Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Eyes to See"

Dear Readers and Friends,

      Over the next three weeks, I'll be producing a series of short devotionals that I thought you might enjoy.  Their origin is in the ministry of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church, but I'm convinced they are universal.

       As you'll learn in the opening of the first meditation, each one will take between fifteen and twenty minutes.  Though their content is unique, the flow of each of them follows a pattern.  I open with a reading on the theme from an interesting author.  It's followed by the Guided Meditation and two minutes of silence.  At the end, there is a poem to fill you with hope.

      My hope of course is that you will find them meaningful at this time on your journey;  that you might find something that speaks to you in particular; and that you might come back to them again and again.

     So enjoy.  And when you've taken the time to sit with them, please do let me hear from you. 

     Here is how to access the first Guided Meditation in the series--simply click on this title:  "Eyes to See."  and then on the link that pops up.

      God bless you on the good road upon which you are travelling!

In joy and peace,  Kathleen Bronagh Weller, the celtic monk 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Packing Up, Little Deaths, Letting Go

5 of 55 packed boxes
          My husband Sam and I started planning for this move almost four years ago when we decided that where we live now (and have lived for the past 12 years) was not where we would retire.  At that time we had no more specific location other than somewhere in Florida, which we've both taken to like fish to water.

          So when I began doing some work 88 miles north of here, we wondered together if Sarasota might be an option for the move that has been in the back of our minds. In reality we tried not to make this decision quite yet. I spent the better part of July and August looking at options for renting for a year or so to 'try it out.'  But our immediate family includes two dogs which the rental community frowned upon again and again. If we liked a location, they wouldn't accept the dogs.  And if they accepted them, we didn't want to live there!

         The day finally came when we looked at one another and said, let's just look for someplace to make our move. Let's do our downsizing and get on with it.  And so we did. With the help of Rebecca St. Pierre, an awesome realtor and member of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church, within three weeks we found a small home in a community that will welcome not only us but Bear and Dexter.

        The past few weeks, alongside filling out enough paperwork to reforest a small state, and going through drawer-by-drawer, shelf-by-shelf, and closet-by-closet of accumulation (separating into "Pack-Give Away-Throw Away")  I've continued to keep Spiritual Direction appointments, lead a weekly meditation group and a weekly book study group.  Surprisingly, what I've found in the juxtaposition of this work that I love and the necessary losses of a down-sizing move, is that they have a lot in common.

        In my sacred reading time this morning, this quote from Laurence Freeman's "Aspects of Love" brought into pinpoint clarity what I've been experiencing:  "As we learn to be poor in meditation... giving up our thoughts and saying our sacred word...we accept our mortality, we accept death and dying as part of our growth, and we learn to practise non- attachment, non-possessiveness, non-acquisitiveness in all our dealings with each other."

       It only now occurs to me that perhaps even our planning for this move at this time in our lives, is the fruit of the 'letting go' that is so much a part of the contemplative practice of meditation.  That our counter-cultural voluntary act of becoming smaller (as opposed to 'the one who dies with the most toys wins' philosophy) is indeed part of the spiritual work of coming to our True Self by laying aside the trappings--some tangible, some not--that have defined us in our early years.

       Most contemplative writers call this kind of event or awareness a "small death" meaning that it's a manifestation of the biblical concept of dying-to-self, in order that God might possess more of us.  And with each box packed for Goodwill... and with each box of paper sent to the recycle bin...and with each opportunity to say "no" to having 2 or 3 of something I only need 1 of... I am aware of a new lightness--or Lightness as the case may be.

       In sharing this, I don't want to be proscriptive. Not everyone needs, wants, or will go through this kind of experience.  And furthermore, the reality of what this move at this time illumined in my spirit, was a revelation in the process and not something I pursued.  God often works that way in my life (and maybe yours as well) we come to understand or see clearly only in hind-sight.

       So seven days from today we will close on our new home.  A few days later movers will come and take one-third less stuff than we had just a few weeks before. There will be things left behind that we won't miss and some that were harder to give up.  The whole experience is a reminder that we are ever only sojourners here. This place, this world, is not our true home.  And all the small leaving behind we do, all the small letting go we do now, makes room in our hearts and minds for what in God's goodness and mercy lies ahead.  Forsaking what was, we press on... we press on.

In Peace and in Joy, Kathleen Bronagh Weller, THECELTICMONK



Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Sacrament of Creation

i hurried to worship at the rising of the sun - a sacrament of creation
i bundled against the sea breezes; covering all exposed skin
especially from the salt water mosquitos
i positioned myself in the 2nd chair...not 1st chair like the violinist at the philharmonic
You see the 1st chair always arrives early, his prayer beads in hand.
But now together yet separately we await the holy drama
We wait...
We wait...
Ten minutes past curtain time,
his beads completed with the traditional crossing and kiss
the hooded 1st chair departs the coastal theatre.
i linger here only to realize that sometimes we must
simply believe that the sun has risen indeed.
What our eyes do not witness
is an exercise of faith.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Speaking with Laurence Freeman in Cork, Ireland
at the World Community of Christian Meditation Conference.
        There are two wisdom writings that come to my Inbox each morning and, even if I leave all the other emails for later, I accept their invitation to be read.  The first is Daily Wisdom and comes from The World Community of Christian Meditation most often a sentence or two by John Main, or
Laurence Freeman.   The second is from The Center for Action and Contemplation a short devotion from the writings of Richard Rohr. I find that along with my morning meditation, these are what I  am drawn to as I begin my day.

         But depending on the length of my to-do list and the pace of my day this small morning routine of mine is more or less profitable.  Do you know what I mean?  Some days (and some days might add up to a number of days in a row)  I go through my morning ritual, but it doesn't seem to go through me. Indeed I read with interest-and maybe even an "aha" but there is little evidence of that time in the going's-on of the day. 

        Yet on other days, and perhaps most days, where the routine is the same--meditate and read--the whole nature of my day is changed. My responses to situations and people are lighter, more gentle, more forgiving.  I'm consistently more open and less anxious. My morning practice would have looked the same to an observer, so what made the difference?

        Because I've just left a cycle of the former rather than the latter of the experiences outlined above let me share an insight...which at the moment also feels like a confession.  When I treat my spiritual disciplines as one more thing to check off my list, they resist!  When I use my spiritual practices as a habit rather than treasure them as a sacred appointment with The One who is leading the dance of my life, my steps are stilted and faltering.

        What I am learning again (as if for the first time) is that hurrying or duty bound obligation is no way to approach sacred time.  While perhaps these are virtues for making the world go round, they hamper our life in the spirit.  Rushing is the opposite of contemplation and kills any hope we have to hear--any hope to be changed.  And Love is not a duty but a privilege.

        I have another example of the pitfalls of a hurried life, this one from outside the spiritual realm--my desk and my table. Anyone can tell the state of my hurriedness (and my spirit) by looking at my desk at work, or the dining room table at home.  When I'm in good balance they are uncluttered--you'll not see piles of papers and books that look a little like a hurricane crossed over my desk nor will there be piles of junk mail that I've just not-gotten-around-to-throwing-away-yet on my dining room table!

       But when I've allowed the 'tyranny of the urgent' to dictate my priorities, I simply no longer notice the outward chaos growing around me.  Soon any observant person can see the very state of my being by looking at my desk or table!

       I wonder what it is that you don't notice when you are distracted or hurried?  What can people see around you--outward signs--that might give a clue as to what is happening inside of you?

       Even in the lazy days of summer, we can neglect to stop and smell the roses; both literal and figurative.  And when we allow situations and circumstances to gather us up in their tidal pull rather than ordering our life by being present to the moment we are in with all its possibility, we can easily miss the very thing God has put in front of us--or even the burdens Christ desires to lift from us. 

       Let me encourage you to slow down and notice the people and things around you today.  What are they asking of you?   What are they saying to you or about you?  How might you faithfully respond while keeping present, aware and not hurried? 

       Well, that's all for now...I have this compelling desire to clear off that dining room table.

In peace and joy,  Kathleen Bronagh Weller, thecelticmonk




Saturday, April 5, 2014

Finding Peace in Ancient Practices

When I write my first book, "Finding Peace in Ancient Practices" will be its title.  Not only because I am a contemplative with leanings towards the spiritual practices of the early church, but because it seems to me that the time is ripe for 21st century individuals and the Church to be able to hear how our mirroring this fast and furious culture isn't working either for people or institutions. Keeping ourselves and others busy and/or connected 24/7 has done nothing for our happiness, our peace, or our souls and likely the opposite is true.  Maybe the subtitle of my book will be "why the Church doesn't need IM, billionaires and Facebook."

These ideas were sparked this week from sources as diverse as Ted Talks on NPR and Sr. Joan Chittister, author and social justice activist.  This weeks Ted Talks covered some disturbing brain science that showed how excessive money/power made people mean [an over statement, but really close]. And from Joan Chittister's exposition on the Rule of Benedict (Chapter 48) which calls us toward the gentle and willing gift of less self-focus and increased devotion during the season of Lent i.e. giving ourselves away  The logic may seem fuzzy at first, but to be succinct: the pursuit of a greedy kind of excess never leads to peace, even when achieved.  However correspondingly, giving of self creates both peace and happiness.

We've known this all along of course.  The Beatitude "Blessed are the poor in spirit" leads us to understand that compassion is a gift of willing poverty.  The researcher on the Ted Talk found that it was the poorest in our culture who are the most generous, compassionate and happy.  His further discovery was that even giving people an arbitrary or artificial advantage of money (playing a rigged game of Monopoly) made them act more cruelly towards those with less!  Can you spell: Lehman Brothers, Citicorp, BP, JPMorgan, ad nauseum.

We must slow down to a soulful state to see these things playing out not in others...but within us.  What is it that me makes me lack peace, happiness and compassionate action?  Where and how am I on so fast a track that I lose sight of the really important in the chaotic busyness?  Who have I left behind today, because my eye was on a distant prize? What word did I leave unspoken, what smile did I withhold, what pause did I fill rather than giving someone else the gift of attention?

The two ancient practices that have led me to this pondering are my own spiritual practices of meditation and spiritual direction.  It was the gift of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to spend time in prayerful silence, simply listening for God's voice.[meditation]  But it was also their gift to us, that when spiritual seekers would come, they would spend time listening for spiritual insight and being in prayer together. [spiritual direction]  While both of these gifts still exist in the Church in some form--I find they are getting more attention with the increase of noise, confusion and chaos across the globe in the last dozen years. It seems that the time to reclaim these Christian practices is upon us.

For if indeed the economists and social prognosticators are correct and a clear path ahead is not discernable...then the wisdom we find in silence, the compassion we find in prayer, the communion of two souls seeking God together may be the only viable way to peace. Peace for ourselves and peace to share with the rest of the world. Peace that no one can buy.  A peace that passes under-standing.

Have you found such peace lately?  It's as close as choosing some silent moments each day, or seeking a soul friend -- an anam cara, in Gaelic. Peace is so necessary to us as individuals and to our world. But we cannot share what we do not have.  It is in our rich tradition, that we can find the way ahead.

In Peace and Joy,    KATHLEEN BRONAGH WELLER, the celtic monk

P.S.  If you would like to receive 10 weekly emails on beginning a practice of meditation or if you'd like to try a trial session of Spiritual Direction via Skype, please contact:   Both resources are free!


Monday, March 17, 2014


This could easily be a photograph of a winding road in Northern Ireland.  The winding, the variety of greens, the stone fence, the economy of a road without any shoulder all serve to lead us to our conclusion.  And yet all might lead us to the wrong conclusion. It is "Monks Road" in Kentucky.

I wonder if we, in our lives, aren't sometimes like this photograph; wondering if sometimes when people see us, that they are misled.  Do others see us and assume one thing, when something else is true?  And what about us-ourselves?  Is there a way in us--or are there parts of us--that on close inspection, upon serious reflection are not true of us, or not true of us anymore yet we continue behaving the same, continue going through the motions?  Are we living our real lives?

I'm not offering a value judgment.  I'm not saying we are disingenuous. What I am saying is that when there is a picture in our mind sometimes its easiest even seemingly most natural to continue living that picture.  The thoughts go something like this:  "I've always been this way."  "It's all I know."  "I'm good at it."  Or even,  "It's how I earn my living."  "What else would I do?"  Do we live the picture even when the picture is of someone far from our best self?  Even when we have a hint that the picture is of someone entirely unlike who we were intended to be?

My hunch is that along the course of our life people of good intention ... people with our best interest in mind... teachers, mentors, parents, friends suggested what they saw in us--and we began to follow that picture...we became that photograph...and lived that life. We didn't do it to do harm or with bad motives for ourselves or others.  Maybe it was the best self with which we could come up--and through the course of time we developed skills and were rewarded.  And yet with the purest of motives, for many of us it was never our photograph, our true self that we were/are living.

And I wonder if there haven't been moments along the way when we saw the sail of the boat we never piloted, or heard the whistle of the train we never caught, or listened to the whisper in the wind and heard a familiar call...but we ignored it and continued to ignore it...because we were living this photograph now...until finally we didn't hear or see those glimpses anymore.

In my meditation classes you will often hear it said that we are only ever beginners.  And while its true of meditation, its true of our whole life as well.  It may seem like we are too deep into a way, or too far along a path, or even up to our necks in one particular photograph of our life.   But it is never too late to turn around.

It takes some degree of courage, honesty, and especially grace even to examine the old photograph that we've used as plumb. But God is generous in grace. And when we are ready Love shows up to help us learn to be a beginner. The gentle nurture of the Holy Spirit softens our defenses and we see as if for the first time, hear as if for the first time, and the world opens up before us as if for the first time.

This is the life of faith -- learning to be who we were created to be at any age or any stage.  In this reflective season of Lent may you experience the courage and grace to investigate whispers and photographs.

In peace and in joy,  Kathleen Bronagh Weller  the celtic monk

Saturday, February 22, 2014

BEING REAL ABOUT CHANGE one moment at a time

          M. Scott Peck's best seller began famously: "Life is Difficult."  While I agreed with him whole heartedly 25 years ago and still do, I'm more aware today of the nuances, difficulties and my own ability to be present to life and changes especially when they present themselves as difficulties or challenges. In other words, the parameters of what constitutes difficult has changed for me.  It's been a journey. 

          For so long I saw events, people or situations in black or white; good or bad in and of themselves. If "a" happens its good, if "b" happens it will be bad--very, very bad.  What I realize now is that that kind of thinking and responding created its very own kind of hell and suffering.  Because "b" happens a fair bit of the time--and if I allow myself to only see "a" as good...and allow no room for "b"  "c" "d" "e, f, g" or the rest of the alphabet, I will be miserable most of the time!

          Today I'm more inclined to see events as not only neutral but as an opportunity to draw my best from me for my good and the good of others.   It's not that things I'd prefer not to happen, won't happen.  It is the case that I can learn to stop judging them.  I can learn to see things differently, to respond rather than react, to chose to allow situations and events to remain outside of me rather than allowing them in biblical lingo to "toss me to and fro."

          Getting to a place of accepting and moving on constructively from whatever unfolds before us doesn't come naturally.  Many people live and die without ever ascending this mountain.  For them, anything different, any change, anything out of their personal plan "a" undoes them (and often those around them).  Maturing chronologically is no guarantee that a person will reach the plateau of acceptance of what is before us.  It doesn't happen automatically.

          But reaching it is possible. Change is possible.  Embracing what comes is possible. Old people do learn new tricks unlike what is said about our canine friends...  In fact everybody thinks so.  If you are a follower of science, we humans are on a path of change called evolution.  If you follow a practice of an Eastern religion, we are on the path to Enlightenment. For me, I understand that moment by moment I'm given the opportunity to choose a way that either brings me closer to who God made me to be--my authentic self--or to act in ways that hold me at bay from that calling. Acting in this latter way is what the Scriptures call sin. 

           Living wholly and freely necessitates that we make these moment-by-moment decisions from a deep place within us.  The place where God's Spirit resides in us; from where the One who loves us and knows us better than we know ourselves chooses to dwell. When we live from our mind or our emotions, we simply mimic the mistakes of our past, ad nauseum.  It's only when we live from the still point within...that we are table to walk in newness and light. When I choose to take this way, my change and transformation into the very Image of God becomes real. So amazing is God's grace.  It doesn't matter if I've "done it my way" for 20 or 70 years, the new Way opened for us in Christ and His Spirit is always an option.

            I suppose what I want to encourage you to consider is that though "Life is Difficult" we don't need to be a party to it, agree to it, or help it along.  Living from the gift of Spirit and in God's grace, causes us to be able to see and respond to the difficult things differently.  Not only that, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz for whom it was always in her power to return to Kansas, it is within you and me-- right now--today to make this change.  Our first opportunity is in the very next person, situation or conversation that comes that is outside our ideal.

           For me, it's been helpful to look ahead and prepare.  Let me help you do that:
  • Who is the person, or what is the situation that is most likely to raise your cackles, rather than call forth a gracious response from your spirit?
  • What is necessary for you, to be able to respond differently? (i.e. play the scenario out in your head / OR / rather than responding immediately telling them you need a minute...)
  • There are some difficulties that come as surprises.  Yet I find for the majority of them I can prepare by taking a few minutes of silence before, or not going into a situation already agitated or tired.
          Being open and gracious to others, being open to changes in our plans, being open even to difficulties and difficult people is a life's work.  It's not accomplished once-and-for-all but moment by moment. It's spiritual work. We know we've begun the ascent when we live and respond more from our truest redeemed self, rather than in reaction to the person or situation before us. 

          Wishing you success in ascending the mountain.  [Psalm 15]

Kathleen Bronagh Weller  the celtic monk

Thursday, February 6, 2014


        It is true that a picture is worth 1,000 words.  Above is the church of my youth.  I was baptized there. As a second grader, I made my First Communion there.  I was confirmed at that altar while in fourth grade and took the name of "Bernadette." I went to mass not only on Sunday, but Monday thru Friday most of my grammar school days because St. Alphonsus was also my school.  I was in the building next to this amazing sanctuary when the news came over the PA system that John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot and the country was for a few hours without a President.

        Maybe surprisingly to some it was here that I learned the love, reverence and awe of God that I practice still.  All those days surrounded by statuary and stained glass imprinted something on my soul. I can hear phrases of the Latin mass echoing through the gothic architecture.  God befriended me here in ways I did not even know.

        Last December, at the end of a long Interim, I took the opportunity to spend eight days at Easternpoint Retreat Center on the shore of the Atlantic in Gloucester, MA.  Each day before dinner this Jesuit retreat center invited all retreatants to mass.  Though it had been a long time since daily mass at St. Alphonsus, some of the words were just as I remembered them on the heels of Vatican Two.   But another thing my soul re--membered was the grace offered and received in the sacrament.  It had been decades since I participated in the welcome of daily participation in the Lord's Supper.

        But once home the holidays were upon us and I re-entered a busy life.  I don't know how long it took me to realize that my soul had a need.  But soon after the first of the year, I found a local church that offered a daily sacrament and made it my mission to attend two or three times a week.  My joy was short-lived.

       Although there were no signs posted that said: "we are narrow-minded"...the priest in his homily took the opportunity to bash otherwise practicing Christians each day.  I came to learn through inference the meaning of the word "re-vert" which he used as often as he could to talk about fallen-away Catholics who came back to the church.  In my dozen or so visits I was delighted to hear C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Augustine, even Kierkegaard quoted in the homily.  And yet, the drumbeat of "we are better, we are true, we got it/they don't" -- finally drowned out the grace of the meal.

       In the one-world age in which we live via the Internet, I easily found access to a live broadcast of a daily celebration of the table several time zones away (Ireland, of course).   The homilies this priest offered spoke of God's love for all people. There was no "us and them."  On the second day I joined them, the priest prayed for the newly elected Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland! and for ministers of churches born of the Reformation. They daily prayed for the unity of all those called in Jesus Christ. They conclude the service singing: "There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, there is One God, who is Father of all."

       As I spent the hour with them each morning this week, my bread and grape juice prepared and consumed, my soul once again became aware of the grace offered and received in the sacrament--and I was filled.

       Perhaps it's because of my young adult transition from the Catholic church into ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church that I am more ecumenically minded (and souled).  I reason that those who love Christ, no matter what they call themselves, are one.  I hear the Gospel messages:  "make them one Father, as You and I are one..." and "those who are not against us, are for us..." and from the book of Colossians:" So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."  This may make me simple... but I think God intended for us to be ONE--to recognize and honor the Image of God in one another. 

         It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the power of the Church's witness which is broken as we squabble with one another for all the world to see and hear.  Where is the religious fervor to put back together what we have torn asunder?  Because why would anyone want to embrace the God and Father of us all -- when He doesn't seem to be able to keep His children from trying to hurt or destroy one another.

        And while my example is cross-denominational...let me be quick to point out that my own church, the PCUSA has its own rampant issues of behaving badly.  Many congregations have left in a huff... and others are threatening.  To my ears, their reasons sound as hollow as  the above drumbeat of "we are better, we are true, we got it right/you don't." They leave to join other disgruntled folk in yet other divisions of the Body...those called by Christ to be one, as Christ and the Father are one.  They leave out of real and unfounded fears. They leave in hubris... They and we and Christ's whole Body further wounded by each division, acts of reciprocal violence

       Yet I find hope for the Church in surprising places; From individuals in congregations I've served who have whispered to me that they believe God loves everyone; From congregations that offer a generous and wide invitation to the Table of grace; From five French monks planted in Northern Ireland whose life together is an answer: "to a call addressed by the Church to monasteries of contemplative life to engage themselves in the mission of spiritual ecumenism, rooted in prayer, conversion of heart and charity, in those corners of the world where Christians are divided. The Foundation Decree of the monastery states: “The aim of the Community of Holy Cross Monastery is to live the monastic life, according to the charism of our Benedictine Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto. Our particular mission is to contribute to reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in a land marked by reciprocal violence and stained by the blood of Christian brothers and sisters."

       Isn't this the call of God to each of us?  And isn't it our call, each of us and all of us, where we are, as best as we are able, to stop the bleeding of the Body of Christ?   Perhaps taking a page from the Holy Cross Monastery's Foundational decree is needed:  "to contribute to reconciliation" -- "rooted in prayer, conversion of heart and charity."

         This morning my husband joined me for the celebration of the sacrament that came to us over live broadcast on the Internet.  When the service was over I asked, "so what did you think?" He said:
"the difference is that they're really living what they say."  It made me proud to be his spouse and simultaneously made my pastor's heart weep.  How does the Church, how do we find our way to "really living what we say."
         So of what two churches is this really a tale?  Catholic and Protestant?  Two Catholic churches that practice the love of God differently?  The Presbyterian congregations that now have church splits from their church splits? All of them?  I embody the Roman Catholic church which nurtured me as a child and Presbyterian Church, the denomination that recognized my gifts and call to ministry.  I carry a Tale of Two Churches within me.  What kind of Church do you carry within you?

         The Benedictines teach that the practice of contemplation leads to conversion of heart. Conversion and not Division is what will lead to One-ness.  May it be so in me. May it be so in you.  May it be so in the Body of Christ, Universal--the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In peace, much deep peace,
Rev. Dr. Kathleen Bronagh Weller, Obl. SB
P.S. Bronagh is the name I chose when I took my final vows as a Benedictine Oblate.  You can read about that in my 2010 blog archive.