Here is an excerpt from the book ‘The Way of the Dreamcatcher’
Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax: Poet, Peacemaker, Sage.
By S.T. Georgiou.
Robert, it’s been said that you eventually left Marseille and later went on to Greece and Patmos because of a “sign” you saw in your room. Over your bed there was an icon of St. John the Divine writing his Revelation. This image prompted you to start thinking of Patmos and the famous cave wherein John experienced his vision.
That’s a true story. And up there on my wall, among all the other pictures and postcards, is a copy of that very icon. The original is from an illustrated manuscript of the fifteenth century.
Oh yes, there’s St. John writing his Apocalypse.
And the fact that he’s writing also led me to believe that Patmos would be a good place to write and meditate.
So Patmos was love at first sight?
Definitely. Things were clearer here, much more real, rooted, you might say. No distractions. Excellent climate, at least for most months. A fertile, unfolding quiet. Beautiful, inspiring light. Something about the light – so many tones, hues beaming into the soul. And there was also a classical influence as well. It was a ruggedly Homeric place ringed by a “wine dark sea.”
What was it that you found holy here? The site must have certainly impressed you since you had previously gone to such inspiring locales as the Virgin Isles, the Canary Isles, and a number of the islands of Italy and Greece.
Many people who visit say that there is an ominous feel to the place as your boat approaches, but not in a bad way. There’s just a certain feeling that something spiritually significant is here, waiting to reveal itself in its own good time. When I first came I strongly felt the power of St. John’s cave as well as the great monastery and that whole area up there, but it was really the Cave of the Apocalypse that moved me.
You sound like the islanders — they’re very ” cave conscious. ”
Yes, the cave has been a magnet for all the Patmians since the days of St. John. In fact, St. John’s association with the cave has permeated the whole psychology of the people here. It has made them loving, gentle, wise. I’ve found that they never say a word in any situation that doesn’t emanate from a pure trust, a deep spiritual centre of which the cave is a part. So many times I’ve heard, “Epomoni” (Patience), “Oti theli o Theos” (Whatever God wants) and “Doxa si o Theos” (Glory be to God). Everything seems to be right here for a good rapport with the Creator. The men, women and children have a solid spiritual foundation nurtured by the sanctity of the isle and by their forefathers.
On top of that, they are always reminded of the high ideals of their classical and Byzantine ancestors. I mean, Socrates “Know thyself,” which many of the locals echo, is a good start for anyone.
So you feel Patmos is truly a sacred site, a blessed zone? Is there a unique energy here? A cosmic pulsing?
I certainly would not be inclined to doubt it. The sun, moon and stars seem to shine right into you. Yes, I very much believe the people are blessed simply by being here. Grace seems to flow here. You can’t help but sense the love of God. The gates of Patmos are as wide as the heart, open to all.
What did you feel when you first came to this holy isle?
A timeless serenity. Generative silence. Awe. The quiet imposed by the volcanic mountains and stones, a real love moving over the face of the waters. In a more familial sense, I did feel like someone might if they had run into their long-lost parents or grandparents — as if everything you’ve heard in your life, up till then, had just been an echo of something that all along had been planted right here. And the echoes of that something could still be heard. . .
It’s interesting how when St. John came here, he emphasized the need to love. “Just love one another, ” he would say. So we are meant to form relationships, to network. One star can’t illuminate the whole night sky. Constellations have to form.
Patmos then seems to be a model for harmonious living, a kind of cosmic school of higher learning.
I do believe that very much — it’s a wholesome place that naturally fosters self-discovery and genuine agape. There’s a living tradition here. I felt a great wave of peace when I came to Patmos, and I still sense these peaceful rhythms. Things are free-flowing here. The sunlight writes on the water, and the waters wave in the light. Even the birds seem to fly in a more peaceful way, as if they know that they are loved. Animals are like children because they know when they are loved, and when they are not.
Look far back, look infinitely on. Penetrate, do not appraise. Behold all things with the innocence of light. Laugh when you meet a stranger; let your glances flash together like water in sunlight. ~ Robert Lax
Happy Feast of Saint John The Evangelist! The Disciple whom Jesus Loved, St. John The Divine, St. John The Theologian,
pray for us!
This is a little adaptation of the beautiful song by Sophie B. Hawkins. Every time I listen to it, it makes me think of My Beloved….Jesus I love you!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do…
It felt like spring time on this February morning In a courtyard birds were singing Your praise I’m still recalling things You said to make me feel alright I carried them with me today Now
As I lay me down to sleep This I pray That You will hold me dear Though I’m far away I’ll whisper your Name into the sky And I will wake up happy
I wonder why I feel so high Though I am not above the sorrow Heavy hearted Till You call my name And it sounds like church bells Or the whistle of a train On a summer evening I’ll run to meet You Barefoot, barely breathing
As I lay me down to sleep This I pray That You will hold me dear Though I’m far away I’ll whisper Your name into the sky And I will wake up happy
Oh, Beloved As I lay me down to sleep This I pray That You will hold me dear Though I’m far away I’ll whisper Your name into the sky And I will wake up happy
It’s not too near for me Like a flower I need the rain Though it’s not clear to me Every season has it’s change And I will see You When the sun comes out again
As I lay me down to sleep This I pray That You will hold me dear Though I’m far away I’ll whisper Your name into the sky And I will wake up happy
I wonder why
when the sun comes out again when the sun comes out again…
What am I? And who am I? One who dies a thousand deaths yet stays alive. One who hangs upon a cross not made of wood, but of days and nights that merge and dance their endless dance of pain and of delight.
One who walks shrouded in silence, yet speaks for those who cannot speak, in an endless sea of words that storms, pleads and batters away at hearts of stone—which send my words right back to me: fiery wounding darts of painful ecstasy.
One who is torn apart by the pain of all those who hunger and who thirst, whose shelter is dusty tropic streets, or snowy desert wastes.
I am the millions who seek him, and yet I have found him. How can that be? Why must I live as I were all others? It seems to me that I am torn apart, and that each piece of me is someone else in search of him whom I possess. I must go and walk upon my God, for he is the Way—which means I walk upon Love itself.
But he who walks that way stands still, for how can one walk on feet that are nailed and hands made fast to beam and cross?
The mystery is great. I walk and yet am crucified. I am silent yet I shout. I am filled yet hungry, sheltered yet shelterless, warm yet cold, cold yet hot.
What am I? Who am I?
I am everyone, because I love him: my Lord. I am everyone whom he loves. This is my agony. This is my ecstasy. This is who and what I am.
To be everyone for love of him is to participate in the fullness of his passion.
He said: “I am the Way.” I know this is true because I have walked that Way a thousand yesterdays and walk it still today.
The mystical state is one of loving. Only love can build a bridge. Graces given and received are the materials that go into making this immense, indestructible bridge between earth and heaven. The graces used call for more grace, and the bridge grows, and eyes that are quiet behold God everywhere.
But seeing is not enough. It is seeing and arising and giving all of oneself to him, in all his creatures, that builds the bridge in spans immense. A mystic is a lover, a bridge-builder, a heart made ready for the burning fire that is the Lord. A mystic is rest amid turmoil. A mystic is a broken vase that had been filled with perfumed oils and now lies in pieces, wet with tears. A mystic sees God’s love in every face; and the Father sees another, full of grace.
A mystic is a miracle of love who, at one and the same time, hangs crucified upon the hill of skulls, and rises up in Christ’s ascension, and rests upon the heart of God. The mystic alone can stand the burning coal upon his lips, the burning coal of love and fire that cleanses and makes it possible for men to hear the voice of God again, spoken as men speaks. A mystic is a vessel of peace, while he himself is nothing but a flame of pain.
A mystic is a humble soul to whom belongs the earth as well as heaven. A mystic is silence enclosed in speech. He serves all men, and is served by angels. A mystic bears the seal of God, yet doesn’t know he is a mystic, except to catch an echo here and a glimpse there, of things unseen, unheard by other men. Such are mystics, builders of bridges and houses of love.
~ A Meditation by Catherine Doherty, ‘Madonna House Apostolate’
A Reflection by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, C.M.F. Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Solemnity of All Saints’ Day is November 1st
The lives of the saints show the world “the divine in the human, the eternal in time”
1. “All it takes to make a man a saint is Grace. Anyone who doubts this knows neither what makes a saint nor a man”, Pascal observes in Pensées with his characteristic trenchant style. I start with this observation to point out the dual perspective of these reflections: in the saint the celebration of God (indeed, of his Grace) combines with the celebration of man, with his potential and his limitations, his aspirations and his achievements.
The many objections today to the concepts of “holiness” and “saint” are well known. Much criticism is also levelled at the Church for her traditional and uninterrupted practice of recognizing and proclaiming some of her most outstanding children as “saints”. Some have insinuated that the special importance John Paul II has given to beatifications and canonizations and the great number of them during his pontificate might mask an expansionist policy of the Catholic Church. Others consider that the proposal of new blesseds and saints from such different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures is merely a ploy to market holiness, to assure the leadership of the papacy in contemporary society. Lastly, some see canonizations and the devotion to saints as an anachronism left over from religious triumphalism, foreign or even contrary to the spirit and dictates of the Second Vatican Council, which placed so great an emphasis on the vocation to holiness of all Christians.
It is obvious that an exclusively sociological interpretation of this subject would risk not only being reductive but also misleading for an understanding of the phenomenon, which is so much a feature of the Catholic Church.
Holiness, a living reflection of the face of Christ
2. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte which the Pope presented to the Church at the end of Jubilee Year 2000, he places profound emphasis on the topic of holiness. Among the “great host of saints and martyrs” which includes “Popes well-known to history or to humble lay and religious figures, from one continent to another of the globe”, “Holiness”, John Paul II notes in his Letter, “has emerged more clearly as the dimension which expresses best the mystery of the Church. Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ” (n. 7).
To understand the Church, we need to be acquainted with the saints who are her most eloquent sign, her sweetest fruit. To contemplate the face of Christ in the changing, diversified situations of the modern world we must look at the saints who are “the living reflection of the face of Christ”, as the Pope reminds us. The Church must proclaim the saints and she must do so in the name of that proclamation of holiness that fills her and makes her, precisely, a means of sanctification in the world.
“God shows to men, in a vivid way, his presence and his face in the lives of those companions of ours in the human condition who are more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ (cf. II Cor 3: 18). He speaks to us in them, and offers us a sign of his kingdom, to which we are powerfully attracted, so great a cloud of witnesses is there given (cf. Heb 12: 1) and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel” (Lumen Gentium, n. 50). In this passage from Lumen Gentium we discover the profound reason for the devotion to blesseds and saints.
Saints show that Life in Christ is possible for all
3. The Church carries out the mission the divine Teacher entrusted to her to be an instrument of holiness through evangelization, the sacraments and the practice of charity. This mission also receives a substantial contribution to its content and spiritual incentives from the proclamation of the blesseds and saints, for they show that holiness is accessible to the multitudes, that holiness can be imitated. Their personal and historical reality allows people to experience that the Gospel and new life in Christ are neither a utopia nor a mere system of values, but “leaven” and “salt” that can bring to life the Christian faith, within and from within the different cultures, geographical areas and historical epochs.
“The future of human beings” the late Cardinal Giuseppe Siri remarked, “is never clear, for all their sins corrode all the paths of history and lead to an intricate dialectic of cause and effect, error and nemesis, explosions and interruptions. The certainty that the saints will continue to accompany people is one of the few guarantees of the future” (Il Primato della Verità, 154).
Holiness knows no bounds and is alive and well in the Church
4. The phenomenon of the saints and of Christian holiness gives rise to a sense of wonder that has always existed in the Church and cannot but amaze even an attentive lay observer, especially today in a world continuously and rapidly changing, culturally fragmented in values as well as in customs. From wonder is born the question: what makes faith incarnate in all the latitudes, in the different historical contexts, in the most varied categories and walks of life? How, without the dynamics of power, enforced or persuasive, can there be so many saints, so different yet so consonant with Christ and with the Church? What is it that impels people freely to accept the fertile seed of Christianity that subsequently develops into such diversity and beauty in the unity of holiness? What a difference there is between globalization, such a buzzword today, and the catholicity or universality of the Christian faith and of the Church which lives, preserves and spreads that faith!
The international scope of Catholicism, not sought for power but for service and salvation, is confirmed by the saints, men and women who come from the most varied historical backgrounds.
This international dimension confirms that holiness knows no bounds and that in the Church it is far from dead; indeed, it continues to be vitally up to date. The world is changing, yet the saints, while changing with the changing world, always represent the same living face of Christ. Isn’t this an unmistakeable clue to the unique vitality, half cultural and half historical – “supernatural” is the right word for us Catholics – of the proclamation and of Christian Grace?
John Paul II has beatified 1,299 persons and canonized 464
5. In the context of these thoughts, a comment on how the Catholic Church recognizes and proclaims blesseds and saints will be of interest. I am referring specifically to the work of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, called to study and to recognize holiness and holy persons through a meticulous and prudent procedure, reinforced, renewed and renewable in time.
Saints and holiness are recognized in an upward movement from the bottom to the top. Still today, it is Christians themselves who, recognizing the “odour of holiness” by an intuition of faith, point out candidates for canonization to their Bishop – who is responsible for taking the first step in the process of canonization – and, subsequently, to the competent dicastery of the Holy See. Neither the Congregation for the Causes of Saints nor the Pope “invent” or “fabricate” saints. The Holy Spirit has already singled them out, as all believers know well. This same Spirit – as the Gospel says – “breathes wherever he wills”, an observation to which we have grown accustomed down through the centuries, especially today, since the Church has spread in every part of the world and to every social class.
This said, it should be recognized that Pope John Paul II has made the proclamation of new blesseds and saints an authentic and constant means of evangelization and teaching. He has wished to accompany the preaching of truth and of the Gospel values with the presentation of saints who lived those truths and values in an exemplary way. In the course of his pontificate, from 1978 until today, John Paul II has beatified 1,299 persons, 1,029 of whom were martyrs, while he has canonized 464, of whom 401 were martyrs. The numbers of lay people he has raised to the honour of the altars are far more numerous than one would think: in fact, 268 blesseds and 246 saints, 514 lay persons in all.
Some people consider this to be many, for others, it is few.
With regard to the number of saints, John Paul II does not ignore the opinion of those who think these are too many. Indeed, the Pope mentions this explicitly. This is his response: “It is sometimes said that there are too many beatifications today. However, in addition to reflecting reality, which by God’s grace is what it is, it also responds to the desire expressed by the Council. The Gospel is so widespread in the world and its message has sunk such deep roots that the great number of beatifications vividly reflects the action of the Holy Spirit and the vitality flowing from Him in the Church’s most essential sphere, that of holiness. Indeed, it was the Council that put particular emphasis on the universal call to holiness” (Opening Address to the Extraordinary Consistory in Preparation for Jubilee Year 2000, 13-14 June 1994; ORE, 22 June 1994, p. 8, n. 10).
In Tertio Millennio Adveniente, John Paul II wrote: “In recent years the number of canonizations and beatifications has increased. These show the vitality of the local Churches, which are much more numerous today than in the first centuries and in the first millennium. The greatest homage which all the Churches can give to Christ on the threshold of the third millennium will be to manifest the Redeemer’s all-powerful presence through the fruits of faith, hope and charity, present in men and women of many different tongues and races who have followed Christ in the various forms of the Christian vocation” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, n. 37).
In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, the Pope also notes: “The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual. I thank the Lord that in these years he has enabled me to beatify and canonize a large number of Christians, and among them many lay peole who attained holiness in the most ordinary circumstances of life” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 31).
Of course, all these beatifications and canonizations are also a sign of the capacity for inculturation in the life of the Christian faith and of the Church.
Historical truth sparks wider interest in the lives of saints
6. I would like, lastly, to reflect on the cultural contribution made by the saints, by the devotions to them, and by the fervent and serious examination that precedes and accompanies their canonization.
The Second Vatican Council asked that a “careful investigation – theological, historical, and pastoral” – should always be made concerning the proposal of the devotion to saints (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 23). This instruction found the Congregation for the Causes of Saints already prepared, and today it has been fully tested.
The concern for historical truth was always a feature of the work of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Already a “Decree” of Pius X of 26 August 1913, later set forth in the Code of Canon law of 1917, required the collection and examination of all the historical documents concerning the causes. But the fundamental innovation was contributed by the Motu Proprio “Già da Qualche Tempo” (“Already for Some Time”) of 6 February 1930, with which Pius XI established the “Historical Section” for the Congregation of Rites, with the role of making an effective contribution to the treatment of “historical” causes, that is, those without contemporary testimonies of the facts in question. The service rendered later by the “Historical Section”, known from 1969 as the “Historical-Hagiographical Office”, was extended to all the causes, even “recent” ones, increasing historical-critical sensitivity at all levels and in all the stages of the process. Lastly, the Apostolic Constitution “Divinus Perfectionis Magister” of 25 January 1983, followed by “Normae Servandae” of 7 February 1983, definitively sanctioned the specific contribution of method and historical quality in the treatment of the causes of saints.
The historical truth, so diligently sought for theological and pastoral motives, was also helpful in the cultural presentation of the saints. The new blesseds and saints “have come out into the limelight” to be examined and presented also as historically significant personages, a very integral part of the life of their Church, their society and their time. Interest in them is therefore no longer restricted to the Church and believers, but now extends to all who are interested in history, culture, civil life, politics, pedagogy, etc. In this way, the mission of these extraordinary people of God continues in a different yet effective way for the good of the whole of society. It is significant in this regard that it is no longer only “authorized ecclesiastics” who consult the archives of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, but also lay scholars who do research there for their doctoral theses, for historical, pedagogical, sociological studies, etc., because they find a wealth of historically reliable material.
‘The divine in the human, the eternal in time’
7. Therefore holiness, with its own special quality, also affects culture. The saints have made it possible to create new cultural models, new responses to the problems and great challenges of peoples, new developments for humanity on its way through history. On various occasions the Holy Father has stressed that the heritage of the saints “must not be lost; we should always be thankful for it and we should renew our resolve to imitate it” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 7).
The saints are like beacons; they show men and women the possibilities open to human beings. They are therefore also culturally interesting, independently of the cultural, religious or investigatory approach to them. A great 19th-century French philosopher, Henri Bergson, observed that “the greatest historical figures are not the conquerors but the saints”. Whereas Jean Delumeau, a historian specializing in 16th-century Catholicism, invited his readers to note that the great revivals of Christian history were marked by a return to the sources, that is, to the holiness of the Gospel, brought about by the saints and by movements of holiness in the Church.
In recent times, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger quite correctly asserted that: “It is not the sporadic majorities which form in the Church here and there that determine the path she and we will take. The saints are the true, crucial majority, and it is from them that we take our bearings. Let us stick to them! They express the divine in the human, the eternal in time”.
In the Church everything is at the service of holiness
8. In a changing world, not only are the saints not historically or culturally displaced, but – I think I must conclude – they are becoming an even more interesting and reliable subject. In an age of the collapse of collective utopias, in an age of indifference and the lack of appetite for all that is theoretical and ideological, new attention is being paid to the saints, unique figures in whom is found not a theory nor even merely a moral, but a plan of life to be recounted, to be discovered through study, to be loved with devotion, to be put into practice with imitation.
We cannot but be delighted at the revival of attention to the saints, because the saints belong to everyone; they are a heritage of humanity that has outdone itself in a development which, while honouring man, also gives glory to God, because “the glory of God is man alive” (St Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, IV, 20: 7).
I would like to interpret everything reflected on here in the light of a truly engaging message of the Holy Father John Paul II. In my opinion, this message can give those who are reflecting on the subject at least an idea of the Supreme Pontiff’s vision of holiness, inseparably linked to the baptismal dignity of every Christian. Thus, it can also explain better the role of the beatifications and canonizations in the pastoral journey of the Church during the 25 years of Karol Wojtyła’s pontificate. It is the Message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations in 2002: “The main task of the Church is to lead Christians along the path of holiness…. The Church is the “home of holiness’, and the charity of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, is her soul” (Message for the 39th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 21 April 2002, nn. 1 and 2; ORE, 5 December 2001, p. 3).
In the Church, therefore, everything and particularly every vocation, is at the service of holiness! It is undoubtedly in this sense that when we look at the Church we must never forget to see in her the face of the “mother of saints”, who brings forth a fruitful and magnanimous superabundance of holiness.
~ Taken from:
L’Osservatore Romano (newspaper of the Holy See)
Weekly Edition in English
16 April 2003
I walk in a cloud of angels. God has a throne in the secret of my soul. I move, encircled by light, blinded by glowing faces, lost and bewildered in the motion of wings, stricken by music too sublime to bear. Splendor is everywhere. God is always enthroned on the cherubim, circled by seraphim. Holy, holy, holy, wave upon wave of endless adoration. I walk in a cloud of angels that worship Him. I walk in a cloud of angels…
~ By Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers) O.C.D. (1905-1988)
The wings that stretched the heavens like clouds I climbed upon. And long and ardently they bore me in their easeful flight. They were strong. Fireless they were…I was a puny burden, no more than dust. The long, smooth surge I rested on became my final trust.
The heavens’ span and all the wide, thronged space of universes is to these wings an habitable room, a stretching place for leisurely tours and comfortable journeyings. What, now that I have cast myself upon their strength, have I to fear? And yet my heart is humbled into awe to be so near.