Rarely has there been a time in history when the need for peace has been greater. We gather as an online prayerful community to ask our beloved God to influence all those who can bring about peace in the world.
San Damiano Prayer for Peace in the Middle East
We pray for the injured, the dead, the maimed, the homeless, the orphans, the widows and widowers, families, and caregivers of all who will receive the gift of God’s love in all of this turmoil.
That they may be comforted.
That they may be consoled.
That they may continue to love when love seems to have diminished in their lives.
That they may see light from the darkest hours, before and behind them.
That they may find peace.
That they may find peace.
That they may find peace.
Copies of this in a prayer card form is available from San Damiano Retreat, 710 Highland Dr., Danville, CA
Image and Text Copyright 2023 Michael J. Cunningham OFS
Recently I was asked to provide some guidance on who had influenced me, and who had mentored me in my life. During the writing of that reflection, and since writing it, I realized I missed someone out. In my initial response, I had said that I hadn’t really had one individual who had influenced me significantly as a mentor, but my father had in other ways. So, the mentors or guides that I feel have influenced me the most have been Jesus Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. However, I digress.
Since completing that reflection, I realized there was someone else. Someone I looked up to. Someone who was a giant in industry. Someone who put his company ahead of himself and anything else in his life. His name is James Meadlock.
He was the founder of a company called Intergraph Corporation, where I worked from November 1984 to 1990. During those six years, the company grew from 173 million to over 1 billion in revenue. We had thousands of employees. And Jim Meadlock had some interesting management strategies. Having come from many years at IBM, Jim knew that a great deal of managers’ time was wasted in planning and determining budgets. For that reason, the company did not have a budget that everyone managed until we reached $400 million in revenue. Jim simply managed the company based on innovative groundbreaking products, attention to the customer, and accountability of product and all managers that we’re working for him. Every week the company held a crisis meeting. Any problem which had been outstanding at a customer site for more than three days was on the crisis list, every product manager in the company was present in that meeting. It was a meeting of accountability. And no one wanted to be on the menu. It illustrated to me, that no problem was too small that affected a customer’s operation.
Jim was available to his staff 24/7. And I mean that literally, he built his home on the campus of the company, so it was very difficult to be at work before him or to leave before he left. He showed commitment. For me as a young manager in my late 20s, just arrived off the boat from England (a plane actually) Mr. Meadlock epitomized American ingenuity, commitment, and doggedness. He would not ask his staff to do any more than he was willing to do himself, but he set an amazingly high bar.
For myself who hadn’t really had much in the way of encouragement or mentoring from my own father Jim Meadlock was someone I really looked up to. I realize now some 40 years later that Jim had actually taken me under his wing.
Well, he could never be really described as a touchy-feely person, when I canceled a project the company had been working on shortly after my arrival, instead of chastising me for the problems Jim gave me a $5,000 bonus (in 1984) for the money that was going to be saved by not continuing a project that was never going to be successful commercially. He taught me those hard decisions, even ones that people don’t want to hear, can be rewarded when they are based on the truth.
Most weekends while I was at Intergraph, were spent working in some way shape, or form, we could not do remote working back in those days so it meant that I went to the office, and my long-suffering wife and children missed me many Saturdays and Sundays.
However, being there at the weekend gave me one, wonderful, opportunity. The chance to have some one-on-one time with the King (Jim Meadlock). The important strategic issue that I wanted to make sure was brought to his attention, would be done by me either going to his office (which always had an open door), or meeting him on the premises as he looked around to see how things were going for those there put in the extra hours in.
I realize now these audiences with him were very sustaining. And even though I never knew anything about Jim’s spiritual disposition, I knew he was committed to the company the care of the staff, and moving the needle in the technology space. He was willing to take risks. Big risks. Sometimes they would pay off, sometimes not. But Jim Meadlock taught me to go bold or stay home.
When I would meet him on the road at a conference or event they brought me to his room in the hotel and he and his wife Nancy, and I, shared a meal together. They were my mentors, and perhaps, the parents of whatever entrepreneur sat inside me.
I wonder if you have anyone who has influenced you, perhaps the mentoring was done in an indirect way, I like to think the Jim and Nancy knew what they were doing when they looked after me, and my young family just arrived in the United states. Something to consider for your journey this week.
Reflecting on a recent journey to the retreat house, after a visit to family. On the plane ride, I was reading John O’Donahue’s Anum Cara a book to be highly recommended if you have any interest in Celtic Wisdom or spirituality. I would go as far as to say it is the best short read on the topic to date.
In Anam Cara, which means soul friend, Donahue talks of the journey. Specifically the journey of our lives and the spiritual journey that accompanies us. He makes the point that we should not consider the journey for its length but rather the depth. This is an essential point that is often overlooked.
Because, in the modern world, we are always looking for the “quick fix” in the latest fad, we often look for things that will give us some new and exciting experiences we can add to our journey. The rise of spas, yoga, spiritual guides, and many books and blogs all contribute to this trend. It is almost as if we are trying to cram our spiritual life to beef up our resume or fill in all the blanks in that spiritual journey.
If we consider our time here a blip on the radar in eternity, we may come to a different conclusion. Our soul is eternal, our earthly body it is how we move it (the soul) around on the earthly journey. So in the context of eternity, a concept for us all hard to grasp, our time here is very limited in the scope of things.
So focusing on, and packing out the time of the earthly journey is much less important than the depth of the journey. When we meet someone with a profound presence, we see them differently than others. We notice something different about this person, the holiness within them spills out into the room and the atmosphere. We are affected by the peace of Christ which surrounds them and now, by our presence, us as well.
Perhaps we should not consider our journey as a series of experiences and experiments with a “bucket list” mentality of trying to cram it all in, but rather one of going within … to that interior space where our relationship with God will be deepened. Enjoining ourselves to His love while we are here, with little regard for what’s in it for us. Only offering up a humble servant willing to listen and sit in His presence.
The roads to deepening faith are manifold; we do need to try the fruits of the banquet, which are available to us but also remember that the goal is to be with the presence.
For it is the depth of our spiritual journey that will ultimately help the journey become meaningful, not shallow. This the the holy longing we want from all our relationships.
So let us go, together … into the deep.
IT WAS MEANINGFUL
The gentle touch,
A knowing glance,
It was meaningful.
A relationship of instants,
An understanding of mystery,
It was meaningful.
Eyes locked for an extended moment,
Spoke the volumes of the unsaid.
More than meaningful.
Memories are not a tape to be rewound,
But a presence relived.
Eternally; and soaked in love.
Reflection, poem and image copyright Michael J. Cunningham 2023
What happens when others cannot see hope as you do, what an interesting question. This weekend I had the misfortune to talk to a lot of people who already made up their minds on an issue and didn’t want to discuss it. They just wanted to walk by and be done with it.
It seems many have just made up their mind. But when we say made up their mind what do we really mean? Do we really mean we’ve closed our minds? We have already decided? We don’t want to discuss the issue? We don’t want to be open? So we must ask the question is it really our mind that’s closed or is our heart?
Often our defense for not listening to another perspective is often we don’t trust the source. It might be a news channel, a newspaper, a Facebook feed, a book, a relative, or someone we don’t trust. So, we apply an automatic assumption that everything that comes from that Channel or person is false, or at least disagreeable to my previously predetermined position. Whatever that might be.
Then, if we look at the scripture which tells us to love our enemies, what the heck does that mean in this context? It doesn’t mean that what our enemies are saying is true or that we have to believe it. But in order to love our enemies, if indeed they are enemies, we at least have to listen to what makes up their opinion or position on something. If we have a predetermined mindset on something doesn’t that automatically mean that we have a closed mindset, or rather I should say closed heart set, on that person or that Channel?
People say they have an open mind, but they also have made up their minds. I was talking to someone today who said that EVERYTHING since Vatican II has been terrible for the Catholic Church. They also described some local gardens in a religious setting that needed weeding, and how disgraceful it was that they did need weeding; and that the owners of that organization should be ashamed of themselves for not weeding the garden.
If we are not careful, we just become a series of judgment statements. One opinion after the other, each irrevocable, each true, each unassailable. This is a world without research without discernment, without analysis, without science, without God. If you leave God out of the picture and you are unwilling to listen, let alone love your neighbor and your enemy alike, then what is the point?
You cannot have a closed mind and an open heart. A deaf person listens with their eyes. A blind person sees with their touch and their ears.
So, the gateway to an open heart is an open mind, but an open heart will blow any closed mind wide open. You cannot cry with joy or sadness purely from your mind. It is your heart that’s touched. If we surround that heart with barbed wire, venom, and predetermined opinions, the something happens. We become what we desire. A walking judge, a judge without judgment, just opinions which we use to whip those in shape around us who disagree, and to separate us, tribally, from those who don’t agree.
This may be the malaise of our time. A cancer of the soul that seems uncurable to many. Which can only be healed by love, and a disposition to receive it. An opening of hearts is the only way to open a mind. With love, kindness, and a willingness to say and live the truth, no matter the consequences.
Do you ever have a dream so engaging, that you don’t want to wake up? When it seems that the subconscious is taking us to some other place that the Jungian analysis doesn’t want to visit for once. Where we are not concerned about getting bitten by a rattlesnake in the garden or worrying if that task is late or undone? You know what I mean, the dream of what dreams are made of. We find ourselves drifting off into an unknown world we want to inhabit and stay! The dream we don’t want to leave. And, if we wake up from it for some reason, we try our best to return to it when we return to our bed.
For the most part, these dreams invite us to a place of inner peace; the best dreams are always the ones where we are content, relaxed, and feeling that unique inner peace in our hearts, the place where God resides.
The picture illustrated here shows what a dream like this would be like for me if I could try and articulate it. For those who have been sailing on the ocean, particularly on a sailboat, you know it’s a beautiful experience. At least when all is going well.
If you have ever had the opportunity to sail at night, it is a totally different experience. Of course, the navigation is much more complex, as you have to use charts, marine knowledge, and a good GPS, but then you have nothing but the wind, slightly illuminated darkness, and the sound of the water on the bow. This is a sublime encounter.
The ocean depicted in the image was taken during a photo excursion on the ocean off the coast of Massachusetts. As you can see there was just enough wind to keep the sailboat moving at a good, but not uncomfortable clip for those on board; the boat was probably doing around 7 knots. This is indicated by the limited whitecaps, which would start to appear around 8 knots and higher. In other words, perfect speed for cruising. The surface of the water is illuminated by the moon, which is out of the image; but its reflection is shown on the right side. And then, of course, there are the stars. Of course, this picture is a composite, with the Milky Way illustrated, but would not be as clear as it is shown in the image. It’s a dream, after all!
So what has all this to do with my relationship with God? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. Dreams of course, can be of both a natural or supernatural nature. There is much written on the topic of interpreting them, and many a professional makes money interpreting them, some more viable and useful than others.
Nevertheless, what goes on in our subconscious when we “remember” a dream often makes a call to action. Whether it is something that is disturbing us that we need to fix or attend to, or something that is a much bigger calling and perhaps even supernatural in nature. These discussions are best left to a conversation with a qualified Spiritual Advisor, who will be very cautious in their handling of your experience.
However, I do see that dreams fulfill a useful purpose in our spiritual balance, when we are off balance, then may indicate that we need to do something different during our waking hours, in order to re-establish peace with ourselves, deal with a problem or a relationship. In other cases, they can indicate how we are doing in our relationship with God. We can treat our dreams the same way as we might interpret some other input we have received, comments from others, listening to a homily, watching a movie, reading a book or poem, or interpreting what a scripture passage means to us. It is best to say open to what our dreams tell us, even if we can’t initially make sense of them. And yes, some of them certainly don’t make sense, but that does not mean we should not listen.
As far as this image is concerned, this depiction of a Dream Journey has all the elements of what a fine dream might look like. The galaxy of stars we inhabit, the wind propelling us through a gentle ocean, and enough illumination to see where I am going, but a perfectly lit world to show off its beauty. Even when the lights are out. Sleep well. God Bless, Michael.
Image and Reflection Copyright 2022, Michael J. Cunningham OFS