I love. I love passionately and deeply as a self proclaimed contemplative extrovert and neo-friar. But I’ve also found that loving deeply and passionately also means hurting deeply and passionately sometimes. Life has taken me on some very desolate and dark times. Times that have rocked me to my core and have tried to rob me of that passionate love and joy, both of which are so distinctive to who I am. Those who do not know my depths might think I am spontaneous or unpredictable, but in fact, I’ve discovered during these dark trying times that I’ve found peace and solace in rhythms. For in these rhythms my soul has been renewed and has found peace.
Morning prayer. Singing vespers with my wife and young daughter before bedtime or praying my decade rosary on my commute each day. These rhythms have ministered to my soul and provided a constant when little else has. For many years now, the contemplative practice of Visio Divina (Divine Seeing) through contemplative photography has met a deep place in my soul. This was especially true when I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Anytime I needed to spend a deep intimate time with our favorite loving Trinity, I would go take my camera and prayerfully enter into the desert or mountains and listen with the eyes of my heart to the world around me (thanks to our online Abbess’s book, “Eye’s of the Heart”).
Each stage in my life has seemed to be another uphill challenge that has managed to find new ways to drain me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Any contemplative dancing monk should be the first to tell you that no matter how strong or passionate your desire is to live a life ‘above the fray’, life will always attempt to get in the way. Sadly, in my case, ‘life’ was represented by people who have hurt me to the core so many times I stopped being able to keep count. And the deeper sadness for me, has been that many of these people have been ‘in the church’…the very place and people who should never be the bearers of that kind of pain. That deep hurt and disappointment has taken my soul on several trips down the path of depression rather than the path of peace.
My family and I moved to Austin, TX to be able to circle around family facing their own physical ‘mountains’. It was a wake up call to my heart as those favorite places of the desert and mountains were replaced by the Texas Hill Country which, of course, is beautiful in it’s own right. But, my weary and dry soul was heartsick for the familiar holy places in the desert and mountain steams, where my heart seemed to still reside.
I felt lost and no amount of life rhythmic prayers was able to heal as I was desperately needing and craving. I was still searching for the way to find my place in the larger reign of God. My contemplative photography was not the renewing spiritual practice that it had once been for me and I was simply depending on the rhythms of my life to slowly bring me back to the path of peace as they had done for me in the past.
One day, while thinking about a gift idea for my wife, God brought to mind some of my very first years in ministry in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A master craftsman from the church I was appointed taught me some very basic and beautiful wood carving techniques that originated from the small town of Cordova, NM which is very close to the famous Sanctuario de Chimayo and it’s healing sand.
I decided upon a carving of a sacred heart for my first carving and gift. I realized that as I was carving, I found myself praying. With each small chip of wood falling off, there was a familiar rhythm in my carving and praying. As I slowly carved away the wood with my hand tools, the sacred heart slowly came into view. I also realized that when my carpal tunnel condition in my hands would cause them to go numb, it was God reminding me to pause…pray…and then begin again. As the wood began to take form, I was deeply touching the heart of Christ and carving away the wood that was keeping this heart from being viewed by the world.
After a few weeks of my new found love of contemplative carving, I was divinely inspired and realized it was the touch of the sacred heart of Christ in my hands and fingers that was slowly becoming a new spiritual practice for me. All those years of Visio Divina (Divine Seeing) was being translated into Contingo Divina (Divine Touch). And again, I was renewed, remolded, and refreshed with a new way of allowing God to enter into the ‘life’ and breathe his peace into my dryness.
I invite you to try holding things that are precious to you in a way that invites Christ to hold you in those hands. Remember that you are caressed and held tenderly in the heart of Christ when you are doing the dishes, crocheting blankets for others, and working in the garden. Go on a hike and pick up rock, flower, or blade of grass and allow God to speak to you in your touch… reminding you of God’s presence and care of you. Go and experience Contingo Divina in your own lives and the power of touch. Allow the very hands of God to hold you…mold you….and carve away the pinnings of this world that are keeping his divine image to be shown through you for the sake of the world.
D.G. is currently developing a new non-profit called The Order of the Trinity that would be a local and online community who promote a simple rule of life based around our 5 senses for a neo-friar-like people who love out their lives through art, creativity, and rhythms to make a difference in thier communities. If you are interested in supporting, helping or joining scroll to the bottom of the website and let us know, OrderOfTheTrinity.com