against the Americans ( also highly unlikely)  maybe they will not just forgive but  would feel validated and recognized as a fellow crusader as well.  The odyssey continues until  one day they can feel no longer inferiors and perhaps better than  (former) colonizers.

So this basketball crazed nation’s spiritual odyssey is taking the  “redemptive purpose” from what was given to by Catholic Spain and Protestant America. So, the game of basketball is what?

silence, a prayer for repentance

“Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around,”  – John Cage, composer, artist, scholar.

Silence’s association is wide and varied. I used to see it as  a way to mete punishment or  discipline. As a spiritual discipline, silence is one of the most significant, simplest and in a way easiest to practice, and the most neglected and feared spiritual practices.

Connecting silence to a change of mind and turning around is a compelling reason to teach silence as a contemplative spiritual practices.  Repentance is one of the ways God softens a  hardened, calloused and cold heart. Repentance (metanoia in Greek – a change of mind, a turning around)  in this sense can be very attractive.

Silence is a life-long spiritual practice and ought to be taught early on in childhood. The practice of silence was an important subject  for Maria Montessori, a pioneer in modern early childhood education.  Montessori sees silence as one of the rudimentary teachings  stating that silence had to be taught from pre-school all the way to grad school. Young Samuel and Mary the teenager encountered, heard, and discerned the voice of God from a place of silence and solitude.

How is silence learned, taught and practiced?

Silence can be intimidating, it looms large without words, it is powerful and scary for it lacks a familiar imagery to disarm our often guarded or shallow soul.  Silence takes us out of our ordinary and comfort zone of words (acoustic) and imagery ( another form of acoustic)  and visceral companionship. In silence we  consent to the Holy Spirit to engage our will to faith.

Silence as a prayer is a humbling posture before God.

Silence is taught by giving the space to be heard. John Cage once spoke to an audience without amplification. There were  hums, buzz and whispers  from the audience while he was speaking. Some audience complained that they couldn’t hear him and John Cage replied saying:  “you can’t hear because you are not listening” and soon enough the room is silent and everyone was listening.

Silence is practiced silently. ” Cease striving and know I am God”. It is best practiced with an “empty stomach”- less use of what you know, what you have, and not to be forced upon self.

Silence is practiced by being still and consent to the move of the Holy Spirit. Silence is not creating void and nothing. Apophatic prayers like Centering Prayer, Jesus Prayer and breath prayer  opens our heart and mind to God.  God works in us to act and to will according to His purposes. Silence is not the end in itself. Following Jesus is the end that doesn’t end.

Brother Rob, a journey of faith, hope and love- why I think he is a monk

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Brother Rob is not a monk in the conventional and traditional order.  He belongs to the 21st Century brand of monasticism- lived among the people and loved the people with words, his pocketbook, and his pottery and ceramics. He left his or forsaken by his own family, none of us in his community really knew. He left his family to join  this  new order of unsung and radical monastics.

His journey of faith started blindly that only the darkness and brightness of God’s hand and voice can do. He took the vow of submission giving his pastor carte blanche to correct, rebuke and discipline him, a story ripped directly from  how an abbott treats a novice monk intending to enter the monastic life

His journey of hope built on his growing faith couldn’t happen if he gave up on giving his pastor permission to barge in his workplace and questions his seeming faltering faith. No, he realized all areas of his life is to be invaded by God and that invasion conquered his broken hope.

Brother Rob’s journey of love flowered and blossomed in a dry and weary land.  A land devoid of a father’s  love. Here’s where Brother Rob found his true calling;  to love, to love again.  No one from this fatherless land was supposed to love others like Rob did, they were expected to be monsters. Yes, Brother Rob, a radical monastic, blossomed in the desert to love and to love again until his very last breath, he said  goodbye to us in a manner only radical lovers of others and not of themselves can pull such a stunt.

Brother Rob deserves to be buried in a monastery cemetery. The monastic community he is a part do not  have a cemetery, what we have  are burrito stands, art studios, liquor stores, massage parlor, and the Mission where Father Junipero Serra, a Jesuit missionary who built California Missions before the U.S Constitution was written. Here lies a brother who lived the life of faith, hope and charity.

 

Soul Care Retreat

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If God rested to see how beautiful a creation came about, so shall we.

Soul care retreat is not entitlement for being a good and faithful servant. It is not a perk from a good performing company (your church). It is not an escape after hard days of working. It is not therapy for a stressed out spiritual life, it is not about managing or coping your stress. Is not on the same page of healthy living tips- and yoga practice is on top of the list.

Soul care retreat is not possible without soul care living. To have a retreat program as an extra-curricular activity in your life is like going to a gym to lose spiritual excess weight gained from apathy, laziness, over-indulgence, ennui or a sin. It is not an act of penance.

Soul care retreat is a trellis. A framework and a guide for the spiritual life. It is part of your soul garden landscape, it integrated in your garden.

Soul care retreat is to behold the beauty and the splendor of your beloved Christ. It is like a road trip with Jesus driving and pulling over to a ” Buena Vista ” to enjoy an intimate moment. Soul care retreat is not a separate trip out of your way, it is an integral part of your pilgrimage towards Jesus.

Soul care retreat is cultivating the depth of your God-breathed life, it is soulful living, contemplative living in the mystery and majesty of our Creator.

Blog Post

Welcome to my weekly blog on the Contemplative Prayer

What is contemplative prayer?

If I ask Thomas Merton, he would say what it is and then say at the end it is not what it is but still encouraged us to pray the contemplative way. Merton says it is a simple prayer, like the Desert Fathers learned and practiced. It is a way to create a space requiring a practice to take away distractions like existential dread or fear or other thoughts

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